Jérôme Beaulieu ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Jérôme Beaulieu ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Trio Jérôme Beaulieu
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer)
Friday, July 31, 2015

View photos of this performance

In many ways, Parc de l'Imaginaire, a small greenspace next to the Aylmer Marina, is an ideal place to hear music. Quiet and intimate, it's verdant and shady and cool even in a heat wave. Musicians playing in the park's small covered bandstand can easily be seen from a 270 degree circle in the park.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins, which has been held there mid-summer for the last 29 years, attracts an interested audience which consistently fills the park and listens carefully – which was a perfect match for Montreal pianist Jérôme Beaulieu's music, whose melodicism reaches out to this audience.

Beaulieu's trio had two crowd-pleasing Ottawa concerts in 2014 – at the National Arts Centre and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. In the 75 minutes of this show, their first Gatineau concert, they connected with the audience just as strongly.

They had some obstacles: Beaulieu's long-time drummer had another gig and this was the trio's first show with his (temporary) replacement, who necessarily had to work from charts. And the high winds that were the remnants of that day's unsettled weather meant that all the musicians were fighting to keep their sheet music from being blown away, holding it down with multiple clips.

The replacement, on the other hand, was veteran drummer Greg Ritchie, well-known for his work with Christine Jensen and Joel Miller. Ritchie just recently returned to Montreal after a decade playing in the New York City jazz scene. He joined bassist Philippe Leduc in the trio, and adeptly adapted his playing to the music: swinging on a Monk tune; more nuanced brushes behind quiet, intricate piano on a tribute to pianist Chilly Gonzales; intense and propulsive on a Beaulieu original.

The trio opened with a fast, punctuated number and then switched among upbeat pieces and ballads, including pieces from both of the trio's albums. Particularly notable was “La chute” (from Beaulieu's first album, L'homme sur la lune), an exploratory number which moved from angular to anthemic. Leduc's vibrating bowed bass added an almost-unearthly feel opening and closing the number.

As a solo pianist, Beaulieu has frequently played shows featuring jazz standards. His trio shows, though, have strictly featured his original compositions. But, with Ritchie there, Beaulieu included several jazz standards in the show which ended up being especially well-received.

Thelonious Monk's “Work”, for example, showed off the trio's interactivity: opening with a deep repeated riff on bass and piano, it ended with all three musicians trading short solos, emphasizing the sunny feel of the piece while retaining its essential Monk vibe. “Milestones” (the earlier 1940s piece recorded by Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, not the late 50s Davis composition) was given a swift and upbeat treatment, with everyone on stage smiling and looking like they were having fun. The audience responded with strong applause.

After “La chute” received an immediate standing ovation from the crowd, the trio closed with “La tourte” from Chercher l'équilibre – an extended (15-minute) dramatic rendition that opened with deep persistent piano chords, and moved from stately and striking to delicate and romantic – and then changed suddenly to bold and energetic with a strong, inviting groove.

Canadian audiences can expect to hear more from Trio Jérôme Beaulieu in 2016. Beaulieu said the trio would be touring Europe this fall, including a week's rehearsal in France in preparation for their third album. He expected to be recording around November, and releasing the new CD next spring.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read other OttawaJazzScene.ca stories about Trio Jérôme Beaulieu and le Festival de Jazz Desjardins:

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2015