The Rachel Therrien Trio
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, May 14, 2016 – 8 p.m.
The Rachel Therrien trio demonstrated how standards and jazz classics could be reenergized and reimagined in their appealing show at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge Saturday evening.
Therrien on trumpet and flugelhorn was performing with two of the musicians from her long-standing Montreal quintet: Charles Trudel on piano, and Simon Pagé on six-string electric bass (last heard in Ottawa last fall with Guillaume Martineau). Therrien's quintet won the Grand Prix award at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival, where she presented her second album, Home Inspiration.
She played one song from that album during the second set – a moody piece with her on flugelhorn. With Trudel and Pagé providing a steady driving beat, her nuanced, fluid lines lightly danced over them, producing contrasting textures. That was, regrettably, the only original in the show.
It wasn't ideal conditions for performance: during the first two sets, a large contingent was talking loudly beside the bar, competing with the music. Nevertheless, for the tables of listeners who sat near the stage, listening closely and applauding regularly, there was much to enjoy.
I was particularly impressed by how Pagé expanded his role as bassist. In the first set, he opened Miles Davis' “Blue in Green” by tapping a steady percussion riff on the wood of his bass. He then recorded and looped that riff using his extensive pedal board, and added bass notes on top of it. Therrien on flugelhorn and Trudel on piano then joined in, creating a more accented and modern, and less “pretty” version of the jazz classic.
Therrien also added her own percussive effects later on, by tapping on the bell of her trumpet while Trudel was playing.
The trio played everything from an bright and sassy, Louis-Armstrong-style version of “Who Could Ask For Anything More?”, to a sparkling “There Will Never Be Another You” (with Pagé playing a guitar melody on his bass), to a slow and romantic “Someday My Prince Will Come”, with an eloquent flugelhorn solo. On some of the bluesier numbers, Trudel seemed to be almost channeling Art Tatum or Oscar Peterson, with flurries of notes and strong bass chords, while Therrien's trumpet-playing was equally brash and calling out.
There was lots of interplay and a comfortable ease on the bandstand. The third set opened with a soulful ballad, which developed into an upbeat number featuring fast, swinging piano accented by Pagé slapping his bass strings, and an extended, coruscating trumpet solo. Those audience members who were listening – including Brookstreet owner Sir Terence Matthews – greeted the solos and the songs with enthusiastic applause.
Next month, Therrien will release Pensamiento, an album recorded in Bogota with Colombian musicians and reflecting their rhythms and grooves. She's also working on a new album with her Montreal quintet, including Trudel and Pagé, which she hopes to release later this year.
– Alayne McGregor