Multi-layered music from the three adventurous musicians in Trifolia. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Multi-layered music from the three adventurous musicians in Trifolia. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Marianne Trudel, Étienne Lafrance, Patrick Graham
Montreal Jazz Festival
Thursday, July 4, 2013 – 6 p.m.

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Trifolia is a new project from three adventurous Montreal jazz musicians: pianist Marianne Trudel, double bassist Étienne Lafrance, and percussionist Patrick Graham.

They toured across Canada this summer to promote their first CD, Le Refuge, starting in the Yukon, and continuing right to Newfoundland. reviewer Alayne McGregor saw part of their show in Ottawa and the entire show in Montreal.

Marianne Trudel may be the spokesperson for Trifolia in concert, but when you see them play, it's clear that all three musicians speak together. In both shows, the lead jumped from one to the other to the other seamlessly; they shifted among solos, duets, and trios, and underpinned each other's solos.

It was complex multi-layered music – strongly melodic (on both the bass and piano), but with a fascinating range of percussive elements provided by Graham. Trudel wrote most of the compositions, but each of them contained considerable space for individual contributions.

The Montreal show opened with “Possibilités et Limitations”, which at first listen reminded one of a composition by Erik Satie. It contrasted light, sparkling piano and airy cymbals at one point with deep riffs on bass later on, and as with many of the other pieces unexpectedly changed rhythms and time signatures within the piece. Partway through, Graham introduced a hard, circling drum solo, which including a shiny, echoing effect from the spiral-cut cymbal he had hung from his drumkit, before the piece returned to its original piano pattern and ended.

That was followed by “Oui”, which was introduced by Lafrance's expressive bowing on bass. Light brushes on different cymbals and simple notes on the piano danced above the bass melody, and then all three musicians upped the intensity of the piece until it finally slowed to a trickle of notes.

“La Rivière” was inspired by water (Trudel is an avoid canoeist, and Lafrance loves kayaking). It began almost imperceptibly with Graham's low, atmospheric frame drumming, followed by mallets on cymbals. The music ebbed and flowed from there, until suddenly it hit the rapids of syncopated piano. Graham counterposed fast rhythms on a kanjira, a small South Indian instrument that's a cross between a frame drum and a tambourine (it has small metal discs inserted on its sides which jingle when shaken). I initially mistook it for a Brazilian pandeiro, which it resembles quite closely. Trudel's supple piano, almost vibrating in place, was underlaid by a deep, resonant bass riffs, and all the musicians steadily increased in intensity, with glissandos and fast repetitions of notes. The music slowed and then regained energy several more times before ending with a flourish. The next piece, “Coldwater Lake” (by Lafrance and Trudel), continued the aquatic theme in a more classical manner, again contrasting the rumbling bass with lighter tones on piano and percussion.

Then Trudel stood up, reached down, and picked up a small, bright red, accordion. It belonged to her grandparents; she found it stored away in a box in their house, and was playing it in memory of her grandfather who had died not long ago. She told the audience that the last time she saw him in hospital, she had held his hand for a long time, but eventually had to tell him she had to leave to play in a concert. He opened his eyes, and told her “Jouer fort” (“Play hard”), and those were the last words she heard from him.

After that, she told Graham and Lafrance that she needed to add some accordion numbers – late in the process – to the CD. Then followed “Steppes” (as in the flat, vast steppes of Mongolia), a simple, sparse, lonely piece which was very affecting. She continued on accordion for “Trois Soleils”, full of complex rhythms and the occasional atonality, but also almost gypsy-style melodies. Both pieces drew strong applause.

Trudel returned to the piano for “Le Refuge”, again full of complicated embroideries of notes and layers of interaction, in which Graham's kanjira was particularly prominent. The show closed with “Nagual” (by Lafrance and Trudel), a fast, bright number with a wide variety of percussive techniques.

Throughout, the Montreal audience was supportive, strongly applauding each piece, and giving the group a standing ovation at the end. At a full 90 minutes, however, there was no time for an encore. The Ottawa audience also gave a standing ovation and received an encore.

This was not your typical piano trio. No standards here, and with a much wider dynamic range and abrupt changes in tempo, textures, and time signatures. Instead Trifolia's music had depth and variety enough to make a second listening a more than worthwhile experience.

    – Alayne McGregor

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Trifolia cross-Canada tour:

  • June 18, 2013 - Old Fire Hall — Yukon Arts Centre, Whitehorse, Yukon
  • June 20, 2013 - Artspring Theatre — Island Arts Centre, Saltspring Island, BC
  • June 21, 2013 - TD Victoria International JazzFest
  • June 22, 2013 - Sylvan United Church — Jazz Vespers, Mill Bay, BC
  • June 23, 2013 - Crofton Hotel, Crofton, BC
  • June 24, 2013 - TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival (two shows)
  • June 25, 2013 - Jazz cafe, Kelowna, BC
  • June 26, 2013 - Edmonton International Jazz Festival
  • June 27, 2013 - TD Toronto Jazz Festival
  • June 28, 2013 - TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
  • July 4, 2013 - Festival international de jazz de Montréal
  • July 9, 2013 - TD Halifax Jazz Festival
  • July 10, 2013 Wreckhousejazzandblues Festival, St. John's, Newfoundland
  • August 9, 2013 Festival Jazz etcetera, Lévis, Québec

See also:

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