Hommage à Mingus

Normand Guilbeault Ensemble, Charles Mingus / Matthieu Bélanger, Jean Derome, Normand Guilbeault, Ivanhoe Jolicœur, Paul Léger, Michel Ouellet

The music is very intense. But there is also room for humor and charm. Vital, Netherlands

Normand Guilbeault may well be the first Quebec-born jazz musician to have demontrated a profound acknowledgment of the influence of Charles Mingus. Like Mingus, Guilbeault is a bassist, a band leader and a composer. Unlike many of his peers, Guilbeault has dedicated a great deal of his time and his soul to unravel the mysteries of Mingus’s music.

To realize this task, Guilbeault has looked for instrumentalists to form his group who were more than capable musicians — he found five others who shared and trusted their leader’s conviction that great compositions and a unique performance practice could provide the driving force for creative individual expression. Thus, the instrumentation of this group differs from that usually heard on today’s jazz scene.

Of these instrumentalists, Mathieu Bélanger deserves first mention because he has courageously declared the clarinet to be his instrument of choice. Besides the instrument Mathieu also plays the unwieldly bass clarinet and, like Mingus’ arguably most innovative instrumentist, Eric Dolphy, has proven that the clarinet can serve as a voice for the most demanding expressive statements.

Trumpeter Ivanhoe Jolicoeur also plays the flügelhorn and can be heard, on this recording, reaching into a wide bag of musical idioms needed to realize the demands of Mingus’ music. Trombonist Michel Ouellet has found his own voice on the instrument — but one that has been formed through the appreciation and study of such lesser known but important stylists as lawrence Brown, Bill Harris, and Mingus’s own jJimmy Knepper.

Drummer Paul Léger is to Normand Guilbeault what Dannie Richmond was to Mingus’ — a strong supportive team player ready to go on the most wild adventure and seemingly able to read minds when someone is ready to stike off in a new direction.

Invited guest, Jean Derome is a leader of his own groups and as much as a respected and established composer and instrumentalist as one could be in the world of Québec’s creative music scene. Jean’s list of recent accomplishments would fill many pages. When you hear him play the flute, alto and baritone saxophones, it becomes obvious that this man is a major talent deserving recognition on an international level. The point here is that he has enthusiastically joined Guilbeault’s group as a full partner in the ensemble and as one among six of the soloists. Obviously Jean’s love of Normand and Mingus’ music led him to make room in his own busy schedule to participate in this project.

About the leader, more needs to be said: Not yet forty years old, Normand Guilbeault has become one of the sought-after bassists in Montréal. He can be counted upon as a team player, a soloist able to satisfy the demands of both the leaders and the wide variety of music he is often called upon to play. Also, he reads music very well. In his role as a band leader, he has (with the collaboration and support of his companion Anne) overcome the obstacles of organization, preparation of material, looking for work, producing concerts and recordings, dealing with his musicians — all in addition to playing the bass very well. On this recording, I believe Guilbeault has accomplished what few have even attempted — to play Mingus’ music within the spirit of its creator, yet applying a distinct personality to that effort.

Andrew Homzy, Composer and music educator teaching jazz studies at Concordia University, Montréal, 1997

CD (JTR 8460)

  • Label: Justin Time Records
  • JTR 8460
  • 1996
  • UCC 068944846023
  • Total duration: 73:37
  • Jewel case
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 105 g

On the web

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In the press


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 703, November 1, 2009

Normand Guilbeault Ensemble. With an earlier CD in mind of this ensemble, Mingus Erectus, their new one is again dedicated to the work of jazzgigant Charlie Mingus. In a line up of six musicians plus guest a singer (alt and baritone saxes, flute, voice, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, fluglehorn, piano, drums, doublebass) they interpret six compositions by Mingus. It is a very demanding and heavy kind of jazz. It not so easily opens itself up for the listener. The music is very intense. But there is also room for humor and charm. The piano solo in Prayer for Passive Resistance is hard to resist. It is difficult for me to judge how this combo actualizes the music of Mingus, but for sure not in a conservative retro way.

The music is very intense. But there is also room for humor and charm.

More texts

  • Stuart Broomer, Coda Magazine, no. 275, September 1, 1997