In the press
Dan Paton, LondonJazzNews, September 27, 2016Montréal-based pianist and composer Marianne Trudel is an influential figure on the national scene in Canada. […] She seeks to retain the crucial element of spontaneity that makes improvised music so exciting. “When I walk on stage, there needs to be a notion of risk. I don’t want to know exactly what will happen in advance.” Trudel’s enthusiasm is infectious and there can be little doubt that she will revel in sharing that delight in risk taking with UK audiences. If Trudel achieves her stated aims, people will leave the concerts feeling transported and moved. They are not to be missed.
Nicolas Pelletier, RREVERB, January 5, 2015Each project that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing — such as Trifolia in 2013 — and the many performances at the Montreal International Jazz Festival — has been a delight. This musician exhibits thoroughness and earnestness that are rarely equaled. She seems to be completely invested in her music.
Neil Hobkirk, Wall of Sound, December 31, 2014The three times I’ve seen Marianne Trudel perform in person, she’s radiated rapture. Alert at the piano, she looked possessed by her music, expressions of intent thoughtfulness and unfettered joy alternately crossing her face.
Gilles Boisclair, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, December 1, 2014La vie commence ici is a title that emphasizes the open-mindedness and warmth of young pianist Marianne Trudel.
Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 2014Trudel Quintet’s concert was the show that connected most forcefully and directly. […] She’s simply dedicated to attaining peak experiences through music […] The crowd was utterly entranced.
Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen, October 22, 2014Last weekend at the Quebec City International Jazz Festival, it was the concert by Marianne Trudel’s Quintet that most impressed and moved me. The Montreal pianist and composer, and her group held her audience spellbound with some deeply adventurous, lyrical and utterly personal music. The amount of musical passion and unfettered interpersonal support at that concert was verging on off the chart at times.
La pianiste québécoise Marianne Trudel n’a pas encore fait de mauvais album. Chaque projet que j’ai eu le plaisir d’entendre — dont «Trifolia» en 2013 — et plusieurs prestations au Festival International de Jazz de Montréal — a été un délice. Cette musicienne semble d’une rigueur et d’un sérieux rarement égalé. Elle m’apparaît complètement investie dans sa musique, immensément respectueuse du Jazz avec un grand J. C’est du sérieux et elle le fait bien.
La pièce titre de son nouvel album, au joli titre La vie commence ici, est un bon exemple de jeu musical parcimonieux. Où chaque note de sax, de batterie, de piano, de contrebasse se rejoint dans une harmonie globale (excusez le pléonasme). Le travail percussif, très original avec ses sonorités métalliques, est notable, particulièrement sur ce titre. Des morceaux très calmes, comme Questions — la première de l’album — sont presque minimalistes. Le piano semble à peine effleuré. Une trompette brise le silence de la nuit. C’est magnifique.
Le piano de Marianne Trudel est encore une fois superbe sur Deux soleils, un morceau qui ressemble un peu à ceux de Gonzales sur l’excellent «Piano Solo». Les accompagnements s’ajoutent graduellement: voici la batterie, voilà la trompette et dans un éclat de soleil, le saxophone. La pièce s’illumine d’un seul coup!
D’autres compositions sont plus éclectiques, comme Soon, qui débute avec une trompette assez entreprenante, avant que les choses se calment et que le piano reprenne la mélodie. Un morceau de huit minutes qui a le temps de se transformer.
La jazzwoman explique sa démarche — plus humaine que musicale
J’avoue qu’à la première écoute, la présence parfois envahissante des cuivres, comme sur À l’abri, me plaisait moins parce qu’ils couvraient beaucoup le piano, souvent magnifique. Mais, au fil des écoutes, j’ai davantage apprécié le contraste entre la force tranquille qu’est le grand instrument aux notes d’ivoire et les notes étincelantes des instruments à vent.
Il s’agit du 6e album de Marianne Trudel, par ailleurs lauréate du prix Opus 2013 pour Trifolia.
Du très bon jazz et, sans vouloir être chauvin, du jazz d’ici!
Although the quintet’s Clarendon concert was its maiden show before an live audience, the band held very little back, and there were musical fireworks galore as the group expanded upon the material it had recorded a year earlier for the disc.
Trudel’s compositions are directly emotional to begin with, and they are constructed and then executed with huge arcs in mind. Indeed, there were moments that brought to mind the uplift of Maria Schneider’s music, the hearty gospel-based positivism of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet, and explosive episodes that brought to mind Wayne Shorter’s Quartet. (That last comparison is just too tempting, given the Brian Blade-like eruptions from drummer Robbie Kuster, the fluid combination and grounding and commentary from Moore, and, no trivializing intended, the exhortations and “jazz whoos” from Trudel.)
Some pieces were epics for the full quintet. Although the instrumentation might say hard-bop quintet at first set, the music was anything but — Trudel’s concept is more of a piano-forward chamber group, with one horn sometimes her melodies and horns often providing backgrounds during other passages. Pieces can be extended, like miniature suites, so that their emotional journeys are long and wending. But if Trudel’s not one to follow the more usual jazz-tune structures to the letter, her way of doing things is remarkably accessible. Her melodies are romantic and appealing, her musicians are utterly in sync with one another, and the sense of common purpose and, indeed, celebration, is palpable.
I expect Jensen to basically be spellbinding whenever I hear her. So she was in Quebec City, contributing arresting, adventurous improvisations. However, she never ran away with the show. Saxophonist Jonathan Stewart, anotherwise unsung, local jazz hero from Kingston, Ontario, played with great poise and maturity, whether on Shorter-like soprano during La vie commence ici or playing robust, warm tenor on his groovy feature Sur La Route.
Trudel, Kuster and Moore played hand-in-glove, surging with soloists and spurring each other to give their all. Tellingly, during the trio piece, La rivière, Trudel found herself verbally exhorting Kuster and Moore to engage more with her, and she attacked the piano with rapid-fire, percussive flails. “Come on! Come on!” she said, lifting her hands from the keyboard to clap. Before long, the music boiled over, with Kuster thrashing beautifully, and a mid-tune standing ovation ensued. Elsewhere during the concert, Trudel asked of Moore when he finished a solo: “Are you done?” Implying of course, that he could give a little more. The bassist dove right back in with some especially extroverted playing.
I don’t think, though, that anyone felt Trudel was being overly bossy. She’s simply dedicated to attaining peak experiences through music — something that she and peers are surely capable of, and something that she wants to share with audiences.
The crowd at the Clarendon was utterly entranced. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in experiencing more than a few frissons — one of the sure signs of great music. While every Quebec City Jazz Festival concert that I saw was packed with music-lovers more than willing to be thrilled, the Trudel Quintet’s concert was the show that connected most forcefully and directly.
Last weekend at the Quebec City International Jazz Festival, it was the concert by Marianne Trudel’s Quintet that most impressed and moved me. I’ll be writing a full review of that show and others that I saw once time allows, but for the moment, let me say that the Montreal pianist and composer, 37, and her group held her audience spellbound with some deeply adventurous, lyrical and utterly personal music. I heard a lot of good music on the weekend, but the amount of musical passion and unfettered interpersonal support at that concert was verging on off the chart at times. If you can, go see Trudel at one of her concerts this week in Montreal, Sherbrooke or Ottawa (the details are below). They’re touring in support of Trudel’s just released album, La vie commence ici. Meanwhile, get to know Trudel’s story from the lightly edited transcript of a conversation we had earlier this month.
Where did you grow up, and what did music mean for you when you were young?
I grew up in a very small village on the south shore of Quebec City. St. Michel de Bellechasse. The woman who was babysitting me was a piano player. She played great. She could not read a note and played all by ear, Quebec folklore music. She had a big upright piano at her place. She took care ofme since I was two. Immediately when I heard her on the piano, I remember the feeling inside me, I just wanted to dance it was so joyful. I loved the music. I have many pictures where I’m just dancing. For me, I associate music with joy. It was great that it was a woman too. At some point, when I was five, I asked my parents if I could take music lessons. Apparently I came back from my first piano lesson saying, I’m going to be a pianist, and I never changed my mind. It was a passion that I discovered very early on.
I have a passion for sounds too. When I was a child, I would walk in the forest and it seemed like my ears were always open. Which is a problem now because we live in a world that is so noisy. It drives me crazy. The piano was a passion. I felt so free. I felt music was very nourishing for me. I like improvising very early on. Yes, I would practice my Mozart and Haydn and my scales, but it was hard for my mother, now you do your 15 minutes of scales…All I wanted to do was to play, to let my hands go freely on the piano. Just hear to the harmonies… At 5, 6, 7, 8. I still have a little music paper book, I was 7 and 8 and I wrote melodies, I composed little songs. They were all dedicated to my piano. I was in love with my piano. I did classical music studies until I was 16. But my real passion was to compose and it still is.
When did jazz come into the picture?
When I was 16, my teacher at school really wanted me to go to the University of Montreal, in classical music with Marc Durand, and be a concert pianist. But there was something. I wasn’t totally sure. I got really sick the weekend of the auditions, and I could not do the auditions. In September the class was full. Somebody told me about the jazz program at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, and it was third year of Cégep, writing for big band. I had no idea what jazz was. But just the possibility of composing and arranging really attracted me.
I spent a year writing for big band and it was the most amazing year. The program was amazing, with pros playing students’ charts. Jean Frechette, Andre Leroux, playing the students’ charts. I learned so much and I fell in love with jazz and I discovered this whole tradition. It was like fresh air for me. There was space for improvising.
I studied with Lorraine Desmarais at the Cégep, and then Lorraine said, “I think you should really continue in jazz.”
So you went to McGill Unversity after playing jazz just for a year!
I did my undergrad in jazz. I really liked it, but there was something again. I never really felt was fitting 100 per cent in jazz or classical. I needed something else. I felt a bit in a box.
It’s ironic. Jazz is improvisation, but within certain codes that are really strict in a way, harmonic codes. I was doing a lot of composing, I was always very active, doing lots of projects outside of classes. I was writing for three bass clarinets and two guitars, crazy things, but I wanted to write.
Andre White once told me that he knew early on that you were working on your own thing…
I had been composing for many years even before I got to McGill. I guess I had developed a kind of sound, a taste for harmonies, a language. And I had the fear of sounding like 90 other students. That was something that bugged me. When I was studying jazz I would go to final concerts and I remember thinking, wow, everybody sounds the same. It was not that true, but there was some truth.
So you never went through a period where you aspired to sound like Herbie Hancock or Keith Jarrett or McCoy Tyner?
First of all, there’s no hope. And, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in having enough confidence and tools to sound like the way I should sound myself. Of course I’ve been influenced by the pianists you’ve just named, but one thing that is very important for me, I’ve always seen music as one thing, not all kinds of little boxes.. I hate that. I don’t like labels. I’ve always thought of music as a unified but infinite thing where you can explore.
What else did you do after attending McGill?
I went on a trip to Paris. I was 22. I was playing in a café, and was kind of discovered… I like the way you play, I could have you audition for Charles Aznavour, the biggest singer in France. I did the audition and I got the job. I went on tour. Of course, I really enjoyed it. I stayed in Europe for two years. I felt so lucky, but in my heart, it’s creating music I wanted to do. I also did a Master’s in Ethnomusicology. Approaching the music from different angles. I wanted to hear different things. I worked on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, I met many of the members. My meeting with Muhal was very important to me. It brought me more than my years at school. I thought that Muhal had that kind of approach to music, to approach music in a very broad, inclusive way. Not this style or that style, broader. He’s so passionate about music. It was a privilege to meet him.
I went a few times to the Banff Centre. That was very inspiring, I met Kenny Wheeler — Kenny Wheeler was god to me! Chucho Valdez was there, Muhal was there, Hugh Fraser. Every time I meet somebody very passionate about music it means a lot to me.
I came back to Montreal, I started to be even more active with projects.
Your first album was a solo piano CD…
That was 10 years ago. When I think about it, I would be afraid to do that now. I was either foolish or brave to start with a solo album. I actually want to do a solo album. I have so many albums that I want to record in my head. They are already in my head. Financially, that’s the only thing to stop me. I’m all ready to record another Trifolia, and I would love to do something orchestral as well. I was studying orchestration by myself, and three years ago, I applied to a competition for jazz musicians to write for symphony orchestra … I found out it was George Lewis that was running the program. He knew me, I applied and I got selected, one of five people. It was quite intimidating. When I got to New York for the class, in the class, it was Rufus Reid and Mark Helias and Nicole Mitchell. I was like, oh my God, the baby. I got to write and have the chance to have my work performed. I loved it, I want to do it more.
What prompted you to get Ingrid Jensen for your latest project?
I invited Ingrid because I’ve always really liked her playing. It’s really unique. I think she has a sound and I find it inspiring that she’s a successful woman too, because we’re still very few in jazz. And I thinkm she has a strong personality. I invited her two years ago to do a few concerts with my band in Montreal and it was great. We played together five or six times and then I really wanted to record. I’ve been playing with Robbie and Morgan for almost 10 years. It feels so natural, we have so much fun. I wanted to record with them. Bunny, we met at McGill and then we met again at Banff. He’s really low-profile and everything, but my God, he sounds good, and he really plays from his heart and I really like that.
They met in the studio, that’s the thing,… it’s very challenging.. schedules and everything. Ingrid is very busy. We just needed to get in the studio, read those tunes and hope for the best. Most of the time I know what I’m doing and I trust, even if it’s risky. I hear the personality of Bunny, Ingrid — yeah it’s going to work. Even if we can’t rehearse it’s going to work.
I can’t wait to play with these guys live, That’s the real thing.
What does La vie commence ici mean for you?
Two things. I’m someone who really likes to feel that I’m 100 per cent in the moment and I find this more and more difficult to achieve in today’s world. We’re always so distracted, always doing three, four, five things at the time. It’s very exhausting, I find.
Music for me is one way to reach that feeling — OK, I’m in one place, I’m connected with myself, and with other people around me, and I’m doing something good hopefully. It sounds a bit esoteric, but you’re in the right place and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and you’re 100 per cent there. I always get that feeling when I walk on stage. OK, this is it.
Also, I’m in my late 30s. I’ve done this, I’ve done that, things happened. I feel it’s something like a new beginning, but this is where I’m at now, and this is where I want to go.