Monday, 30 January 2012

Winter Jazz Fest - Rene Gely's Pulse Mondiale

Well in but a few days we will embark on the very first Winter Jazz Fest in Ottawa. Inspired by the fire that is starting to stir in everyone as we embark on the coldest part of the year... there is no better time than now to come together through music. The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival brings you 9 incredible shows for you in three days. The whole schedule and all the info can be found the Winter Jazz Fest website.

I have been fortunate enough to get to talk to some of the performers that will be taking part in the festivals and who better to start with than the very group that will kick things off on Thursday evening.

Away from and back to Jazz is all a part of the journey for this man, a musician who left Ottawa a long time ago to return home with great experience, knowledge and many a story to tell... all this helped shape the project you will get to hear this thursday as Rene Gely and a great cast of local musicians perform the music of Pulse Mondiale.
The CD which you can find on his website is studded with an array of musicians from all over the place from NYC to Toronto to Ottawa. And as he opens the Winter Jazz Fest you will get to hear him with:
Mike Tremblay on saxophones
Martin Newman on bass
Rob Graves on drums
and guests:
Craig Pederson on trumpet
Renee Yoxon on vocals and
Silvio Modolo on viola guitar, cavaquino and accordion

Rene was kind enough to tell us a bit about himself and his music:

1) The most burning question for me is, what is the inspiration behind this project?
I think it stemmed from me looking to get away from straight ahead jazz -which, although I love when its well played, it never was and probably never will be my bag. I started listening to a lot of world music and just kept looking out for beautiful songs, and every time one came along, I would try to re-imagine it and arrange it in as personal a way as possible. In that sense I wanted to avoid trying to be too respectful of the originals folk music roots... I'm not Brazilian or South American, so there was no need to to pretend otherwise. The key thing was simply finding great melodies, so there is a Hungarian gypsy song that I find hypnotic and other-worldly in its vibe, and Ive arranged it with acoustic baritone guitar which gives it even a darker  sound. The Brazilian songs I've chosen are rather folk songs than sophisticated bossa novas or contemporary pop songs you might hear on the radio. There is also a creole piano piece I discovered in Paris from Guadaloupe, called La Filo. Originally it was 10 pages long and made no sense as a vehicle fro improvisation, but I arranged and shortened and added  structures to it, and its a gas to play.

2) Although you are from Ottawa, you have lived, studied and performed all over the world, having spent a significant amount of time in Paris and San Francisco as I understand it. How has this shaped you as a musician?
Living in Paris  will change anyone for the better, thats for sure. Beyond the overwhelming effect of French and European culture, Paris itself is the main artery or crossroads with Africa. There is a large population of African musicians there and I had the chance to play with Ali Wague, a Peule flutist from Guinea who makes his own wooden flutes  in different colors and has no idea what key or scale they are in, but plays amazing melodies. Just being in Europe and traveling all the time was an mind opening experience for me. San Francisco was good for me because within 6 months I had a band and was getting work and starting this embryonic world music approach. Getting work and a little recognition in a big urban American city kind of vindicated things for me and spurred me on.

3) How have your travels shaped the music we will hear on Thursday?
 Ive been all over Europe, and to Columbia and Cuba and Israel and Croatia and Brockville too! and music has been the tool for communication in all these places, I've met and played with lots of musicians, professional and non-professional, and it always amazed me how music cuts through everything and gets right to heart of the person in front of you.

4) Has the focus of your group and/or music changed once you have moved to Ottawa? Meaning have you found something here maybe that is different from the other places you have lived?
Ottawa has been great for me. Settling down, getting a house, building roots... it was time, I was 42 when I moved here. Also I've been able to perform an awful lot and play with all kinds of musicians. I've been fortunate to work closely with Rob Graves, who is a gifted percussionist who as contributed mightily to the cd and live shows. Also for this concert, MIke Tremblay on sax and Martin Newman on bass are two key players who have played quite a few shows with me. I'll also have Renee Yoxon come sing a couple songs, Craig Pederson will trumpet on a tune and a marvelous Brazilian friend Silvio Modolo will play viola guitar, cavaquino and accordion. It should be a a lot of fun.

5) Would you name some musicians or groups that you are excited about?
There is so much great music  I don't know where to start.
Lets see.. there is Gema y Pavel, an extraordinary guitar/voice duo from Brazil. Their version of "Girl" by the Beatles would blow you away.
Les Voix Mysteres de Bulgare is a desert island disc of amazing choral writing- in perfectly sung quarter tones- no less.
Arsenio Rodrigues was a blind tres player from Cuba ... his song Tres Marias is killer.
Also Andre Mehmari is a very gifted composer/pianist from Brazil.
Finally Gabriel Grossi has an album called Arapuca with a version of 7 Aneis by Gismonti and a piece called Forro da Penha that I transcribed that is hellacious. Imagine a chromatic harmonica player with the chops of Art Tatum!

Rene Gely's Pulse Mondiale will be performing on
Feb 2nd at 19:00
NAC's Fourth Stage
For more info and tickets

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