repeating Metaphysics 101 for a second time, my professor took
me aside and explained that since a good memory enables the student
to retain all sorts of convenient facts, he will be severely tempted
to circumvent the hard thinking required of philosophy and default
to regurgitation. On the other hand, the student with a poor memory
will be obliged to think through a problem until he understands
it, the effort of which decisively favours the retention of what
is required to communicate what has been learned.
musician-composers blessed with great fluency and technique often
default to what they already know instead working on and working
out problems that result in truly original composition -- self-examination’s
concerns jazz -- with a nod to a modified Irwin Berlin lyric,
“let’s face the music and advance,” –
can we agree that solos, even the best ones, (thankfully) come
and go whereas composition, like true love, “is here to
stay?” Musicians harbouring complexes over technique shouldn’t
fret since that lacking forces them to concentrate on the act
of creation instead of regurgitation. Who in their right-brained
mind wouldn’t rather be a better composer than musician?
past near decade, Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel has been composing
music that has earned praise for its candour and integrity. From
Espaces libres to her just released fourth CD, Espoir
et autres pouvoirs, her music is energized
by a persistent albeit ingratiating melancholy that will appeal
to listeners who share her somewhat less than optimistic worldview.
There is no mistaking the manner in which her moments musicaux,
like a mist, come to inhabit an especially small venue. What is
distinct in her writing is revealed in her deeply felt moods that
oscillate between the lugubrious and transcendental. Whether as
a soloist, or in duo with a chromatic harp (harmonica) player
or assuming a more subdued role in a septet, her soul and story
remain the same. Allowing her precious inner voice its formidable
say, she lays bare her unedited transactions with the world out
of which emerges a highly personal vision that targets audiences
for whom ‘possible worlds’ are rendered temporarily
real through music.
sets apart much of her writing is her sensitivity to soundscapes
that falls outside jazz. In her quest to find the self through
music, she doesn’t hesitate to defer to another culture’s
scale as the means to the end of revealing herself more fully.
She is unapologetically attracted to the interval and acoustic
space that distinguish Arabic music, resulting in haunting journeys
(quests) that evoke the desolation of the desert as well as her
own sense of ennui and not quite belonging. While much of her
writing is architecturally flat, through evocative percussive
effects and creative instrument pairings she enables the otherwise
static harmonic to travel far and wide.
instrumentalist, she will never achieve the ease of a Bill Charlap
or Brad Mehldau on the ivories, but she has the wisdom to stay
within herself (the same could be said for Diana Krall) and makes
a point of making every note count, adding yet another voice in
the losing battle against the redundancy factor that continues
to afflict jazz. How necessary is an active left hand in a solo
if the combo includes a bass player?
Trudel doesn’t dazzle technically, her solos are refreshingly
spare and occasional, and can be more or less repeated from one
concert to the next, which puts them on the same page as composition
– an achievement too often frowned upon by the wizards of
improvisation. But lest we forget, Carlos Santana, for example,
even though he’s not good enough for jazz, is one of the
very few guitarists in the past 75 years whose solos have achieved
the status of composition – the stuff of singing in the
rain and humming in the shower. In a 100 years from now how many
will know the name of Ed Bickert -- a very fine Toronto jazz guitarist
bound for the glories of oblivion?
latest CD marks yet another advancement in her progress as a composer.
Hearkening back to the early and experimental Pat Metheny (Still
Life), she exploits the redoubtable voice of Anne Schaefer,
manipulating it like an instrument which she combines with both
piano and brass. As with the generic, gravelly flamenco voice,
the Schaefer aesthetic is secondary to the mood or concept it
is asked to serve.
is to be admired and respected in Trudel, who is still young and
learning, is her courage and constancy in confronting what is
unresolved in her life which she then makes the issue of her writing.
She’s not so much out to impress as share the fruits of
her vital labours with sympathetic musicians and listeners for
whom her music excites a need that would otherwise remain obscure.
In her steadfast refusal to compromise what she wants to say,
she has already identified one of the key components required
of significant composition, which bodes well for future projects.
That Montreal’s finest musicians and premier jazz label
Records) are eager to collaborate with her is an
endorsement her writing and work ethic cannot refuse.