Gary Burton isn't the only one to discover vital new talent, as he did on Next Generation
(Concord, 2005). Over the past few years, the Canadian Effendi Records label has introduced a surprising number of outstanding artists to the Canadian jazz scene. Their Effendi Jazz Lab performance at the '04 Ottawa International Jazz Festival demonstrated just how fresh some of their new signings are. In addition to being strong performers with well-formed musical personalities, they are compelling composers as well.
Renowned for a wide variety of styles, Effendi's common thread is a fearless pursuit of musical truths without compromise. To take these artists (and itself) to the next level, Effendi needs to gain distribution in other countries, especially the United States. Artists like saxophonists Rémi Bolduc, Jean-Pierre Zanella, and Christine Jensen are unequivocally world-class and deserve to be heard by larger audiences.
For another example, take Julie Lamontagne. Classically trained on piano from an early age, but with a voracious musical appetite that has seen her pursue flute, saxophone, and Latin percussion, her main interest remains her first. And while she has worked with a wide range of aritsts from Brazilian singer/songwriter Monica Freire to Haitian singer Éval Manigat and French chanson Isabelle Boulay, her passion remains jazz. Currently in New York, supported by Canadian grants and studying with Garry Dial and Fred Hersch, she's still a work in development. Which makes her debut recording, Facing the Truth, all the more remarkable. She may still be busy honing her craftwho isn't?but this contemporary piano trio, featuring bassist Dave Watts and drummer Richard Irwin, demonstrates an already well-formed musical conception.
These ten compositions are all hers, and she covers a range of stylistic territory. "Vagabonde conveys a Bill Evans vibe with its loping waltz time, lyrical bent, and gentle impressionism. But no sooner is one lulled into a feeling of relative calm than Lamontagne shifts gears with the title track, which begins with a heavy-hitting riff on the lower end of the piano. But it's only a temporary diversion, as the tune settles into a more delicate centre. The aggressive stance of the intro pops up here and there, but Lamontagne's solo again comes from the Bill Evans Schoolalthough perhaps by way of John Taylor in its greater sense of abstraction, kept in check by Watts and Irwin's adherence to compositional form.
"Hang Dog revolves around a semi-funky bass line and a hint of gospel, but the touch remains light. Even on up-tempo pieces like the 9/8 samba "CCM, Lamontagne's approach remains feathery, although she's capable of stronger dynamics when need be, as on "Day in Paname, which alternates between another funk vamp and a light, yet insistently swinging middle section.
Facing the Truth is an auspicious debut from a young pianist who will certainly be heard from more on the Canadian jazz scene. It would be a shame if the vagaries of the business world prevent her from being heard by a larger public.
Visit Julie Lamontagne on the web.