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Francois Bourassa

Piano, composition | Over nearly three decades, François Bourassa has built many musical mansions. As pianist, composer and bandleader, he long ago became an international example of Canada’s contemporary jazz scene. A model of both consistency and evolution, he continues to challenge himself, his talented musical partners and his ever-widening community of listeners.

Bourassa was born in Montreal on September 26, 1959. Initially inspired to play piano by his mother’s example, he put the instrument aside for five years in favor of the guitar. “Even as a teenager I was passionate about music,” he recalls. “I would transcribe Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix solos. Then my taste grew more sophisticated when I heard progressive rock, especially Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I came back to the piano at 17 and started to write tunes. Return to Forever was my transition point to jazz, after which I discovered Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Coltrane and Miles.” Now a committed if self-taught improviser, Bourassa studied composition at McGill, where he earned his college degree.

In 1983, Bourassa, bassist Guy Boisvert and drummer Yves Boisvert formed the François Bourassa Trio, an ensemble that won the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival new talent competition in 1985. “We entered as a lark, having had almost no previous gigs,” Bourassa admits; but the instrumental proficiency and creative affinity of the pianist and the Boisvert brothers was undeniable. The festival prize led to hometown gigs, touring throughout Canada and a debut album Reflet 1 in 1986 that underscored the band’s roots in the music of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Wayne Shorter.

Bourassa then returned to studies at Boston’s New England Conservatory, where he focused on improvisation with George Russell, Fred Hersch, Tom McKinley and Miroslav Vitous and earned a Master’s degree. At the same time, the Trio continued to evolve, building an international following with initial appearances in Europe (1988), the United States (1992) and Asia (1993), and recording its second album, Jeune Vieux Jeane in 1992. In addition to the many compositions he wrote for the ensemble, Bourassa also began to produce larger works that incorporated string quartets and string orchestras, as well as masses and ballet scores. “I like spontaneity and freedom, but organization as well,” he notes. “It’s tough when I write for people who don’t improvise, because you can’t assume dynamics and phrasing; but you can’t let composition become too prominent. The balance is key.”

Echo, from 1996, gave a major boost to Bourassa’s international profile. It also marked the end of the Bourassa Trio era, as the ensemble soon expanded to include another prominent member of the Montreal jazz community, saxophonist and flutist André Leroux. “Andre would play with us occasionally from the time we began,” Bourassa recalls, “and he had called me for a duo concert in 1995 where we played so well together that I invited him to play with the trio.” Initially billed as the François Bourassa Trio + André Leroux, their initial recording Cactus (1998) revealed a new power and emotional range that had blossomed by the time the JUNO award-winning Live was recorded at Toronto’s Top of the Senator in 2001. “I think I got more adventurous once I had a quartet,” Bourassa offers. “André brings a different side to my music. He has great energy, where I’m more introspective. His arrival was a big change, one that has allowed me to express my love of Coltrane and Wayne Shorter.”

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“…a modern, varied and spirited jazz… dazzling and complex…” Neri Pollastri, All About Jazz Italy

“Rich, episodic, constantly evolving, multi-faceted pieces that feature strong, accessible melodies allied to unusual and imaginative harmonies." Ian Mann, The Jazzman, UK

"A real 'choc' surprises you as you didn't expect it ... the feeling of amazement does not fade with repeated listening ... when the music possesses so many qualities. Crazy energy, dense and nourishing writing, high-level soloists." ('Choc' de JazzMag) Ludovic Florin, Jazzmag, France

“wittily uses rhythmic and harmonic twists and turns to defy our expectations … you can have fun while absorbing one of the boldest and most gratifying records of the year. – Grade A” Felipe Freitas, 30 Best Jazz Albums of 2017, Jazztrail, USA

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

L'Impact du Silence

Effendi Records
2021

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Number 9

Effendi Records
2017

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Live

Self Produced
2008

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Indefinite Time

Effendi Records
2005

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Live

Effendi Records
2001

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KVQ

From: L'Impact du Silence
By Francois Bourassa

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