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.