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CD review: Rémi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble

Swingin’ With Oscar Les Productions Art and Soul

The first time I played this CD – signature tunes by pianist Oscar Peterson, transcribed, arranged, and interpreted by saxophone master Rémi Bolduc – the music simply lit up the room.

The music itself – ten pieces, eight of which were composed by Montreal’s late great piano giant, and two from his repertoire – are gems recalling that amazing post-Second World War era when swing was still the thing even as bebop was stirring up major changes.

The music is simply gorgeous – from the uplifting opener, Noreen’s Nocturne, and his ever popular closer, Cakewalk, from the toe-tapping Bossa Béguine, the rootsy Riff Blues, and Frank Loesser’s uplifting I’ve Never Been in Love Before, these are pieces that stand the test of time. Peterson – OP to his pals – was a phenomenal player who emerged from Montreal’s St. Henri ghetto to take the musical world by storm with his incomparable technique and deep connection to the music’s churchy roots.

Bolduc needs no introduction: He is a master saxophonist who combines a teaching career at McGill with an active performing and recording career. In these selections we hear the Peterson tradition and legacy revived, but it is Bolduc on alto saxophone who leads the way and drives the energy. American transplant Taurey Butler – a huge Peterson fan – is on piano, and his muscular approach, ability to play the fast tempi, and ease with the stride style make him a natural fit for the group, with the always tuned in and energetic rhythm section of David Laing (drums) and Fraser Hollins (bass), and guest Chantal de Villiers (tenor sax).

It is Bolduc who makes it all happen with his facility on the horn and remarkable ability to weave and develop ideas in and around the basic themes. Bolduc and ensemble are on a six-stop Ontario tour with this project, and are booked for more gigs into the next year. It deserves a broad audience.

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