All Systems Cleared for Some Mighty Fine Jazz

Local Trio Cover Nirvana, Radiohead; Journey to the Moon

The Jérôme Beaulieu Trio doesn’t quite fit the mold of traditional jazz musicians. It has been a year of firsts for the group who, after winning the Jazz en rafale contest, and taking home the Grand Prix du Festi-Jazz international de Rimouski in 2011, were given a coveted spot playing Montreal’s International Jazz Festival last July.

This followed the April release of their first album, L’Homme sur la lune, a musically innovative recording inspired by the first moon landing in 1969.

As could be expected, gigs for the group, which features Jérôme Beaulieu on the piano, Philippe Leduc on bass, and William Côté on drums, are multiplying in the wake of the festival.

Although Beaulieu occasionally arranges tracks by the likes of Radiohead and Nirvana for the trio, playing jazz “his way” is very important to Beaulieu, who writes most of their material.

The result is a more accessible, contemporary, pop-rock-driven form of jazz that delights neophytes and aficionados alike. For Beaulieu, the key to making a living as a musician, and more specifically a jazz pianist, is live shows.

“Aside from the fact that jazz is an elite kind of art form, because of the Internet, there is little chance that an artist will earn a living off record sales today. In fact, it’s impossible.”

“There’s something absolutely crazy about playing in a small venue with people sitting two feet behind you. For outdoor venues, although we’ll still play a few ballads to vary the pace, we emphasize the more punchy and rhythmic pieces. In a small venue, we can whisper.”
– Jérôme Beaulieu

He admits however, that along with helping the trio garner new fans, the visibility offered by their performance at the International Jazz Festival boosted the sale of their most recent album.

Still, when asked whether he prefers the big jazz fest crowds or playing small intimate club venues, Beaulieu hesitates.

“I love big crowds,” he says, “but there’s something absolutely crazy about playing in a small venue with people sitting two feet behind you.”

When asked if the size of the venue affects the selection of pieces the trio plays, Beaulieu says it doesn’t really matter.

“I don’t necessarily pick different pieces, but I’ll play them differently,” he says. “For outdoor venues, although we’ll still play a few ballads to vary the pace, we emphasize the more punchy and rhythmic pieces. In a small venue, we can whisper.”

Though the crowd typically becomes silent when the trio plays “Man on the Moon,” a piece that incorporates a recording of the moon landing, the recent death of astronaut Neil Armstron will bestow a new significance to that silence.

Upcoming gigs will provide the opportunity for the trio to perform both in outdoor, and indoor venues. They will be Les midis Jazz Accès Culture’s featured artist at noon on Aug. 30, at Place Émilie-Gamelin’s outdoor stage in the Quartier des Spectacles.

Local radio station CIBL 101.5 will also dedicate an installment of Jazz Encore to the Jérôme Beaulieu Trio on Sept. 24. Then, on Sept. 27, they’ll be playing at the Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill on Mackay St.

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