Remi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble riffs off Brubeck 

Montreal musician brings tribute to the Maury Young Arts Centre

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Joy of sax Jazz saxophonist Remi Bolduc is bringing his tribute to the Maury Young Arts Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Joy of sax Jazz saxophonist Remi Bolduc is bringing his tribute to the Maury Young Arts Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Take Five' is quite a famous number."

Saxophonist Remi Bolduc considers a question about the reaction he gets when playing this iconic jazz anthem by American composer and pianist Dave Brubeck.

Montreal-based Bolduc is on tour with his jazz ensemble in a "Tribute to Dave Brubeck" and audiences can get quite passionate. Brubeck, who had a career spanning over 70 years, died in 2012 at the age of 91.

"When we start 'Take Five' there can sometimes be almost a standing ovation. I think, 'Wow. I wish I composed that tune,'" Bolduc laughs.

"People really love (Brubeck's) music and they come up to me after and tell me about it. We play it our way and it is a way for them to discover our style."

Accompanied by Francois Bourassa on piano, Fraser Hollins on bass and Dave Laing on drums, Bolduc is bringing the tribute to the Maury Young Arts Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m.

Brubeck is not the first jazz composer who Bolduc built a tour around — the first was saxophonist Charlie Parker.

"On one side I do these touring projects and on the other I do my own composition. I bounce back and forth. I made (his 2013 album) Random Masters and then went on to the Brubeck tribute. It's just the way I am; I like to do different projects," Bolduc says.

He created the tribute for several reasons.

"When I was a kid, I would check (Brubeck's alto sax player Paul Bestman) out. It brought me into the music of Brubeck," Bolduc says.

He also admires Brubeck's technical skills as a composer.

"The compositions of Brubeck are in 'odd meters.' Take Five is in 5/4 (time). He is one of the first composers in jazz to use it," he says.

"I also played and recorded with Jerry Bergonzi, a tenor sax player from Boston, and he played many years with Brubeck. We just performed together in Montreal a few weeks ago."

Bergonzi was given a lot of musical freedom by Brubeck and this, too, interested Bolduc.

"Brubeck was really into letting players express themselves," says Bolduc.

"I thought that was cool. So we don't try to sound exactly like him. I know that is what he would have wanted."

Bolduc is also a teacher. Currently the area chair of jazz performance at Montreal's McGill University, he has worked with music students for 20 years.

He works with musicians who have already reached a high level of success.

"It's great because what I teach is what I am doing. I teach improvisation for masters and doctorates in music," Bolduc says.

"I learn from them, too. Many of them have strong, interesting ideas. We talk about the music, play together, make comments."

How does one teach improvisation?

"I try to cover it in terms of what the musicians are looking for, how to feel and what they are trying to express. We work out how to express it, how the notes work, the rhythm, how the musicians interact with each other through exercises," Bolduc says.

They have to get to the point where they don't think about (the playing). Improvising means not having the time to think about the music. You have to put in the work, but when you're live you just want to let it go. It takes a while to master this."

A mention of last year's Oscar-winning film Whiplash, the story of a brutal jazz teacher and his best student, makes Bolduc laugh.

"It's not representative of anything I've seen. The funny thing is that somebody comes into my class, I usually tell them to play less (compared with the film). Most of the time, players play too much. It's about being meaningful, not faster.

"I tell my students that there are a lot of guys who play fast out there, but you need to find your own voice and you need to be good at listening and interacting. That's what is important.

"When I saw the movie they weren't talking about any of that."

Next for Bolduc is a tribute to the great Montreal jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

"It's called 'Swinging with Oscar.' We've had two concerts and are doing another one in the spring. Next fall we'll start to tour it to the States." 

Tickets for the Remi Bolduc Jazz Ensemble's Tribute to Dave Brubeck are 19-plus, $27 for Whistler Arts Council members and $29 for non-members. They can be purchased at the Maury Young Arts Centre or online at



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