Remi Bolduc Ensemble Pays Tribute To Dave Brubeck

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Tonight, Moncton’s Capitol Theatre is hosting a tribute to jazz great Dave Brubeck, performed by Montreal’s Remi Bolduc Ensemble.

The ensemble’s tribute to Brubeck extends beyond the concert stage. Backed by Francois Bourassa on piano, Fraser Hollins on bass and drummer Dave Laing, the quartet explores the music of Brubeck via this past February’s release Tribute To Dave Brubeck.

“Dave Brubeck was one of the pioneers of odd time signatures like 5/4 and 7/4, which a lot of my music is also based off,” Bolduc says. “It was only natural that I would go back to the source and pay tribute to Brubeck and his music.”

Born in 1920, Brubeck passed away just one day shy of his 92nd birthday. As a teen, Brubeck was reportedly passionate about music, performing with a band in his spare time. While studying at a college in California, Brubeck began playing piano in local nightclubs to help pay his way through college. Noting his enthusiasm for music and the instrument, his college professors reportedly told Brubeck they felt his enthusiasm would be better served in music.

With World War II in full swing, Brubeck left college and was subsequently drafted into the Army. He served under Gen. George Patton and would have been sent to the front lines of the war had he not been asked to play piano in a Red Cross show for the troops.

Though Brubeck enjoyed modest success in the world of jazz, it was the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album Time Out that would permanently cement his stature. An album written in unconventional time signatures, Time Out became the first jazz album to sell more than one million copies. Ironically, Brubeck’s label at the time – Columbia – felt the album might have been too artsy for mainstream tastes and were supposedly hesitant to release the record.

Although Bolduc’s career in music unfolded unquestionably different than Brubeck’s, his passion was evident from the start.

It was at age 14 that Bolduc picked up the saxophone.

“My connection with the instrument was immediate,” he says.

By the time Bolduc had turned 15 years old, he was already earning a living off the instrument, performing alongside a number of different outfits while regularly playing weddings.

“A lot of the music I was performing back then was typical wedding fare, but it was playing those weddings that gave me experience in improvisation. It afforded me the opportunity to get past being shy or nervous while on stage.”

It was hearing Charlie Parker at age 18 that set Bolduc on the path to a career in jazz music. Bolduc would go on to release the first Remi Bolduc Ensemble album in 2001, while also performing as a sideman with a host of different jazz acts – the Joe Sullivan Big Band, Pierre Francois Quartet and Karl Schwonick Jazz Ensemble among them.

The idea to record a tribute to Dave Brubeck came to Bolduc after he and his group had already performed a number of tribute concerts. He says that he and his group strived to keep their arrangements fresh and unique while leaving the core of Brubeck’s work in tact.

“The Brubeck songs we perform are certainly recognizable,” Bolduc says. “I feel it is important for everybody on stage to enjoy themselves and feel free to have space and explore different avenues within the context of a song. Because of that, every performance ends up being unique to a certain extent. We try to bring something a little different to every show. It ends up being more interesting for us and the audience.”

What: Remi Bolduc Ensemble presents A Tribute to Dave Brubeck
When: Thursday Apr. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $36 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca