Gentiane Michaud-Gagnon (MG) is a composer and jazz piano player who studied at the Quebec Conservatory in Saguenay and then majored in Jazz Performance at McGill University. She has played with many jazz artists around Canada and also toured in China and Mexico. The Gentiane MG Trio’s first album, Eternal Cycle (2017), was named by CBC Music as one of the ten best jazz recordings of that year. Wonderland’s liner notes describe it as “a place of endless possibilities. A place where things can be different.” Indeed, the works are all inventive but never clichéd. The harmonies are complex and most pieces start from one idea or theme and work their way through different thoughts and images more organically than simply melodies and solos.
At the album’s core are Wonderland (Part 1: Comeback), Wonderland (Part 2: Shadows) and Wonderland (Part 3: Unbearable). Comeback begins with an ostinato from the piano, then Louis-Vincent Hamel on drums introduces a complex lilting samba pattern and the piece continues to expand on those ideas with repeated ostinatos and exchanges with the drums. Shadows has many pensive chords over which Levi Dover plays a thoughtful bass solo. Unbearable opens with tense chords and a simple pattern punctuated by rhythmic and inventive drum fills. Eventually the piano becomes more contrapuntal and the bass joins the exchange as well. Michaud-Gagnon’s piano style is cerebral with hints of Bach, Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans and occasional Monk-ish riffs. The trio plays off each other in subtle shades as they work through Michaud-Gagnon’s compositions. Wonderland is like visiting a safe, thoughtful and meditative world.