I have had the pleasure of reviewing two albums from Quebec this month, and this province continues to produce the kind of outstanding art our country has come to associate with it. Pianist François Bourassa’s latest release Swirl: Live at Piccolo is a beautiful mix of improvised and composed elements and is full of contrast to its core.
Years ago, there was a stereotype that contemporary jazz from Quebec tended to be either avant-garde or straight ahead, with little room in the middle. Whether that was ever entirely true stands to be determined, but the improvised music currently being produced in La Belle Province is an amazing melange of improv and tradition, and to this listener it contains a better range of influences than most other music forged in our country.
I assumed Live at Piccolo meant this album was recorded live off the floor at Studio Piccolo in the east of Montreal, but audience applause quickly alerted me to the fact that this was a performance as well. This brings a certain realness to the music, which is expertly choreographed and precise while simultaneously sounding entirely improvised. Bourassa has been working with reed player André Leroux and bassist Guy Boisvert for more than two decades now and the most recent addition to the group, Guillaume Pilote, does more than hold his own. The album is just over an hour in duration but manages to keep even the most distractable ears glued to their stereo. I recommend it to curious listeners nationally and globally.