by Robert Scalia
Dont give up your day job? Rémi Bolduc never needed one to
begin with. Wedding band gigs paid for CEGEP. He offered private lessons
on improvisation to his fellow Concordia students. Oh, yeah he
was also jamming with the Vic Vogel Big Band at age 20.
Persistence is key, says the 40-year-old alto saxophone player and part-time
professor at Concordia and McGill.
If youre able to be a jazz musician and do the little projects
here and there for 20 years, by the time youre 40, things are going
to get smoother, explained Bolduc over coffee.
His summer schedule is proof enough: Germany in May, followed by a two-week
teaching stint in Banff, followed by a Canadian tour with Tom Gossage
and fellow Concordia guitar professor Gary Schwartz.
Rubbing shoulders with legends
Bolduc believes jazz has helped him grow both as a person and musician.
As a shy teen, he learned how to get comfortable with the strong
personalities of tough-talking veterans like Vogel and Dave Turner.
Those lessons came in handy in New York, where Bolduc studied under sax
legend Steve Coleman for two years on a grant from the Canada Council
in 1991. It was important for me to see how it was in a real jazz
scene, he said. You meet a lot of really good players. You
kind of learn where youre at.
He set out to find Ben Monder, a guitarist who constantly came up in conversations
with other musicians. After several flat-out rejections, Bolduc convinced
him to work on a project. For Bolduc, the connection was instant.
For me, the human side is important in music. The more soothing
arrangements for duos and trios composed by Bolduc merely reflect Monders
personality. What comes out of him as a human when he plays
that vibe I think of that when Im writing music for that
Bolduc has adopted this idea of writing for people or about events to
his own compositions, which he insists are more improvisational than those
on the Monder project.
Take the piece Petit souper en famille, for example. Ill
decide, OK, Im going to write about my family having dinner. My
kid talks. My baby cries. The TV is on. The phone rings.
The instruments in this piece will converse one at a time, then interrupt
each other and, finally, all talk at the same time. Composing becomes
more thematic, says Bolduc, and surprisingly more structured and logical
because of it. It allows me to write a tune in a way I would have
never been able to write before.
Growing into music
A far cry from that teen who practiced 12 hours a day, Bolduc says he
doesnt even need his sax to write music and rarely has to concentrate
on his notes when improvising on stage. The good thing about getting
older in music is that it kind of starts to grow on you in a way that
you dont need to work as hard to get it out.
Still, when he speaks, Bolduc seems just as eager to run with the big
names and learn along the way. His eyes sparkle when he discusses teaching
at the Banff School of Fine Arts this summer alongside American pianist
Kenny Werner (with whom hes recording his next CD), Steve Coleman
and budding young musicians from London to Hong Kong.
Its just nice to be listed with all those amazing players.
Plus, youre always around these guys. You eat with them. You just
go out and hang with them. It gives you this energy when you see just
how intense they are.
He rolls the prospect over in his head, pauses and chuckles. It
makes me nervous now, because I want to take lessons with them.
Rémi Bolducs latest CD is Renaissance (Effendi Records).
He plays at Club Soda with Ben Monder on Thursday, May 2.