Jazz Winners 2015: FIJM and Jazz en Rafale competitionsby Marc Chénard
/ October 1, 2015
In the constant search for new talent, competitions have always been a great springboard for up-and-comers in all artistic fields. Well-established in classical music, they are just as indispensable in pop and jazz. In Montreal, our summer jazz fest created its own event back in the 1980s while the Effendi Jazz en Rafale concert series, held annually in the Spring since 2001, started a similar showcase a decade or so ago.
Held under the auspices of Jazz Services, a production entity independent of Effendi Records but first instigated by its head, this late-March festival presented five finalist bands during its fifteenth edition. Two guitarists emerged as winners this year, the first prize going to the HM trio of Hugo Mayrand, the second to Night Clock, headed by Maxime Rhéault. The former is a multi-faceted talent: as an instrumentalist he is firmly anchored in Latin music ranging from flamenco to Brazilian, influences that underscore his compositions and the very sound he produces on semi-acoustic guitar. A composer and arranger as well, he has written sound tracks for feature films and ad spots alike. His band is slightly unusual in that he shares the stage with a drummer, Maude Bastien, and a pianist, Jérôme Beaulieu, the latter discovered a few years ago in Radio Canada’s Galaxy talent search and who went on to record with the Effendi label. A generous recording grant attached to the prize will enable this unit to go into the studio and produce its debut album, its release to coincide with that festival’s 2016 edition.
For its part, the FIJM’s jazz competition (Montreal’s longstanding jazz festival) continues to be one of the most jazz-oriented components within its musical smorgasbord. Open to Canadian groups, it has enabled a number of local talents to pursue their careers, pianists Lorraine Desmarais and François Bourassa being two good examples. Last July, the up-and-coming trumpeter Rachel Therrien was given top marks for the performance of her quintet. By her own admission, she was surprised to receive this honour, noting that it was the first real acknowledgement of her talents, both as a player and leader. Since starting her band in 2009, she has produced two records with this lineup, the most recent one (Home Inspiration) reviewed in this section in December 2014. Rounding off the group are pianist Charles Trudel, bassist Sébastien Pellerin and drummer Alain Bourgeois, all charter members, with alto saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps joining the fray a couple of years ago. This award-winning musician will be featured next month in a column devoted to three women instrumentalists emerging on the Montreal scene.