Remi Bolduc, on the allure of Oscar Peterson’s compositions

The ever-busy Montreal musician and professor pays tribute to Oscar Peterson with his new album and upcoming concerts.

by Peter Hum – Ottawa Citizen
Published Mar 06, 2017

Montreal saxophonist Remi Bolduc

Today the blog catches up on Montreal saxophonist Remi Bolduc, who as is typically the case has multiple projects on the go, even as he passes along jazz wisdom to his students at McGill University.

Bolduc’s begun touring the latest of his tribute-themed projects, and will be staging four Swingin’ With Oscar concerts in Toronto and the vicinity, feting the launch of his Les Productions Art and Soul disc of the same name. Bolduc’s quartet, playing a program based on the compositions of Oscar Peterson, also plays Gatineau next month, on April 12.

But that’s not all. In less than two weeks, Bolduc will be recording a live album in Edmonton at the Yardbird Suite, with his five-saxophone band Sax Zenith, an all-star Canadian horn band if ever there was one.

Below, Bolduc chats a bit about what he has on the go.

When and why did you decide to do an Oscar Peterson tribute project?

The first concert of Swingin’ with Oscar was on Oct. 15, 2015 in Montreal at Salle Bourgie. The project started there. I was then to present the music of Oscar. It was an opportunity for me to learn more about Peterson’s music and to play with Taurey Butler.

2. What was involved in choosing the personnel and material for this project?

First I wanted to feature the compositions of Oscar. Often people think of him as a player. I wanted to present his compositions. I listened to many CD and found 80 compositions. I then chose the one that I felt would sound good in quartet with a sax. Also, I wanted different style. Swing, Latin, 3/4 etc. I found pieces that talked to me and I found that his music was really happy and uplifting.

What impact did Oscar Peterson’s music have on you a) when you were first getting into jazz and b) more recently, now that you have a lot more music under your belt?

Oscar’s music was not part of my upbringing. At the time I really focused mostly on sax players. I knew of Oscar but I did not really know his music. So this project, same with the Brubeck, inspired me to dig more into Oscar’s music and playing. Playing these projects is challenging. I find that the music calls for high energy and hard swinging solos. It is inspiring to me to focus on those important aspects of music and improvisation

What have you learned about Oscar and his music as a result of pulling together this project?

I got more familiar with the kind of chord progressions that Oscar liked. The IV – #IVo – I progressions. Also, it’s amazing how much Oscar swings. Often his band would rush but it is that rushing that gives it this energy.

You already have gigs lined up into 2018 for the Oscar project. What has been the reception of audiences and promoters to this music?

People love the music. I have really positive feedback for the audience and everyone that heard the project.

You recently took a step back from your responsibilities at McGill. Tell me about what you did and how it felt to do it.

I am not Jazz Area Chair anymore. It is just something we do. We usually change area chair every two years. I did three. Jean-Michel Pilc is now area chair. It does feel good to have more time to focus on playing for sure.

As far as McGill goes, I am a tenured professor. So I am there to stay, teaching improvisation both at the grad and undergrad level. Plus, I teach private lessons.

What else do you have on the go?

Beside this project, I am recording on March 17 and 18 a live CD at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton with my project Sax Zenith. This project is mainly my compositions and arrangements. The project features P.J. Perry, Phil Dwyer, Kirk MacDonald and Kelly Jefferson on saxes, me, Me, Fraser Hollins and Dave Laing.