Ben Wilkins concert review



There’s clearly a mistake between Mark’s and my name but a good review none the less. Check it out here:

Jane Ehrhardt and Ben Wilkins: Two Canadian shows make for one fine evening

by Mark Lindenberg

July 1, Canada Day, and there were big celebrations going on in Québec City: Birthday cake on the Dufferin Terrace, and fireworks on the Plains of Abraham, with crowds of people in attendance. My wife and I chose instead to mark the country’s birthday with a smaller group of people in a more intimate setting: Arts Alive! Québec’s presentation of Ben Wilkins in the city’s Morrin Centre.

Jane Ehrhardt started things off with a solo, 45-minute opening set just after 8 pm. Opening with a few songs on an electric piano/keyboard, her lyrics evoked her love for Québec City or, for another song, “Richard”, described a non-interaction at a house party. She told the audience a little about the genesis of the latter song’s lyrics. Before playing “Running Dry”, she described the process of making the video for it, among painters, painting in a studio.

Accompanying her own vocals on the guitar for one or two songs, I could hear a folk tinge in Ehrhardt’s sound. When she went back to the keyboard, I could distinguish a jazz influence in her style. At times, I was struck by the feeling that her songs were intensely felt and very personal.

Ehrhardt’s between-song patter was mostly in French, though she sang in English or French. I would have appreciated knowing the title of each song, a minor quibble taking nothing away from the fact that she consistently touched listeners with her melodic, sometimes melancholy poetry.

Ben Wilkins then took the stage, on keyboards, accompanied by Mark Wheaton on bass guitar and Alex Lefebvre on drums, a good, solid jazz trio. Like Ehrhardt’s before him, Wilkins’ stage patter was in French, but many songs had English lyrics.

In contrast to Ehrhardt’s set, many of Wilkins’ song lyrics seemed to deal in a more abstract way with youthful hope, minor cynicisms, and the small joys of life. Lefebvre played drums with a light touch when necessary, and considerable energy when called upon to do so. On the bass guitar, Wheaton laid an excellent foundation for Wilkins’ piano-playing. Wilkins’ skill was evident, though he might have turned the volume down a little, during his bandmates’ solos.

The music was at times up-tempo, with a great beat, but at one point in the course of the evening, I got as mellow as the music and found it almost meditative.

In hindsight, I find the show’s low-key nature rather Canadian. Only after arriving home from an unassuming show and undertaking a bit of research for this review did I come to have a greater sense of these performers (Jane Ehrhardt included) as musicians with some experience and background. They had chops. That was obvious to the assembled listeners. The only pity? That there weren’t more people there to hear them.

Walking to the bus stop after the show, a bit of rain in the air, I was glad to have recognized Canada Day not with the dazzle of fireworks, but with the discovery of different voices.


Jazz-Rhone-Alpes taks about Parc X Trio’s concert in Lyon, France


Parc X trio au Jazz Club Saint-Georges


Très belle soirée au Jazz Club Saint-Georges qui avait eu l’excellente idée de programmer un jeune groupe du Québec (décidément, ici, nous n’avons pas de problème de programmation). Le Park X trio, avec Gabriel Vinuela-Pelletier au piano, et compositions, Alex Lefaivre à la basse et compositions et Alain Bourgeois à la batterie.

Park X trio ? Et oui ! C’est un nom en hommage à un quartier célèbre de Montréal ; et tout chez ces musiciens dit l’attachement au pays et l’enracinement dans ce lieu cher au cœur, parce qu’il permet aussi le partage d’une musique sans frontière. Alex et Alain d’abord se sont rencontré et ont partagé leurs goûts musicaux puis leur local de répétition. Avec Gabriel qui a fait de solides études de piano classique, ils ont très vite eu envie de jouer ce jazz contemporain nourri par quelques influences contemporaines : The Bad Plus, E.S.T. trio, Brad Mehldau, Avishaï Cohen… Le Trio de Jérôme Beaulieu, dans une esthétique assez voisine, les avait précédé au saint Georges et leur a ouvert la voie.

Musique lancinante, intimiste polyrythmique, virtuosité, unité de son du groupe. Tout est là ! Nous aovns entendu de très beau thèmes d’un CD à venir, des inédits par conséquent : Kamourhaska, Wellflet (encore des hommages aux lieux de prédilections au Québec) ; et aussi Liliane, Breathe… Ce n’était que le troisième concert d’une tournée qui conduit le trio à travers toute l’Europe ; Vienne, Leibzig…

Après son grand prix de Jazz TD 2010 du Festival international de jazz de Montréal, L Park X trio fait son chemin. Décidément, au Club Saint Georges, on ne tourne pas en rond.

Bernard Otternaud & photos Jean-François Cognat