Primary Instrument: Piano
Creative…mystical…exotic…bluesy…joyful. --Jazz Times (USA)
Without a doubt one of Canada's finest bands. --Toronto Star (Canada)
Composer and pianist Francois Bourassa leads one of Canada's most active recording and touring jazz ensembles, which recently celebrated its 25th birthday. A trio for 15 years, Francois Bourassa, Guy Boisvert (on bass) and Yves Boisvert (on drums) were joined in 1998 by the celebrated saxman Andre Leroux. Upon Yves's subsequent departure, drummer Greg Ritchie (Halifax/New York) joined the group for all tours and new recordings. In the last album, West African percussionist Aboulaye Kone joined the group thus bringing a world flavour to Francois' compositions.
Since 1985, when Francois Bourassa's ensemble won the Montreal International Jazz Festival's new talent competition, his band has recorded regularly and has toured festivals, clubs and cultural centres across CANADA as well as in FRANCE. They have been the only jazz artists invited by Canada's Governor General to appear in a star-studded 50th Anniversary gala aired live on the CBC/Radio-Canada television network. They have also performed in the UNITED KINGDOM, BELGIUM, KOREA, MEXICO, RUSSIA, SPAIN, the UNITED STATES, the Nanjing Festival in CHINA, the Yokohama Jazz Festival in JAPAN and the NETHERLANDS' North Sea Jazz Festival.
Francois and his musicians have opened for luminaries such as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Holland, Abbey Lincoln, Wynton Marsalis and Dave Brubeck. Some of his biggest musical heroes are John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Herbie Nichols, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Boubacar Traore, and Canadian Oscar Peterson, of course.
Keep on doing that s___ that you're doing. Wayne Shorter said to the guys after they opened for him in Calgary.
As a youth Francois Bourassa studied piano and composition (and also explored blues guitar). He holds a Bachelor's degree in performance with Distinction and Honours in Composition from McGill University and a Master's degree from the New England Conservatory of Music Boston with Academic Honours and Distinction in Performance, where he studied with George Russell, one of modern jazz's leading composers, and pianist Fred Hersch, known as a superior soloist and interpreter of ballads. Of Hersch, Francois has said I learned a great deal just watching him play. Hersch himself says of Francois' music ...(it) is interesting, exploratory and passionate music that is well worth spending time with.
Francois Bourassa's own compositions are featured on five critically acclaimed recordings, Reflet 1 (1986), Jeune Vieux Jeune (1993), Cactus (1998), Live (2001) and ADISQ award winner Indefinite Time (2003)--all of which were nominated for a Felix, the Quebec music industry (ADISQ) award--and Echo (1996). Live (Effendi Records), recorded during a week-long engagement at Toronto's Top of the Senator, won the 2002 Juno for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year. His latest recording, Indefinite Time (2003, Effendi) won the FELIX Award for 2004 jazz recording of the year, an OPUS award in the Jazz/World music category and it was also nominated for a Canadian Juno Award. In France it received a coveted Choc! du mois in Jazzman Magazine; US critics were unanimous that it was time this artist's music was known south of the border.
Mark Miller, of Canada's Globe and Mail, has commended Francois for not playing the usual standards. He has composed several commissioned pieces, including a work for Effendi Records' JazzLab, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, the Dominican Fathers (Jazz Mass), l'Ensemble Amati and Le Quatuor Claudel (both classical ensembles). Over the years, Francois and his group have received numerous composing, touring and recording grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec.
Francois is a two-time recipient of the Official IAJE Award for Outstanding service to Jazz Education (International Association of Jazz Educators). Francois teaches at l'Universite du Quebec à Montreal and at the Cegep de Drummondville In addition, he has given workshops and clinics in France and Canada and fulfilled a residency at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Last year, he enjoyed a 6-month residency in New York City, thanks to the prestigious grant from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec. A great opportunity for him to immerse in the musically inspiring atmosphere of this town…
Francois Bourassa Quartet has recorded a brand new album in May 2007, with special guest Aboulaye Kone… This new recording, Rasstones, will be released in the Fall 2007 (Effendi) and will lead the band to tour in Canada and Europe in 2008. Francois played the piano on saxophonist Yannick Rieu's Felix-awarded album I is memory (Effendi) in 2006.
Francois Bourassa will also appear on the album Montreal Variations (Analekta) with the collective Montreal Jazz-Club; this project gathers 8 of the best Quebecois jazz-pianists and composers, each of them presenting one solo piece, and one collective creation (release in Oct. 2007).
Francois has stated that my main goals in music are expression of emotion and the ability to touch people in an intangible manner.