SCENA Jazz

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saxophonist André Leroux is almost “there”

By Paul Serralheiro

Montreal saxophonist André Leroux is an excellent player whose technique is impressive and articulate. This he made abundantly clear to a standing-room only audience at L’Astral on Saturday July 4, 2009 at 18:00 during the 30th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Accompanied by some sympathetic, equally accomplished musicians - Norman Devault on piano, Christian Lajoie on drums and Frederic Alarie on bass - Leroux started out with a tune whose motives and cadences echoed the mannerisms of one of his obvious influences, the late John Coltrane. He went on to perform on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute for nearly 90 minutes, presenting mostly originals from his recent (and only) album as leader, Corpus Callosum. The only standard was Pensativa, by Clare Fisher, after which he joked how “there isn’t only Summertime that’s worth reprising.” The set ended with a François Bourassa tune, Offertoire.

Leroux’s playing was sure and masterly, the result of over two decades in the business, mostly as a session player, although he did present a tribute project to John Coltrane a couple of years ago at the Off Festival in Montreal and has been an important voice in Vic Vogel’s big band. His admiration and respect for Coltrane’s music is both the source of his strength and, ironically, the road block to a more original concept. While he has integrated aspects of Coltrane’s sound (an ample, velvety tone; ease with the altissimo register; and familiarity with multiphonics) his compositional ideas echo the master rather than allow for a more original voice. Leroux, for all his talent, maintains some of the mannerisms of the master without the depth and authority Coltrane achieved...mainly because Coltrane was expressing himself in a language he himself forged, while Leroux has not quite arrived there...yet. But there is still lots of promise and with time and perhaps less reverence for his model, Leroux may well get there.

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