Montreal based guitarist Mike Rud has an unusually ambitious musical project in the works, inspired by the writing of some of Quebec’s literary giants. Notes on Montreal has a definite Canadian cross-cultural feel.
As you scan the names of the authors included in this magnus opus, you’ll find some of the giants of francophone literature, like Gabrielle Roy, Michel Tremblay and Dany Laferrière mashed together with Quebec anglo authors Mordecai Richler and Heather O'Neill.
I asked Rud just how this literature would be incorporated in the work.
"Actually it's probably more the case that the groove of the tune and its stylistic bag are connected to the literature in question. Examples are probably best: In the tune Portrait of Barney the mood is very reflective, since this is a guy looking back over his various choices and questioning them. So I set it as a slow-ish bossa/rock groove, that scales with the frame of mind he seems to be in for a lot of the book. The arrangement from my perspective has been a separate problem, since I wanted the most musically appealing and natural sounding thing to be what the ensemble plays.
Now meanwhile, there's another tune, called Parc Lafontaine, which is inspired by Michel Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. In that story, several disparate characters all have story lines which culminate around the park, around the same time, near the end of the book.
This one, as it stands right now, is written strictly as voice and string quartet, and I suppose that the contrapuntal nature of the different story lines kind of goes with the more contrapuntal way you have to write when it's a straigh-up string quartet arrangement. But really just as much, the initial melody and groove I came up with informed the decision to go strings-only there."
There are also other special aspects to this jazz work, Rud told me.
“The songs are written for an ensemble made up of a string quartet, a jazz rhythm section [piano, guitar, bass and drums] and BC-based vocalist Sienna Dahlen. [She] can put so much emotion into such seemingly small musical gestures.”
Rud’s interests lie in both lyrical and musical song writing
Mike Rud is a straight ahead jazz guitarist who finds inspiration in the playing of players like Grant Green, George Benson, Wes Montgomery as well as guitarist composers like Charlie Christian. So a project like this might seem something of a departure, but Rud explains.
“I'm also very interested in song writing [including lyrics], and that side of my personality is pointed in the direction of the American song writing tradition, partially the tin-pan alley writers, and partially the singer-songwriters; people like Jim Croce, Randy Newman, Paul Simon. To me, they are inspiring in that they find warm meetings of rich harmony, melody, narrative and imagery.”
Musically, in this new work, the concept of the composition includes a string quartet.
“A string group lets me write harmony without having to imagine myself comping [accompanying] it. And that sound is so much richer than what I can create on my own instrument. Also, since these songs are a lot like singer/songwriter material, this is a way of distinguishing what I'm doing, by underlining the more intricate harmonies, using a texture that you don't hear as much in more traditional songwriting. More chromatic stuff, darker textures, things where I'd like to take a few more chances, string writing gives me a way of introducing these aspects.”
Lately, Rud has been working with another Montrealer - trumpeter Kevin Dean. There's an enormous admiration for Dean.
“He was my improv teacher nearly 25 years ago, when I first moved to Montreal, and so it's very special to me to be able to play those great tunes of his, and watch his creative process as he brings the music out of the band. He's quite aware of what's hard, what's easy, and which parts of his tunes might hang up the band. Most of all, I notice he doesn't ask anything of the rest of us that he isn't willing to do himself. He brings full concentration and real love of the music to every take. I would love nothing more than to do further performances with that band!”
Rud is in the early stages of production on Notes on Montreal – we’ll let you know when the recording is available.
Meanwhile, check out Rud's video with the Kevin Dean group:
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on May 02, 2012