OFF Jazz | Chuck Copenace, jazz moderne et autochtone

by Michel Labrecque

I was very intrigued by this concert by Objibway trumpeter Chuck Copenace, who lives in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, which has just elected Canada’s first-ever aboriginal prime minister.

First Nations are on the move, in politics and culture, and not just in Quebec. Listening to his latest opus, Oshki Manitou suggested an interesting mix of traditional Indigenous music, electronic music and jazz.

However, the concert version of this album (Wednesday evening at the Ministère) left me a little disappointed. It was more of a traditional, groovy jazz show, lightly marked by traditional chants on two occasions. The absence of keyboards, omnipresent on the album, transformed the band’s sound.

Once that’s said, the shy colossus that is Chuck Copenace is very touching when he tells his story. He talked a lot. The fact that an Objibway from Northern Ontario, raised by a mother who overcame her substance abuse problems, managed to become a trumpet player is a tremendous accomplishment. That he reconnected with his roots by frequenting Winnipeg’s many sweat lodges, where many of his recent compositions originated. For, in these huts, there’s a lot of singing.

Chuck Copenace is a competent trumpeter. Guitarist Victor Lopez provides the harmonic framework with a crystalline, reverberant sound. The quintet has played Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard in addition to Copenace’s own compositions.

I’d like to see this band again in a version more in keeping with the latest album, where the fusion of genres is expressed more convincingly. Chuck Copenace’s trajectory remains to be followed, as he is committed to bringing native musicians together to build a new jazz.

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