OFF Jazz | Julian Gutierrez Offers a High-Quality Music

by Michel Labrecque

Pianist Julian Gutierrez isn’t reinventing jazz. But his group gave me a very pleasant Caribbean-flavored jazz experience at his concert at the Ministère on Tuesday, part of the OFF Jazz program. The music is richly and finely arranged and grooves intensely at times. A very high standard.

Cuban-born Julian Guttierez, who studied composition at Laval University, has created a very Montreal-style sextet: Guadeloupean Axel Bonnaire on drums, Cuban Eugenio Kiko Osorio on congas and percussion, Brazilian Joao Lenhari on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Quebecers Guillaume Carpentier on tenor saxophone and Jean-François Martel on electric bass. Starting with the third piece on the program, a surprise guest was added: saxophonist Jean-Pierre Zanella, with whom Julian Guttierez has often collaborated.

This sextet (now a septet) mainly performed pieces from the Julian Gutierrez Project’s latest opus, Goldstream, released in 2022.

In terms of improvisation, Joao Lenhari offered us inspired solos, alternating between sweetness and intensity. Guillaume Carpentier brings the depth of the tenor sax. Julian Gutierrez has a rich harmonic palette and weaves inspiring solos of melody and progression. Jean-Pierre Zanella is simply… Jean-Pierre Zanella on alto and soprano sax.

The group’s rhythm section brings a contagious energy and complexity. The unobtrusive but highly effective bassist Jean-Français Martel supports the highly explosive but highly competent Axel Bonnaire, who seems to take great pleasure in playing with his accomplice, percussionist Eugenio Kiko Osorio.

A small downside: I was less convinced when Julian Gutierrez turned singer on two of the eight pieces presented.

That said, this group illustrates the richness of our jazz scene and the contribution of Montrealers from elsewhere. And the power of mixing. After the concert, Brazilian Joao Lenhari told me that he found Montreal more culturally rich than Sao Paolo, the Brazilian megalopolis. This trumpeter will soon be leading the big band at the Université de Montréal. Stay tuned.

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