OFF Jazz | Levitating With Melissa Pipe

by Michel Labrecque

A confession to start with: I didn’t know Melissa Pipe before the OFF Jazz festival. Listening to her album Of What Remains totally enchanted, impressed and seduced me. And the concert on October 11th in a totally transfixed Ministère only added to my delight.

Melissa Pipe plays bassoon and baritone saxophone. But first and foremost, she’s a brilliant composer and arranger. She focuses on chamber jazz, in which brass and wind dominate, but in which each musician is in total symbiosis with his or her compatriots. Well-crafted solos to boot.

We’re in a kind of velvet halo, which doesn’t exclude occasional bursts of dissonance and explosions, but what predominates is a formidable harmonic and meditative quilt.

“As you may have noticed, I’m very fond of the low register,” Melissa Pipe tells us between two pieces. It’s true that it’s a characteristic of her musical colours. When you play bassoon and baritone saxophone, it influences the register of your compositions.

Incidentally, Melissa Pipe speaks French like a native Québécoise, and a third of the tracks on Of What Remains have French titles. This sextet once again reflects Montreal’s diversity: Philippe Coté on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Solon McDade on double bass, the formidable Mili Hong on drums, Andy King on trumpet (Lex French plays more on the album) and Jeff Johnston on piano (Geoff Lapp on the album). This band is exquisite, let’s not mince words.

Compared to some of my colleagues on this site, I don’t possess an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz. But the lover of good music of all genres that I am levitated during these eighty minutes of music.

From now on, when I hear that Melissa Pipe is giving a concert, whether with her sextet, her bassoon quartet, or in some other form – I hear she also collaborates with rock or hip-hop musicians – I’ll keep my ears open.

I end this review with Of What Remains in my headphones. What magnificent harmonies. What symbiosis. Ideal music to transcend the anxieties of the present age.

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