Vibrations Festival at UdeM | Special Guests and Brazilian Music in the Spotlight

by Elena Mandolini

The Vibrations Festival is held every year at the Université de Montréal, showcasing its Faculty of Music, students and professors alike. Last night, the Université de Montréal Big Band performed at Salle Claude-Champagne. On the program were many jazz classics, all revolving around Brazil. For the occasion, the ensemble welcomed two special guests: singer Catina DeLuna and pianist Otmaro Ruiz. The Big Band is newly directed by João Lenhari, who succeeded Ron Di Lauro this year.

The concert kicks off with Canto de Ossanha, arranged by Lenhari. From the very first bars, you can feel the orchestra’s boundless energy, which sets the stage well for the next pieces, for which the special guests take the stage. The interpretation is precise and dynamic, and we admire the superb contrasts of nuance presented by the instrumentalists. One small drawback, however: the piano and rhythm section are so amplified that, ironically, it’s sometimes hard to hear all the accompanying notes from the orchestra.

When Catina DeLuna and Otmaro Ruiz take the stage, the evening takes on a whole new dimension. We’re carried away by DeLuna’s warm voice, and remain at the end of our seats during her vocal improvisations, which cover a wide range. Otmaro Ruiz’s playing is equally spectacular, and his improvisations are breathtaking. What’s more, the ensemble performs several of the pianist’s arrangements for this concert. As an interlude, the audience is treated to a trio featuring Otmaro Ruiz and guest Alain Caron (bass) and Paul Brochu (drums). This trio, which has toured extensively together, performs a composition by Ruiz and another by Caron with immense complicity.

The program, a tribute to Brazilian music, is very well put together. It’s a pleasure to recognize many musically interesting orchestrations, including many works by Antônio Carlos Jobim. We move skilfully from a highly rhythmic piece to a more introspective work with complex harmonic progressions and stripped-down melodic lines. On this occasion, the Université de Montréal Big Band demonstrates its great versatility and remarkable musicality.

The Vibrations Festival runs until Saturday, December 2. Concerts will be held at several locations in Montreal, and some events are free! INFO AND TICKETS HERE!

Photo credit : Denis Germain

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