Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steve Amirault: Solo Piano at Upstairs

Last night I went to Upstairs Jazz Club here in Montreal to see Steve Amirault, a local pianist.  He was playing solo piano and singing some show tunes and some of his own songs.

There weren't many people in the club, but the few there did not seem too interested in listening to him.  I was able to ignore their talking, to listen to the playing.  Mr. Amirault sang, among other songs, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "The Masquerade is Over," "Alfie".  In "It Could Happen to You," he botched the lyrics:  "Hide your heart from sight / Lock your dreams up tight" instead of "lock your dreams at night."  But there was something endearing about his rendition. 

His voice was dry and leathery, and sort of shallow, and I didn't want anything more than that.  Part of appreciating this meant understanding the vice of overcompensation.  You could tell he was working out little vamps and melodic motifs right there on stage as he navigated a turnaround or concluded a song.  The contrast between his slightly vulnerable singing and his confident piano playing made you focus on how he compensated for both.

I've seen a lot of jazz in Montreal over the last few months, but last night, in an uncrowded jazz club, as I sat at the bar sipping beer, listening to solo piano, I felt refreshed.  I do love a crowd, an engaged audience, but last night felt so casual: no reservations, no delays, no anticipation.  It made me think I should see more music on the weekdays. 

Often I have regretted not having enough friends to enjoy jazz with.  I'm over that.  Jazz has its followers.  I found last night enlivening, not just pleasant.  I don't think I would have been able to say that a few years ago. 

Part of what keeps me going is the belief that my tastes and values are not final.  That even as I get older and my capacity for surprise diminishes, I will still find new ways to feel enlivened. 


  1. Chill nights are the best, in my opinion. One night, two Decembers ago, we were having a light snow. It was a Tuesday and I was out of classes for the quarter. I went to the Mill with a friend to hear the Chris Freeman Organ Trio. There was almost no one there (I'm guessing due to the snow), but it was one of my favorite visits. He began entwining each song with Christmas tunes and the snow kept falling. Those are the times you can just lean back and close your eyes.

    "Part of appreciating this meant understanding the vice of overcompensation."---- this is so true! I think that's the beauty of jazz. It's not a polished, finished product; it's always in a process of being molded, on stage and off.

  2. I can relate to the charm of the snow. We get a lot of it up here, and it's always pleasant being inside and warm when it's wintry outside. Also, I love organ trios. There's something about organ music that makes me feel really cool when I'm listening to it.