Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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Growing out of the musical hybrids practiced during the 1970s, electro-jazz turned adventurous musicians onto electronic instruments and sounds. Since the late 1990s, the genre has lent itself particularly well to encounters between jazzmen with a passion for electronica and DJs who have discovered the infinite freedom of jazz.


Electro-jazz first exploded on the scene with the fusion experiments of the 1970s, when electronic instruments and sounds were making their way into jazz circles. Keyboardist Herbie Hancock, one of the few jazz musicians to use synthesizers and vinyl scratching, is among the forerunners of the genre.

Herbie Hancock Blending electronic touches with hip-hop rhythms, Hancock's 1983 album, Future Shock, epitomized the changes that marked the era in music. Conversely, by the late 1980s hip-hop musicians, too, were flirting with more jazz-oriented sounds.

In London, "acid jazz" was the term used in the 1980s and 1990s to designate music combining jazz with elements of hip-hop, soul or funk. The English bands that best exemplified this new style include Incognito, The Brand New Heavies, James Taylor Quartet and Jamiroquai.

The Electronic Craze

The term "electro-jazz" (aka "nu-jazz"), first coined in the 1990s, denotes a musical style, akin to acid jazz, that blends jazz and funk harmonies and instrumentation with the intense, hypnotic rhythms of electronica.

Carl Craig In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, electro groups such as Jazzanova (a German DJ collective based in Berlin) and St. Germain (led by Frenchman Ludovic Navarre) continued to experiment with jazz, using new technologies to lend it an ever more modern sound.

The album Tourist, a 2000 release by St. Germain, has sold an impressive 1.5 million albums. Five years earlier, the group's first album, Boulevard, was voted album of the year by the English press. During the same period, musicians like American Carl Craig, a leading figure on the Detroit techno scene, also drew inspiration from electro-jazz, as did English bassist and drummer Squarepusher.

Erik Truffaz French trumpeter and tireless innovator Erik Truffaz is one of the most influential figures on the international electro-jazz scene. His style, often compared to that of Miles Davis, blends the ethereal and velvety sound of the trumpet with urban, techno, hip-hop and drum'n'bass beats.

Norwegian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvær has charted a similar course. Since the release of his album Khmer in 1997, Molvær has emerged as one of the driving forces of nu-jazz.

These musicians wholly embraced the electronic shift: As well as electrify their musical arsenals, they use computer-based looping and "cutting and pasting" techniques to compose and record. Jazz and electronica thus come together and give rise to a mixture at once fluid and textured.

Electro-jazz, on the whole, seems to be the point of convergence for two types of musicians: the jazzman with a keen interest in electronic sounds, and the DJ drawn to the infinite freedom of jazz.

An Electrifying Festival

Since his first outdoor show in 2000, French trumpeter Erik Truffaz has returned to the Festival on several occasions. In little time, this fiercely independent, prolific and groundbreaking artist has become a darling of Festival fans, who have favourably received each of his albums as well as his multiple collaborations integrating rap, reggae, rock, drum'n'bass, jazz, and even North African Erik Hove influences. In 2009, the musician gave three theme concerts at the Festival, inspired by the triptych Rendez-vous, made up of the CDs Bénarès, Mexico and Paris.

The Festival has also welcomed Nils Petter Molvær on five occasions. Since 1998, the trumpeter and improvisationalist, flanked by an expert team of sound technicians, has treated audiences to the best in electro-jazz.

Daniel Thouin Vancouver-born sax man Erik Hove has made three appearances at the Festival. During his most recent visit in 2009, he brought down the house with his avant-garde groove, featuring equal parts saxophone and turntable.

Electro-jazz, in Québec, is synonymous with the name Daniel Thouin. A lover of jazz, new technologies and electronics, the pianist is a mainstay at the Festival - be it solo or as part of the combo Jedi Electro, also featuring J-F Lemieux and Jean-Phi Goncalvez. Thouin has made the concert hall his musical laboratory, and his experiments always make for compelling music.

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