New Music at CSAC with Nicole Rampersaud and Joel LeBlanc

Category: music 37

Nicole Rampersaud and Joel LeBlanc will be performing a set of improvised music at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre May 30. 

Matt Carter 

You could easily make the case that any live music performance is about listening and reacting. The audience listens. The audience applauds. But when it comes to the musicians on stage, listening and reacting can take on several forms. For instance, a polished, well-rehearsed group may easily be able to run through its set with a minimal degree of listening by simply letting each song’s structure (and the snare drum) lead the way. Similarly (and hypothetically, perhaps), the members of an orchestra could safely navigate a performance by following a written score and a conductor. But what happens when there is no conductor and the beat isn’t a steady one? What happens if there is no beat at all? No score to follow? 

“I think it all comes down to listening,” said Nicole Rampersaud, a trumpet player, composer and improviser based in Fredericton. Her boundless versatility has led to collaborations with Anthony Braxton (Chick Corea/Dave Holland), Ra-kalam Bob Mose (Gary Burton/Pat Metheny), and Sandro Perri to name a few. She also co-founded the improvisation-driven series, Understory, that uses technology to reimagine collaboration between improvising artists across Canada.

“People may think we’re just playing whatever we want, and maybe that’s true. But there’s a language there and the language is whatever we bring to the table in terms of our ability and how we prepare through our own practice. I think that’s why I enjoy playing with Joel [LeBlanc] as much as I do. He’s such a great listener. There are our individual sounds and then both of those things combined.”

Ramperaud will be performing a set of improvised music on Thursday May 30 at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre with guitarist Joel LeBlanc, who needs little introduction to Fredericton audiences. LeBlanc performed internationally as a member of the Hot Toddy trio, before focusing his attention towards improvised music through countless collaborations and recording projects. 

While Fredericton’s comedic improv community has exploded in recent years with regular performances and classes helping to increase the art’s accessibility, the musical side of improv has yet to experience a similar groundswell of interest. At least locally. Together, Rampersaud and LeBlanc hope to change that by creating more opportunities for more musicians to explore improvised freedom. 

Rampersaud believes the beauty of improvised music comes down to a mix of skill and an individual musician’s ability to think outside the confines of formulaic music, something that can be incredibly difficult or seem unnatural to many.

“Just being able to switch from playing very melodic, almost classical [music], to playing noise. That takes a lot of technical preparation,” she said. “I like playing written music. There are several things I enjoy about interpreting a score or playing a jazz standard. I find in those moments I’m focused on executing the outcome, where improvised music has always forced me to stay in the process. Either way, you arrive at the same thing. You’re making music. It’s just a different framing.”

Nicole Rampersaud + Joel LeBlanc | May 30 | Charlotte Street Arts Centre | 7:30 p.m. | By Donation | View Event 

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