George Bouchard is an educator and saxophonist that was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Bouchard came to music later in life; he did not start playing the saxophone until his third year of college while he was at the University of Buffalo majoring in Economics. After college, Bouchard played the saxophone in the Navy for four years during which time he also completed a correspondence course in arranging from the Berklee College of Music (then called the Berklee School of Music). After the Navy, Bouchard earned his Master’s Degree in Composition from Memphis State University and began his college teaching career immediately upon graduation.
As an educator, Bouchard has developed a long time working relationship with jazz education pioneer, Jamey Aebersold. Bouchard has been playing in his group for the past thirty seven years, traveling throughout the U.S., Germany, Denmark, Scotland, England, Nova Scotia, Australia and New Zealand. With this ensemble Bouchard has had the opportunity to play with artists such as: Slide Hampton, Art Farmer, Bobby Shew, Pat LaBarbera, Bobby Watson, Dave Samuels, James Williams, Ronny Mathews and more. Furthering his contribution to jazz education, Bouchard published a method book on improvising with the jazz language entitled, “Intermediate Jazz Improvisation. “The book has become a best seller and is considered a must have resource by jazz educators worldwide.
In 2008 Bouchard released, MELLOW LANE, which is a CD of all originals penned by Bouchard. In 2012, Bouchard produced two additional CDs comprised of standards, DON’T RUSH THE DAWN and WITH ALL DUE RESPECT. Bouchard’s 2013 release, LISTEN TO YOUR DREAMS is a collection of eight original compositions by Bouchard performed by a sextet. The CD is a live date and was recorded at Mirell’s in Westbury, New York. The energy of the audience keeps the players pushing to delivery their best musical heights and is a plus for the overall release. The sextet is comprised of George Bouchard on tenor and soprano saxophone, Andrew Grossbard on tenor saxophone, Dave Smith on trumpet and flugelhorn, Charles Blenzig on piano, John Ray on acoustic bass and Ian Petillo on drums.
The title track “LISTEN TO YOUR DREAMS” is a light bossa nova that has Bouchard playing the melody on soprano for the first “A” section. Smith and Grossbard join with quiet backing harmony for the second “A.” Grossbard takes the first chorus; his big tenor sound quickly switches gears to a double time feel that builds the energy nicely. Smith takes over on trumpet, building his lines and playing focused high notes keeping the energy up and the music moving forward as Bouchard is handed the baton for his chorus. Bouchard’s soprano is clear and focused; choosing to develop long melodic phrases over flashy sixteenth flurries, the solo is a very satisfying melodic statement as a whole. Pianist Blenzig’s driving single lines set the tone for his solo and bassist John Ray takes the extra space that was filled by a fourth instrument and fills it with well placed commentary to Blenzig’s ideas. Blenzig does a fine job of developing both single note flurries and rhythmic chordal motifs throughout his solo. Ray’s solo is excellent and displays his control of his intonation in both the upper and middle register of the bass. The melody is stated from the second “A” leading to a light ending and applause.
“I’M YOUR BABY” is a catchy melody set to a good New Orleans/Gospel groove that all the members seem to find inspiration in. Bouchard’s compositions are very clear and have memorable melodies and traverse a nice range of styles. “Elaine” is a flowing ballad that has a very nice melody through a series of well thought-out chords. Bouchard’s three horn writing is very nice, with some well-placed seconds that really add to the beauty in their resolutions. Bouchard’s tenor solo is full of emotion; Smith’s wide interval leaps are excellent and Grossbard’s solo is full of fire and his varying articulation is very enjoyable. Again, Ray’s ideas are always great under the soloist, keeping the harmony clear while adding counterpoint lines to the soloist’s melodies. “NOTHIN’ I CAN DO” is a med-tempo selection that switches between a New Orleans straight eight feel and swing. Again, Bouchard’s composition is an excellent vehicle for improvisation with the two chord vamp figure during the New Orleans feel section countered by more harmonic movement in the swing section. The players and audience seem to appreciate the clarity and their inspiration comes across on the CD.
Bouchard’s “IT’S RAINING IN THE MORNING” is a sing-able melody set to a cha cha Latin feel. The ensemble turns in another fine performance, energetic solos, and lots of listening to each other which helps maintain a consistent color and feel throughout the composition. “ALWAYS THE BEST WITH YOU “ is a fun med-up swing selection that makes good use of a pedal tones and catchy hits. Bouchard has done a great job of choosing musicians that work well together and speak a similar language, which provides for an enjoyable concert and CD. “DO YOU MISS ME?” is a ballad that features Bouchard playing the melody on soprano. The selection is full of well-constructed horn writing and excellent playing by all. “IT DOESN’T MATTER” ends the date with a six-eight pulsed feel. Grossbard tears up the solo as usual and the band pushes the energy in celebration. Not to be outdone, Smith bring the fire to the matter as well, followed by Bouchard’s inspired solo, showing that sometimes, it just doesn’t matter and one should let loose and let it burn!
Overall, this is a very enjoyable CD, the compositions are excellent vehicles for the band to improvise on and the audience is committed to the project. The band is top-shelf and all eight selections are full of strong musical moments that keep things moving. Listen To Your Dreams, and this CD will make an excellent sound track while you live them!
Tracks: LISTEN TO YOUR DREAMS; I’M YOUR BABY; ELAINE; NOTHIN’ I CAN DO; IT’S RAINING IN THE MORNING; ALWAYS THE BEST WITH YOU; DO YOU MISS ME?; IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Personnel: George Bouchard: tenor, soprano sax (**George, first tenor soloist, all other tracks on soprano); Andrew Grossbard: tenor sax (*Andrew, first tenor solo, ***Andrew, tenor solo); Dave Smith: trumpet & flugelhorn; Charles Blenzig:piano; John Ray, bass; Ian Petillo, drums.
H. Allen Williams
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