Steve Bilodeau
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Steve Bilodeau

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz Jazz




"5 questions for Steve Bilodeau (Interview)"

There will be a bit of a vacuum in Ottawa’s jazz community later this summer when guitarist Steve Bilodeau leaves for Boston, where he will pursue a Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Since he graduated from McGill University in 2011, Bilodeau’s been playing at Le Petit Chicago, the late, lamented Cafe Paradiso as seen in the photo below, and even in the parking lot of Suzy Q Donuts in Hintonburg. He’s also been teaching up a storm from his parents’ home in Kanata.

His quartet, which includes fellow McGill grads (pianist Andrew Boudreau, bassist and Bilodeau’s younger brother Alex, drummer Efa Etoroma), plays a little run of gigs over the next few days, beginning with a hit on TD Ottawa Jazz Festival’s Rendez-Vous Rideau Stage on Saturday, June 22 and ending with a June 25 show at Montreal’s Resonance Cafe.

Below, Bilodeau discusses where he’s been and where he’s going.

1. After your undergrad studies at McGill, you spent the better part of two years in Ottawa. How have you grown musically while you’ve been here?

cmbd Five Questions for Steve BilodeauYes, after graduating from McGill I moved back to Ottawa to live with my parents and save some much-needed dough. Much of my time here has been spent teaching guitar to a variety of people at all kinds of skill levels, and I would say that through teaching and having to explain things to my students, my own knowledge of the guitar has deepened substantially. The other way in which I would say I have grown musically is through experience on the bandstand. I’ve been lucky to have a weekly gig at Le Petit Chicago in Hull for the past year and that coupled with a variety of other gigs has been one of the biggest teachers. I feel as though all this playing allowed me to really explore some of the things I learned at McGIll, things that I never got around to exploring while I was there.

2. What do want to get out your studies at NEC?

As much as possible! I’m extremely excited for the teachers that I’m going to have the opportunity to study with, guys like Billy Hart, Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, Miguel Zenon, Jerry Bergonzi etc… I feel as though studying with someone like Billy Hart would be such a deep experience. That guy IS living jazz history, and for someone my age, to be able to study with someone who has been there through almost all the major developments in jazz would just be incredible. Aside from that, I’m just looking to absorb as much as possible, but more specifically I want to do a lot more writing, and really get deeper into playing solo guitar, as well as exploring more advanced harmonic concepts that I feel I’m ready to dive into now. I’d also like to get better at odd time signatures…I don’t want to spread myself too thin though, but yeah, there’s a lot of things I want to develop. Also, aside from musical stuff, just the experience of being surrounded by more great musicians in a new city will be enough to push me to grow both musically and personally. I know there will be people there from all over the world, and that’s one of the things I’m most excited for, just meeting people from everywhere, and learning about them and sharing music with all these different people will undoubtedly be an incredible experience.

3) What are the best and worst things about the Ottawa jazz scene?

That’s a good question. I would say that some of the things that make it cool are also some of the things that hold it back. For one, it’s small, and I feel as though for anyone really trying to develop to a truly high level, you need to leave at some point, because there just are not the same resources in Ottawa as there are in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, NYC etc… BUT the fact that it’s small is good because everyone knows each other, and we’re pretty much all friends, I don’t know if you can say that about the bigger cities, it also makes it easier to get gigs.

Then again, I feel as though there are not enough jazz venues in Ottawa, especially since the closing of Cafe Paradiso last summer, it’s’ gotten pretty limited. I don’t want to go out on a limb here and criticize Ottawa as a city, since it’s my hometown and it will always be important to me for a number of reasons, but I do feel as though the general public here does not really appreciate jazz the way people do in other cities. I find that too often when I say I’m a musician people say “what are you going to do with that?” whereas when I was in Montreal the question would be “where are you playing next?” I will say however, that some of the limitations of the Ottawa scene are due in part to the fact that cities like Montreal and Toronto are so close, and so it’s easy to leave, which makes it harder for us to keep high-level players in town.

4. What recording (jazz or otherwise) is really knocking you out these days, and why?

That’s a tough one, man…I can’t pick one…I’ve been listening to a lot of the faculty at NEC because I want to do my homework before I r - Peter Hum -

"Two six-stringers who left Ottawa (Harley Card and Steve Bilodeau CDs reviewed)"

Steve Bilodeau Group (self-released digital-only)
Steve Bilodeau Group

Two six stringers who left Ottawa (Harley Card and Steve Bilodeau CDs reviewed)

Kanata-raised guitarist Steve Bilodeau split from Ottawa’s jazz scene two months ago for Boston and the New England Conservatory of Music, leaving us with this five-track EP to remember him by.

Bilodeau, a 24-year-old McGill University grad, is well-represented on this debut recording. (I write this — conflict of interest alert — as a pianist who played with Bilodeau at least a half-dozen times in 2011 and 2012 after he came back to Kanata from Montreal.) His compositions tend to the modal, minor-key, slow-harmonic-rhythm end side of things, and Bilodeau applies his processed sound with some of the intensity, mannerisms and language of a guitarist who holds Kurt Rosenwinkel in the highest regard.

Well-supported by his rhythm section of fellow McGill grads (pianist Andrew Boudreau, bassist (and younger brother Alex Bilodeau) and drummer Efa Etoroma Jr.), Bilodeau plays very assuredly and with epic ambitions on his originals All I Ask, Lost Walls and The Underpass. For his part, Boudreau, who may well be less familiar with Bilodeau’s compact book, nails his ensemble responsibilities and stretches out appealingly as a soloist. Overall, the section feels like a section, shaping the music in the best organic way in concert with Bilodeau.
Rounding it out are the waltzing and moody Swept Under and Past Presence, which stresses oscillating between major and minor sonorities. As with the rest of the disc, these tracks find the groove going for a grand and even majestic vibe and achieving it.

The EP is very focused on a single kind of sound and feeling, but it does it well, with poise and confidence. Just as Card did with his recording debut, Bilodeau proves himself to be an emerging voice with plenty to say, and he’ll be worth listening to in the not-so-distant future to hear how his graduate studies in Boston might further deepen and widen his music. - Peter Hum -


Steve Bilodeau Group EP - 2013

Alex Bilodeau Demo - 2013

Steve Bilodeau Trio Demo - 2012

Steve Bilodeau Quartet Live @ Upstairs - 2011

Steve Bilodeau Trio Demo - 2011



Originally from Ottawa, guitarist Steven Bilodeau is a recent graduate from McGill University's Jazz Performance Program with Outstanding Achievement in Jazz Guitar. While in high school, he was a member of the Nepean All-City Jazz Band and in 2010 was a member of the National Jazz Youth Summit at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Steve has studied with renowned Canadian jazz musicians including: Mike Rud, Kenny Bibace, Andr White, Rmi Bolduc and Greg and Steve Amirault. Steve is currently working towards a Masters degree in jazz performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, under scholarship.

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