Martin C. Barry
A cozy bistro-bar just off Autoroute 15 in the heart of Laval’s industrial park that has gained popularity among connoisseurs of cutting edge music was the scene on Saturday Feb. 11 for the launch of Blues Train Station, a newly-surging Laval blues band’s latest album.
It’s been a long and hard-working road for the group, The Blues Berry Jam. Back in 1998, a group of young blues musicians took up the challenge of taking part in the Montreal FestiBlues International, in which a number of other groups were also taking part.
A fateful merger
Two of those groups decided to merge, and the following year Blues Berry Jam, consisting of five musicians and two female vocalists, took off. Since then, the group has performed at some of the best staging venues in the province, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, as well as in Mont-Tremblant, Donnacona, Carleton and Beauport.
The group has also become known in many other parts of eastern Canada, including Edmonston and Caraquet in New Brunswick, and in Ottawa and London in Ontario. In the U.S., the group has accepted invitations to perform at the Red Bank Blues Festival in New Jersey. In addition, Blues Berry Jam has spread its wings to take its unique sound to France where they performed at the Blues-Sur-Seine festival in Mantes-La-Jolie.
Five musicians and a voice
Today Blues Berry Jam is made up of five instrumentalists but just one vocalist. The lineup consists of Lyne Bernard (vocals), Jean-Pierre Fréchette (harmonica, transverse flute and saxophone), Étienne Dextraze-Monast (bass, double bass), Jean-François Gauvreau (drums), Martin Courtois (keyboards, trumpet) and Sébastien Boisvert (guitar).
During their performance at the Rossignol Bistro-Bar on des Rossignols Blvd., the group performed several tracks from the new album, including the very lively and animated Blues Train. Some of the other selections on the album (which was produced by renowned Quebec guitarist J. D. Slim, a.k.a. Jean-Denis Bélanger, who has worked with Nanette Workman, Stephen Barry and Jim Zeller), are classic blues numbers like Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson) and Summertime (DuBose Heyward).
Rossignol club’s a rare find
For its part, the Rossignol Bistro-Bar proves the old adage to be true that some of the best things in life are often found off the well-trodden track. The club has become a venue for some of Canada’s more significant musical performers (though not always given all their due credit), like 1970s rocker Michel Pagliaro (who is booked at the Rossignol on March 24), and solo blues/jazz/R&B vocalist Kim Richardson who will be performing at the Rossignol on April 7.