“The rich colours and divergent harmonies in her compositions often give the impression there are more than two horns involved. The intricate lines she writes for bass provide a chant-like counterpoint to her melodies, and her subtle, slow-burning piano playing keeps the listener leaning in anxiously to hear what’s next.” -Doug Fischer, The Ottawa Citizen
“The MacDonald/Turcotte horn line sells an elegant version of vintage Blue Note swagger on the more forward tracks, velvet deep cadences on the balladry. Behind them, there is abundant graceful playing, but also detailed construction – a resolution in motion of questions about dialogue, counterpoint, density and punch. Without spooking the proverbial horses of jazz tradition, Reaching is a healthy reminder that post-bop jazz need not always be mapped as head, vamp and sequential solos. That this music is as welcoming as a hug is, perhaps, a bonus” –Exerpt from CODA feature article, Sept/Oct issue, 2005
“Apart from the expert tailoring of her arrangements…and the seamless way in which the solos emerge from the charts, Gregoire’s style is post-bop — modern in rhythmic and harmonic style…happily easy on the ear without sacrificing its integrity to commercialism…There is nothing literal or imitative about Gregoire’s musical style. What comes together on Reaching is a very fine balance among its musical ideas…Gregoire herself plays transparent figures, clear melodic lines with a light touch and a glowing finish, and influences her quintet to play like a little big band — without the punch, but full of colour, leaving the intensity to the improvised solos — just exactly the kind of environment in which these first-rank players thrive.” –Stephen Pedersen – Chronical Herald, Halifax
“Her sense of balance and direction, meanwhile, is abundantly clear in the music she has them playing…It is, in very general terms, jazz of the post-bop sort. That’s both a temporal and stylistic qualification, dating from the mid-1960s and referring to the twists and turns melodically, harmonically and rhythmically, that forward-thinking musicians of that era employed to free themselves from bebop’s strictures — musicians who recorded for the Blue Note label, by and large. Herbie Hancock was one, Wayne Shorter another. Grégoire’s opening tune on Thursday, Minor Alterations, was very much in the post-bop idiom without turning into an exercise simply in revivalism. It was a challenging piece, unfolding at length as it did in shifts and stages, but it came with a flow and logic that made it seem complete in and of itself, no matter what else Turcotte, Grégoire and MacDonald (in that order) added by way of development in their solos. Grégoire’s other compositions in the evening’s first set were of a more modern cast — post-post-bop as it were — and none moreso than Reaching, which in both title and design revealed the very recent influence of the American Maria Schneider. This was a lovely piece with airy, floating quality that carried Turcotte through a long, stirring trumpet improvisation. Grégoire’s own solos at the piano tended to be patient in their delivery and rather pretty in their touch and contouring, neither as ambitious as her writing nor as urgent as the efforts of her fellow musicians. MacDonald, especially, likes to seize a solo by the scruff of the neck; he’s a commanding presence in any band. In each case, though, the contrasts that Grégoire introduced into the music from the keyboard were quite effective dramatically. Tension is fine, but a little respite here and there makes it all the more delicious.” – Mark Miller, Globe and Mail
“In jazz, processing the lessons of tradition is far more interesting than paying respect. Winnipeg pianist/composer Michelle Grégoire draws on the elegant brawn of high-period Blue Note artists such as Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock in her debut, channeling small-group muscularity and groove through interesting melodies that are far more than spring-boards for solos. Certainly, bass players will admire her penchant for writing mobile underpinnings; played in tandem with Jim Vivian, they provide both an anchor in turbulent modes and also an engine for contrary motion against the nicely weighted horn line of Kirk MacDonald (tenor and soprano saxes) and Kevin Turcotte (trumpet and flugelhorn). Even in the ballads there is a feline, pad-and-pounce watchfulness, marking a canny writer.” – Randall McIlroy, Style Manitoba
“Grégoire is clearly in command of a broader harmonic knowledge, yet her playing style is all about elegance, subtlety, and understatement. No sharp edges mar her approach, and she builds her solos gradually and with great care. As much as Grégoire’s heart is in the mainstream–and there is a clear Kind of Blue vibe to some of Reaching–she isn’t trapped in a time warp. Reaching may be approachable, but in a way that doesn’t sacrifice invention, interplay, and understated strength.”– John Kelman – All About Jazz
“Michelle Grégoire…who has studied with such notables as Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler, proves herself as a capable composer, with eight thought-provoking originals. Like her mentors, Grégoire has a knack for utilizing intriguing voicings, and avoiding predictable charts. Her wistful “December 1st” showcases MacDonald’s buoyant tenor sax, while her twisting ballad “Miles Away” also has a bittersweet air, with MacDonald switching to soprano sax. Grégoire demonstrates her bop chops in the strutting “Blues For Us” and one can easily imagine other post-bop/hard-bop bands interpreting her brisk composition “Knock It”. Grégoire’s lush solo is the centerpiece of the samba-flavored “Lost and Found” braketed by MacDonald’s soprano sax and Turcotte’s tasty muted trumpet. This is a superb effort by a pianist and composer deserving wider recognition, especially outside of her native land.” – Ken Dryden, CODA Sept/Oct issue, 2005
“Pianist and composer Michelle Grégoire, a mainstay of Winnipeg’s jazz scene, impresses with her debut CD that employs four Toronto sidemen to illuminate the strength of her writing. She’s fond of melody on the eight longish originals here, but her concepts are broad enough to let colleagues roam in between the fascinating structures with which she gears ensemble statements and exits, a style immediately apparent on the rugged opener “Minor Alterations.” Her comping and soloing are always poised, suffused with a stealthy subtlety that lets the tunes breathe and develop. Her ingenious creations are all of interest, from the hard-nosed (“Knock It,” “Joe’s Tune”) to the reflective (“Lost And Found,” “December 1st”) and the hip (“Blues For Us”). Ah, yes, the sidemen. They are trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, bass Jim Vivian and drummer Ted Warren, who all revel in their roles and this music.” – Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star
MGQ Opens for Branford Marsalis:
“The opening band, the Michelle Gregoire Quintet, consisted of local pianist Gregoire and some of the top players in the Canadian jazz scene, saxophonist Kirk McDonald, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Ted Warren. These are the same players who performed on Gregoire’s much lauded debut CD, 2004’s Reaching. Gregoire proved herself to be not just a fine pianist, at times beautifully tinkling the keys when not swinging, but also a formidable composer, as the performance included some of her originals that I wanted to hear again, that the audience responded well to. Drummer Ted Warren was not just there to keep time, but to also entertain in his own right, with his own unforgettable style, which was quite notable on some of the original Gregoire compositions. He doesn’t play it safe and always looks likes he’s having a great time, with his constant grin. The duo of McDonald and Turcotte each took turns soloing and earning well deserved applause. When Turcotte blasted out notes on the trumpet, he seemed to have the entire room’s attention…At the end of the show, each member of the Marsalis band was supplanted and then replaced by a member of Gregoire’s band, until the entire band had changed, save for Marsalis. First, it was Ted Warren plunking down a stool beside Justin Faulkner and working a single drum until he took over Faulkner’s kit. Kirk McDonald then appeared, taking Branford’s spot. Michelle Gregoire sidled up to Joey Calderazzo and in one smooth move, took over the keyboard as he deftly slid off. Finally, Eric Nevis gave us the bass to Jim Vivian. Seeing one band virtually replaced with another while the music kept on playing was a real treat and a sign of the type of gracious person Branford is. The move had audience members applauding wildly and breaking out ear to ear smiles. – Trinimans Blog, June 2009:
Canadian pianist, MICHELLE GREGOIRE is remarkable and continues this spirit as such with her new REACHING cd. An excellent pianist and writer as expressed on this CD, Michelle Gregoire hits all the right notes in the post modern. We played a straight ahead “Blues For Us” and a sardonic “Joe’s Tune.” Michelle is a remarkable musician and a fine writer who devotes much of her time with the Winnipeg scene and has… commiserated with one of todays greats Lioness post modern composers, Maria Schneider. For beyond our pop culture purview there’s a steady regaling undercurrent of very serious and talented musicians that’ll carry the score.” – Dick Crockett, Still Another Jazz Show – Sacramento, CA
“Sounds like…is an operative phrase, for this lady is very original with great depth and imagination, remarkably proficient on piano and dynamically sensitive to the kind of play you don’t get off the rack at the mall or on commercial tv. This is the profound music of our hip unencumbered daily lives, a kind of magnetism that history repeats in harmonic balance, serious, melodic and open, free and swinging. Michelle Gregoire is a wondrous and swinging musician, we certainly can and do love down here and her boisterous iconoclast is most appreciated.” – Dick Crockett, Still Another Jazz Show – Sacramento, CA
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“Grégoire is clearly in command of a broader harmonic knowledge, yet her playing style is all about elegance, subtlety, and understatement. No sharp edges mar her approach, and she builds her solos gradually and with great care.” – John Kelman – All About Jazz
Pianist and composer Michelle Gregoire was born in 1966 in Fullerton, California of her Franco-Manitoban and Canadian parents. Her family moved back to Canada immediately after her birth. She grew up in Ste-Anne, Manitoba, a small francophone community thirty minutes outside of Winnipeg. Music studies began at the age of 5 with the Yamaha Music Program where she studied organ and won several competitions including a national competition in Toronto at the age of 14. By the time she was 17, she was working professionally as a pianist and keyboardist performing at “Le 100 Nons” as a houseband musician and freelancing in the local Winnipeg scene with established artists such as Walle Larsson and Larry Roy. She appeared in the CBC telecast “A Celebration of Promise” which featured promising young artists. At the age of 19, she pursued jazz studies at the university level attending the prestigious jazz program at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia (1986-90).
She holds a Diploma in Jazz Studies as well as a BA in Music jazz degree (in Jazz Composition and Arranging) from St. Francis Xavier University (STFXU). She completed a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the Florida State University in 1993. She received a full scholarship and teaching assistantship to attend FSU. She attended the Hugh Fraser Jazz Orchestra Residency in Banff where she worked with Maria Schneider in 2002 and Kenny Wheeler in 2004. A performance at the Banff Centre with Kenny Wheeler was described as a “gorgeous duet by two astounding professionals, one in the twilight of his career and the other just emerging into the full light of day.” –Rocky Mountain Outlook.
She has also studied privately with world renowned composer Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider, and Canadian musicians David Restivo and David Braid. In 2006-07, Grégoire spent four months at the Banff Centre where she spent focused time composing and working with some of the world’s most brilliant musicians, composers and conductors. These included Joel Smirnoff, Rodney Sharman, Mark Applebaum, and John Halle.
Currently an active freelance musician in Calgary (formerly Winnipeg), Michelle maintains a solid reputation as a sideperson and band leader having worked with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra since its inception in 1997 where she performed with artists like Bill Watrous, Phil Nimmons, Dick Oatts, and many others. She also performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra as part of the pops series for several years working with artists like Byron Stripling and conductor Jeff Tysik. In 2010, she was featured in a special Jazz Winnipeg production featuring the WSO and Dee Dee Bridgewater. In Calgary she has worked with the Prime Time Big Band, The Calgary Jazz Orchestra, The Fox Big Band and the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble.
Michelle has also appeared with renowned artists such as Amy Sky, Marc Jordan, Steve Bell, Tom Jackson, Brian Hughes, Liberty Silver, Daniel Lavoie and Marie-Denise Pelletier. She has appeared with prominent jazz figures such as Dave Young, Rob McConnell, Peter Appleyard, VEJI (Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation), Frederic Alarie and Jon Geary to name a few. She has performed regularly with artists such as Stefan Bauer, Martha Brooks, Janice Finlay, Ron Halldorsen and Walle Larsson. In Calgary she has worked and recorded with Amy Bishop and Ralf Bushmeyer, and she has performed with Tyler Hornby, Rubim de Toledo, Simon Fisk and many more.
She is very active in the world of Musical Theatre having performed in the pit orchestras of Theatre Calgary’s Mary Poppins (2014), Anne of Green Gables (2013) and CATS (2012). She has also performed in shows such as Hairspray (2011 Rainbow Stage, Winnipeg), Grease (Manitoba Warehouse Theater), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Rainbow Stage, Winnipeg, and also Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg featuring Jimmy Osmond), and Fiddler On The Roof (Winnipeg). She has worked as part of StageWest Calgary’s production of 80’s Solid Gold (2014-15).
Michelle has been very active in the francophone music scene working as musical director for various CBC and TVO radio and television productions such as “Le Chant Ouest”, “Les Prix Riel”, “Le Gala Manitobain de la Chanson”, “En Eclosion”. She was a houseband member for the TV series “Un air de famille”, The 1997 Red River Flood Relief Concert, and many more.
In 2004 she released her debut recording with her quintet (entitled Reaching) on the Boat House Records label (Hugh Fraser’s label) after winning the Project COOL 2004 jazz competition which awarded her a $15 000 recording grant. The Michelle Grégoire Quintet featuring Kevin Turcotte, Kirk MacDonald, Jim Vivian and Ted Warren, completed an 11 city Canadian Tour in 2006 thanks to funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and Manitoba Film and Music. The group was also featured in some major jazz festivals such as the Jazz Winnipeg Festival opening for Branford Marsalis, The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal , The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, Prairie Scene Festival in Ottawa, the All Canadian Jazz Festival, IAJE in Toronto and more. The quintet was nominated for the Grand Prix de Jazz and Galaxie Étoile competitions at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 2006 and was recorded by CBC for national broadcasts on Espace Musique, Canada Live, After Hours and other programs.
In 2010 she released a sophomore recording entitled Diversity. Produced with the participation of Manitoba Film and Music and the Canada Council for the Arts, the CD features her original compositions and arrangements and impressive performances by her all-star quintet of top Canadian jazz musicians, namely Juno winner, saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, National Jazz Awards trumpeter of the year Kevin Turcotte, and top call Toronto based rhythm section featuring Jim Vivian on bass and Ted Warren on drums.
Both releases Reaching and Diversity earned a nomination as Outstanding Jazz Recording at the Western Canadian Music Awards and both recordings enjoy continued airplay making the top ten lists on jazz radio programs throughout North America. Her music is regularly featured on XM Radio’s Real Jazz and on Galaxie Radio programs.
Michelle’s big band compositions have been aired on CBC’s Silence on Jazz, Afterhours, Arts Encounters, Atlantic Airwaves, Jazz Beat, and have been performed and recorded by many ensembles, most recently by the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble, the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra and by the Banff Jazz Orchestra during the Hugh Fraser Jazz Orchestra Residency. In 2007 Michelle was commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and the CBC to create a suite for jazz trio and string orchestra. In 1998, she received a Manitoba Arts Council Commission and Development Grant to compose a large scale work for the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra which was recorded and released on the WJO’s self-titled CD. Her quintet was recorded by “Radio-Canada” for national broadcast on “Silence on Jazz” and her jazz orchestra works were recorded and performed by the WJO as part of a concert featuring Bob Brookmeyer and his music. She was featured as composer in residence at FSU and was featured in FSU’s prestigious International Festival of New Music. She also scored a film while at FSU which won a Student Emmy in the Musical Production category. She has received commission grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, The Manitoba Arts Council and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts,
A devoted clinician and educator, Michelle works regularly in Calgary schools as a jazz piano clinician. She has been a featured clinician in many colleges and high schools across Canada, namely Humber College, Capilano College and more. She is currently on faculty at Ambrose University in Calgary teaching jazz piano. In Winnipeg she held adjunct teaching positions at CMU as an applied jazz piano teacher, and was one of the jazz ensemble instructors at the University of Manitoba prior to the establishment of the current jazz program (1993-95). She was on Faculty at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts teaching private lessons in jazz piano, jazz theory and composition. While at FSU, Michelle was a teaching assistant, directed the FSU Jazz Ensemble II, taught private students, and some improvisation courses.
A respected contractor and administrator, Michelle created and curated an important jazz concert series in Winnipeg featuring touring Canadian jazz artists (The Canadian Jazz Concerts). She is an honorary patron with the All Canadian Jazz Festival in Ontario, an award granted to her for her contributions to the Canadian Jazz Scene. She was a board member with Manitoba Music (formerly MARIA) from 2007-2011. She additionally served as a board member for the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra as well as “Le 100 Nons” (an organization promoting francophone music and industry in Manitoba).
“…à découvirir, un MUST, un incontournable dans le jazz au Canada….une découverte à ne pas manquer.” – ZigZag, Radio-Canada
Compositrice de talent et interprète polyvalente, Michelle grandit dans une petite collectivité francophone à l’extérieur de Winnipeg. Ses études musicales débutent à un jeune âge par une inscription au programme de musique de Yamaha, dans le cadre duquel elle remporte plusieurs concours, y compris un concours national à Toronto à l’âge de 14 ans. À 17 ans, elle travaille professionnellement à titre de membre de l’orchestre du 100 Nons et de musicienne pigiste dans les salles de Winnipeg avec des artistes tels que Walle Larsson et Laurent Roy. Elle se présente à l’émission A Celebration of Promise au réseau anglais de la SRC, qui met en vedette de jeunes artistes prometteurs. À l’âge de 19 ans, elle décide de poursuivre des études universitaires en jazz. Continue reading