I first met Craig on a weird gig back when I was living in Vancouver, which means it was probably 2007 (I don’t mean it was weird because it was 2007). A bunch of jazz guys from the University of Victoria came to town to play a one-off free jazz big band concert at 1067, and recruited some local guys to fill in a few key spots. Robin Jessome, a trombone player who is now living in Toronto, was leading the project. I’m not really sure how he got my name. Anyways, the gig was super fun even though there were more people in the band than in the audience (maybe 3 or 4 times as many). But because it was such a quick event and I didn’t really know anybody in the band beforehand, I didn’t really keep in touch with anybody.
One day, in the the summer of 2008, I was in Montreal looking for an apartment, just before moving here to do my Masters degree. I was walking down Jeanne-Mance, and I bumped into Craig, who recognized me from the gig in Vancouver. We chatted for a bit, and realized we have mutual friends (namely Amy Horvey), and we kept in touch after that. Over the years, our paths kept crossing, and our group of mutual friends grew quickly.
A couple years later, while living in Ottawa, Craig asked me to play in his quartet. I was out of school and was looking for gigs of any kind, so I said yes without really knowing what I was getting myself into. Luckily, I really connected with the music. His writing was (and still is) very melodic, which of course is essential in any kind of music, but I feel is especially important in experimental music – a strong melody in the midst of chaos gives the listener a connection to the music and the musicians – kind of a lifeline or beacon that creates a sense of security even if there isn’t really any.
And his band was killer! Linsey Wellman plays the alto sax the way I wish every alto player would, but only Linsey does. Mike Essoudry has an incredible ability to play the drums aggressively yet sensitively. Mike has since left the band, replaced by Eric Thibodeau, who is possibly my favourite drummer to play with in the world. He also has a very wide range of dynamics, styles and techniques at his disposal, but what I really love about his playing is that he’s not afraid to play very simply or use lots of space – he’s just as happy to sit on a simple quarter note groove as he is to play free.
Craig and I have recorded a lot together. With Craig’s quartet, we recorded the album Days Like Today a few years ago, and we’re releasing another one soon, called Ghosts. Craig, Eric and I released an album a couple years ago with Dominic Gobeil and Patrick Lampron, called Live In Silence, which was recorded live at the end of a Quebec tour. Craig also played on the latest Shtreiml album, Eastern Hora, and we’re currently working on a recording project for some of Malcolm Sailor‘s music. There’s probably more, too, but I can’t think of it right now. Oh yeah – Renée Yoxon & Mark Ferguson! All these albums are available as perks in my Indiegogo campaign!
Craig and I have put out a duo record, as well. It’s a mix of country and free jazz, and it’s called It’s a Free Country. I’m very proud of this album. The artwork is also amazing, illustrated and designed by the infamous cult artist Dave Cooper.
The Craig Pedersen Quartet plays often, and we have some tours coming up in the spring and summer, so come check us out – you’ll love it!