Bent River Records Artist Spotlight – November 2023

The Fall 2023 Bent River Records Artist Spotlight is back and takes place on the 30th of November, 2023 at the Yardbird Suite, 11 Tommy Banks Way NW, Edmonton, AB. Doors open at 7:00pm, and showtime is at 7:30pm.

The evening’s lineup features two Montréal-based artists: trumpeter and organist, Kevin Dean, and jazz pianist, Jean-Michel Pilc, who are releasing a new album of duets with Bent River Records. Bent River Records merchandise and other previously released works from Bent River Records will also be available for purchase. Entry to this event is by donation to MacEwan’s Students First Campaign. A QR code with the link to donate will be available at the event. No RSVP or ticket purchase is necessary.

Bent River Records is an innovative and artist-focused record label based out of MacEwan University in Edmonton that inspires community and student engagement. It was conceived and designed with the dual purpose of providing a support network for recording artists while providing an important and rare educational and research platform for students to obtain hands-on experience in the music industry.

Click here for the Yardbird Suite event page.

Get to Know Jean-Michel Pilc

Born in 1960 in Paris, France, now also an American and Canadian citizen, self-taught pianist and composer Jean-Michel Pilc has performed with numerous jazz giants: Roy Haynes, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Jean Toussaint, Rick Margitza, Michel Portal, Daniel Humair, Marcus Miller, Kenny Garrett, Lenny White, Chris Potter, John Abercrombie, Mingus Dynasty & Big Band, Lew Soloff, Richard Bona etc. He has also worked with Harry Belafonte, as his musical director and pianist, and has performed a duet with the legendary opera singer Jessye Norman.

Since he became a professional musician in the late 80’s, Jean-Michel has constantly been very active internationally, touring over 60 countries including all of Europe as well as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Abu Dhabi, South America, Mexico, USA and Canada. In addition to his own projects, he has been in high demand as a co-leader and sideman, participating in numerous projects over the world and recording a lot of albums. Among these projects and recordings: duos with Kenny Werner, Sam Newsome, Sylvain Luc and the legendary Martial Solal, trio with Thomas Bramerie & André Ceccarelli, Twenty, guitarist Teriver Cheung, Hong Kong Episodes, Greek bass player Petros Klampanis, Contextual, NYC drummer Tony Moreno Short Stories, Moutin Reunion Quintet Deep, Brazilian guitarist Fabio Gouvea, Dutch bassist Jasper Somsen A New Episode In Life, Danish bassist Mads Vinding Open Minds, and many others.

Jean-Michel moved to New York City in 1995 and formed a new trio with François Moutin (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums). They recorded a one-week engagement at the legendary jazz club Sweet Basil and, in 2000, released two CDs: Together – Live at Sweet Basil, NYC – Vol. 1 & 2 (A-Records). Pilc then signed a record deal with Dreyfus Jazz. His first album for Dreyfus, Welcome Home (featuring the same trio), was released in 2002. Jean-Michel’s next recording, Cardinal Points, was released the following year. It featured his extended work Trio Sonata, created with generous support from Chamber Music America New Works: Creation and Presentation Program, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

In 2004, Jean-Michel released his first solo album, Follow Me (Dreyfus). Then he returned to trio format to record Live at Iridium, NYC, in 2004, New Dreams in 2006, and True Story in 2009 (featuring Billy Hart). He also received his second New Works Grant from Chamber Music America for the writing and performance of Modern Lights, a composition reflecting Charlie Chaplin’s work. The project was premiered at the Caramoor Jazz Festival in August 2009.

Jean-Michel’s next two albums were both released in 2011 on the Motema label to critical acclaim : Essential, a live solo piano recording, and Threedom, featuring his legendary trio with François Moutin & Ari Hoenig, which had re-formed in 2010 under the collective name Pilc Moutin Hoenig. A documentary by John McCormick titled Jean-Michel Pilc – A Portrait (Living Jazz Archive) is released on the same year.

In 2013, Jean-Michel was granted the prestigious Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, in the Music Composition category. The project was an octet, Big One, featuring all new original music.

In 2015, Jean-Michel released his third solo album, What Is This Thing Called?  (Sunnyside), followed, in 2018, by his fourth, Parallel (Challenge Records).

Jean-Michel has built a strong international reputation as a unique educator. Between 2006 and 2015, he was a NYU Steinhardt faculty member, giving private lessons (all instruments), ensemble classes and improvisation workshops. He was Co-Director of NYU Summer Jazz Improv Workshop in 2010. Jean-Michel also taught for the New School in NYC, as well as privately. At the same time, he released a book, It’s About Music – The Art and Heart of Improvisation (Carl Fischer) and an educational video for all instruments, True Jazz Improvisation (JazzHeaven), followed by another video for JazzHeaven, Transcending the Instrument, about piano playing and practicing. All have been praised by his colleagues, and highly influential in the field of jazz education. Jean-Michel keeps releasing pedagogical material on a regular basis, including 2 video masterclasses on Improvisational Fluency (MyMusicMasterclass), 2 online lessons in French and English, Anatomy of a Standard and The Art of Ballad (iMusic School), a series of improvisation tutorials on Patreon, the online lesson Total Improvisational Control (The Crescent), among others.

In September 2015, Jean-Michel joined the Jazz Faculty at The Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal. Now a tenured Full Professor, he teaches jazz, piano, and improvisation (all instruments), as well as a Seminar on improvisation in all styles to a large group of McGill jazz and classical students. He has acted as Jazz Area Chair between 2016 and 2018.

Living in Montreal, Jean-Michel has become a very active constituent of the local jazz scene, participating in many Montreal-based projects as a leader, co-leader and sideman. In 2016, he created the Improvisation Workshop Project, funded by the Fonds de Recherche du Québec -Société et Culture (FRQSC). He has also been a special guest of the Montreal-based Orchestre National de Jazz and a sideman of many Montreal musicians, as illustrated by his recent discography and concert schedule. He is also present on the Toronto and Ottawa jazz scene, playing with Kirk MacDonald and Roddy Ellias, and continues to perform with NYC-based groups such as Pilc-Moutin-Hoenig and his US Trio with Sam Minaie and Jerad Lippi.

Jean-Michel is now a Justin Time Recording Artist. He has released three albums on the label: Alive – Live at Dièse Onze, Montréal with Rémi-Jean-Leblanc & Jim Doxas, the solo CD Symphony, and the Pilc Moutin Hoenig album You Are the Song. A number of solo singles and EPs have also been released on the same label.Jean-Michel is also a virtuoso whistler, as documented on several recordings including a solo piano & whistle track in the CD Christmas from the Blue Note (2010, Half Note).

Duets by Kevin Dean with Jean-Michel Pilc is his first album with Bent River Records.

Get to Know Kevin Dean

Trumpeter and organist Kevin Dean is a Professor of Music (Jazz Studies) at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. He was born in Mason City, Iowa in 1954 sand received a Bachelor of Music degree in 1976 from the University of Iowa. Dean received a Master’s Degree in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami (Florida) in 1980, then joined the faculty of St. Francis-Xavier University in Nova Scotia where he helped develop Canada’s first university accredited Jazz studies program. He accepted his present position at McGill in 1984 and designed and developed their undergraduate jazz curriculum as well as designing McGill’s Jazz Licentiate diploma and co-designing their Masters in Jazz Performance degree.

In 1986 Kevin co-founded the Jazz Association of Montreal and served as their first president. Kevin is active as a performer, composer, clinician and adjudicator and was a faculty member of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops from 1984 to1996. He is featured on over fifteen CD’s, including six with his original music: Minor Indiscretions (McGill Records 1991), Kevin Dean, Since 1954 (McGill Records 1993), Kevin’s Heaven (Double Time records 1995) Moments Musicaux (Radioland records 1996), Over at Ola’s (Hot Club records 1997, recorded during a sabbatical year in Norway) and Venous Lake (Gemini records 1998) which features guitarist Louis Stewart and bassist Neil Swainson and is enhanced with CD-ROM video material from the recording session. His composition “Andre’s Footsteps” was one of seven jazz pieces chosen to be part of a four CD set (Here and Now, A Celebration of Canadian Music,) compiled and released by the Canada Council celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Kevin has performed in concert and recorded with numerous well-known jazz artists including Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson and Barry Harris. In recent years Kevin has begun to play and perform on the Hammond organ and has a quartet that features Andre White playing drums and saxophonists Mike Murley and John Nugent. The group performed at jazz festivals in Montreal, Sweden, and Finland last summer and released their first CD; Kevin Dean Organ Band, Live at Upstairs.

Duets by Kevin Dean with Jean-Michel Pilc, is Kevin’s third album with Bent River Records, following Sunset Trail by Kevin Dean and the Big City Wranglers, and Going Down Slow.

Welcome to the Team, Connor!

Connor is an Edmonton-based multi-instrumentalist songwriter and composer hailing from small-town Ponoka, Alberta. As well as working through his composition degree, he can be found playing guitar in a variety of projects in the city. As well as composing and performing, Connor has always had a keen interest in recording and is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Bent River this semester.

Megan’s Bent River Records Era

It’s Me, Hi — Megan Sell is a second year Arts and Culture Management student with a passion for the music industry and artist management. Growing up she always loved music. In her younger years, she studied piano and was in choir in high school. She practices self-taught guitar, ukulele, and Songwriting in her spare time.

Megan’s first concert experience wasn’t till she was almost 19 and since then she has been to 52 concerts, with more planned, and met 23 artists. She believes when you connect to music and experience it there is a feeling of joy that allows you to enjoy yourself while being surrounded by a community of people.

She plans on using her past education in marketing and graphic communications to help her learning and growth in Artist Management through content creation, postering, event planning like the artist spotlight, and other projects this term. Megan is looking forward to working with Bent River Records this term and growing her knowledge of the music industry.

Megan is a Swiftie, and she leaves you with one of her favorite Taylor Swift quotes: “Never believe anyone who tells you that you don’t deserve what you want” —Taylor Swift.