François Bourassa

​François Bourassa, pianist, composer and band leader (born 26 September 1959 in Montréal). He is the son of the late Robert Bourassa, former premier of Québec. Considered one of the best jazz pianists in Canada due to his virtuosity, he is highly regarded and appreciated both nationally and internationally.
​François Bourassa, pianist, composer and band leader (born 26 September 1959 in Montréal). He is the son of the late Robert Bourassa, former premier of Québec. Considered one of the best jazz pianists in Canada due to his virtuosity, he is highly regarded and appreciated both nationally and internationally.


François Bourassa, pianist, composer and band leader (born 26 September 1959 in Montréal). He is the son of the late Robert Bourassa, former premier of Québec. Considered one of the best jazz pianists in Canada due to his virtuosity, he is highly regarded and appreciated both nationally and internationally.

Musical Influence

When Bourassa was eight years old, he was encouraged to study piano by his mother, a lover of classical music. At 12 years of age, Bourassa became hooked on progressive rock — his favourite groups were Genesis, Soft Machine, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer — and he switched to playing electric guitar. Bourassa returned to the piano at age 17 when he discovered the jazz greats, and Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis and John Coltrane became his main sources of inspiration. His music continues to be coloured by these two musical genres: jazz and progressive rock.

Training and Musical Projects

Bourassa earned his BA in music composition at McGill University and his MA at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he honed his technique by studying under renowned professors such as George Russell, Fred Hersch, Tom McKinley and Miroslav Vitous. In 2005, he undertook a six-month residency in New York City.

In 1983, Bourassa formed a trio with brothers Guy (on bass) and Yves Boisvert (on drums). The young trio took first prize at the 1985 Festival international de jazz de Montréal (see Jazz Festivals), which launched Bourassa’s professional career. In 1996, the saxophonist and flutist André Leroux became the fourth member of the group, which was renamed the François Bourassa Trio + 1.Yves Boisvert was replaced by Greg Ritchie on drums in 2002, and the group then called itself the François Bourassa Quartet. Philippe Melanson has been the quartet’s drummer since 2007.

Bourassa sometimes plays alongside multi-instrumentalist Jean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguay, as well as saxophonist Yannick Rieu and bassist Alain Caron. An admirer of Malian musician Boubacar Traoré, Bourassa has added an African touch to his music thanks to the occasional presence of percussionist Aboulaye Koné from the Ivory Coast.

Teaching

Bourassa has taught music composition and jazz improvisation in the Music Department of the Université du Québec à Montréal for close to 15 years. Bourassa also teaches at the CEGEP (community college) in Drummondville, and he offers several master classes elsewhere in Canada and in France. In 2000, his talent for teaching was recognized by the International Association of Jazz Educators, which gave him an award for “his extraordinary services to teaching and the cause of jazz.”

Recordings and Awards

Bourassa has recorded eight albums, which have been critically acclaimed in Canada and abroad. Bourassa’s recordings have earned him several Félix award nominations from ADISQ, a professional organization that annually recognizes the Québec music and performance industry and its artists. Recognition for Bourassa arrived with his album LIVE, which earned him the 2002 Juno Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, as well as the Opus Award for Best Jazz CD of the Year from the Conseil québécois de la musique. In June 2007, Bourassa was awarded the 19th Oscar Peterson Award at the Festival international de jazz de Montréal for “the quality of his art” and “his exceptional contribution to the development of Canadian jazz.”