Arts and Entertainment

Langley artist and teacher releases new jazz CD with concert

Maureen Girard has released her first CD
Maureen Girard has released her first CD 'Portrait in Four Colors.'
— image credit: Michael Stadler photo

It may not be Elvis Presley’s white million-dollar Knabe grand, but the piano was still something special to Maureen Girard.

The six-foot Knabe grand piano on which Girard recorded her newest release, “Portrait in Four Colors,” is one that Sound Trap Studios owner Robbie Cribbs purchased from Jessica Williams, one of the greatest jazz pianist of our time.

Williams owned the piano for five years, and Girard sat down to play on the Knabe as she recorded her first-ever CD in Cribbs’ Freeland recording studio.

Girard, a Langley pianist, composer and educator, said playing that particular piano while recording the album meant a lot to her, because Williams had always been one of her favorite recording artists for years before they had even met.

“Recording on Jessica’s piano was a bit surreal for me,” Girard said.

“I studied her recordings so much that one of the tracks, ‘In a Sentimental Mood,’ on the CD is a tribute to her.

I never dreamed that not only would I someday meet her, but that we would become dear friends and perform in concerts together.”

Listening to “Portrait in Four Colors,” it’s easy to hear how keyed into this beautiful-sounding piano Girard was for this recording. She has an easy, natural grace that reveals her long experience as a professional jazz pianist, and is enhanced by her stellar band and an excellent production quality by Cribbs. It makes this disc a pleasure to pop in, sit back and enjoy.

In celebration of the release of “Portrait,” Girard will perform an “All Star Jazz Concert” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16 at Trinity Lutheran Church’s main building in Freeland.

Performing with her will be the Maureen Girard Quartet, which includes Thomas Marriott on trumpet and flugel horn, Clipper Anderson on bass and Brian Kirk on drums, the musicians who are also on the CD.

Williams, a two-time Grammy nominee, will be a special guest that evening, along with a showcase performance by Girard’s piano student Jack Hood. The evening will be hosted by Sue Frause.

Girard did all the arrangements on “Portrait in Four Colors” which features a variety of composers such as Claudio Mendez, Duke Ellington, Jacos Pastorius, Josef Zawinul, Ahmad Jamal, Enrique Granados and an original piece titled “City Blues.”

The album’s title hints at the variety of musical color recorded here with everything from Zawinul’s poignant and affecting “A Remark You Made” on which Marriott’s horn is featured, as it is on Jamal’s soulful “Without You.”

The quartet does an excellent job backing up Girard on “City Blues,” on which the pianist lays into a steady, snappy, bounce on the keys evoking the cosmopolitan whirl of a night in the big city and enriched by a bluesy rush of it’s anything-can-happen temptations.

All the numbers here are jazzy and effortless, and Girard did well to include the masterful Ellington tunes “In A Sentimental Mood” and “Love You Madly,” adding a decidedly romantic quality to the disc, along with Granados’ “Spanish Dance No. 5” and Pastorius’ “Three Views of a Secret.”

Although this is Girard’s first professionally recorded CD, she’s no neophyte when it comes to jazz and the piano, which she has been playing since she was 7.

Girard said the record was about a year in the making and came out of a movie/book project that writer friend Bob Condor wrote based on Girard’s extraordinary journey from a New York childhood to professional musician. Condor asked Girard to record an album that could accompany the project.

“Because of the story, which was largely a triumph over great adversities and never giving up,” Girard said, “the CD has great personal significance for me. I am thrilled to be able to share something so special with my friends and supporters in our community.”

Girard had a long career performing as a singer-pianist before moving full-throttle into a teaching career.

Now into her 16th year of teaching, Girard owns 88 Keys Piano Studio in Langley, where she teaches piano privately. She served as the Washington State Music Teachers Association president for three years, and balances a teaching roster of 25 students with a steady stream of in-house concerts at her home performance studio, as well as the annual fall concert at South Whidbey High School auditorium.

Hood, who will open the concert with Girard, is a 14-year-old freshman at South Whidbey High School who has been studying piano with Girard for about six years. His father, Eric Hood, said Girard is a caring, talented and encouraging teacher.

Many of her students have won scholarships and awards, and some have gone on to professional careers in music. This is a great source of pride for Girard, who mentions her students and their accomplishments often. And, although most performers who are releasing their first CD focus the spotlight solely on themselves to sell more discs, Girard continues her tradition of paying homage to the young “stars” of music by inviting her students, such as Hood, to perform with her onstage.

Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for students and seniors, a suggested donation. Tickets will be available at the door at 6:30 p.m. Trinity Lutheran is located at Highway 525 and Woodard Avenue.

Refreshments will available, proceeds from which will be donated to the SWHS band program.

For more information and to listen to tracks from “Portrait in Four Colors,” click here or call 221-0362.

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