Bruno Hubert recorded himself playing with his usual Friday night trio at Vancouver’s groovy East-side Commercial Drive club, The Libra Room, back in January 2013. With this fortuitous recording you get better than a ring-side seat to Bruno’s trance-inducing medley performance of jazz standards.
Bruno had made this club his musical home for many years until April of last year when the effects of Cascadia’s seismic indigestion produced a catastrophic reflux into The Libra Room’s plumbing fixtures wreaking havoc. Rumors have been simmering that one of Vancouver’s most pleasing jazz music venues may be close to repaired and soon to welcome revelers and students of hip once again. Let’s hope so.
And, if the stars align, Monsieur Hubert may once again send Vancouver off into another Friday night of mirth and merry making.
He rose up through the brass and percussion ranks of La Fanfare de Maniwaki, Quebec, a small logging town many miles out along the Gatineau River north of Ottawa. It was a tough town with strong Algonquin and and French Catholic roots, and hockey. Who could have predicted a once on-ice enforcer would emerge from here to someday become a masterful jazz musician? Well, perhaps his Father, and the local marching band leader.
Bruno Hubert left Maniwaki, at the age of 19, to find a larger pond to quench his musical thirst. His business minded older brother gave shelter in the citadel of French Canada, Quebec City. There the fresh faced drummer took up studies, to round off his rough edges, at Cégep de Sainte-Foy school of Music. He was told to learn piano. And he discovered his brother’s Keith Jarrett record. The rest is, well, recounted firsthand in this audio interview conducted by the Jazz Shed in February of this year with Bruno himself .
Over the past three decades, Bruno has taken a curious and unique route from obscure small town french Canada to the lyrical multiculturalism of Vancouver’s Jazz scene. While his story is interesting, his music is more so. Bruno is well known and, perhaps, revered among many jazz musicians and fans alike in Vancouver as a remarkable secret. Well, this is partly true. But any jazz musician, especially those who work in Vancouver, will tell you that they are not in it for the fame. Seems like a silly thought if you have ever tried. Bruno however seems oblivious to the concept of self-promotion and as local impresario Cory Weeds would tell you, the market for Jazz promoters in Vancouver is rather small. So, Bruno is not famous. But, maybe he likes it that way.
Perhaps some of the adoring regulars who seep in to Commercial Drive’s mirthful Libra Room most Fridays to hear (and see) his bustling trio are thankful that Master Bruno Hubert (he goes by the original surname of Schubert more recently) prefers his piano to the spot light. They get the best deal in town. Oops!
Please pour yourself a tall glass, a wee dram, or a pot of tea, and stretch out to this candid and rather extensive interview with a truly masterful jazz musician who is, quite possibly, the real thing. This interview is lightly seasoned with some of Bruno’s playing from a Jazz Shed recording made Live at The Libra Room in November of 2015. Enjoy, and please comment.
NOTE: Be sure to buy your tickets to see The Bruno Hubert Trio perform at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival on July 2nd.
Bruno Schubert is a unique and (to me) shockingly delightful surprise on the Vancouver Jazz scene. In fact, I wouldn’t restrict this assessment to just the local Vancouver Jazz microcosm. I have been studying, playing and listening to jazz constantly for 35 years and Bruno is the real thing. Rather than try to explain why I think he is important, I would just invite you to listen to his playing, and indeed his arranging and the way he compels his group (listen to his maraca and tamborin work) through his unique and entrancing treatment of Love For Sale with a deceptive Night In Tunisia intro.
Pianist Bruno Hubert is a local delight and one of the hidden gems of Jazz. I first saw Bruno play here in Vancouver back in 1993 shortly after a cross-Canada permanent escape from Toronto in a loaded down pick-up. Bruno impressed me then with his intensity, emotional commitment, and almost Sage-like aura.
I lost track of Bruno and the Jazz scene in general in the late 90’s but I am now making up for lost time. That quest brought me out to the Emerald Lounge on the edge of China Town earlier this summer. Bruno was leading a funky trio on his, apparently well traveled, Fender Rhodes piano. From this performance, my conviction that this French Canadian transplant was important (not to mention entertaining) was solidified.
I learned that Bruno holds court most Friday nights at The Libra Room where his eminently swinging trio plays the opening set at 7pm. At this groovy perch on the Drive, those attending, lubricated by local libations, marvel as Bruno summons audacious, yet correct, improvised melodies over familiar jazz standards from a tired looking yet shockingly compliant honky-tonk upright.
It seemed a crime to me (perhaps one that I was complicit in) that there was no cover charge (I did tip the optional music fund), and that I sat yet 5 feet from this jazz genius. I would hit the Libra every Friday if I didn’t have other responsibilities, but such is not the case. So I went looking to find recordings of Bruno through the normal channels.
Enter Live At The Cellar, a 2008 recording at the sadly now defunct legendary West Broadway establishment of the same name, featuring Bruno, ubiquitous bassist Andre Lachance and Juno winner (for trumpet) Brad Turner sporting some serious drum chops.
Live At the Cellar, while certainly not new, is, to my listening, representative of the best jazz performances by local musicians and can easily sit on heavy rotation in my jukebox along with any of the jazz greats past and present.