I didn't know Eval Manigat. I didn't know about Montreal's world music scene until a few years ago. By that time, Manigat wasn't as active on the scene as he had been in the 1980s and 1990s, focusing his energy on establishing the St-Marc Music Academy in his native Haiti. So the nostalgic element was a bit lost on me; the emotion I felt was more along the lines of wishing I had known him. A great bassist, vibraphonist, arranger and composer that passed away last year, the program was comprised of his tunes, save a couple of tributes penned for the concert.
The band featured Eval's compatriots from over the years, ranging from singers Karen Young and Sara Renelik, a horn section of saxophonists Yvan Belleau and Jean-Pierre Zanella, trumpeter Jocelyn Couture and Richard Gagnon on trombone, pianist Jean-Francois Groulx, bassist Fritz Pageot (father of Ric'key), and drummer Yvon Plouffe. Jean Vanasse assumed Eval's position behind the vibes on a few tunes.
The show opened with Belleau's tune "Compas pour Eval," a great fanfare and tribute, featuring Belleau and Groulx and the solid percussion section. Manigat's tunes incorporated rhythms from across the Caribbean, from Haitian compa to Cuban descargas, all with a strong sense of melody. All the soloists were in top form - Groulx's montunos were powerful, especially on "Rhapsody pour Haiti" alongside Richard Lalonde's flute; Martial Méroné's crystal clean Stratocaster evoked the Afro-pop diaspora. Young Haitian poet/vocalist Jahnice and pianist Genevieve St-Pierre offered a moving piece called "Bam La Vi," and Young, accompanied by pianist Tim Jackson, sang one of Eval's beautiful ballads, "Le Silence."
May Eval rest in peace - his music lives on in his colleagues, and the St-Marc Academy which will prove to be his legacy.