Talking Heads re-imagined

A group of musicians and graduates of our U of M jazz program have recently begun a fantastic series of concerts wherein classic pop albums are re-imagined in the style of contemporary jazz tunes.

The first two albums showcased were Bob Marley’s album Exodus and Stevie Wonder’s Inner Visions. Up this Thursday is Talking Heads and their album Stop Making Sense, which includes songs like “Take Me To The River” and “Burning Down The House.” To hear a completely re-imagined rendition of these classic songs is an exciting prospect and an interesting view into the creative brains the jazz program is producing here at our university.

When rumours about the impending closure of Aqua Books started to circulate last summer, my heart nearly stopped. Not only does Aqua Books have one the most extensive and reasonably priced collections of used books in the city, not only was the Eat! Bistro one of the best places for delicious vegetarian food, perhaps most importantly Aqua Books hosts hundreds of different events in the upstairs-theatre of this amazing store.

Kelly Hughes, owner of Aqua Books, will be hosting this exciting jazz event, and actually approached keyboardist Paul De Gurse about being a part of the concert series.

In an interview with the Manitoban, De Gurse spoke about the process of picking an album to work on, about putting all of the different pieces together and about why Talking Heads are a band worth returning to.

Stop Making Sense was originally my dad’s album,” said De Gurse. “I saw this concert DVD as a young kid and I hated it. That was my first ever exposure to the Talking Heads. Once I turned 15, started getting into funk-soul kind of music and I watched it again, though, I loved it. David Byrne was this thin wirey white dude and I could relate to him. And when Kelly Hughes approached me about doing something for the concert series, I decided this was the perfect album.”

The time and effort required to reduce a song down to its most basic elements and then rebuild it is considerable. De Gurse is in his fourth year at the University of Manitoba. For anyone who has finished, or is near finishing, a degree, you understand that the fourth year is full of upper level classes and a workload unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

“It was two to three months of work,” said De Gurse. “My fourth year of university isn’t the ideal time to do an independent project like that, but it’s just what happened. It was time to do it, so I did it. It is a big project, but the opportunity was there. You don’t get anywhere by not seizing opportunities when they come, even if it isn’t at the most ideal time.”

Almost everyone will remember the songs they heard their parents play when they were young. Sometimes, those songs become special, even precious. When asked how it felt to perform these re-imagined versions of Talking Heads songs, De Gurse said: “It feels fantastic to rehearse with the band. They’re fantastic. I know they’ve got my back. Without a group of talented people, all I have left are sheets of paper.”

De Gurse (arrangements and piano), Erin Propp (vocals), Neil Watson (saxophone), Lucas Sader (percussion) and Mike Cann (bass) will all be performing at the Talking Heads concert at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Aqua Books theatre, on 274 Garry Street. Tickets are $10 at the door.