Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
Megan Jerome is in my living room playing my upright piano. It’s an old made-in-Canada Heintzman, bequeathed to me by a family member and it hasn’t been tuned in ages.
“That’s part of the charm,” Jerome, 38, says. Sitting on the claw-foot stool, her corkscrew curls piled atop her head, she works with the slightly warped sound and broken keys. Getting a feel for this particular piano, she tears into selections from her new self-titled album to an audience of one and a housecat.
The songs are sparse in their composition, but are made warm by a sensuous voice and sultry delivery. The song “Mike,” written about her husband (musician-composer Mike Essoudry), is a tender re-telling of warm exchanges in their long-blooming relationship. The song “Want” is more obscure on details, but is clear in its intention. Of the nine songs on the album, it’s the horndoggiest.
Jerome delivers this tune smoothly on the piano, and laughs loudly when we dissect the lyrics. (She rhymes “more” and “sore” in a yowza stanza). Other tunes display a sprightly sense of humour and an appreciation for the ends and bends of the piano — and the many ways you can manipulate it to get a great sound that’s more resonant.
She plays a tune that’s heavy on the bass-clef notes and we get to talking about Gonzales, the McGill-educated musician and producer who writes indie rock piano tunes and does some low-tech torquing, like adding more felt to parts of the inside of the piano, to expand the sound possibilities.
It’s an approach that piques her interest, as Jerome is looking to change things up. She spent a month in New Orleans for inspiration and, lately, started composing on a Wurlitzer to get a groovier sound than in her previous work. In the past, she led a jazz trio with Essoudry and Petr Cancura. They recorded two albums as the Megan Jerome Trio, while she released the solo album Bloomers in 2010. (Jerome likes sharp left turns. She studied engineering at Queen’s and worked in mining before she got her BMus in jazz composition from Carleton. She teaches music full-time.)
For her new album, Jerome recorded with producer Ross Murray at home on her Heintzman. She’ll try to replicate that candid, warm, living room vibe when she hosts a CD release show at the National Arts Centre fourth stage on Friday.
Megan Jerome CD release show, Friday, November 30, NAC Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin St., 7:30 p.m., $20.