The New State of (House) Jazz: Berlioz at Le Studio TD

When U.K. DJ and producer Berlioz announced a tour earlier this year, I knew I had to cover his set at Le Studio TD. I’ve been a fan of Berlioz for just over a year, discovering his music on TikTok, as most of his fans have. Seeing that his entire discography, only going back two years, consisted of no more than eight tracks, I expected to be met with a fairly small crowd and a fairly easy night, and I couldn't have been further off. 

Upon arrival at the Place des Arts venue, I was greeted with a line that spanned almost a full block, even 45 minutes after the doors had opened. The venue itself was crowded, with both the floor and mezzanine area bustling with an eclectic mix of Montreal's finest; anyone from senior jazz heads to Gen-Zers clutching Berlioz LPs (I counted 6!) Thanks to this I was able to get a variety of expectations as to how this show was going to go, soured only slightly by the 45-minute wait for the U.K. DJ and his jazz trio to make an appearance.

From there, however, it was all smiles, as Berlioz and crew slid through the DJ's relatively small discography with nonchalant, funky ease. Berlioz ran the drum machine, laying down groovy house 808s and retro cinema vocal samples over some classic jazz loops, both heavily prominent on tracks “jazz is for ordinary people” and “nyc in 1940”. Accompanying Berlioz on stage was a live jazz trio, made up of Matt Carrillo on sax, RC Williams on keys, and Sharay Reed on bass, a standard saxophone jazz trio. Each getting their turns to improvise while maintaining the format of the Berlioz originals, this live instrumentation added a lush level to the already bustling and lively house jams. While this is not common for a DJ set, it works to give Berlioz his unique brand of performance, crafting live house jazz on his own terms. 

Berlioz performing live on stage seems to represent a new frontier for music. Since his start only a year and a half ago, Berlioz has garnered most of his fanbase through the internet, specifically TikTok, with his limited discography of only 8 songs being used in over 50,000 videos. Traditionally, this early in a career, one would be playing smaller venues, local gigs with maybe a festival feature. Berlioz however, is playing sold-out shows and touring internationally without even having an album out. In this age of equalized music representation across all fronts, where artists, new or old, can gain international levels of fame overnight, it's more important than ever to grip an opportunity and never let it go, and that seems to be exactly what Berlioz has managed to do here. Regardless of genre standards, Berlioz is showing exactly what someone with passion and a good ear for funk can accomplish: some lush, vibrant, downtempo jazz, that anyone from music heads to ordinary people can enjoy. Listen to Berlioz’s 2023 EP jazz is for ordinary people here.


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