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Louise Denson : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Two Boleros : for piano trio by Louise Denson, from the CD Spirit and the Maiden

Photo of Louise Denson

Photo: Mia Forrest

Artist website: http://www.louisedenson.com

Louise Denson grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where she was able to make music a large part of her early life. After university study in modern languages and entertaining the idea of a career in the federal civil service, Denson decided to become a professional musician.

She completed a BA in Music (Jazz) at St. Francis Xavier University in 1989, and moved to Montreal where she made a living playing jazz and Latin dance music. She studied jazz composition with Andrew Homzy at Concordia University, and has been writing ever since.

In 1993-95 she completed a Master of Music at New England Conservatory in Boston where she studied with Paul Bley, Bevan Manson and Joe Maneri, all of whom were deeply influential in her development as a player and composer. She was awarded a Doctorate of Musical Arts from Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane (2014) for her autoethnographic thesis and portfolio examining her development as a (predominantly jazz) composer.

Denson's compositions demonstrate a commitment to melody as a primary concern, as well as a love of the rich, harmonic language of the romantic era and the French school. She was deeply affected by her extended association with Afro-Cuban and Brazilian dance music, and much of her work fuses the rhythmic language of these musical cultures with a western European harmonic sensibility and jazz-based improvisation. She has recently been seeking to blend more closely her knowledge and love of these musical cultures.

Denson has released seven CDs, beginning with On the Level (1996) which featured four prominent Montreal musicians, and the New York-based drummer Gary Fieldman. Clean Start (2002) won the 2003 Queensland Sunnie Award for Best Jazz Recording, and featured celebrated Australian horn players Tony Hobbs, John Hoffman and Phil Noy. This was followed by Portrait (2007), a collaboration with Sunnie Award-winning vocalist Ingrid James. It included the song 'Time to Be' (Denson/James) which won the QSong Pinnacles Award for best jazz composition in 2007. Flame Tree (2010) contains ten original Afro-Cuban and Brazilian-themed compositions. A second collaboration with Ingrid James, Colours of Your Love (2018) features a classical/jazz nonet with 3 strings and 2 horns. Dark Sky (2019) is a collaboration with alto saxophonist Martha Baartz, with five compositions from each. Nova Nova (2021) features Brisbane's finest improvisors on eight of Denson's recent compositions.

Denson lectured in jazz at the Queensland Conservatorium, Brisbane from 1999-2020, acting as area head from 2002 to 2013. The Conservatorium offered many opportunities for her to expand her practice, including commissions for the Griffith Trio, Southern Cross Soloists and new music chamber group Collusion. Denson has collaborated with many of Brisbane's finest musicians, as well as national figures such as Sandy Evans, John Mackey, Miroslav Bukovsky, Martin Kay, Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold, Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg, and Alec Raineri. Her fully scored works are published by Wirripang, including 4 sets of songs for soprano and piano, a piano trio, a choral arrangement and solo piano pieces.

Denson has recently relocated to Hobart, Tasmania, where she is developing new musical pathways with new collaborators. She was commissioned by TSO to write a piece for the Live Sessions series which features a string orchestra and guest soloist (Saborea el momento, 2021). She is currently writing a 35-min commission for the Clarence Jazz Festival 2023 in collaboration with researcher/writer and palawa/walpiri woman Nunami Sculthorpe-Green, which tells the story of the displacement of the Oyster Bay nation on the east side of the Derwent River as the colonists arrived and occupied their land.

She is also active on the live jazz scene, playing frequently at Mona and other venues, both under her own name and in others' ensembles.

Louise Denson — current to November 2022

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2011 Queensland Music Awards Highly Commended I'll ask you one more time
2011 Queensland Music Awards Finalist All I know

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Fisherman islands : soprano with ensemble Commissioned by the Southern Cross Soloists for performance in their 'Words and Music' series
Digital sheet music sample Wild December wind (saxophone ensemble) (2012) Commissioned by Queensland Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra.
Another cup : small jazz ensemble (1998) Written with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec
Sparring, sparing : small jazz ensemble (1998) Composed with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
Cha cha che : small jazz ensemble (1998) Composed with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (Canada)
Clean start : small jazz ensemble (1998) Written with support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Canada