Vanessa Rodrigues is one of Canada’s premier young jazz organists, based in Montreal, Québec. She appears frequently with her own groups and as a side musician at Canadian jazz venues and festivals, and has toured overseas in Europe and Japan.
Vanessa was born in 1978 in Edmonton, Alberta. She began playing piano at age 5, and then became fascinated with the pipe organ at age 8. However, due to very limited access to organs, piano remained her main instrument for a long time. In addition to piano, she also played double bass and viola for several years, taking advantage of the many unique educational and travel opportunities presented to her through the Edmonton Public Schools String Program.
Vanessa built a strong foundation in classical music throughout her childhood, then discovered jazz music at age 14 through the University of Alberta’s ‘Summer Jazz’ program under the direction of Tommy Banks. After completing high school in 1996, she attended the reputable International Jazz Workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts. (She returned to the Banff Centre in 2003, this time on Hammond B-3 organ, where she had occasion to perform with world-class faculty members Mike Murley, John Abercrombie, and Dave Douglas. She is the first and only organist to attend the program to date).
She moved to Montreal in the summer of 1996, and graduated from McGill University with a degree in jazz performance (piano) in June of 2000. During her time at McGill, Vanessa was the pianist for Montreal’s then premier Salsa/Merengue band Orquesta Pambiche, and also formed her own 11-piece Tower of Power style funk band Groove Prophecy, for which she was musical director, organist, and manager.
Shortly after discovering the joy and the power of the Hammond organ, Vanessa felt she needed to get even more serious about the instrument. Due to its relative obscurity at the time, it was necessary to seek out and learn from those who have truly mastered it. So, in February of 2002, she traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to spend one month as a live-in student, crashing on world-renowned jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s couch!
She went on to perform in the Montreal International Jazz Festival in July 2002 with her own original soul-jazz organ trio, and hosted a popular organ jam session for the duration of the festival. She has since gone on to host organ jam sessions all over Eastern Canada and counts organ great Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and late Canadian musical icons Doug Riley and Jeff Healey among her distinguished guests.
Vanessa produced two major concerts in Montreal, inviting internationally renowned guest artists to perform with her jazz ensembles. The first of which in April 2003 featured New York baritone saxophone legend Ronnie Cuber, and the second in November 2006 featured award-winning Peruvian bassist and educator Oscar Stagnaro.
Vanessa has always been interested in a wide variety of musical styles, and is actively pursuing different projects involving jazz, funk, soul and world music. She has also finally been able to address her life-long passion for the pipe organ; for the past several years she has enjoyed playing service music at various Montreal churches, and in 2007 she was invited to Luxembourg to give a unique concert of jazz on the pipe organ for the 10th anniversary series of the Bridel Organ Festival.
Vanessa currently resides in Montreal, where she performs and records regularly on both piano and organ. She has released three albums as a leader: Soul Project (2005), Soul Food for Thought (2009), and Gale/Rodrigues Group Live at the Rex, a collaborative effort with Toronto saxophonist Chris Gale (2007).