A very quiet man, almost the stereotype of the effaced bassist, Pierre Cartier has nonetheless left his mark on many records by Montreal artists, especially members of the Ambiances Magnétiques family. Nurturing interests in both classical music and avant-garde jazz, he has developed a very personal style of composition, especially during the 1990s, through ambitious cycles on poems by Yves Bonnefoy and Blaise Cendrars.
Cartier graduated from the Conservatoire de Montréal in double bass in 1976 and began his career as a classical musician, an area he is still active in. He has performed and recorded with the most renowned ensembles from Montreal: the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre Métropolitain, the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec, and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. All the while he specialized in medieval music and trained in Gregorian chant. He wrote works for Les Voix Humaines, a renowned viola da gamba duo, and performs a repertoire that ranges from 11th Century music to contemporary composition.
As if that wasn't enough, Pierre Cartier is also a busy jazzman. He met Pierre St-Jak and Jean Derome during his classical studies and was part of the latter's first band, Nébu, in 1973. When the saxophonist and three other artists put together the collective/record label Ambiances Magnétiques, Cartier was called to play on their first productions (albums by René Lussier and André Duchesne). His relationship with Derome would be the most enduring. Apart from being regularly chosen by the saxophonist for his large-scale projects (Confitures de Gagaku in 1988; Je Me Souviens in 1997), he collaborated with Les Granules (Derome and Lussier's duo); is a member of Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms since the beginning; and is part of the trio Évidence (with drummer Pierre Tanguay), a Thelonious Monk tribute band.
Cartier released his first album as a leader, Dirigeable, in 1987, followed by Chanson du Fil two years later. Both follow post-bop/hard bop lines with a touch of free jazz -- but he is not an improviser like Derome -- Cartier likes structure and composition. After a long hiatus he released Les Fleurs du Tapis (1996), his first album for Ambiances Magnétiques, still firmly anchored in the jazz idiom. In 1990, he began to work on Chansons de Douve, an impressive song cycle for two opera singers and eight musicians. Premiered in 1996 and released by Ambiances Magnétiques two years later, it remains his most important work, a brilliant synthesis of his many musical activities. Dis Blaise, on Cendrars' poem La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jeanne de France, premiered in 2001, and continued in the same vein, this time featuring the composer as the lead singer, Gregorian style.