Thursday, October 23, 2014
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On the scene today

On the jazz and improvised music scene in Ottawa-Gatineau today

  • 7 p.m.: Brian Browne at Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar
  • 7 p.m.: Jazz jam with the HML Trio

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Marianne Trudel: the joy of being surprised, in the moment, by music

Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel's new jazz CD – which she releases October 19, and debuts in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre on October 25 – is about paying attention to life, about being in the moment.

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen  (Photo by Andre Chevrier)Entitled La Vie Commence Ici (Life Begins Here), it's her reaction to a life in which “we're constantly stimulated by so many things. We're often doing two, three things at the same time, talking on the phone, checking email, doing this and that. It's hard to get a feeling of full presence and attention to one thing and attend at the same time, to be fully present in the moment and at peace.”

Looking at the people around her on Montreal's Metro, “everybody's on their iPhone doing stuff. Nobody looks at each other. Nobody is even aware of what's going on around them, and it frightens me. I don't like it , and I'm guilty of it, too.”

“So La Vie Commence Ici means in this specific moment, right now, there is La Vie happening. Life is there and we need to be aware and thankful and respectful.”

For Trudel, music is her way to “be present, open, in real relation with my band.” It's how she's related to music – a full immersion – since she was six years old and first put her hands on the keys of a piano.

So it's not surprising that the music on her new CD is rich, multi-threaded, and melodic, with intricate compositions leavened by improvisation. It's not music you only give half your attention to.

Read more: Marianne Trudel: the joy of being surprised, in the moment, by music


Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 2: Packed with music

Vocalist Denielle Bassels and her quintet, with clarinetist/saxophonist Jacob Gorzhaltsan, played a high-energy and swinging show Saturday evening, bringing a ballroom full of listeners to their feet for a standing ovation. ©2014, Brett DelmageOn Saturday evening, Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels brought her infectious combination of swing, jazz, gypsy jazz, and a touch of funk to Merrickville's Jazz Fest. Playing to a packed ballroom, she and her quintet delivered a mixture of originals and unexpected jazz and jazzified tunes – which got the audience dancing and then on its feet for a standing ovation followed by an encore.

Near the end of Bassels' show, an announcement warned the Afro-Cuban fans in the audience that vocalist Caridad Cruz and pianist Miguel de Armas would shortly start their show in the pub downstairs. Those who came late to that show found it so overflowing with listeners they couldn't get in. “I'm the organizer and even I can't get in!” said festival co-founder Peggy Holloway, standing in the queue to get in, but glad to witness yet another packed concert.

Sunday's day of programming features the festival's first artist-in residence, the renowned pianist Brian Browne. He will give a masterclass at 10:30 a.m., play a duo with Peter Woods at 4 p.m., and appear in the closing highlight concert, A Tribute to Blossom Dearie. At 2 p.m. Norman Marshall Villeneuve brings his Message to Merrickville.

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 2: Packed with music


Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 1: full houses and happy listeners and dancers's first day at Merrickville's Jazz Fest ended on a high note. In fact a very high note, part of a rousing trumpet line, It was followed by clapping, cheering, and hooting.

The Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers got the crowd on its feet Friday night at Merrickville's Jazz Fest. ©2014, Brett Delmage

The final act of that Friday, Marc Decho's Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers, had just played a 100-minute, sold-out show celebrating the music of New Orleans. They were an immediate hit: audience members danced to the music and clapped along to the mixture of old-time gospel and blues, all delivered through a jazz and Dixieland lens.

And very powerfully: the front line of Ed Lister on trumpet and Richard Page on clarinet and baritone sax could really punch out the melodies and swing, strongly supported by Lucas Haneman on guitar, Decho on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums. Despite it being an all-acoustic set-up, the music was clear and well-balanced and worked well in the Goose and Gridiron Pub with its low ceilings and snug space.

They'd only played a few bars of their first number, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", before the floor started to shake as both the audience and the band stomped along with the bluesy trumpet and clarinet lines, and the bright accents on mandolin from Haneman.

Highlights of their set included an extended version of "Jesus on the Mainline", which opened with Decho getting the audience to clap in rhythm, and then featured an intense baritone solo from Page, fast trumpet from Lister and syncopated guitar from Haneman, and an echoing drum solo from Essoudry – all adding to energy that got several listeners up dancing. In "St. James Infirmary", Lister deployed his trumpet mutes to good effect, using them to add to the tragic mood and to give a Dixieland sound. In "Basin Street Blues", Lister and Page seemed to be pushing each other to higher and wilder heights, ending up laughing at their own energy.

The most unusual number was "People Get Ready" by 70s soul/R&B/funk icon Curtis Mayfield – I had initially pegged it as a traditional hymn. It featured an evocative trumpet line over inflected mandolin and bass.

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 1: full houses and happy listeners and dancers


Norman Marshall Villeneuve brings his Message to Merrickville

In a fifty-year career, Norman Marshall Villeneuve has brought the message of bebop to Canada.

The 76-year-old drummer, who brings his Jazz Message to Merrickville this Sunday afternoon, has been across the border many times, including playing for months in the United States with his cousin, pianist Oliver Jones. And he almost got to go on tour with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Norman Marshall Villeneuve at the Pilot in Toronto (photo by Miguel Mata; provided by the artist)

But, although he tells young jazz musicians to go south to build their careers, Villeneuve has built his just fine staying in Montreal and Toronto, playing with almost every major jazz musician in their scenes, and many international touring stars.

As he reminiscences, the names and stories just pile up: Jackie McLean, Ray Draper, Julius Watkins, Charlie Rouse. Blossom Dearie, Lorenzo Conyers on the Ink Spots, Paul Gonsalves, Cat Anderson. Peter Leitch, Sadiq Hakim, Barry Harris. He was called in to play three nights at the Chicken Deli in Toronto with saxophonist Sonny Stitt when “nothing was happening” with the first night's drummer – and “we just hit it off like good friends right away”.

And the Canadian musicians who built the jazz scenes in Montreal and Ottawa: pianist Oliver Jones, bassist Charlie Biddle, guitarist Nelson Symonds, saxophonist Vernon Isaac.

In Merrickville, listeners will hear the results of that experience – and how it's taught him to keep the music understandable and what “people want to hear.”

"Art Blakey is my hero"

Villeneuve's role model – right from the beginning – has been drummer Art Blakey and his band the Jazz Messengers. “He's my hero, my mentor.”

Read more: Norman Marshall Villeneuve brings his Message to Merrickville


Adam Daudrich Trio at MJF: melodic and propulsive with a solid bass

Adam Daudrich is excited to be performing with renowned bass player Ron Seguin for his piano trio show Saturday afternoon at Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

In June, Daudrich started playing with Seguin: “He's a joy to work with. He has a very different beat. He articulates the bass differently, his sustain is longer, his intonation is more modern.”

Adam Daudrich ©2011 Brett DelmageAnd he and Daudrich have something in common: they're both originally from Ottawa, and have spent years playing jazz in Montreal. “I knew that he was a legend. He's very well-respected here and in Ottawa. So when I played the gig with him, I really liked his beat, so I said I'm going to hire him, to see what he brings to the mix.”

Seguin's credits include working with many well-known American musicians including Steve Grossman, Dave Liebman, Tony Scott, Dewey Redman, Ben Monder, and Greg Burk, as well as Canadians Peter Leitch, Pat LaBarbera, Phil Dwyer, Kirk McDonald, and Ben Charest. He recorded two albums with the legendary Montreal guitarist Sonny Greenwich. After many years in the Montreal scene, he moved to Italy in the mid-1990s but has recently returned to Montreal and has been playing there regularly.

Ottawa guitarist Roddy Ellias, who brought Seguin to Ottawa for a show in 2010, described him then as “one of my favourite bass players and musicians. He's a joy and inspiration to play with.”

Read more: Adam Daudrich Trio at MJF: melodic and propulsive with a solid bass


Blossom Dearie tribute is 'hip' at Merrickville's Jazz Fest (video)

Four years ago, three Ottawa vocalists paid tribute to one of their favourite jazz singers, Blossom Dearie, singing
some of her most famous songs, both ballads and teasing upbeat numbers. Their show at the NAC Fourth Stage was enthusiastically received.

"Peel Me a Grape!" ©2010 Brett DelmageBut that was it – until this month, when Karen Oxorn, Marcie Campbell, and Caroline Gibson will revive the show as the closing concert for Merrickville's Jazz Fest. videoed the original concert in 2010. We have combined clips from that show with a recent interview with Oxorn and Campbell, looking back to the first show and forward to its revival. Watch it to get a taste of what you will be able to see and hear on October 19 at Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Brian Browne is MJF's first and busy artist-in-residence this year

Brian Browne demonstrates a piano point on a virtual keyboard to a Carleton University Jazz camp masterclass  ©2010 Brett Delmage

Ottawa master pianist Brian Browne will be artist-in-residence at Merrickville's Jazz Fest this year. It's a first both for the festival and for him.

He'll be giving a masterclass on Sunday morning, performing with long-time jazz partner Peter Woods in the afternoon, and playing on two numbers in the Blossom Dearie tribute concert that night.

“It's going to be fun. It's going to be a long day ... that's one thing I know. I'm going to be there from the morning to the night. A full-day gig. But I guess that's what it means being artist-in-residence – I have to be in residence all day!”

Festival co-organizer Peggy Holloway said that a Merrickville resident suggested the artist-in-residence concept, including a masterclass – which fit in with her own commitment to increasing music appreciation by young people in their community.

“Brian was the first artist that came to mind as he has always been so supportive of our festival, always so willing to appear for us and we really wanted to acknowledge his accomplishments and his contribution to the Jazz world! With his reputation we aimed for the top!”

Read more: Brian Browne is MJF's first and busy artist-in-residence this year


Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers bring The Big Easy to Merrickville

“There's only five of us but, man, it sounds like a freight train! It's really heavy, and because it's acoustic and the level of improvisation is really high, it's really fun, too.”

Marc Decho is going all-acoustic with his Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers, which plays Merrickville's Jazz Fest on Friday  ©Brett Delmage, 2011Marc Decho has always loved the music of New Orleans – its blues, its gospel, and, of course, its jazz. He's brought those musical strands together in his new band, the Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers. It will have its third – and biggest so far – outing this Friday at Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

Earlier this year, the Wakefield-based bassist stumbled across a link for WWOZ, a jazz and heritage radio station from New Orleans. Since then, he said, the station's on-line live streams have been a constant companion – and an inspiration to form a band to play high-energy, full-blown New Orleans traditional music.

He got together four local jazz colleagues, and organized a single Sunday night show at Stella Luna, a small gelato store in Ottawa South, on June 1.

“That first show was so well-received – the whole band was ecstatic and we were so happy the way it turned out, and Stella was packed and there were people swing dancing, and it was crazy!”

Stella Luna quickly invited them back for a second show, on August 3, which was equally popular. For that show, Decho gave the band its current name – which has many antecedents.

The “Crescent” in the name refers to New Orleans, the “Crescent City”. “Barbecue” is a homage to one of Decho's favourite bands from that city, Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. “Stompers” evokes foot-stomping, and the band's heavy groove. And “Sun Crescent” refers to the street Decho lives on.

And, most importantly, he said, the name is “a clear indication that this is definitely going to be a New Orleans-style fun party band.”

Read more: Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers bring The Big Easy to Merrickville


Rob Frayne is back, with a tenor sax

For Rob Frayne, his instrument is, and always will be, the tenor sax.

But this Friday will be the first time he's played the sax in a concert in almost a decade, after a long period of recovery and readjustment. He'll be at GigSpace, performing with long-time friends, and his tenor sax will add to the strong Dizzy Gillespie-influenced groove in the music he's written for the show.

Rob Frayne is back with a sax, and he's playing it at a GigSpace concert this Friday  ©2014 Brett DelmageFor well over two decades, Frayne has been a powerhouse in Ottawa's jazz scene: as a composer, arranger, teacher, and instrumentalist. He led groups like the groundbreaking Chelsea Bridge, co-founded the JazzWorks jazz camp, and played with everyone from Kenny Wheeler to the Gil Evans Orchestra to the Shuffle Demons. More recently, his Dream Band, featuring some of the best jazz musicians in Canada, filled the NAC Fourth Stage for two nights in 2012 and was one of the bands playing tribute to Jacques Émond on the closing night of the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Ten years ago (November, 2004), Frayne's car was hit by a truck, and he was badly injured. The left side of his throat is still paralyzed, and he has reduced lung capacity – which makes it harder to play the tenor.

The GigSpace concert is the first time Frayne will actually publicly play his saxophone in a group, “which is kind of neat, because I didn't quite think I'd be able to. I realized over the last few months that after I changed everything – like my reed, my mouthpiece, my horn, the way I breathe, my neck strap – everything – that I could play a bit of music on it.”

As soon as he was able after the collision, Frayne was playing bass and piano: “I was trying to find some way of playing, something. And then I realized, after about five or six years, that I liked the saxophone the most.”

He laughs, a bit ruefully. “I should have been able to guess that, but you'd think, let's adapt, let's move on. It turns out, I'm going back to the sax. And now I feel a lot like a teenager, or even someone at university in a practice room, trying to play two notes or one note...”

Although he'd been working on relearning the sax for the last decade, with “a concerted few months every so often”, he said, it was in the last year that he decided to divide up the components he needed to play, and fix them each one by one.

Read more: Rob Frayne is back, with a tenor sax


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