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Discover the OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Pick of the Week for September 22 to 28.
Find out what's exciting in jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau this month in our September, 2016 jazz highlights story: It's a new jazz season - and September sings!
Steinway Piano Gallery, Ottawa
Thursday, September 22, 2016 – 7 p.m.
For his current solo piano tour across Canada, John Stetch has reached forward and backwards, to his own roots in music and to a rethinking of the well-known classical repertoire. And the result, at his first tour stop in Ottawa, was a dynamic and engrossing hour of music.
Although he's a jazz pianist, the pieces Stetch played Thursday weren't drawn from the standard repertoire. That's a deliberate decision, as he told the audience. He's been to jam sessions in New York City, where he currently lives, and heard other pianists play standards – all too similarly to the way he would.
So he's creating his own sound by playing music other jazz pianists don't: his reinterpretations of classical concertos and sonatas; take-offs on TV theme songs; and music inspired by his Ukrainian-Canadian heritage.
Stetch is originally from Edmonton, and one of his earlier albums was called Ukrainianism . He played several pieces from that album, based on folk melodies and on Ukrainian history. He also drew from his 2013 Juno-nominated Off the Cuffs album, in which he took well-known classical compositions by Mozart, Shostakovich, Chopin, and Bach, stripped them back to their roots and reinvigorated them.
Samba, bossa nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim: that's Brazilian music to most people. But there's lots of interesting and appealing music from that country rarely heard here.
At GigSpace on Saturday, Rachel Beausoleil will introduce a much broader picture of Brazilian music to Ottawa.
The Ottawa vocalist has been studying “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB) for the last five years. She's now writing her PhD thesis about this music, which includes most of the genres that Canadians think of as Brazilian jazz. During three extended trips to Brazil, she's taken classes from master vocalists, attended conferences, and performed with musicians there.
At Saturday's concert, she and her group, Sol da Capital, will present songs by many composers covering the full range of these styles – from ballads to bossa nova, from music written a century ago to modern songs. What these songs have in common is a dedication to quality; rhythmic, harmonic, lyric, and melodic richness is insisted on in MPB, Beausoleil says.
Sol da Capital started when Beausoleil met Brazilian guitarist Evandro Gracelli, who spent a very busy two years in Ottawa, performing and working with many local musicians. During his stay in 2010-11, they formed the group to perform Brazilian music and their own compositions. They've kept up the connection, even when separated by 8000 km, and Beausoleil has continued performing in Ottawa with local musicians familiar with Brazilian music.
Marianne Trudel Quartet with Ingrid Jensen
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre, Co-operators Hall
Thursday, September 15, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen
Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium
University of Guelph
Friday, September 16, 2016 – 9 a.m.
Marianne Trudel wasn't going to let anything stop her getting to the Guelph Jazz Festival this year.
The Montreal jazz pianist, composer, and improviser suffered a serious concussion this summer, and hadn't played the piano for two months – only starting again 12 days before the festival. Her doctor had recommended she not perform.
But as a long-time performer at Guelph, she did not want to miss the last festival to be curated by artistic director Ajay Heble. “This is my favourite festival in the country,” she told the audience at her Thursday night concert, “and Ajay is a very, very special person, close to my heart. I think he did a merveilleux with this festival, and it's something special to be here for his last show.”
For this concert, she was accompanied by three stalwarts of the Montreal jazz scene: Jim Doxas on drums, Rémi-Jean Leblanc on double bass, and Jonathan Stewart on tenor and soprano sax – plus trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (formerly of BC, now of Queens, NY). They performed six pieces from Trudel's most recent CD, La Vie Commence Ici , all originals of considerable sweep and richness.
The theme of the album is the ability to be fully present in the moment – an ability which Trudel contends many of us have lost. For many years, she said, she was the only musician in Montreal without an iPhone, and getting one, after considerable peer pressure, was her “worst mistake ever”.
Trudel was very much present at this concert. Given the vibrancy of her performance, you would not have known she had been ill.
Listening to clarinetist François Houle, you hear a man endlessly fascinated by the myriad possibilities in music. His enthusiasm for his many different projects – even involving a mysterious hum – bubbles over as he talks.
When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him over the phone this week, he got so involved in our conversation that when he was stung by a wasp while walking he ignored the pain and kept on talking.
Houle is an wide-ranging innovator on the clarinet, taking it to places ranging from free improvisation to classical to new music to world music to melodic jazz, and even as a first-call musician for indie rock artists like Matthew Good. He has been listed several times by Downbeat magazine's Critics' Poll and Reader’s Poll as a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and “Rising Star”. His more than 20 recordings have earned multiple Juno Award and West Coast Music Award nominations. His performances with French pianist Benoit Delbecq were a highlight of the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
This week, he is on tour in Ontario and Quebec. He performs on Friday and Saturday in two featured concerts at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He'll also play in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, and Montreal. He's playing a solo concert in Guelph;his other shows are in a trio with two fellow Vancouver musicians – guitarist Gordon Grdina and drummer Kenton Loewen.
They're long-time friends: “We've been working together as a group and in various projects for the last ten years. These guys are my brothers on the scene here. They're my go-to collaborators.”
Grdina is a Juno-winning composer and musician, who mixes mainstream jazz, free-form improvisation and classical Arabic music, as well as rock and punk. Loewen plays improvised and rock music, including with an anarchist punk band, an art pop group Mother Mother, and Tanya Tagaq.
For François Houle, it's always been about the clarinet, starting from when he was 7 years old.
Unlike most other clarinetists, he doesn't double on saxophone, or even play the bass clarinet. He has regular B-flat, A, and E-flat clarinets, and that's it.
He was first introduced to the instrument through his father's big band LPs. Records by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman were often heard in their house – and they all played clarinet.
"And so I just got that sound in my head. One day when I was 7 years old, a cousin showed up and he had started the band program at school. He had his clarinet, and he said, 'Oh I really hate it! I don't want to play it,' and he left his clarinet at my place. And so I started tooting on it, just out of curiosity, and I just basically fell in love with the instrument. And having that sound of that music from the 30s and 40s and 50s in my head, I just started taking lessons and never looked back.”
“That was it. I was hooked from the get-go.”
When Houle was studying for his Masters in classical clarinet at Yale University, he got to meet Benny Goodman in person. “He came to do a fundraiser with his big band and I got to hang out with him for a few days – not just hearing him live but actually getting to hang out with him. That was pretty special!”
“He was already an old man, a bit grouchy, but very generous with his time and talking to us, the students about his career and his life, and his approach to the clarinet and all that. That was very informative and very inspiring.”
Betty Ann Bryanton Presents Sideways Bend Reprise
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau
Saturday, September 10, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Like many jazz fans, Ottawa vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton prefers the night to the morning – and figures she should be able to sleep in on a Saturday! But the City of Ottawa allows construction to start at 7 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Over the last 18 months, with three different large buildings going up in her neighbourhood, she's heard far too many loud beeps and bangs at times she'd rather be sleeping.
At her Sideways Bend show on Saturday, she took revenge – in song.
“The Noisy Blues” was a fast-paced blues which she wrote one morning when she was woken up, again. She and her band played it with an edge, and added beeping, barking, bird calls, and other raucous noises to demonstrate exactly how annoying the noise really was. With lots of energy and even some scatting, it was a performance that grabbed the audience and received strong applause.
But it was only one of the highlights in a well-tuned performance of jazz vocal pieces which Bryanton organized. After a sold-out premiere at GigSpace last May, this was the second time she had presented the material. This reprise show also sold out, with the lower room of Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau completely packed.
In two sets, each more than an hour long, Bryanton performed songs from across the 20th century, ranging from ballads to blues to Latin to upbeat jazz numbers. She had spent a year preparing the original show, and this clearly showed in its professionalism and smoothness. And with Pierre Monfils on guitar, Howard Tweddle on electric and double bass, Lu Frattaroli on drums, David R. Miller on keyboards, and Dmitry Egunov on soprano and tenor sax, she had a good local band which was clearly comfortable with the music.
Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome with guest Ed Lister at Irene's Pub
Sunday, September 4, 2016 – 9:30 p.m.
OttawaJazzScene.ca chose this show as our jazz pick of the week – and we're glad we did!
Guitarist Roddy Ellias and vocalist Megan Jerome created a zone of beauty and intimacy Sunday night at Irene's, at the first of four weekly shows they're performing there this month.
Together with guest Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, they combined originals by both of them with jazz standards in two flowing sets. It was a quieter show than most Sunday sessions at Irene's, but their audience was intent and almost completely silent, and applauded generously throughout. (The same could not be said for the five-some playing pool at the back of the room, but they eventually did quiet down and left by the start of the second set.)
Ellias and Jerome have performed together in larger ensembles, but this is the first time they've performed as a duo. Jerome told the audience “We're just trying things out, doing things other than what we normally do”. Ellias has often played standards, particularly in duos with other guitarists, but he hadn't performed Jerome's songs before; Jerome primarily plays her own material, and doesn't often play standards or Ellias' compositions. Lister's own bands, like the Chocolate Hot Pockets and ERU-ERA, are much more hard-hitting and loud, although he also performs in quieter ensembles.
Updated September 8
Jazz. Improvisation. Pushing the edge. The Guelph Jazz Festival has always had a very clear idea of what type of music it wants to present and what it's trying to promote.
Much of that is due to the festival's founder, musician and academic Ajay Heble, who has brought a deep love of jazz and an intellectual approach to improvisation to the festival. But after 23 years, Heble is retiring as the festival's artistic director.
|Ajay Heble introduces the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival photos ©Brett Delmage|
The 2016 festival, which runs from September 14 to 18, will be the last he organizes – and he's brought back many festival favourites to perform.
From Vancouver: clarinetist François Houle, guitarist/oud player Gord Grdina, and drummer Kenton Loewen. From Montreal: pianist Marianne Trudel, saxophonist Jean Dérôme, and Esmerine. From the Toronto area: saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett, baritone saxophonist David Mott, reed player Peter Lutek, cellist Matt Brubeck, guitarist Kevin Breit, tabla player Ravi Naimpally, banjoist Tim Posgate, and guitarist Neil Hendry. From Ottawa: percussionist Jesse Stewart and violinist William Lamoureux.
From California: pianist Myra Melford. From Chicago: percussionist Hamid Drake, trumpeter Rob Mazurek, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins. From Philadelphia: drummer Chad Taylor. From NYC: trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, tuba player Howard Johnson, and pianist David Virelles.
Some of the music they play will look back: there will be two tributes to famous free jazz musicians, and one concert which will remix performances from previous Guelph festivals.
Others will expand possibilities, with performances as diverse as DJ/scratch artist Kid Koala, to the Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble, to the “heavy-handed” FreePunk of Peregrine Falls.
But the core of the festival remains improvised jazz. It has similarities to the Ottawa Jazz Festival's Improv Invitational series – ranging from melodic to highly avant-garde – but on a much larger scale.
Think "September Song", and you'll have a good idea of what's happening in jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau. It's a month to hear jazz vocals – and the start of a new jazz season in which you can hear award-winning vocalists.
Sign up to our JazzScene newsletter to get a full listing of all the jazz and improvised music events within 100 km of Parliament Hill in your inbox every week. You can also check our list of Ottawa-Gatineau-area jazz clubs.
Of course, there's still lots of opportunities to hear mainstream jazz and the avant-garde. But this fall, the big names will include Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Bet.e and Stef, Tanya Tagaq, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.
In September, you can hear the human voice celebrated in jazz in many different forms, from ballads to blues to Latin, with shows by the Nylons, Bet.e and Stef, The Juliet Singers, Diane Nalini, Kimberley Beyea, Nicole Ratté, Betty Ann Bryanton, Rachel Beausoleil, Megan Jerome, Anne Lewis, Peter Liu, Steve Berndt with the Jivewires, Hélène Knoerr, Rachelle Behrens, and Caroline Cook.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's September jazz highlights are brought to you by you, our readers. We greatly appreciated reader donations which make it possible for OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day this past season.
Please support our continued publishing in the 2016-17 season with your donation.
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- The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's
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