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On the scene today

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

 

The Emie R. Roussel Trio balances melody and groove in a happy Festival Desjardins show

©Brett Delmage, 2015

Emie R. Roussel Trio
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer secteur)
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quebec jazz pianist Emie R. Roussel attracted an attentive audience and a standing ovation for her 75-minute show in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer Thursday. Her free concert was the second in this year's Festival de Jazz Desjardins, which runs until Saturday.

Together with her trio, Roussel performed originals, mostly from her 2015 album, Quantum, plus some from her previous CD, Transit. That 2013 CD featured the trio in dramatic conversation with a string quartet, while Quantum added more groove and R&B colours to classic piano jazz.

It was much the same material as Roussel played in her National Arts Centre debut in April. However, to my mind, the music was better integrated in this show, the groove underlining but not overwhelming the more delicate, introspective moments.

“Funambule” (Tightrope Walker) showed the more romantic, dramatic side of the trio, with an emphatic double bass solo from Sébastien Pellerin, and ringing keyboard lines. It received strong applause. On the other hand, drummer Dominic Cloutier introduced “Club” with a strong rat-a-tat drum solo which grew in complexity and intensity. Joined by Pellerin's electric bass and Roussel's Fender Rhodes-like keyboards, that piece strongly reminded me of 70s organ trio music, with a touch of funk – a cheery and crowd-pleasing number.

The trio closed with “Ipomée”, which combined both tendencies: a smooth, grooving opening, followed by bright and thoughtful keyboards underlined by barely-there drums. Then the trio played full out, having fun playing variations on bright, fluid melody, before ending with a last flourish.

The audience, which ranged from youngsters to seniors and filled most of the small park, rose from their lawn-chairs and gave the trio a standing ovation.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins continues tonight with the Trio Jérôme Beaulieu from Montreal, and on Saturday with Ottawa's The Chocolate Hot Pockets.

   – Alayne McGregor

Read related OttawaJazzScene.ca stories:

 

The Drew Jurecka Trio plays swirling rhythms with verve and enthusiasm

Drew Jurecka Trio
Ottawa Chamberfest, Chamberfringe series
Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts, Kildare Room
Friday, July 24, 2015 – 10 p.m.

The Drew Jurecka Trio's bright music was an immediate hit with its Chamberfringe audience Friday night.

The trio's combination of violin, piano, and double bass was a natural for their upbeat repertoire: mostly jazz standards from the last hundred years, combined with a few Jurecka originals. But it was how they played that material – with verve, style, and enthusiasm – that set the concert alight.

Jurecka is a veteran on the Toronto jazz scene, primarily playing violin but also doubling on many other instruments, including clarinet and saxophone. A long-time member of the late Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards, he currently tours with Jill Barber, and leads his own groups like the Hogtown Syncopators and the Hot Jazz String Quartet. He has also backed Diana Krall, Shirley Horn, and Dianne Reeves.

For 85 minutes, the trio – with Mark Kieswetter on piano, and Clark Johnston on double bass – kept their late-night audience not only awake, but clapping enthusiastically after each song and each solo. There were relatively few jazz regulars in attendance, but there was an immediate connection to the music in an audience which ranged from 20-year-olds to seniors.

They opened with the sweet, romantic “Lady, Be Good!” by the Gershwins, which featured swirling violin lines over a dancing beat on piano and bass. It set the tone for the concert: a warm vibe, infectious rhythms, and lots of smooth interplay among the trio.

Read more: The Drew Jurecka Trio plays swirling rhythms with verve and enthusiasm

 

Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows

Mugshots, the bar in Ottawa's downtown jail hostel which had hosted many jazz shows over the last 19 months, shut its doors abruptly Thursday afternoon. A jazz show scheduled for that evening was cancelled.

The Rake-Star Arkestra played their multi-layered, intense music at Mugshots in February. © Brett Delmage, 2015In a posting on Facebook, the hostel management said the closure was due to “issues with noise levels” which affected “our guests' experience” at the hostel.

“As such, the bar is closed. Should the bar re-open, it will only be available to our guests in the hostel. This was an extremely difficult decision, but a necessary one."

The bar had a full schedule of 18 shows scheduled for July, including open mic nights, DJs, indie rock, and a trivia night. On July 9, the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble was scheduled to perform; on July 18, the Adam Saikaley Quartet was set to play its monthly jazz night.

Starting in December, 2013, Mugshots had hosted monthly shows by the Saikaley Quartet. They were joined in February, 2014 by monthly appearances by the Mike Essoudry-Don Cummings drums-organ duo Bumpin' Binary. Jazz crossover groups like the Four Heavies, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, and The Super Awesome Club also appeared there in 2014.

Read more: Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows

 

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: a rich hour of evocative solos & fine ensemble playing (review)

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra with Ingrid Jensen
Laurier Avenue Music Stage
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Sunday, June 28, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra played for one hour at the Ottawa Jazz Festival Sunday.

It was a very rich hour, filled with evocative solos, fine ensemble playing, and an overall abundant sound.

But when I later read that the 19-piece orchestra had played for nearly two hours at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, that confirmed how curtailed the Ottawa show felt. It was part of the early evening series at the Laurier Avenue Music Stage, where concerts were generally scheduled for only an hour to avoid sound bleed with the Main Stage and to allow time for sound-checking the late-evening shows. That time constraint led to a hurried concert.

The Ottawa show was the last stop on an extended tour which crossed Canada and went down into the U.S. Because the logistics and costs of taking 19 musicians on the road are daunting, it was a milestone for the orchestra. Jensen said the band had played nine shows in the previous two weeks – more than they had in the past five years.

Read more: The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: a rich hour of evocative solos & fine ensemble playing (review)

 

Majestic, beautiful music from Abdullah Ibrahim and the Mukashi Trio (review)

Abdullah Ibrahim “Mukashi” Trio
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Ottawa, South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim communicated strictly through his music. During his trio's 90-minute concert on the last night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, much was said, but not a word was spoken.

The three musicians – Ibrahim on grand piano, Noah Jackson on cello and double bass, and Cleave Guyton on clarinet, flute, and piccolo – performed an uninterrupted flow of music for the entire concert, without announcing any of the pieces. They did, however, have scores in front of them, and Jackson said afterwards that Ibrahim signaled them musically as to which piece he wanted to play next.

The cumulative effect was majestic and beautiful.

The 300-seat NAC Studio was completely sold out, and the audience was already primed – judging by the vehement initial applause – to enjoy the music. But it was also clear that Ibrahim's trio kept the listeners' attention throughout. No one moved, no one left.

Read more: Majestic, beautiful music from Abdullah Ibrahim and the Mukashi Trio (review)

 

The Enrico Rava Tribe makes joyous, complex music for a happy audience (review)

Enrico Rava Tribe featuring Gianluca Petrella
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 9 p.m.

From the first delicate notes filling the NAC Studio, it was clear that this show was going to be a spectacular pairing. The warm lines from Enrico Rava on flugelhorn and Gianluca Petrella on trombone intertwined into a finely-tuned soundscape.

The 75-year-old Rava, a veteran of Italian jazz, and the 40-year-old Petrella have been performing together since Petrella was 22. That experience showed; they could play intensely in unison, or create complementary melodies, or contrast smooth and frantic lines. And always they were working together to create a joyous experience.

They were also strongly supported by the driving rhythm section of Giovanni Guidi on piano, Gabriele Evangelista on double bass, and Fabrizio Sferra on drums. Guidi, in particular, added to the drama and nuance of every piece. His playing could be sparkling fast, or romantic, or accented with added glissandos; once he twanged the strings inside his grand piano.

Rava didn't announce the names of any of the six pieces played in this concert, or whether they were from any specific album. But they clearly all fit together. They tended towards the dramatic, often beginning quietly and building up to multi-layered behemoths with Petrella's trombone slicing through.

Read more: The Enrico Rava Tribe makes joyous, complex music for a happy audience (review)

 

Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura

A Filetta – Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 – 7 p.m.

From the Ottawa Jazz Festival's description, you might have reasonably concluded that this concert was an improvised jazz duet between Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and bandoneon player Daniele di Bonaventura, with some choral singing in the background.

Not quite.

A Filetta, a six-member a cappella male choir from Corsica, was front and centre on the Studio stage, and took the majority of the concert's time and attention. Fresu and di Bonaventura were primarily accompanying or soloing around their voices, and there were many times when only the choir was heard.

The choir, which formed in 1978, sings in Corsican, with the objective of saving that island's oral patrimony. In 2006, they first performed with Fresu and di Bonaventura. They all released an album together on ECM in 2011: Mistico Mediterraneo.

Read more: Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura

 

Kyle Shepherd plays with unexpected rhythms in his piano trio concert (review)

Kyle Shepherd Trio
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, June 26, 2015 – 8 p.m.

The South African pianist Kyle Shepherd, who is not yet 30, has garnered a great deal of attention in his short career – including at this concert, which was completely sold out. The lobby outside the Fourth Stage was a zoo, with many listeners I had not previously seen at jazzfest concerts, including one man in floor-length African tribal dress.

The concert was part of the festival's five-show South Africa NOW! Series, and was introduced by South Africa's High Commissioner to Canada.

Shepherd played selections from his most recent album, Dream State, a double CD featuring his own compositions. He began the concert by sitting on the bench of the piano, carrying a wooden skewer and a long stake with an open loop at one end. He played a single note on the piano and then began creating metallic sounds by tapping the stake – as well as whistling through its top. Throughout, he was applying effects, making it sound as though it were being played underwater. Then he looped the music and started lightly chanting over the result while continuing to tap.

Read more: Kyle Shepherd plays with unexpected rhythms in his piano trio concert (review)

 

Joe McPhee, Jesse Stewart & Nicolas Caloia create music that's out of the ordinary

Jesse Stewart / Nicolas Caloia / Joe McPhee
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 8 p.m.

The first thing my tablemate said when he sat down in the Fourth Stage was “What, no waterphone?” And, in fact, this concert went back to the basics in terms of instrumentation: Nicolas Caloia simply on double bass, Jesse Stewart just on a standard drumset without extra percussion or waterphone, and Joe McPhee alternating among tenor and soprano sax and pocket trumpet. Unlike many musicians I heard at this year's festival, they used no effects; they played strictly acoustically.

But the sounds they produced with those instruments were anything but ordinary.

All three have a long pedigree in avant-garde jazz and free improv. McPhee (from Poughkeepsie, NY) has performed with European and American masters including Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, and The Thing, as well as in his long-time Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. He's also a conceptual thinker in creative improvisation with his concept of “Po” (process of provocation) music.

Read more: Joe McPhee, Jesse Stewart & Nicolas Caloia create music that's out of the ordinary

 

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