Rachel Russo, the owner of the AlphaSoul Café in Hintonburg, is practically bubbling with enthusiasm as she describes how she offered her restaurant as the new location for the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams.
The late-night jam sessions had been in limbo for months, when one evening Russo saw the announcement that the festival was looking for a sponsor and location for them.
“I had always meant to do something like that, but I didn't think that this year we were quite ready. But then when I realized they didn't have one, I thought, 'Omigod, we have to step up to the plate.' ”
And that led to the festival's announcement on May 21 that the jams would be held at AlphaSoul, with John Geggie again leading two slightly different house bands. It will be the first time that the jams have been located outside downtown, and not within walking distance of Confederation Park.
Russo said she bought a festival Gold Pass this year for the first time. She had attended the festival in past years – but not the jams. She had planned to use the pass to investigate getting involved as a festival venue next year, but the “brilliant opportunity” to host and sponsor the jams moved the schedule up.
“I really want the jazz to do well in this city, and we've had a number of clubs in this city close down, and it's just awful because I think it [should be] quite the reverse – we should have more clubs, we should have more places that have more music, we should have more places that have jazz because it's so vibrant, it's so alive. It's so indicative of where life is going.”
AlphaSoul's Friday jazz nights have appeared in OttawaJazzScene.ca's listings since it opened in 2011. Jazz trios, usually anchored by saxophonist Adrian Matte, play there three Fridays a month, and Matte's Ottawa Folklore Centre Jazz Band plays on the second Friday. The Latin Jazz Quartet led by Allyson Rogers plays there one Saturday evening a month, and the café has also hosted some special jazz events.
“Every so often, someone will come with their horn to play with the band, or a guitar, or they'll sing. And so we already have in a way a kind of jamming – very informal – and it's always so exciting!” Russo said.
In an announcement on May 21 the Ottawa Jazz Festival wrote that “A small but vocal group of Jazz Festival audience members who frequent the jam sessions were disappointed by the prospect of a jam-less festival. Alpha Soul [sic], emerging in popularity as a jazz venue offering live jazz every Friday evening, offered two essential components to allow the festival to keep the much-loved series: a venue, and sponsorship.”
Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 7:30 to 10 p.m.
Tickets: $30, or all three shows for $80 (available at the NAC Box Office or online from Ticketmaster; 3-show package only at the box office)
- John Geggie - double bass
- William Carn - trombone
- Tara Davidson - saxophone
- Tim Bedner - guitar
- Jim Doxas - drums
Juno-nominated Trombonist William Carn has emerged as one of Canada’s leading contemporary jazz composers and performers. He has performed and recorded with jazz artists such as Rob McConnell, Randy Brecker, David Binney, Kenny Wheeler, Barry Harris, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Mike Murley, Hilario Duran, and Phil Dwyer. He has also been nominated for Trombonist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards in 2004 to 2008.
As well, William leads acclaimed groups Run Stop Run (RSR) and the William Carn Quintet (WCQ). RSR released their debut self-titled CD in 2012. Produced by influential saxophonist David Binney, the recording is featured on Binney’s own Mythology Records. The WCQ debut CD, Other Stories, was nominated for a 2006 Juno Award as Traditional Jazz Album of the Year.
As well, William is a Rath Trombone Artist as well as an instructor for both Humber College and the University of Toronto Jazz Studies program.
Toronto’s alto and soprano saxophonist Tara Davidson has performed around the world at such prestigious venues as New York City’s Carnegie Hall, the acclaimed North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, the International Jazz Festival in Lima, Peru, and The Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. Davidson has produced five recordings as a leader since 2003 and performed on numerous recordings as a side person. The 2008 JUNO Awards nominated Davidson’s sophomore CD, Code Breaking, for “Best Traditional Jazz Album of the Year”.
Ottawa alto saxophonist Sam Cousineau was awarded the Yamaha Kando Award last week at the 2013 MusicFest Canada – one of many awards and scholarships going to young Ottawa jazz musicians and ensembles this year.
MusicFest, held this year in Toronto from May 13 to 18, is an annual national competition for more than 10,000 musicians aged 12-25, drawn from the elementary, high school, college and university levels. The Yamaha Kando is the festival's “premier” award, for an individual who has “demonstrated outstanding musicianship, past musical achievements and solo performances.”
The winner receives $4,000 in musical instruments. Cousineau said he would be choosing a tenor saxophone, which he doesn't currently have.
And that wasn't Cousineau's only win last week: he also received the JazzWorks Camp Scholarship (as he did in 2012), and an entrance scholarship to Humber College.
The quiet musician has been playing in Ottawa student bands – currently the Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) – for many years now, as well as occasionally around town in local clubs. He said the regular Monday night rehearsals with the NACJB – augmented by playing with different people, playing in front of an audience, and talking about the music with others – have helped him develop as a musician.
His talent has been recognized, by being chosen at least twice to play in the Manhattan on the Rideau video masterclasses at the National Arts Centre. Cousineau said he learned so much from the classes with Dave Liebman and with Donny McCaslin: “Those two gentlemen are such great saxophonists and musicians and they're wonderful people.”
Neil Yorke-Slader, the musical director of NACJB, said that, “Sam is the most dedicated teenage musician I have ever known. He sets very high goals for himself, then applies himself with discipline and focus to achieve those goals. He has a remarkable fluency and emotive capacity in his saxophone playing. Remember the name - Sam Cousineau.”
Cousineau is the third Ottawa musician to win the Kando award since 2006. Coincidentally, previous winners Daniel Ko and Nathan Cepelinski also play alto sax and studied at Nepean High School.
Gaby Warren: Reflections of a Jazz Fanatic CD Launch
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Partway through his CD release concert Tuesday, Ottawa vocalist Gaby Warren mentioned how he went to a club in the 1950s to hear Thelonious Monk. When he arrived, he saw a large Bentley parked out front, so he knew that Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, the patroness of jazz musicians in general and Monk in particular, was there. So that was the only time he got to talk to “Nica”, he told the audience.
Warren told this story with such matter-of-factness and modesty that one had to hide one's raging envy: he heard Monk live? And talked to the legendary baroness? It was simply to give another angle on Horace Silver's song “Nica's Dream”, which appears on his new CD and which he and his quartet – saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, double bassist John Geggie, pianist Nancy Walker, and drummer Nick Fraser – performed with verve and exactitude.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio
Split Cycle, a group split between Montreal and NYC, performed Thursday in Ottawa on GigSpace’s new stage. They played tunes from their new self-titled CD, and some brand-new tunes written right before the tour. They played intricately woven modern jazz that swung and that rocked, that softly brushed, grooved in time, and freely escaped the constraints of time.
The band played music they are passionate about, music that was intense harmonically, melodically, and especially rhythmically. The collective of musicians would take turns counting in their own tunes, while the others buried their faces in their music stands.The night started off with the leaping intervallic melody of “Samuraikatagi”, before falling into its 13/4 groove on which guitarist Aki Ishiguro soloed as bassist Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic and drummer Martin Auguste swung behind him. After returning to its melody and deceptive non-ending, saxophonist Samuel Blais took an unaccompanied alto solo that caused the band to slowly erupt, returning to the 13/4 groove and then ending with a pretty and new melodic section.
John Geggie's Invitational concert on May 25 may be the last in that series at the National Arts Centre.
Simone Deneau, the NAC's producer of Variety and Community Programming, told OttawaJazzScene.ca that, although the NAC has not yet made any final decisions, the Geggie series would not likely return as a formal series in 2013-14.
“I think it's going to be the end of the series as a series of community programming performances, so the one coming up in May is probably the last of the Geggie shows as a series.”
There will not be a subscription series of Geggie under Community Programming at the NAC, she said. “It might come back in another persona.”
When contacted by OttawaJazzScene.ca, Geggie said he thought the decision was “unfortunate”.
The series, now in its twelfth year, brought in a wide range of musicians from Canada, the U.S., and overseas, in innovative combinations which allowed musicians who had never before played together to perform each others' compositions, as well as jazz standards and some free improv. The concerts ranged substantially in style from mainstream to avant-garde to even some vocal jazz, but always involved combining musicians in new ways rather than showcasing established groups.
This season, the series was cut back to only half the number of concerts from the previous year, and featured only Canadians rather than a mixture of Canadian and international musicians.
Ottawa jazz fans who attended the concerts were exposed to a great number of different musicians – some legendary, some very well-established, and some musicians they might never have otherwise heard, Geggie said, including “an astonishing number” of Canadian jazz artists from across the country. Some musicians from outside Canada were sponsored by local embassies: for example, renowned drummer Jon Christensen's appearance in 2007 was supported by the Royal Embassy of Norway.
Each concert was different, with a certain amount of risk involved. As Geggie emphasized, the musicians “weren't just coming in doing their shtick. They were taking part in something bigger that that, which I feel is a much more interesting concept to shoot with.”
And he said he appreciated how Ottawa jazz fans came out to support the series, “that they actually really liked it and respected that concept and went for that.”
“To my mind, that was a successful thing. People were experiencing music on a different level. They were experiencing musicians they'd never seen or heard before. So in terms of value that way, it was great. For me, it was a great experience and it will be a great experience on the 25th just because there's great musicians and as always we come together to make music.”
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 was International Jazz Day. As part of the international celebrations, longtime Ottawa jazz musician Roddy Ellias was officially recognized as a Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association at a ceremony sponsored by Carleton University, where he teaches.
Join OttawaJazzScene.ca at the celebration and hear from some of Ellias' musical friends who already thought that he was a jazz hero.
– Brett Delmage
Update: See our review and photos of of Gaby Warren's Ottawa CD release concert.
Despite his 40-year career in the Canadian foreign service, Gaby Warren has been an integral part of Ottawa's jazz scene since the early 1980s. He's served as the vice-president of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and a JazzWorks jam coordinator. In 2005, the Ottawa Jazz Festival gave Warren its Award of Distinction for his commitment to jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau.
He's also one of the biggest jazz fans in town – not uncritically, by any means – but with a deep appreciation of many types of jazz. You frequently see him at concerts and clubs around Ottawa.
Talking to Warren – and he's always delighted to do so – is an education in itself. Partly courtesy of his travels for the government and expertise in issues related to the United Nations, he's seen more influential jazz musicians in concert than almost anyone. He also has an impressive CD habit, and these days, he's listening to live concerts from Smalls in NYC over the Internet.
But his deepest love is for Afro-Cuban jazz, courtesy of a stint in the Canadian embassy in Cuba in the mid-1960s. The result: Warren and Cuba had far more impact on each other than could ever have been predicted, including bringing music to renowned musicians like Chucho Valdès and Paquito D'Rivera.
Now Warren has stepped to the other side of the footlights. After 16 years of studying jazz vocals and 8 years of music theory lessons, he's released a CD. It's effectively his musical memoirs, playing hommage to the styles of jazz he loves, and backed by some fine musicians from Ottawa and Toronto. They include veteran Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, and the Geggie Trio (John Geggie on bass, Nancy Walker on piano, and Nick Fraser on drums) well-known for their decade-long run as the house band for the jams at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and much more as individual jazz musicians in Ottawa and Toronto.
The CD's official release is at a concert in Ottawa this Tuesday (May 21) at the NAC Fourth Stage, and at The Rex Jazz Club in Toronto on June 3.
It's entitled Reflections of a Jazz Fanatic, and that's exactly how Warren refers to himself. He makes no secret of how much he loves the music.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Warren a week before his concert, in an extended, free-flowing interview about how he was introduced to jazz, his adventures in Cuba, what types of jazz he loves, how he started singing, and about the album itself. We're releasing it as a podcast, and have included some excerpts from the podcast below.
- No Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions in 2013? Listeners object.
- Jeff Johnston Trio enraptures the audience (review)
- Kellylee Evans to appear again at NAC Presents
- 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival celebrates pianists – and the late Dave Brubeck
- Jazzfest 2013: Great jazz from across Canada
- Roddy Ellias: a humble Jazz Hero
- Jeff Johnston returns to his trio's musical roots and then moves forward with his new album
- Evandro Gracelli brings Brazilian warmth to Ottawa for three busy weeks
- Energetic music attracts a packed house at Rimbombante CD release show
- Jazzfest 2013: Local musicians you will want to hear
- Expecting the unexpected at Saturday's GigSpace concert of improvising composers
- Listeners get JazzED at 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup announcement
- Ottawa Jazz Festival 2013 lineup: what's on
- Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra - in the making (video)
- The Jivewires are on an upswing
- Ontario government funds jazz (and other Ottawa festivals)
- Three Ottawa vocalists to recreate classic Ella and Billie Newport concerts
- 2013 Chamberfest builds on past jazz successes, adds Phil Dwyer & Don Thompson
- Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart fill GigSpace with complex sounds
- Guitar Now! Festival to present workshops, concerts and jams in May
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