Saturday, July 22, 2017
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Passionate melodies, deep emotion, and nostalgia in Rachelle Behrens' first CD

For her first CD, Rachelle Behrens is reaching back to the classic Latin American music which surrounded her as she was growing up.

Rachelle Behrens' Nostalgia CD coverEvoking passion and deep emotion, these songs have been a mainstay of Latin jazz for decades. The Ottawa jazz/soul vocalist has recorded seven of her favourites, from across South and Central America. She'll showcase them at a CD release concert on Sunday, along with an ensemble of notable local jazz and Latin jazz musicians.

But not as you might be used to hearing them. While Behrens usually sings in English, for this project, all the lyrics are in Spanish, her first language.

“Well, it's a Latin CD, so I figured just do it legit – do it in Spanish! Don't muddy the waters with English or an Anglicized version of something. It's a traditional Spanish album that's in Spanish.”

The album is called Nostalgia – a word that's the same in both Spanish and English. The tunes are ones that Behrens plays regularly with her combo, music which she says crosses the language barrier.

“There's so much emotion in the music. I think that's what reaches people who don't speak Spanish. You can tell when a song... these melodies are so big and so passionate I think that's what reaches the people. They're good songs, well-written songs, and as long as I portray the song properly, people will feel what it's about.”

Read more: Passionate melodies, deep emotion, and nostalgia in Rachelle Behrens' first CD


“There's something irresistible in it”: Mike Rud pays tribute to Wes Montgomery

Juno-winning guitarist Mike Rud is back in Ottawa this weekend – for his second tribute to an iconic jazz guitarist.

Mike Rud pays tribute to one of his first influences, Wes Montgomery, this weekend ©Brett Delmage 2012Last summer, Rud collaborated with Ottawa drummer Michel Delage to celebrate George Benson, and ended up taking that show to Montreal as well. This time, he and Delage are going back another step – to a guitarist who was a major influence not only on George Benson, but on Rud himself.

Wes Montgomery introduced an entirely new approach to playing guitar in the 1960s – including his octave technique (playing the same note on two strings usually one octave apart) and his use of chords in solos. He won the Down Beat Critic's Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960–63, 1966, and 1967. He was nominated for six Grammy Awards, and won two: for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance in 1966 and in 1969.

Guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, and Lee Ritenour all credited Montgomery as a major influence. His most celebrated records among his peers were the hard bop records he recorded in the early 60s, but he achieved great commercial success with more melodic records (including jazz versions of Beatles songs) in the late 60s, before his sudden death of a heart attack in 1968.

Rud and Delage, along with Alex Bilodeau on bass and Peter Hum on piano, will perform Montgomery's music at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata on Friday and Saturday evening, and at the Record Centre in Hintonburg on Sunday afternoon. The trio (minus Hum) will also perform at Upstairs in Montreal on the following Tuesday. editor Alayne McGregor spoke with Mike Rud last week about the shows, his regard for Montgomery and how he was influenced by him, and his plans to record some of these songs this summer. This is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Read more: “There's something irresistible in it”: Mike Rud pays tribute to Wes Montgomery


Safe Low Limit fills a pool with sound, not water (video)

Safe Low Limit members prepare for their first pool concert   ©2017 Brett Delmage

How do you perform a concert in a swimming pool?

Take one empty swimming pool. (OK, almost empty, but everyone avoided getting wet feet.) Carefully fit in wood risers into the deep end to cover up the remaining ponds of water in there. Add amps, mic stands and mics, cables, music stands, and chairs.

Lift down and assemble the sections of the drum set. Then gingerly carry down (being careful not to slip on the slippery steep slope between the shallow and deep ends) a trombone, a cello, and a tuba.

Smile and chat with your audience, seated 12 feet above you. And perform, letting the low sounds resonate around you and rise up.

Safe Low Limit, Ottawa's bass clef jazz quartet, picked a highly unusual location for their latest show – an empty outdoor swimming pool behind a house in Vanier. (The homeowners were friends of Steve Berndt, the band's leader, trombonist and vocalist, and let him borrow the pool, currently being renovated, for the show.)

With sunny skies and pleasant temperatures which did not require a swimming pool filled with water on Saturday afternoon, it turned out to be the perfect location for a friendly outdoor concert. About three dozen listeners attended the pay-what-you-can house concert and warmly applauded throughout. was there to share the experience. Watch our video, with interviews with Steve Berndt and Keith Hartshorn-Walton along with an excerpt from the show.

    – Alayne McGregor


Watch the Inside the Scene video story


D.D. Jackson presents impressive brand-new music in his return to Ottawa (review)

D.D. Jackson
Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival 2017 Highlights Concert
Algonquin Commons Theatre, Ottawa
Thursday, May 18, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

Coming back to Ottawa gave D.D. Jackson the inspiration for a name for one of his new compositions.

The Ottawa-raised, now New Jersey-resident, pianist has recently returned to jazz, and has been on a furious composition kick lately. He's planned to record his new jazz pieces this summer for a new CD.

He told the audience at the Kiwanis Music Festival Highlights Concert Thursday evening that he had been trying to find a title for one piece, and realized that “in coming here, I had the perfect title from what I was trying to express, and didn't realize it – and that is 'Homecoming'.”

Jackson is back in his home town this week for two concerts. He was the special guest at the annual student highlights concert on Thursday, and will play a duo show at GigSpace on Friday.

To warm up, Jackson opened with Thelonious Monk's “I Mean You” – surrounding the angular melody with complex flurries of notes, almost obscuring the piece's highly-recognizable off-kilter rhythm. The original peeked through, but this was definitely a more dramatic and less-standard rendition. Jackson played it with his entire body, tapping his foot in time, almost attacking the keyboard in places, and at one point bending down to the keys to listen.

He then presented three new compositions: “These are brand-new – I've never played them for anybody.” He started with “Homecoming”, a beautiful ballad expressing both the joy and mixed feeling of returning. Its contemplative melody was accented by gleaming strings of pointillist notes flying above.

Read more: D.D. Jackson presents impressive brand-new music in his return to Ottawa (review)


A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations

This week will be a homecoming for Juno-winning pianist D.D. Jackson – back to the Ottawa student music festivals where he made his first public performances, and back to playing with a long-time musical friend.

D.D. Jackson's two concerts in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday are a homecoming for him after almost 10 years photo by Dave KaufmanAnd back to jazz. Jackson recently returned to jazz performance, after several years concentrating on TV and film scores (for which he's won an Emmy) and on raising his son and daughter. He'll be unveiling brand-new compositions at his concerts here on Thursday and Friday, which he hopes to include in a new album – his 13th.

On Thursday, Jackson is the featured artist at the Highlights Concert for the Kiwanis Music Festival at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. His solo piano performances will be a concert highlight, together with top Ottawa student performances at the show. On Friday, he'll give a closed masterclass to Canterbury High School students in the morning. In the evening, he has a sold-out show at GigSpace with Ottawa double bassist John Geggie, with whom he's performed and recorded for 22 years. The concert will include solo piano pieces as well as piano/bass duos.

Jackson grew up in Ottawa, attending W. Erskine Johnston Public School and the Earl of March High School in Kanata. His piano talent was obvious from an early age – but at that time, strictly channeled into classical music. It wasn't until after he attended Indiana University for a degree in classical piano, that he began looking at jazz. When he moved to New York City to take his masters at the Manhattan School of Music, it was in jazz performance, and he has remained in the NYC area and in jazz ever since.

Read more: A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations


Every adventurous sound was heard at IMOO's first intimate house concert (review)

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) #158: Our first house concert
with David Broscoe, David Jackson, Rory Magill, Linsey Wellman
Sunday, May 7, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

A new concert location gave inspiration for new sounds from four of Ottawa's mainstay improvising musicians at the most recent IMOO concert.

David Jackson did not bring his guitar, but he brought and performed samples of it  ©Brett Delmage, 2017

With IMOO temporarily between regular locations – the House of Common space has been re-purposed and the General Assembly is not yet finished renovations – the Ottawa avant-garde jazz concert series needed a place for its bi-weekly concerts.

IMOO regular listener Bradley Evans stepped up, offering his suburban house in North Kanata for their next show. Evans' basement rec room turned out to be a fine location, very quiet and with lots of resonance, which the musicians took full advantage of. Evans brought down chairs from around the house and set up a simple concert space in the room, with hockey action figures cheering on from the high windowsills.

Rory Magill carried the different pieces of his xylophone around the bends in the stairs, and reassembled it. David Broscoe brought down his alto and baritone saxophones in their cases – plus a bag of interesting assorted musical accompaniments which included tuning forks, mallets, a metal tart pan, assorted pop cans, a Nigerian cowbell, a Chinese gong, and ceramic pieces from knob and tube electrical wiring, which he spread out on a cloth in front of him.

Read more: Every adventurous sound was heard at IMOO's first intimate house concert (review)


Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall

NAC Presents has again gone for the tried and true, with Diana Krall headlining a sparse selection of jazz artists in its fall line-up.

Diana Krall returns to jazz in two shows at the NAC Southam Hall December 1 and 2. ©2013 Brett DelmageThis edition of the popular music series at the National Arts Centre was fully curated by its new producer, former Halifax Jazz Festival executive director Heather Gibson. 6 of the 52 concerts announced today are jazz-related, including Krall, Toronto guitarist Jesse Cook, Montreal pianist Emie R Roussel, Toronto vocalist Shakura S'Aida, and Ottawa Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas.

Most of the series concerts will be in the newly-renovated Fourth Stage, which reopens at the beginning of October. NAC Presents is also unveiling a new “Fridays at the Fourth” sub-series featuring many “emerging” artists, including Ottawa soul-jazz vocalist Rebecca Noelle. The Fourth Stage will now open early on Fridays “so people can drop in for a drink after work or come early for the show, with the performance starting at 8:30 p.m.” The shows will be priced at $15, or $10 for students.

In previous years, the only inclusion of Ottawa jazz artists in NAC Presents was in Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/roots series. That series was not included in this announcement.

With 52 shows announced for just September to December, NAC Presents has substantially increased the number of Canadian musicians it's showcasing. It had consistently presented about 60 artists total in the fall and spring in previous seasons. However, there's little increase in jazz. Last fall, it presented four jazz artists, plus Diana Krall performing at the NAC Gala. In 2015, there were five jazz shows in the fall, and in the fall of 2014, three.

Vocalist and pianist Diana Krall will unveil her new jazz album, Turn Up the Quiet, in two shows in the 2,065-seat Southam Hall on December 1 and 2. Krall is spending most of this year touring throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada to promote this album, which sees her return to jazz standards after a strictly pop outing with Wallflower in 2015.

On the CD, Krall sings classics that include “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, "Isn't It Romantic?" by Rodgers and Hart, the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E”, the Latin “Sway”, Johnny Mercer's “Dream”, and Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies”. There's a definite retro feel to the selections, with many of the songs originally written in the 1920s and 1930s, and the overall vibe of the choices is intimate and soft. The album was produced by the late Tommy LiPuma, who had produced several of Krall’s best-known albums, including All For You, The Look Of Love, and Live In Paris.

Read more: Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall


Modern Jazz Happening showcases talents of young jazz musicians

Modern Jazz Happening
with MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too) and the Adema-Smith Quartet
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ottawa listeners turned out in force Wednesday, to welcome back two young musicians who have just finished their jazz studies at the University of Toronto, and to send off another who will start there next fall. It was the latest in a developing tradition of talented young musicians performing at Pressed in May after returning from music studies elsewhere.

Saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema consistently played delicious harmonies ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Pressed was packed with listeners for a double bill: the Adema-Smith Quartet, and MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too). All the seats were taken, and a few people were standing at the side of the room.MAH2 consists of drummer Keagan Eskritt from Ottawa plus two other U of T jazz students: trumpeter Kaelin Murphy from Owen Sound, and Caleb Klager from Calgary (and previously from Ottawa). The Adema-Smith Quartet is led by saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema, plus two “mainstays of the Ottawa scene” (as Smith described them): drummer Michel Delage and bassist J.P. Lapensée. Eskritt and Smith have just finished their final year of their bachelor's degree at U of T, while Adema begins his first year studying jazz there next fall.

Both sets showcased many originals by band members. MAH2 played primarily freely improvised pieces, each with a specified starting inspiration, such as the music of rapper J Dilla, or the devastation of the current local floods, or thoughts of summer. They also included compositions by Eskritt and Klager.

Read more: Modern Jazz Happening showcases talents of young jazz musicians


May, oh my! Lots of great jazz coming your way

Read about jazz in the first half of May

If you like big band and swing music there's lots to choose from in the second half of May. It starts on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, when the Glenn Miller Orchestra takes the stage in Gatineau at Salle Odyssée in La Maison de la Culture.

Fawn Fritzen and David Restivo return later this month ©Brett Delmage, 2016What jazz fan has not heard "String of Pearls", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "Moonlight Serenade", or "String of Pearls"? Glenn Miller's Orchestra was one of the greatest of the Swing Era, with its own style and sound based on a mix of clarinet and saxophones. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world. At their shows, over 20 musicians and singers evoke the Glenn Miller sound and perform those remembered songs.'s jazz highlights and other reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to our sponsors this month: Tyler Harris, Anne Joliceur, The Record Center, John Wilson.

Your reader donation helps's promote jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau with our unique and in-depth reporting that celebrates live jazz all year long.

Celebrate jazz with us

The Canadian Tulip Festival was inspired by the long-time friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, which was born out of WW2 and commemorated by gifts of Dutch tulips every year. So it's no surprise that the festival frequently looks back to that era in music as well, with big bands and swing dances.

Read more: May, oh my! Lots of great jazz coming your way


Four different views of Ottawa jazz at GigSpace MicroFest's 1st evening

The GigSpace Jazz MicroFest opened Friday to full houses and enthusiastic applause throughout.

Karen Oxorn sang a breezy and upbeat set of standards inspired by recent jazz cruises, accompanied by Tim Bedner on guitar and Mark Alcorn on bass. ©2017 Brett DelmageThe festival, whose aim is to celebrate jazz in Ottawa, featured two vocal groups and two instrumental groups for its first evening – and not one of them sounded anything like the others.

Vocalist Karen Oxorn opened the festival with a breezy and fun set of standards all related to two jazz cruises she recently sailed on. She recounted the not-so-mournful tale of a lover on one ship who was not meant to be, and added a new original and well-crafted verse to “Nice 'n' Easy” talking about that experience. Accompanied by Tim Bedner on guitar and Mark Alcorn on bass, she sang several new-to-her sea-linked songs, as well as “Let's Get Lost”, a song she heard Cyrille Aimee sing during one of the jazz cruise concerts.

Oxorn also paid tribute to her perennial favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald, with two songs, including a heartfelt and lovely “How Deep is the Ocean?”. I particularly liked the Stephen Sondheim number, “Live Alone And Like It”, a tune in which her smooth clear vocals nicely delivered the clever lyrics. She closed with the sweet Caribbean vibe of the Henri Salvador tune "Dans mon île" – another sea-related song – and told the audience that the song is said to have been an influence on Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim in developing the bossa nova.

Read more: Four different views of Ottawa jazz at GigSpace MicroFest's 1st evening


The Courage 4: different instruments, well-loved standards (video)

Courage4 in rehearsal: Mike Essoudry, Martine Courage, Rob Frayne, Laura Nerenberg ©2017 Brett Delmage

The Courage4 plays jazz standards – but not with your typical instrumentation.

Pianist and vocalist Martine Courage leads the group, which also includes Rob Frayne on tenor sax and Fender bass, Mike Essoudry on drums – and Laura Nerenberg on violin. They play their own arrangements in an atmospheric, grooving style: not like your typical jazz quartet.

“It's not a pop band, it's not a jazz band, but it's somewhere in the middle. But it's jazzy in the process,” says Frayne.

Courage met Nerenberg at the JazzWorks jazz camp in 2001, and played with her at local jams, and liked the sound. “The idea of having a unique jazz sound, a unique instrument to jazz, which to me is the violin, was a compelling idea for me, so I thought it would be great to have Laura in on this idea. It definitely worked really nicely.”

Nerenberg grew up listening to her father play jazz standards, but in her own career went strictly to classical. But then it occurred to her that it might be fun to improvise. In the video below, she explains how she got into jazz and “didn't look back”.

Watch the video of the group at their latest rehearsal, with them playing “What is This Thing Called Love?”, and including interviews by Brett Delmage with Courage, Frayne, and Nerenberg.

   – Brett Delmage

The Courage4 will perform at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Tickets for their 40-minute show are $10, and can be bought on-line, or in person at Alcorn Music Studios, or by calling 613-729-0693. GigSpace is located within Alcorn Music Studios at 953 Gladstone Avenue, beside the O-Train tracks and one long block west of Preston Avenue. OC Transpo route 14 stops in front, and route 85 stops nearby on Preston Avenue.

Watch the Inside the Scene video story


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