Saturday, June 24, 2017
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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


Modasaurus' collective creation multiplies the meanings in its music

With Modasaurus, it's never just one thing.

The Ottawa jazz group – pianist James McGowan, guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist J.P. Lapensée, and drummer Jamie Holmes – makes a point of fusing different musical traditions together in their music. Even their name, “Modasaurus”, has multiple meanings.

James McGowan: 'Our goal is to explore and not be limited to a style or rooted in a style, but expand out and just totally challenge ourselves to find the fusion in things that don't necessarily typically find themselves getting fused.' ©Brett Delmage, 2016“Our goal is to explore and not be limited to a style or rooted in a style, but expand out and just totally challenge ourselves to find the fusion in things that don't necessarily typically find themselves getting fused,” McGowan told this week. They'll demonstrate how that can be done in their show at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest on Friday, April 28.

The quartet has “a funky sound, like a jazz core sound, and with that basic sound we're looking at going into other realms. Sometimes it's bluesy, sometimes it explores other traditions: Latin, Middle Eastern. Different sonic environments. Each piece has its own identity but the challenge and the joy of the project is routing all that into a jazz fusion sound that we've been cultivating.”

He emphasized this wasn't in particular rooted in the jazz-rock fusion sound made popular in the 1970s, “but more in the idea of the more broad sense of fusion, always looking to expand and integrate other sounds.”

They'll likely introduce two new pieces at GigSpace, McGowan said. One of these incorporates a North Indian (Hindustani) classical sound – a new source for the group. They'll also be playing music they've recorded for the group's upcoming debut album.

The four started playing together in early 2016, and have performed at various venues: GigSpace, Brookstreet, and shows in local churches. Their original connection was through Carleton University, where McGowan has been a professor of music since 2010, with a background in classical and choral music and contemporary improvisation.

Read more: Modasaurus' collective creation multiplies the meanings in its music


Cuppa Joe's four voices provide an afternoon full of song

Cuppa Joe
Pressed Café
Sunday, April 23, 2017 – 3 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Cuppa Joe is a quartet of four Ottawa vocalists, who combine their voices in jazz arrangements of standards, classic and modern.

Peter Feldman (r) filled in for instruments throughout Cuppa Joe's afternoon show at Pressed ©Brett Delmage, 2017

That's it. No piano. No guitar. No bass or drums. Just soprano, alto, tenor, and bass vocals, plus very occasional hand percussion. And yet their voices filled the Pressed café completely on Sunday afternoon, in two sets that were consistently warmly received and earned quiet attention.

Cuppa Joe follows in the tradition of groups which include The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices: vocal ensembles who use close harmony and clever arrangements to sing jazz a cappella. For their show on Sunday, the quartet did use microphones and amplification to balance the voices and to ensure clarity right to the back of the café, which worked very well.

The group – Valérie Bouillant (soprano), Deanna Rozon (alto), John Wilson (tenor), and Peter Feldman (baritone) – sung what was clearly a carefully-prepared program of 22 songs, 11 in each set. They divided their show into two themed sets: one vintage, one modern. They even changed their appearance for the second set, doffing jackets and the men changing ties.

Read more: Cuppa Joe's four voices provide an afternoon full of song


Tariq Amery captures his love affair with live music in his debut CD

Tariq Amery allowed the 7 other musicians on his debut CD to express their own voices - just like in the live performances he loves ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Go to a live jazz show or jam in Ottawa in the last few years, and there's a good chance you would see Tariq Amery. If he wasn't joining in on flute or tenor sax, he'd be listening intently and with obvious enjoyment.

Live music is his passion – for as many as 15 shows a week.

But now the young jazz musician with the big grin is moving outwards. He's releasing his debut CD, and he's looking at jazz scenes outside Ottawa, including possibly studying in Europe.

On Friday, April 21, Amery will release the CD at his own show at the Avant-Garde Bar. It's an atmospheric blend of voices and textures, in styles ranging from ballads to Wayne Shorter-style experimental modern jazz to Latin. He wrote most of the compositions on it last October, and recorded it in sessions in November and December.

It was an ambitious project, involving eight musicians from Ottawa and Montreal. Amery's soaring flute is an important part of the mix, but so is Daniel Ko's fierce saxophone, Ed Lister's powerful trumpet, Clayton Connell's electric piano, and Will O'Neill's fluent guitar. Vovo Saramanda drives the music with energetic Brazilian-style percussion along with Michel Delage on drums and J.P. Lapensée on bass.

Each of these musicians has a strong individual voice, and Amery's philosophy with the CD was to give them the room to express that. “I mean it when I say I wasn’t projecting anything onto the project. I really wanted it to be what it was.”

“I think the big thing for me was leaving it really open for other people to be themselves. I didn’t try to force any specific ideas. I had a general outline of what I wanted it to be, and then I was just like, ‘You guys do your thing and we’ll see of what we can make of this.’ ”

“I would throw things out there but nothing specific enough to make it obvious what to play. I was really letting the music ask for what it wanted.”

The CD is called Indefinity, a word which Amery created by gluing together “indefinite” and “infinity”. It turns out that word is also in the dictionary, meaning “being vague and poorly defined” – which isn't far off what he was aiming at.

Read more: Tariq Amery captures his love affair with live music in his debut CD


Bass clarinet adds further depth to David Renaud and Brian Browne's attuned duo show

David Renaud and Brian Browne
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios
Friday, April 14, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Clarinetist David Renaud and pianist Brian Browne have an easy rapport, born of shared musical tastes and a joint willingness to experiment and have fun with their music.

David Renaud (r) enjoys one of Brian Browne's solos at their show at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios April 14. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The duo communicated that rapport with their audience on Friday, in a happy and varied show at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios. They played songs from the two albums they've recorded together: 2016's First Love, and the just-released Encore.

Jazz standards, gospel numbers, and blues all appeared in the set list, played with nuance and a great deal of verve – and the occasional unexpected musical tease by Browne. These were all well-known pieces – in fact, Browne played completely from memory, without any sheet music – but the duo didn't take them for granted. They immersed themselves in each song's melody and rhythms, and then used them as stepping-off places for exploration.

The two Ottawa musicians have known each other for years. “He's good for me. He makes me listen,” Renaud told the audience.

Read more: Bass clarinet adds further depth to David Renaud and Brian Browne's attuned duo show


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