Saturday, November 28, 2015
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Rake-Star returns with Ra energy to IMOO at Ra(w) Sugar tonight

"Space is the Place" - Linsey Wellman evokes an extra-terrestial experience in the light of the Mugshots bar   ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Tonight (Sunday, October 25), the Rake-Star Arkestra will fill the Ra(w) Sugar Café with layers of intense sound, cool experimentation, and jaw-droppingly-inventive hats. Rake-star is an Ottawa collective of nine adventuresome musicians and improvisers who gather periodically to plumb the songbook of the great Sun Ra – and substantially improvise on Ra's material, was at the Arkestra's show at the now-closed Mugshots bar on February 28, to bring you a visual feel of their show.

View photos of the February 28 Mugshots performance in our new photo gallery

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Révélations artist Guillaume Martineau is a marathon pianist

Montreal pianist Guillaume Martineau loves performing live so much that he's played for 13 hours straight.

Guillaume Martineau (photo provided by the artist)On Saturday, October 24, Martineau brings his jazz quintet for the first time to the National Arts Centre, and no one expects him to play anything more than two hours there that night. But he's played much more extended piano marathons in his home town of Montreal, and loved it.

For a jazz pianist, Martineau has an unexpected background – he has a Masters degree in classical piano from McGill, and has performed as a guest with six symphony orchestras. But he realized jazz was more his style, and went to study at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 2012.

He released his first album – a multi-layered, melodic CD whose sound ranges from romantic piano ballads to frantic sax and percussion duos – last year. This year he was chosen as Radio-Canada's Révélations jazz artist for 2015-16, a notable honour. He'll be playing from that first CD, plus material from an album he hopes to release in 2016, at his NAC show.

Martineau is an interesting fellow, with many facets. He hosts a weekly musical program about improvisation on a Montreal community radio station. He has a passion for science, which he studied in college, and which is reflected in several of the song titles on his first album. He played jazz standards with his wife, vocalist Janna Kate, earlier this month at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata – but he also plays in a quintet which combines Vietnamese and Chinese traditional music with jazz.

Read more: Révélations artist Guillaume Martineau is a marathon pianist


Carlos Alberto Santana draws from Mexico and Brubeck in a happy concert (review)

The Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio (l-r: Santana, Angel Araos, Daniel Chavolla) presented a concert whose sound was carefully modulated to work well in the reverberant St. Ann Catholic Church in Merrickville. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
St. Ann Catholic Church
Friday, October 16, 2015 – 3 p.m.

View photos of this performance

I first heard Ottawa pianist Carlos Alberto Santana a few years ago in local Latin and world music groups. But, as his trio concert at Merrickville's Jazz Fest showed, his musical range is much greater than that.

His hour-long concert on Friday afternoon was an appealing group of almost all originals, whose sound owed as much to Dave Brubeck as any Cuban or Brazilian composer.

By profession an electrical engineer, Santana also studied jazz with Juan Jose Calatayud in Mexico and Jan Jarczyk in Montreal. He moved to Canada from Mexico in 1998. His bassist, Daniel Chavolla, is also from Mexico, while drummer Angel Araos is from Chile. They've been playing together for well over a year, at locations around the region including a GigSpace show last summer.

Santana opened the concert with solo piano, beginning his composition “Oye Latino” as a reflective piano piece with almost a Bill Evans feel. Partway through, Chavolla and Araos joined in, and the mood became brighter and faster, with more of a Latin feel. With piano glissandos, assertive bass lines, and rumbling drums, the tune ended with a strong flourish – and evoked strong applause from the audience.

He followed that with another bright piece, “Las Chiquis”, dedicated to his daughters. Its dancing rhythms evolved throughout the piece, but remained consistently fast and fun.

“Back to I-95” was a tribute to Dave Brubeck, one of Santana's favourite jazz musicians. It had the forward momentum of traffic on that east-coast highway, but played with nuance – brushes on the drums and a sparkling melody on piano.

Read more: Carlos Alberto Santana draws from Mexico and Brubeck in a happy concert (review)


Fern Lindzon Trio wins over MJF audience with original approach to familar songs (review)

The strength and originality of Fern Lindzon's material and her approach won over Merrickville Jazz Fest's audience  ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Fern Lindzon Trio
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Baldachin Inn Ballroom
Sunday, October 18, 2015 – 8:15 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Toronto jazz vocalist and pianist Fern Lindzon had to win over an audience at Merrickville's Jazz Fest, which had just given a standing ovation 15 minutes before to a very different band with a very different sound. The fact that she was able to do so, and got a standing ovation herself at the end of the night, was testimony to the strength and originality of her material and her approach.

Lindzon was playing with Toronto bassist George Koller, her long-time collaborator and producer, and Ottawa drummer Michel Delage. The Juno-nominated musician performed a diverse set of songs from her last two albums, plus new material she's been developing recently.

She's been concentrating lately on Thelonious Monk, and opened with Monk's “Straight, No Chaser”. She sang it simply, accompanied just by double bass and drums – no piano.

No piano? That's because the version she was singing was called “Get It Straight”, with lyrics by Sally Swisher on top of Monk's original piano composition.

The lyrics had a strong message, very much in tune with Monk himself: “Don’t wait for no one / You have to go on / Because the moment is the place where it happens / And there's no one who can help you get straight”. Lindzon sang them in a very Monk-ish accented rhythm, combining the words with scatting.

Read more: Fern Lindzon Trio wins over MJF audience with original approach to familar songs (review)


A fun Night on the Town with Richard Page's band at Merrickville's Jazz Fest (review)

Richard Page's long and fruitful musical teaming with trumpeter Ed Lister was up-front in The Night on the Town Band's performance at MJF©Brett Delmage, 2015

Richard Page's Night on the Town Band
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Baldachin Inn Ballroom
Sunday, October 18, 2015 – 7 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Ottawa saxophonist Richard Page has been developing his Night on the Town Band over the last year, playing deliberately-accessible and fun – but also original – music. The success of that approach could be seen in the enthusiastic response the band received at the closing night concert of Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

The band is made up of younger musicians respected on Ottawa's jazz scene – drummer Michel Delage, double bassist Alex Bilodeau, guitarist Terence Wright – and most importantly, trumpeter Ed Lister, with whom Page has had a long and fruitful musical teaming. Page and Lister both share a love of hard bop and funk and soul, and have created several groups to play that music.

Read more: A fun Night on the Town with Richard Page's band at Merrickville's Jazz Fest (review)


Alex Pangman swings the ballroom at Merrickville's Jazz Fest (review)

Alex Pangman's vocals and John MacLeod's cornet often sounded as though they were singing a duet together. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Alex Pangman & Her Alleycats
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Baldachin Inn Ballroom
Saturday, October 17, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

One of Alex Pangman's signature songs is “Rhythm Is Our Business”, a swing tune from the 1930s in which the vocalist talks about her band and all their quirks. The fast-paced number showed off the skill of her musicians and the vibrancy and humour in her music, and allowed Pangman to tell the audience all about the history of that song.

It typified her approach: take traditional swing music from the 20s to the early 40s, and make it come as alive to her listeners as it does for her. Supported by a talented band, she was easily able to do that at Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

The word had already gone out that this was a concert that shouldn't be missed. The Baldachin Ballroom was stuffed with more than 200 listeners – which unfortunately meant there was no room for dancing, which Pangman's music often inspires. Three rows of extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the unexpected high demand for tickets to this show. And, as soon as Pangman reached the stage, she was greeted with clapping and cheers.

Read more: Alex Pangman swings the ballroom at Merrickville's Jazz Fest (review)


Steve Berndt and Brian Browne keep evolving their collaboration at MJF (review)

Updated October 21

Steve Berndt sang with his whole body in his duo show with Brian Browne at Merrickville's Jazz Fest ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Steve Berndt featuring Brian Browne
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Baldachin Inn Restaurant
Friday, October 16, 2015 – 6 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Pianist Brian Browne and vocalist and trombonist Steve Berndt have had a fruitful partnership since 2012, with two albums and a series of high-profile concerts. Both veterans of the Ottawa jazz scene, they share a love of the classic jazz standards – but are also willing to go beyond that repertoire.

Their Friday dinner-hour show at Merrickville's Jazz Fest was warmly received. The restaurant was full as they launched into a happy, swinging rendition of “Our Love is Here to Stay”. Berndt sang the lyrics tenderly and with great feeling, while Browne adding exactly the notes on keyboard needed to define the melody, with no extraneous flourishes. In one or two places, I thought Berndt sounded a bit hoarse (the cold, wet weather that evening was not good for voices) but it didn't distract from the feel of the song.

I continue to be impressed with Berndt's original compositions, which he wrote for the two albums. All bittersweet love songs, they're very much in the spirit of the Great American Songbook, but are also clearly in his own voice. They hold up well to repeated listenings.

At the show, they played all three originals from the two albums, starting with the first album's title track “Déjà Vu”. Berndt sang smoothly and with attention to the lyrics, while Browne underlined the melody with strong chords and lots of space. As the song continued, both became more syncopated and lively, evoking strong applause at the end.

When the two started their collaboration, Berndt made a point of only being a vocalist, in the spirit of the classic Bill Evans/Tony Bennett albums he modeled their duo after. But now he's bringing out his other musical love – his trombone – to their concerts. Their rendition of “Someone To Watch Over Me”, with him playing the melody on trombone, was a delight: a full-bodied, fluid rendition, underlined by fast, sparkling keyboard. Berndt noted at the end that this is a song normally only sung by women, so thought he'd play it on trombone instead.

Read more: Steve Berndt and Brian Browne keep evolving their collaboration at MJF (review)


Rousing traditional New Orleans jazz opens Merrickville's Jazz Fest's 5th

View photos of this performance

The bright, inviting sounds of Basin Street and the French Quarter banished the cold and rain Thursday, October 15, as Merrickville's Jazz Fest opened its 5th edition with a show by the New Orleans Express.

Merrickville's Jazz Fest opening night band New Orleans Express got the audience parading through the ballroom with their “When the Saints Go Marching In”  ©2015 Brett DelmageThe seven-piece band, based in Pembroke, specializes in resurrecting traditional jazz written in the 20s and 30s, and played by jazz pioneers including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Biederbecke, Fats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. For more than 15 years, they've been playing a classic jazz repertoire based on original recordings – and with the verve and style of the originals, too!

“Cakewalkin' My Baby Back Home”, “Stevedore Stomp”, “I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None of my Jellyroll”, the “Ostrich Waltz”, and “Potato Head Blues” were among the songs they played. Bandleader and banjo player Dr. Ron Lloyd and trumpeter Gordon Tapp introduced each number with an explanation of when it was first recorded and by whom, and in many cases explaining where they first encountered it.

Their love of and knowledge of the music was clearly evident: for example, explaining how “The Mahogany Hill Stomp” was written in honour of a house of ill repute in the Storyville district of New Orleans and was originally recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Five in 1929. They noted that “this is pretty well exactly how they played it.”

Read more: Rousing traditional New Orleans jazz opens Merrickville's Jazz Fest's 5th


The Mike Tremblay Trio Live at GigSpace - as it happened (video)

Saxophonist Mike Tremblay releases his new CD, Live at GigSpace, this Sunday, October 18 at Trinity United Church. He recorded it with guitarist Tim Bedner, and bassist Ben Heard on June 19, before an enthusiastic audience at GigSpace.

©Brett Delmage, 2015“I wanted to see if I could put together a program and have the challenge of 'no second takes'. This is recording, and it's a live concert, and it's nice to be under that pressure,” Tremblay told in June, prior to the recording.

“When you're in the studio, you do two or three takes of full tunes and then you sit on them and listen for a while - 'Do we need to go back and record them again?' It's really nice to just go in and say 'Here it is'. And tapes don't lie. This is how you play,” Tremblay said, laughing at the time.

“This is 'old school' jazz recording. We just show up to the session and see what happens,” Bedner said in June, also laughing.

There was a lot more laughter during the performance and live recording by both musicians and audience, as aspirations met reality.

“I'm going to trust Mike that he knows what he's doing. But I am glad we're having a rehearsal,” Bedner told us before the recording.

Watch our video story to see how it worked out for Bedner and the other musicians and the audience, and see some of the wonderful music on the album being performed.

    – Brett Delmage

Watch our video story


Fern Lindzon is always thinking about the lyrics, even with Thelonious Monk

Some musicians talk about how difficult or how challenging Thelonious Monk's music is to perform. Fern Lindzon talks about how much she enjoys playing it.

Pianist and vocalist Fern Lindzon (r) performs with her long-time bassist and producer, George Koller, who "will finish my musical sentences", at Merrickville's Jazz Fest. (Photo provided by the artist)At her show at Merrickville's Jazz Fest next Sunday evening, she'll perform several of his jazz compositions, singing as well as playing piano.

“Monk is fun! And thank goodness so many people have written great lyrics [to his music]. Some of the pieces are so great, and the lyrics are wonderful.”

In the last few months, the Juno-nominated Toronto jazz pianist and vocalist has presented several concerts of Monk music – with lyrics. Several musicians, including vocalist Jon Hendricks and pianist Mike Ferro, have written lyrics to Monk's instrumental tunes, and vocalist Carmen McRae famously sang an entire album of those adaptations – and Lindzon has been delving into this repertoire recently.

In June, she was asked to do a show of “Carmen Sings Monk” at the Barrie Jazz and Blues Festival. She then followed that up more recently with a “Mostly Monk” concert at Toronto's Lula Lounge.

In Merrickville, Lindzon will perform with Toronto bassist George Koller, a long-time collaborator, as well as Ottawa drummer Michel Delage. This spring, Delage organized a tribute show to Monk at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge.

Monk appeals to Lindzon both as a pianist and as a vocalist.

“What's really fun is that, as a vocalist I get to sing this stuff, and as a pianist I get to accompany myself while I'm singing this stuff. So I have to be aware of what's going on harmonically, as well as melodically when I'm singing, so that I can still sing these notes. The reason why this note sounds so good is that underneath it is this that's going on, and it makes this note sound off, or kind of juicy, or whatever it is that it does to that note, just because of what I'm doing accompanying-wise."

She said she thought the lyrics really captured the feel of the instrumental music – for example, Ferro's lyrics for Monk's “Well, You Needn't”. They start off, “You talk so sweet. Well, you needn't. You say you won't cheat. Well, you needn't. You're tapping your feet. Well, you needn't. It's over now.”

Read more: Fern Lindzon is always thinking about the lyrics, even with Thelonious Monk


A challenge to Ottawa musicians: find a new collaborator for Jazz Festival grant

Petr Cancura has laid down a challenge to Ottawa jazz musicians: find a Canadian musician they've always wanted to play with but never have, and arrange a collaboration with them.

Petr Cancura (left) listens to the music made by musicians who don't normally all play together, at the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival jam ©Brett Delmage, 2015And, for one lucky musician or band, the Ottawa Jazz Festival will showcase that collaboration.

The deadline is this Friday, October 16, to apply for this special project funding; musicians who live in the Ottawa/Gatineau region are eligible. If chosen, the collaboration will be presented at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, from February 4-7, 2016.

Cancura, the festival's programming manager, said the reason for this project was “to stimulate the local music scene. I've personally had many musicians ask me, 'How do I get into the festival circuit, not just the Ottawa [Jazz Festival]. How do I get myself up there? How do I get to the next level?' And I think my answer, if I can generalize, is always ramp things up. Try something different. Put yourself out of your own element and create something that might be a bit scary for you but is exciting!”

And playing with a well-known guest musician can help local musicians boost their careers, he said. “Getting to collaborate, for instance, with Kevin Turcotte or with Brad Turner is going to open up doors for you in playing in Toronto or in Vancouver.”

Read more: A challenge to Ottawa musicians: find a new collaborator for Jazz Festival grant


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