The Montreal Jazz Festival is celebrating pianists this year, with its 2013 edition dedicated to the late pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, a three-concert residency by Vijay Iyer, and a Pianissimo series.
“Mr. Brubeck was a proud partisan, champion and habitué of our event, which he honoured with 14 concerts between 1981 and 2011, and during the 30th edition of the Festival, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the legendary Time Out,” the festival said in a press release about their indoor concert lineup.
The festival will close with a tribute to Brubeck on July 7, performed by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet together with with Montreal musicians Lorraine Desmarais, Adrian Vedady, and Chet Doxas, “celebrating a repertoire that is quite simply the living memory of jazz”.
Other notable pianists performing during the festival will include Geri Allen (in the ACS Trio), Aaron Parks (with Kurt Rosenwinkel), Jason Moran, Craig Taborn, Barry Harris, Bill Charlap, Jacky Terrasson, Steve Kuhn, Lawrence Field, Laurent de Wilde, and Oliver Jones. From Cuba will come Chucho Valdés, and jazz prodigy Harold López-Nussa.
NYC pianist Vijay Iyer will play a series of three Invitational concerts in the acoustically-supportive Salle Gesù. On July 4, he will reprise his album, Accelerando (named the 2012 Jazz Album of the Year in the International Critics Poll in DownBeat Magazine), in a trio with bassist Justin Brown and drummer Stephan Crump. On July 5, he'll perform a duet with iconoclast Craig Taborn, and on July 6, he'll play a solo concert.
Of course, as the largest jazz festival in the world, the Montreal jazz festival is offering much,much more: every type of jazz – and pop, soul, and blues as well. It runs from June 28 to July 7 this year. Ottawa fans will be able to hear its last seven days without missing any of the Ottawa jazz festival.
The breadth of Canadian jazz talent will be on display at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival, including more artists from Western Canada.
Many musicians not seen recently in Ottawa – John Stetch, Brad Turner, Peggy Lee, Vic Vogel, Jon Ballantyne, and Seamus Blake – will appear, along with some new names like Tyson Naylor, Alan Jones, and Roberto López.
Several of these are hidden in less-expected series or under less-obvious band names. But there's an advantage to that, too – you get to hear them play with new people and feature new material!
Festival programming director Petr Cancura told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the wider geographic range this year was deliberate: “We really sat down and said, 'Let's make the Great Canadian series a cross-Canada thing – you know, really work hard on that'.” When all the jazz festivals in Canada met together in November, he said, they decided to “really try to represent each part of the country. So we stuck to it. We didn't back out.”
There will also be some impressive locally-connected groups playing the Main Stage, the NAC or Dominion Chalmers – the Stretch Orchestra, Kellylee Evans, Los Gringos, Rob Frayne's Dream Band, and the Souljazz Orchestra – which you can read about in our Local Artists story.
Here's OttawaJazzScene.ca's guide to some of the best Canadians or Canadian expats appearing at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The first is a concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Oscar-nominated animated film, The Triplets of Belleville. Montreal guitarist Benoit Charest wrote the soundtrack to that movie, and won a French César Award for it. He was also nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar for one of its songs. He will be recreating the soundtrack on-stage, in a seven-piece band that includes Chet Doxas, keyboardist Dan Thouin, and drummer Jim Doxas, and instruments which range from tuba, vibraphone, and foley to vacuum-cleaner. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard Chet Doxas play an high-energy show together with Charest and Thouin at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival: see our review with photos.
Tuesday, April 30, was International Jazz Day. As part of the celebrations for this day, Roddy Ellias was officially recognized as a Jazz Hero at a ceremony at Carleton University . You can also see videos of the international Jazz Day celebrations here
A quiet and unpretentious Ottawa guitarist, composer and educator who lets his compositions and performances speak loudest for him has been recognized as a Jazz Hero.
Roddy Ellias was the only Canadian among the 25 recipients to receive the award from the Jazz Journalists Association on April 1. The award honours “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities.”
“I'm very happy to get the award and humbled, very humbled,” Ellias said. That's typical: his regular upcoming performance announcements are notably free of the “greatest” superlatives that burden others' announcements. Ellias often doesn't even mention himself, preferring to focus attention on the other musicians he will play with.
While OttawaJazzScene.ca now lists 1800 performances and events annually including Ellias', it wasn't always that way. Ellias was, by himself, a significant part of the scene in earlier years.
“Imagine Ottawa in the 70's... there wasn't a lot happening,” he said. But Ellias was there, one of the musicians bringing jazz to eager Ottawa listeners before there was a jazz scene on this side of the river. In the early years he entertained many listeners at the Chateau Laurier's Cock and Lion, and he was in demand at Wildflower Café six nights a week.
Most importantly, he's been a steady musical contributer to the Ottawa jazz scene since the 1970s. He hosted his popular “Roddy and Friends” series at the former Café Paradiso, playing with a wide range of musicians, including famed guitarists Vic Juris, Gene Bertoncinoi, Lorne Lofsky, and David Occhipinti, but also moving further afield with an organ quartet featuring saxophonist Kirk MacDonald. Since the fall, he's continued that invitational series at GigSpace.
Ellias has numerous other musical projects on the go right now, including a recording with pianist Marc Copland, Adrian Vedady, and John Fraboni (they played at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2012), a planned trio recording with Andrew Downing and Ottawa Jazz Festival Programming Director and multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura this month, and an intriguing concert of improvisation planned for May, with two of Canada's most talented improvisers: Christine Duncan and Jesse Stewart.
Even in jazz circles, where longevity is rewarded, Montreal pianist Jeff Johnston has created and nurtured some exceptionally long-standing musical relationships.
Together with Jim Vivian on bass and Michael Billard on drums, he released a new CD last month. It comes three decades after this trio played their first concert, a live recording for CBC Newfoundland. And the CD's producer also produced that 1983 show.
On Friday, Johnston will premiere the CD in Ottawa at a concert at GigSpace. That show will demonstrate another longstanding relationship, since his Montreal trio – Fraser Hollins on bass and Richard Irwin on drums – will be replacing Vivian and Billard. And if that trio doesn't have quite the same seniority, Johnston has still been playing with Hollins for a decade and Irwin for at least five years.
The CD is called Returning [Jeff Johnston Music, 2013], and Johnston says it marks the return of both the band and their producer to their roots: “that music we listened when we were young. I hear all that in this album and when we play together.”
Those roots are in the European jazz of the 1970s and 80s, particularly ECM recordings by pianist Keith Jarrett, bassist Eberhard Weber, and drummer Jon Christensen, which Johnston says he, Vivian, and Billard discovered as they grew up in Newfoundland. “We listened to that music together a lot and tried to capture that feel.”
“It just represents what we've been doing for the last 30 years, really”, Johnston said. “I went into the studio knowing exactly the sort of sound and the feel that I wanted to have. I think part of it was the musicians, Mike and Jim, and also the producer, Glen Tilley: together we developed a sound from playing together a lot and also recording together a lot.”
The album's sound is lyrical and thoughtful, with repeated motifs and considerable input from all three musicians. “It's a counterpoint approach to playing rather than piano being supported by bass and drums. I think of it as contrapuntal, everyone contributing at the same time. I think also the use of space – that's something we developed as we played. The more we played, we were able to allow each other to leave space or to leave space ourselves when we played. And that's an environment where you can be more contrapuntal or interactive.”
Evandro Gracelli had a jam-packed schedule when he visited Ottawa and Montreal for three weeks in late March and early April. What with masterclasses, his own concerts and club gigs, and being invited to sit in at other shows, the Brazilian guitarist was booked or double-booked just about every night.
He brought seven other Brazilian musicians with him, as part of a cultural and musical exchange co-sponsored by the University of São Paulo and Carleton University. Although six returned after the first week, Gracelli and master percussionist Emilio Martins remained.
In the two years he spent in Ottawa, Gracelli developed strong ties in the local jazz community and became an integral part of several local bands. This visit showed the strengths of those ties, as he played in a reunion concert of Sol da Capital with Rachel Beausoleil, with his own Evandro Gracelli and Friends, and in Rimbombante with Dean Pallen, among other gigs.
It isn't often that a CD release concert gets an overture as well.
When Rimbombante's show on April 5 was delayed because of a musician's car breaking down, the group's pianist, Carlos Santana, sat down and played half an hour of sparkling solo piano – impromptu. And that didn't make him any less energetic when the whole band was playing.
The Ottawa-based group – Santana, composer Dean Pallen on saxophone and clarinet, Evandro Gracelli on guitar, Gerg Horvath on bass, Reynier Garcia on congas and percussion, Arien Villegas on drums – represent a wide range of ethnic and musical origins, and their music reflects that as well. It's an amalgam of jazz and world music with a noticeable Latin flavour, a strong percussive base, and memorable melodies.
And lots of energy! Whether in a fast, breezy soprano sax line, a flowing guitar solo, rippling keyboards, dancing conga beats, driving bass, fast Cuban drum rhythms, or vibrant vocals, the music worked at the April 5 show because of the strong interaction among the musicians and the vigour each of them added. The audience greeted that energy with strong applause, particularly at the end, and demanded an encore.
Don't ignore the locals! Ottawa-Gatineau musicians will present a wide range of jazz and jazz-crossover styles with new musical projects at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival. Listeners who dismiss the two free local stages and larger concerts by local musicians because these are not headliner acts will miss good music.
“I had more than enough applicants to choose from. The last few years, it's been really strong. It's hard to pick,” festival programming director Petr Cancura told OttawaJazzScene.ca at the festival's 2013 launch.
“My approach to is to give opportunity to those who are really doing something new, and pushing it forward.”
Among those groups presenting new material will be The Stretch Orchestra, who received the 2012 Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album. The band, which includes Ottawa percussionist and improviser Jesse Stewart,was unable to tour after their unexpected Juno win last year because of a scheduling conflict. (8 p.m. Thursday June 27, Improv Invitational - NAC Fourth Stage)
Three of Canada's most creative composers and improvising musicians will perform together for the first time at GigSpace on Saturday. And to play the best concert possible, they won't be rehearsing ahead of time.
“Discovery. That's what's great about music, especially improvising. That way we're really going to have to listen to each other and it's going to be fun. It's going to be very fresh,” said Ottawa guitarist, improviser, composer, and recently-awarded Ottawa Jazz Hero, Roddy Ellias.
He'll be joined by fellow Ottawan Jesse Stewart on percussion (and very possibly other surprises, which even Stewart may not know about until the musical moment summons them) and Toronto vocalist Christine Duncan. In addition to her own vocal work, Duncan is known recently for her work forming and re-forming and conducting the Element Choir, which played three times at Ottawa Chamberfest last August. Many Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians will also remember her teaching and singing over the years as a faculty member at the JazzWorks jazz camp.
“We're going to be meeting for the first time and making music together. It's going to be fun,” said Stewart, who, like Ellias, is familiar with Duncan's work, but has not played with her in a formal concert.
“In terms of more improvising vocalists, there aren't actually that many, at least in Canada. Christine is a very good musician, a very good improviser. In terms of improvising vocalists, I thought she would be an interesting fit.”
“[Jesse Stewart] is a composer. And he improvises like a composer. So he knows how to take an idea, he knows how to listen, and he knows how to develop the idea, listen, be empathetic, be open,” said Ellias, speaking to another dimension of the music they'll collectively create at Saturday's concert.
Jazz fans, organizers and reporters attending the official 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup announcement on April 10 got JazzED, as the festival's newest educational initiative made its first festival appearance. Comprised of some very talented young musicians from Ottawa high schools, the band brought the good vibe of live jazz to the Fourth Stage while people arrived to hear the official unveiling of the 2013 lineup.
Ottawa Jazz Festival Programming Director Petr Cancura, who now spends most of his time in NYC but grew up in Ottawa and received his music degree from Carleton University, was visibly happy as he watched them play. Cancura said he had been "wanting to make the JazzEd program happen for a long time."
Band members are rehearsing weekly at Carleton University under the direction of Carleton U music instructor and 2013 Jazz Hero award recipient Roddy Ellias. They will perform at the Festival at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 on the OLG Stage, as part of the Ottawa Jazz Festival's annual presentation of local youth bands.
- 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
- Monday night jazz is returning to Le Petit Chicago
- ZenKitchen to offer jazz every second Sunday
- Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart: percussion as you've never heard it before this Friday
- Laila Biali takes risks with choosing and playing music
- Molly Johnson ups the energy and vibe at a sold-out NAC show
- Brookstreet makes jazz the option seven nights a week
- Roddy Ellias Ensemble plays an intimate concert of intricate music
- Diana Krall invokes the spirit of the Glad Rag Dolls (review)
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces Main Stage lineup for 2013: music of every style
- 2012-13 Geggie Series: In rich harmony (review)
- Melody into places far afield: Roddy Ellias with Gene Bertoncini (review)
- Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra nominated for 2013 Juno Award
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