Marc Decho is taking hip-hop back to its roots in jazz – and then reinterpreting it as jazz.
Tonight, his new group, 2React, will combine samples from recordings by jazz greats like Bucky Pizzarelli, Stan Getz, and Joe Pass, with live guitar, bass, and drums. And then it will use those sounds to reinterpret the hip-hop pieces that were originally based on jazz samples.
Decho is better known locally for his strong bass presence in many Latin and mainstream jazz groups. But 10-15 years ago, his main instrument was a sampler, and he was building songs using samples from many different recordings.
Eventually, he got into sampling “lots of really cool bass stuff” including upright bass and jazz records, and decided to try playing double bass. He got obsessed with that, it took him to completely different musical areas, and he didn't touch a sampler for years.
But recently, “I dusted this thing back off and I arranged a bunch of tunes and so now I'm doing both. It's something I've always wanted to do: to present it in a live context and play in real time – not just hitting play and having stuff that's already pre-programmed go. I guess I've always wanted to do something with it again and more in a jazz context.”
It's a set-up he has never seen done elsewhere: “someone sitting with a sampler and a bass and a trio in that format playing these tunes. It's interesting and I want to explore it.”
The source material is coming from the late 80s to the mid-90s, when pivotal musicians like Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest moved outside of hip-hop's initial heavy funk influences – and looked to jazz for both samples and their vocal delivery style.
“Q-Tip went back to his father's jazz collection. He was an avid vinyl collector, and he was sampling Ahmad Jamal, and Barney Kessel and all this different super-rare stuff and dozens of lesser-known people. So they really made hip-hop really sophisticated, and, for him, he saw a direct link between hip-hop and bebop. Because what they were doing in their rhyming was not melodic, but it's rhythmic, and they're improvising words constantly.”
Despite the snowstorm, Parker and Nicholson did make it safely to Ottawa.
A world-renowned jazz bassist and improviser is in Ottawa this week – but not just to play music.
William Parker will perform three concerts with local percussionist Jesse Stewart this Thursday and Friday evenings. But he will also take a wider perspective on music: with his partner, Patricia Nicholson, Parker will be speaking about music's role in the wider community.
Nicholson founded and is now executive director of the Arts for Art organization in New York City; Parker is a board member of that organization. For the last 19 years, they've been putting on the Vision Festival, as well as a year-long series of cross-disciplinary events, combining music, dance, poetry, visual arts, and more. The festival aims to expand its audience's ears while also honouring artistic elders.
On Thursday afternoon, Nicholson and Parker will have a 90-minute public conversation with Carleton University sociology professor (and bassist) Michael Mopas, about their work and their thoughts on jazz and improvisation. The event is free and open to the public.
Parker specifically asked for this event, Stewart said. “It was his idea, in fact, his and Patricia's that there would be an opportunity for there to be a public discussion about the role of music and art in community formation.”
Both have had decades of experience: Nicholson began putting together musical events in 1981, when she organized and choreographed A Thousand Cranes Opera at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza for the opening of the UN Special Sessions on Disarmament. She and Parker worked together in the 1980s to to help organize the Sound Unity Festivals, which brought together European, Asian and American musicians and dancers who work with jazz and other improvised music.
“They'll be talking largely though not exclusively about music and art's capacity to forge community. And I think in particular they will probably talk about their experiences in working on the Vision Festival,” Stewart said.
It's part of a very busy week for Parker and Nicholson – and even more for Stewart himself, with many opportunities (some free) to hear them. On Wednesday Stewart is delivering a major lecture; on Thursday is the Parker-Nicholson conversation; on Friday Parker will teach a masterclass on improvisation. And there's the three concerts (including a CD launch), and then a recording session on the weekend.
Wednesday: Why Jesse Stewart has been very, very busy
Last April, Stewart was awarded the Marston LaFrance Award by Carleton University, where he is an associate professor in the Music Department. It gave him a year off from teaching duties so he could concentrate on composing, performing, recording, and academic writing.
Jesse Stewart has brought winter-specific compositions and performances to Winterlude since 2010, when he first performed Glacialis on musical instruments made of ice.
For six evenings during the 2014 Winterlude, he performed his new musical composition and improvisation, Memories of Ice, in which he invoked his own and others' memories and sounds of ice and snow past.
OttawaJazzScene.ca attended his performances to find out what his latest music-making tool: a "Reactable" is, and to learn about the challenges of making music outdoors at -25C. Our video equipment held up (although it took 9 hours to warm back up to room temperature!) - so now you can learn too.
– Brett Delmage
Updated March 7, 2014
After more than 30 years as a jazz musician and many awards including the Order of Canada, Phil Dwyer is completely changing direction.
Dwyer is going to become a lawyer. He revealed that during a wide-ranging workshop at at Les Brasseurs du Temps (BDT) on March 2, in which he also discussed saxophone technique, made the audience laugh with his stories, explained what he had learned from playing with musicians around the world, and described and demonstrated his new saxophone line.
The 48-year-old Juno-award-winner told the audience that he had been accepted into the law program at the University of New Brunswick and would be starting this fall.
Dwyer was clearly looking forward to the prospect, joking about enjoying reading law texts on the subway. His legal interests don't overlap with his musical ones. Instead, they include “bleeding-heart liberal social issues”: public interest law and social policy. With his own experience with mental health issues, he said he wanted to give those with mental health problems more effective legal representation.
He said he had scored in the top 10% in North America in his LSAT results, but had been turned down by law school after law school because of his age and lack of a university degree. “You know how many people apply to law school? You know many 48-year-old bipolar jazz musicians get into law school? Oddly enough, they're not beating the door down.”
Phil Dwyer Trio
Les Brasseurs du Temps
Sunday, March 2, 2014 – 8 p.m.
Based in Vancouver Island, Juno-winning musician and composer Phil Dwyer doesn't often perform in Ottawa-Gatineau. Local jazz fans were lucky that he had a series of dates and recording sessions in Toronto last week, and that musicians Sylvie Duchesneau and J.P. Moisan figured out how to extend that trip by one more day to bring him to Les Brasseurs du Temps (BDT) in Gatineau.
It was a chance for Dwyer to play with his son Ben on double bass, and with Jim Doxas on drums. And what they gave an appreciative audience was straight down the mainstream, a mixture of standards and a Dwyer original, but all delivered with verve and clarity.
Unlike his quieter show with Don Thompson last summer at Chamberfest, this time Dwyer chose a generally energetic set-list, featuring pieces by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. His tenor sax strongly rang out through the large upstairs concert area at BDT, sometimes commanding, other times coaxing, and always creating enjoyable music.
The show opened with Monk's “We See”, which showed off Dwyer's pure tone on sax. Its swinging vibe put both the audience and the musicians at ease. The intensity increased with “Village Green” (best known in the recording by drummer Elvin Jones), and demonstrated what would be a consistent pattern throughout the show: the strong communication among the trio, each underlining the other's performance. The piece included a rumbling bass/drums duet, and pungent, vibrating lines on sax, and inspired strong applause.
The Jérôme Beaulieu Trio
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, March 1, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.
Sitting front and centre on the stage Saturday night was a manual typewriter – a portable Remington – placed on a small box. Not your typical accessory for a jazz piano trio, you might think.
But as a percussion instrument, and a way to intrigue the audience, it worked remarkably well.
This trio of 20-something Montrealers – Jérôme Beaulieu on piano, Philippe Leduc on bass, William Côté on drums – have made a point of including unexpected sounds, loops, and effects to enhance their music. So there were extensive collections of effect pedals next to both the piano and the double bass, and Côté could play sound clips from his drum pad, as well as deploying his own repertoire of bells and other percussion instruments.
But, at the same time, those effects never distracted from the essential flow and melody of the music.
Café Nostalgica, the University of Ottawa restaurant whose Wednesday jazz nights had been an important part of the scene for many years, will again serve jazz with its beer.
Ajà Besler, the Advocacy and Communications Coordinator for the Graduate Student's Association (GSAED), which owns the café, told OttawaJazzScene.ca over email that “Jazz Nights will be making a come-back. We'll post news on our website and Facebook page when it's official.”
The café regained its liquor licence on Tuesday. The loss of that licence last fall had led to all evening programming being canceled, including the jazz nights.
For many years, the Wednesday jazz nights at Café Nostalgica at the University of Ottawa have been an important nurturing place for local jazz artists, giving them a place to experiment with new material and lineups in front of an appreciative audience, if not great pay. The Graduate Students' Association decided to tear down and completely rebuild the old building containing the café to make it larger and more accessible; it closed at the end of March, 2012.
The National Arts Centre Orchestra will host Canadian crooner Matt Dusk for Christmas.
On December 19, Dusk and the orchestra will present a concert of well-known holiday tunes, including "Silent Night", "Little Drummer Boy", and "Winter Wonderland". They will be joined by Juno-award-winning jazz vocalist Molly Johnson, who was last at NAC in 2013, and by the Ottawa Choral Society.
Dusk is up for a Juno this year for his album, My Funny Valentine – The Chet Baker Songbook, which features an eighty-piece orchestra and special guests Arturo Sandoval, Guido Basso, and Emilie-Claire Barlow. He has released four albums, one of which, Two Shots, went gold in Canada. Dusk is an alumnus of the St. Michael’s Choir School and studied under jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson at York University.
Johnson has released five jazz albums; she was nominated for four Junos for best Vocal Jazz Album, and won for Lucky in 2009, She also received the 2009 National Jazz Award for Best Female Vocalist.
She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognized both for her music and her charitable work raising funds for people living with HIV/AIDS. She also hosts the weekend early morning program on CBC Radio 2.
The concert is part of the orchestra's 2014-15 season, which it announced today. This season, the orchestra performed three nights with Canadian jazz vocalist Denzal Sinclaire in a tribute to Nat King Cole. Local jazz singer Kellylee Evans also presented a Christmas show.
The NAC will also continue its Casual Fridays program next season, with three classical concerts being preceded by hour-long sets by local jazz artists. The jazz groups include:
In March 2014, jazz listeners will have almost a superfluity of great jazz to hear, including two local CD releases:
Starting with the first weekend (February 28 to March 2):
- soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett returns to Ottawa on Friday to play with guitarist Roddy Ellias, bassist John Geggie, and percussionist Jesse Stewart (think of Jane more in her modern jazz rather than her Cuban jazz persona),
we move on to Saturday with
- the Jérôme Beaulieu Trio making its first appearance outside Quebec at the NAC (read our interview with Beaulieu to learn more about the trio's innovative modern jazz),
- American guitarist Joel Harrison with a high-powered NYC quintet, making a rare Ottawa appearance at GigSpace,
- the first J'acousmatic experimental music performance at the University of Ottawa.
On Sunday, there's
- renowned Canadian multi-instrumentalist Phil Dwyer giving an afternoon workshop and evening concert at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau.
- the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra's second show of the season with a diverse and upbeat program of big band music, some arranged by local jazz musicians
- the Keys 2 Drums Trio with Steve Boudreau, Jeff Asselin, and Michel Delage getting into percussive instruments at IMOO, and
- a new group, 2React, with Marc Decho, Alex Moxon, and Mike Essoudry, playing improvised hip-hop at Stella Luna.
Starting March 4, The Beeched Wailers, led by trumpeter Nick Dyson, start a new weekly jazz jam at the Rochester Pub.
On the second weekend (March 6-8):
- Claudia Salguero brings her new show, IDILIO, to the NAC with some of the best local Latin jazz performers
- The Capital Vox Jazz Choir presents jazz interpretations of 60s music in its Sounds of the 60s concerts at Arts Court
- The Boilermaker Jazz Band comes up from Pittsburgh to play at two special swing dances
- There's experimental, improvised chamber music and poetry,with Music in the Barns at the Black Sheep Inn
The third weekend (March 13-14), renowned avant-garde jazz bassist William Parker is in town.
- He'll give a free masterclass at Carleton University
- Perform with Jesse Stewart and dancer Patricia Nicholson at the Carleton University Art Gallery, and
- Be interviewed with Nicholson at Carleton University,
- Perform with David Mott and Jesse Stewart at GigSpace
That Saturday (March 15), you again have a difficult choice, this time between two excellent Toronto groups:
- Lina Allemano Four (with Andrew Downing, Brodie West, and Nick Fraser) at GigSpace
- Myriad 3 (with Chris Donnelly, Ernesto Cervini, and Daniel Fortin) at Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge
- Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra getting everyone for a second debut of Inner Fire at the Babylon Nightclub
The following Saturday (March 22), there's even more worth hearing:
See the OttawaJazzScene.ca review and photos of this concert: Three standing ovations for Jérôme Beaulieu Trio's first show outside Québec .
Jérôme Beaulieu thinks jazz musicians can learn from popular musicians – not so much for their musical style, but for their ability to connect with audiences and to incorporate new sounds and new recording techniques into their music.
The 26-year-old Montreal pianist, whose trio will appear at the National Arts Centre on Saturday, plays well within the jazz trio tradition. His musical heroes include modern jazz pianists like Brad Mehldau and Aaron Parks. But when you listen to his trio, you can hear some quite different embellishments on top of the strong melodies.
Within Quebec, his trio has won considerable praise. They're one of a small number of groups chosen by Radio Canada in 2013-14 for its Révélations series. They won the 2011 Montreal-based Jazz en Rafale competition, and Festi-Jazz Rimouski's 2011 Grand Prize, and their first album was a finalist for an Opus prize.
Saturday's Fourth Stage concert will be their first appearance outside Quebec, and Ottawans' first chance to hear this new generation of Quebec jazz musicians. The trio will perform primarily pieces from their latest album, plus a suite from their first album. Most will be originals, but they'll also include a few of the pop songs they've covered on their albums.
Beaulieu said that the trio – himself on piano, Philippe Leduc on bass, and William Côté on drums – have been influenced by popular music in two ways: first, that they've recorded jazz covers of both Quebec and American pop music, but also “in the sense that we try to have a certain melodic approach to jazz.”
“If you don't listen to jazz normally and if you're not into that art form and you're not into the whole improvisational aspect of it that makes it hard to understand sometimes for people who didn't study it, you'll still be able to relate to it because there's a certain melodic quality to it. When you listen to the song two or three times, you can actually hum along to it. In that sense, I think we bring a pop sensibility to it, which makes it easier for people to connect to it and which doesn't necessarily mean that it's simplistic. We try to find a balance between those two.”
Percussionist Jesse Stewart vividly remembers the first time he met Toronto jazz musician and composer Jane Bunnett in person.
It was back in 1992 or '93, at the awards ceremony in Toronto for the Jazz Report Canadian jazz awards. Stewart was in high school, and had come with his band teacher. And in among all the jazz luminaries there, he got to sit at the same table as Bunnett, and they both received awards that night.
“The who's-who of Canadian jazz was in this room, and I thought, 'Wow! This is amazing.' I met Jane, and I was wet behind the ears and just 16. I remember it very clearly because I had been such a fan of her work. I remember when Spirits of Havana came out in the early 90s, and just thinking it was a really, really great album all the way around.”
Over more than 20 years, their paths have continued to cross and they've played together occasionally. But this weekend, Bunnett is up in Ottawa for a more sustained interaction with Stewart: a workshop Thursday afternoon, a rehearsal Thursday evening, a masterclass and two performances Friday, and a recording session on Saturday.
- Tonight is the last night for the iconic Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver
- Warm and sincere, Denzal Sinclaire wows the orchestra audience
- Denzal Sinclaire pays tribute to his musical hero Nat King Cole - with orchestra
- Once a year, Michael Pytura celebrates his favourite big band jazz singers
- The Sicilian Jazz Project reached the audience's hearts (and made them dance)
- The Maskell-Cousineau Quintet: serious, accessible, and fun music
- Jesse Stewart brings 'Memories of Ice' to free Winterlude shows
- Juno Award nominations recognize many musicians who played in Ottawa-Gatineau
- FOLKRUM dreams big for a new Ottawa-Gatineau concert venue
- Ottawa-Gatineau's 2013 Jazz Score
- Afrocentric jazz returns to Le Petit Chicago after an intense and satisfying debut
- Roddy Ellias, Petr Cancura, and Andrew Downing form equal sides of trekan
- Clayton Connell shows his piano range Wednesday, before heading off to Austria
- Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio melds Balkan rhythms and jazz
- Jazzin' the Holidays creates holiday cheer for GigSpace (video)
- Gaby Warren hosts a baker's dozen of Christmas jazz jams
- AlphaSoul Café to close its doors after more than two years presenting jazz
- The Adrian Matte Quartet heated up AlphaSoul on a frosty night
- Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett: two voices in close conversation (review)
- CYJO brings a century of music to life in first 2013-14 concert
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