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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 OttawaJazzScene.ca 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 OttawaJazzScene.ca 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

 

“I've never seen musical borders”: Adam Saikaley unveils his jazz trio music

Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley is a musical Renaissance man. Adept at playing hip-hop, reggae, punk, pop, and jazz, he's also worked as a DJ, and as a classical music producer on CBC Radio. In the jazz sphere, he's led tributes to his favourite Miles Davis albums, played 60s and 70s jazz with his quartet, and performed free jazz with local improvisers.

Adam Saikaley's jazz trio will perform at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest on Saturday, April 29 ©Brett Delmage, 2015

His newest project is a jazz piano trio with bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage. But don't think Oscar Peterson: Saikaley's music, while definitely melodic, is influenced by avant-garde pianists like Cecil Taylor and Kris Davis. On April 1, the trio was the opening act for the JUNOfest jazz showcase at Live! on Elgin, the only local group to join the JUNO nominees in that showcase. Their rendition of Saikaley's dynamically-rich original compositions evoked warm applause from the audience.

Their next concert outing will be at GigSpace's Jazz MicroFest, where they'll open the Saturday evening concerts on April 29. They also play at Bar Robo on the last Wednesday of each month.

When OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Saikaley on the morning of Monday, April 3, he and the trio had had a very busy weekend. Saturday was their JUNOfest show, and the next day, they recorded their first album.

We began by talking about Saikaley's love for real pianos, whose sound he loves and which he doesn't get to play on often enough at shows, although he has one at home. At JUNOfest and at the recording session, he played Steinway pianos; at GigSpace, he'll have a Yamaha to stretch out on. And having a piano to play on does make a real difference to the sound, he contends.

This is a lightly edited version of our conversation.


OttawaJazzScene.ca's reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to Barry Cooper whose support helped make this interview possible.

Read more: “I've never seen musical borders”: Adam Saikaley unveils his jazz trio music

 

Audience enjoys new look at Canadian jazz with trombone

Nicholas Adema Quintet: Music from Famous Canadian Trombonists
St. Luke's Anglican Church
Sunday, April 9, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

Nicholas Adema celebrated music by Canadian trombonists at his special concert  ©Brett Delmage, 2017

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

It was a night for the trombone on Sunday as Nicholas Adema brought together three Ottawa musicians and one Toronto musician to play compositions by well-known Canadian trombonists.

And it sparked a definite interest. In his introduction, the St. Luke's Church music series coordinator stated that the show had attracted one of their largest audiences. The 17-year-old trombonist, composer, arranger, and senior high school student had been working for the last year to organize it.

The set list included numbers by Rob McConnell (from the Boss Brass), Ian McDougall, and Terry Promane, plus several numbers by local composer Mark Ferguson. Ferguson was also on the bandstand, but playing piano, not trombone. Bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage provided a flexible but driving rhythm section (and several emphatic solos).

Adema also included several of his own compositions, including “Samba Not So Samba” which he had also performed recently with the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra, but in a quite different arrangement with more room for trombone. Trumpeter Kaelin Murphy, who is currently studying at the University of Toronto, contributed a particularly fine flugelhorn finale to the ballad Adema had written in honour of Ferguson, “M.F.”.

Read more: Audience enjoys new look at Canadian jazz with trombone

 

Cynthia Tauro: 1st woman to host Jazz Mondays at Petit Chicago

In April, pianist Cynthia Tauro and her quartet is hosting the late-night Jazz Monday jam sessions. It's the culmination for her of many years enjoying the music at those jams.

The Cynthia Tauro Quartet will host Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago for all of April: (l-r) Cynthia Tauro, Alex Moxon, Alex Bilodeau, Michel Delage ©Brett Delmage, 2017

She's the first woman leader of a host band at Jazz Mondays in its 12-year history at Le Petit Chicago. OttawaJazzScene.ca checked its archived event listings, and while we found other women who had played on that stage on Mondays, Tauro was the first to lead a group.

She's playing with three musicians who frequently appear at this jam: guitarist Alex Moxon, drummer Michel Delage, and bassist Alex Bilodeau. Bilodeau also coordinates Jazz Mondays. At their first show on April 3, they performed Tauro's own original songs in the first set, ranging from Latin numbers to soulful to romantic to grooving. Tauro both sang and played keyboards, with the rhythm section providing a strong jazz propulsion filling the downtown Gatineau club. As usual, they opened the second set to jammers.

Tauro graduated in 2016 with a degree in jazz piano and voice from Carleton University. Originally from Toronto, she's now living in Ottawa and performing in venues across the city.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Tauro between sets at Le Petit Chicago on April 3.

Read more: Cynthia Tauro: 1st woman to host Jazz Mondays at Petit Chicago

 

Listening to Oscar Peterson has given Rémi Bolduc a new view on jazz

Over the last two years, Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc has immersed himself in pianist Oscar Peterson's music – and developed an immense respect for Peterson as a composer and musician as a result.

Saxophonist Rémi Bolduc is paying hommage to Oscar Peterson in his current tour with his quartet, including bassist Fraser Hollins. ©Brett Delmage, 2012Bolduc has just released a tribute CD to Peterson, Swingin' with Oscar, with his arrangements of Peterson's compositions. He is currently on tour with his quartet playing this music throughout Ontario and then further east, including a stop in Gatineau on April 12.

And, in the process, he's broadened his outlook on jazz. It used to be that when Bolduc listened to albums by the Canadian jazz icon, he would choose those Peterson made with famous saxophonists.

“I was really focusing on sax players. And I put a lot of my energy into transcribing solos of all sax players. And, of course, I heard Oscar Peterson on some of his records, but because I was checking out Sonny Stitt with Oscar, or Ben Webster with Oscar. I was really always taking the angle of the sax player. And as I get more mature in my music, I opened my mind. I'm like, OK, you've got to go further that that.”

In the fall of 2015, Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts asked Bolduc to perform a tribute show to Peterson, to honour the 90th anniversary of Peterson's birth. It was one of a series of tribute concerts he's played there, each time honouring a different jazz master. For the show, he brought in Taurey Butler on piano, along with long-time collaborators Fraser Hollins on bass and Dave Laing on drums.

He said he picked Taurey Butler as the pianist for this project because “we'd played together, and I thought that Oscar had a big influence on him.”

Butler studied classical piano as a child, but stopped playing piano after age 12. “And then he heard Oscar Peterson, and that brought him back to jazz. So Taurey, when he plays, he has that approach. He's really, of course, virtuosic, he uses all kinds of elements on the piano, and the way he plays the chords and his time feel and his whole vocabulary is highly influenced by Oscar Peterson. In Montreal, I couldn't really think of anybody else that had that power when he plays.”

After the concert, “my agent started to call me and say ‘People would be interested to hear that project again.’ And so we did a few concerts, and I decided, OK, let's do a CD. I guess people love that music – especially Oscar Peterson in Canada.”

Read more: Listening to Oscar Peterson has given Rémi Bolduc a new view on jazz

 

Stories behind the 2017 Jazz Juno Award winners

Bria Skonberg on the 2017 Juno red capet. She won the Vocal Jazz Juno for her album Bria. ©2017 Brett DelmageThe Cellar Live record label in Vancouver released Metalwood's Juno-winning album because of its ties to this country.

“Metalwood is Canadian, like really Canadian, and they come from across Canada, and so it was totally a natural fit,” said record owner Cory Weeds.

It was an illuminating comment in a year when most of the winners in the Juno jazz categories live in New York City.

The 2017 jazz-related Junos were awarded on Saturday to:

  • Metalwood: Twenty (Jazz Album of the Year: Group)
  • Renee Rosnes: Written in the Rocks (Jazz Album of the Year: Solo)
  • Bria Skonberg: Bria (Vocal Jazz Album of the Year)
  • Diana Panton: I Believe in Little Things (Children's Album of the Year)

Rosnes, Skonberg, and two of Metalwood's four members are Canadian ex-pats who now live in New York City.

When asked to comment on this, Rosnes said, “Well, it's the mecca of our music. New York has a fantastic jazz scene as you know. It's very vibrant, and a lot of Canadian musicians go there to play and learn and a lot of us end up staying.”

She noted that the Canadian musicians in New York are “all friendly with one another, and we have a great love for Canada and we come back very often to perform and to see family of course as well.”

In her acceptance speech, Skonberg said, “I'm proud to be Canadian.” She thanked the New York City community, “for lifting me up”, and her home town of Chilliwack, BC, “for keeping me grounded”.

View photos by Brett Delmage of JUNO jazz award nominees and winners on the red carpet

Read more: Stories behind the 2017 Jazz Juno Award winners

 

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