In a year of national celebrations showing Canadians' pride in and attachment to their country, the national music awards have nominated a surprising number of jazz ex-pats living in the United States.
The 2017 Juno Award nominations were released this morning. Among those selected in the three Juno jazz categories were NYC residents Darcy James Argue, Bria Skonberg, Brandi Disterheft, Renee Rosnes, and Seamus Blake – as well as Quinsin Nachoff, who divides his time between Toronto and NYC. That's more than one-third of the 15 nominees in the jazz categories.
In 2016, only one of 15 musicians or groups nominated in the jazz categories was based in the U.S. In 2015, two of 15 were American-based.
Most of the remaining 2017 nominated jazz artists are from the greater Toronto area.
To be eligible for a Juno award, musicians must directly submit their albums for judging. For each category, the Junos establishes a 10-person expert judging panel, whose first task is to make a first selection from all the submitted albums (which could be as many as 40 or 50) to five nominees. Each panel member then ranks the nominated albums in a second round of voting, and the album with the most votes wins.
As usual, the jazz categories cover a wide range of styles, from Argue's large-scale orchestrations to samba-flavoured vocal duets to jazz fusion. Notable are Metalwood's reunion twenty years after their Juno award-winning debut and fourteen years since their last release, and the Order of Canada Band, composed of renowned jazz musicians who have been awarded that national honour, paying tribute to Oscar Peterson's compositions.
Beeched Wailers' Tuesday Jazz Jam
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 – 8:30 to 11 p.m.
View photos of the Beeched Wailers' jam on January 24, 2017 by Brett Delmage
The Beeched Wailers drew a full and enthusiastic crowd of players and listeners to the first night of their new jazz jam location on January 24. They'll be back for a second night tonight (February 7).
The jam has moved to what Wailers' trumpeter Nick Dyson described as “more comfortable surroundings”: Bar Robo in Chinatown, which is in the same location as the former Raw Sugar Café. It has a sleek vibe and good sight lines, as well as a proper stage and decent acoustics. The beer, coffee, and soft drink prices are reasonable, and the bar also offers an interesting line in exotic meat and veggie hot dogs.
While the jam remains on Tuesday evenings, it will now run every second week rather than weekly.
On the first night, jammers – including high school and university students – were already lining up to play at 8 p.m. The Wailers played one song and then relinquished the stage until 10:15 p.m., when they performed their traditional closing set.
with Rakestar Arkestra, Tone Cluster Choir, and Christine Duncan
Church of the Ascension, Ottawa
Sunday, January 22, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.
It was an evening of joyful, exuberant singing, dancing, and instrumental performance – with some stretching of the musical edges and even some preaching, as Ottawa's Rakestar Arkestra along with the Tone Cluster choir and vocalist and conductor Christine Duncan – 30 musicians in total – paid tribute to the music of its inspiration, American jazz icon Sun Ra.
The Church of the Ascension was packed, with last-minute arrivals having problems finding seats. Listeners were treated to two sets of a fast-moving, multi-layered music that was rooted in the jazz tradition and then rocketed into the ionosphere.
View photos of Sung Ra's concert on January 22, 2017 by Brett Delmage
View photos of Sung Ra's dress rehearsal on January 21, 2017 by Brett Delmage
The concert was the vision of Ottawa percussionist and composer Rory Magill, a founding member of Rakestar, who had also previously written choral pieces for Tone Cluster. Magill contributed two pieces to the show – in particular, the opening piece, “Ready”, in which the the choir introduced the audience to Sun Ra in beautiful, close-knit harmonies.
Baritone saxophonist John Sobol intoned a welcome to open the show, followed by the choir, directed by Kurt Ala-Kantti, brightly singing “Ready”. The music was presented in a steady journey through space throughout two sets and kept the audience riveted to the stage. The compositions were primarily by Sun Ra, rearranged by Rakestar for this show, but also included originals by Magill and David Broscoe.
Christine Duncan led the choir in extraordinary sound-making: sometimes melodic, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes recreating the animal noises from a Middle Eastern market. She also sang as a soloist with Rakestar, creating some astounding vocal pyrotechnics. In “Today is the Shadow”, she delivered a full-on revivalist sermon , raising everyone's spirits for the end of the show.
Don Cummings' Hammond organ reverberated through the church, sometimes caressing, sometimes deeply ominous. Tone Cluster's pianist, Vincent Mar, added piano and organ embellishments on many pieces, particularly “Ready”, which beautifully accompanied the choir. Mike Essoudry on drums energized the music, as well as playing sinuous clarinet. Scott Warren not only provided unusual percussion and drums; he also contributed other-worldly recorded sound clips, and acoustic augmentations. Magill's bright xylophone playing added a magical feel throughout. The four saxophonists (Broscoe, Sobol, Rob Frayne, and Linsey Wellman) fired up the music both in unison, and with extended, impassioned solos.
When Ottawa saxophonist and composer Doug Martin stepped out before several hundred listeners in Havana, Cuba, in December, he realized he had to pick up his game. It was his second time playing the Havana Jazz Festival – but it was in much bigger halls than his first time in 2014.
“I thought, OK, I've got to take a step upward here because I don't usually get to play venues like that. So I had to come up to the mark and I think we did very well at that. I felt very relaxed and in the groove, in the zone.”
And he'll be using that experience in Ottawa this Friday, playing the same material in a show at the 80-seat Live! on Elgin hall.
In Havana, Martin teamed up with three Cuban musicians: bassist Arturo Cruz, drummer Alain Ledrón, and pianist Miguel de Armas jr., who is the son of Ottawa-based jazz pianist Miguel de Armas. Martin had played with de Armas jr. and Cruz in 2014 as well.
“I think we did two better shows this time than we did last time.”
They performed Martin's original music inspired by his first two trips to Cuba, which he released as a CD, Spirit of Survival, last summer. The pieces on that CD are a tribute to the Cuban people and their “admirable” optimistic approach to life in spite of hardship, but are not Afro-Cuban in style.
Martin said he was reminded again how good the Cuban musicians were, and in particular de Armas jr. “He's a marvelous player!”
On Friday, Montreal jazz pianist Gentiane MG (short for Michaud-Gagnon) makes her Ottawa debut in a duo concert at the Record Runner Rehearsal Studios. She's performing with Ottawa-born tenor saxophonist Chris Maskell; both are currently in the master's program in jazz performance at McGill University. They'll be playing standards and some of their own compositions.
Gentiane is from Saguenay, Quebec, and discovered the piano at five years old. She originally studied classical piano, winning two Quebec competitions and reaching the finals in the Canadian Music Competition – but then moved into studying jazz and improvisation. She studied jazz performance at McGill University with a $15,000 Schulich Scholarship, finishing her undergrad degree in 2014. She received a Graduate Excellence Fellowship Award to work on her master's, and study with renowned French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc.
For several years, she's been playing with bassist Levi Dover (who has also performed with Maskell) and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel in her trio, and performing regularly on the Montreal jazz scene. This month, she's playing at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill every Tuesday with different musicians and a different repertoire each week.
Friday's concert is the second in the Live @ Record Runner series at the new Record Runner Rehearsal Studios in mid-west Ottawa.
Updated January 21, 2017
The most unusual choir in Canada will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.
It has no fixed membership, although many vocalists have been part of it for years. It has formed and reformed in cities across Canada. It doesn't use sheet music, but instead creates its music in the moment. And it uses all the possibilities of the human voice – singing, yes, but also growls, shrieks, water and air ambient noises, and many more sounds.
The Element Choir is the brainchild of Toronto vocalist Christine Duncan, who is its conductor and spark-plug – and it reflects her own audacious spirit as a vocalist and musician.
This week, Duncan is in Ottawa to conduct a local choir – Tone Cluster – as part of the large-scale “Sung Ra” concert with the Rakestar Arkestra. For Sunday's concert, most of the music will be composed rather than the completely free improv of an Element Choir show, but Duncan will use the same system of conducting cues and many of the same musical ideas.
It's a system she's been developing since 2007, and using to perform stand-alone and with musicians like Tanya Tagaq. But it came about almost by accident – as part of a release concert for a CD project. “It was a very bizarre and random thing,” Duncan says.
Rory Magill can't hide his excitement, as he prepares for the biggest and most impressive concert he's organized in a decade.
On Sunday, January 22, Magill and the seven other instrumentalists in the Rakestar Arkestra will join the 35-voice Tone Cluster choir and vocalist Christine Duncan to create “Sung Ra: The Songs of Sun Ra”. They'll fill the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East with costumes, fancy hats, dancing – and entertaining, full-bodied jazz which can jump from melodic to awe-inspiring
The concert is a tribute to the unique jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra, who in the decades between the 50s and 80s created “cosmic jazz” with his own mythology. To his jazz roots he added elements of avant-garde classical music; he was a pioneer in using electronic keyboards; and he believed in the power of spectacle, with his Arkestra usually dressed in bright, flamboyant costumes, and occasionally including dancers or jugglers or stilt-walkers. That's the spirit Magill wants the January 22 show to have.
“Sun Ra's concerts were always festooned with amazing costumes and ornaments and so on, and this is theatrics as he would do it. It's full-dress this time."
It's a concert which Magill has wanted to present for years. He's been working intensely on it since last year – writing grant proposals, composing music, and inviting other musicians to participate. He received a Canada Council grant for the project last summer – “a huge morale boost” – along with support from the City of Ottawa and the Juno 2017 committee.
There was a big smile on Jumpin' Jimmy Leroux's face on January 12. Leroux coordinates the music on Thursday nights at the Brass Monkey, a brightly-lit basement pool hall and performance space on Greenbank Road in Ottawa's suburban west end.
That evening was an experiment, the hall's first jazz night instead of the local rock bands Leroux usually programs for his new talent showcase. And to his delight, it attracted about 35 interested listeners to hear three Ottawa-area jazz groups, filling almost all the seats available. They enthusiastically applauded the music, and even Leroux's between-set jokes.
“It's a cold Canadian night,” Leroux told the audience, “and the easiest thing is to stay home on your couch. But here you came out to support music. Thanks!”
Up first on stage was Easy Living, a quartet providing smooth and easy-going versions of jazz standards including “But Not For Me” and “Summertime”. Vocalist Fiona George provided a flowing and clear version of “My Little Boat”, with guitarist Jim Mattson, bassist Len Leclair, and drummer Dan Quinlan warming the place with bright samba rhythms.
OttawaJazzScene.ca donors received full advance details of these shows and more than a hundred other jazz performances this month as a token of our appreciation for helping us shine a spotlight on the scene. Become a donor!
2017, Canada's 150th birthday, is a year to celebrate our own culture, including Canadian jazz. And this month will give you many opportunities to do that in Ottawa-Gatineau.
Local and Canadian jazz groups predominate in January – and several are taking interesting chances. The Rakestar Arkestra has a major concert planned with vocalist Christine Duncan and the Tone Cluster choir. Vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton is trying out a new repertoire of strictly Canadian jazz music with her trio. Record Runner Rehearsal Studios is presenting its second concert featuring a pianist not heard before in Ottawa in duo with an Ottawa native.
These January, 2017 jazz highlights are brought to you by OttawaJazzScene.ca readers Peter Liu, Karen Oxorn, Jesse Stewart, and Gaby Warren. We thank them for their support that makes this article possible.
It's also been a month that's continue to evolve and become more crowded even after the New Year’s fireworks. As we've been compiling this update,notifications of new shows and line-up changes have been popping up frequently.
On Sunday, January 8, Florquestra will play a rare late-afternoon show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. The group combines an encyclopedic knowledge of Brazilian rhythms with a French melodic sensibility, in an always-exciting presentation.
Miguel de Armas Septet – New Year's Eve
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, December 31, 2016
If you were looking for a hopeful, happy way to kick 2016 out the door and look forward to 2017, you couldn't have done better than listening to the upbeat music from Miguel de Armas and his bandmates on New Year's Eve at Brookstreet.
The Cuban-Canadian pianist is ferociously energetic, and he surrounded himself with equally dynamic Latin musicians for this show. Most were from his Sabor de Cuba band, but he also brought in bassist Roberto Riveron – a fellow Cuban who has lived in Toronto since 2007 and has performed with Cuban bands Cubanismo and Klimax, and with Toronto jazz musicians Luis Mario Ochoa, Eddie Bullen, Jane Bunnett, and Hilario Durán.
By the time the music started at 8:25 p.m. – a few minutes early – there was a full house, with all the tables in the main part of the lounge filled. de Armas opened with a lively and flowing standard, supported by Riveron on six-string electric bass and Arien Villegas on congas. Drummer Frank Martinez joined in on the second song, and they remained a quartet for the first hour-long set.
Saorsa (Patrick Smith, Dan Pitt, Harrison Vetro)
Keagan Eskritt and Roddy Ellias
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 – 9 p.m.
Two up-and-coming Ottawa musicians demonstrated another growth spurt in their music in a eye-opening, two-part performance at Pressed in December.
Saxophonist Patrick Smith and drummer Keagan Eskritt grew up here in Ottawa, played in local student bands, participated in the jazzfest's Jazz-Ed program taught by master guitarist Roddy Ellias, and won scholarships and awards. For the past few years, both have been studying jazz performance at the University of Toronto – but over the holidays they came back, and performed for a home-city crowd.
The show opened with a 45-minute duo performance by Eskritt and Ellias, followed by an hour-long set by Saorsa, an improvising jazz fusion group which Smith has formed with two fellow U of T students, guitarist Dan Pitt and drummer Harrison Vetro.
Ellias is one of Eskritt's mentors and they've played together several times before. They opened the show with a lyrical set of guitar and drums, very much in the jazz tradition but with strong original voices of their own.
- Three views of jazz at Christmas
- Renée Landry adds swing and originals to holiday songs
- Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places
- Jazz mashed with Christmas carols (and more!) at the end of December
- 45north plays all-Canadian jazz with enthusiasm and flair
- Ottawa Jazz Festival balances books in 2016 by cutting musician budget by one-third
- More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December
- Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with many sides
- Escape the Christmas carols with jazz in December
- Jazz vocalist Ranee Lee has flourished in Canada
- The Crooked Jazz Trio doesn't travel straight-ahead
- Safe Low Limit: creative, new low blows and bows (video)
- “Don't waste your notes”: an interview with Dong-Won Kim
- "Canada Scene" 2017 launches with Robi Botos' jazzy nod to Oscar Peterson
- The audience kept clapping for Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero
- Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz
- Amy Brandon creates altered states of guitar
- Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November
- Cole Porter without the words engages the audience at Brookstreet tribute show
- Maureen Kennedy's passion for finding hidden jazz standards
- Maqueque notches up its Afro-Cuban jazz energy with its second album
- The Ken Harper Trio brings commitment and energy to new concert series at Southminster
- Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul
- Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention
- Tim Bedner & Elise Letourneau revisit their Thursday nights at Cafe Paradiso on Saturday
- The Canto Trio blends two sax voices and bass in an evening of classic jazz
- Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park
- John Stetch dramatically mixes folksong, classical, and TV themes into dynamic jazz
- Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know
- Marianne Trudel pays a rich tribute to Guelph Jazz Festival founder
- François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations
- Francois Houle: just the clarinet
- Betty Ann Bryanton takes her musical revenge, to a happy full house
- Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's
- Musical friends return to 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival to celebrate founder's last year
- It's a new jazz season - and September sings!
- Conjunction: three jazz and three classical musicians make music that sings (review)
- A powerful jazz fusion outing for Modasaurus (review)
- The swinging style of Denielle Bassels
- Trumpet Bootcamp gives students a different perspective
- Kiran Ahluwalia filled the park with haunting melodies and circling rhythms
- Carleton U Jazz Camp faculty quintet enjoys the upbeat (review)
- The 2016 Merrickville's Jazz Fest gets funkier and celebrates John Lennon
- 'I got rhythm': Rob Frayne takes the helm at the JazzWorks jazz camp
- 2016 Carleton U Jazz Camp goes all-Ottawa, with afternoon concerts
- Gene DiNovi infuses Duke Ellington's music with his own life
- The Ottawa and Gatineau jazz scenes strut their stuff in August
- A flowing conversation among Ernst Reijseger, Jesse Stewart, and David Mott (review)
- A standing ovation for So Long Seven's mélange of rhythms and influences
- A show of thanks: Mike Rud honours jazz guitarist George Benson this weekend
- Chamberfest: A jarring juxtaposition of jazz and classical
- The Doug Martin Quartet gives a vibrant release to their 'Spirit of Survival' CD
- Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation
- Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello
- Will Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson put jazz on NAC stages as the new NAC Presents producer?
- Oliver Jones takes on new challenges in his farewell tour
- Doug Martin revisits Cuba in music in his new CD, Spirit of Survival
- Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July
- Classical and jazz dance together at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest
- Canadian saxophonist P.J. Perry named to the Order of Canada
- A hard-driving quartet finds new corners of modern jazz
- Steve Bilodeau reaches the semi-finals in Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition
- Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera are back in town, celebrating musical friendships
- Brian Browne and Peter Woods fill the Record Centre with standards
- Ottawa's jazz fans discover new groups and new sounds in the 24 hours of the Jazz Ramble
- Two CDs by Nick Fraser create beautiful moments through collaborative improvisation
- The Amos Hoffman Quartet adds classical and Mid-East motifs to mainstream jazz
- A rural county excited by jazz: what Prince Edward County Jazz Festival does differently
- Finding new ways to develop young jazz talent at the Prince Edward County Jazzfest
- There's lots more live jazz than just the jazzfest in June
- The Bank Street Bonbons show the power of brass at Irene's
- The timeless beauty of jazz raises thousands for refugees
- This Sunday: discover jazz vocalists and support refugees
- The 2016 Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is showcasing the Canadian jazz it loves
- William O'Neill: a guitarist talks about his love of big band music
- Erin Saoirse Adair adds power to her anger with a jazz backing
- Ottawa jazz fans show their appreciation for Oliver Jones' 76-year career (review)
- The Rachel Therrien Trio rethinks and reenergizes jazz classics
- Andrew Ferderber's A+ graduation performance, and how he got there
- Sweet swing fills the church as the Hard Bop Association pays tribute to Duke Ellington
- Fawn Fritzen matches originals with vocal jazz classics in a finely-tuned show
- Ed Lister's hard-swinging tribute Wednesday to Duke Ellington's classic music
- Fawn Fritzen takes a fresh approach to jazz standards
- Jazz swings through May
- An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)
- Miles Ahead, but not in reality (movie review)
- Michael Kaeshammer and his audience have fun with energetic and varied music
- Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers
- Song of Lahore shows jazz triumphing over intolerance (movie review)
- Sitar, violin, guitar & cajon entice the audience at high-energy Sultans of String show
- The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar
- Polished performances from the Carleton University student Jazz Ensemble
- Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music
- Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert
- Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April
- 2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow
- Born To Be Blue stays true to Chet Baker's music, but romanticizes his life (movie review)
- Vocalese with Steve Berndt and Christine Fagan: "A jazz adventure" (video)
- Olivier Babaz shines a world of music on his new jazz album
- Brazilian drumming inspires Rob Frayne's latest percussive project, DrumSwamp
- Only applause broke the silence as the Sonoluminescence Trio played the Record Centre
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces summer line-up, including Chick Corea, Dan Brubeck 4tet, Wynton Marsalis, The SF Jazz Collective, and Colin Stetson
- Rob Frayne recruits for a jazz band on a mega-scale
- David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance (video)
- Jazz to head to the NAC's Back Stage during construction
- James McGowan and Jesse Stewart improvise music from many streams
- First impressions: Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes with Miguel de Armas
- Have your ears stretched in March with jazz from unexpected places
- Rob McConnell's music is "the boss" at Sunday's CYJO concert
- The Harley Card Trio creates a layered and nuanced collaboration at Brookstreet
- David Renaud looks for grace and love in his new duo CD with Brian Browne
- René Lavoie pays hommage to Cannonball Adderley, the saxophonist who changed his life
- Laila Biali is letting her audiences hear songs in the making, in the spirit of jazz
- A wild night at Irene's with the Alive! Ensemble and the music of Grant Green (review)
- From all over the globe, the Florian Hoefner Group unites in presenting luminous jazz (review)
- HML Trio's weekly Brookstreet Options jazz jam celebrates three years of 'good music and a great hang' this week
- Nick Fraser stretches the boundaries of drumming with Justin Haynes' scores (review)
- Crossroads concert scribbled on genre boundaries while remaining true to Lynn Miles' songs (review)
- Vocalist Jeri Brown and drummer Jesse Stewart: 'things that I haven't heard before'
- Hear both the roots and the future of jazz in February
- 2016 Juno jazz nominations move westward, and in unexpected categories
- Linsey Wellman declares his bilingual Manifesto (video)
- Fraser Hollins picks long-time musical friends for his Jazzfest show: Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, and Joel Miller
- Karen Oxorn reflects 60 years of loving music in her concerts this weekend (podcast)
- An immersion in music from Pauline Oliveros and friends
- Standing Room Only packs the dance floor at its first Ottawa tea dance
- The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's
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