The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is, in many ways, the exact opposite of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Instead of a few blocks of downtown, it covers a large part of a 1000 km² rural county in eastern Ontario. Unlike Ottawa, the Prince Edward County festival receives no government grants. And it's a pure jazz festival – no rock or pop artists.
Brian Barlow, the festival's creative director for the last 13 years, explained to OttawaJazzScene.ca how the festival has been successful by doing things differently. The interview has been lightly edited and some sections rearranged.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How has the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival evolved over the last 16 years?
Brian Barlow: I think it's spread throughout the county. One of the things that makes it unique as a festival is the large area that it covers. Prince Edward County is fairly large [1,048.3 km²]. When I first got involved, the festival took place mostly in the town of Picton, but now it's all over the county, which is great, including wineries. When we first started, there wasn't a wine industry in the county and now as you may know it's quite a highly-respected wine area.
So we have events at a number of wineries, and in some of the small little villages, and on church steps – It's great. There's music everywhere. So I think that's part of the way it's evolved.
I actually was involved at the very, very beginning in a strange way. I just happened to be shopping in a bookstore in Picton, and a woman found out I was a musician. My daughters were looking for books and that takes forever, so we were talking. And she said, we're thinking of starting a jazz festival. So I did a little bit of consulting the very first year, but I came on board the third year as creative director. I performed I think the second year with my band.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What's your role as creative director?
Barlow: I would like to know that [laughs]. I think they called me that, rather than artistic director, because I think they wanted me more involved in other things other than just booking the musicians.
I take a fairly active role in working with sponsors. We receive no government grants, this festival, and I think that's another thing that makes us unique. We run it like a business. We pay our artists really well.
And so I'm involved in almost all aspects of the festival – sponsors, advertising. There's a committee I work with that chooses the musicians every year. I don't think it's something I would want to do totally on my own, and we get terrific input from that committee, in terms of musicians to chose.
The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival has found a different way of helping student jazz ensembles develop, and the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (OJJB) was one of the beneficiaries of that approach this year.
Every April, the festival invites four high school bands from across Ontario to participate in a weekend in Picton. But instead of fighting for medals, the bands work together and are mentored by professional musicians.
“I really don't think music should be about competition – that's why I take all of the awards and things like that with a grain of salt, because I don't think that you can really compare. You can't really choose who the best guitar player is,” said festival creative director Brian Barlow.
The festival's student coordinator, trumpeter Blair Yarranton, proposed this new approach seven years ago. “He said that the one thing that bothered him with his school, is that all of the opportunities they had to go to festivals were competitive. He felt there was a real need for a non-competitive school jazz program. So we started that, and it's been hugely successful,” Barlow said.
Updated 10 June, 2016
It's finally summer this month, with warm blue skies and balmy breezes and chilled drinks on outdoor patios. And there's lots of jazz to hear outside and inside, throughout June and all through Ottawa-Gatineau.
Local Ottawa musicians are busy with tributes (for example, to George Gershwin and to Sun Ra) and new material. Jazz artists are visiting from as far away as Israel, North Carolina, Indiana, New York City, and Los Vegas. Whatever your taste in jazz – vocal standards, mainstream, avant-garde, jazz fusion, big bands – you can hear it this month.
And, even better, you can hear the bands who pop up in the good weather: for example, Souper Jazz and its smaller off-shoot Cuppa Soup. They play traditional Dixieland for love and the donations they collect for the Shepherds of Good Hope – and almost always outside. They'll be performing in June at the Italian Week and Fuse festivals, on the Sparks Street Mall and in the ByWard Market, and even at a grocery store.
These June jazz highlights are brought to you by Greg Klowak, Hélène Knoerr, Bee Rootham, Barry Paulson, Gaby Warren, John & Linda Wilson, Alrick Huebener, Caroline Cook, and John Thompson. We greatly appreciate their financial support that helps OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day of the year.
Mike Essoudry is going into the studio next week with his new brass band, the Bank Street Bonbons. And judging from their show at Irene's on Sunday, you can expect a bold and dynamic sound in their upcoming EP.
The Bonbons crowded two alto saxophonists, two trumpeters, and two trombonists into a tiny corner of the Bank Street bar – plus a sousaphone and Essoudry's drumset. The remainder of the rear half of Irene's was filled with listeners jammed around tables and standing and dancing at the back – a happy audience which applauded strongly throughout.
Fast, energetic, and multi-layered, the Bonbons' music gave full voice to all the musicians. One moment you could hear Zakari Frantz and Tyler Harris on alto sax playing wild lines ascending to the ceiling; the next moment, Nick Dyson or Ed Lister would add a punchy and inflected trumpet solo. Behind them, trombonists Ryan Purchase and Mike Schultz contributed trombone riffs, sometimes muted, sometimes all-out. And it was all anchored by the deep bass growls of Keith Walton's sousaphone and Essoudry's propulsive drumming.
The Bonbons performed all four Sunday evenings in May at Irene's, which was their debut as a group. However, many of them were in Essoudry's previous brass band, the Mash Potato Mashers, a marching band which played its last show in 2014.
For four years, the Mashers were a highly popular part of Ottawa's jazz scene, especially at their home base of Irene's. The Bonbons played several Mashers tunes with a similar Balkan jazz feel – but the big difference was that they weren't marching at the same time. They could read the charts in front of them on music stands, instead of having to memorize all the music.
The group also performed newer originals by Essoudry, and several pop songs – including Chilliwack's “My Girl” arranged by Walton, which opened with a rock-steady drumbeat and a dark sousaphone riff, before letting the horns go full at the melody.
For two hours on Sunday afternoon, Southminster United Church was filled with the timeless beauty of jazz – to help those in desperate need.
Twelve Ottawa jazz vocalists and instrumentalists performed to support the work of Ottawa Centre Refugee Action (OCRA), which is helping families fleeing war and crises to resettle here. The concert raised a grand total of $3,772 through ticket sales, donations, CD sales, and a plant and bake sale outside the church.
OCRA organizer Angela Keller-Herzog told the audience that OCRA had committed to support 37 refugees, of which 27 (mostly from Syria and Iraq) had so far arrived. The concert proceeds would be applied to the $50,000 they still need to raise in order to finish this work, she said.
Omar Jammeh, who arrived a month ago in Ottawa after escaping discrimination in Gambia, expressed his deep thanks to the OCRA volunteers who had helped him – especially dealing with the shock of below-freezing temperatures at the end of April. “I've met so many beautiful people.”
On this Sunday afternoon, Ottawa was swelteringly hot – and there was competition from the Ottawa Race Weekend and other events. But the concert still attracted about 120 people, who listened attentively and applauded vigorously throughout.
Jazz fans can hear some of Ottawa's most accomplished jazz vocalists and instrumentalists on the same stage this Sunday from to 1 to 3 p.m.. The fundraising concert will be a 'mini festival' of discovery for listeners: an opportunity to sample eight different vocalists and a guitar-bass duo.
“I like the opportunity to share a stage with vocalists who bring their own style and interpretation to a song; as varied as a fingerprint,” said Sharron Timmons, one of the vocalists featured in the concert. “On the surface, we seem similar, especially as we all often sing from the same standards repertoire. But, upon closer listen, we all offer up our own nuances.”
If listeners fill Southminster Church (it seats about 400), “Sunday Afternoon Jazz in Aid of Refugees” can raise $8,000 for Ottawa Centre Refugee Action (OCRA), a grassroots group of volunteers who came together to help refugees settle in Ottawa. The concert is being organized by vocalist Geri Childs, who will also sing.
OCRA raises funds to support refugees resettle in Ottawa, as well as providing direct assistance. Since December, it says it has supported five Syrian families and one young man fleeing persecution in Gambia. The group's goal is to raise funds to support a total of twelve families.
The featured vocalists and instrumentalists are all donating their performances. The house band (which includes the popular jazz musicians Mark Ferguson, John Geggie, and René Lavoie) is being paid for its continuous work throughout the concert. Local 180 of the Canadian Federation of Musicians donated funds to pay for the band and provided a sound technician.
Musicians who are performing on Sunday have been active and had significant musical projects in recent years. OttawaJazzScene.ca has previously told you about most of them. In order of their listing on the event poster:
Roddy Ellias toured Canadian jazz festivals in 2015 with his latest CD, The Roddy Ellias Trio. The CD was originally presented at GigSpace.
Geri Childs released a CD at a sold-out Fourth Stage concert: Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)
The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is going anti-theme but remaining 100% jazz in 2016, according to its creative director, Brian Barlow.
Unlike previous years, the festival, which runs August 16 to 21, will not feature any tributes to past jazz icons. “This year, we just chose people that we had wanted for a long time,” he said.
Those jazz musicians include two 2016 Juno Award winners – vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow and pianist Robi Botos – plus saxophonist Phil Dwyer, pianist Mark Eisenman, bassist Jodi Proznick, saxophonist Mike Murley, pianist Bernie Senensky, and a restaging of Joe Sealy's Africville Stories with vocalist Jackie Richardson. The festival's artist-in-residence, trumpeter Guido Basso, will also be featured in several shows.
And, as always, Barlow's star-studded big band will close the festival – this time featuring vocalist Alex Samaras.
In 2015, festival concerts commemorated Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth; in 2014, George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, Jim Hall, and Dave Brubeck; in 2013, Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, and Oscar Peterson's Night Train album.
“We have done a lot of themes and tributes over the years, and a critic actually said that that must be what this festival only does – tributes and themes. I thought OK, this year, we're not going to do that, and so there's nothing whatsoever,” Barlow told OttawaJazzScene.ca.
He said that the festival's four-person artist selection committee, for example, had wanted to have his daughter, Emilie-Claire, return. “I'm extremely careful about the whole idea of nepotism, so I'm very cautious about that, but the committee had been asking for her for a couple of years to come back.”
She was actually booked before she won the Juno, he said. “That was fun to have that happen.”
Guitarist William O'Neill is a fan of big band music. On May 7, he presented his graduation recital with his big band, in the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University.
His concert featured his original tunes and arrangements and received a standing ovation.
“What really fostered, again, my love for big band music and big sound music was being a part of the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra. I love the big band style. There's so many options. You can have the power of a freight train or the softness of a soft wind. There are so many elements you can have in this size of group, which I think is just so important and so cool about jazz.”
After his recital, William talked with OttawaJazzScene.ca about how he put together this big band concert. He also spoke about his experience studying music for four years at Carleton University.
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– Brett Delmage
The first song that Erin Saoirse Adair wrote about sexual assault was a cheerful folksong accompanied by ukulele. Her latest begins with ten F-words and is backed by a jazz ensemble.
On Saturday, the Ottawa singer-songwriter will unveil her new EP, Gaslight, in a show at Pressed in Centretown. But there will be an “explicit” warning on several of the songs, reflecting the seriousness of the material, and Adair's furious approach.
It's an anger which has been shared by many women this spring, after the result of the Jian Ghomeshi assault trial, and disclosures of infamous rapes involving other celebrities. But Adair told OttawaJazzScene.ca that she started writing on this topic well before the Ghomeshi revelations.
“I've been writing songs like this for the last several years, and have been performing them somewhat, and have dabbled in the topic in all of my previous releases. The reason why I'm releasing it at this time is because it worked out that way. I had enough songs and I had the ability to release it as part of one of my classes at Carleton [University]."
The classic female protest song is vocals and guitar or piano, but Adair has added a strong jazz accompaniment. Local jazz musicians Michel Delage on drums, Nick Dyson on trumpet, and Richard Page on saxophone and clarinet back her on the EP's five tracks.
“I felt like the brass gave me more power in my singing and it made the song sound more angry in a way. More brash,” she said.
Oliver Jones Trio Farewell Tour
Theatre, National Arts Centre, Ottawa
Thursday, May 19, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Updated May 25, 2015
Some musicians might add special guests or a spectacular repertoire for their farewell tour. Oliver Jones just continues to play the jazz tunes he loves – superbly well.
Supported by his “sons”, the musicians he's collaborated with for the last decade – Éric Lagacé on double bass and Jim Doxas on drums – the Montreal pianist performed two fast-moving sets of standards to a sold-out house in the NAC Theatre on Thursday. The show was a paean to the Great American Songbook with a big side helping of Oscar Peterson, well-seasoned with swing and good humor.
In January, Jones announced he would be retiring for good this year, after a triple heart bypass last year and 76 years of playing piano. That gave a special importance to this show as the last time he might ever play Ottawa.
The audience acknowledged this with an immediate and hearty standing ovation as soon as Jones came on stage. Throughout the show, he was warmly received, with several people standing to clap after notable musical passages, and very strong applause after each song.
The Rachel Therrien Trio
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, May 14, 2016 – 8 p.m.
The Rachel Therrien trio demonstrated how standards and jazz classics could be reenergized and reimagined in their appealing show at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge Saturday evening.
Therrien on trumpet and flugelhorn was performing with two of the musicians from her long-standing Montreal quintet: Charles Trudel on piano, and Simon Pagé on six-string electric bass (last heard in Ottawa last fall with Guillaume Martineau). Therrien's quintet won the Grand Prix award at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival, where she presented her second album, Home Inspiration.
She played one song from that album during the second set – a moody piece with her on flugelhorn. With Trudel and Pagé providing a steady driving beat, her nuanced, fluid lines lightly danced over them, producing contrasting textures. That was, regrettably, the only original in the show.
It wasn't ideal conditions for performance: during the first two sets, a large contingent was talking loudly beside the bar, competing with the music. Nevertheless, for the tables of listeners who sat near the stage, listening closely and applauding regularly, there was much to enjoy.
I was particularly impressed by how Pagé expanded his role as bassist. In the first set, he opened Miles Davis' “Blue in Green” by tapping a steady percussion riff on the wood of his bass. He then recorded and looped that riff using his extensive pedal board, and added bass notes on top of it. Therrien on flugelhorn and Trudel on piano then joined in, creating a more accented and modern, and less “pretty” version of the jazz classic.
- 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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