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Scott Thomson explains how he fills large spaces with resonant sound

Jim Lewis walks through the National Gallery as he plays his part of "Chamber Elements"Composer Scott Thomson made the National Gallery of Canada his unique performance space for his composition for brass and improvising choir for the 2012 Ottawa Chamberfest. He's doing it again in 2013, this time at Ottawa City Hall at noon on Thursday, August 1. The performance is free.

In our video you can see and hear part of the National Gallery performance by trumpets, trombones and Christine Duncan's Element Choir. Scott explains how he planned the half-hour of music for maximum effect in the specific space and tuned the music to that space.

    – Brett Delmage

See the interview with Scott Thomson about his work:
Chamber Elements: Many unique ways of listening to improvised music

Watch the video

Read more: Scott Thomson explains how he fills large spaces with resonant sound


The Jesse Stewart Trio sparks everyone's imagination (review)

David Mott played extended solos on baritone sax which sounded rich and deep and satisfying. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Jesse Stewart Trio
Parc de l'imaginaire
Gatineau (secteur Aylmer), PQ
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Friday, July 26, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The name of “Parc de l'imaginaire” in Aylmer, where the Festival de Jazz Desjardins is held, can be translated in various ways. Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart chose to think of it as a park “of the imagination”, and told the audience at his Friday concert that his trio would be playing music appropriate to that. “We will use our imaginations and I invite you to do the same.”

Stewart had invited two avant-garde musicians from Toronto to play with him: Rob Clutton on electric bass, and David Mott on baritone sax. The music they played was almost completely improvised, but overall more “inside” than other times I've heard them separately or together.

For the first two pieces, it was as though you could almost recognize the music. Mott played extended solos, a bit blues-influenced, which hearkened back to hard bop and post-bop, and sounded rich and deep and satisfying. Clutton echoed him in a bass solo, and then moved to a higher, more muted pattern, using harmonics. Especially in the second piece, they alternated between more straight-ahead and free improv, deconstructing riffs and circling through them.

Read more: The Jesse Stewart Trio sparks everyone's imagination (review)


Montréal Guitare Trio starts Chamberfringe on a strong note (review)

Marc Morin of MG3 put down his guitar occasionally for accordion. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Montréal Guitare Trio (MG3)
Ottawa Chamberfest
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 10 p.m.

View photos of this concert

A single guitar began, Flamenco-style. After a few bars, two more guitars joined in – and the Montréal Guitare Trio was off and running, for a high-energy, crowd-pleasing concert.

The trio has been together for 15 years, playing a mixture of classical, jazz, pop, movie soundtracks, and folk material. But the operative word is “mixture”. As they told the audience, they love to create unexpected combinations: for example, crossing the overture to Rossini's The Barber of Seville (“which we learned from Bugs Bunny”) with klezmer music.

All three began by playing acoustic guitars, which stayed their primary instruments. but each would often switch out to another instrument. Marc Morin also played electric bass and small accordion; Sébastien Dufour a charango (a Bolivian stringed instrument which can be made from an armadillo shell, although his was all-wood); and Glenn Lévesque a mandolin and an electric guitar.

Their first piece crossed Italian and Flamenco styles with a theme from the Quebec iconic singer Félix Leclerc. Later on, they mixed gypsy music and the traditional music of Brittany. “Garam Masala”, the title track of one of their albums, combined Indian and Arabic music. On that number, their guitars created some surprisingly authentic sitar-like sounds and drones, while Dufour hand-drummed on his guitar in intricate and ever-changing patterns.

Read more: Montréal Guitare Trio starts Chamberfringe on a strong note (review)


Renée Yoxon and her Gentlemen Friends swing the park (review)

Renée Yoxon and Craig Pedersen enjoy the music during their concert in Aylmer July 25. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Renée Yoxon and her Gentlemen Friends
Parc de l'imaginaire
Gatineau (secteur Aylmer), PQ
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Thursday, July 25, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Local jazz vocalist Renée Yoxon resurrected the songs of the Swing Era (and a little bit beyond) for a delighted crowd of more than 300 in Aylmer Thursday. It was the second show in the four-concert Festival de Jazz Desjardins this week.

It was almost all easily recognizable music – “All of Me”, “Don't Get Around Much Anymore”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Frim Fram Sauce”, “Pennies from Heaven” – but Yoxon and her Gentlemen Friends performed it with verve, and added their own twists.

Yoxon regularly brings this group – Craig Pedersen on trumpet, François Gravel on Fender Rhodes, Mark Fraser on bass, David Pontello on drums – to play at swing dances, where the music needs to be upbeat, engaging, and above all danceable. In Aylmer, she got a few people dancing in place and swaying to the music, but the audience primarily showed their enjoyment with loud applause, including a standing ovation at the end, and intent listening. The toddlers and children in the audience were a bit more expressive: those who didn't sit and listen used it as background for tree climbing, and running around.

Read more: Renée Yoxon and her Gentlemen Friends swing the park (review)


Three young musicians bring new music and their new experiences back to Ottawa

Three promising young jazz musicians are taking a big step this Saturday: their first formal concert of their own compositions.

It comes after their first year in university, and their first year apart – a huge change after having played together practically every week since they were 12 years old.

Trumpeter Emily Denison and pianist Deniz Lim-Sersan are 18. Saxophonist Claire Devlin turned 19 this week. They call themselves The Origins Project, and will present a concert at GigSpace on Saturday, July 20, together with bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Mike Essoudry.

You may have seen them performing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival over the last few years: Denison was in the all-star, cross-Canada TD Jazz Youth Summit in 2011 and 2012. Devlin was a member of the summit in 2013, and won the $1000 “Take Five Plus Five” Harvey and Louise Glatt Scholarship Award. All three could be seen regularly listening and playing in festival jam sessions as well.

But the concert will be different. “This is music that we've never really performed in Ottawa,” Devlin said. “It's the kind of music that we would have done in school this year, but it's just not something that you can really do unless you're doing this kind of concert situation. I'm really excited because it's super-energetic music.”

Read more: Three young musicians bring new music and their new experiences back to Ottawa


Joel Miller and Honeycomb at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)

Miller added texture with an actual donkey jaw rattle  ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Joel Miller and Honeycomb
Montreal Jazz Festival
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 – 6 p.m.

View photos of this concert

It was a hot and sultry Montreal evening – perfect for hot, upbeat Latin jazz.

Saxophonist Joel Miller was debuting his new album and new group, Honeycomb, at his hometown jazz festival. His quintet – three well-known mainstream jazz musicians and two Latin percussionists – put on an energetic show. The music was high-temperature enough to match the 34C weather – and it pleased the audience.

Miller won the 2013 Juno for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his previous CD, Swim [2012], a strong mixture of postbop and ballads, featuring his intense sax work and Geoffrey Keezer's vibrant piano.

Any fans who expected the same type of music would have been surprised, though not necessarily disappointed. Miller's soaring sax lines remained, and John Roney's piano was both propulsive and enquiring. But a different rhythm section – Cuban-born drummer Kiko Osorio, bassist Rémi-Jean Leblanc, percussionist Kullak Viger Rojas on cajón and congas – gave the music a very distinct sound from previous Miller efforts.

Read more: Joel Miller and Honeycomb at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)


Caridad Cruz and Miguel de Armas ignite their audience

Caridad Cruz and pianist Miguel Angel de Armas ©Brett Delmage, 2013View photos from the concert

Singer Caridad Cruz and pianist Miguel Angel de Armas are two Cuban-born musicians who have each considerably enlivened Ottawa's jazz scene in the last few years. Recently they've started performing together occasionally, and their combined energy level gets audiences dancing and clapping.

On a hot, sweaty Monday night in the middle of the July doldrums, they packed the downstairs room at Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau. Their two sets were filled with mostly up-tempo music and a few ballads; Cruz sang eloquently in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and connected with the audience in a mixture of English and French. De Armas propelled the music; often one song had barely finished before his fingers were dancing into the opening chords of the next.

Read more: Caridad Cruz and Miguel de Armas ignite their audience


Trifolia: adventurous jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)

Multi-layered music from the three adventurous musicians in Trifolia. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Marianne Trudel, Étienne Lafrance, Patrick Graham
Montreal Jazz Festival
Thursday, July 4, 2013 – 6 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Trifolia is a new project from three adventurous Montreal jazz musicians: pianist Marianne Trudel, double bassist Étienne Lafrance, and percussionist Patrick Graham.

They toured across Canada this summer to promote their first CD, Le Refuge, starting in the Yukon, and continuing right to Newfoundland. reviewer Alayne McGregor saw part of their show in Ottawa and the entire show in Montreal.

Marianne Trudel may be the spokesperson for Trifolia in concert, but when you see them play, it's clear that all three musicians speak together. In both shows, the lead jumped from one to the other to the other seamlessly; they shifted among solos, duets, and trios, and underpinned each other's solos.

Read more: Trifolia: adventurous jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)


Kellylee Evans charms Montreal audience with hip-hop and jazz (review)

Ottawa singer Kellylee Evans communicated her music with all of herself at her two outdoor concerts on the main stage of the 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Kellylee Evans
Scène Rio Tinto Alcan
Montreal Jazz Festival
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 – 10 p.m.

View photos of this concert

It only took one song for Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans to have a late-night Montreal Jazz Festival audience in the palm of her hand.

Playing on the festival's huge main outdoor stage, Evans did two back-to-back free shows, at 8 and 10 p.m. It was a hot, muggy night and the concrete and asphalt of rue Ste. Catherine didn't make the area any cooler. But at the later concert, she appeared just as energetic as though she hadn't played a show an hour before.

Evans was hit by lightning in a freak accident in her kitchen a month ago. She's still recovering from that strike, which meant she sat for almost all the concert. This is highly atypical for her: usually she's running across the stage, expressing the energy of the music with her entire body. This time, instead, she gestured and clapped frequently and occasionally kicked up her legs in time. Sometimes she stood and danced in place for a minute or two. She still clearly communicated the music with all of herself.

The crowd was initially quiet – one man I talked to had never heard of Evans before – but at least in the section near the front where I was listening, very few people left. Almost everyone stood for the full hour, listening intently and frequently swaying with the music.

Read more: Kellylee Evans charms Montreal audience with hip-hop and jazz (review)


Prairie jazz wins the Grand Prix de Jazz (review)

Hutchinson Andrew Trio
Scène TD de la place des Festivals
Montreal Jazz Festival
Friday, July 5, 2013 – 6 p.m.

The Hutchinson Andrew Trio brought their brand of melodic, open, Prairie jazz to Central Canada, and walked off with the 2013 Grand Prix de Jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

The trio – Kodi Hutchinson on double bass, Chris Andrew on piano, Karl Schwonik on drums – opened the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 20 on its main stage and also played at Brookstreet Hotel. On July 1, they played on an outdoor stage at the Montreal festival in competition for the award, and on July 5, repeated that show – with big grins – as the winner.

Kodi Hutchinson (bass) at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jam. ©Brett Delmage, 2013The three are all from Alberta – the first band from that province since 1998 to win the Grand Prix award. Although they have played Ottawa and Montreal before in different combinations, this was their first chance to showcase material from a new album, Prairie Modern [Chronograph, 2013]. As Hutchinson told the audience Friday evening, several of the pieces talked about “where we're from – just imagine you're sitting on top of a mountain.”

The Friday show also featured Montreal saxophonist André Leroux, whose rich and intense sound on tenor and soprano sax complemented the trio. On Andrew's composition “Waltz for Clay”, Leroux began the piece with a slow, eloquent line on soprano, bringing out the song's theme of remembrance and sadness. After a quiet bass solo, he reentered for a longer exploration of the theme, Andrew replied on piano, and they ended the piece in unison.

Read more: Prairie jazz wins the Grand Prix de Jazz (review)


Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates 20th Anniversary with World Artist Summit Sep 3-8

Guelph Jazz Festival - celebrating 20 years

The Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary from September 3 to 8, 2013. New this year is a “World Artist Summit”, which will include improvisers from France, India, South Korea, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, the US, and Canada - including Ottawa.

In a world where jazz festivals have become increasingly similar, the Guelph festival's unwavering artistic vision - implemented by focused music programming, a wide-ranging academic, yet accessible, colloquium, and an adventurous and packed Nuit Blanche - continues to sustain this festival as one of the more interesting and creative music festivals in Canada.

Highly-respected musicians who were not heard during 'cross-Canada jazz festival week' at the end of June/start of July will headline Guelph this year. Tenor legend Pharoah Sanders will play in two ensembles led by Rob Mazurek: The Chicago Underground Duo on September 7 and the São Paulo Underground on September 8. Sanders, reportedly described by Ornette Coleman as "probably the best tenor player in the world" is a notable pioneer in free jazz.

Read more: Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates 20th Anniversary with World Artist Summit Sep 3-8


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