The Ottawa Jazz Festival lost $28,913 in 2012, primarily due to a 16% drop in box office revenues compared to 2011, according to the financial statements presented to the festival's 2012 annual general meeting.
Unsurprisingly, money was the main topic of conversation at the lightly-attended AGM on November 22.
In fact, it was practically the only topic, since the festival decided to drop the Programming Committee report to the AGM, and other reports only briefly mentioned the music presented in 2012. Unlike in previous years, there were no hints of what artists or concert formats might be expected for 2013. Festival programming manager Petr Cancura did not attend.
Festival attendance, at 291,000, slipped below 2011 and 2010 levels (295,000 in 2011 and 292,000 in 2010). In contrast, the Vancouver Jazz Festival increased its attendance by 30,000 (5%) in 2012; the Montreal Jazz Festival broke even in 2012 although it had a 3% drop in ticket sales.
Box office revenues dropped from $782,447 in 2011 to $654,835 in 2012, despite increases ranging from 5.3 to 9.4% in the price of festival passes this year.
Festival president Rick Brooks attributed the drop to tough economic times. “It's hard what's going on in Ottawa with cutbacks in the government and how that impacts a lot of our members. It's hard to find dollars that people have that they can afford to spend on tickets. … We wish our [financial] numbers had been higher than they were, I wish there hadn't been a $29,000 loss, but I think that's an indication of the economy.”
Festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady said that “things come in cycles, and some years are better to us than others”, and the festival will certainly try to not to have a deficit again. She said that the best-selling concert at the 2012 festival was the double bill of Ziggy Marley and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers: “a wonderful night of great music, great weather, and lots of laughs.”
Unlike in previous years, the festival did not separately tally the revenue from the summer festival and from the winter concert series, but instead lumped all the ticket revenue together.
Tim Bedner waited decades before he felt fully ready to release his first CD this fall.
The Ottawa guitarist has been studying, teaching, and playing jazz for more than 25 years now, and has appeared on other musicians' recordings and in duo CDs with his wife, vocalist Elise Letourneau. He's one of the most active musicians on the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene, playing with a dizzying variety of artists and venues, as well as hosting a local monthly jazz jam.
But Of Light and Shadow is his first CD as leader and composer – at age 51.
However, the waiting had benefits. Independent reviewers have described the CD as “sonic exploratory, open ended and expansive with a warm natural sound”, and him as “the complete package as a guitarist, and is a skilled composer as well” and “a guitarist who plays with grace and style, never with a force”. A number of independent and college radio stations across Canada and the US have included the CD on their playlists.
The signal to record came to Bedner in late December of 2011, as he composed the four-part suite which opens the album. “Everything came together: the tunes and the idea. I almost feel like I didn't write it. It just came gushing out and I had the guitar in my hand and then was able to write it down at the time.”
How do you keep up a musical connection, when you're living on two continents and more than eight thousand kilometres apart?
For Ottawa singer Rachel Beausoleil, Brazilian guitarist Evandro Gracelli was not only a musician with whom she composed and performed together in groups such as Sol da Capital. He was also someone who empowered her by respecting and loving her singing, and during his temporary stay in Ottawa, taught her about Brazilian music.
But when his two years in Canada were up at the end of 2011, they faced a quandary: how to preserve that creative link, when she was here and he was in Sao Paulo?
But they didn't give up. Rachel visited Brazil this summer for what she hopes will be the first of many reunions, and her trip that ended up being equally important both musically, and for her current work on her PhD about music which crosses borders.
Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet
Thursday, October 11, 2012
October 11 was a cold and rainy day, but fire and warmth reigned at the Centrepointe Theater where Chick Corea and Gary Burton were playing with the Harlem String Quartet.
This concert was the best I have seen in a while. The last Ottawa concerts that excited me this much were Ellias/Copland/Vedady, Monder/Bleckmann, Stretch Orchestra, Mahanthappa’s Apex Band, and The Dave Liebman Group. I have seen Chick a few times and this is the best I had ever seen him play since seeing him in late 2007 in LA with the Elektric band. Victor Wooten was subbing for Pattitucci on that gig. I only had the pleasure of hearing Burton on one other occasion when he played at the Ottawa Jazz Festival with Pat Metheny on an even wetter day in an outdoor concert.
The night was divided into two sets. The first set was a duo between Corea and Burton that started off with a couple of originals and then played some standards that were cleverly and intricately arranged by Corea. The second set was with the Harlem String Quartet. Although it was still jazzy at times, the string quartet brought out Corea’s classical side in the arrangements. The string players didn’t improvise in any tunes other than during their opening tune up which developed into a jam that cued into their first piece of the night.
IMOOfest 2012, Night 1
Friday, October 5, 2012
Club SAW, Arts Court
Improvised music sounds all the same... except when it comes to timbres, textures, colours, instrumentation and just about everything else. OK so really, improvised music sounds all the... different.
The first-ever IMOO Festival exemplified that, with its dynamic groups and experimental spirit. Friday kicked off the first night of festivities at Club SAW. It was the first time IMOO (the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais) had ever held a concert in that space.
It featured Craig Pedersen, Northern Sound Electrical System, Alternator, and Lori Freedman, playing to the most attentive audience I can ever recall seeing: something that Freedman acknowledged by cupping her ear and pointing to the audience with a smile at the end of her set.
Ottawa percussionist, visual artist, jazz musician and Juno award winner Jesse Stewart drew an eager and curious audience into his D.O.M.E (Dynamics of Musical Exploration) outside Arts Court on Thursday evening. Listeners were treated to a forty-minute solo percussion and waterphone concert with laser beams visually modulated by his clear drumset, cymbals, and waterphone and projected onto the walls of the dome. It was an acoustically and visually immersive experience – although perhaps not as immersive as when Stewart played this drumset just above the water of the Plant Bath pool last year, with some listeners enjoying the concert in the pool's water.
The concert was part of the Electric Fields and Mini-Maker Faire festival which continues until Sunday, presenting new ideas and new artworks. On Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Arts Court Theatre, Stewart will participate in the panel discussion "How does space shape sound?"
– Brett Delmage
All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Larry Ochs and Hamid Drake
Guelph Jazz Festival: Nuit Blanche
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Each year, Guelph's Nuit Blanche animates the downtown: in concert halls, art galleries, and smaller spaces like yoga studios that can be turned into improvised performance spaces to eager listeners of improvised music.
And it was in a diminutive yoga studio that the opening act for Nuit Blanche 2012 attracted a jam-packed crowd, with audience members filling every centimetre in the room and even down the hall hoping to hear a few notes, which delayed the start of the show.
They were there to hear the duet of percussionist Hamid Drake and saxophonist Larry Ochs. Both well-known American improvisers had featured in major ways in the ROVA:Ascension show the previous night at the Guelph Jazz Festival. This was a simpler, less structured effort.
But no less sophisticated.
It was an evening which challenged and entertained the listener. While he had brought almost all his drum kit with him, Drake started out by crumpling plastic bags, the light rustling underlying Ochs' up-and-down fast changes on tenor sax. But neither musician stayed with any style for long: Drake moved through hand-drumming to hard sticks work to brushes and mallets and the lightest touch on cymbals. Ochs switched between tenor and soprano sax, sometimes rough, sometimes a thin line circling up and up.
Four sets of musicians reached out to the far boundaries of their instruments at the first day of IMOOfest at Club SAW on Friday.
IMOO co-founder Craig Pedersen opened with some new solo trumpet explorations, adding in percussive effects to lines that waxed and waned in strength. Northern Sound Electrical System combined two guitars with laptop loops for a rich tapestry of sound including glistening high notes near the end. Alternator featured cello, alto sax, bassoon, electric guitar, and lap steel for an ever-changing soundscape that ranged from aggressive to eerie.
And, finally, clarinetist Lori Freedman pushed the upper and lower ranges of her bass clarinet, right from her first attention-grabbing high notes down to the deep, vibrating notes at the end, and even lifting the tall instrument right above her head at one point for a particularly intense solo. She created multiple voices in her playing, and used silence and near-silence as a counterpoint to louder sounds.
For the middle section of her set, she switched to regular clarinet for a low, vibrating riffs which abruptly jumped to extremely high. And, then, after inquiring whether she had been too loud for the audience, she disassembled the instrument and sang through the bell, and then reassembled it partially, leaving out the centre section. The shorter length allowed her to use her hand as a mute, and produce interesting high quavering sounds. It was a highly varied and interesting exploration and was greeted by strong applause at the end.
Freedman appears again tonight for the final day of IMOOfest, conducting and playing with the IMOO Orchestra.
– Alayne McGregor
The inaugural IMOOfest (IMOO - Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais festival) takes place this Friday October 5 and Saturday October 6, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Club SAW [details]. This mini-festival marks the start of the third year of operation for IMOO and the end of two very busy and artistically successful years of this unique local improvised music series.
IMOO co-founders and improvising musicians Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman talked to OttawaJazzScene.ca about IMOOfest, and about the experience of running an improvised music series that has put Ottawa on the map for touring improvisers. We've combined the interview with some photos from past IMOO concerts.
OttawaJazzScene.ca is giving away some free passes to IMOOfest to listeners who are willing to try something new and tell us about the experience. Find out how to apply for free IMOO passes and see links to more stories about IMOO
September 2013: See our story on the 2013-14 NAC Presents lineup.
The National Arts Centre's producer of Variety and Community Programming, Simone Deneau, sang about the 2012-13 “NAC Presents” series of Canadian artists at its official launch on September 25. And singing, specifically jazz vocals (albeit of high calibre), will be the only flavour of jazz that NAC audiences will get for their fix of jazz in the current season.
Straight instrumental jazz is not only absent from NAC Presents, but will also be presented much less by the NAC, with the Geggie Series being dropped from the “NAC Presents” series and returning with only three shows starting in January, half the number of concerts compared to recent seasons.
The eight NAC jazz concerts will present popular, mainstream Canadian vocalists who are generally well-known to and well-regarded by Ottawa-Gatineau listeners. They will have an increased probability of filling the NAC's seats with a broader range of listeners, including those who don't consider themselves jazz fans:
Alex Cuba [November 2-3, 2012/NAC Fourth Stage]: Cuban music crossed with pop, soul and rock. Winner of two Junos (2006 and 2008) in the World Music category.
Amélie et les Singes Bleus [December 6, 2012/NAC Fourth Stage]: French classics in a contemporary, manouche/cabaret interpretation.
Holly Cole Christmas [December 20, 2012/NAC Theatre]: A Canadian vocal jazz icon with a sophisticated style and a long international career, who has influenced many other Canadian jazz vocalists. The lead track of her new CD, Night (to be released in November), is a remake of the James Bond film theme “You Only Live Twice”, music she describes as coming with a wink.
Charles Spearin: The Happiness Project
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre (Cooperators Hall)
Sunday, September 9, 2012
We sing as we talk.
We may not realize it – we may not even be very good at it – but each of us has an inherent cadence in our speech, which reflects our selves, our times, and our personalities. And some of those cadences can carry beautiful melodies.
That realization allowed composer Charles Spearin to create what was the most delightfully surprising concert at the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival.
In 2009, Spearin released The Happiness Project, which went on to win the 2010 Juno for Best Contemporary Jazz Album against a strong field of contenders. The raw material for the project was interviews that Spearin conducted with his neighbours – old and young and from many different backgrounds – about how they saw happiness.
- John Coltrane at the Guelph Jazz Festival (review)
- The gift of reverberation: Colin Stetson and Ben Grossman at the Guelph Jazz Festival (review)
- Huntsville: louder in Guelph, quieter in Ottawa?
- 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival: around the world and into new places
- You'll lose sleep over Guelph's Nuit Blanche
- Yoxon/Ferguson CD fundraising campaign reaches its goal
- A musical preview of Renée Yoxon's and Mark Ferguson's new CD
- Strong jazz lineup in Ottawa and Gatineau this fall
- Mark Fewer's violin extravaganza at Ottawa Chamberfest (review)
- John MacLeod Big Band (review)
- John MacLeod harnesses the creative energy of a big band with his Rex Hotel Jazz Orchestra
- Riverside (review)
- Carleton U Jazz Camp goes batty presenting a quartet of duos
- 2012 Chamberfest: "a real fascination with jazz"
- Trumpets, Trumpets at IMOO
- Chamber Elements: Many unique ways of listening to improvised music
- FestivAsia brings Jazz to Chinatown this summer
- Thomson, Hood, and Stewart: Poetry in motion at IMOO
- Rachel Therrien develops new sounds at IMOO
- Notes in Triplicate's world premiere at Avant-Garde
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