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How do you run a successful jazz club? We ask The Cellar's Cory Weeds

You can't ever relax when managing a jazz club, according to Vancouver club owner and musician Cory Weeds.

A pillar of the Canadian jazz scene: Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club  photo:Doug RandleWeeds bought the Cellar Jazz Club in 2000. It has appeared five times on Downbeat's list of the world’s top 100 jazz clubs, and is a pillar of the Vancouver, and Canadian, jazz scene. It offers jazz from local, Canadian, and international musicians, usually seven nights a week. Some better-known acts who have appeared or are scheduled to appear there include: Christian McBride, Russell Malone, Renee Rosnes, David 'Fathead' Newman, Tom Harrell, Benny Golson, and Kenny Garrett.

But that doesn't make it a fully secure proposition, nor is it likely that any jazz club can be that.

“We're never out of the water. I think there's a misconception that if you can get past the first five or six years or whatever it happens to be that you're home free. We're never, ever home free. Never. Not after 12 years, not after 14 years, probably not after 20. We're always two or three bad weekends away from being in trouble and that's just the way it is running a jazz club, at least the kind of jazz club we run.”

Which may be one reason why he excoriated jazz students in late 2012 for not showing up to live jazz shows.

Read more: How do you run a successful jazz club? We ask The Cellar's Cory Weeds


Cory Weeds swings across the country and into Ottawa

Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds is ambivalent whether he wants jazz master Lou Donaldson to be at the last show of his current tour.

His tour, which includes an Ottawa stop on Wednesday, January 23, will feature Weeds with three well-known Vancouver musicians and NYC trombonist Steve Davis, playing what Weeds describes as “straight ahead, hard swinging” jazz.

Cory Weeds  photo by Steve MynettIn fact, in the same tradition as Donaldson, especially his recordings on alto sax in the 1960s with Art Blakey.

Weeds has had Donaldson play at his Vancouver jazz club, The Cellar. “He's the closest to bebop I'll ever get. He was playing with Clifford Brown and Art Blakey and those guys in like 1955. He's a crusty old dude and he's opinionated as they come.”

And for a self-confessed hard bopper like Weeds, he's someone to look up to. Others agree: Donaldson was named a Jazz Master in 2013 by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.

Weeds said he learned recently from a mutual friend that Lou Donaldson had heard his latest CD, Up A Step, which is a tribute to Hank Mobley. His friend relayed Donaldson: “You tell Cory he's got a good record there. That's a good record. He sounded really good. You tell him that."

Weeds' friend then reported that he “was floored because Lou never says that.”

The tour, which started on January 9 in Portland, Oregon, covers Washington state, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New York state, and Connecticut, before ending in New York City on January 30.

And it's at that last show, at the Smoke Jazz Club, where Donaldson might show up.

Which leaves Weeds feeling both excited and a little nervous. “People are starting to see my name, like my musician friends who play [at Smoke] are starting to see my name on the calendar and they're like, 'Cory, we hear you're coming to Smoke, we're going to come down and check it out'. That's great and I know they're doing it to be supportive, but it's also making me a little nervous, because you never know who's going to show up there.”

Read more: Cory Weeds swings across the country and into Ottawa


Remembering Jacques Emond's life-long love of jazz

The best place to find Jacques Emond was at a live jazz concert, where he'd generally be sitting there beaming, just enjoying and appreciating the performance. A life-long jazz fan, he never got tired of the music and tried to communicate that love to others.

And if it was a big band concert, even more so.

Founding Programming Manager Jacques Emond was the main MC for Ottawa Jazz Festival performances for decades. ©Brett DelmageEmond, the founding programming manager of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, died suddenly on Sunday, January 6, 2013, after suffering a stroke. He was 78. He had been scheduled to broadcast his long-running jazz radio show, Swing is in the Air on CKCU-FM, that afternoon.

Emond set the sound for the Ottawa Jazz Festival for more than 25 years. Starting in the early 1980s and particularly from 1991 until his retirement in 2010, he promoted the best of new up-and-comers from Canada and beyond, showed off the skills of jazz veterans, produced blockbuster shows with artists like Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, and Diana Krall, and introduced Ottawa-Gatineau music lovers to an amazing range of jazz.

“It was through his efforts and his knowledge and the way he was respected by musicians all over the world with whom he either dealt with directly or through their agents,” said Ottawa jazz critic Lois Moody. “He'd obviously established a great rapport, and was able to, in spite of him being rather a timid guy, he was able to do all of that kind of negotiation and everybody dealt with him with respect. He just had these kind of quiet, honest qualities that people appreciated.”

Read more: Remembering Jacques Emond's life-long love of jazz


Local jazz fans pack the house for last Monday jazz night at Le Petit Chicago

Curiosity Killed the Quartet (l-r: Joe Hincke, Steve Bilodeau, Zakari Frantz) played its final (for now) performance at Le Petit Chicago on January 14 ©Brett Delmage, 2013View photos of the evening

The first anniversary of Curiosity Killed the Quartet's weekly shows at Le Petit Chicago attracted a packed house Monday night.

Unfortunately, it was also the end of that Monday late-night run – for now. But, as quartet leader Zakari Frantz told the crowd, "We are coming back." The club has said that it hopes to bring the band back in a few months.

Well over 50 people were present for the first set, and it was a listening crowd, attentive to the music. The quartet opened at 10:30 p.m. with a series of four standards. They started with "Body and Soul" and stretched each piece out into an extended 15-minute improvisation.

Most of the audience were local amateur and professional jazz musicians, ranging in age from the mid 20s to over 60. During the second set, many were invited up to jam, with musicians rotating on and off the stage one by one, allowing the line-up to morph while the music continued uninterrupted for 90 minutes. Particular highlights were trombonist Steve Berndt in a bluesy duo with Frantz, and trumpeters Kelly Craig and Ed Lister alternating lines.

Read more: Local jazz fans pack the house for last Monday jazz night at Le Petit Chicago


What's inside Chocolate Hot Pockets ?

The Chocolate Hot Pockets CD release party is this Friday (January 18).

The members of the Chocolate Hot Pockets - Alex Moxon (guitar), Jamie Holmes (drums), J.P Lapensée (bass), Ed Lister (trumpet) - have been some of the hardest-working young jazz musicians in Ottawa-Gatineau in the past few years. Hardly a week has gone by in the past few years without our listings including one of them, and usually a combination of them, playing in a local restaurant or club.

Chocolate Hot Pockets live at Atomic Rooster ©Brett Delmage, 2012The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra's rhythm section took a big hit this fall after Moxon, Holmes and Lapensée completed their 'senior year' and had to leave to make room for younger members. Since then, the three Carleton University music graduates and Lister have not wasted any time getting their latest project cooking. Chocolate Hot Pockets' first CD will be released on January 18, 2013.

We talked with all four band members about their highly varied musical influences and how this has combined into the Chocolate Hot Pockets' sound. Our interview also includes music samples from their November and December live performances.

    – Brett Delmage

Watch the video

Read more: What's inside Chocolate Hot Pockets ?


Our favourite shows (Ottawa-Gatineau jazz in 2012)

One “problem” with the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene in 2012 was choice. There were many really great artists playing in and visiting Ottawa-Gatineau and one simply didn't have the time or energy to hear them all. Here's a few that we remember...

2012 was jam-packed with jazz. The John MacLeod Big Band at Carleton University Jazz Camp was part of it.   ©Brett Delmage, 2012

What were your favourites and shows you wish you hadn't missed in 2012? Share your thoughts with other jazz fans on our Facebook discussion group, or email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Alayne McGregor, editor: My first cut at this list contained almost 20 concerts. Just assume that all the ones Brett lists I enjoyed too, and more! We are blessed in Ottawa with our own strong jazz musicians and composers, and placed as we are between Toronto and Montreal, and with many embassies here, we're lucky enough to get an amazing range of musicians. But even beyond that, I wouldn't have expected a poetry series to bring in the CCMC, one of Canada's iconic free improvising groups, or to hear the fascinating story of how a German audiophile collaborated with Oscar Peterson, or to see labours of love like Rob Frayne's Dream Band.

Read more: Our favourite shows (Ottawa-Gatineau jazz in 2012)


Bill Coon and Tim Bedner attract record crowd to ZenKitchen's jazz brunch

Jazz writer Lois Moody listens to Tim Bedner and Bill Coon play for a record-sized brunch crowd at ZenKitchen ©Brett Delmage, 2012Vancouver guitarist Bill Coon dropped into Ottawa this weekend, teaming up with Ottawa guitarist Tim Bedner for an end-of-the-year jazz brunch at ZenKitchen. A record crowd – Zen tweeted they served more than 75 people – came to listen to the duo play and extend jazz standards, while enjoying the vegan taste sensations.

It was a true duet: Coon and Bedner easily switched leads and picked up each others' cues, moving in and out of the melodies. And the audience was clearly listening, with little conversation disrupting the music.

ZenKitchen started offering occasional jazz brunches last July; this was the fifth in their series.


Oswald, Thomson, Stewart play engaging improvisations at final 2012 IMOO concert

View photos of this concert

Overcoming jams (of the traffic kind) on highway 401, drummer Jesse Stewart made sure he returned from Toronto in time to play with Toronto alto saxophonist John Oswald and trombonist Scott Thomson at IMOO on Sunday, December 30, because, as he told the audience, it was a show he did not want to miss.

Scott Thomson (dismantled trombone) and John Oswald (muted alto) played even incomplete instruments to full potential. ©Brett Delmage, 2012While Oswald and Thomson have a regular duo, this was the first time all three had played together. But, as musicians long accustomed to improvisation, they easily fell into sync, playing two sets of free improv in which each of the instruments provided both the rhythm and the melody, and nothing was predictable. When Thomson played sweeping bass notes on his trombone, Oswald countered with punctuated high notes. Thompson produced a range of sounds from the light and breathy to conjuring up a full winter snowstorm. Stewart used his sticks in unexpected ways: dropping them together onto an upside down tom or the floor, and banging their ends into drums. Both Thomson and Stewart dismantled their instruments in various ways in order to produce new sounds. Stewart's percussive playing of his upside-down floor tom's legs against the floor led to the first time we've felt an IMOO performance through our feet. All three played a full dynamic range in their music, taking advantage of the near-silent venue and snow-muffled street outside to play to the possibly softest level heard in an IMOO concert. It was a concert which explored musical edges yet was still approachable.

Read more: Oswald, Thomson, Stewart play engaging improvisations at final 2012 IMOO concert


Holly Cole Christmas at the NAC (review)

Holly Cole ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Holly Cole Christmas
Thursday, December 20, 2012
National Arts Centre Theatre

View the photo gallery

CBC Radio will broadcast selections from this concert on Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. (Radio 2, 103.3 FM) and on Christmas Day at 6 p.m. (Radio 1, 91.5 FM).

It's a difficult task to pick songs for what's billed as a Christmas concert. Unless you want to remind your audience of school auditoriums, you don't want to go "All carols, all the time" or even all seasonal songs.

Vocalist Holly Cole solved that by salting her concert Thursday night with just enough seasonal music – all impeccably jazz – to justify its Christmas billing, while also including favourite hits and a selection of songs from her latest CD, Night.

During her decades-long career, Cole has gathered many fans, and the enthusiasm was evident in the sold-out theatre even before the music started. Parents had brought their children (some dressed in Christmas finery); others were clearly there for a date night. The concert was being taped by CBC Radio, and announcer Meg Wilcox asked the audience to preview three levels of applause to allow the technicians to calibrate recording levels. You could hear the anticipation, as the loudest applause level reverberated around the NAC Theatre.

Read more: Holly Cole Christmas at the NAC (review)


2013 Geggie series is shorter and starts later, but has the same spirit

Updated January 4, 2012

The 12th season of John Geggie's invitational jazz series will be both shorter and closer to home.

Frank Lozano and Thom Gossage will play in John Geggie's first 2013 concert on Feb. 16. They also played together at the 2012 Montreal jazz festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012The number of concerts in the series has been cut in half (from six to three), and all the musicians will be from central Canada. Nevertheless, Geggie is enthusiastic about the series, which will present several artists who have rarely been heard in Ottawa – and, as usual, in less familiar combinations, playing music they're not necessarily conversant with.

There's “a certain amount of risk involved,” he said. “It's not a packaged thing, as some concerts can be: it's a little bit more on the edge approach.”

This season's Geggie series concerts at the National Arts Centre (NAC) Fourth Stage will include:
• Frank Lozano, Thom Gossage, Jean-Nicolas Trottier (February 16, 2013)
• Roddy Ellias, Pierre Tanguay, David Braid (March 9)
• Tara Davidson, Tim Bedner, William Carn, Jim Doxas (May 25)

Tickets are now on sale, at the same price as last year ($30/show), or all three shows for $80.

In the first concert, three Montrealers will join Geggie and his double bass on stage. While tenor saxophonist Frank Lozano frequently plays here, drummer Thom Gossage has not been in Ottawa for a number of years. And trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier has not been here as a leader at all – although he received the Galaxie Rising Star award at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2003, and has played in many well-known Quebec big bands (including those led by Joe Sullivan, Lorraine Desmarais, Vic Vogel, and Alain Caron).

Read more: 2013 Geggie series is shorter and starts later, but has the same spirit


The Nepean All-City Jazz Band: never accepting "good enough"

Ottawa's vibrant jazz scene is being created by teens, too – as you could hear at a well-attended concert in Barrhaven last Friday with two student big bands.

Neil Yorke-Slader inspires the Nepean All-City Jazz Band in its concert in Barrhaven on Friday, December 7. ©Brett Delmage, 2012Closing the evening was Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB), which provides an opportunity for jazz players aged 15-20 to develop and share their musical talent. Directed by teacher and school administrator Neil Yorke-Slader, it has long since outgrown its Nepean roots, and now draws from right across Ottawa.

Together with the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (OJJB) which performs the same function for 13-15 year-olds, the NACJB stimulates the cream of Ottawa's young jazz musicians into getting even better.

Now in its 26th year, the band is recognized as one of the best in Canada. It's received the Canadian Music Educators' Association's Don Wright Award for excellence in Canadian jazz eight times, most recently in 2011-12. NACJB alumni have gone on to study music at university and make professional careers in jazz.

“What this band is about is creating a platform for [the students in it] to be challenged and inspired by each other,” said Yorke-Slader. “They may not be getting that depending on their high school setting. Most of these kids, for example, they're the best player in their school, so how do they get to the next step? And the only way you get to the next step – it's like in junior hockey, you put the really great 16-year-old on the Ottawa 67s and then he plays with older kids and gets better. That's the journey that I see here.”

Read more: The Nepean All-City Jazz Band: never accepting "good enough"


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