Sicilian Jazz Project
Parc de l'imaginaire
Gatineau (secteur Aylmer), PQ
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Saturday, July 27, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.
The Sicilian Jazz Project, which is back in Ottawa this weekend, demonstrated how well jazz can reach an audience's heart in a performance in an Aylmer park last summer.
Toronto vocalist Dominic Mancuso sang the entire concert in a dialect of Sicilian – but that didn't matter because the songs were about universals like love, work, discrimination, and celebration, and because of the sheer infectiousness, energy, and beauty of the music.
By the end of the show, most of the audience was singing along with Mancuso – and didn't have to stand for the final ovation because they had already got up to dance or sway to the music.
The project is the brainchild of Toronto jazz guitarist/composer Michael Occhipinti, and is based on his own Sicilian family heritage, as well as field recordings made by musicologist Alan Lomax in Sicily in 1954. But as with several of his other projects, Occhipinti used the original folk music only as a starting point, adding his own jazz sensibility, rhythms, arrangements, and improvisation to produce a highly listenable cross-cultural mix.
Two young Ottawa jazz musicians, who made waves here when they were in high school, have brought their new band back for two shows this weekend.
Saxophonists Sam Cousineau and Chris Maskell are now studying at McGill University in Montreal. They've teamed up with three fellow students to push their music to a new level, and they'll show that off at the Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge on Friday and at GigSpace on Saturday.
The quintet came together as part of their schoolwork. But as they rehearsed and wrote music, they realized they “actually have a message we could deliver as a band musically,” Maskell said. So they decided to try playing outside their comfortable university envelope and book some of their own gigs, he said.
Audiences will hear mainstream jazz with a strong framework of bebop (Cousineau is a big fan of Cannonball Adderley). And they may also hear the influence of the Juno-Award-winning Montreal composer and bandleader Christine Jensen, who guided the group for its first term this year.
We “approach improvisation from a bebop standpoint and we apply that to all of the styles of music that we play. When Sam and I play, mostly bebop language emerges,” Maskell said.
In their music, “there's the pop style, and then there's the standards, and the ECM, but it all has the basic framework of this bebop language. So it's definitely nothing too out there, very much traditional. Sam and I, because we are both influenced by Coltrane, sometimes stretch out to that father-reaching [domain which is] less based upon harmonic language and more upon a feeling. So that is present, too, because when you're really going for it sometimes you tap into that. But it's very much traditional. I feel it's pretty accessible to most people.”
“People always say jazz is so inaccessible and is hard for people to listen to sometimes who don't study jazz or haven't been listening to it for years and years. But we were playing Upstairs once and had an audience member tell us that 'Yes, I really enjoyed that song. It was really fun.'
Ottawa musical improviser, visual artist, found sound artist, and Juno award-winning jazz musician Jesse Stewart launched Winterlude last Friday with its first live performance, "Memories of Ice".
Recorded fragments from ice instruments he built and played at Winterlude in 2011 were combined with live performance on an icy-looking drumset, and his new, electronic instrument that was front-and-centre: the "Reactable". The projection from his manipulation of the Reactable and sound from the performance kept the attentive Confederation Park audience pretty well frozen during the twenty-minute performance, despite the relatively balmy temperature of -9C.
You can catch versions of this improvised performance again at 8 p.m. (20h) this Friday and Saturday (February 7, 8) and again next weekend on February 14, 15 at the Winterlude Confederation Park Stage. It's in the same location as the summer Ottawa Jazz Festival main stage. All performances are free as part of the Winterlude Festival.
Jesse Stewart has some notable (and warmer!) concerts coming up in the next while too. On February 28 he will perform with Jane Bunnett, Roddy Ellias, and John Geggie at GigSpace. On March 14, he will perform as part of the Sonoluminescence Trio with William Parker and David Mott, also at GigSpace.
– Brett Delmage
Full disclosure: Jesse Stewart has licensed photos and videos produced independently by OttawaJazzScene.ca for our own editorial needs.
The 2014 Juno Award nominations, announced February 4, have recognized many jazz musicians whom you could have heard in Ottawa or Gatineau recently.
In the Vocal Jazz category, guitarist Mike Rud's Notes On Montréal, which features singer Sienna Dahlen, is up against albums by Amy McConnell, Erin Propp, and Matt Dusk. Rud is a frequent visitor to Ottawa and introduced many of the songs in this album in a GigSpace concert. As well, the vocal trio of Sonia Johnson, Charles Biddle Jr. & Annie Poulain is nominated for their album Triades; they'll bring that to Gatineau on April 17.
In the Contemporary Jazz category, Trifolia, who appeared at the 2013 Ottawa jazz festival, is nominated for Le Refuge; Brandi Disterheft, who appeared in the NAC Presents series, for Gratitude; Christine Jensen, who will be here for the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, for her big band album, Habitat; and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, who were at the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival, for Brooklyn Babylon.
For Traditional Jazz Album, William Carn and Tara Davidson, who appeared with John Geggie in his Invitational concert at the NAC in May 2013, are nominated for the Carn Davidson 9's album, Nine. Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson introduced their latest album, Look for the Silver Lining, to a very appreciative audience at Chamberfest last July; and it's nominated in this category. (Dwyer will be back in Gatineau March 2 with a trio.) Also in contention is Our Second Set by John MacLeod & His Rex Hotel Orchestra; MacLeod brought his music to the Carleton University Jazz Camp for a concert there in August, 2012. Bassist Mike Downes, who appeared here with Molly Johnson last spring, is nominated for his album Ripple Effect.
A hub for Ottawa-Gatineau's music community, to develop musicians and encourage audiences for all genres of music, including jazz. That's the vision of “FOLKRUM”.
It's the dream of local arts administrator Kim Lymburner, who introduced it at a public meeting January 30. The non-profit project would act as a learning, mentoring, and networking location by day, and a performance space by night, he said. It is planned to include
- a 4500- sq. ft. space, to be used as a meeting space, for workshops, and for musician career development (but not music instruction)
- a 200-seat concert space within the larger space, resizable to smaller spaces as necessary
- a cafe and a bar
According to the group's website, the name FOLKRUM unites “folk” (for community) and “fulcrum” (a point of rest, support, or leverage).
- The Jazz Scene: growing here and shrinking there
- Series come, series go
- People: losses and achievements
- Fewer visiting musicians?
- Festivals brought in new music
- Diverse CDs released
- What you were interested in
- OttawaJazzScene.ca's year in jazz
- Read the complete article
Do you have any comments about Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene in 2013 or this story? Please share them by email or in the OttawaJazzScene.ca Facebook group. We'd be delighted to hear from you!
Depending on how you looked at it the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene was either half empty or half-full in 2013. It was a year of expansion and contraction; it was a year of major achievements and major losses.
A new Afrocentric jazz group will have its second outing Monday, born out of learning a new instrument and the overlap among local jazz groups.
Pierre Chrétien, best known as the keyboardist/composer in the Souljazz Orchestra, started learning and experimenting with the vibraphone last spring. So when his fellow Souljazz member, Zakari Frantz, invited him to curate a Jazz Monday at Le Petit Chicago last October, it seemed like a good opportunity to unveil the vibes in public.
The lineup was Chrétien, plus three members of the Jazz Monday house band: Frantz on alto sax, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Joe Hincke on bass. They were joined for that evening only by Montreal trumpeter Rachel Therrien.
And the vibe that night was so intense and satisfying that they're back this Monday at Le Petit Chicago, with a proper name for the group: the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble. Chrétien has now written originals for the ensemble – “at least a dozen brand-new never-before-heard original tunes”.
He described their music on Facebook as a “musical collision, in the middle of the Atlantic, between North American and African streams of jazz, resulting in a new, previously unknown world of sounds. Deep, spiritual, and modal excursions for the true jazz lovers out there.”
For Monday, they'll just be a quartet, but Frantz said they would be joined by trumpeter Ed Lister when he returns from cruise ship work in a few months.
Their first show attracted a full house to Le Petit Chicago on October 28, 2013, and filled the Gatineau bar with grooving, complex music.
Ottawa audiences will get the very first chance to hear a new trio this weekend – featuring three musicians active in jazz and chamber music scenes.
Guitarist Roddy Ellias, multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura, and cellist Andrew Downing have formed a trio called trekan. They'll play chamber jazz, with perhaps a touch of bluegrass and Turkish music, at GigSpace on Saturday.
This will be their first public performance, Ellias told OttawaJazzScene.ca, although they recorded a three-song demo together three to four months ago and have been talking and sending around music since.
Saturday will also be a rare chance for Ottawa listeners to hear Cancura in concert. Despite regularly returning to Ottawa from Brooklyn for his job as programming manager of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, he hasn't performed publicly in Ottawa since last June's festival, and infrequently before then in the past five years. Downing, from Toronto, has visited Ottawa regularly in the last year, playing in groups led by Nick Fraser, Jayme Stone, and David Occhipinti.
Ellias said he really enjoyed playing with Cancura and Downing.
“They're both really good writers. They're both really good improvisers, who listen, and we have similar aesthetics. We like a wide variety of things and we like to take chances and do different things and like free playing. And we're very compatible people, which is important.”
Cancura and Ellias have had a longstanding arrangement to play together whenever Cancura's in Ottawa.
“He's in town once a month so he comes over to my house and we play. We love doing a duo, but we thought it would be nice to maybe make this into a trio. And we racked our brains and came up with Andrew. I'd been wanting to do something with Andrew and he with me for a long time, and I think Petr had already done some work with him, so it turns out to be a great fit,” Ellias said.
With a broad grin, a strong sense of rhythm, and deft fingers, pianist Clayton Connell has made an increasing place for himself in the Ottawa jazz scene over the last few years. And now he's about to try his luck in Europe, after winning a major scholarship and entrance to a renowned Austrian university.
But he'd sure like the help and attention of Ottawa jazz lovers first, for a concert on Wednesday.
It's the graduation recital for his B.Music degree at Carleton University. But as you can tell from the title – Jazz: A Soirée with Clayton Connell – this will be more elaborate than just a final performance adjudication.
He's including horns, a string quartet, and his current jazz ensemble, Sugar Jazz. The concert will be a tribute to the diversity of music taught at Carleton, he said, with a wide range of different styles.
The admission fees will help pay for his next term of studies at a renowned music school in Graz, Austria, from mid-February to early July, where he will study jazz piano.
The Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (University for Music and the Performing Arts) has a “very significant jazz program, the strongest I think in the university world in Europe, certainly that part of Europe and arguably all of Europe,” says Dr. James Wright, the Supervisor of Performance Studies in Carleton's Music Department.
Swirling lines, frenetic melodies, bright rhythms: all those were part of the very different sound of Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio at Le Petit Chicago on December 30.
Wellman – together with drummer Mike Essoudry and bassist Joe Hincke – has melded the folk melodies and styles of the Balkans with the klezmer/free jazz style of John Zorn's Masada to create fast-paced and energetic music. The nearest comparison? In Ottawa it would be the Mash Potato Mashers – which Essoudry leads and Wellman plays in – although that is more marching band music.
Combined with the group's original compositions (with titles like “The Trickle Down Doesn't Get Very Far” and “Below the Poverty Line”), it was an intense set list that kept the crowd at the Gatineau bar primarily listening and applauding appreciatively.
Essoudry changed his drum kit for the set, replacing his regular snare and tom with higher-pitched versions, substituting a greater number of smaller cymbals for normal large ones, and adding a tambourine on top of his hi-hat – all of which created a sound quite different from his usual jazz style. Wellman on alto sax and Hincke on bass also reflected very different Balkan rhythms in their playing.
A few days before Christmas, three Ottawa jazz vocalists teamed up with three local jazz instrumentalists to benefit a venue they enjoy performing at: GigSpace Performance Studio.
Despite two huge snowstorms that walloped Ottawa in the previous few days, Elise Letourneau, Karen Oxorn, and Nicole Ratté, presented Jazzin' the Holidays to a capacity audience. Performing songs ranging from traditional carols to Christmas favourites to songs which have become jazz standards, from serious to humorous, and in both English and French, they gave each their own twist.
GigSpace board member and concert bassist Mark Alcorn said the fundraising event raised more than $1100. Fellow board member and guitarist Tim Bedner said that GigSpace is becoming more popular with local and touring musicians, with events booked as far away as June, 2014.
OttawaJazzScene.ca was there and recorded the concert to give you a taste of the experience. Watch our video after the turn.
Find out more about GigSpace and how to make a donation (it's a registered charity) at gigspaceottawa.com
– Alayne McGregor
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- Our 2011 recap: jazz and improvisation probe the boundaries in Ottawa
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- The 2011 OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Listener Survey Results
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- One fewer stage at the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival
- Jazz Festival workshops gone
- 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup: what's on
- Inside the Scene: The Matt Aston Trio at Café Nostalgica
- Carleton University Contemporary Music Ensemble fills the Umi Café
- Pauline Oliveros and Jesse Stewart present unique concert on St. Patrick's Day
- The Denisons: a family playing jazz together
- Jazz in the woods attracts a large and quiet audience
- A tribute to Bill Jupp's lasting influence
- New Ottawa venue Flamingo wants to showcase jazz musicians
- Jesse Stewart talks about the link between art and sound
- Ottawa Jazz Festival names Petr Cancura as new programming director
- Our most memorable Ottawa-Gatineau jazz shows in 2010
- Peter Hum on the other side of the keyboards
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