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Friends, colleagues pay tribute to Jacques Emond on special "Swing is in the Air"

Ron Sweetman, Joe Reilly, and Bernard Stepien (with sax) on-air during the Jacques Emond tribute show on CKCU-FM ©Brett Delmage, 2013

CKCU Tribute to Jacques Emond
Aired: Sunday January 20, 16:00 – 17:30 on CKCU FM 93.1 FM
Also available at CKCU On Demand on the Internet

Long-time jazz colleagues and friends of the late Jacques Emond gathered around the microphone at CKCU-FM on January 20 to pay tribute to him on “Swing is in the Air”. Emond had hosted the show for more than 30 years before suddenly passing away on January 6.

Fellow CKCU jazz radio show hosts, jazz journalists, Ottawa Jazz Festival staff, and jazz musicians spoke passionately about their experiences, friendships with, and respect for Jacques Emond. Their reminiscences easily filled the ninety minute show. Show host Joe Reilly and guests collectively shared more than 150 years of memories with their radio and Internet listeners. The recollections were interspersed with live and recorded jazz which had personal meanings and connections to Emond and his favourite jazz artists.

“He knew everybody, everybody knew him,” said Maurizio Ortolani, a former Executive Director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the New Media Producer at the National Arts Centre. Ortolani described how a short walk with Emond at a NYC jazz educators conference became a very slow trip, as many people who knew Emond over the years came up to chat enthusiastically with him – and Emond remembered them all.

“For someone with dimunitive stature, he was the big man on campus.”

Read more: Friends, colleagues pay tribute to Jacques Emond on special "Swing is in the Air"


Cory Weeds Quartet with Steve Davis: remembering music and musicians past

Steve Davis' trombone style was smooth and intense. Ken Lister provided clear, strong bass lines. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Cory Weeds Quartet with Steve Davis
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage

View the photo gallery

Mid-way through his Ottawa concert, saxophonist Cory Weeds slowed down the blues and bop to acknowledge the three unexpected losses from the Canadian jazz community this month.

He first remembered Ottawa's Jacques Emond and Toronto's Del Dako, but it was clearly the death of Vancouver saxophonist Ross Taggart which had hit him the hardest. Taggart had been both his mentor and his close friend, and a musician he'd played with many times.

In remembrance, the band played Taggart's composition, “Thinking of You”. Weeds opened with a slow, sad line on tenor sax, and Steve Davis similarly responded on trombone. It was a reflective ballad, with strong piano chords underpinning it (Taggart played both piano and sax professionally), and attracted strong applause.

Although quite different in style from most of the repertoire that night, it showed off the strength of the group Weeds had assembled for this cross-continent tour. It was a collaboration of east and west: Weeds, pianist Tilden Webb, bassist Ken Lister, and drummer Jesse Cahill, all from Vancouver, and trombonist Steve Davis from New York City.

Read more: Cory Weeds Quartet with Steve Davis: remembering music and musicians past


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)


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