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A tuba (and jazz) fantasia with the Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet (review)

The Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

I admit it: I'm prejudiced in favour of the tuba. I've always found that instrument's deep sound to be rich and beautiful and wonderfully resonant in a room. I've enjoyed the very occasional times I've heard American tuba masters like Howard Johnson.

Keith Hartshorn-Walton (tuba) listens to Michel Delage (drums) in their Live @ Record Runner show ©Brett Delmage, 2017

But opportunities to hear the tuba in a jazz context in Ottawa have been rare – until Keith Hartshorn-Walton moved here in 2015. As he's gradually increased his performances with a variety of local jazz groups, we've had more chances to hear the tuba in unexpected places. This concert, though, was his first show as leader.

By the end of the show, you could see why Hartshorn-Walton is such an advocate for the tuba and its abilities, as he deployed it in roles ranging from lead horn to bass background, and did full justice to a wide variety of classic jazz pieces.

For this show, he teamed up with three well-known Ottawa jazz musicians: John Geggie on double bass, Michel Delage on drums, and Peter Hum on keyboards. Hum also contributed two of his own recent original pieces to the set list.

For the remainder, Hartshorn-Walton picked jazz standards and classics – a few well-known, but most less commonly heard. Some Latin, some swing, some show tunes, some blues, but primarily enjoyable music that connected with the audience, and gave all the musicians room to play and innovate.

Read more: A tuba (and jazz) fantasia with the Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet (review)

 

Want to volunteer at the Ottawa Jazz Festival or another summer music festival? Applications are now open

©Brett Delmage, 2010You wouldn’t want to go outside in just a t-shirt and shorts or recline in a lawn chair yet, but local festivals are already looking for volunteers for this summer. Whether you want to sell tickets, usher at concerts, work on stages, or pick up garbage (surprisingly, it can be fun), there’s a volunteer task that you could enjoy doing.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival opened its applications for new volunteers as of March 15. Applications are often only open for a few weeks, so you might want to check out ottawajazzfestival.com/volunteer/ soon.

Opportunities range from selling tickets to driving musicians to stage crew to selling beer to access control at the different venues. By volunteering, you also become a voting member of the festival, and can move motions and vote on its board of directors at its yearly AGM.

You can also volunteer now for the Ottawa Chamberfest in late July/early August. That festival needs people for ushering, stage crew, box office, driving, and distributing publicity material. More information and the application form is at www.chamberfest.com/support/volunteer/ .

Bluesfest, in early July, will be asking for volunteers starting May 24. They're accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can only pick one volunteer task. See https://volunteers.ottawabluesfest.ca/volunteer/ for more information and a list of the possible tasks, ranging from fundraising to selling beer to parking bikes.

Read more: Want to volunteer at the Ottawa Jazz Festival or another summer music festival? Applications are now open

 

John Stetch to reimagine classical compositions at 2017 Ottawa Chamberfest

Jazz pianist John Stetch will continue his rethinking of classical concertos and sonatas in a concert at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Chamberfest) this summer.

John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016The festival today unveiled 15 of the shows which it will present from July 22 to August 4 – primarily from the core classical repertoire, but also including crossover concerts with jazz, the Beatles, contemporary pop, and film music, as well as interpretations of Canada's Arctic and unexpected takes on musicals and audiovisual performance. The remainder of the line-up will be revealed in April.

OttawaJazzScene.ca learned after the announcement that Toronto jazz pianist David Braid will also appear at the festival.

On July 26, Stetch will perform at La Nouvelle Scène in a show entitled “Classical Meets Jazz”. The festival says he will blend “dashes of classical” along with his “percussive and improvisational brand of piano playing”.

Stetch, who began his jazz career in Alberta but has lived and worked in or near NYC for decades, is a prolific original composer. His most recent CD is Improvisations [2015], an album of “unedited and un-premeditated solo improvisations”.

Read more: John Stetch to reimagine classical compositions at 2017 Ottawa Chamberfest

 

Ottawa jazz focuses on Canada in March, leading up to the Junos

Updated with new events added on March 15, 2017
At the end of March, many Canadians will look to Ottawa for the Juno Awards and all its associated concerts here. But that's only the climax of a month of fine Canadian jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau.

The Stretch Orchestra return to Ottawa with genre-bending music March 3&4 ©Brett Delmage, 2015With music ranging from big bands and swing, to tributes to vocalists like Nat King Cole and Joni Mitchell, to improvisation that pushes the boundaries, it's a diverse month – with a bit of extra push due to Juno concert microgrants. And to top it off, there's a CD release from David Renaud, a companion to his first duo record with Brian Browne.


We would like to thank GigSpace Performance Studio, Alrick Huebener, Marie Fleming, and Record Runner Rehearsal Studios whose donations made this unique March jazz highlights report possible.

OttawaJazzScene.ca’s reporting is made possible by reader donations. By becoming a donor you can help OttawaJazzScene.ca shine a spotlight on the scene every month of the year.


March begins with a blast – of horns, as Ed Lister premieres his new Prime Rib big band at Irene's on March 1. Lister has gathered together ten other well-known local jazz musicians to play mainly his own original material with a few covers thrown in. While Lister is better known for the funkier music of ERU-ERA or the Chocolate Hot Pockets, he's also a big fan of the swing classics (read our review of his Ellington tribute concert). He says that the style of this new band is “very much rooted in big band swing in the style of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk”.

Read more: Ottawa jazz focuses on Canada in March, leading up to the Junos

 

Simon Denizart Trio wins over NAC audience with energetic, multi-faceted jazz

The Simon Denizart Trio
NAC Presents
National Arts Centre, Back Stage
Saturday, March 4, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

At their NAC première, the Simon Denizart Trio easily won over their audience with original music produced with liveliness and zest. From their first song onwards, the Montreal jazz trio's pieces evoked strong applause, and culminated in a standing ovation.

Simon Denizart on piano, Jeanne Corpataux on double bass, and Simon Bellemare on drums kept the energy level high and the musical interplay intense at their NAC premiere March 4. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Their music was a celebration – and an expansion – of the classic jazz piano trio form, with each piece taking an initial musical idea and stretching it, while retaining accessible melodies and rhythms. The trio released their second album, Beautiful People, last November, and, at this concert, performed all the tracks from that album, plus two songs from their first CD, Between Two Worlds.

The audience's warm reception wasn't because of familiarity – these pieces hadn't previously been performed in Ottawa. And while the trio is well-known in Quebec and has toured twice across Europe, Ottawa is the only city in Canada outside Quebec they've ever played in.

Denizart is the composer in the group, but all three musicians – Denizart on piano, Jeanne Corpataux on double bass, and Simon Bellemare on drums – contributed substantially to the sound. It was a highly interactive 90-minute show, with the music flowing easily among the musicians.

Read more: Simon Denizart Trio wins over NAC audience with energetic, multi-faceted jazz

 

French pianist Simon Denizart is inspired by new culture & new musicians in Quebec

Some Canadians might dream of living in Europe, but French pianist Simon Denizart went in the opposite direction. For Denizart, Quebec has been the exotic new land where his jazz career has flourished.

The Simon Denizart Trio (l-r: Simon Bellemare, Simon Denizart, Jeanne Corpataux) performs its first formal Canadian concert outside Quebec at the NAC on March 4 ©2016 Brett DelmageRaised in Créteil, a suburb of Paris, Denizart moved to Montreal in 2011. In 2014, his trio won the people's favourite award at the Festi Jazz International de Rimouski. They've released two albums, toured extensively throughout Quebec and appeared at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and made two tours of Europe, going as far afield as Poland and the Czech Republic.

Radio-Canada named Denizart their Révélation Jazz selection for 2016/2017. It's a considerable honour which has boosted the careers of previous picks.

On Saturday, he'll perform his first formal concert in Canada outside Quebec, when NAC Presents brings his trio to the National Arts Centre Back Stage.

Read more: French pianist Simon Denizart is inspired by new culture & new musicians in Quebec

 

GigSpace Jazz MicroFest puts the local into International Jazz Day

Updated March 5, 2017
GigSpace will celebrate International Jazz Day in April with a new three-day festival promoting Ottawa's jazz musicians.

GigSpace 2017 MicrFest logoThe GigSpace Jazz MicroFest will debut on April 28 to 30, with performances by 38 local musicians in 15 shows. The music will range from well-known and not-so-standard jazz standards, to groove based compositions, to folk and roots-inspired cabaret music, to lyrical modern jazz originals. The musicians will be familiar to readers of OttawaJazzScene.ca: many are popular names with long jazz careers here.

“It's a community-building effort,” said Marilee Townsend-Alcorn, the artistic director of the 45-seat concert venue. “It's raising the profile of the musicians in Ottawa. It's showing that we do have stellar musicians in our midst, playing at a very high level.”

The festival is a project that the GigSpace organizers have been wanting to undertake ever since they opened. “Probably every time there's a jazz festival, someone says, 'Wouldn't it be nice to just have Ottawa-only musicians? A festival for just the Ottawa people.' And we've all said that for five years,” she said.

GigSpace director and guitarist Tim Bedner in particular has been driving the project. With Canada's 150th birthday this year, “He really put the push on. 'Let's make it happen!'”

Read more: GigSpace Jazz MicroFest puts the local into International Jazz Day

 

The Stretch Orchestra (video)

©2016 Brett DelmageThe Stretch Orchestra is back in Ottawa on Friday, for two shows at GigSpace Performance Studio that may end up as a live recording.

The group, with Kevin Breit on guitars and mandolin, Jesse Stewart on percussion, and Matt Brubeck on cello, creates music that is energetic, complex, and fun, coming out of their joint background as jazz improvisers but drawing from almost every genre imaginable to create their very individual sound.

OttawaJazzScene.ca's Inside the Scene interviewed all three at their last show in Ottawa at Ontario Scene in 2015. It was very difficult to keep a straight face. And you can see what makes their music uniquely theirs in excerpts from their NAC Fourth Stage performance.

– Brett Delmage

Related: The Stretch Orchestra makes jazz bend [interview with Matt Brubeck]

Watch the Inside the Scene video story

 

Jazz tuba advocate Keith Hartshorn-Walton blows his own horn

Keith Hartshorn-Walton is behind the tuba and he'll be out front at his concert on Friday ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Keith Hartshorn-Walton is an advocate for the jazz tuba, but he’ll blow his own horn when he leads a group for the first time in Ottawa this Friday. His unusual quartet will also feature John Geggie on double bass, Michel Delage on drums, and Peter Hum on keyboard.

Ottawa listeners have heard Hartshorn-Walton play front-line tuba in a variety of groups in the past year: in Safe Low Limit, with his wife and vocalist Mélanie Hartshorn-Walton, and in various jams. Some might be surprised that he is a multi-instrumentalist.

“Since moving to Ottawa, it's been my pleasure to just really focus on the tuba,” Hartshorn-Walton said. “But when I was living near Toronto I was playing a piano, tuba, bass, bass trombone, and organ in churches. So that's a lot of different instruments.”

Not to mention the tuba’s cousin, the sousaphone, which he plays in Mike Essoudry's Bank Street Bonbons.

Hartshorn-Walton says he’s always aspired to play the tuba as a front-line instrument.

“It's something I always wanted to do, from the very beginning almost, and having more and more chances to do it. But you have to make those chances happen – you can't wait around. No one's going to call you. You show them it's possible, and then they're interested.”

“That's what I did here. I started going to the jam sessions and playing a bit – and more projects started happening. But you always have to be a bit of an advocate for it. Any other tuba player has done that. They tend to be evangelizing about the tuba all the time,” he said, laughing.

As other musicians have been, he was introduced to his uncommon instrument of choice by an early school experience.

“I started piano at age 6. Then when it came time to start band, they wanted to put me originally on electric bass and drums but I wanted to take an instrument home like everybody else, so I took a tuba home. And I surprised my parents with it one day. That was in Grade 7. And I've never stopped.”

Read more: Jazz tuba advocate Keith Hartshorn-Walton blows his own horn

 

Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG play approachable yet complex jazz

Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG Duo
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios, Ottawa
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The minimalist configuration of tenor sax and keyboards is not your usual jazz group. Most musicians would add a rhythm section of bass and drums and possibly another horn. But Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG (Michaud-Gagnon) showed that the two instruments could speak very well together in an intimate show in Ottawa.

 ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Saxophonist Maskell and pianist Gentiane MG met through McGill University, where both are currently studying in the demanding Masters in Jazz Performance program. They've played several shows together in Montreal, and demonstrated an easy camaraderie in this show, which was Gentiane MG's Ottawa debut.

This was also only the second show in the Live @ Record Runner series. The Record Runner Rehearsal Studios are somewhat hidden away in the west-end Colonnade Road business park, which was bleak and dark that January evening and could have used street numbers more visible from the road. However, there is regular OC Transpo service to the park, with bus stops right at the building. Once inside, the studios were notably warm and welcoming, and even offered refreshments at the intermission.

The concert was held in a cozy and comfortable 37-seat “Great Room”. Record Runner owner Paul Adjeleian has made a point of designing good acoustics and sound separation into the studios. Gentiane MG’s keyboard sounded clear and warm using the room's built-in speakers. The room was full, including some of Maskell's friends and family from Ottawa.

The set list was primarily standards, but performed with intense attention. The duo began with “Gemma”, a ballad by Maskell which he's performed in other Ottawa shows. It contrasted rough-edged saxophone with quiet piano in an expressively romantic piece.

I liked how Gentiane MG opened “Solar”, with careful, spacious piano lines reminding me of a nursery rhyme – and then gradually modulating into a more resonant and emotional rendition. Maskell's saxophone entered quietly, and they embarked on a thoughtful conversation, finding variations in the piece's theme.

Read more: Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG play approachable yet complex jazz

 

The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet evokes the elegance and beauty of Jobim's music

The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet: “Happy Birthday, Tom!”
Doors Open For Music at Southminster
Southminster United Church, Ottawa
Wednesday, January 23, 2017 – 12 noon to 1 p.m.

To many North Americans, the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim is synonymous with Brazilian jazz. With his Grammy-winning albums in the 60s and his elegant melodies and subtle bossa rhythms, he created such a recognizable sound that it defined a genre.

In Brazil, he's an icon. In fact, one of the mascots for the Rio Olympics was named “Tom” (the Brazilian nickname for Jobim) after a public vote.

While everyone's heard “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Corcovado” (Quiet Nights), Jobim also wrote many other memorable songs which are not as well known. And, sung in the original Portuguese, his melodies sound even more fluidly beautiful.

It was, therefore, a real treat to have Ottawa vocalist Rachel Beausoleil sing an entire programme of Jobim in Portuguese, for a concert at Southminster United Church in their Wednesday noon series. She was accompanied by guitarist Garry Elliott, bassist Mark Alcorn, and drummer Marilee Townsend-Alcorn.

Beausoleil is currently writing her doctoral thesis on “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB), a major genre of Brazilian music which includes Jobim's compositions. She's made three extended trips to Brazil in order to take classes from master vocalists, attend conferences, and perform with musicians there – and gained considerable fluency in Portuguese and knowledge of Jobim's music.

Read more: The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet evokes the elegance and beauty of Jobim's music

 

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