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From hypnotic groove to intimate duets: two very different French groups at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (review)

Céline Bonacina Trio
Improv Invitational series: Spotlight on French Jazz
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 27, 2015 – 6 p.m.

Airelle Besson and Nelson Veras - Prelude
Improv Invitational series: Spotlight on French Jazz
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 27, 2015 – 8 p.m.

Half an hour into Céline Bonacina's concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, her trio was filling the Fourth Stage with a deep, hypnotic groove. Loud and all-encompassing, the groove was created by her fluid, circling lines on baritone sax, hard drumming, and deep bass notes.

It was typical of a concert that featured standard jazz instruments, but used them in different ways, altered them with effects and looping, and replaced swing with funk rhythms. Bonacina switched among baritone, alto, and soprano sax, and was joined by Olivier Carole, playing a five-string electric bass (with an added deeper string), and Hary Ratsimbazafy on drums.

It was what could only be described as an in-your-face show.

The French saxophonist primarily plays the baritone sax. Now the baritone can be a melodic instrument, or a mainstay of the rhythm section, but Bonacina played it as both. She easily drew out different sounds from it, and repeatedly used circular breathing to create extended vibrating lines. There was almost an element of cognitive dissonance hearing a person so short and slim producing such intense, huge sounds from that saxophone.

Read more: From hypnotic groove to intimate duets: two very different French groups at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (review)

 

Los Gringos brings their own original Latin jazz to the scene (video)

Los Gringos brings their own Latin jazz to a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28   ©2015 Brett DelmageLos Gringos has brought the joy of Latin big band music to Ottawa since the 1990s. Led by drummer Pete Beaudoin and trombonist/composer Mark Ferguson, their concerts feature crisp, complex percussion and driving horn sections.  Most of the material for the nine-member band is original, based on Afro-Cuban rhythms with their own twist.

OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed the two co-leaders at their most recent performance in April. Our video story also includes excerpts of that show.

Los Gringos are performing in a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28 at 2 p.m. on the Laurier Avenue Music Stage, at City Hall. Expect a rousing good time.

    – Brett Delmage

Watch the video

 

Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will not have to vacate Confederation Park during construction in 2016 as it originally feared. The National Capital Commission (NCC) and City Of Ottawa officials informed OttawaJazzScene.ca that they have now scheduled construction to accommodate the festival. The NCC had announced last year that the park would be unavailable, first in 2015 and then in 2016.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will be able to use Confederation Park in 2016, to accomodate 10,500 music fans, as attended the 2010 Dave Brubeck and NAC Orchestra concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2010

At the Ottawa Jazz Festival's annual meeting in November, 2014, executive director Catherine O'Grady stated that that the festival was trying to stay downtown, and was looking at alternate locations including Major's Hill Park during the expected construction next year.

Carina Duclos, Manager of Design and Construction for the City of Ottawa, informed OttawaJazzScene.ca that, “The City is planning to undertake work to rehabilitate a sewer located between Laurier Avenue and the Rideau Canal, adjacent to the Confederation Park (along the ramp from Queen Elizabeth Drive to Laurier Avenue). This work is being coordinated with the NCC and will occur at a time that have as little effect as possible on events organized in the area.”

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all

 

Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday

Wayne Eagles: "most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players"   ©2014 Brett DelmageOttawa guitarist Wayne Eagles has always preferred music with interaction and interplay, where all the musicians are important contributors.

And that's the feel he wants to convey with his group trio \ DEF, and its brand-new album of hard-hitting jazz originals. The trio will debut the album at a free show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Saturday afternoon.

“I would say that most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players. That's always been something I've found intriguing in music, and challenging in music – that communication that flows like a dialogue or has a compositional sense,” Eagles said.

The “DEF” in trio \ DEF stands for Marc-André Drouin on electric bass, Eagles on electric guitar, and Ian Froman on drums – and Eagles insists all three are essential to the group's multi-layered, intense sound. All three come from the Ottawa area: Drouin from Bourget, a small Valley town just east of Ottawa, and Froman and Eagles from the city itself, but Drouin and Froman have since moved far afield.

Drouin is now part of Montreal's jazz and other music scenes, after studying and working in Boston and Los Angeles. “I've worked with Marc on and off for quite a long time," Eagles said. "When I first met Marc he was astonishing but he was literally a kid, a teenager. And he just had incredible drive and proficiency and, of course, over the years that's even more the case. He's just a beautiful player with a beautiful sound and a beautiful melodicism. He can play a large number of roles and he's quick! You can give him difficult pieces of music and he brings something interesting to the conversation."

Froman, who is best-known in Canada for his collaborations with Mike Murley in Metalwood and DMBQ, has lived in New York for the past 25-odd years. “Ian is a very renowned player in New York. He still plays with the likes of [John] Abercrombie and [Dave] Liebman. He just came back from a tour of China with [guitarist] Sheryl Bailey. And a very busy educator of course, a prof at Berklee as well as several other schools. So that's just a level of experience and confidence that can only help bring things together cohesively.”

Read more: Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday

 

The joy in Robi Botos' music delights an Ottawa Jazz Festival audience (review)

Robi Botos Quartet with Seamus Blake
Great Canadian Jazz Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Confederation Park
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – 6:30 p.m.

Toronto pianist Robi Botos communicates a real joy in music when he plays. He had a big smile on his face as he began his Ottawa Jazz Festival concert Tuesday, and told the crowd how excited he was to bring, for the first time, his original music here as leader.

He also had a new album to promote – Movin' Forward [A440/Universal, 2015]  – and a new sound that's more his own.

When Botos won the TD Grand Prize at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2012, his music still showed the strong influence of his mentor, Oscar Peterson. Botos certainly hasn't lost either his delicate touch on ballads or his driving rhythm on straight-ahead pieces, but he's developed and expanded his own sound. Now there's touches of funk and electronics adding a modern edge as well.

And he has good taste in musical collaborators: both the album and this concert featured ex-pat Canadian, now NYC tenor sax player Seamus Blake. Blake is one of those saxophonists with a major reputation; I've made a point of hearing him every time he's played in Ottawa in the last few years and his playing has always substantially enhanced the music.

Read more: The joy in Robi Botos' music delights an Ottawa Jazz Festival audience (review)

 

Emil Viklicky turns his Moravian heritage into melodic and dramatic jazz (review)

Emil Viklicky “Grand Moravia” Trio
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – 8 p.m.

Emil Viklicky is a pianist and composer from Moravia, the south-eastern region of the Czech Republic. Besides a jazz career spanning 40 years, he's also written several operas and TV and film scores. In 2004, Wynton Marsalis commissioned him to orchestrate the prison letters of former Czech President Václav Havel for a big band concert at Lincoln Centre.

And consistently throughout his career, Viklicky has used the folk music of his native Moravia as an inspiration for his jazz and classical compositions. As he said in one interview, that's his “calling card”. While he can play jazz standards, those folksongs are what he grew up with, and his own musical language.

Almost all of the pieces in this concert incorporated these Moravian themes, performed by Viklicky on piano with Petr Dvorsky on double bass and Cyril Zelenak on drums.

Read more: Emil Viklicky turns his Moravian heritage into melodic and dramatic jazz (review)

 

Duchess: “Girl-on-girl harmony” in a very easy to enjoy show (review)

Duchess
Great Canadian Jazz Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Confederation Park
Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 6:30 p.m.

There was a time when jazz didn't take itself too seriously.You went to a jazz show to have fun, to dance, to get cheered up.

The vocal trio Duchess – Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, and Melissa Stylianou – did its damnedest to bring back that era at its Ottawa Jazz Festival concert Saturday. Supported by a strong rhythm section, they sang cheerful jazz standards in tight harmony, in a show that was very easy to enjoy.

“Girl-on-girl harmony” is how the trio describes its music, and a great deal of it was sung in unison. They alternated verses and even lines, and their voices melded well as they celebrated the songs – which were mostly from the 1930s to 50s, and which they described as “timeless”. They followed that theme through by dressing similarly – though not identically – in well-cut, blue polka-dot dresses in a distinctly retro style.

Read more: Duchess: “Girl-on-girl harmony” in a very easy to enjoy show (review)

 

Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam an upbeat completion to Saturday's music

Festival programming manager Petr Cancura (l) listens to a swinging duet by jam hosts pianist Steve Boudreau (on June 27-30) and guitarist Roddy Ellias. All three played with a variety of guest musicians throughout the jam  ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Ottawa Jazz Festival Late-night jam
Spin Kitchen & Bar, Ottawa Marriott Hotel
10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20 to 1 a.m. Sunday, June 21, 2015

View photos of this jam by OttawaJazzScene.ca photojournalist Brett Delmage

Jazz fans who wanted an upbeat end to Saturday evening would have enjoyed the Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam session. For 2½ hours, Spin Kitchen & Bar was filled with fast-moving jazz, with a good participation by both local and visiting musicians.

The house band – Roddy Ellias (guitar), John Geggie (double bass), and Nick Fraser (drums) – all have years of experience running jams. They opened with a half-hour set of three standards, including “Cheek to Cheek” and “Domino”. Each was given an extended treatment, and the music quickly captured the attention of the listeners near the stage.

By 11 p.m., the room, seating approximately 50 with clear sight lines to the stage, was mostly full. Ellias called up local pianist Steve Boudreau to the stage to join the band for several instrumentals. That set the shape of the music for the evening: energetic with lots of interplay, including a swinging duet between Boudreau and Ellias. The audience responded with continued appreciative applause.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam an upbeat completion to Saturday's music

 

Keen listeners share their 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival favs, and opinions

Overlapping concerts, long line-ups, people who won't shut up, and not enough jazz – those are the main frustrations to expect at the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival, according to respondents to OttawaJazzScene.ca's listeners poll.

On the other hand, many listeners love the festival's atmosphere, and highlighted jazz groups on the schedule which they were eagerly looking forward to.

The poll was open to subscribers of OttawaJazzScene.ca's weekly jazz events newsletter, in the week leading up the festival's start. Because it was not a randomly sampled poll, the results can only be considered indicative, not statistically significant.

A little more than one-half (55%) of those who responded aren't happy with the amount of jazz they'll be hearing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year, and several complained that the festival was moving its focus away from jazz and improvised music.

But they still were enthusiastic about some of the musicians and groups appearing at the festival, including Kneebody, Robi Botos and Seamus Blake, the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, Snarky Puppy, The Stanley Clarke Band and Branford Marsalis.

Interestingly enough, 50% of those who responded were not buying a pass for this festival, but instead were buying individual tickets to shows. 17% were buying an all-access Gold Pass, and 15% a Bronze Pass.

The prevalence of non-jazz in the Concert Under the Stars and other series was the most consistent criticism, although some people praised several non-jazz artists, including Tower of Power and Huey Lewis.

“I understand that non jazz acts are part of paying for the festival, but this year's main stage shows are the weakest ever. The headliners are b list at best,” said one. “There's so much non-jazz crapola in this category, it's like shooting fish in a barrel to diss it,” said another.

“It's better than in the worst years, but really - no serious jazz on the main stage, and a few evenings with only 1 or no real jazz artists,” said a third.

Read more: Keen listeners share their 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival favs, and opinions

 

A fanfare of horns opens the 35th Ottawa Jazz Festival

The Ottawa Jazz Festival opened with a slighted muted fanfare Thursday, with a late-afternoon concert featuring six horns celebrating its 35th anniversary.

It was a low-key affair, with the musicians simply standing or sitting in the shade of trees surrounding Confederation Park's fountain, and listeners pulling up plastic chairs nearby. But on the other hand, it was real jazz, not Bollywood or rock, and the audience sounded consistently appreciative.

Festival programming manager Petr Cancura brought together six well-known Ottawa musicians – Tyler Harris (alto sax), Ed Lister (trumpet), Mike Shultz (sousaphone), Ryan Purchase (trombone), Roddy Ellias (guitar), and Mike Essoudry (drums) – along with trumpeter Lina Allemano from Toronto, and himself on clarinet and tenor sax. They played a mixture of standards, rearrangements of pop tunes, and New Orleans and Balkan-style jazz.

Five years ago, the 30th edition of the festival opened with a procession down Elgin Street and through the park – led by Essoudry's marching band, The Mash Potato Mashers. While the Mashers ended their run last year, the set list for this show included several songs which were originally written or arranged for that group.

Read more: A fanfare of horns opens the 35th Ottawa Jazz Festival

 

Mike Tremblay,Tim Bedner,Ben Heard to record without a net at Friday concert

Saxophonist Mike Tremblay, guitarist Tim Bedner, and bassist Ben Heard will be playing without the safety net of multiple takes on Friday evening, when they record their show live for a CD in front of an audience at GigSpace.

Mike Tremblay will be playing without a net as he records his second CD at a live concert Friday at GigSpace. ©Brett Delmage, 2009“I wanted to see if I could put together a program and have the challenge of 'no second takes'. This is recording, and it's a live concert, and it's nice to be under that pressure,” said Tremblay, who leads the new trio for this occasion.

“When you're in the studio, you do two or three takes of full tunes and then you sit on them and listen for a while - 'Do we need to go back and record them again?' It's really nice to just go in and say 'Here it is'. And tapes don't lie. This is how you play,” Tremblay said, laughing at the other end the phone.

Joining him and Bedner, both who have decades of experience performing and teaching, will be Ben Heard. He graduated from high school just this week.

“It's a bit daunting for me. I've done tapes and stuff like that but never a true recording with the intention of it being released,” said Heard. “It's funny, because when I play gigs with older players and there's been a CD table, we've always joked how I bring my full discography – which of course is nothing.”

“I'm so honoured, playing with Tim Bedner and Mike Tremblay. I'm excited but scared in a way too. In a healthy way.”

Experience performing together

“This is 'old school' jazz recording. We just show up to the session and see what happens,” Bedner said, laughing.

“I'm going to trust Mike that he knows what he's doing. But I am glad we're having a rehearsal,” Bedner added, speaking to his own healthy concerns about doing the best possible job.

The members of the trio have extensive experience playing or working together in pairs, developing the trust needed to perform without a net.

Heard was in Grade 9 when Tremblay discovered him while teaching one of the Ottawa Jazz Festival's “Jazz Ed” workshops. He's continued working with him for four years now, including after Heard moved to Canterbury High School, where Tremblay runs the senior jazz ensemble.

Read more: Mike Tremblay,Tim Bedner,Ben Heard to record without a net at Friday concert

 

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