Thirty-two years ago, trombonist and vocalist Steve Berndt heard an album which changed his life – and inspired one of Ottawa's longest-lasting jazz bands.
It was 1981, and musician Joe Jackson had just released Jumpin' Jive, an album of swing and jump blues songs from the 1940s and 50s by artists like Cab Calloway. It was a radical departure for Jackson, who had been known for New Wave pop – and it was like nothing Berndt had ever heard before.
At the time, “I was studying jazz and becoming a musician, and I really liked that music. And so I began thinking about it when I got out of college and thought to myself, “What kind of music could I do that has a jazz influence but also is rooted in more popular styles?”, and I thought, “Well, I could do this kind of thing.”
“I liked the idea that the lyrics tend to be satirical or humorous and I enjoyed that part of it. And of course it's a genre that typically has horns in it, and I'm a horn player. And there's room for improvisation in it as well. So I thought that it would be a fun project.”
Berndt got together with bassist Kurt Walther, wrote some songs, and in 1989 they formed the Jivewires – a band which is still going strong 24 years later. They're currently working on their sixth album, and on Saturday they will be performing most of the songs from that album – plus old favourites – at the NAC Fourth Stage.
The Ottawa Jazz Festival was awarded $350,000 by the Ontario government on April 4, as part of the 2013 Celebrate Ontario program.The program is designed to support tourism, by giving tourists more to see and do at Ontario festivals and events.
Ottawa Chamberfest, Bluesfest, and the Ottawa Folk Festival were also each awarded $350,000, as was the Toronto Jazz Festival. Music and Beyond, the other Ottawa chamber music festival, received $75,000. The Ottawa International Children's Festival, which is run out of the same office as the Ottawa Jazz Festival and by some of the same staff, was awarded $74,000.
Across the province, the Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto received $75,000 for its 25th anniversary. The Guelph Jazz festival received $75,000; the Markham Jazz Festival was awarded $40,000. Jazz On The Mountain At Blue (at Blue Mountain, between Owen Sound and Barrie) got $75,000.
The Ottawa Jazz Festival's grant was unchanged from 2012 (as were those for Chamberfest, Bluesfest, Music and Beyond, and the Folk Festival). The Ottawa Tulip Festival received substantially less: $200,000 in 2013, compared to $350,000 in 2012.
Jazz festivals in Brantford, Sudbury, Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, and Waterloo which were funded in 2012 received nothing in 2013.
– Alayne McGregor
In 1957, two iconic female jazz singers appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival – within two days of each other.
These two singers – Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday – approached their craft and their music very differently, and were at very different places in their careers. But the recording that renowned producer Norman Granz made of those Newport performances has become a classic.
Now three Ottawa jazz vocalists will recreate the repertoire of those concerts at a show at the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday, April 6, bringing back some of the greatest vocal hits of the era.
But it will be the songs, not the singers, that they'll be showcasing. As concert organizer Karen Oxorn emphasizes, neither she nor Nicole Ratté nor Dominique Forest will try to sound like Fitzgerald or Holiday – even if it were possible.
In 1957, Fitzgerald was at the peak of her career, in complete control of her full, flexible voice and with an unparalleled ability to scat on songs like “Airmail Special”. Holiday, on the other hand, was only two years away from her death, and already her singing lacked the strength of her prime. And a third singer, Carmen McRae, who also appeared that July weekend and whose songs are also included on the album, was a protégé of Holiday and a recently-established star.
This will be the third Fourth Stage concert Oxorn has organized in tribute to jazz vocalists – first Blossom Dearie in 2010 and then Peggy Lee in 2011. All three Ottawa singers are well-known on both sides of the Ottawa River. They have all appeared at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and each has a busy programme of restaurant and club dates.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor sat down with all three vocalists in March to talk about how the concert came about and what the audience can expect to hear, as well as the special tribute to the late Ottawa Jazz Festival programming director Jacques Émond, which they will include in the concert. This an edited version of the conversation.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How would you describe this concert to a potential listener?
Nicole Ratté: I would start by saying what it's about. It's an Ella and Billie tribute to the Newport concerts. But then I'd quickly jump into the complicity of us three vocalists, and how interesting it is to see the different personalities, and voice colours, and styles, while our voices go well together.
Dominique Forest: I have to touch upon what Nicole has said. I think folks will get a snapshot in time, certainly, but it will have our individual stamp on it. At the same time, you'll get a sense for the respect we have for one another and the genuine friendship that there is between us. The camaraderie is quite evident, and for some, it may be quite palpable.
Chamberfest's Chamberfringe 2013 lineup will showcase Cuban and Brazilian jazz, improvised vocals, and Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson in its crossover concerts this year.
The festival's prime-time concerts will continue to focus on the classical, chamber, and early music which it is best known for. But late at night and during the day, Chamberfest will feature a wider range, including artists with links to jazz and improvised music.
At its launch on March 20, Ottawa Chamber Music Festival artistic director Roman Borys said that “it's the total experience that I care so much about. The world is really full these days of great, great chamber groups and great artists that can communicate wonderfully, but to put them all together in an interesting way, such that in any given three-day period a visitor from out of town can get a taste of instrumental music, the contemporary music, the core classical, the Chamberfringe: that's the Chamberfest experience. That's the thing that I see everybody smiling about at the end of those two weeks.”
Chamberfest has been taking this approach for the past few years. In fact, several of the jazz artists also appeared at the 2012 festival, although often in different groups. Toronto pianist Hilario Durán, for example, played in a Cuban-chamber music concert last year. This year he will be performing with the Luis Mario Ochoa Cuban Quintet.
Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart filled GigSpace with sound – and people – on Friday night.
The two renowned percussionists – one from Chicago, one from Ottawa – have known each other for a decade, and as Stewart mentioned in his introduction, have had long discussions about music whenever they've met. But this was their first chance to actually perform together.
They played two concerts, each about 75-80 minutes long, each completely improvised. But both are well-known improvisers in many different contexts, and there was no hesitation or jerkiness in the music. They listened, they interposed, they moved smoothly from instrument to instrument as inspiration occurred.
Each started out on a standard drum set, but also included other instruments: a waterphone, a handheld marimba, a string of bells, and a bass harmonica for Stewart, and a frame drum for Drake. They both also played the shared congas, and used a small bronze bowl at different times to produce a lovely singing tone which filled the room.
Updated 15 March, 2013
Following three successful Jazz Camps, Carleton University is hosting its first “Guitar Now!” festival from May 3 to 5, 2013. The festival will be a new opportunity for guitar aficionados, keen listeners, and players of a wide range of skills and ages. They will be able to listen to and learn from renowned teachers from Ottawa to the U.K. to Brazil and each other, jam together, socialize, and even enter a friendly competition for some impressive prizes.
Those who enjoy listening to guitar rather than playing can purchase tickets to any of the three evenings of guitar-only concerts. Fans of Vic Juris will be able to hear him play again with Roddy Ellias in the Saturday jazz concert (their November show was canceled by Hurricane Sandy). Ben Monder, a fave of Ottawa jazz audiences, will also be featured, as will shorter performances by Tim Bedner, Brandon Bernstein, Garry Elliott, Mike Rud, and Matt Warnock.
Friday's opening concert will present an eclectic mixture of performers, including the popular fingerstyle 'heavy wood' Don Ross, in-demand country player Steve Piticco, and Brazilian educator and award winning guitarist Guilherme Vincens. Sunday's concert will appeal to classical guitar listeners, featuring Jérôme Ducharme and Guilherme Vincens, with shorter performances by Julien Bisaillon, Andrew Mah, Sylvie Proulx and Steve Raegele.
Monday night jazz is returning to Le Petit Chicago. The Sean Duhaime Trio plays at the Gatineau club on March 11 and 18, and then the regular house band led by Zakari Frantz will be back weekly as of March 25.
Frantz said the club had missed the jazz nights – attendance had dropped to almost zero on some Mondays – and the band had really missed playing there, so they reached an agreement to restore Jazz Mondays.
But there will be changes, including a new suggested donation of $5 that will go to pay the band. This, plus a possible share of bar proceeds, will replace the band's previous guaranteed fee. Other jazz jams, such as JazzWorks, GigSpace, and Pressed, also request a $5 cover, but the new jam at Brookstreet, the invitational jam at Levante Bistro, and the monthly jam at the Rainbow do not.
“The club has been really kind. They're trying to keep afloat just as much as we're trying to keep afloat. So we're going to try to pass the hat a little bit more to help support the project.”
Music will start slightly earlier, as well: at 10 p.m. instead of the previous 10:30. And Frantz has decided to drop the “Curiosity Killed the Quartet” band name, if only because the house band is sometimes a trio and sometimes a quintet.
The format – where the house band plays standards and its own music in the first set, and local musicians are invited up to jam in the second set – will remain the same. But Frantz said he would also be learning from the success of local music series like the Up&Up Concert Series on how to promote the nights better and get more listeners and musicians interested.
ZenKitchen will showcase jazz every second Sunday evening starting March 17.
Jazz duos will play at the vegetarian restaurant from 6 to 9 p.m. The series will be curated by local guitarist Tim Bedner, who will be one-half of each duo initially, although he said he plans to open up the series later to other pairs of musicians.
The shows will feature well-known Ottawa jazz musicians. “We're hoping to have a pretty good variety,” says ZenKitchen co-owner Dave Loan. Bedner expects to stretch his horizons: “There's a lot of great talent here in Ottawa, and I haven't had the chance to play with a lot of them.”
The series will open with Mark Ferguson on trombone playing with Bedner on seven-string guitar. Bedner said he'd played with Ferguson many times before, but really got inspired to try a guitar-trombone duo from their playing together in the Trombone Summit concerts. “I really love the challenge of playing like a piano player, trying to cover all the bases and make it groove and be musical.”
On Friday, two masters will show Ottawa audiences just how much varied, beautiful, and ear-expanding music can be produced just using percussion instruments.
On the stage at GigSpace will be two drumsets, a frame drum, congas, various gongs, and a waterphone. And Hamid Drake from Chicago and Jesse Stewart from Ottawa will use them to play two completely improvised concerts, together for the very first time.
Which might be a challenge for some – but in particular not for Drake. His reputation in the world of jazz and improvised music is among the highest, and he has a packed schedule playing with small and large groups around the world in repertoires ranging from Coltrane to the freest of free jazz. He is particularly well-known for working with saxophonists like Fred Anderson, Pharoah Sanders, Ken Vandermark, David Murray, and Peter Brötzmann, bassist William Parker, pianist Marilyn Crispell, and trumpeter Don Cherry – and even with Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny.
He was last here in Ottawa in 2005, and Stewart has been trying to arrange a duet concert with him for years. “I just love his playing so much. It's always a treat to hear Hamid play. so to have an opportunity to collaborate with him is going to be an especially big treat for me.”
“As far as I'm concerned, Hamid is not only a great drummer. He is one of the great drummers. So for me some of the great drummers include Baby Dodds, Kenny Clarke, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Ed Blackwell, Milford Graves. That list as far as I'm concerned definitely includes Hamid Drake.”
And this concert is practically a one-of-a-kind. “He hasn't been to Ottawa for many years. It's been a long time. So it's a rare opportunity to hear one of the leading figures in terms of the contemporary musical landscape. Also, we don't have that many opportunities to hear a drum duo either, so for people who are looking for something out of the ordinary, certainly I think this would fit the bill.”
Stewart still remembers a percussion duo between Drake and equally-famous drummer Gerry Hemingway at the Guelph Jazz Festival about a decade ago, which is among his top ten concerts ever. “It was spell-binding.”
- Laila Biali takes risks with choosing and playing music
- Molly Johnson ups the energy and vibe at a sold-out NAC show
- Brookstreet makes jazz the option seven nights a week
- Roddy Ellias Ensemble plays an intimate concert of intricate music
- Diana Krall invokes the spirit of the Glad Rag Dolls (review)
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces Main Stage lineup for 2013: music of every style
- 2012-13 Geggie Series: In rich harmony (review)
- Melody into places far afield: Roddy Ellias with Gene Bertoncini (review)
- Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra nominated for 2013 Juno Award
- "Morphology of a Lover": Intricate instrumental interactions (review)
- Chucho Valdés to play at 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival
- Nick Maclean creates a new sound with Snaggle
- Ottawa jazz vocalist finalist for local arts award
- Elizabeth Shepherd plays bittersweet music for a full house (review)
- John Scofield at la Maison de la Culture (review)
- Elizabeth Shepherd marries a pop sensibility to a jazz aesthetic
- “I wouldn’t be playing what I play if it wasn’t for Miles”: an interview with John Scofield
- Florquestra Brasil launches their first album, Flortografia, with all-around enthusiasm
- Nick Fraser's new CD is full of resonances
- Pressed jazz jam creates a happy vibe for the start of its second season
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