Dutch jazz vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have developed many ties to Canadians in the last 25 years – starting with composer Kenny Wheeler and more recently with guitarist Michael Occhipinti. The duo is touring across Canada this month, including an Ottawa gig on Friday at the Mercury Lounge.
They'll perform their own thoughtful and multi-layered original music – playing with different rhythm sections in each city – and also promote a book Vandoorn has written on the art of jazz singing from a very practical perspective.
Their first experiences of Canada were when they studied at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 1991 and 1993 – “really a very important thing for us”, Vandoorn said. At Banff, they met renowned Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, “and played his music and we started to be friends”.
“It was an honour to work with him. He loved Marc's music and his contributions were spot on. He was a very shy, but also witty man and we laughed a lot.”
Then when they were about to make their first CD, “we asked Kenny if he was interested in being our featured guest at the CD – and he wanted to do that, so that's how we got to know him better. So we played with him several times in the Netherlands.”
“We always kept in contact and Marc and Kenny discussed sometimes each others compositions and arrangements. Very special. He was also very generous and when he had heard us play he called us afterwards to tell us how much he loved it.”
In Banff, Vandoorn also met vocalist Norma Winstone, and “we became friends. At some point I was invited at a festival to do a special project, and I decided to invite her for a vocal duet. We did it twice at different festivals.”
In 2012, Vandoorn and van Vugt released a single, “Holysloot”, an intimate jazz song inspired by a Dutch lowlands winter scene. She agreed it was influenced by Wheeler and Winstone. “The way Kenny is composing and the way that he is treating harmonies I think that is something that both Marc and I like a lot. And I'm sure a fan of Norma's singing. And yes, you could hear that there.”
The duo has toured Canada five times, playing festivals including the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 1998. This will be their first time playing Canadian clubs, however, Vandoorn said. They've spent the last week in southern Ontario, teaching students at masterclasses and clinics (including with Christine Duncan's Element Choir) and playing concerts – and have been very happy with the response.
“I must say that all the Canadian audiences are very receptive for our music. First of all, I think that jazz is quite important in Canada. The people are much more used to listening to jazz, I would say, than maybe in the Netherlands. So we have really nice audiences, very committed. And they really love our music so so far it has been great.”
Amy Brandon CD Release of Scavenger, with Roddy Ellias
Metro Music, Ottawa
Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 4 p.m.
Guitarist Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in an hour-long afternoon concert in Ottawa Saturday. The CD mixes jazz, classical, and new music, and features her playing solo and in duos, with guitarists Roddy Ellias and Mike Rud and vocalist Laura Swankey – but also with herself.
Many of the pieces on Scavenger are electro-acoustic, with Brandon playing guitar along with recordings of herself which she had substantially altered with effects. As she explained to the audience at the show, in electro-acoustic music the musician can either manipulate sound live (live-processed) or play against previously-recorded and processed music (fixed media).
She picked fixed media, and for four of the pieces she performed at the show, played sound files on her laptop along with her acoustic guitar. Her warm and resonant guitar-work contrasted with the recorded soundscapes, which were much more varied and unexpected. Sometimes they were dissonant and abrasive and metallic, other times attenuated and whispering and reminding one of birds calling or winds rushing.
The result was immersive and multi-layered, pulsating and almost hypnotic in places. Consistently you could hear how Brandon was responding in the moment to the soundscapes. Throughout the pieces, he audience was still and intent, listening carefully and applauding warmly.
Safe Low Limit
Le Petit Chicago
All Jazz Mondays in November, 2016
Safe Low Limit opened its November residency at Le Petit Chicago Monday night – with music extending far into the bass clef.
Trombone: Steve Berndt. Cello: Ken Kanwisher. Tuba: Keith Walton. Drums: Michel Delage. Your standard jazz quartet instrumentation it wasn't.
It was the very first show for the group as a quartet. Kanwisher first started working on these arrangements for a previous group, Berndt said – and then he and Berndt started playing together last spring. They debuted some of this music as a duo at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in June, and then decided to expand to a quartet.
“Keith Walton saw us and thought it was a cool idea so we decided to ask him if he'd like to join in. That's when we made the decision to go all bass clef instruments, [to] ask Michel Delage if he'd like to get involved and not have a piano or guitar.
They picked the name “Safe Low Limit” because it is “an arranging term that describes a formula that identifies the low point at which harmony ceases to be clear based on the fundamental of a given series of notes played at the same time. It seemed to be the right name for this band!”
Tribute to Cole Porter with Michel Delage, Allison Au, Todd Pentney, and Alex Bilodeau
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 8 p.m.
Songwriter Cole Porter famously said (quoting one of his teachers) that “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.” And yet jazz instrumentalists ranging from Miles Davis to Artie Shaw to Max Roach have had hits with Cole Porter's tunes because, even without Porter's witty lyrics, the melodies are memorable and full of joie de vivre.
Michel Delage's quartet showed off that joy and fun in a dynamic second night of a two-night stand at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge this weekend. Delage on drums and Alex Bilodeau on double bass teamed up with two Torontonians – Juno-winning composer Allison Au on alto sax and her frequent collaborator, Todd Pentney, on piano – to celebrate Porter's music as part of Delage's monthly series of jazz tributes.
Over three sets, they performed songs written between 1929 and 1954, almost all for Broadway shows. The first two sets were fast-paced, including well-known pieces like “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “Get Out of Town”, while the third slowed down to concentrate on ballads like “Easy to Love”.
There's a lot to explore in a Cole Porter song. Porter was a notable innovator in song form: for example, the alternating major and minor key changes in “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, or the 108-measure length of “Begin the Beguine”. Au, in particular, used the songs as a jumping-off point for exploration, while staying true to their melodies and themes. In “I Concentrate on You”, she created tender, warm, extended lines of melody, while “Just One of Those Things” was taken at a break-neck pace with circling riffs.
Toronto jazz vocalist Maureen Kennedy is always learning new songs and expanding her repertoire of jazz standards.
“I have a passion for learning tunes. A real passion for it, and it's kind of nerdy.”
This summer, for example, she learned six new tunes just for one show. She'll be singing all six in Ottawa this Saturday at her quartet show at GigSpace, performing with saxophonist Rob Frayne, pianist Jeff Johnston, and bassist Alec Walkington.
Some she learns from sheet music, and some from listening to recordings of other singers, particularly from the classic vocal jazz era of the 1950s. But, after many years in the business, she's gone well beyond Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, or Sarah Vaughan to “obscure singers that people don't know that well”, such as Irene Kral or Jeri Southern.
“There was such a wealth of singers back in the 50s when singing standards was the popular music of the day. There were a lot of good singers that never became as famous … Teddi King was a really great singer. June Christy. Chris Connor. Singers that people aren't as familiar with. There are just a lot of great singers, and I've checked out a lot of their recordings and just picked up tunes from them.”
By day, Kennedy is a Media Librarian and visual researcher for the CBC in Toronto – where she has been able to access CBC's extensive sheet music collection. “In the days when we did a lot of music on television and radio, the Music Library would just order all this sheet music, and it's such a great collection!”
Jane Bunnett is still amazed at the success of her all-woman Afro-Cuban jazz group, Maqueque.
“Three years ago, this project was a leap of faith. I didn't know if this idea would have any legs. But I thought, 'Let's try it! Let's try to put something together for a recording, all females, and just see what happens.' "
Since then, Maqueque – the Canadian jazz saxophonist/flutist plus five young women musicians from Cuba – has toured all over Canada and the U.S. and as far away as Australia. They played before thousands at the Chicago Jazz Festival last fall, with an almost-unprecedented encore demanded by the crowd. In May, they received at standing ovation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and then recorded a “Tiny Desk Concert” in the offices of National Public Radio – which has so far garnered almost 29,000 views. And they won a Juno Award for their first album.
The group has just released its second album, Oddara, and will bring it to Ottawa on Wednesday, October 19, for a concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Besides Bunnett, Maqueque includes Yissy Garcia on drums, Dánae Olano on piano, Magdelys Savigne on batá drums and congas, Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin and vocals, and Celia Jiménez on bass.
Bunnett's heart was in the project, both musically and as an organizer, but she recognized the risks.
The Ken Harper Trio with Artie Roth and Bob Brough
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 7 p.m.
This fall, Southminster United Church in Ottawa South began offering Saturday evening concerts, in addition to its popular Wednesday noon concerts. The third show in this new series – and the first jazz concert – featured the long-time trio of Ottawa drummer Ken Harper with two Toronto musicians, Artie Roth on double bass and Bob Brough on tenor sax.
With busy schedules and a 450 km distance to travel, this trio doesn't get together to perform as often as they'd like – Harper estimates only about four times a year – but you could hear an easy connection and a like-minded approach in their music.
Harper and Roth met in 1988, when they both started studying music at York University, and later teamed up with veteran saxophonist Brough for this trio. Over the past two years, they've played several Ottawa-area locations: clubs, a house concert, and GigSpace, but this was their biggest Ottawa venue yet.
Other than an announcement mic that wasn’t always turned on or used properly, the concert was all-acoustic, with a beautiful, rounded sound. The musicians made a point of playing to the space, using its resonance, and playing softly enough that their instruments could be heard overlaying and complementing each other. Harper's cymbal sounds were crisp and ringing; Roth's bass was clear and full; Brough's tenor lines were rich and commanding.
Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway
IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) #147
House of Common, Ottawa
Monday, October 10, 2016 – 8 p.m.
Trombonist Samuel Blaser and drummer Gerry Hemingway opened their Canadian tour on Monday with a bravura performance in Ottawa, a concentrated display of deep communication and innovation.
Thanking the audience for coming out on the Thanksgiving holiday, Hemingway noted that, “At least we know you're not hungry. Now we'll feed the other part of your souls.”
And feed them they did, with music which explored the full ranges of their instruments, and moved from the tiniest threads of sound to all-out thunderous fanfares – to the intent interest and appreciation of their listeners.
Blaser (from Switzerland and now living in Berlin) and Hemingway (from the U.S. and now living in Switzerland) are more usually found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but are touring across Canada this week. Most of their shows on the tour are with Blaser's quartet, which also includes Russ Lossing on piano, and Masa Kamaguchi on bass. Montreal and Ottawa were the exceptions, where the two were scheduled to perform as a duo as part of local improvised music series.
Blaser and Hemingway are no less formidable as a duo. They're both well-known as free improvisers (Hemingway has been playing creative music for four decades), and have performed together in several of Blaser's groups.
Sienna Dahlen and François Jalbert
Court, mais jazz
La Nouvelle Scène
Saturday, October 8, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Sienna Dahlen's music floats comfortably in the intersection of jazz, singer-songwriter, chanson, art song, and cabaret. Her delivery and musicianship clearly show her jazz roots, but her songs are more confessional and intimate – and less swinging – than straight jazz.
She's just released a new CD, Ice Age Paradise, a highly personal collection of songs chronicling a difficult time in her life. It was recorded with a nine-person ensemble including horns and strings, and, at shows this fall in Toronto and Montreal, she's presenting the music with the full ensemble.
But for Ottawa, she performed a stripped-down version: just her on vocals and keyboards, and François Jalbert on guitar. Even with simpler arrangements, the songs still ended up sounding rich and expressive, with Dahlen's strong and multi-octave voice well supported and underlined by Jalbert's inventive guitar lines.
Although the material was personal, the presentation was very Canadian: Dahlen switched effortlessly and frequently between English and French, within songs and during her introductions. This was partly because of the location: La Nouvelle Scène is Ottawa's francophone theatre space. But there was a easy naturalness to the interchange; it felt like simply another mode of expression rather than a political point – not surprising for a vocalist who divides her time between Montreal and Toronto.
Only two of the songs were from the new album. Three were from Dahlen's previous album, Verglas, and she also included a song by the late Montreal singer Lhasa de Sela.
Five years later, fans still remember Thursday jazz nights at Café Paradiso – and are paying to hear that music again this weekend.
Three jazz listeners are sponsoring a concert on Saturday at GigSpace, where guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/pianist/flute player Elise Letourneau will recreate the music they used to play at that former Ottawa jazz venue.
“We were totally taken aback that someone missed what we were doing on Thursday nights,” Bedner said. “That was good for the heart and soul - that there were folks out there who would miss what we would do, with piano, guitar, voice, and flute. Also the repertoire that we had – favourites for folks that would come out.”
Café Paradiso closed in mid-2012, after a 14-year run, and more than 10 years as a major downtown jazz venue. It was a high-end restaurant which showcased jazz musicians visiting from Toronto, Montreal, and New York City (including Christine Jensen, Kirk MacDonald, David Braid, Sheila Jordan, and Dave Liebman), as well as well-known Ottawa jazz musicians such as Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, Mark Ferguson, and Diane White.
And every week for 4½ years, Bedner and Letourneau would play jazz standards, tunes by guitarist Pat Metheny, music by the Beatles and by Paul Simon, and choice Latin bossa novas.
“That is what every musician dreams of, getting something like that on a weekly, steady basis, because you show up every week trying to do better than you did the week before, adding new repertoire, tweaking songs out,” Bedner said. “Trying to come up with different things each time we play it, or go deeper in the tune, it's valuable! Having that: it's definitely like going back to school again.”
“I've been very, very lucky that I've been able to continue playing weekly at other venues since Café Paradiso. Again it's just getting that connection to music using the creative process of, 'OK here I am again, playing this tune, maybe a little bit differently, hopefully still as musical as I can be.' ”
“I respond well to deadlines, and having a reason to learn a tune or two or three every week was really valuable – having that Thursday night target,” Letourneau said. “It was really good for repertoire building. I thought I had a pretty good repertoire before, but just having that reason to keep adding to it, and having a place to try it out and gauge – 'OK, people seem to enjoy that, or people were kind of indifferent.' Sometimes they were indifferent, sometimes they were just focused on their meals.”
The Canto Trio
Ascension Jazz Series
Church of the Ascension, Ottawa
Sunday, September 25, 2016 – 7 p.m.
The Canto Trio – Peter Woods, Devon Woods, and Hélène Knoerr – consists of two saxophonists and one double bassist/vocalist. It's not your typical jazz group, or trio sound.
But this chordless ensemble did a more-than-credible job of performing a well-chosen selection of jazz classics at their concert Sunday, to an appreciative audience.
The concert was also the first in a new jazz series at this church in Ottawa East, and showed off the church's excellent acoustics and friendly ambiance.
Peter Woods, Devon Woods (no relation), and Hélène Knoerr first met and played together at an Ottawa jam session a few months ago. They started chatting, and it turned out that Devon Woods had a large folder of arrangements for two saxophones. In July, the three performed a noon-hour concert at MacKay United Church, where Peter Woods is minister; this was their second full show.
Both Peter Woods and Devon Woods had a tenor sax and a soprano sax, and they played them in all possible combinations (two tenors, two sopranos, soprano/tenor, and tenor/soprano). Sometimes they'd play in unison, and other times they'd play contrasting melodies, entwining and circling around each others' lines – but always they were listening and responding to each other. Devon Woods also brought a vintage metal clarinet dating from the 1930s, and added its richer sound to “Mood Indigo” and “East of the Sun” to good effect.
- Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park
- John Stetch dramatically mixes folksong, classical, and TV themes into dynamic jazz
- Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know
- Marianne Trudel pays a rich tribute to Guelph Jazz Festival founder
- François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations
- Francois Houle: just the clarinet
- Betty Ann Bryanton takes her musical revenge, to a happy full house
- Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's
- Musical friends return to 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival to celebrate founder's last year
- It's a new jazz season - and September sings!
- Conjunction: three jazz and three classical musicians make music that sings (review)
- A powerful jazz fusion outing for Modasaurus (review)
- The swinging style of Denielle Bassels
- Trumpet Bootcamp gives students a different perspective
- Kiran Ahluwalia filled the park with haunting melodies and circling rhythms
- Carleton U Jazz Camp faculty quintet enjoys the upbeat (review)
- The 2016 Merrickville's Jazz Fest gets funkier and celebrates John Lennon
- 'I got rhythm': Rob Frayne takes the helm at the JazzWorks jazz camp
- 2016 Carleton U Jazz Camp goes all-Ottawa, with afternoon concerts
- Gene DiNovi infuses Duke Ellington's music with his own life
- The Ottawa and Gatineau jazz scenes strut their stuff in August
- A flowing conversation among Ernst Reijseger, Jesse Stewart, and David Mott (review)
- A standing ovation for So Long Seven's mélange of rhythms and influences
- A show of thanks: Mike Rud honours jazz guitarist George Benson this weekend
- Chamberfest: A jarring juxtaposition of jazz and classical
- The Doug Martin Quartet gives a vibrant release to their 'Spirit of Survival' CD
- Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation
- Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello
- Will Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson put jazz on NAC stages as the new NAC Presents producer?
- Oliver Jones takes on new challenges in his farewell tour
- Doug Martin revisits Cuba in music in his new CD, Spirit of Survival
- Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July
- Classical and jazz dance together at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest
- Canadian saxophonist P.J. Perry named to the Order of Canada
- A hard-driving quartet finds new corners of modern jazz
- Steve Bilodeau reaches the semi-finals in Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition
- Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera are back in town, celebrating musical friendships
- Brian Browne and Peter Woods fill the Record Centre with standards
- Ottawa's jazz fans discover new groups and new sounds in the 24 hours of the Jazz Ramble
- Two CDs by Nick Fraser create beautiful moments through collaborative improvisation
- The Amos Hoffman Quartet adds classical and Mid-East motifs to mainstream jazz
- A rural county excited by jazz: what Prince Edward County Jazz Festival does differently
- Finding new ways to develop young jazz talent at the Prince Edward County Jazzfest
- There's lots more live jazz than just the jazzfest in June
- The Bank Street Bonbons show the power of brass at Irene's
- The timeless beauty of jazz raises thousands for refugees
- This Sunday: discover jazz vocalists and support refugees
- The 2016 Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is showcasing the Canadian jazz it loves
- William O'Neill: a guitarist talks about his love of big band music
- Erin Saoirse Adair adds power to her anger with a jazz backing
- Ottawa jazz fans show their appreciation for Oliver Jones' 76-year career (review)
- The Rachel Therrien Trio rethinks and reenergizes jazz classics
- Andrew Ferderber's A+ graduation performance, and how he got there
- Sweet swing fills the church as the Hard Bop Association pays tribute to Duke Ellington
- Fawn Fritzen matches originals with vocal jazz classics in a finely-tuned show
- Ed Lister's hard-swinging tribute Wednesday to Duke Ellington's classic music
- Fawn Fritzen takes a fresh approach to jazz standards
- Jazz swings through May
- An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)
- Miles Ahead, but not in reality (movie review)
- Michael Kaeshammer and his audience have fun with energetic and varied music
- Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers
- Song of Lahore shows jazz triumphing over intolerance (movie review)
- Sitar, violin, guitar & cajon entice the audience at high-energy Sultans of String show
- The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar
- Polished performances from the Carleton University student Jazz Ensemble
- Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music
- Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert
- Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April
- 2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow
- Born To Be Blue stays true to Chet Baker's music, but romanticizes his life (movie review)
- Vocalese with Steve Berndt and Christine Fagan: "A jazz adventure" (video)
- Olivier Babaz shines a world of music on his new jazz album
- Brazilian drumming inspires Rob Frayne's latest percussive project, DrumSwamp
- Only applause broke the silence as the Sonoluminescence Trio played the Record Centre
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces summer line-up, including Chick Corea, Dan Brubeck 4tet, Wynton Marsalis, The SF Jazz Collective, and Colin Stetson
- Rob Frayne recruits for a jazz band on a mega-scale
- David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance (video)
- Jazz to head to the NAC's Back Stage during construction
- James McGowan and Jesse Stewart improvise music from many streams
- First impressions: Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes with Miguel de Armas
- Have your ears stretched in March with jazz from unexpected places
- Rob McConnell's music is "the boss" at Sunday's CYJO concert
- The Harley Card Trio creates a layered and nuanced collaboration at Brookstreet
- David Renaud looks for grace and love in his new duo CD with Brian Browne
- René Lavoie pays hommage to Cannonball Adderley, the saxophonist who changed his life
- Laila Biali is letting her audiences hear songs in the making, in the spirit of jazz
- A wild night at Irene's with the Alive! Ensemble and the music of Grant Green (review)
- From all over the globe, the Florian Hoefner Group unites in presenting luminous jazz (review)
- HML Trio's weekly Brookstreet Options jazz jam celebrates three years of 'good music and a great hang' this week
- Nick Fraser stretches the boundaries of drumming with Justin Haynes' scores (review)
- Crossroads concert scribbled on genre boundaries while remaining true to Lynn Miles' songs (review)
- Vocalist Jeri Brown and drummer Jesse Stewart: 'things that I haven't heard before'
- Hear both the roots and the future of jazz in February
- 2016 Juno jazz nominations move westward, and in unexpected categories
- Linsey Wellman declares his bilingual Manifesto (video)
- Fraser Hollins picks long-time musical friends for his Jazzfest show: Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, and Joel Miller
- Karen Oxorn reflects 60 years of loving music in her concerts this weekend (podcast)
- An immersion in music from Pauline Oliveros and friends
- Standing Room Only packs the dance floor at its first Ottawa tea dance
- The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's
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