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 took on an extra challenge for several concerts this month – including her upcoming appearance at the NAC Fourth Stage in Ottawa on Saturday.
The Canadian jazz vocalist and pianist asked her fans to request songs – not necessarily from her existing catalogue – for her to play at the concerts. If they were songs that weren't in her current repertoire, she would arrange them for her trio, with long-time collaborators George Koller on bass and Larnell Lewis on drums.
That's a risk that most musicians would shy away from, but arranging is one of Biali's strengths – along with singing, playing the piano, and composing. She arranges all the music on her albums – including songs which originally started as pop music – and has even arranged material for other projects she's been involved with.
Ottawa jazz fans last heard Biali at the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival, where she was a special guest with Phil Dwyer's Canadian Songbook project, which opened the festival. Dwyer and Biali are frequent collaborators: he appeared on her latest album, Live in Concert .
That album was what OttawaJazzScene.ca's Alayne McGregor first asked Biali about when they talked last week.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: I was listening to your Live in Concert album, and a lot of that album really featured Phil Dwyer on sax. I was wondering how you're going to replace him when you're playing those songs without him.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Studio, National Arts Centre
A few bass notes sounded, followed by the piano: a quiet ballad intro for a few bars. And then Molly Johnson slipped onto the stage of the NAC Studio, opened her mouth, and the whole energy level of the room hopped up by several orders of magnitude.
The stage was simply dressed with a few Paisley rugs; the lighting was static and unobtrusive. The audience's whole attention was focused on the musicians, and the vibe was intense.
It was Johnson singing jazz standards and her greatest hits. It was an audience with a large percentage of her long-time fans. And, combined with a great backing trio, it was a concert to remember.
Most of the songs came from her 2011 best-of collection, The Molly Johnson Songbook, and covered her entire career. They ranged from ballads to blues to sassy up-tempo numbers, and all were delivered in her uniquely husky and expressive voice.
She was well supported by a trio of Toronto musicians who really know how to swing – and how to lightly accompany quieter numbers. Johnson noted that bassist Mike Downes had been playing with her for 20 years; pianist Robi Botos and drummer Larnell Lewis are more recent additions, but all four were clearly comfortable and copacetic together.
Johnson began with the Gershwin standard, “But not for me”, a swinging number which she ended with a vocal flourish – a style she'd repeat several times that evening. Then came a jazzy version of the country hit, “Ode to Billie Joe”, where the piano mimicked the cadences of her voice as she told the story, and in which she scatted on repeated individual words in the song. “Let's waste some time” was delivered as a confessional ballad, with seductive overtones.
The Options Jazz Lounge in the Brookstreet Hotel is now presenting jazz seven nights a week.
Brookstreet marketing coordinator Sarah Bentley said the increase, as of March 1, was prompted by the “really good response” they were getting to the existing jazz programming on five nights a week.
“And then, Terry Matthews, our owner, loves jazz and wanted to see it seven days a week.”
She said the final decision was made by Matthews, the owner of the Kanata hotel and resort and the founder of several major high-tech companies in Ottawa, including Mitel. OttawaJazzScene.ca editors have occasionally seen Matthews at the Options Lounge with friends, enjoying the music.
Bentley said that, while the Options Lounge would be mostly featuring local performers, they did plan to bring in out-of-town musicians on a monthly basis, “whenever our budget allows. We're going to have a broad range of artists, starting from students to all the way to those who are more established.”
Roddy Ellias Ensemble with Yadong Guan, John Geggie, and Guy Pelletier
Roddy Ellias Concert Series
Saturday, February 23, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio
Opposite Diana Krall on Saturday night was a much more intimate concert at the small venue inside Alcorn Studios: the GigSpace. It was a quiet concert of intricately-arranged pieces of music, music that ensemble leader and composer Roddy Ellias described as “chamber jazz”.
The music had an enhancing complexity, not the kind that was complicated just to be nerdy. The pieces recalled the sounds of compositions by Claude Debussy and Wayne Shorter with their rich harmonies and their Oriental tint, but found a nice middle between their levels of improvisation and composition. The instrumentation, to my knowledge, was one of a kind; with Roddy Ellias on classical guitar, John Geggie on double bass, Guy Pelletier alternating between flute, bass flute and alto flute, and Yadong Guan on pipa.
The concert started with Roddy Ellias introducing the ensemble members, who were hidden behind their individual music stands on a stage that was just big enough for all four of them. Yadong Guan described her instrument to the audience, mentioning that it is tuned to A, D, E, A and has more than 2000 years of history in China. It was surprisingly loud for an instrument that lacked a sound hole and wasn’t amplified. She played it with five plastic nails to protect her fingers and she held the instrument vertically as it sat on her lap.
The first piece was a composition by Ellias in four movements, although the fourth was not played this evening. The first movement, fittingly named “Calm”, began with improvised sounds that were reminiscent of Lenny Breau’s solo guitar playing. Then the pipa and guitar played a melody in unison while the guitar also played accompaniment, like a piano playing the melody with the right hand and accompanying itself with the left.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Southam Hall, National Arts Centre
Partway through Diana Krall's Saturday concert an old image of Krall's Great-Aunt Jean was projected on the extra-large video screen behind the musicians. Her great-aunt was in her (fairly plain) skivvies and standing in front of a piano.
Which of course brings up the substantially more sexy picture of Krall on the front of her latest album, Glad Rag Doll, which is supposed to evoke the same era. In fact, the photo of Great-Aunt Jean was not salacious at all, and she looked extremely cute and primarily interested in the piano.
The same could be said for the first night of Krall's two-night stint at the National Arts Centre. The Krall we saw there was not a sexy siren, but rather a working musician who joked with her bassist, had fun talking to and teasing the audience, and played piano and sang with clear ebullience.
The music was primarily the 1920s and 30s songs from Glad Rag Doll, music which Krall has said she learned from old family 78s. But she also resurrected several Nat King Cole tracks, including “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” from her 1996 album, All for You, and included more modern pieces by Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. The overall sound had a 1920s feel – or at least Krall's reimagination of that feel – generally syncopated, bright instrumentals, but showcasing lyrics often on the melancholy side.
Krall was accompanied by bassist Dennis Crouch (who also appears on Glad Rag Doll), Aram Bajakian on electric guitar, violinist Stuart Duncan (who doubled on guitar and ukulele), Karriem Riggins on drums, and Patrick Warren on keyboards and hand organ.
- 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
- 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
- How do you run a successful jazz club? We ask The Cellar's Cory Weeds
- Cory Weeds swings across the country and into Ottawa
- Remembering Jacques Emond's life-long love of jazz
Page 4 of 25