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Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais
(IMOO) #151
House of Common, Ottawa
Sunday, December 18, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The cello is, in essence, a wooden resonating box with a neck and strings played by a bow or fingers. The tradition is to use it to produce beautiful, elevating sounds that unroll like ribbons and sigh like lovers.

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport played one bow against another in his solo cello set at IMOO Sunday ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Judging by his Ottawa concert on Sunday, Rémy Bélanger de Beauport does not follow this tradition.

The Quebec City cellist astonished and delighted his listeners at the last IMOO concert of 2016 with a short but very intense set of free improv. In the course of 15 minutes, he actively undercut everything they might expect from cello music, even in an improvised jazz context.

Melody was absent. The very first notes he played were jagged and raw, produced by very fast bowing, with some of his strings muted by a metal clip. de Beauport let his dissonant sounds echo around the room, soft and loud, sounding like buzzing bees and then attenuating down to barely audible vibrations.

His bow lightly rubbed the cello strings, and then pressed in again, creating at first atonal cries and then sounds like a foghorn and then high dissonant harmonics. He added occasional plucked notes to the bowing – and then increased the speed again before finally letting the last notes ring out into the space.

The audience asked for a second piece, and de Beauport obliged with harsh machine-like screeches, created by pressing a metal tuning fork within the strings. Then he threaded one bow through the strings and used a second bow to bow the first, creating a hard, crackling sound. As he sped up this two-bow performance, it almost sounded like not-quite-distinct conversation. He pressed his fingers along the strings as he continued bowing to continuously change the pitch, and then finally let the sounds fade out.

Read more: Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places

 

Jazz mashed with Christmas carols (and more!) at the end of December

For earlier in December, see More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December

Even as we get closer to Christmas, there's lots of opportunities to clear your musical palate with jazz.

Gaby Warren presents his annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam for the 16th year. ©Brett Delmage, 2013It's now become a 16-year tradition: Ottawa vocalist and jazz aficionado Gaby Warren hosts the JazzWorks Christmas jazz jam. Warren has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz – and not just his specialty, Afro-Cuban jazz – and can amaze you by recounting the musicians whom he's heard in person. Each year he brings this experience to picking his song list – mostly jazz classics with just a touch of seasonal music – and then performs them with a group of fine jazz musicians.

His group's 45-minute set starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 16, at the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South – don't be late! After that, the stage is open for jamming.

On Saturday, December 17, you can celebrate the season with two high-profile concerts. At Live! on Elgin, vocalist Renée Landry pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald's famous 1960 album, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, backed by six experienced musicians from Ottawa's younger jazz crowd. At the show, she's also releasing an EP, A Christmas Night, with her music and lyrics, produced by pianist Clayton Connell and with arrangements by Richard Page. The show is currently sold out.Watch for your opportunity to win a copy of this CD from us.

GigSpace, Ottawa's intimate jazz venue, is marking its fifth anniversary with two “Jazzin’ the Holidays” fundraisers on December 17 with Toronto-area vocalist and pianist Micah Barnes. Barnes is best-known for the years he spent singing in The Nylons; more recently, he has recorded a series of critically acclaimed solo jazz recordings. This spring, he released New York Stories, which evokes “the rich musical history of the Big Apple with songs that describe a long distance romance using the rhythms of the Cotton Club, the Brill Building, The Apollo Theatre and classic Broadway”.

Read more: Jazz mashed with Christmas carols (and more!) at the end of December

 

45north plays all-Canadian jazz with enthusiasm and flair

45north
The Record Centre
Sunday, December 11, 2016 – 4 to 5 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Every note was Canadian when 45north played the Record Centre Sunday afternoon.

A young listener (appropriately wearing a 'Canada' toque) danced to 45north's all-Canadian jazz at their show Sunday at the Record Centre  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

The Ottawa jazz sextet specializes in music by fellow Canucks – both straight jazz and jazz fusion interpretations of pop and rock songs. So Joni Mitchell's “Both Sides Now” was followed by Mike Murley's “Stanstill”, and David Braid's “Cowboy Bebop” by the Powder Blues Band's “Doin' It Right”.

The combination – lively and upbeat, with horns – was a good antidote to the looming dark and frigid weather outside. The band played to customers who came and went and a varied group of listeners who stayed and clapped enthusiastically – adding to the beat during some songs as well as afterwards. Near the end of the show, a youngster in a blue snowsuit (and a 'Canada' toque) peered through the outer door from the sidewalk in fascination for almost 10 minutes, but couldn't be coaxed inside to hear the band directly.

Read more: 45north plays all-Canadian jazz with enthusiasm and flair

 

Ottawa Jazz Festival balances books in 2016 by cutting musician budget by one-third

The Ottawa Jazz Festival made a sliver of a surplus in 2016 after cutting its payments to musicians by more than a third, while staff and contract costs remained stable.

graphics: Brett DelmageAt the festival's annual general meeting on November 28, festival treasurer Lee Tessmer reported that “after two challenging years, we're back in the black”. The festival had a net income of $3,449 this year, after losses of $123K in 2015 and $141K in 2014.

But the tiny surplus did not come from greater ticket sales, which were down by almost 10% in 2016 from the previous year. (The weather during this year’s festival was primarily warm and sunny, with rain on only two days with ticketed concerts.) Similarly, grants were down 29% and corporate sponsorship down 24%, and advertising revenue was zero.

Instead, the festival cut costs – and particularly for musicians' fees. In 2016, it spent $954,671 on programming, compared to $1,459,246 in 2015 and $1,496,535 in 2014. This was despite 2016 being the festival's 35th anniversary.

The festival spent marginally more on non-musician wages and contract services, from $493K in 2015 to $497K in 2016. In 2015, according to the most recent Canadian Revenue Agency filings, the festival had three employees earning from $40,000 to $79,999, and one employee earning from $80,000 to $119,999.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival balances books in 2016 by cutting musician budget by one-third

 

More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December

Updated December 12, 2016
No need to feel hemmed in musically in the second week of December! There continues to be lots of jazz choice, with a few Christmas cookies as well.

Bassist Harrison Bankhead plays with David Murray at Mercury Lounge on December 8  ©Brett Delmage, 2013On Thursday, December 8, you have a rare chance to hear three major jazz voices from Chicago in the All Star Ritual Trio at the Mercury Lounge. Saxophonist David Murray was a hit with audiences at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival with his big band featuring R&B vocalist Macy Gray; he's also a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet and has worked with greats like Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, and Randy Weston.

Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar is an AACM member and the leader of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, which played Ottawa annually for years. He's worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Pharoah Sanders, among others. Bassist Harrison Bankhead plays everything from straight-ahead to free jazz; OttawaJazzScene.ca was very impressed with his interpretive ability when we heard him with Nicole Mitchell in 2013. He's played with Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Hamiet Bluiett, and many more.

Expect a deep understanding of the jazz tradition – and the ability to turn that tradition on its head. Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura's trio will play an opening set.

Also on December 8, you can hear four groups whose music ranges from free jazz to experimental music at Daïmôn in Gatineau. The show is called “Électrons Libres”, and it pairs sound artists and instrumentalists together for improvised sets. The show features Ottawa improvisers Instant Places (Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse) playing a short set with saxophonist Linsey Wellman, plus the touring American duo Elka Bong (Al Margolis and Walter Wright). Margolis is an experimental violinist and clarinetist whose works cover both fairly spontaneous studio constructions and more process-oriented composition, while Wright plays drums and electronics and includes electro-acoustic music and videos in his performance. Just don't expect to hear any Art Blakey here...

Read more: More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December

 

Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with many sides

Ranee Lee
Harold Shenkman Hall, Shenkman Arts Centre
Friday, December 2, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ranee Lee doesn't just sing: her voice is a flexible instrument that can softly caress a lyric – or jump, growl, and bop the night away..

'I enjoy every second of what I do' - Ranee Lee  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

At 8 p.m. on Friday, she sashayed onto the stage at the Shenkman Arts Centre, and, from then until 10:45 p.m., the energy never flagged. In two sets totaling 2¼ hours, the Montreal jazz vocalist performed jazz standards to pop ballads to lesser-known gems in a show which flowed easily and kept the audience entranced.

Lee's career has lasted more than 50 years – and the experience showed in how she gave each song an arrangement and the attention which allowed it to shine. She could project lyrics with blistering precision and speed, as she did in her opening number, or slowly bring out their beauty in a thoughtful “Lullaby of the Leaves”.

She used her expressive voice and her hands to underline the meaning of the lyrics – but also to incorporate her vocals as part of the overall sound. In that, she was well supported by her band of experienced Montreal jazz musicians: her husband, guitarist Richard Ring, plus drummer Dave Laing, double bassist Dave Watts, and pianist Taurey Butler. There was a comfortable, swinging vibe on stage, and an easy, quick communication among the musicians.

The concert was advertised as showcasing Lee's latest CD, What's Going On [2014]. I thought the pieces from that CD were among the highlights of the show, particularly when she was joined by the members of the Birds on a Wire string quartet, who contributed rich and lovely melodies to the mix.

Cellist Jane Chan was featured on “White Gardenia”, a plaintive ballad which Lee's long-time musical associate Roger Peace especially contributed to the album, along with Butler. Chan added full, melancholy cello lines and a solo, which underlined the lyrics' story of lost love, as did Ring's evocative guitar solo. Lee sang the elegy with care and deep emotion, letting her voice ring through the hall.

Read more: Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with many sides

 

Escape the Christmas carols with jazz in December

Read about week 2's jazz in December

You don't have to be stuck in a Christmas carol jail this month. There's lots of non-seasonal jazz to keep you happy.

Daniel Ko is featured in Record Runner Rehearsal Studio's first concert on Dec 2. ©Brett Delmage, 2012From big bands to jazz vocals, from creative exploration to jazz influenced by Gershwin or Shostakovich, there's a variety of interesting music available in December in Ottawa-Gatineau – as well as Christmas cheer!

The month opens with a holiday classic, with the Jerry Granelli Trio performing their annual Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas at Dominion Chalmers United Church. Drummer Granelli is the only remaining musician who played on that iconic recording of Vince Guaraldi's music, and he's teamed up with two Canadian musicians – Chris Gestrin on piano and Simon Fisk on bass – to recreate it, this year with the The Cross Town Youth Chorus providing the vocals. You want comfort music – you've got it!

Also on December 1: the local jazz band Stay Tuned plays “accessible jazz” to raise money for refugees at a show at the Sheba's Cove restaurant in Westboro. There's no cover or minimum, but donations to assist refugees getting settled here in Ottawa will be welcomed. Or, if you like swinging across the dance floor, the Starlighters big band will be playing a Christmas-themed dance at the Ron Kolbus Centre on December 1.

Read more: Escape the Christmas carols with jazz in December

 

Jazz vocalist Ranee Lee has flourished in Canada

More than 45 years ago, Ranee Lee chose Canada for love – and she's never regretted it.

Ranee Lee (photo by Pierre Arsenault)The award-winning Montreal jazz vocalist will make a rare appearance in Ottawa on Friday at the Shenkman Arts Centre, performing music from her latest CD with an all-Canadian band, including a string quartet. And when OttawaJazzScene.ca spoke to her on Monday, she praised the many Canadians who contributed to that CD and to her career as a whole.

Canada has given her “every opportunity”, Lee said. “It's given me my life.”

“I don't like the attitude of small fish, big fish. I don't like that attitude, because I believe we all have to swim accordingly. I feel that the opportunities to raise a family, to be diverse enough to act, to sing, to dance, to play instruments – all of which was afforded me this opportunity through having my roots planted in Canada now.”

“I've toured most of the world as a Canadian ambassador, representing our art form in many countries. Just two months ago, we were in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a jazz festival there. So my Canadian roots have reached far and wide. And due to that, and the fact that I have a long history with McGill University as a vocal teacher there, I was given the Order of Canada. And you can't live anywhere else and get that!”

“So I believe that by fortune of birth I was given the opportunity to be born in the United States, which I don't regret. I had a wonderful childhood and a great family, and still do, and I got to see the best that the world could offer me, the best career that I could ever choose for myself.”

Lee has had a highly successful career as a musician, musical theatre performer, actress, and educator. She has released 12 jazz albums for the Canadian label Justin Time, and won a Juno for best vocal jazz album in 2010. In 2006, her joint album with pianist Oliver Jones was named Album of the Year at the National Jazz Awards. She was awarded a Dora Mavor Moore award for her performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, and produced and starred in the musical Dark Divas about the lives of seven renowned female jazz vocalists. She was named to the Order of Canada in 2006.

Read more: Jazz vocalist Ranee Lee has flourished in Canada

 

The Crooked Jazz Trio doesn't travel straight-ahead

The Crooked Jazz Trio
The Record Centre
Sunday, November 20, 2016 – 4 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Outside was the first snowstorm of the season: wet, cold, slippery. Inside the Record Centre, the Crooked Jazz Trio performed music that ranged from toasty to sizzling.

Crooked Jazz Trio: Dave Schroeder (bass), Jeff Asselin (drums), Steve Boudreau (keys) ©2016 Brett DelmageThe trio is Dave Schroeder on electric bass and guitar, Steve Boudreau on keyboards, and Jeff Asselin on drums – three Ottawa jazz musicians who each spent a great deal of time away from this city, studying and touring, and who are now back and playing jazz together.

But not straight-ahead jazz. Schroeder said that their name comes from their flexible approach to the music: “We're what could be called '"jazz'" but we are in no way bound to adhere to any stylistic limitations. And I play electric bass (though I do intend to play upright with the trio as well), and that is not a 'straight' or traditional approach to jazz. And we're all shifty and 'crooked' in that sense. So we're happy to corrupt any style of music!”

They opened Sunday's show with Boudreau's “Schraday”, a tip of the hat to Schroeder. It was a warm, inviting number, with a Dr. John vibe and an easy New Orleans-style groove, with Boudreau vamping on keyboards and Schroeder playing harmonica. They built up the pace in the next number, Boudreau's “Running Gun”, a more exploratory number with a strong forward momentum.

Schroeder and Boudreau are both former members of the local jazz band The Beeched Wailers, and they included “Harvest Stroll”, a piece Boudreau had written for that group – but given a quite different interpretation. This version opened slowly and slinkily, and created a integral groove with the bass line underlying the strong organ riffs. Asselin played brushes on his snares and cymbals, but still created emphatic rhythms underneath.

Schroeder said one reason he liked playing with this trio was that many of his tunes suited the line-up. “I don't generate as much music as Steve does, but I have tunes that will suit the trio. Playing with the Beeched Wailers, a lot of my music wasn't that effective with the quintet, but I really like to write for a trio. So it's nice to get those tunes off the ground.”

Read more: The Crooked Jazz Trio doesn't travel straight-ahead

 

Safe Low Limit: creative, new low blows and bows (video)

Safe Low Limits's Steve Berndt and Keith Walton    ©2016 Brett DelmageSafe Low Limit presented its music, which extends far into the bass clef, to appreciative listeners at Le Petit Chicago on Monday nights in November. This was their first public performance as a quartet.

OttawaJazzScene.ca's Inside the Scene interviewed all four members of the group: Steve Berndt (trombone and vocals), Ken Kanwisher (cello). Dr. Keith Walton (tuba), and Michel Delage (drums). All four enthusiastically shared their motivations for participating in this project, the challenges and pleasure of making this music, and what a Doctorate  in tuba is all about (fascinating!) on-camera.

Our story also features excerpts from their performance of Steve Bendt's composition, Safe Low Limit.

– Brett Delmage

Related: Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

Watch the Inside the Scene video story

 

“Don't waste your notes”: an interview with Dong-Won Kim

Dong-Won Kim is a master percussionist from South Korea. He has studied various forms of traditional Korean percussion music for three decades, including farmer’s drumming and dance, shamanic music, and Pansori accompaniment, and has performed throughout Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, and many other countries. He's also a member of cellist Yo Yo Ma's multi-national Silk Road Project.

Korean percussioniust Dong-Won Kim  ©2014 Brett DelmageHis instruments include the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather barrel drum; and bronze gongs.

But he's gone beyond that tradition – creating new possibilities in jazz and creative improvised music. And that's the type of music he'll be playing on Friday with GigSpace in two duo concerts with Juno Award-winning percussionist Jesse Stewart.

Kim created a notable stir with his inventive performances in several appearances at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He has played and recorded with Stewart both in Guelph and in Ottawa.

He's been living in Ottawa since mid-September, working as Carleton University's musical artist-in-residence for the fall term. He's taught weekly lessons in Korean rhythms, but also lectured on the theory and practice of improvisation and musical performance. His lecture topics have included “Rhythm for Designing Space”, “Composition in Improvisation”, and “Movement in Sound, Sound in Movement”.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Kim on Monday about Friday's concert, what he's been teaching at Carleton, and how he approaches music – but also about his experiences as a political prisoner in Korea in the 1980s, and how that solidified his determination to become a musician. This is an edited version of our conversation.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: What's it been like being in Ottawa?

Dong-Won Kim: Good! I'm very much enjoying being here in Ottawa. I really enjoy it. It's been a little longer than two months so far, and one more month to go.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you first start studying traditional Korean percussion music?

Read more: “Don't waste your notes”: an interview with Dong-Won Kim

 

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