For François Houle, it's always been about the clarinet, starting from when he was 7 years old.
Unlike most other clarinetists, he doesn't double on saxophone, or even play the bass clarinet. He has regular B-flat, A, and E-flat clarinets, and that's it.
He was first introduced to the instrument through his father's big band LPs. Records by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman were often heard in their house – and they all played clarinet.
"And so I just got that sound in my head. One day when I was 7 years old, a cousin showed up and he had started the band program at school. He had his clarinet, and he said, 'Oh I really hate it! I don't want to play it,' and he left his clarinet at my place. And so I started tooting on it, just out of curiosity, and I just basically fell in love with the instrument. And having that sound of that music from the 30s and 40s and 50s in my head, I just started taking lessons and never looked back.”
“That was it. I was hooked from the get-go.”
When Houle was studying for his Masters in classical clarinet at Yale University, he got to meet Benny Goodman in person. “He came to do a fundraiser with his big band and I got to hang out with him for a few days – not just hearing him live but actually getting to hang out with him. That was pretty special!”
“He was already an old man, a bit grouchy, but very generous with his time and talking to us, the students about his career and his life, and his approach to the clarinet and all that. That was very informative and very inspiring.”
Betty Ann Bryanton Presents Sideways Bend Reprise
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau
Saturday, September 10, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Like many jazz fans, Ottawa vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton prefers the night to the morning – and figures she should be able to sleep in on a Saturday! But the City of Ottawa allows construction to start at 7 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Over the last 18 months, with three different large buildings going up in her neighbourhood, she's heard far too many loud beeps and bangs at times she'd rather be sleeping.
At her Sideways Bend show on Saturday, she took revenge – in song.
“The Noisy Blues” was a fast-paced blues which she wrote one morning when she was woken up, again. She and her band played it with an edge, and added beeping, barking, bird calls, and other raucous noises to demonstrate exactly how annoying the noise really was. With lots of energy and even some scatting, it was a performance that grabbed the audience and received strong applause.
But it was only one of the highlights in a well-tuned performance of jazz vocal pieces which Bryanton organized. After a sold-out premiere at GigSpace last May, this was the second time she had presented the material. This reprise show also sold out, with the lower room of Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau completely packed.
In two sets, each more than an hour long, Bryanton performed songs from across the 20th century, ranging from ballads to blues to Latin to upbeat jazz numbers. She had spent a year preparing the original show, and this clearly showed in its professionalism and smoothness. And with Pierre Monfils on guitar, Howard Tweddle on electric and double bass, Lu Frattaroli on drums, David R. Miller on keyboards, and Dmitry Egunov on soprano and tenor sax, she had a good local band which was clearly comfortable with the music.
Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome with guest Ed Lister at Irene's Pub
Sunday, September 4, 2016 – 9:30 p.m.
OttawaJazzScene.ca chose this show as our jazz pick of the week – and we're glad we did!
Guitarist Roddy Ellias and vocalist Megan Jerome created a zone of beauty and intimacy Sunday night at Irene's, at the first of four weekly shows they're performing there this month.
Together with guest Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, they combined originals by both of them with jazz standards in two flowing sets. It was a quieter show than most Sunday sessions at Irene's, but their audience was intent and almost completely silent, and applauded generously throughout. (The same could not be said for the five-some playing pool at the back of the room, but they eventually did quiet down and left by the start of the second set.)
Ellias and Jerome have performed together in larger ensembles, but this is the first time they've performed as a duo. Jerome told the audience “We're just trying things out, doing things other than what we normally do”. Ellias has often played standards, particularly in duos with other guitarists, but he hadn't performed Jerome's songs before; Jerome primarily plays her own material, and doesn't often play standards or Ellias' compositions. Lister's own bands, like the Chocolate Hot Pockets and ERU-ERA, are much more hard-hitting and loud, although he also performs in quieter ensembles.
Updated September 8
Jazz. Improvisation. Pushing the edge. The Guelph Jazz Festival has always had a very clear idea of what type of music it wants to present and what it's trying to promote.
Much of that is due to the festival's founder, musician and academic Ajay Heble, who has brought a deep love of jazz and an intellectual approach to improvisation to the festival. But after 23 years, Heble is retiring as the festival's artistic director.
|Ajay Heble introduces the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival photos ©Brett Delmage|
The 2016 festival, which runs from September 14 to 18, will be the last he organizes – and he's brought back many festival favourites to perform.
From Vancouver: clarinetist François Houle, guitarist/oud player Gord Grdina, and drummer Kenton Loewen. From Montreal: pianist Marianne Trudel, saxophonist Jean Dérôme, and Esmerine. From the Toronto area: saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett, baritone saxophonist David Mott, reed player Peter Lutek, cellist Matt Brubeck, guitarist Kevin Breit, tabla player Ravi Naimpally, banjoist Tim Posgate, and guitarist Neil Hendry. From Ottawa: percussionist Jesse Stewart and violinist William Lamoureux.
From California: pianist Myra Melford. From Chicago: percussionist Hamid Drake, trumpeter Rob Mazurek, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins. From Philadelphia: drummer Chad Taylor. From NYC: trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, tuba player Howard Johnson, and pianist David Virelles.
Some of the music they play will look back: there will be two tributes to famous free jazz musicians, and one concert which will remix performances from previous Guelph festivals.
Others will expand possibilities, with performances as diverse as DJ/scratch artist Kid Koala, to the Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble, to the “heavy-handed” FreePunk of Peregrine Falls.
But the core of the festival remains improvised jazz. It has similarities to the Ottawa Jazz Festival's Improv Invitational series – ranging from melodic to highly avant-garde – but on a much larger scale.
Think "September Song", and you'll have a good idea of what's happening in jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau. It's a month to hear jazz vocals – and the start of a new jazz season in which you can hear award-winning vocalists.
Sign up to our JazzScene newsletter to get a full listing of all the jazz and improvised music events within 100 km of Parliament Hill in your inbox every week. You can also check our list of Ottawa-Gatineau-area jazz clubs.
Of course, there's still lots of opportunities to hear mainstream jazz and the avant-garde. But this fall, the big names will include Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Bet.e and Stef, Tanya Tagaq, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.
In September, you can hear the human voice celebrated in jazz in many different forms, from ballads to blues to Latin, with shows by the Nylons, Bet.e and Stef, The Juliet Singers, Diane Nalini, Kimberley Beyea, Nicole Ratté, Betty Ann Bryanton, Rachel Beausoleil, Megan Jerome, Anne Lewis, Peter Liu, Steve Berndt with the Jivewires, Hélène Knoerr, Rachelle Behrens, and Caroline Cook.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's September jazz highlights are brought to you by you, our readers. We greatly appreciated reader donations which make it possible for OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day this past season.
Please support our continued publishing in the 2016-17 season with your donation.
Conjunction: The Gryphon Trio with Scott Good, Dafnis Prieto, and Roberto Occhipinti
Chamberfest: Chamberfringe series
La Nouvelle Scène
Friday, July 29, 2016 - 10 p.m.
Dafnis Prieto and Max Pollak
Chamberfest: Siskind Snapshots
Dominion Chalmers United Church
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - 5:45 p.m.
Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto is best known for leading Latin jazz bands and collaborating with the cream of the NYC avant-garde jazz scene. Roberto Occhipinti is a prominent jazz bassist and bandleader in Toronto. Scott Good has played trombone with many Canadian jazz musicians.
Did you realize that each of them also composes and performs chamber music?
In one of the most fascinating concerts I've heard this year, these three musicians collaborated with the Gryphon Trio at Chamberfest. In a 90-minute show, they presented four pieces which crossed back and forth between jazz and classical music, building on the strengths of both and ending up with beautiful music.
The Gryphon Trio – Roman Borys on cello, Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin, and James Parker on piano – was a natural partner for this endeavour. The trio may be best celebrated for its interpretations of works by Beethoven and Schubert, but it has also consistently expanded its range outside the standard chamber repertoire, many times together with Occhipinti. Borys is also Chamberfest's artistic director, and has made a point of programming many jazz and jazz-crossover concerts in its late-night Chamberfringe series.
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, August 20, 2016 – 8 p.m.
The four Ottawa jazz musicians in Modasaurus are nothing if not versatile. In the many different groups they're involved in, I've heard them play everything from straight standards to serious funk, with reggae, pop, and classical, and blues excursions as well.
But it's jazz fusion that they play in this group – a driving and intense jazz style with touches of rock. The group is also a fusion in another sense: between pianist and composer James McGowan, and the three members of the HML Trio: guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist J.P. Lapensée and drummer Jamie Holmes (who are also three-quarters of the Chocolate Hot Pockets).
As you might guess from their dinosaur-inspired name, Modasaurus has a big sound – not excessively loud, but full-bodied and complex. Most of their repertoire is original compositions by McGowan, which use the talents of all four, and allow for considerable interaction and interplay.
This weekend was their third outing as a group. They used the two nights to showcase several new tunes, and to bring in guests: saxophonist Mike Tremblay on Friday, and guitarist Wayne Eagles on both Friday and Saturday.
OttawaJazzScene.ca heard them on Saturday. Any group playing that night was going to have some serious competition: the Tragically Hip was playing its final concert, which was broadcast everywhere in Canada and attracted the kind of national attention usually only given to two Canuck teams playing for the Stanley Cup. The Options Jazz Lounge turned on the broadcast on its TV screen between sets, but otherwise put the jazz first.
For Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels, swing music is a happy escape – one that she likes sharing with her audiences.
“I just love that sound. I'm drawn to this kind of rhythm, swing and happy rhythm, because I think it's an escape for me. You know, to feel this happy, driving force. It just takes you away from the monotony of life, and things that might be bothering you at the time, which for me is kind of an escape.”
And for her audiences? “I like to take them with me me, yes!”
Bassels and her quintet will perform this music – including selections from her upcoming CD – at GigSpace this Saturday, August 20. It will be her first full show in Ottawa proper, although she was a big hit at Merrickville's Jazz Fest in 2014.
Although Bassels is a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald, her music isn't just standards. Rather, it's a blend of her own originals, and covers of songs written anytime between the 1920s and the 1960s – all in a swinging style.
Why that style? “Because that's the way I feel the song. There's a lot of songs that I love that aren't swing, and I just find that when I do take a stab at singing them myself, there's just this rhythm they seem to fall in. I feel more attached to the song and more invested in the song when it feels right to me. And with that rhythm, it just flows more.”
Besides the larger jazz camps where many different instruments are played, Ottawa also supports several camps devoted to players of a single instrument. This week, it's the turn of the trumpet.
This is the sixth year that Nick Dyson has run his Trumpet Bootcamp at Alcorn Music Studios. The camp, from August 15 to 19, is a chance for young trumpeters to get up to speed before the school year – and its free student concerts will provide music lovers a chance to hear trumpets in different combinations.
“It's not your typical jazz camp, because we cover both jazz and classical music,” Dyson told OttawaJazzScene.ca. “It's more about fundamental trumpet playing and music making.”
In jazz, trumpets are heard in big bands in packs of three or four, and singly in combos along with other instruments. But the trumpet is also featured in classical music, including in chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras.
Dyson is keeping both jazz and classical music “on equal footing” at the camp, he said, “because it's not about jazz music, it's not about classical music – it's about trumpet, and the way that the trumpet fits in to that [music]. I try to blur the lines as much as possible.”
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer sector)
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Haunting melodies and circling rhythms filled Parc de l'Imaginaire Wednesday, as Kiran Ahluwalia brought her cross-cultural music to Aylmer.
The Indo-Canadian vocalist sings Indian ghazals (a song form based on Urdu poetry) and Punjabi folk songs. In the last decade, however, she's combined these with jazz and Saharan blues – in particular, the Tuareg music of the Sahara desert. Her most recent album, Sanata : Stillness , is a hybrid of Indo-Saharan music.
Originally from India, Ahluwalia was raised in Canada and was well into her career before moving to New York City. She has won two Juno Awards, including for her 2011 CD, Aam Zameen: Common Ground.
It wasn't your standard vocal concert – Ahluwalia wasn't singing in either English or French, so that few in the crowd likely understood the words in the songs. The effect was to make her voice part of the instrumental mix – which was enhanced by her occasionally adding in wordless vocals.
And it was a fine instrumental mix – with Rez Abbasi on electric guitar, Louis Simão on accordion, and Nitin Mitta on tablas. Simão and Abbasi both have strong jazz credentials – Ottawa audiences would have seen Simão last at the 2015 Chamberfest in Michael Occhipinti's Sicilian Jazz Project; Abbasi has appeared previously at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Ahluwalia is married to Abbasi, and both he and Mitta have played regularly with her for years, including on her albums.
Mitta had four tablas in front of him, plus other percussion instruments. He played on two at a time, one deeper and more resonant, one higher and sharper-edged, but would quickly switch tablas in and out to get different tones. His tabla rhythms set the pace of the concert, providing a consistent forward momentum. But they were more than just rhythmic: his playing varied from delicate to intense, with the different pitches and harmonics of the tablas contributing melodic interest as well.
Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Quintet
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, June 11, 2016 - 3:30 p.m.
This year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp has moved its faculty concerts to the late afternoons from the evenings to make it easier for the camp's students to attend. This made for a more informal vibe but still much skilled playing at the final faculty concert, which featured a classic jazz quintet.
It was a fine 50 minutes of mainstream jazz, played with enjoyment and a sense of fun, which easily communicated itself to the audience. The set-list mixed originals with classic 60s bop tunes and one ballad.
Five camp instructors, all well-known and experienced Ottawa jazz musicians, shared the stage – Mike Tremblay on tenor sax, Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone, Nick Dyson on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Geggie on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums. They've played together in many different arrangements before, and were clearly comfortable together – which was good, because they were just receiving the sheet music for one of the numbers as they started.
They opened with Horace Silver's “The Jody Grind”, a fast, grooving tune with the trumpet and sax pumping out the beat over a strong bass line, and then moved to a more thoughtful mood with “Falling Grace” by Steve Swallow, with flowing sax lines over multi-faceted piano lines. The originals included Dyson's “April Fools”, a bright, brassy tune which was given a more punctuated feel here than in the Beeched Wailers' version, followed by Ferguson's “Is That All?”, a strongly appealing tune with anthemic trombone, assured saxophone, and sweet and full trumpet solos.
- 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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