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.
Following the lead of the Montreal, Toronto, and Rochester jazz festivals, the Ottawa Jazz Festival revealed its 2013 Main Stage line-up on February 22.
Jazz artists not previously disclosed include
- the David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray,
- David Sanborn and Bob James with drummer Steve Gadd, and
- Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party.
- Montreal teenage jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky
The festival will close with a special tribute to its long-time programming manager, Jacques Émond, who died in January. The celebration of Emond's contribution to jazz in Ottawa will include concerts from two groups led by prominent Ottawa musicians: the Rob Frayne Dream Band and Los Gringos. It will also feature one of Emond's all-time favourite ensembles: the Vic Vogel Big Band from Montreal.
The Main Stage line-up also includes
- gospel/soul singer Aretha Franklin,
- country star Willie Nelson (who has had a number of high-profile duets with jazz musicians including Wynton Marsalis),
- Zydeco/blues/funk singer Dr. John and the Nite Trippers,
- British indie soul-rock group The Heavy, and
- rock stars David Byrne and St. Vincent.
Previously announced were jazz artists Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, The Bad Plus, and the Chucho Valdés Quintet.
John Geggie / Jean-Nicolas Trottier / Frank Lozano / Thom Gossage
Geggie Concert Series 12/13, #1
Saturday, February 16, 2013
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
One of the joys of John Geggie's long-running Invitational series is how he introduces local audiences to fine musicians they may not have heard before.
For this show, it was Montreal trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier, who, alone and in conjunction with saxophonist Frank Lozano, produced rich and intricate sounds which easily melded with Geggie's firm bass and Thom Gossage's playful drumming.
The concert, the first in this year's somewhat abbreviated series, attracted a full house. Geggie noted it was “great to see so many familiar faces”, with many fans from previous years in attendance.
The musicians each contributed originals to the set list for two 45-minute sets. The songs ranged from relatively melodic to fairly free, but not on the extreme edge in either direction.
The first set opened with “Acid Bunny” by Trottier: a flowing piece with Lozano on soprano sax and Trottier on trombone first playing a strong groove in unison. Trottier then produced a rich yet clear and controlled solo, followed by Lozano's soprano curlicuing upwards, as the bass and drums maintained a steady blues-tinged beat with occasional ornamentation.
Roddy Ellias and Gene Bertoncini
Roddy Ellias 2012-13 Concert Series, #5
Saturday, January 19, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio
The next show in Roddy's concert series is this Saturday, February 23: the Roddy Ellias Ensemble, with pipa, flutes, bass, and guitar.
One of the joys of hearing two master guitarists play together is their unpredictability. They have the whole ocean of jazz and jazz standards to splash around in, and they needn't just grab from the shallows, or keep to the pre-planned course.
If they want to ad-lib: well, the audience is there to hear them, not any one particular song.
Guitarists Roddy Ellias (Ottawa) and Gene Bertoncini (NYC) played two back-to-back concerts mid-January in the intimate confines of GigSpace. The 7 p.m. show was not only sold out but oversold; we heard the last few minutes, which were very quiet and intense. OttawaJazzScene.ca attended the 9 p.m. show, which was less packed and a bit more relaxed.
Ellias and Bertoncini have played together at least once before, in the first “Roddy and Friends” invitational series at Café Paradiso in 2009. They were at ease with each other, having fun playing, trading stories, and sharing the joy of the music.
Updated March 25, 2013
The Souljazz Orchestra's 2012 album, Solidarity, has been nominated for a 2013 Juno Award in the World Music Album of the Year Category.
This is their second Juno nomination: they were also nominated in 2011 for Instrumental Album of the Year for Rising Sun.
In late March, Souljazz also was named "World Group of the Year" at the 2013 Canadian Independent Music Awards.
The Juno nominations were announced February 19. The awards will be handed out in Regina in April. You can see the other nominations at JunoAwards.ca/nominees-winners/. No other jazz and related nominees came from Ottawa-Gatineau, but there's a good selection from Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
Juno-nominated artists who have played recently or will play in Ottawa-Gatineau include Elizabeth Shepherd, Diana Krall, Carol Welsman, François Houle, Joel Miller, Rafael Zalvidar, Cory Weeds, Pugs & Crows, and Alex Cuba.
On Sunday, February 10, Ottawa composer Ryan Purchase presented the first public performance of his nine-movement suite titled "Morphology of a Lover".
Performing with him were many of the musicians who contributed to the improvised composition and recording of the suite, soon to be released on CD.
The four core musicians: Purchase on trombone, Joel Kerr on bass, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Yoni Kaston on accordion and clarinet were joined for individual songs by Craig Pedersen on trumpet, Mark Molnar and Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello, and Linsey Wellman on alto sax.
Purchase stated up-front that the music played that night could be very different from the CD because much of it would be improvised, even though it shared the same basic concepts.
It was an evening of intricate interactions among the instruments. The sound moved from quite sparse and quiet for the first three movements, to much denser and louder near the end. The fourth movement, "Her Neck", which also featured Pedersen, had all five instruments vibrating, each in a different manner: buzzing trumpet, roughly-bowed bass, clattering drums, resonant accordion, and fast hard riffs on trombone -- and ended with a drum roll.
- 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
- Local jazz fans pack the house for last Monday jazz night at Le Petit Chicago
- What's inside Chocolate Hot Pockets ?
- Our favourite shows (Ottawa-Gatineau jazz in 2012)
- Monday jazz at Le Petit Chicago canceled suddenly
- Bill Coon and Tim Bedner attract record crowd to ZenKitchen's jazz brunch
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