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Requiem for Fourteen Roses inspires standing ovations for its emotion-laden music

Conductor Rachel Beausoleil does a final rehearsal with the choir ©Brett Delmage, 2014Requiem for 14 Roses
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa

It began with 14 ringing notes on a gong, the sound of each note rising and falling throughout Knox Presbyterian Church.

Then long lines of flickering candlelights slowly moved down the church's nave. They were held by 40 female and male choristers, there to sing the premiere of Elise Letourneau's Requiem for 14 Roses, and to remember the women killed in the École Polytechnique Massacre, exactly 25 years before.

As the music continued, first the men and then the women singers moved to the front of the church, singing the emotion-filled and deeply solemn music.

Letourneau combined choral passages, eloquent soloists (including jazz vocalist Sienna Dahlen and local cantor Jeremy Burko), and instrumental sections in her requiem. While remaining within the standard requiem form, she interposed 14 short instrumental passages throughout, featuring two trombones and two flugelhorns, to commemorate each of the women murdered, the melodies emphasizing the promise and loss of lives cut short.

Read more: Requiem for Fourteen Roses inspires standing ovations for its emotion-laden music


Audacious vocalist Phil Minton inspires IMOO improvisers

Phil Minton ©Alayne McGregor, 2014

Concert #111: Phil Minton
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO)
Raw Sugar Café
Sunday, December 7, 2014

British vocalist Phil Minton has taken the human voice to completely unexpected places and possibilities in the last 40-odd years. His improvisations don't use words – nor even word-like sounds. Instead, through extended vocal techniques, Minton creates a huge variety of sounds with different textures and timbres and rhythms.

His voice produces snake-like hisses, bird whistles, and guttural lion growls, and he fits them together into coherent sonic landscapes that range from barely audible whispering to crack-the-whip shrieks to what sounds remarkably like static. He turns the voice into a percussive instrument, but also a sibilant and even a tuneful one, and adds considerable emotional depth as well. To listen to Minton is to be constantly – and happily – surprised.

Ottawa's A B Series, which presents musical and literary events, brought Minton back to Ottawa for a long weekend starting last Friday. Over the weekend, he taught Ottawa volunteers how to sing in his Feral Choir, teaching them that anyone who can breathe can create beautiful or interesting sounds – outside of standard cultural references.

Tonight (Monday, December 8), he will conduct the Feral Choir in a free concert at St John's Anglican Church at Somerset and Elgin downtown at 7:30 p.m., and then perform solo there in a ticketed concert at 9 p.m.

Minton also collaborated with a wide collection of Ottawa's most dedicated improvisers at an IMOO concert Sunday evening – a concert which broke down the barriers between vocal and instrumental music.

Read more: Audacious vocalist Phil Minton inspires IMOO improvisers


Requiem for Fourteen Roses: hope and remembrance after 25 years

In the midst of a nation-wide discussion about violence against women, an Ottawa jazz vocalist and choral composer is presenting a musical memorial to the 14 women murdered in the Montreal Massacre.

"Right from the start I knew that I wanted a musical tribute to focus on each of the young women, because we need to. We need to remember them, we need to say their names. So I wrote a piece for each of them." - Elise Letourneau ©Brett Delmage, 2014This Saturday – 25 years to the day after that tragedy – Elise Letourneau will unveil her Requiem for Fourteen Roses at Knox Presbyterian Church. It's a major, concert-length production involving 40 choristers, five soloists, and an eight-piece instrumental ensemble.

Its message is hope and remembrance.

“It's about making sure that we stay open to talking to each other about it. Because it's been 25 years and so many of the same things are still happening. And we can't forget. We have to keep talking about it,” Letourneau said.

But both the music and poetry included in the concert look beyond anger to finding solutions, she said. “I don't want to leave people with a sense of hopelessness. It's not about going to hell in a handbasket or anything. Personally I would rather hope that one way or another it can be figured out – and I hope I live to see it.”

"Somebody's got to write a requiem"

It's a project that's consumed most of a year (in fact, she's still making minor changes to the music) – and almost got derailed by a life-threatening medical emergency along the way.

Read more: Requiem for Fourteen Roses: hope and remembrance after 25 years


New jazz jam has a popular opening set

A new band, a new location, new organizers – everything came together for a new jazz jam in Ottawa last month.

Betty Ann Bryanton (l) and Jacquie Dixon (r) organized the first jazz jam at Christopher's ©Alayne McGregor, 2014And it's returning for its second set this Friday.

On November 7, arrived at Christopher's, a cozy Greek restaurant near Mooney's Bay. It was shortly before the jam was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. – and the front parking lot was already completely full.

Inside were many people eating heaping platters of Greek food, and chatting animatedly in two different sections of the dining room. Lots of guitar and horn cases were piled near tables and sitting in corners. The sign-up sheet for the jam was being passed from table to table, and getting carefully filled in.

The host band, MMAD-Men, was also new. This was the group's first public appearance, but the group (Michael Lechasseur on bass, Marc Salsbury on guitar, Andre Ferraton on drums, and Dmitry Egunov on alto sax) opened the jam smoothly and competently. Beginning with the Miles Davis classic, “All Blues”, they played a set of classic jazz instrumentals featuring strong bass lines and an overall swinging feel.

It was easy to hear the band (aside from an annoying and frequent door chime), and there was a happy, generally listening vibe in the audience.

Read more: New jazz jam has a popular opening set


CYJO's sixth season commences with eight decades of big band music

Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Sunday, November 30, 2014 – 7 p.m.

Halfway through Sunday's show by the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra, director Nick Dyson told the audience “you've just heard 75 to 80 years of big band music”.

CYJO director Nicholas Dyson presented '75 to 80 years of big band music', in a concert that featured an evocative flugelhorn solo by Eric Littlewood ©Brett Delmage, 2014This was the first concert of the season for CYJO, now in its sixth year. Dyson deliberately programmed a wide range of big band styles for the band – and avoided the standard chestnuts. The upbeat “Jumpin' Punkins”, from Duke Ellington's Orchestra, was followed by the Coltrane-esque “Yes or No” by Wayne Shorter, and then by the funky “Get in Line” from Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.

A highlight was “Blue” by trumpeter Bobby Shew, a moody piece whose lead solo was played evocatively by Eric Littlewood on flugelhorn.

The concert opened and closed with numbers from Canadians, which Dyson always enthusiastically features in his concerts. The first number, “Just Friends”, was arranged by Toronto Boss Brass leader Rob McConnell; Dyson said they wanted to get the hardest tune of the night out of the way first. The final piece, “Cruisin' For A Bluesin'” was by Canadian-raised trumpeter and bandleader Maynard Ferguson, and featured an energetic and multifaceted drum solo by Andrew Ferderber.

Read more: CYJO's sixth season commences with eight decades of big band music


A Super Awesome Fusion

Super Awesome Club / Carleton University Jazz Fusion Ensembles
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, November 27, 2014 – 7 p.m.

In the late 60s, jazz musicians started picking up electric instruments and incorporating musical ideas from rock, funk, and R&B – and jazz fusion was born. And it's stayed vibrant ever since, as a concert last Thursday at Carleton University showed.

The Super Awesome Club played highly listenable, fast-moving music at their Carleton University concert, with a definite fusion feel. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Headlining was a long-time Ottawa groove/jazz band, the Super Awesome Club – torn out of its usual haunt of Irene's Pub in the Glebe. They were preceded by three student ensembles, directed by Carleton jazz instructor – and Super Awesome Club member – Wayne Eagles.

Why the “Super Awesome Club”? Because, unlike some jazz musicians, these ones don't take themselves at all seriously.

“We're awesome and we're super and bingo! We added two and three together and got the Super Awesome Club,” says drummer Matt Ouimet. “And everyone's a member who comes to see it because everyone's welcome in our club! But we're very important in that club. We might be the leaders.”

Three of the group's members – Ouimet, Steve Boudreau on keyboards, and Jake von Wurden on electric bass – met in Ottawa and formed the group close to a decade ago; Eagles (electric guitar) joined three to four years ago.

But because one or another was almost always touring or working elsewhere, they'd only really get together during the holidays – particularly Christmas – for a blow-out show at Irene's, with lots of laughter. Von Wurden moved back to Ottawa about a year ago, which has allowed the group to get together more regularly and possibly record.

Read more: A Super Awesome Fusion


Ottawa Jazz Festival loses money in 2014, needs new home in 2016

The Ottawa Jazz Festival has not yet found a new location for thousands of jazz fans to hear music outdoors in 2016.

And to add to its difficulties, the festival lost money this year, despite record ticket sales.

Where will 10,500 jazz fans go when the Ottawa Jazz Festival is kicked out of Confederation Park in 2016? ©Brett Delmage, 2010At the festival's annual general meeting November 19, executive director Catherine O'Grady confirmed that the National Capital Commission (NCC) will be completely renovating Confederation Park in 2016, in coordination with major sewer work by the City of Ottawa.

The NCC told the festival last spring that the park – the festival's primary location – would be closed in 2015, but has now pushed the work back a year.

O'Grady said she continues to negotiate with the NCC to find an alternative location for the festival's outdoor shows in 2016. “They do feel a kind of commitment to us to try and house us because we're grandfathered into everything the NCC does,” she said.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival loses money in 2014, needs new home in 2016


Roddy Ellias returns to GigSpace alone (video)

Roddy Ellias and Adrian Vedady at GigSpace. © Brett Delmage, 2013

In the last year, Ottawa guitarist and composer Roddy Ellias was awarded a four-star review in Downbeat Magazine for his new trio album Monday's Dream. He's been playing steadily with his own group and other notable musicians in Ottawa and abroad. Now he returns to GigSpace on Saturday, November 22 to play by himself.

“As much as I love playing with other musicians, there’s a freedom that comes with playing solo guitar that is central to the way I hear music unfold,” he says.'s video documentary crew was at his previous solo concert at GigSpace on March 23, 2013, to capture the experience. Watch our video to experience (as much as one can in a video as opposed to actually being there) Ellias' performance, improvisation, and good humour. Listen carefully for Gigspace's exceptionally low noise: it's a highly supportive room for listening to a solo guitar performance with the subtlety and dynamic range that a master guitarist like Ellias delivers.

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Whiplash drums up the tension, but doesn't do justice to jazz (movie review)

February 22: In the 2015 Academy Awards announced today, Whiplash won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It had also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay.

Whiplash [2014]
Directed by Damien Chazelle
ByTowne Cinema (November 14-27, varying times)

Whiplash starts with a drumbeat – one that becomes steadily faster and fiercer. We look down a long white corridor and there, silhouetted in a doorway, is Andrew Neiman [Miles Teller], playing his heart out on the drums late at night. And then an older man appears, listening carefully. When Andrew stops, he orders him to keep going – and play harder than ever.

Left to right: Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher. Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsThat scene sets the tempo for this movie – a breakneck-paced examination of a toxic relationship between student and teacher. Full of unexpected twists and jolts, it's 106 minutes of psychological intensity almost to the level of breakdown.

As a piece of cinema, this film is brilliant: beautifully shot, tightly directed, and well-acted. But I suspect most jazz musicians (especially drummers) and educators are going to have problems with it, because its presentation of jazz and its processes is seriously warped.

Andrew is a first-year student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music in Manhattan [possibly based on the Juilliard School], which he describes as the greatest music school in the country. He has immersed himself in jazz and drumming for years, and hero-worships Buddy Rich.

Terence Fletcher [J.K. Simmons] is a jazz pianist and teacher at the conservatory, renowned for his high standards, and always on the prowl – even late at night – for new talent for his award-winning Studio jazz band. Cool and elegant in a tight black T-shirt and jeans, he seems the epitome of the ageless jazz musician and an obvious role model for Andrew.

Read more: Whiplash drums up the tension, but doesn't do justice to jazz (movie review)


The Brian Browne Trio shows why the jazz piano trio has enduring appeal (review)

Brian Browne Trio
NAC Fourth Stage, Ottawa
Saturday, November 15, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos from this concert.

The energy was palpable inside the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday, as pianist Brian Browne, bassist Neil Swainson, and drummer Terry Clarke began to play.

Brian Browne Trio ©Brett Delmage, 2014

But it was almost as much from the audience as from the stage: these were listeners intent on and eager for the music. The room was completely packed, filling almost as soon as the doors opened, and there were lots of smiles on faces as first Clarke appeared, then Swainson, and finally Browne.

Clarke began the evening with a complex and changing series of patterns on his drum using brushes; after a minute or so, Swainson added in a steady, full-bodied bass riff; and then Browne entered with a strong swinging piano. It was a full-on trio production – lots of interplay, changing tempos alternating between more syncopated and more bluesy, and trading fours (alternating quick solos) between Clarke and Browne – before ending in a strong flourish.

The trio then slowed down for a delicate and heartfelt version of Burt Bacharach's “What the World Needs Now Is Love”. That set the pattern for the evening – varied but always melodic. Browne had no sheet music in front him, playing instead from memory, and the two sheets of paper on the piano just had some song titles jotted on them, not a formal, numbered set list.

Read more: The Brian Browne Trio shows why the jazz piano trio has enduring appeal (review)


The Alex Goodman Trio presents a wide-ranging show of fast, fluid jazz (review)

Alex Goodman ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Alex Goodman Trio
Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge, Ottawa
Friday, November 14, 2014 – 8 p.m.

View photos of this evening

This July, Alex Goodman won first prize and the Public's Choice Award at the Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition. He is the first Canadian to ever win this competition.

Listeners at the Options Jazz Lounge on Friday could hear that technical skill – and considerable composing chops as well – when Goodman's trio appeared there last Friday. In three sets over three hours, the trio combined Goodman's originals and less-common standards for a fast-moving and enjoyable evening.

Goodman has released four albums, the latest being a series of solo guitar études released in 2013; his previous album, Bridges, was a quintet release and a JUNO nominee in 2011 for contemporary jazz album of the year.

For this show, he teamed up with a different trio than on his recordings: Fabio Ragnelli on drums and Rick Rosato on double bass. All three have considerable experience in the Canadian scene (Goodman and Ragnelli until recently in Toronto, and Rosato in Montreal), but currently live in New York City.

They opened with a Cole Porter number, “From this moment on”, fast and swinging with extended improvisation on guitar and bass. Goodman noted later that Porter was one of his favourite composers, and included another of his songs, “You Do Something to Me”, which also had lots of room for exploration while retaining the sweetness of the melody.

Read more: The Alex Goodman Trio presents a wide-ranging show of fast, fluid jazz (review)


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