The Ottawa jazz scene showed its diversity and enthusiasm on the weekend, as two very different shows – one touring, one local – both filled GigSpace to the door.
On Friday night, Brooklyn (and ex-Toronto) vocalist Melissa Stylianou brought her quartet to Ottawa as part of a three-city mini-tour of Ontario. It was an intimate show of jazz standards, originals, and a few “left-field choices” which connected well with her audience. The overall sound was stunning.
On Saturday, Ottawa master guitarist Roddy Ellias introduced his updated trio, with Thom Gossage on drums joining Adrian Vedady on double bass. They played an uninterrupted 105-minute set which included the material which they will be recording in the next two weeks (and even took advance orders for that CD).
Much of the material had been featured at previous trio concerts, but that didn't matter. By the time Ellias had improvised new beginnings to tunes and radically changed arrangements, this was a fresh and fascinating example of guitar trio. Vedady and Ellias played a number of duets demonstrating how their two different tonalities could intersect and compliment each other. Gossage added understated texture in some places, and some surprisingly assertive and unexpected percussion in others which served to highlight the entire trio's music.
There's lots of choice again this week, with the star-studded Bryn Roberts Quartet on Thursday and the Trombone Summit on Saturday at GigSpace. Vocal jazz fans will be torn between the Nylons at Shenkman, and Montreal bossa nova duo bet.e & stef at the Mercury Lounge, both on Thursday. Roberto Lopez brings his highly energetic and original jazz inspired by Afro-Columbia rhythms to downtown Gatineau on Friday (we were very impressed with his concerts in Ottawa and Montreal this summer), and Zola's is broadcasting a concert from New York City featuring noted saxophonist Chris Potter. And there's lots more!
– Alayne McGregor, with files from Brett Delmage
- Roberto López combines Colombian rhythms and jazz into danceable music
- Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button
“I realized that October 31st marked my 51st anniversary from my first gig and I have three records out on my own name,” guitarist, composer, and improviser Roddy Ellias told OttawaJazzScene.ca recently. But now he's working hard to change that as he gets ready to record two albums of his own and appear on a third this year.
As part of that process, his jazz trio, with Thom Gossage on drums and Adrian Vedady on double bass, is performing at GigSpace on Saturday, The concert will preview his album of all-original tunes which they will record in early December. Listeners can expect melodic music influenced by Ellias' years of playing both jazz standards and chamber music, and "the wide spectrum of moods, rhythms, expression and colours that happen with Gossage and Vedady".
“I just find that I don't really want to record something until I have something good to offer. I don't like to just make records because I like making records. When I've compiled enough good tunes and I've worked at them enough then... it's time.”
Ellias would have been pressed to find time earlier to record in the manner he prefers. In this year alone, he was named as Canada's only Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association in April, organized the inaugural Guitar Now! Festival (which included renowned guitarists from around the world) at Carleton University in May, and wrote two commissioned pieces this summer, including one for the German Meininger Trio. All that on top of his 2012-13 GigSpace concert series and teaching at Carleton University and in martial arts.
Carleton University's community radio station CKCU FM (93.1 / ckcufm.com) ended its annual funding drive on Sunday, November 10, receiving $134,473 in pledges and exceeding its goal of $127,000. Donations to long-running jazz programs were down significantly, however.
According to CKCU station manager Matthew Crosier, $992 was donated to Swing is In the Air, $500 to Rabble Without A Cause (RWAC), and $1843 to In A Mellow Tone.
The annual fundraising campaign raises money to pay the $40 per hour it costs to operate the largely volunteer-based CKCU. This includes equipment purchase and maintenance, electricity (for the radio transmitter and station), rent, music licenses, “CKCU On Demand” streaming audio and archives, and a small core staff.
2013 donations to Swing is In the Air ($992) reached less than one-half the target of $2300, down from 2010 donations of $3141. This was the first fundraising drive that followed the sudden death in early January of longtime host Jacques Emond. Emond had hosted the show for 30 years and was also widely known and loved in the jazz community as the longtime programming director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
With new hosts, Swing is In the Air saw a format change this year, with even more airtime given to interviews with, and newly released music by, local musicians. It is now hosted by Vince Rimbach and Ralph Hopper, and occasional guest hosts.
Rabble Without A Cause's donations fell this year to $500, from $780 last year and $850 in 2011 according to host Bernard Stepien. RWAC serves a smaller audience, focusing since its inception in the mid 1970s on avant-garde jazz, and being the primary local radio show where this music is aired weekly. According to Stepien, RWAC allocated 21% of its programming “to local musicians of all styles and level of development” this past year, an increase over 10% in the past.
Toronto guitarist David Occhipinti recently released a new CD, Camera. It's Occhipinti's foray into chamber jazz which he talked about when OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him in 2012. OttawaJazzScene.ca has listened to the CD several times and was impressed by its fascinating textures and beautiful melodic music.
Occhipinti is touring right now in support of the CD with an ensemble of Toronto jazz musicians who also cross over into chamber music: for example, Andrew Downing on cello and Peter Lutek on clarinet/bassoon. Ottawa audiences last saw Occhipinti with the four-guitar Walrus Quartet.
This Friday afternoon, Occhipinti and his quintet will be giving a free masterclass/concert at Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University.
This Wednesday, Christmas comes early to Ottawa – or at least its jazzy soundtrack!
Vocalist Jozée Devoua, pianist and arranger J.P. Allain, and bassist and engineer Normand Glaude will be premiering their new Christmas CD, Jazz Winterlude, at the NAC Fourth Stage.
Just a bit early for the actual holiday, you might wonder? Glaude said they wanted to ensure they introduced the CD early enough to get it to possible buyers. And, in fact, he said, once Hallowe'en was over, ticket sales really picked up. “There definitely are some die-hard fans out there of Christmas that want to get into the mood early.”
The album was inspired by all the great jazz music which is also Christmas music. “Christmas is a fun time of year. There is a lot of Christmas music out there that people like to rejuvenate every year, and add new music to their portfolio. And quite honestly, I think that there are some really nice jazz standards that are great Christmas tunes.”
Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman looked exhausted but happy at the end of IMOOfest 2013 on Sunday night.
The two IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) programming directors had been going full out for three days of the festival. They were organizing all the last-minute details and cleanup, introducing acts, and publicizing each night, as well as all the pre-festival arrangements which had occupied them for months beforehand. And although they had originally planned to play only in the IMOO orchestra, they each ended up unexpectedly performing in another set as well.
But they were satisfied: “I feel great”, they both said, with Wellman continuing that “musically, it was a big success. There was some really stellar music. That was the most important thing. And there were people here; everybody who came seemed to be really happy. It was just a really great chance to get some people in the community all together, in one place."
The festival featured a wide range of musicians from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto, all playing improvised music, but on many different instruments and presenting a wide diversity of sounds. Pedersen said one highlight for him was playing with (ex-Ottawa, now-Toronto) guitarist Justin Haynes. Haynes became an unexpected extra headliner when Jennifer Giles invited him to play in her trio – with results that “floored” Pedersen.
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 3
Sunday, November 10, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa
Jesse Stewart, solo percussion
For his previous solo show at GigSpace, percussionist Jesse Stewart brought in a vibraphone, a set of heavy, carefully-tuned marble blocks, a drumkit, a giant sawblade, and many other percussion instruments: a load you'd need a large car or van to carry.
He showed up at IMOOfest 2013 with a plain cardboard box under his arm, about a cubic foot in size and obviously trivially light. He ignored the two full drumkits behind him, and he played the box in every possible way.
Opening the last night of the festival, Stewart embodied its pure improvising spirit – and playfulness. He began by simply shaking the box, letting the contents crash around inside. Then he turned it over and around. He rubbed the stubble on his face against it, and then put it down and ran his fingers over the corrugations on the side, creating light scratching sounds.
He drummed on it with his hands, on both the sides and top, starting with simple patterns which evolved into more complex and interrupted, and turned into a thundershower of sharp beats. He opened the box and pressed the flaps down alternately, fast and hard. Using a violin bow, he bowed the side of a flap, creating an attenuated screech like a creaking door in a horror film, and then pressed down harder and harder until the sound popped.
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 2
Saturday, November 9, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa
Night 2 of IMOOfest 2013 showed the diversity of what can be described as improvised music or avant-garde jazz.
It began with Jeff Morton playing what was billed as a solo electronics set, but which ended up at least as much acoustic. For the first half of the show, he played electronic dance music, a constantly adaptive ecology of sound with strong electronic figures over a muffled beat. It had a minimalist, hypnotic feel, and despite its intensity was never too loud.
A projection screen was set up to his right: for the first half it displayed changing abstract patterns; during the second half, his partner, Katrina Bray, moved paper origami figures to create frequently-changing, evocative shadows on the screen.
For the second half of his show, Morton pulled out a “Phono Fiddle”, an instrument sold mostly door-to-door in the early part of the 20th century for beginning musicians. It looked so odd that I had initially thought it was a home-brew device: it consists of a long wooden rod with a single metal string running down it. At the bridge, the string vibrates a phonograph needle, and that then transfers sound through a diaphragm and a small metal tube to a large metal horn attached at the bottom of the wooden rod.
Morton played it with a bow, touching both the string and the edge of the bell to double the sound. That created a sonorous but supernatural-feeling sound, initially high-pitched and then moving up and down in frequency. He added loops behind, but still kept the acoustic and very minimal feel as he continued with small variations on the melody, and eventually faded out to appreciative applause.
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 1
Friday, November 8, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa
The second edition of IMOOfest opened with three performances, which each reached their audience's hearts and minds, but in quite separate ways.
The festival is being held this year in the intimate GigSpace, which gave it a warm, inviting, and informal feeling: where a peaceful baby could snooze in his mother's arms during quiet sections or watch and listen (protected by ear muffs) to louder passages. There was lots of time between acts and before and after the show for the performers and listeners to chat together, enjoy refreshments, and look at the performers' CDs.
The festival opened with an extended solo guitar piece by David Jackson. Playing electric guitar with a variety of effects pedals and loops, Jackson layered sounds on top of each other like a watercolour painter. He started with a simple musical aura, produced using his effects pedals while he lightly drummed on his guitar body. He added a few harmonics, and then superimposed on another light overall tone on top of the first.
Bernard Stepien and David Broscoe have been conspirators for a long time, but usually playing saxophone. But five years ago, Bernard brought his Hohner accordion – the one he played as a child – over from Europe, and the extra capabilities of that instrument and the encouragement of a few friends persuaded him to try it in a improvised music context.
And so was born their Accordion Conspiracy. They'll be reprising it at IMOOfest this Saturday, November 9, at 8:30 p.m.
Our video features excerpts from their initial concert at IMOO on January 27, 2013, and an interview with Stepien and Broscoe.
eagles – mcgowan – wittet
Trinity United Church
Saturday, October 19, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.
Freddie Hubbard's “Little Sunflower” is a jazz classic because of its great groove and its infectious melody. I've heard it played in many different configurations by organ trios, in jazz jams, and by student big bands. But the version that opened this concert was one of the best ever.
And that related directly back to the reason for this concert: to raise money for the (just-finished) refurbishing of Trinity United Church's Casavant organ. James McGowan, who is both the church's director of music and the keyboard third of this trio, played the Casavant organ in this and several other numbers during the concert. It added depth and a richness of tone to a really notable degree, and certainly surprised me how well it fit in with the jazz repertoire.
As McGowan explained later, this organ is almost a hundred years old, and was originally installed in a chapel in Montreal. When that chapel closed, Trinity, which originally didn't have an organ, bought it and had it reinstalled behind a screen at the front of the church.
But including a church organ wasn't much of a stretch for this trio, whose members come from quite different backgrounds aside from their mutual love of jazz and improvisation. McGowan is a professor in the music department at Carleton University, whose research interests include 18th- and 19th-century art music. Guitarist Wayne Eagles is a long-time performance instructor and ensemble director at Carleton, who runs the jazz fusion ensemble. T. Bruce Wittet has been a music journalist and drummer, in many different genres, for more than 30 years.The concert started in an almost-classical vein, with a short stretch of solo organ before Eagles entered with fluid electric guitar lines and Wittet with light mallets on drums. Their notes coalesced after a minute or two into Hubbard's distinctive riff, and the music swelled to fill the church right to the back.
- Phil Nimmons and David Braid reinvent their music with each concert
- Ensemble SuperMusique takes a chance with IMOO at Club SAW
- Mortimer Katz remembered: a very long life filled with bebop
- Guelph 2013: Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers moved from sorrow to triumph (review)
- Guelph 2013: The improvisers get improv'd
- Three Ottawa vocalists recreate classic Ella and Billie Newport concerts (video)
- Guelph Jazz Festival listeners treated to elevator music (review)
- William Parker tells Guelph 2013: You can't resurrect the jazz masters
- Guelph 2013: Bomata warmed a rainy-day audience with melodic yet unusual jazz
- Guelph 2013: Satoko Fujii and Kaze blew away preconceptions
- Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau share the improvising spirit in their new CD
- Guelph 2013: Hamid Drake & Jesse Stewart share a creative imagination (review)
- Guelph Jazzfest's community-built concert reaches new heights
- Which Canadian jazz musicians did “NAC Presents” miss? (commentary)
- More Saturday night jazz at AlphaSoul Café
- Guelph 2013: Espousing music of the moment (review)
- NAC Presents instrumental jazz in its 2013-14 program
- Nick Fraser's CD is full of resonances
- Guelph 2013: Matt Brubeck pushes the cello's boundaries in a solo concert (review)
- Guelph 2013: The Indigo Trio soars and leaves the audience exalted (review)
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