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Wealth of great jazz launches the 2015-16 Ottawa-Gatineau jazz season

Read about the jazz coming up this month: Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians make a splash in November

September is the beginning of the new 2015-16 jazz season – and here in Ottawa-Gatineau, it's sashaying in with a wealth of music.

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Touring musicians, including American pianist Vijay Iyer, Montreal guitarist Mike Rud, Toronto pianist Bernie Senensky, Toronto vocalist Maureen Kennedy, and Holland-based avant-garde cellist Tristan Honsinger, will bring new sounds (and in Rud's case, a new CD) here.

But, in fact, this month is most notable for all the local jazz projects which are being introduced and updated. You can choose from three CD release concerts from Mark Ferguson, from Peter Hum and from the Souljazz Orchestra, a tribute show to 50s/60s saxophonist Gene Ammons, the newest incarnation of Rob Frayne's Dream Big Band, the joy of standards from Steve Berndt and Brian Browne, upbeat Afro-Cuban and Brazilian shows, and lots of vocal jazz, sung in different styles.

Some weekends – particularly the fourth – are so packed, you'd have to scramble to hear everything.

Subscribe to our weekly jazz news and events newsletter to get the full details about these and other upcoming jazz events!

The season commences with a concert by Vijay Iyer on September 5 ©Brett Delmage, 2014The season kicks off this Saturday, September 5, with a joint concert by American pianist Vijay Iyer and south Indian violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam. Iyer is one of the most acclaimed musicians in jazz, whose music ranges from the intensely cerebral to beautiful standards, from piano trio to a poetic tribute to U.S. veterans of colour. Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music for the last three years, he also received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2013. He has released three duo albums with New York saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose music has been influenced by Indian improvisatory techniques.

Subramaniam was trained in the classical Indian Carnatic tradition, which includes both improvisation and composition, but also in Western classical music. In his more-than-50-year career, he has played in both traditions, but he has also created many cross-genre collaborations including with jazz musicians. He has released albums with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and jazz fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, as well as performing with Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Al Jarreau, Jean Luc Ponty, Ernie Watts, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, John Surman, Maynard Ferguson, and Ravi Coltrane.

The Ottawa show will be the first time Subramaniam and Iyer have performed together. The concert will be in three sections: a solo piano performance by Iyer; a trio performance of Indian classical music by Subramaniam with his son and a percussionist; and Iyer and Subramaniam together.

Read more: Wealth of great jazz launches the 2015-16 Ottawa-Gatineau jazz season


Merrickville's 2015 Jazz Fest embraces jazz with Juno nominees, jam-packed program

Updated October 20, 2015 to include links to reviews of the 2015 shows

Read's reviews and photographs of the concerts in 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest, and interviews of musicians appearing at the festival.

Merrickville's Jazz Fest returns for its fifth year this fall with an all-Canadian lineup of popular jazz musicians. From October 15 to 19, listeners can hear 17 jazz concerts in churches, restaurants, and a ballroom in the small Ontario town, a one-hour drive from Ottawa.

MJF Director Peggy Holloway: 'When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can'  ©2014 Brett DelmageAll locations are within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Merrickville. But, as we found ourselves doing last year, you may have to run between venues to be able to hear every group in the three days and four evenings packed with music.

“When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can,” festival co-founder and Director Peggy Holloway told, laughing.

Word is getting out about this festival. It  received even more applications this year from musicians from Quebec City to Toronto than last year's record number, according to Holloway.

In contrast to that other large regional jazz festival, the musicians at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest have solid connections to jazz and they are not embarrassed to mention that association. From a 2013 Juno Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year nominee to the young musicians who “feel most at home performing at the jazz venues of Toronto”, MJF 2015 is presenting musicians who can satisfy a jazz-hungry audience.

Listeners' hunger will be satisfied with MJF's big buffet of jazz flavours, which include:

  • Snaggle's “own brash statement for the jazz fusion legacy”
  • toe-tapping Dixieland by the New Orleans Express
  • powerful, original Afro-Cuban rhythms from the Miguel de Armas Quartet
  • classic jazz and modern melodies and harmonies in the warm, inviting tones of vocalist Diane White
  • Sax Appeal's saxophone-only ensemble, with a full range from baritone to soprano sax
  • ... and a dozen other flavourful choices.

Notable groups which will be featured this year at Merrickville's Jazz Fest include:

Read more: Merrickville's 2015 Jazz Fest embraces jazz with Juno nominees, jam-packed program


NAC Presents mixes jazz with folk and pop in its 2015-16 season

Guitarist Roddy Ellias will join multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura, with John Geggie, Greg Ritchie, and a featured folk musician in three 'Crossroads' concerts at the National Arts Centre this season ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Would you like some folk with your jazz? Or some pop? Or some cabaret? That's primarily what the National Arts Centre will be offering to jazz fans in the fifth season of NAC Presents.

While there will be some straight jazz concerts – in particular, iconic pianist Oliver Jones – almost all the series' jazz-related shows feature artists who straddle genre boundaries, including Laila Biali, Michael Kaeshammer, Jayme Stone, and Patricia O’Callaghan.

Most notably, Ottawa jazz multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura will curate a three-show mini-series featuring a solid jazz quartet playing with three different high profile, local folk artists – Ian Tamblyn, Lynn Miles, and Jeremy Fisher.

NAC Presents has always been predominantly an indie-pop/singer-songwriter series, but each season has included a small number of mainstream jazz artists. This year, those are:


The Beeched Wailers jams return, to a new location: the Wellington Eatery

The Beeched Wailers and their popular Tuesday night jazz jams will resume on September 8 – and they're excited about their new location in Hintonburg.

Tyler Harris enjoys a solo by Beeched Wailers leader Nicholas Dyson ©Brett Delmage, 2014

The band, whose previous location closed with almost no notice after a successful 16-month run, will now be playing at the Wellington Eatery (1008 Wellington Street West [map]). The restaurant is located across the street from the former AlphaSoul Café, which hosted the 2013 Ottawa Jazz festival jams. It's just west of where Wellington Street West and Somerset Street meet, and is walking distance from the Bayview O-Train stop, as well as being on a major transit route, and easily accessible by bike.

As before, music will start at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays with an hour-long set by the Beeched Wailers, followed by an all-ages open jam, with both food and drinks available.

Wailers leader and trumpeter Nick Dyson sounded upbeat – about both the new location and the group's upcoming album – when he talked to this week.

“We're feeling pretty positive about the Wellington Eatery. The owner, George, is very cut and dried, cut to the chase kind of guy. Shoots from the hip and means what he says. I think the Wellington Eatery's going to love having us there and I think we're going to love being there.”

It's a bigger location than before, he said, with better sightlines and at least two possible places for the stage.

The band had been playing at the Rochester Pub in western Centretown since March, 2014, to consistent crowds, drawing both local professional musicians and students. “All things considered, the Tuesdays were, quite a lot of the time, the busiest weeknight at the Rochester, even if we had a slow night,” Dyson said.

Read more: The Beeched Wailers jams return, to a new location: the Wellington Eatery


The Miles in the Sky Ensemble captures the electric in Miles Davis

The duets between Linsey Wellman and Ed Lister captured the excitement of Miles Davis' electric period in the Miles in the Sky Ensemble's show at the Arboretum Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

The Miles in the Sky Ensemble
Arboretum Festival
Albert Island, Ottawa River
Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

When Miles Davis turned his jazz electric in the late 60s and early 70s, it was much more than a change in instrumentation. The new music was fused with rock concepts, it was run through effects generators, it was amplified, and it was charged with excitement.

That excitement was captured by the Miles in the Sky Ensemble in its late-night show at the Arboretum Festival Friday. In their 90-minute show, the ensemble produced a highly interactive and often thrilling performance, playing pieces from four of Davis' electric/jazz fusion albums (although, oddly enough, none from his Miles in the Sky album).

Read more: The Miles in the Sky Ensemble captures the electric in Miles Davis


Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday is remembered in music and lemonade at the National Arts Centre (video)

Many attentive and enthusiastic listeners braved the heat and humidity to celebrate what would have been Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday at the special NAC performance ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Saturday, August 15 – 90 years to the day after the late celebrated jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal – the National Arts Centre celebrated his birthday. The show was on the sidewalk outside the NAC, with the popular statue of Peterson by sculptor Ruth Abernethy looking on. Peterson's widow, Kelly, also spoke at the show.

Hundreds of jazz fans showed up to remember Peterson. They heard local pianist Clayton Connell, together with Kelly Craig on trumpet, Ben Heard on bass, and Michel Delage on drums, perform Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom" along with several standards he made famous.

Hardly anyone moved or talked during the 35-minute show, despite the broiling August sun. But when NAC communications director Rosemary Thompson announced at the end of the show that the NAC had lemonade available inside, it vanished very fast (as did the birthday cupcakes)! interviewed Connell and Thompson about the show and their love of his music. You can see them and excerpts from the show in our video.

    – Alayne McGregor

Also read our story about the show:

Watch the video


Jazz Monday: The Sean Duhaime Trio fills Le Petit Chicago with fusion

Jansen Richard ©Brett Delmage, 2015

This month Le Petit Chicago is hosting a reunion. After a three-year hiatus, Ottawa guitarist Sean Duhaime is again performing with his long-standing jazz trio.

They've been filling the downtown Gatineau club with standards and originals, played with a jazz fusion edge. The trio: Duhaime on electric guitar, Laura Greenberg on electric bass, and Jansen Richard on drums, is the August host band for the long-running Jazz Mondays series.

When heard the trio on August 17, they played a wide-ranging set for the first hour: everything from a bright, catchy version of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves”, to the dirty blues of “Let It Ride” by the Robert Glasper Experiment, to the electric fusion of Duhaime's own “Bert”.

They opened with a dynamic rendition of Sonny Rollins' “Tenor Madness”, and continued with the ballad “Little Lady” by Vince Rimbach, with an evocative and emotional guitar solo from Duhaime. A Duhaime original, “Tomadachi”, quickly built up the energy with high-speed guitar and gravelly bass lines, along with varied and energetic drumming – and ending with a cymbal tap.

Read more: Jazz Monday: The Sean Duhaime Trio fills Le Petit Chicago with fusion


Pilar and the Sicilian Jazz Project replaced jazz cool with passion (review)

Pilar and the Sicilian Jazz Project
Ottawa Chamberfest, Chamberfringe series
Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts, Kildare Room
Saturday, August 1, 2015 – 10 p.m.

In many jazz shows there's a subtle distance between the performers and the material. It's part of the jazz cool: a way of looking at the music both from the inside and the outside, of standing apart.

Pilar and The Sicilian Jazz Project were having none of that, in their late-night Chamberfringe show August 1.

Rarely have I seen performers – and particularly singers – who immersed themselves in the music as much as Franco-Italian vocalist Pilar and Canadian-Sicilian vocalist Dominic Mancuso did in this show. In almost every song, their voices, their faces, their hands, and their entire bodies were communicating the intense emotion in the lyrics and music.

It was an emphatically “hot” concert – both the vocals and the concentrated, jazz-fusion-flavoured instrumentals.

The project is the brainchild of Toronto jazz guitarist/composer Michael Occhipinti, and is based on his own Sicilian family heritage, as well as field recordings made by musicologist Alan Lomax in Sicily in 1954. It's a rethinking of original folksongs through the lens of Occhipinti's jazz sensibility, rhythms, arrangements, and improvisation.

Read more: Pilar and the Sicilian Jazz Project replaced jazz cool with passion (review)


Trio Jérôme Beaulieu doesn't miss a beat in show with drummer Greg Ritchie

Jérôme Beaulieu ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Trio Jérôme Beaulieu
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer)
Friday, July 31, 2015

View photos of this performance

In many ways, Parc de l'Imaginaire, a small greenspace next to the Aylmer Marina, is an ideal place to hear music. Quiet and intimate, it's verdant and shady and cool even in a heat wave. Musicians playing in the park's small covered bandstand can easily be seen from a 270 degree circle in the park.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins, which has been held there mid-summer for the last 29 years, attracts an interested audience which consistently fills the park and listens carefully – which was a perfect match for Montreal pianist Jérôme Beaulieu's music, whose melodicism reaches out to this audience.

Beaulieu's trio had two crowd-pleasing Ottawa concerts in 2014 – at the National Arts Centre and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. In the 75 minutes of this show, their first Gatineau concert, they connected with the audience just as strongly.

They had some obstacles: Beaulieu's long-time drummer had another gig and this was the trio's first show with his (temporary) replacement, who necessarily had to work from charts. And the high winds that were the remnants of that day's unsettled weather meant that all the musicians were fighting to keep their sheet music from being blown away, holding it down with multiple clips.

The replacement, on the other hand, was veteran drummer Greg Ritchie, well-known for his work with Christine Jensen and Joel Miller. Ritchie just recently returned to Montreal after a decade playing in the New York City jazz scene. He joined bassist Philippe Leduc in the trio, and adeptly adapted his playing to the music: swinging on a Monk tune; more nuanced brushes behind quiet, intricate piano on a tribute to pianist Chilly Gonzales; intense and propulsive on a Beaulieu original.

Read more: Trio Jérôme Beaulieu doesn't miss a beat in show with drummer Greg Ritchie


Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday to be celebrated Saturday at the NAC

Oscar Peterson will watch over a musical celebration of his 90th birthday on Saturday.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) will commemorate the late Canadian jazz pianist with a free outdoor concert – and right beside the band, keeping an eye on the show, will be the statue of Peterson and his piano at the south-west corner of the NAC building. The sculpture, which is normally accompanied by recordings of Peterson on piano, has become a popular attraction for jazz lovers and tourists in general.

Clayton Connell was excited to be chosen to play piano at the 90th birthday celebration for Canadian jazz icon Oscar Peterson. ©Brett Delmage, 2013The free half-hour concert, at the corner of Elgin and Albert Streets, will start at 1 p.m. on August 15, 90 years to the day after Peterson was born. (in case of bad weather, the concert will be moved to the nearby NAC Fourth Stage.)

The quartet of young Ottawa pianist Clayton Connell will perform music composed by Peterson and jazz standards which have become associated with him. Connell said he will be accompanied by drummer Michel Delage and bassist Ben Heard – and “because Oscar Peterson and [trumpeter] Clark Terry did many records together, we're going to add Kelly Craig to do some of the Clark Terry parts.”

The show will feature Peterson's signature piece, “Hymn to Freedom”, which became an anthem for the civil rights movement in the 1960s, as well as “Brotherhood of Man” from the Oscar Peterson Trio + One album with Terry. Peterson's quieter side will be represented by his tender ballad, “When Summer Comes”, and there are likely to be several numbers from Peterson's We Get Requests album.

Read more: Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday to be celebrated Saturday at the NAC


Brian Barlow's classic big band arrangements are a big hit

There were many smiles during and after the Carleton University Faculty Big Band Concert ©Brett Delmage, 2015

The Jazz Camp Faculty Big Band, led by Brian Barlow
Carleton University Jazz Camp
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Friday, August 7, 2015 – 7 p.m.

View photos of this concert

If you closed your eyes, it felt like a 50s ballroom in Harlem. You could almost see dancers gliding and swinging across the floor to the energetic music.

With Brian Barlow in command, the Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Big Band played classic big band music Friday night, and particularly favourites by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. There were lots of smiles on stage, and many listeners swaying to the music in the audience.

For more than 15 years, Barlow was the percussionist in Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, and that's only part of his decades of experience performing in and arranging for big bands. He currently leads his own big band, for which he originally wrote the arrangements featured at this concert.

Read more: Brian Barlow's classic big band arrangements are a big hit


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