Swirling lines, frenetic melodies, bright rhythms: all those were part of the very different sound of Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio at Le Petit Chicago on December 30.
Wellman – together with drummer Mike Essoudry and bassist Joe Hincke – has melded the folk melodies and styles of the Balkans with the klezmer/free jazz style of John Zorn's Masada to create fast-paced and energetic music. The nearest comparison? In Ottawa it would be the Mash Potato Mashers – which Essoudry leads and Wellman plays in – although that is more marching band music.
Combined with the group's original compositions (with titles like “The Trickle Down Doesn't Get Very Far” and “Below the Poverty Line”), it was an intense set list that kept the crowd at the Gatineau bar primarily listening and applauding appreciatively.
Essoudry changed his drum kit for the set, replacing his regular snare and tom with higher-pitched versions, substituting a greater number of smaller cymbals for normal large ones, and adding a tambourine on top of his hi-hat – all of which created a sound quite different from his usual jazz style. Wellman on alto sax and Hincke on bass also reflected very different Balkan rhythms in their playing.
A few days before Christmas, three Ottawa jazz vocalists teamed up with three local jazz instrumentalists to benefit a venue they enjoy performing at: GigSpace Performance Studio.
Despite two huge snowstorms that walloped Ottawa in the previous few days, Elise Letourneau, Karen Oxorn, and Nicole Ratté, presented Jazzin' the Holidays to a capacity audience. Performing songs ranging from traditional carols to Christmas favourites to songs which have become jazz standards, from serious to humorous, and in both English and French, they gave each their own twist.
GigSpace board member and concert bassist Mark Alcorn said the fundraising event raised more than $1100. Fellow board member and guitarist Tim Bedner said that GigSpace is becoming more popular with local and touring musicians, with events booked as far away as June, 2014.
OttawaJazzScene.ca was there and recorded the concert to give you a taste of the experience. Watch our video after the turn.
Find out more about GigSpace and how to make a donation (it's a registered charity) at gigspaceottawa.com
– Alayne McGregor
It was thirteen years lucky on December 19, as vocalist Gaby Warren again led his group to host the annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam at the Carleton Tavern.
It's a tradition for Warren to bring his favourite local jazz musicians – Rob Frayne on Nord organ, Linsey Wellman on alto sax, Alrick Huebener on bass, Mike Essoudry on drums – together at the December jam to play his favourite jazz classics. This year, they were joined by guitarist Garry Elliott, and were dubbed (the ever-changing group name is another tradition) “Ana's Santas”. That was in honour of Warren's wife, Ana, who celebrated a very significant birthday the day before.
The repertoire was more jazz than Christmas, starting with John Coltrane's “Equinox”, continuing through “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” from the little-known musical The Nervous Set; and ending with “Bacchanal” by Kenny Barron.
This year, Warren released his first CD as leader, and included two songs in this set-list for which he wrote the lyrics: Sam Rivers' “Beatrice”, and Miles Davis' “Nardis”. The latter was recorded but eventually had to be left off the album because he couldn't get permission from Davis' estate.
But the music did turn Christmas-y for one song: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, for which Warren put on a knitted hat which was an amazing example of Christmas kitsch. It had not only a red Santa hat, but also a 3D snowman section with black eyes and carrot nose, and long earflaps ending in small Christmas balls!
Wellman and Elliott in particular had a chance to shine with several melodic and vehement solos, but all the musicians added to the fine post-bop collaboration.Warren did occasionally have to ask the audience to tone down its conversations so that the group's musical artistry could be fully heard and appreciated.
The AlphaSoul Café in Hintonburg, a regular jazz venue and the location of the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams, is closing its doors.
Its last music night will be Saturday, December 21, with the Berekete Afrobeat Band, organized by local saxophonist Adrian Matte. On Friday December 20, Matte's quartet will hold down the café's last jazz show, as they have on Fridays for the last 2 1/3 years.
Owner Rachel Russo said the reason for closing was simple: she and Maxine (her daughter and co-owner) were worn out, after non-stop 12-hour days since April, 2011.
“We're exhausted. We've lost two significant members of our family in the last year and it's just too much. We just need to take a break and stop.”
She said they would continue the AlphaSoul name and looking to create a new art-and-music venture starting in late spring or early summer, 2014 – but not a restaurant.
“AlphaSoul is music. It's really more about music than it is about a restaurant. Anybody can have a restaurant; there's lots of them around. But to create music is different. We need to hear their voices, so it's been really exciting in that respect. I hope to continue introducing music because AlphaSoul is not dead. It's going to keep on going. We just don't know its transformation yet.”
Russo owns the Wellington Street West location and said she would be looking to rent it to a new restaurant, but there is no guarantee a new venue would feature music.
Matte said he was told in mid-November, along with the restaurant staff, that the restaurant would be closing just before Christmas. “The sense I got from Rachel was that they weren't making enough money to sustain it.”
“We weren't filling the place every time we had music,” Russo said. “Oftentimes of course we did, but it would be nice to have just in the theatre they call it, more butts in seats, you know. So that time will come. I think it's more in the future. In a couple years I think this area will be really hopping. And so for us it's an opportunity to go and do more exciting things. We're still going to be part of the music scene but in a different way, without the bricks and mortar.”
It was a frosty Friday outside, but the Adrian Matte Quartet easily heated up the AlphaSoul Café with instrumental jazz on December 13 – for their second-last show before the café closes.
The medium-sized audience, which included both long-time jazz fans and some newer listeners, was intent and appreciative, as the quartet performed three sets of standards.The musicians, listeners, and staff laughed together and chatted during the breaks, for a comfortable, easy-going ambiance.
The numbers were generally from the 50s and 60s, including Sonny Rollins' “Doxy”, and an extended and bright treatment of “Sunny”. Their quiet and intense version of the bossa nova tune “Corcovado” ended with a vibrating shimmer, as all four musicians played in unison.
It was an evening of swinging and well-modulated music, propelled by Ted Zarras on drums and Mark Fraser on bass, and with Alex Moxon on guitar and Matte on tenor sax providing strong melodic lines separately and together. They ended with “Think of One” by Thelonious Monk, its complicated interactions giving lots of room for all the musicians to shine, and for the audience to get energized for the frigid trip home.
The Adrian Matte Quartet will perform its last jazz evening at the AlphaSoul Cafe on Friday, December 20.
Jamie Baum Quintet featuring Jane Bunnett
Saturday, November 30, 2013 – 9 p.m.
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa
Introducing her composition “In Another Life”, flute player Jamie Baum told the audience that it was inspired by the feeling you sometimes get when you meet and collaborate with someone: “it just feels like you knew them forever in another life.”
Watching her and fellow flute player Jane Bunnett on the stage, you could feel that applied to them.
While bringing quite different styles to their performance, they collaborated beautifully, enhancing each other's lines and creating melodies that were more than the sum of their parts. In that, they were strongly supported by their rhythm section: Montreal pianist Paul Shrofel, NYC (and ex-Montreal) bassist Zack Lober, and Toronto drummer Nick Fraser, who added melody, depth, and even swing in many places.
Ottawa was the last stop on the quintet's tour of Ontario and Quebec. They played two back-to-back shows at GigSpace, the first of which was sold out and the second of which had only a few seats remaining.
This was a release tour for Baum's new CD, In This Life. But it also was the first time Baum (from NYC) and Bunnett (from Toronto) had had a chance to play together, although they had known each other for years. And it produced some interesting challenges for Bunnett, because her soprano sax was replacing both trumpet and alto sax parts in Baum's compositions.
The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) brought to life more than a century of music in their first concert of the 2013-14 season.
For the December 8 concert, band director Nick Dyson chose a set list which ranged from 1888 to the modern day, comfortably mixing modern composers like Lennie Niehaus with jazz icons like Charlie Parker and Freddie Hubbard.
The two oldest pieces performed by the student big band were “I Ain't Got Nobody”, which dates back to 1915, and “Anitra's Dance” from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, which was originally premiered in 1888.
But the band closed the concert with a very modern piece: “That's How We Roll”, written by Gordon Goodwin for his Big Phat Band and released in 2011.
The concert, which was enthusiastically received by the audience, allowed all the different sections of the band to shine in both upbeat and more measured numbers. Two slower numbers particularly stood out: the blues-tinged “A Minor Affair” by Sammy Nestico, and “Lil' Darlin'”, made famous by the Count Basie band, with its languorous tempo. Dyson described it as the hardest piece in the big band repertoire to play because it is so deliberately slow.
The concert was held in the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University, where the orchestra and audience were treated to the highly supportive lighting and sound provided by the theatre's enthusiastic, professional technical crew. Carleton University's music department supports CYJO by providing space for CYJO's rehearsals and performances.
More than half of CYJO's 17 student musicians are new this year, as many former members moved to study music in other cities. However, one new member, Myles Pelley, is a tuba player – a first for the band.
CYJO draws its members from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, and several local high schools. Its next concert will be held in February: the exact date and program have yet to be announced.
– Alayne McGregor
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The Ottawa Jazz Festival reversed its 2012 deficit with a surplus in 2013 of $120,834.
Treasurer Jean Vanderzohn attributed the surplus to greater sales of passes and single tickets, increased liquor sales, the new Signature concert series – and non-jazz acts like Willie Nelson and the Doobie Brothers.
Speaking to the festival's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 27, she noted that artists' fees exceeded $1 million for the first time this year ($1.115M), primarily because of big non-jazz names like Nelson, the Doobies, and David Byrne and St. Vincent, as well as R&B/jazz crossover artist Boz Scaggs.
It also reflects “the continually increasing cost of artists”, she said. “Every time Catherine goes out and talks to somebody, it seems their fee's gone up from last year and the year before.”
This compares to only $710K for musicians in 2009 or $922K in 2012. In 2010, the festival spent $885K on musicians for its 30th anniversary, which featured major names like Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Roy Hargrove, George Benson, Joe Lovano, and Tord Gustavsen.
Capital Vox will celebrate a less-known side of Dave Brubeck at its opening season concert Saturday, with both choral pieces and solo piano music written by the late, renowned jazz pianist and composer.
The concert will be only a few days short of the first anniversary of Brubeck's death (December 5, 2012, just before his 92nd birthday). The Ottawa community jazz choir wanted to pay tribute to him, said director Elise Letourneau, by exploring the compositions he wrote for choir and voice.
But the piano won't be forgotten, either: the choir will be accompanied by pianist Sally Robinson, and keyboard master Brian Browne will perform solo in the middle of each set.
Brubeck is not usually associated with choral music, Letourneau said; most people have never heard the part of Brubeck's repertoire that Capital Vox will present.
In fact, up to about three years ago, she only knew of Brubeck's instrumental jazz – and then she discovered the choral compositions.
“I thought: this is really cool! And the more I looked the more I found. This wasn't just one or two choral pieces he wrote. He wrote a lot of music for choir. We're programming a whole concert of it, but there's probably a whole 'nother concert of Brubeck material that we didn't do, that we could. And then on top of that, he wrote a few Masses and music like that as well.”
Jamie Baum is exploring new territory in her current Canadian tour, which reaches Ottawa on Saturday at GigSpace.
It's the first opportunity for the American jazz flute player to play with Jane Bunnett, her Canadian fellow flute player and longtime friend. It's also a release tour for her latest CD, which has taken her in new and original directions inspired by music from the Indian subcontinent.
“I really love Indian music and qawwali music,” Baum explained.
Several of the pieces on the album are directly inspired by performances by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was a singer of Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music. Others, while staying within the jazz mainstream, reflect Baum's experiences performing in India and listening to music from there. That led her to “new ways of writing and improvising”, which she enthusiastically described.
The quintet's tour includes Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Quebec City, Ottawa, and Kingston. OttawaJazzScene.ca spoke to Jane Bunnett the day after the first show in Waterloo, and she said that show attracted a “full house and a fantastic turnout – and the music is pretty adventuresome music. The crowd was really receptive. They loved it.”
Baum and Bunnett first met at a jazz convention in the 1990s, and have both been nominated in the same categories for Jazz Journalists Association Awards.
“So she would be there and I would be there, and we would start to bond and hang out. When she'd play in New York, I'd go hear her and we'd get a bite. When I was in Toronto, and even once in Montreal and she was there at the same time, we would just hang out,” Baum told OttawaJazzScene.ca.
“She's been in the Downbeat polls as I've been in the Downbeat polls. We have a lot of mutual friends in common, with people who have written about woodwinds,” Bunnett said. “I think originally the first person was a writer-journalist-radio guy in New York named Bob Bernotas, who said to me, 'Oh you've got to meet Jamie. You'd just get along great!' And sometimes that can be the worst thing somebody tells you: oh you guys will just get along great, and you end up like can't stand the person, right? Why did they say that? But we really did: we hit it off. And so we've been friends ever since and we keep in touch.”
The Bryn Roberts Quartet plays GigSpace on Thursday, November 21, at 8 p.m. It's part of a cross-Canada tour which took them to the Cellar in Vancouver on Nov 15-16, and The West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg on November 17. The tour continues to the Jazz Bistro in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday, November 19-20, and the Upstairs Club in Montreal on Friday, November 22.
Pianist Bryn Roberts composes long, lyrical jazz melodies – memorable ones which are expressed through all the musicians in his quartet. You can hear them in his just-released third album, Fables – and when he appears with his all-star quartet at GigSpace on Thursday. That show will feature selections from Fables, as well as older compositions, some standards, and a few surprises.
Roberts grew up in Winnipeg, which is where OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor caught up with him for a phone conversation on Sunday. He was at his parents' house for a brief stay, as he prepared for a concert that evening – and was a bit worried that a “pretty miserable snow storm” (a standard risk for Winnipeg in November) might affect attendance.
He's in the middle of a Canadian CD release tour which started with two sold-out nights in Vancouver last weekend, and will continue after Winnipeg to Toronto, Ottawa, and finally Montreal. While the CD was officially released in NYC in mid-September, and was briefly showcased in a European tour, this is the first extensive chance for audiences to hear this music.
It's also the first chance for Canadians to hear much of Roberts in many years. In the late 1990s, after he graduated from McGill, he was an important part of the Montreal jazz scene, and released his debut album in 2000 to considerable acclaim and a Montreal Jazz Festival appearance. But in 2001, he moved to New York City, and for most of the last decade his talents have been as much in demand to back up rock stars like Serena Ryder and singer-songwriters like Dar Williams as they are for straight jazz gigs.
For this tour, Roberts has brought three notable jazz musicians with him: tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, a Canadian expat who is highly influential in the NYC jazz scene and a member of John Scofield's “Quiet Band”; Matt Penman, best known to Ottawa audiences as the bassist in the SF Jazz Collective; and German drummer Jochen Rueckert, who has played with musicians like Mark Turner, Marc Copland, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Abercrombie, and Madeleine Peyroux.
This is an edited version of our conversation:
- Diverse concerts sell out to Ottawa audiences
- Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button
- Donations to jazz radio shows fall while CKCU exceeds funding target
- David Occhipinti in Ottawa Friday afternoon to debut his new chamber jazz CD
- An early and jazzy start to Christmas
- IMOOfest to return after financial break-even and artistic successes
- IMOOfest 2013 Night 3: unpacking the music (review)
- IMOOfest 2013 Night 2: stretching the rules (review)
- IMOOfest 2013 Night 1: a huge dynamic range (review)
- Will Accordion Conspiracy take over IMOOfest? (video)
- Organ-ic fusion fills the church (review)
- 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
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