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.
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.
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.
At 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.
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.
OttawaJazzScene.ca'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
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.
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.
That 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.
Brian Browne Trio
NAC Fourth Stage, Ottawa
Saturday, November 15, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.
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.
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.
Alex Goodman Trio
Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge, Ottawa
Friday, November 14, 2014 – 8 p.m.
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.
The Adam Saikaley Quartet
Mugshots (Nicholas Street Jail Hostel)
Saturday, November 15, 2014 – 10 p.m.
In order to get into Mugshots, you must cross the courtyard where convicted murderers were hanged. On a winter's night, it's dark and filled with shadows, and the grey metal door leading into the bar is more security-conscious than inviting.
But inside on Saturday night, the Adam Saikaley Quartet filled the room with bright, inviting music.
The bar is located on the ground floor of of Ottawa's former jail (now a hostel). It's a long low space, with thick stone walls, curving brick-lined ceilings, and heavy pillars marching down the centre of the room. Vibrations travel really well through the floors and walls – which only increased the intensity of the quartet's grooves.
A year ago, Saikaley started bringing his jazz quartet, with Linsey Wellman on sax and clarinet, Joe Hincke on bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums, for monthly shows at Mugshots. They've been playing there regularly ever since, with Marc Decho recently replacing Hincke. This fall, Saikaley wrote all new arrangements for the group, featuring everything from Ornette Coleman free bop, to 60s and 70s modal jazz, to Brazilian samba, to Afro-Cuban and African rhythms.
But always the groove, as was obvious Saturday. Guitarist Alex Moxon was sitting in for Wellman, and Saikaley's keyboards set up a strong Rhodes-like vibe which easily reached into every corner. Starting with classics like Freddie Hubbard's “Little Sunflower”, their first set had a strong jazz fusion feel. Lead lines on keyboards and electric guitar glided over propulsive rhythms on drumset and double bass, and the whole was warmly received by a generally-young crowd. When OttawaJazzScene.ca's editors left at midnight, there was still lots of energy in the room.
Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang
NECTAR (the New Edinburgh Community and Arts Centre)
Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 7 p.m.
Even arriving early on a cold winter night, you could hear the jazz. Shining violin and bright guitar music was spilling out of the room where the musicians were warming up, lively jazz standards that only increased the anticipation of the audience members waiting in the hall.
This all-acoustic concert featured Flemish-Gypsy prodigy Tcha Limberger on violin and occasional guitar, along with Montrealers Denis Chang and William Dickerson on guitar. It was billed as gypsy jazz – and there was certainly lots of that. But, the music covered a wider range, also not surprising given that Limberger's own musical interests go well beyond that genre.
Limberger is descended from a long line of Romany musicians on his father's side, several of whom are renowned in European Manouche circles and helped revive Gypsy jazz in the last 50 years. The trio opened with a piece which was composed by his uncle and grand-uncle, Fapy Lafertin and Biske Limberger. Chang said it was about old-style gypsy life: a bit clichéd but “very nicely put”. Sung in Romany, it was upbeat with a touch of nostalgia with lots of interplay between the violin and guitars.
On October 10, 2014 Rob Frayne returned to the stage before a sold-out audience at GigSpace with his original compositions, musical friends, good humour – and his tenor saxophone.
It was the first time he'd played the sax in a concert in almost a decade. Read our full interview.
Ten years ago (November, 2004), Frayne's car was hit by a truck, and he was badly injured. His return followed a long period of recovery, readjustment – and determination.
OttawaJazzScene.ca was there to capture this momentous occasion on video, and talk with Frayne about his music and his return as a saxophonist.
He'll be back at GigSpace for round two on Saturday, November 15, in Cooking with Courage 4. He will play bass and sax to support his partner and the group leader Martine Courage on piano and vocals; they will be joined by Mike Essoudry on drums and Laura Nerenberg on violin.
Updated November 12, 2014
At his NAC Fourth Stage performance this Saturday, Ottawa pianist Brian Browne will let the music flow. Each beloved jazz standard will inspire the next one, unconstrained by a set list.
“Most of the time I don't even know what I'm going to play until I go there. I don't even know when I'm there. As a matter of fact, a couple years ago, there's a joke about this, I wrote up a set list. I was forced to write a set list but when I got there I didn't do it. There's nothing more boring than to me than to do a set list.”
Browne said he starts with a “subconscious idea of flow” – what songs flow together well, rather than dictating the order in advance. He doesn't want to have to think about what tune comes next: “I don't want to be thinking – I just want to play. And sometimes if I'm playing a tune, when I'm into it, another tune might pop up into my head that should be next.”
And for Saturday's show, he'll be joined by two “top-drawer” Toronto jazz musicians who will have no trouble keeping up with that flow: bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke. Browne has known and performed with both for decades, but this will be the first time Ottawa audiences will hear them as a trio.
The show will be recorded for a possible CD, which would be Browne's 15th. That means his choice of music will be slightly more limited than usual.
“I don't want to record any songs I recorded on albums before, which is a awful lot of them. So I put a list of songs on a envelope here somewhere, and when the time comes, I'm going to do those. Some of them are just standards, standards like 'Come Rain or Come Shine' and 'Girl Talk' and a few things like that. Just stuff I haven't recorded before, that's all.”
One's a Montrealer, of Taiwanese-Canadian heritage. The other's from Belgium, of Flemish-Gypsy heritage.
But what guitarist Denis Chang and violinist Tcha Limberger have in common is a deep love of Manouche or Gypsy jazz – and the drive to spend years immersed in its culture and learning from its practitioners all over Europe.
And you can hear some of what they've learned in a trio concert in Ottawa this Thursday evening.
Limberger, 37, is blind. He has taught himself eight languages, most (including Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish) to give him the background on and allow him to understand musicians from Eastern Europe, including those playing Gypsy jazz. In his teens, he learned Django Reinhardt-style guitar playing from masters such as Fapy Lafertin and Koen De Cauter. At 17, he started studying the violin, inspired by stories from his grandfather, the legendary Manouche musician Piotto Limberger, and recordings of Toki Horvath. By the time he was 21, he left Belgium for Budapest, where he took classical and tzigane classes from Horvath Bela. He has founded a traditional Magyar Nota band, played folk music from Transylvania in the Kalotaszeg Trio, and started the jazz violin quintet Les Violons de Bruxelles. He also plays completely improvised music with guitarist Herman Schamp.
Chang, 32, has repeatedly learned from Manouche players in trips to Europe, including learning to understand the Romany language. He has performed abroad with top Gypsy jazz musicians including the Rosenberg Trio, Joscho Stephan, Gonzalo Bergara, Paulus Schäfer, and Limberger, and has toured with his own Gypsy Jazz Quartet across Canada, including playing six shows at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival.
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