Safe Low Limit presented its music, which extends far into the bass clef, to appreciative listeners at Le Petit Chicago on Monday nights in November. This was their first public performance as a quartet.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's Inside the Scene interviewed all four members of the group: Steve Berndt (trombone and vocals), Ken Kanwisher (cello). Dr. Keith Walton (tuba), and Michel Delage (drums). All four enthusiastically shared their motivations for participating in this project, the challenges and pleasure of making this music, and what a Doctorate in tuba is all about (fascinating!) on-camera.
Our story also features excerpts from their performance of Steve Bendt's composition, Safe Low Limit.
– Brett Delmage
Dong-Won Kim is a master percussionist from South Korea. He has studied various forms of traditional Korean percussion music for three decades, including farmer’s drumming and dance, shamanic music, and Pansori accompaniment, and has performed throughout Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, and many other countries. He's also a member of cellist Yo Yo Ma's multi-national Silk Road Project.
His instruments include the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather barrel drum; and bronze gongs.
But he's gone beyond that tradition – creating new possibilities in jazz and creative improvised music. And that's the type of music he'll be playing on Friday with GigSpace in two duo concerts with Juno Award-winning percussionist Jesse Stewart.
Kim created a notable stir with his inventive performances in several appearances at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He has played and recorded with Stewart both in Guelph and in Ottawa.
He's been living in Ottawa since mid-September, working as Carleton University's musical artist-in-residence for the fall term. He's taught weekly lessons in Korean rhythms, but also lectured on the theory and practice of improvisation and musical performance. His lecture topics have included “Rhythm for Designing Space”, “Composition in Improvisation”, and “Movement in Sound, Sound in Movement”.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Kim on Monday about Friday's concert, what he's been teaching at Carleton, and how he approaches music – but also about his experiences as a political prisoner in Korea in the 1980s, and how that solidified his determination to become a musician. This is an edited version of our conversation.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What's it been like being in Ottawa?
Dong-Won Kim: Good! I'm very much enjoying being here in Ottawa. I really enjoy it. It's been a little longer than two months so far, and one more month to go.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you first start studying traditional Korean percussion music?
Canada's National Arts Centre (NAC) announced its 2017 Canada Scene festival today, including a major tribute to Oscar Peterson with pianists Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, Jon Kimura Parker, Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin.
The Canada Scene festival will run from June 15 to July 30, 2017 – the middle of Canada's 150th birthday year. It will feature artists from across Canada in music , dance, theatre, culinary and visual art, performing at the newly-renovated NAC. It will also be the culmination of seven previous “Scene” festivals at the NAC which celebrated different regions of Canada between 2003 and 2015.
Robi Botos opened the launch event playing a swinging and virtuosic rendition of Peterson's “Blues for Smedley”. He will be one of seven “renowned pianists and close friends of Peterson” included in the July 10 “Oscar, with Love” tribute in Southam Hall – playing on Peterson's own beloved Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano, which will travel to Ottawa for this occasion. The evening will be hosted by Peterson's daughter, Céline.
Fellow Canadians Oliver Jones and Jon Kimura Parker will also perform, along with Americans Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin. They will be accompanied by renowned Canadian bassist Dave Young, who played with Peterson for 35 years, in appearances in the Oscar Peterson Trio all over the world up until Peterson’s death in 2007.
Young released an Aspects Of Oscar tribute album with Botos in 2011. In 2012, Young, Botos, and drummer Terry Clarke appeared at a star-studded tribute to Peterson in Ottawa, organized by the German Embassy to celebrate the historical connections between Germany and the Canadian jazz icon.
Botos, Jones, Charlap, Clayton, Green, Kauflin, and Young are also included on the recently-released Oscar with Love CD organized by Peterson's widow, Kelly Peterson, of performances on Peterson's Bösendorfer of never-before-heard Peterson compositions.
Miguel de Armas and Friends, with Claudia Salguero, Sylvio Módolo, and Juan-Luis Vasquez
The Ironstone Grill, The Marshes Golf Club
Friday, November 18, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Two well-known local Latin jazz musicians – pianist Miguel de Armas and vocalist Claudia Salguero – performed together for the first time Friday, to an enthusiastic crowd.
In two one-hour sets, they played songs from Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba – and some of their favourite American jazz standards as well. Together with Sylvio Módolo on bass and Juan-Luis Vasquez on percussion, they created a warm, lively vibe which kept almost the entire audience intent and smiling – and singing and clapping along at times as well.
De Armas plays many clubs around Ottawa, as well as concerts here and in other cities with his Latin Jazz Quartet. Since January, he has hosted a regular Friday night series at the The Marshes in Kanata, inviting different Ottawa musicians to perform with him – a wide cross-section of some of the best-known names in Ottawa jazz scene.
Salguero, on the other hand, is best known for the large-scale, sold-out shows she's mounted annually at the National Arts Centre, which feature her singing boleros and other Latin American love songs, backed by a band of local Latin musicians in arrangements created by Módolo.
Friday's show opened with the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, “The Waters of March”, and moved smoothly through a series of songs in Spanish and English, mostly romantic ballads. But there were upbeat numbers, too: “Autumn Leaves” turned into an extended jam, with Salguero's voice swaying over the tight rhythms from piano, bass, and congas, while “Rayito de Luna” was a bright, sunny cha-cha-cha.
Dutch jazz vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have developed many ties to Canadians in the last 25 years – starting with composer Kenny Wheeler and more recently with guitarist Michael Occhipinti. The duo is touring across Canada this month, including an Ottawa gig on Friday at the Mercury Lounge.
They'll perform their own thoughtful and multi-layered original music – playing with different rhythm sections in each city – and also promote a book Vandoorn has written on the art of jazz singing from a very practical perspective.
Their first experiences of Canada were when they studied at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 1991 and 1993 – “really a very important thing for us”, Vandoorn said. At Banff, they met renowned Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, “and played his music and we started to be friends”.
“It was an honour to work with him. He loved Marc's music and his contributions were spot on. He was a very shy, but also witty man and we laughed a lot.”
Then when they were about to make their first CD, “we asked Kenny if he was interested in being our featured guest at the CD – and he wanted to do that, so that's how we got to know him better. So we played with him several times in the Netherlands.”
“We always kept in contact and Marc and Kenny discussed sometimes each others compositions and arrangements. Very special. He was also very generous and when he had heard us play he called us afterwards to tell us how much he loved it.”
In Banff, Vandoorn also met vocalist Norma Winstone, and “we became friends. At some point I was invited at a festival to do a special project, and I decided to invite her for a vocal duet. We did it twice at different festivals.”
In 2012, Vandoorn and van Vugt released a single, “Holysloot”, an intimate jazz song inspired by a Dutch lowlands winter scene. She agreed it was influenced by Wheeler and Winstone. “The way Kenny is composing and the way that he is treating harmonies I think that is something that both Marc and I like a lot. And I'm sure a fan of Norma's singing. And yes, you could hear that there.”
The duo has toured Canada five times, playing festivals including the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 1998. This will be their first time playing Canadian clubs, however, Vandoorn said. They've spent the last week in southern Ontario, teaching students at masterclasses and clinics (including with Christine Duncan's Element Choir) and playing concerts – and have been very happy with the response.
“I must say that all the Canadian audiences are very receptive for our music. First of all, I think that jazz is quite important in Canada. The people are much more used to listening to jazz, I would say, than maybe in the Netherlands. So we have really nice audiences, very committed. And they really love our music so so far it has been great.”
Amy Brandon CD Release of Scavenger, with Roddy Ellias
Metro Music, Ottawa
Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 4 p.m.
Guitarist Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in an hour-long afternoon concert in Ottawa Saturday. The CD mixes jazz, classical, and new music, and features her playing solo and in duos, with guitarists Roddy Ellias and Mike Rud and vocalist Laura Swankey – but also with herself.
Many of the pieces on Scavenger are electro-acoustic, with Brandon playing guitar along with recordings of herself which she had substantially altered with effects. As she explained to the audience at the show, in electro-acoustic music the musician can either manipulate sound live (live-processed) or play against previously-recorded and processed music (fixed media).
She picked fixed media, and for four of the pieces she performed at the show, played sound files on her laptop along with her acoustic guitar. Her warm and resonant guitar-work contrasted with the recorded soundscapes, which were much more varied and unexpected. Sometimes they were dissonant and abrasive and metallic, other times attenuated and whispering and reminding one of birds calling or winds rushing.
The result was immersive and multi-layered, pulsating and almost hypnotic in places. Consistently you could hear how Brandon was responding in the moment to the soundscapes. Throughout the pieces, he audience was still and intent, listening carefully and applauding warmly.
Safe Low Limit
Le Petit Chicago
All Jazz Mondays in November, 2016
Safe Low Limit opened its November residency at Le Petit Chicago Monday night – with music extending far into the bass clef.
Trombone: Steve Berndt. Cello: Ken Kanwisher. Tuba: Keith Walton. Drums: Michel Delage. Your standard jazz quartet instrumentation it wasn't.
It was the very first show for the group as a quartet. Kanwisher first started working on these arrangements for a previous group, Berndt said – and then he and Berndt started playing together last spring. They debuted some of this music as a duo at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in June, and then decided to expand to a quartet.
“Keith Walton saw us and thought it was a cool idea so we decided to ask him if he'd like to join in. That's when we made the decision to go all bass clef instruments, [to] ask Michel Delage if he'd like to get involved and not have a piano or guitar.
They picked the name “Safe Low Limit” because it is “an arranging term that describes a formula that identifies the low point at which harmony ceases to be clear based on the fundamental of a given series of notes played at the same time. It seemed to be the right name for this band!”
Tribute to Cole Porter with Michel Delage, Allison Au, Todd Pentney, and Alex Bilodeau
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 8 p.m.
Songwriter Cole Porter famously said (quoting one of his teachers) that “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.” And yet jazz instrumentalists ranging from Miles Davis to Artie Shaw to Max Roach have had hits with Cole Porter's tunes because, even without Porter's witty lyrics, the melodies are memorable and full of joie de vivre.
Michel Delage's quartet showed off that joy and fun in a dynamic second night of a two-night stand at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge this weekend. Delage on drums and Alex Bilodeau on double bass teamed up with two Torontonians – Juno-winning composer Allison Au on alto sax and her frequent collaborator, Todd Pentney, on piano – to celebrate Porter's music as part of Delage's monthly series of jazz tributes.
Over three sets, they performed songs written between 1929 and 1954, almost all for Broadway shows. The first two sets were fast-paced, including well-known pieces like “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “Get Out of Town”, while the third slowed down to concentrate on ballads like “Easy to Love”.
There's a lot to explore in a Cole Porter song. Porter was a notable innovator in song form: for example, the alternating major and minor key changes in “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, or the 108-measure length of “Begin the Beguine”. Au, in particular, used the songs as a jumping-off point for exploration, while staying true to their melodies and themes. In “I Concentrate on You”, she created tender, warm, extended lines of melody, while “Just One of Those Things” was taken at a break-neck pace with circling riffs.
Toronto jazz vocalist Maureen Kennedy is always learning new songs and expanding her repertoire of jazz standards.
“I have a passion for learning tunes. A real passion for it, and it's kind of nerdy.”
This summer, for example, she learned six new tunes just for one show. She'll be singing all six in Ottawa this Saturday at her quartet show at GigSpace, performing with saxophonist Rob Frayne, pianist Jeff Johnston, and bassist Alec Walkington.
Some she learns from sheet music, and some from listening to recordings of other singers, particularly from the classic vocal jazz era of the 1950s. But, after many years in the business, she's gone well beyond Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, or Sarah Vaughan to “obscure singers that people don't know that well”, such as Irene Kral or Jeri Southern.
“There was such a wealth of singers back in the 50s when singing standards was the popular music of the day. There were a lot of good singers that never became as famous … Teddi King was a really great singer. June Christy. Chris Connor. Singers that people aren't as familiar with. There are just a lot of great singers, and I've checked out a lot of their recordings and just picked up tunes from them.”
By day, Kennedy is a Media Librarian and visual researcher for the CBC in Toronto – where she has been able to access CBC's extensive sheet music collection. “In the days when we did a lot of music on television and radio, the Music Library would just order all this sheet music, and it's such a great collection!”
Jane Bunnett is still amazed at the success of her all-woman Afro-Cuban jazz group, Maqueque.
“Three years ago, this project was a leap of faith. I didn't know if this idea would have any legs. But I thought, 'Let's try it! Let's try to put something together for a recording, all females, and just see what happens.' "
Since then, Maqueque – the Canadian jazz saxophonist/flutist plus five young women musicians from Cuba – has toured all over Canada and the U.S. and as far away as Australia. They played before thousands at the Chicago Jazz Festival last fall, with an almost-unprecedented encore demanded by the crowd. In May, they received at standing ovation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and then recorded a “Tiny Desk Concert” in the offices of National Public Radio – which has so far garnered almost 29,000 views. And they won a Juno Award for their first album.
The group has just released its second album, Oddara, and will bring it to Ottawa on Wednesday, October 19, for a concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Besides Bunnett, Maqueque includes Yissy Garcia on drums, Dánae Olano on piano, Magdelys Savigne on batá drums and congas, Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin and vocals, and Celia Jiménez on bass.
Bunnett's heart was in the project, both musically and as an organizer, but she recognized the risks.
The Ken Harper Trio with Artie Roth and Bob Brough
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 7 p.m.
This fall, Southminster United Church in Ottawa South began offering Saturday evening concerts, in addition to its popular Wednesday noon concerts. The third show in this new series – and the first jazz concert – featured the long-time trio of Ottawa drummer Ken Harper with two Toronto musicians, Artie Roth on double bass and Bob Brough on tenor sax.
With busy schedules and a 450 km distance to travel, this trio doesn't get together to perform as often as they'd like – Harper estimates only about four times a year – but you could hear an easy connection and a like-minded approach in their music.
Harper and Roth met in 1988, when they both started studying music at York University, and later teamed up with veteran saxophonist Brough for this trio. Over the past two years, they've played several Ottawa-area locations: clubs, a house concert, and GigSpace, but this was their biggest Ottawa venue yet.
Other than an announcement mic that wasn’t always turned on or used properly, the concert was all-acoustic, with a beautiful, rounded sound. The musicians made a point of playing to the space, using its resonance, and playing softly enough that their instruments could be heard overlaying and complementing each other. Harper's cymbal sounds were crisp and ringing; Roth's bass was clear and full; Brough's tenor lines were rich and commanding.
- Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul
- Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention
- Tim Bedner & Elise Letourneau revisit their Thursday nights at Cafe Paradiso on Saturday
- The Canto Trio blends two sax voices and bass in an evening of classic jazz
- Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park
- John Stetch dramatically mixes folksong, classical, and TV themes into dynamic jazz
- Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know
- Marianne Trudel pays a rich tribute to Guelph Jazz Festival founder
- François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations
- Francois Houle: just the clarinet
- Betty Ann Bryanton takes her musical revenge, to a happy full house
- Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's
- Musical friends return to 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival to celebrate founder's last year
- It's a new jazz season - and September sings!
- Conjunction: three jazz and three classical musicians make music that sings (review)
- A powerful jazz fusion outing for Modasaurus (review)
- The swinging style of Denielle Bassels
- Trumpet Bootcamp gives students a different perspective
- Kiran Ahluwalia filled the park with haunting melodies and circling rhythms
- Carleton U Jazz Camp faculty quintet enjoys the upbeat (review)
- The 2016 Merrickville's Jazz Fest gets funkier and celebrates John Lennon
- 'I got rhythm': Rob Frayne takes the helm at the JazzWorks jazz camp
- 2016 Carleton U Jazz Camp goes all-Ottawa, with afternoon concerts
- Gene DiNovi infuses Duke Ellington's music with his own life
- The Ottawa and Gatineau jazz scenes strut their stuff in August
- A flowing conversation among Ernst Reijseger, Jesse Stewart, and David Mott (review)
- A standing ovation for So Long Seven's mélange of rhythms and influences
- A show of thanks: Mike Rud honours jazz guitarist George Benson this weekend
- Chamberfest: A jarring juxtaposition of jazz and classical
- The Doug Martin Quartet gives a vibrant release to their 'Spirit of Survival' CD
- Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation
- Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello
- Will Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson put jazz on NAC stages as the new NAC Presents producer?
- Oliver Jones takes on new challenges in his farewell tour
- Doug Martin revisits Cuba in music in his new CD, Spirit of Survival
- Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July
- Classical and jazz dance together at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest
- Canadian saxophonist P.J. Perry named to the Order of Canada
- A hard-driving quartet finds new corners of modern jazz
- Steve Bilodeau reaches the semi-finals in Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition
- Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera are back in town, celebrating musical friendships
- Brian Browne and Peter Woods fill the Record Centre with standards
- Ottawa's jazz fans discover new groups and new sounds in the 24 hours of the Jazz Ramble
- Two CDs by Nick Fraser create beautiful moments through collaborative improvisation
- The Amos Hoffman Quartet adds classical and Mid-East motifs to mainstream jazz
- A rural county excited by jazz: what Prince Edward County Jazz Festival does differently
- Finding new ways to develop young jazz talent at the Prince Edward County Jazzfest
- There's lots more live jazz than just the jazzfest in June
- The Bank Street Bonbons show the power of brass at Irene's
- The timeless beauty of jazz raises thousands for refugees
- This Sunday: discover jazz vocalists and support refugees
- The 2016 Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is showcasing the Canadian jazz it loves
- William O'Neill: a guitarist talks about his love of big band music
- Erin Saoirse Adair adds power to her anger with a jazz backing
- Ottawa jazz fans show their appreciation for Oliver Jones' 76-year career (review)
- The Rachel Therrien Trio rethinks and reenergizes jazz classics
- Andrew Ferderber's A+ graduation performance, and how he got there
- Sweet swing fills the church as the Hard Bop Association pays tribute to Duke Ellington
- Fawn Fritzen matches originals with vocal jazz classics in a finely-tuned show
- Ed Lister's hard-swinging tribute Wednesday to Duke Ellington's classic music
- Fawn Fritzen takes a fresh approach to jazz standards
- Jazz swings through May
- An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)
- Miles Ahead, but not in reality (movie review)
- Michael Kaeshammer and his audience have fun with energetic and varied music
- Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers
- Song of Lahore shows jazz triumphing over intolerance (movie review)
- Sitar, violin, guitar & cajon entice the audience at high-energy Sultans of String show
- The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar
- Polished performances from the Carleton University student Jazz Ensemble
- Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music
- Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert
- Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April
- 2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow
- Born To Be Blue stays true to Chet Baker's music, but romanticizes his life (movie review)
- Vocalese with Steve Berndt and Christine Fagan: "A jazz adventure" (video)
- Olivier Babaz shines a world of music on his new jazz album
- Brazilian drumming inspires Rob Frayne's latest percussive project, DrumSwamp
- Only applause broke the silence as the Sonoluminescence Trio played the Record Centre
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces summer line-up, including Chick Corea, Dan Brubeck 4tet, Wynton Marsalis, The SF Jazz Collective, and Colin Stetson
- Rob Frayne recruits for a jazz band on a mega-scale
- David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance (video)
- Jazz to head to the NAC's Back Stage during construction
- James McGowan and Jesse Stewart improvise music from many streams
- First impressions: Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes with Miguel de Armas
- Have your ears stretched in March with jazz from unexpected places
- Rob McConnell's music is "the boss" at Sunday's CYJO concert
- The Harley Card Trio creates a layered and nuanced collaboration at Brookstreet
- David Renaud looks for grace and love in his new duo CD with Brian Browne
- René Lavoie pays hommage to Cannonball Adderley, the saxophonist who changed his life
- Laila Biali is letting her audiences hear songs in the making, in the spirit of jazz
- A wild night at Irene's with the Alive! Ensemble and the music of Grant Green (review)
- From all over the globe, the Florian Hoefner Group unites in presenting luminous jazz (review)
- HML Trio's weekly Brookstreet Options jazz jam celebrates three years of 'good music and a great hang' this week
- Nick Fraser stretches the boundaries of drumming with Justin Haynes' scores (review)
- Crossroads concert scribbled on genre boundaries while remaining true to Lynn Miles' songs (review)
- Vocalist Jeri Brown and drummer Jesse Stewart: 'things that I haven't heard before'
- Hear both the roots and the future of jazz in February
- 2016 Juno jazz nominations move westward, and in unexpected categories
- Linsey Wellman declares his bilingual Manifesto (video)
- Fraser Hollins picks long-time musical friends for his Jazzfest show: Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, and Joel Miller
- Karen Oxorn reflects 60 years of loving music in her concerts this weekend (podcast)
- An immersion in music from Pauline Oliveros and friends
- Standing Room Only packs the dance floor at its first Ottawa tea dance
- The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's
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