Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer sector)
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Haunting melodies and circling rhythms filled Parc de l'Imaginaire Wednesday, as Kiran Ahluwalia brought her cross-cultural music to Aylmer.
The Indo-Canadian vocalist sings Indian ghazals (a song form based on Urdu poetry) and Punjabi folk songs. In the last decade, however, she's combined these with jazz and Saharan blues – in particular, the Tuareg music of the Sahara desert. Her most recent album, Sanata : Stillness , is a hybrid of Indo-Saharan music.
Originally from India, Ahluwalia was raised in Canada and was well into her career before moving to New York City. She has won two Juno Awards, including for her 2011 CD, Aam Zameen: Common Ground.
It wasn't your standard vocal concert – Ahluwalia wasn't singing in either English or French, so that few in the crowd likely understood the words in the songs. The effect was to make her voice part of the instrumental mix – which was enhanced by her occasionally adding in wordless vocals.
And it was a fine instrumental mix – with Rez Abbasi on electric guitar, Louis Simão on accordion, and Nitin Mitta on tablas. Simão and Abbasi both have strong jazz credentials – Ottawa audiences would have seen Simão last at the 2015 Chamberfest in Michael Occhipinti's Sicilian Jazz Project; Abbasi has appeared previously at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Ahluwalia is married to Abbasi, and both he and Mitta have played regularly with her for years, including on her albums.
Mitta had four tablas in front of him, plus other percussion instruments. He played on two at a time, one deeper and more resonant, one higher and sharper-edged, but would quickly switch tablas in and out to get different tones. His tabla rhythms set the pace of the concert, providing a consistent forward momentum. But they were more than just rhythmic: his playing varied from delicate to intense, with the different pitches and harmonics of the tablas contributing melodic interest as well.
Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Quintet
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, June 11, 2016 - 3:30 p.m.
This year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp has moved its faculty concerts to the late afternoons from the evenings to make it easier for the camp's students to attend. This made for a more informal vibe but still much skilled playing at the final faculty concert, which featured a classic jazz quintet.
It was a fine 50 minutes of mainstream jazz, played with enjoyment and a sense of fun, which easily communicated itself to the audience. The set-list mixed originals with classic 60s bop tunes and one ballad.
Five camp instructors, all well-known and experienced Ottawa jazz musicians, shared the stage – Mike Tremblay on tenor sax, Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone, Nick Dyson on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Geggie on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums. They've played together in many different arrangements before, and were clearly comfortable together – which was good, because they were just receiving the sheet music for one of the numbers as they started.
They opened with Horace Silver's “The Jody Grind”, a fast, grooving tune with the trumpet and sax pumping out the beat over a strong bass line, and then moved to a more thoughtful mood with “Falling Grace” by Steve Swallow, with flowing sax lines over multi-faceted piano lines. The originals included Dyson's “April Fools”, a bright, brassy tune which was given a more punctuated feel here than in the Beeched Wailers' version, followed by Ferguson's “Is That All?”, a strongly appealing tune with anthemic trombone, assured saxophone, and sweet and full trumpet solos.
In 2016, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is getting funkier – and celebrating John Lennon in jazz.
The mid-October festival released its full line-up today, featuring musicians from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa-Gatineau. Opening with the grooving funk of Ottawa's ERU-ERA, and ending with the 70s-style horn band The Pharoahs, its shows will range from New Orleans-style to modern jazz, but definitely on the harder-hitting side than in previous years.
- Toronto guitarist Michael Occhipinti presenting his “Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon” jazz project;
- Red Hot Ramble from Toronto playing New Orleans-style jazz, funk, and blues;
- the quartet of Ottawa pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson playing his melodic modern jazz compositions, with touches of classical, Latin, and bebop;
- and the ten musicians in The Pharoahs bringing back the joy of Tower Of Power, James Brown, and Chaka Khan with their “Soul Sckool” show.
With a new voice at the helm and many new faces in its faculty, Ottawa's oldest jazz camp will sound different this year.
Saxophonist and composer Rob Frayne has taken over as music director of the JazzWorks jazz camp, which runs August 18-21 – and for 2016, he's focusing on rhythm.
The camp workshops will emphasize “rhythm or phrasing or swinging” – both in playing instruments and in singing, Frayne told OttawaJazzScene.ca. “That has been something that I think needs focusing on. And that's the big change this year.”
That doesn't mean just percussion. “There's one workshop [saxophonist] Christine Jensen is giving on articulation, how to make rhythmic phrasing with straight eighth-notes in a jazzy way.”
Vocalist Julie Michels and pianist Dave Restivo are teaching “how to groove vocally in different styles. And I'm doing one with [pianist] Steve Boudreau just on how to set up time, you know a rhythm feel, and then change and develop that feel. These are all things that most students wouldn't think of.”
That's not the only change in the 23-year-old camp this year. There's a significant alteration in its faculty. Long-time instructors like Christine Duncan, Jim Lewis, Frank Lozano, and Kevin Barrett are missing. Double bassist John Geggie, who co-founded the camp and had directed it for decades before announcing his retirement last year, will not be at the camp this year, either.
Replacing them are musicians from Montreal, Toronto, and NYC with impressive resumes: multi-Juno-winning saxophonist Christine Jensen, bassist Jim Vivian, guitarist Lorne Lofsky, trumpeter Bill Mahar, trombonist William Carn, saxophonist Don Braden, percussionist Alyssa Falk, and pianist Yves Léveillé.
Frayne said this “changing of the guard” was caused by several factors, including work conflicts. Kevin Barrett, for example, is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and pianist Nancy Walker is working on a composing commission, he said. “So people have other stuff to do, which has happened before, but it's coincidental that it's [happening] all at once.”
The Carleton University Jazz Camp is sticking closer to home this year.
The camp, which runs from August 8 to 12, will be featuring its long-time Ottawa faculty this year, and not bringing in any instructors from out of town. It also has moved its faculty concerts, which are open to the public, from the evening to the afternoon.
In its previous six years, the camp had been regularly including one to four instructors each year from elsewhere in Canada, and even renowned American saxophonist Dave Liebman in 2014.
The instructors are a who's-who of Ottawa's jazz scene, including double bassist John Geggie, drummer Mike Essoudry, trombonist/pianist Mark Ferguson, guitarist Tim Bedner, vocalist Elise Letourneau, trumpeter Nick Dyson, trombonist Ryan Purchase, guitarist Wayne Eagles, and camp director and saxophonist Mike Tremblay. Several are regular instructors at Carleton. Carleton music professor James McGowan will also be teaching at the camp.
Ferguson told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the camp had had “substantial” budget cuts this year, which meant they couldn't afford to bring instructors from outside Ottawa.
Tribute to Duke Ellington
Ottawa Chamberfest: Chamberfringe series
La Nouvelle Scène
Sunday, July 31, 2016 - 10 p.m.
Gene DiNovi is now 88 years old – a fine age for a pianist – but he's lost none of his verve or love of classic jazz, as was obvious in this concert's exploration of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's songbook.
DiNovi started playing in New York in the 1940s and moved to Toronto in 1972 – and has played with many major jazz names, including Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Lester Young, Peggy Lee, and Tony Bennett. He was Lena Horne's accompanist for eight years, as he mentioned in this show when he introduced several Ellington numbers which he played with her.
He's also a frequent face at Chamberfest, playing everything from classical-jazz crossovers to last year's Kings of Swing (Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw) show. And one of his most frequent collaborators, for more than 30 years, has been clarinetist James Campbell, who is most renowned for his classical work but also enjoys playing jazz.
For this show they teamed up with drummer Glenn Anderson and celebrated bassist Dave Young – also their frequent collaborators – as well as jazz violinist Drew Jurecka. It wasn't the first time they'd played this material this summer; they'd also been featured at Campbell's Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound the previous week.
Whether it was from these musicians' evident popularity with Chamberfest audiences, or the inherent appeal of Ellington's music, the 173-seat hall was overflowing. We arrived early and barely found seats. Chamberfest volunteers continued adding chairs near the front but finally had to give up. The last 30-odd listeners were left sitting in the outside foyer watching the show on a video screen – and they filled up all the chairs there, too!
It's a lower-key month in August, as the Ottawa jazz scene looks inwards.
Sign up to our JazzScene newsletter to get a full listing of all the jazz and improvised music events within 100 km of Parliament Hill in your inbox every week. You can also check our list of Ottawa-Gatineau-area jazz clubs, and our daily On The Scene listing on our website's front page (and in our RSS feed) to learn more about what's going on in jazz locally right now.
While some visiting musicians are back in Ottawa, including the Sultans of String, Boston saxophonist Benny Sharoni, NYC vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia and guitarist Rez Abbasi, Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels, and Toronto bassist Dan Fortin, what you'll hear this month is mostly home-grown – and in some new combinations.
Look for high-profile shows featuring pianist Steve Boudreau, Afro-Cuban vocalist Caridad Cruz and pianist Miguel de Armas, guitarist Rômmel Ribeiro, and Modasaurus, as well as a tribute to ground-breaking jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's August jazz highlights are brought to you by Peggy Holloway, Alrick Huebener, Nancy Preston, Richard Thibodeau, Peter Turner, Judd Richardson, Chris Smelser, Mike Steinberg, and Riek van den Berg. We greatly appreciate their financial support that helps OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day of the year.
Jesse Stewart, David Mott, and Ernst Reijseger
Ottawa Chamberfest: Chamberfringe series
La Nouvelle Scène
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 – 10:30 p.m.
You could call this a concert of intersecting friendships. Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger and Canadian baritone saxophonist David Mott have played together off and on since 1985, when they met in Gerry Hemingway's quintet. Mott and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart met in the mid-90s and have been firm musical friends since, most recently in the Sonoluminescence Trio.
Two years ago, they performed together in Toronto and recorded a CD, Different Dreams. This Chamberfest concert was the first time they'd performed together since then – and the show was delayed for 30 minutes because Reijseger's previous Chamberfest show had run late.
But when the 70-minute concert began, the mood was calm and quietly, opening the bag of possibilities slowly and with deliberate care.
Stewart started by bowing his waterphone, producing a light strand of sound echoing around the hall – followed by equally light strands from Mott's sax and Reijseger's cello. The music evolved quietly from there, using the dynamics of the space. Reijseger swung his cello back and forth as he played it to create a larger, vibrating sound; Stewart ran a mallet along the bottom and across the spines of his waterphone, and then hand-drummed the bottom of the instrument for a warm reverberating tone. Mott responded to these with deep circling tones on his sax, and by tapping its keys. Then Stewart bowed the edge of his cymbals, while Reijseger played a brief almost-Slavonic melody on his cello and then some slight dissonant lines, followed by deep punctuated notes on baritone, high attenuated cello, and light drumming, before ending quietly.
It all flowed quite naturally – completely improvised, but feeling logically consistent and appropriate.
So Long Seven
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer sector)
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
So Long Seven is a mélange – and a delicious one, too, judging from the enthusiastic response to its recent show in Gatineau.
Its four musicians play guitar, violin, five-string banjo, and tablas. Its music – almost all originals – draws from folk, bluegrass, and world music, but with a strong jazz and improvisational focus.
That's not surprising given the backgrounds of these musicians: banjo player Tim Posgate from avant-garde jazz; guitarist Neil Hendry from jazz and blues; violinist William Lamoureux from pop and jazz. Tabla player and percussionist Ravi Naimpally is trained in Hindustani classical music and other world music traditions, but has also been featured in jazz groups.
They've been together as So Long Seven (formerly Oolong 7) for three years and recently released a debut CD.
It was a perfect summer evening for their free, outdoor show in Aylmer, and they drew a large crowd ranging from toddlers to seniors, almost filling the park. And appreciative, too – intently listening throughout.
“Torch River Rail Company”, their first song, exemplified their sound: a melodic ballad with intertwining lines on guitar, violin, and banjo, and propelled along by the insistent rhythm of the tablas. It was a style that instantly caught my attention – and kept it. Like most of their pieces, it was an instrumental.
I particularly liked Naimpally's “Aarti”, a fast, dancing, fun mixture of textures; Posgate's “Miles from Appalachia”, with blues and bluegrass accents and featuring a finely-attuned guitar solo with light harmonics; and Hendry's “Banjo Tequila”, which matched hard-edged banjo riffs against earthy tabla rhythms and a mournful violin melody.
Updated July 27 to include Thursday show in Montreal.
Montreal jazz guitarist and Juno-winning composer Mike Rud is a frequent visitor to Ottawa, most recently this month for a sold-out duo gig with Peter Bernstein. He's back this weekend for two nights at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata and a Sunday afternoon gig at the Record Centre, paying tribute to best-selling guitarist George Benson.
While Benson is best known for his Grammy-winning song, “On Broadway”, he's had a long jazz career, playing with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Freddie Hubbard, and winning 10 Grammys for albums spanning jazz, pop, and R&B. He performed at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2010.
The shows are part of drummer Michel Delage's continuing monthly tribute series at Brookstreet, and Rud will be playing with Delage and bassist Alex Bilodeau. But the choice of George Benson was all Rud's.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor talked with Mike Rud about the shows, and his love of George Benson's music, earlier this month. This is an edited version of the interview.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you suggest doing a tribute to George Benson?
Mike Rud: Because, if I think of a particular artist whose artist I'm familiar enough with to feel like I've done a good review before going ahead – it would probably be Benson. There would only be two or three guys that I'd really feel that I'd listened to their whole catalogue, and Benson's certainly one of them.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: When did you first hear him?
Rud: I had a guitar teacher when I was in high school named Brian Hughes, who's an adult contemporary jazz guitar star. He lives in California now. And it was Brian who turned me on to George Benson. Brian used to play a couple of tunes from Benson's catalogue in his show, and he gave me the source recordings. He said, 'Well, if you like that, you should listen to this record.' I got them, and I just couldn't believe it!
Da Costa and Wood
Ottawa Chamberfest, Chamberfringe series
La Nouvelle Scène
Saturday, July 23, 2016 – 10 p.m.
Pianist and modern composer Claude Bolling wrote a whole series of suites for classical instruments – flute, cello, guitar, and violin – teamed up with a jazz piano trio. His Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio, written in 1977, was the third in this series, a commission from violinist (and former National Arts Centre music director) Pinchas Zukerman.
Alexandre da Costa, a Juno-winning classical violinist from Montreal, decided to revive the composition for a concert at Chamberfest, appropriately placed in the festival's late-night, and edgier, Chamberfringe series. The suite was is billed as a crossover between classical and jazz – but to my mind, it was more of a wrestling match, where the jazz definitely had the edge.
This was not because of any lack of skill or commitment on da Costa's part, but rather from a compositional design that didn't always gel.
Besides da Costa, the concert featured two well-known Montreal jazz musicians, Dave Laing on drums and Alec Walkington on double bass, and Australian jazz pianist Graham Wood. Da Costa is now Head of Strings at the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, where Wood is Dean of Teaching and Learning. Wood performs with a wide range of Australian jazz musicians in Perth as well as American imports like Joel Frahm and George Garzone.
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