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.
“The first time I heard Johnny Hartman, he left such an impression on me I never forgot about it. Even though I've gone back and liked other singers, I always come back to him,” vocalist Floyd Hutchinson told OttawaJazzScene.ca this week.
On Friday, he's stepping out front to give his own big nod to this jazz vocalist whom he has always admired, in what will be “a huge show” for him at GigSpace. He'll be performing with the Steve Boudreau Quartet: “four of Ottawa's premiere musicians,” he says, including Boudreau on piano, Jeff Asselin on drums, Brian Asselin on sax, and Joe Hincke on bass. They are musicians whom he has a musical history with and can put his full trust in for his important show.
“You have shows that define you as a musician. I think this is one of the shows that will define me, in my own brain, as a vocalist. I've sung a fair amount of shows [he had already sung two shows on the day we talked] but this is a show I've been waiting for a while. It was time for me to do the show.”
It's taken Hutchinson, who works for the Ottawa Police Service and is not a full-time musician, ten years of singing to get to this point – with almost 100 years of musical family history included in that. A related jazz singer in the 1920s. A second cousin who sings jazz standards in NYC. Relatives in a reggae band, and another relative who was a “heavy duty funk player in the 70s.” And more recently and influentially, “parents who always played music.”
“Maybe I'm just late coming out of the gate. But I'm not out of the show. Hugh O'Connor is still lighting up the town.”
Hutchinson grew up at a time when other music was wildly popular - but it didn't lead him astray.
“I went to my share of discos. I listened to my share of disco music too. But I never lost touch with listening to jazz. It's a very big part of my life. ...Mel and Nat, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Coltrane, Dizzy, Cannonball Adderley, Clifford Brown, it's always been a part of kind of who I am.”
Friday's concert of mostly Johnny Hartman ballads won't be a flashback to sparkling glass balls and dancing shoes. He elaborated about the singer, with whom he has a close affinity.
Ernst Reijseger – Harmen Fraanje – Mola Sylla
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre, Cooperators Hall
Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 8 p.m.
Ernst Reijseger solo
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 5 p.m.
Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger has an enviable reputation – both for the purity and breadth of his technique and the imaginativeness of his collaborations and projects. After starting out playing early and Baroque music, he switched to the avant-garde and jazz. He's performed with top European free jazz musicians like Derek Bailey, Eric Vloeimans, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway, has written and produced film scores for Werner Herzog, and has collaborated with world music artists as well as cellist Yo Yo Ma.
On stage, he's a wild man.
Both of his two concerts at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival featured jaw-dropping moments, as Reijseger expanded his audiences' understanding of how the cello could be played while producing lovely and unexpected music.
He turned the cello on its side and played it like a plump guitar – to audible gasps from some listeners. He hit the cello with his bow, and then ripped it savagely across the strings in an example of extreme bowing. He threaded his bow through the strings and then let the bow vibrate while plucking strings. He attached a plastic hair clip and wooden clothes pegs to the strings to dampen and mute their resonance, while still continuing to play. He let the cello swing in his hand, like a pendulum, as he played. He used the cello body as a drum, then shook it, and then moved its bottom spike in and out creating a creaking sound. He wetted his fingers to make the strings squeak. He whipped his bow through the air. He twirled around and around while playing.
Geri Childs “More Than Magic” CD Release Concert
NAC Fourth Stage
Friday, October 31, 2014 - 7:30 p.m.
Opening with “Sentimental Journey” and closing with “Just Friends”, Geri Childs sang about love and long-time friendship in her CD release concert on Friday.
In particular, she talked about her friendship and collaboration with Mark Ferguson, her musical director for the CD and the concert, how they met in (of all places!) a hired band providing music for Joe Clark's leadership campaign, and how they worked together in picking the new standards in the CD. But “everyone here is a friend”, she said at the end of the concert, and certainly there were lots of smiles and appreciative applause throughout.
On stage were the same musicians who played on More Than Magic – Ferguson on piano, trombone, and melodica, John Geggie on double bass, Rob Graves on percussion, and Margaret Tobolowska on cello. They were joined by René Gely, on four different guitars, and Sharon Timmins on backup vocals. Gely added an extra percussive element brightening the music, and allowed Ferguson to move off the piano to trombone on some of the jazzier numbers.
Marianne Trudel Quintet
NAC Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 25, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.
Marianne Trudel appeared spent but exhilarated at the end of her quintet's concert at the NAC Fourth Stage Saturday night. The Montreal pianist had just released a new album, La Vie Commence Ici, and this was the last stop on a week-long tour to promote it.
With notable improvisers like Ingrid Jensen and Trudel herself on stage, the show was far more than just a reenactment of the recording. The quintet – the same musicians as on the CD – expanded upon the music, adding new interpretations and texture, in an energetic yet subtle concert.
If the star power in the quintet was provided by Jensen on trumpet, the other four musicians (who played together on Trudel's 2007 live recording) created equally interesting musical moments. It was very much a joint endeavour, with sax and trumpet frequently playing in unison, with several trumpet-piano duets, and with creative bass and drums working together to propel the music forward.
Soul Station Tribute Concert
The Manx Pub
Monday, October 6, 2014
I can't remember where I first heard about Hank Mobley, but I suspect it may have been because one of the musicians in this tribute concert was raving about him.
Mobley was a jazz musicians' musician – especially if you're into hard bop and bebop. A tenor saxophonist, he played with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Art Blakey – and even for a brief period with Miles Davis.
Between 1955 and 1970, he recorded many albums for Blue Note Records – and Soul Station (1960) is generally considered one of his best. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes it as the “one Mobley album that should be in every collection”, and praises his rhythmic subtlety, “accenting unexpected beats and planting emphases in places that take his phrasing out of the realms of cliché”.
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