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CYJO celebrates its 5th anniversary with flair and many past faces

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 3: Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra's Fifth Anniversary Concert
Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall
Sunday, June 22, 2014 – 3 p.m.

“The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra is 5 1/2 years old now, but who's counting? Well, actually we are!”

CYJO director Nicholas Dyson sounded proud and delighted at the success of his creation, as the young musicians in the orchestra presented their fifth anniversary concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Their concert was the last in a series of six presented by youth big bands at the 2014 festival.

As part of the celebration, the orchestra reprised several numbers from previous concerts, including a full-bodied rendition of “Mermaid Beach” by local composer Mark Ferguson. Other numbers ranged from classics made famous by Duke Ellington and Buddy Rich, to pieces by Canadian composers Maynard Ferguson and Paul Tynan, to the modern “That's How We Roll” by Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band.

Over CYJO's five-year history, Dyson has consistently featured big band charts by Canadian and local composers, most recently by Ottawa jazz composer Rob Frayne. And as he has done at every concert, Dyson told the audience about each piece and who had performed it, sharing his clear love of big band music.

Read more: CYJO celebrates its 5th anniversary with flair and many past faces

 

Jazz Festival jams at new Albion Rooms treat listeners to fine musical moments

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 2: Festival jam session
The Albion Rooms, Novotel Hotel
Saturday, June 21, 2014 – 10:30 p.m. to almost 2 a.m.


I heard almost all of the late-night jam session Saturday night, and was treated to some fine musical moments with local and visiting musicians, including pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, guitarist Alex Goodman and his trio, alto saxophonist Matt Woroshyl, trumpeter Itamar Borochov, and tenor saxophonist Jonathan Greenstein.

The jams are happening in The Albion Rooms, a restaurant in a walled-off section of the lobby of the Novotel Hotel (on Nicholas Street, just south of Rideau Street and north of Arts Court). The Albion Rooms are also the late-night dining spot for the Fringe Festival; however, there seemed to be little conflict between the two roles, with almost everyone in the main room aware of the music and mostly listening.

Read more: Jazz Festival jams at new Albion Rooms treat listeners to fine musical moments

 

High-profile Montreal and Ottawa jazz artists to perform in Aylmer this summer

Montreal pianist François Bourassa will appear with Cordâme at the Festival de Jazz Desjardins on August 1. ©Brett Delmage, 2012This July and August, you can hear Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans, high-profile Montreal jazz musicians Michel Donato and François Bourassa, and local Latin group Rimbombante, all in free outdoor concerts in Aylmer.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins, now in its 28th year, is again featuring Ottawa and Quebec jazz musicians, performing on four consecutive evenings in a park in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau, Quebec.

This year's festival runs from July 30 to August 2, 2014, and opens with Kellylee Evans on Wednesday, July 30. A crowd-pleasing performer who can't help moving with the joy of her music, Evans won a Juno in 2011 for Nina, her tribute to Nina Simone. She also placed second in the highly-competitive Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in 2004.

She has repeatedly sold-out ever-larger stages at the National Arts Centre; her two free concerts at the 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival filled almost an entire block of rue Ste-Catherine with listeners. Her latest album, I Remember When, features well-known hip-hop songs taken into the jazz sphere.

Rimbombante (Thursday, July 31) is an Ottawa-based group whose Spanish name denotes something flamboyant or having a strong resonance. Its music is inspired by Latin America, and it combines Latin, jazz, and world music influences. Led by saxophonist Dean Pallen, who is also its main composer, the group's members include several well-known local Cuban, Mexican, and Brazilian instrumentalists. This summer, Rimbombante is planning to record its second album. Car Crash.

Read more: High-profile Montreal and Ottawa jazz artists to perform in Aylmer this summer

 

Ottawa Fringe Festival will present jazz for the first time

The Ottawa Fringe Festival, best known for its theatre shows, will present jazz for the first time in the next week. Three local jazz groups will play free shows, starting with 2React tonight.

Django Libre will play at The Fringe Festival on Monday, June 23 ©Brett Delmage, 2014Why jazz? “They're great bands with their music. First and foremost, it's just awesome musicians,” says festival music programmer Greggory Clark.

“For me it's important that we put on the sort of music that just about anyone could show up at Waller Park and have a smile put on their face by whatever's playing. So funk music, hip-hop music like 2React plays, the sort of gypsy hot jazz that Django Libre plays. It can be appreciated as musicians' music on that level, but in another sense for someone who's coming down to the park to enjoy the party, it adds something wonderfully positive to the atmosphere.”

The bands will play on an outdoor stage in Waller Park, to the east of Arts Court, just off Nicholas Street at Daly Avenue. The schedule includes:

Wednesday, June 18: 2React, which takes hip-hop back to its roots in jazz.

Monday, June 23: Django Libre, which evokes the 1930's world of hot jazz and flapper girls with the music and styles of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.

Wednesday, June 25: The Adam Saikaley Quintet, which will present its interpretation of the landmark Miles Davis album, Filles de Kilimanjaro.

Read more: Ottawa Fringe Festival will present jazz for the first time

 

Jon Ballantyne starts the Ottawa Jazz Festival with complex melodies (review)

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 1: Jon Ballantyne, Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Friday, June 20, 2014

Outdoors, the opening night of the 2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival was Bollywood. Indoors at the NAC Fourth Stage, two concerts presented interaction and improvisation – and pure jazz.

At 6 p.m., the festival's Improv Invitational series opened with NYC drummer Mike Pride and his band From Bacteria to Boys, with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Alexis Marcelo, and double bassist Peter Bitenc. The room was about two-thirds full, attracting many of Ottawa's avant-garde jazz fans.

They opened with “79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the” a composition by Pride which also opens the group's latest album. It was a 10-minute exercise, played at high volume and speed, in which multiple streams of musical consciousness rarely intersected. It seemed designed more to show off individual technical brilliance than to form a cohesive whole; it left me cold. However, it didn't reflect the rest of the concert; the remaining pieces (all originals) united the musicians more closely and were much more interesting.

I've always enjoyed Irabagon's work in his many different groups – seeing his name in the listing was the reason I attended – and he fulfilled my high expectations. On songs like “Lullaby For Charlie”, his finely attuned sax lines evoked sweetness and sadness and then tightly circled above Marcelo's pointillist notes on piano. For this song he played what I thought was soprano sax; however, broadcaster Ron Sweetman discovered when he talked to Irabagon later that he had recently switched to sopranino saxophone, the next smallest sax, which has a slightly higher range than soprano.

Read more: Jon Ballantyne starts the Ottawa Jazz Festival with complex melodies (review)

 

ZenKitchen may be closer to reopening after packed fundraiser

View photos of the fundraiser.

ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan is not only planning to reopen his gourmet vegan restaurant. He's looking at doubling the number of nights it offers jazz.

ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan (left) happily surveys the room at Tuesday's 'Great Chefs Go Vegan' fundraiser. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Speaking at a packed fundraiser for the restaurant Tuesday, Loan said that there were still a few stumbling blocks to overcome before he could get back in business. But he hoped to open in three to four weeks, and preferably by the end of June.

He said he was overwhelmed by the support ZenKitchen had received from the community.

“A few weeks ago, I gave up. I cried a lot, and I told the staff we were done. And then voice after voice said 'We need to take action here.' ... You guys lifted me up and gave me the courage to fight.”

“I have been so touched and so overwhelmed by the community, by our friends, by our customers. I thought of us as just another little restaurant that was having some trouble, and the response has been unbelievable. I had no idea ... it makes me tearful all the time.” He choked up at this point.

An on-line donation campaign at gofundme.com has so far raised $7,140 (of a $20,000 goal). Tuesday's “Great Chefs Go Vegan” event raised about $10,000, Loan said. 74 tickets at $100 each were sold in advance, and at least one more ticket was sold at the door. A silent auction raised further funds, including a bid of over $500 for a cooking class and dinner with chef Caroline Ishii (the original ZenKitchen chef and co-founder).

Jazz was an important part of the fundraiser. Ten prominent local jazz musicians, almost all of whom had played at the restaurant, volunteered to perform.

Read more: ZenKitchen may be closer to reopening after packed fundraiser

 

Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard! OttawaJazzScene.ca celebrates 5 years, with a photo exhibit

The 'Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard!' exhibit: Just like any performance, you'll have to attend in person to fully appreciate it

OttawaJazzScene.ca is 5 years old on July 3! We're celebrating this milestone with a special photographic print exhibition of the Ottawa-Gatineau and Canadian jazz scene.

Originating in my work as OttawaJazzScene.ca's photojournalist, Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard!  speaks about the connections between listeners and musicians, photographed over the past decade.

The exhibit includes images made in many different locations, outside and inside, in small cafés and giant halls, mid-day and late at night, at festivals and one-time concerts.

There's something special about making an archival-quality, fine art photographic print to hang on a wall. As the famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams stated, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

Making my digital image is an essential first step in the public performance of my art, but it's only the beginning. The printing process provides opportunity to shape my digital score by cropping, and tonal and chromatic adjustments in subtle ways, and to select a paper that supports the image.

Read more: Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard! OttawaJazzScene.ca celebrates 5 years, with a photo exhibit

 

Vocalists, instrumentalists, Latin and more for free at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

Emile-Claire Barlow is one of six major Canadian female jazz vocalists who will appear on free stages at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

The Montreal Jazz Festival has announced its schedule of free concerts – ranging from well-known female jazz vocalists to late night jazz improv-on-the-spot, and featuring lots of Canadian talent.

The festival is noted for its big-name jazz acts, with big-name prices to match ($106.50 for best seats for Keith Jarrett's solo show on June 28, for example). But the Montreal Jazz Festival also presents many free shows, particularly (though not exclusively) promoting superb Canadian and Quebeçois jazz musicians.

This year, the festival's keynote outdoor show is with Diana Krall on June 29 – the very last stop in her Glad Rag Doll tour. But Krall won't be the only high-profile Canadian vocalist appearing in a festival free concert. Also performing on one of the festival's huge outdoor stages are Emilie-Claire Barlow (twice on June 30), Laila Biali (July 2), Coral Egan (twice on July 3), Susie Arioli (twice on July 4), and Térez Montcalm (July 6).

Grand Jazz competition brings in fine instrumental jazz acts

There won't be a lack of instrumental jazz, either. For many years, the festival has brought in up-and-coming jazz groups from across Canada to compete for its TD Grand Jazz Award. This year, nine groups will be judged on their free outdoor performances.

Ottawa audiences may recognize Myriad 3 (with pianist Chris Donnelly and drummer Ernesto Cervini), Toronto's Pram Trio, and Montreal's Kite Trio, who have all visited here before. But there's also some interesting other groups vying for the prize:

  • Montreal/NYC bassist Rick Rosato
  • Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter Alexander Brown, who has worked with Cuban percussion master Changuito, and his quintet which includes saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and pianist Dave Restivo
  • Alex Baro, also a Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter, who combines jazz, Dixie and Caribbean music in his latest CD
  • Montreal saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps, the winner of last year’s Grand Prix from the Rimouski Jazzfest
  • JAGG, a saxophone-trombone-led quartet which won the Concours de la Relève Jazz en Rafale this spring
  • Winnipeg-born drummer Curtis Nowosad, who now lives in NYC and brought a jazz approach to covers of Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley on his first album.

Read more: Vocalists, instrumentalists, Latin and more for free at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

 

Ottawa composers thrilled by JazzWorks Originals concert

Inspired by the creativity: Charley Gordon, Sam Cousineau, and John Graham. ©Lauren Walker, 2014“It was very exciting.”

Pianist David Miller was the first of eleven local jazz musicians who had their original compositions featured in a concert Sunday. While the experience of leading off the show was a bit nerve-wracking, he said, “the big thrill for me was playing with such great musicians. My rhythm section was Nick [Fraser] and John [Geggie], and they just buoy you right up and you play even better than you thought you could.”

The concert was arranged by JazzWorks, and showcased music which had been developed at the JazzWorks summer jazz camp in August 2013. It was hosted by John Geggie, the camp's artistic director, and included camp faculty from Montreal and Toronto – drummer Nick Fraser, pianist Nancy Walker, and saxophonist Rémi Bolduc – who had originally mentored the composers as they worked on their pieces. The faculty performed with many of the composers and other camp participants.

Miller's song, “Motion of the Ocean”, was typical of the pieces: mainstream modern jazz, strongly melodic with taut solos from Sam Cousineau on alto sax and atmospheric drumming from Fraser. Miller said he had the song “basically mapped out when I came to jazz camp, but it actually underwent a fair bit of change. There was an entire section of the melody that it was pointed out to me that I'd borrowed it from somewhere else, so I had to change that part, and then I changed the ending.”

Read more: Ottawa composers thrilled by JazzWorks Originals concert

 

The Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio swept the audience along with its vigorous music

Michel Reis' piano playing moved from delicate and airy to vibrating and intense. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Ottawa, Canada
Monday, March 31, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

If jazz is an international language – as we were told repeatedly on International Jazz Day – that doesn't mean it sounds the same all over the world. It still can have local dialects and catch-phrases, and listening to musicians from other places can teach us new vocabulary.

If they can get here to perform.

Sadly, we've seen fewer international jazz acts performing here in Ottawa in the last five years. A lot of that has had to do with the continued economic downtown and less government and other support, both in North America and in Europe, for touring musicians.

So it was a pleasure to hear a trio from Luxembourg play here this spring, bringing a more European rendition of jazz – and music well worth hearing – to a tour of four Canadian cities.

Pianist Michel Reis, bassist Marc Demuth, and drummer Paul Wiltgen were born and raised in Luxembourg – and still mostly tour in Europe. The three met and played together frequently as teenagers, but that was interrupted when two of them left to study music in the United States (Berklee and the New England Conservatory for Reis, the Manhattan School of Music for Wiltgen). In 2011, they reunited for a concert back home. They have been playing together since on both sides of the Atlantic, releasing their first, self-titled, CD in 2013.

So here we have three musicians whose initial exposure to music and to jazz was in the European tradition. But then two of them overlaid that tradition with a major and continuing American influence (Reis and Wiltgen have stayed primarily in the U.S.). How did that affect what Ottawa audiences heard?

Read more: The Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio swept the audience along with its vigorous music

 

2014 Geggie Invitational Concert: complex tapestries of music (review)

David Braid, John Geggie, and Ted Warren play thoughtfully as Joel Miller, Jim Lewis, and Christine Jensen look on. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

John Geggie / David Braid / Christine Jensen / Jim Lewis / Joel Miller / Ted Warren
NAC Presents: Geggie Invitational Concert 2014
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Saturday, April 12, 2012 - 7:30 p.m.

View the photo gallery

It was a benediction of horns, all in unison. Soaring then falling, it opened John Geggie's only invitational concert of this season on an exalted note.

With those first notes of Christine Jensen's “Garden Hour”, the concert started as it would continue: with all six musicians contributing to the complex tapestries of music, each piece developed to its fullest extent while still retaining its individuality.

For this show Geggie invited five of his favourite Canadian musicians, all of them with decades of experience – both in mainstream jazz and as adventurous improvisers, an essential part of a concert like this. Except for the encore, all the pieces they played were their originals; Geggie told the audience they had more music than they had time to play, “but we're going to play as much as we can”.

If constrained by budgets to those living in Montreal and Toronto, he nevertheless was able to include three jazz Juno award winners: alto/soprano saxophonist Christine Jensen (2014), tenor saxophonist Joel Miller (2013), and pianist David Braid (2012). They were joined by drummer Ted Warren and trumpeter Jim Lewis, both also well-known to and appreciated by local audiences.

The sextet opened with an uninterrupted 20 minutes of music, “Garden Hour” segueing directly into “Don't Cry” by Jim Lewis. David Braid's piano provided the connection: slowly building in energy, its measured variations as thoughtful as Jensen's piece. And then, as Warren entered with bright, sharp drumming, the music burst into a rushing torrent, with Lewis' insistent trumpet line over all.

Read more: 2014 Geggie Invitational Concert: complex tapestries of music (review)

 

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