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December 18, 2014     Dear reader: Have you participated in our 2014 community funding campaign?

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Merrickville's Jazz Fest features new artists, and some greatest hits, for its 4th year

Going into its fourth year, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is facing the problems of success.

The festival, which runs from October 16-19 this year, sold out three shows in 2013. It received almost twice as many applications from musicians in 2014 compared to 2013. And it's added one more concert over last year to an already-packed schedule. (continued below)


Read and watch OttawaJazzScene.ca's full coverage of the 2014 Merrickville's Jazz Fest


Marc Decho

Marcie Campbell
Miguel de Armas and Caridad Cruz
Brian Browne
 René Fortier

Adam Daudrich

A few of the musicians you can hear at Merrickville's Jazz Fest this year   all photos ©Brett Delmage, OttawaJazzScene.ca

Its 2014 program features 17 concerts at locations around downtown Merrickville, including:

  • a tribute to unique vocalist Blossom Dearie
  • acclaimed Ottawa pianist Brian Browne
  • the quartet of Montreal bebop drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve, with long-time Montreal jazz musicians Dave Turner, Eric Lagacé, and Félix Stüssi
  • Toronto swing and gypsy jazz vocalist Denielle Bassels, and
  • the trio of Montreal pianist and composer Adam Daudrich

along with shows by a wide range of Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians.

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest features new artists, and some greatest hits, for its 4th year

 

Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)

Barre Phillips (bass) and John Heward (drums) ©Brett Delmage, 2014

John Heward and Barre Phillips 80th Birthday Celebration
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Montreal jazz drummer John Heward is also renowned Canadian painter and sculptor John Heward, and he shows a similar experimental bent in both his artistic pursuits.

For the week of the Guelph Jazz Festival, the main floor walls of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre featured several of his artworks: canvas painted and twisted into large-scale dramatic pieces. When he performed at the art centre as the first evening show of the festival – with some of his favourite musicians – there was a similar feeling of drama, uncertainty, and flair.

The concert and show were to celebrate Heward's 80th birthday – but only his 31st year as a professional musician. He played the drums as a teenager, but then concentrated on the visual arts. In 1983, at 49 years old, he bought a set of drums, and started playing improvised music. He's played in various avant-garde groups in Montreal, including Nicolas Caloia's Ratchet Orchestra, and PO (“Provocative Operations”). He leads the free jazz group Murray Street Band.

Read more: Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)

 

Guelph 2014: Pugs & Crows didn't live up to its talent (review)

Meredith Bates played propulsive violin at the Pugs & Crows concert at the Guelph Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Pugs & Crows
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Thursday, September 4, 2014 – 5 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Pugs & Crows is a Vancouver-based instrumental group which creates “dramatic cinematic music” blending indie rock and modern jazz. Their most recent album, Fantastic Pictures, won the 2013 Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year.

They played an hour-long late afternoon show at the Guelph Jazz Festival, to an enthusiastic and packed crowd. Performing with lots of energy and tight arrangements, they went through a good selection of numbers from both their albums, plus a few new pieces.

The group has an unusual lineup, with piano (Cat Toren) and violin (Meredith Bates) joining electric guitar (Cole Schmidt) as lead instruments, together with double bass (Russell Sholberg) and drums (Ben Brown). For this show, their music was accented by guest Tony Wilson on electric guitar and slide guitar, adding fluid lines and strong emotional touches.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Pugs & Crows didn't live up to its talent (review)

 

Local improvisers put on the spot at IMOO season opener (review)

Rory Magill and Mark Molnar ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Concert #106
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO)
Raw Sugar Café
Sunday, September 14, 2014

IMOO opened its fourth season on Sunday by returning to its roots in the local scene. It brought together a diverse collection of Ottawa-area improvisers in unexpected combinations, in its first evening in IMOO's new home of Raw Sugar Café.

IMOO organizers Linsey Wellman (alto sax) and David Jackson (guitar) arranged for Ian Birse (electronics and electric guitar), David Broscoe (alto sax, tuning forks, and noisemakers), Laura Kavanaugh (violin), Rory Magill (xylophone and percussion), and Mark Molnar (cello) to play in duos, trios, quartets, and all together. They tried a new format: each group who played would pick the next set of musicians to be thrown together to improvise.

Wellman, Jackson, and Magill began quietly, with shimmering guitar and low tones on sax, and became more intense, with Magill joining in with light taps on xylophone near the end. The collaborations which followed constantly changed textures and sounds: rough-edged violin and cello contrasting with shakers; rattling bells and ringing tuning forks alternating with with buzzing electronically-altered electric guitar and punctuated notes on saxophone. Near the end, there was even an (atypical) string quartet.

Read more: Local improvisers put on the spot at IMOO season opener (review)

 

Guelph 2014: Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim astonish the audience (review)

Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim in intense conversation at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim
2014 Guelph Jazz Festival
Guelph Youth Music Centre
Sunday, September 7, 2014 – 10:30 a.m.

The Guelph Jazz Festival rarely deals in the obvious or the tried-and-true, but its 2014 closing concert really confounded the audience's expectations.

Lee Pui Ming is an improvising pianist, composer, and vocalist, who combines classical, jazz, and Chinese traditions, and is active in Toronto's new music community. Dong-Won Kim is a percussionist, composer, and vocalist from Korea, trained in the movements and instruments of that country's traditional music, but with a strong improvising bent,

On-stage was a Yamaha grand piano, and Kim's instruments: the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather drum; and two hanging bronze gongs.

So piano and percussion, right? Not exactly.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim astonish the audience (review)

 

Guelph Jazz Festival helps kids find their voices through technology

View photos of the performance

The gamut of music-making technology – from simple tin can shakers to advanced tangible electronic surfaces – contributed to the upbeat sound of the annual KidsAbility Youth Orchestra concert at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival.

At the KidsAbility Youth Orchestra concert at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival, musicians created music with AUMI software. ©2014 Brett Delmage

The result was lots of smiles and action – for both the participants and the children and adults in the audience – at the show at Guelph City Hall.

Each year, the Guelph Jazz Festival commissions a musician to work with young musicians with disabilities to help them learn more about music and tools they can use to express themselves musically. This year, Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart (who recently worked with disabled adults at H'Art of Ottawa) came to a local day camp run by Playsense to work with nine youth, for an hour daily over one week in late August. Most of the young musicians he worked with were able to participate in the Youth Orchestra concert which opened the jazz festival's series of free Saturday concerts.

At the concert, Stewart mentioned that this work exploring possible future sounds tied into the festival's theme of “Sounding Futures”.

The tools Stewart taught the students began with rattles, squeakers, and other simple percussion instruments. But they also included the AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) software and the Reactable.

Read more: Guelph Jazz Festival helps kids find their voices through technology

 

OttawaJazzScene.ca - Into the next five years

An update from OttawaJazzScene.ca

On July 3, 2014, OttawaJazzScene.ca reached our 5th Anniversary! I founded the publication five years ago to celebrate and give greater public exposure to the vibrant 365-days-a-year jazz and improvised music scene in Ottawa-Gatineau and across Canada. Now, more than 10,000 articles and event listings later (a milestone which we reached in June, just before our anniversary) I feel we have made good progress towards accomplishing our initial objectives. There is strong interest in live local jazz performance, and other media have followed our lead in covering it.

Read more: OttawaJazzScene.ca - Into the next five years

 

Guelph Jazzfest celebrates Sun Ra, features Vijay Iyer and Randy Weston for its 21st year

We are reporting from one of our favourite festivals, the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, this week.

For its coming of age this week, the Guelph Jazz Festival is bringing in well-known performers from around the world – and as far out as Saturn.

Vijay Iyer will perform with his trio at the 2014 Guelph JazzFestival. © Brett DelmageThe festival, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday (September 3-7), is turning 21. To celebrate, it's shaken up its 2014 lineup with performers who are returning after long absences, including pianists Randy Weston, Vijay Iyer, and D.D. Jackson. But its biggest musical focus will be on Sun Ra, the late composer and bandleader, to celebrate the centennial of his arrival on Earth.

Sun Ra famously claimed he came from Saturn, and his cosmic music and other-worldly costuming was one of a kind. His Arkestra, now led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, will perform “Hymn to the Universe” on Saturday evening (September 6), in a collaboration with Quebec dance company Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie.

But there's more. For those interested in Sun Ra's life and work, the festival is offering a whole series of free talks and panels exploring his legacy, including a keynote address entitled “Sun Ra on Earth” by Columbia University professor and Sun Ra biographer John Szwed, and “Black Utopia LP” by American filmmaker and visual artist Cauleen Smith, who has intensely researched Sun Ra's work and influence. Four other researchers will discuss his Afrofuturist philosophy, which “fuses Egyptian iconography with the sounds, texts, and imagery of space travel and technology”; three will examine his myth-making and spirituality; and another will look as Sun Ra as a jester.

Read more: Guelph Jazzfest celebrates Sun Ra, features Vijay Iyer and Randy Weston for its 21st year

 

The Christian McBride Trio fulfills the tradition; the Darius Jones Quartet fights with it

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 11: Christian McBride Trio, Darius Jones Quartet
National Arts Centre
Monday, June 30, 2014

It was an evening of “inside” versus “outside” at the National Arts Centre, on the last evening of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Playing “inside”, primarily standards with a few originals, was the trio of bassist Christian McBride, with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. They looked extremely snazzy as they hit the stage, each wearing a well-cut suit, and McBride sporting a pair of cream-coloured horn-rimmed glasses. It was a visual cue to the music they were about to play: strongly in the tradition, and very professional. And, of course, swinging.

The NAC Studio was packed to overflowing for this concert, and not all the long line-up of listeners got in. McBride could have easily filled a much larger venue. Those who did get in got value for their money: the trio played for almost two hours. Each song was given lots of room for exploration, lasting about ten minutes each.

Read more: The Christian McBride Trio fulfills the tradition; the Darius Jones Quartet fights with it

 

Bobby McFerrin never forgets to experiment (review)

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 10: Bobby McFerrin
Confederation Park
Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vocalist Bobby McFerrin is undoubtedly sui generis: he's crossed the boundaries of jazz, pop, and most recently gospel, over and over again. But with his emphasis on improvisation, experimentation, and reinterpretation, I think most jazz fans would be happy to welcome him as one of us.

The almost-capacity crowd in Confederation Park was certainly delighted to see him: they started the evening off with a standing ovation, sang along in one song, and – most importantly – shut up when the band was playing. It was an evening of great communication, on and off-stage, and highly enjoyable music.

McFerrin began the evening scatting, popping out syllables and lightly bumping his chest to add extra percussive effect, as he did throughout the evening. He was assisted by accented playing by a tight backing band, including some soaring lines from Gil Bruce Goldstein's accordion and fierce playing by Armand Hirsch on electric guitar.

His second number brought the gospel theme of the evening to the fore. McFerrin's latest album is called spirityouall, and features traditional gospel numbers, a Bob Dylan song, and several originals by McFerrin, all with a hopeful religious theme.

Read more: Bobby McFerrin never forgets to experiment (review)

 

Collaboration in two acts: Newport Festival Now 60 & the Norma Winstone Trio

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 8: Newport Festival Now 60, Norma Winstone Trio
National Arts Centre (Studio and Fourth Stage)
Friday, June 27, 2014

I was curious exactly how this Newport Festival all-star group was going to celebrate the festival's 60th anniversary – in a concert less than two hours long.

Trying to be historically representative would require playing tiny snippets of many songs – not that much fun for the audience. Even trying to reflect all the major styles and types and movements in jazz that have been showcased on that festival's stage since 1954 would have been effectively impossible!

What the septet ended up presenting was an upbeat show of many standards and a few originals – mainstream jazz played with verve, enthusiasm, and quite a dollop of skill. Arguably, that did indeed reflect Newport's spirit and the quality of what it's offered over the decades.

Read more: Collaboration in two acts: Newport Festival Now 60 & the Norma Winstone Trio

 

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