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Capital Vox remembers Dave Brubeck through both his words and music

Elise Letourneau ©Brett Delmage, 2012Dave Brubeck ©Brett Delmage, 2007

Capital Vox will celebrate a less-known side of Dave Brubeck at its opening season concert Saturday, with both choral pieces and solo piano music written by the late, renowned jazz pianist and composer.

The concert will be only a few days short of the first anniversary of Brubeck's death (December 5, 2012, just before his 92nd birthday). The Ottawa community jazz choir wanted to pay tribute to him, said director Elise Letourneau, by exploring the compositions he wrote for choir and voice.

But the piano won't be forgotten, either: the choir will be accompanied by pianist Sally Robinson, and keyboard master Brian Browne will perform solo in the middle of each set.

Brubeck is not usually associated with choral music, Letourneau said; most people have never heard the part of Brubeck's repertoire that Capital Vox will present.

In fact, up to about three years ago, she only knew of Brubeck's instrumental jazz – and then she discovered the choral compositions.

“I thought: this is really cool! And the more I looked the more I found. This wasn't just one or two choral pieces he wrote. He wrote a lot of music for choir. We're programming a whole concert of it, but there's probably a whole 'nother concert of Brubeck material that we didn't do, that we could. And then on top of that, he wrote a few Masses and music like that as well.”

Read more: Capital Vox remembers Dave Brubeck through both his words and music


Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett bring new, Indian-influenced music to life

Jamie Baum: her latest CD includes new ways of writing and improvising inspired by music from the Indian subcontinent. (photo by Vincent Soyez)

Jamie Baum is exploring new territory in her current Canadian tour, which reaches Ottawa on Saturday at GigSpace.

It's the first opportunity for the American jazz flute player to play with Jane Bunnett, her Canadian fellow flute player and longtime friend. It's also a release tour for her latest CD, which has taken her in new and original directions inspired by music from the Indian subcontinent.

“I really love Indian music and qawwali music,” Baum explained.

Jane Bunnett: The first show in the tour attracted a 'full house and a fantastic turnout – and the music is pretty adventuresome music. The crowd was really receptive; they loved it.' ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Several of the pieces on the album are directly inspired by performances by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was a singer of Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music. Others, while staying within the jazz mainstream, reflect Baum's experiences performing in India and listening to music from there. That led her to “new ways of writing and improvising”, which she enthusiastically described.

The quintet's tour includes Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Quebec City, Ottawa, and Kingston. spoke to Jane Bunnett the day after the first show in Waterloo, and she said that show attracted a “full house and a fantastic turnout – and the music is pretty adventuresome music. The crowd was really receptive. They loved it.”

Baum and Bunnett first met at a jazz convention in the 1990s, and have both been nominated in the same categories for Jazz Journalists Association Awards.

“So she would be there and I would be there, and we would start to bond and hang out. When she'd play in New York, I'd go hear her and we'd get a bite. When I was in Toronto, and even once in Montreal and she was there at the same time, we would just hang out,” Baum told

“She's been in the Downbeat polls as I've been in the Downbeat polls. We have a lot of mutual friends in common, with people who have written about woodwinds,” Bunnett said. “I think originally the first person was a writer-journalist-radio guy in New York named Bob Bernotas, who said to me, 'Oh you've got to meet Jamie. You'd just get along great!' And sometimes that can be the worst thing somebody tells you: oh you guys will just get along great, and you end up like can't stand the person, right? Why did they say that? But we really did: we hit it off. And so we've been friends ever since and we keep in touch.”

Read more: Amazing opportunities playing with Indian musicians


Bryn Roberts returns to making his own, lyrical music

Bryn Roberts (photo by Randy Cole. Used courtesy of the artist)

The Bryn Roberts Quartet plays GigSpace on Thursday, November 21, at 8 p.m. It's part of a cross-Canada tour which took them to the Cellar in Vancouver on Nov 15-16, and The West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg on November 17. The tour continues to the Jazz Bistro in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday, November 19-20, and the Upstairs Club in Montreal on Friday, November 22.

Pianist Bryn Roberts composes long, lyrical jazz melodies – memorable ones which are expressed through all the musicians in his quartet. You can hear them in his just-released third album, Fables – and when he appears with his all-star quartet at GigSpace on Thursday. That show will feature selections from Fables, as well as older compositions, some standards, and a few surprises.

Roberts grew up in Winnipeg, which is where editor Alayne McGregor caught up with him for a phone conversation on Sunday. He was at his parents' house for a brief stay, as he prepared for a concert that evening – and was a bit worried that a “pretty miserable snow storm” (a standard risk for Winnipeg in November) might affect attendance.

He's in the middle of a Canadian CD release tour which started with two sold-out nights in Vancouver last weekend, and will continue after Winnipeg to Toronto, Ottawa, and finally Montreal. While the CD was officially released in NYC in mid-September, and was briefly showcased in a European tour, this is the first extensive chance for audiences to hear this music.

It's also the first chance for Canadians to hear much of Roberts in many years. In the late 1990s, after he graduated from McGill, he was an important part of the Montreal jazz scene, and released his debut album in 2000 to considerable acclaim and a Montreal Jazz Festival appearance. But in 2001, he moved to New York City, and for most of the last decade his talents have been as much in demand to back up rock stars like Serena Ryder and singer-songwriters like Dar Williams as they are for straight jazz gigs.

For this tour, Roberts has brought three notable jazz musicians with him: tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, a Canadian expat who is highly influential in the NYC jazz scene and a member of John Scofield's “Quiet Band”; Matt Penman, best known to Ottawa audiences as the bassist in the SF Jazz Collective; and German drummer Jochen Rueckert, who has played with musicians like Mark Turner, Marc Copland, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Abercrombie, and Madeleine Peyroux.

This is an edited version of our conversation:

Read more: Bryn Roberts returns to making his own, lyrical music


Diverse concerts sell out to Ottawa audiences

The Melissa Stylianou Quartet filled GigSpace on November 15. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View photos of these concerts

The Ottawa jazz scene showed its diversity and enthusiasm on the weekend, as two very different shows – one touring, one local – both filled GigSpace to the door.

On Friday night, Brooklyn (and ex-Toronto) vocalist Melissa Stylianou brought her quartet to Ottawa as part of a three-city mini-tour of Ontario. It was an intimate show of jazz standards, originals, and a few “left-field choices” which connected well with her audience. The overall sound was stunning.

On Saturday, Ottawa master guitarist Roddy Ellias introduced his updated trio, with Thom Gossage on drums joining Adrian Vedady on double bass. They played an uninterrupted 105-minute set which included the material which they will be recording in the next two weeks (and even took advance orders for that CD).

Roddy Ellias, Adrian Vedady, and Thom Gossage played an uninterrupted 105-minute set at GigSpace on November 16 to an appreciative audience. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Much of the material had been featured at previous trio concerts, but that didn't matter. By the time Ellias had improvised new beginnings to tunes and radically changed arrangements, this was a fresh and fascinating example of guitar trio. Vedady and Ellias played a number of duets demonstrating how their two different tonalities could intersect and compliment each other. Gossage added understated texture in some places, and some surprisingly assertive and unexpected percussion in others which served to highlight the entire trio's music.

There's lots of choice again this week, with the star-studded Bryn Roberts Quartet on Thursday and the Trombone Summit on Saturday at GigSpace. Vocal jazz fans will be torn between the Nylons at Shenkman, and Montreal bossa nova duo bet.e & stef at the Mercury Lounge, both on Thursday. Roberto Lopez brings his highly energetic and original jazz inspired by Afro-Columbia rhythms to downtown Gatineau on Friday (we were very impressed with his concerts in Ottawa and Montreal this summer), and Zola's is broadcasting a concert from New York City featuring noted saxophonist Chris Potter. And there's lots more!

Check our Upcoming shows listings for full details, and subscribe to our free weekly JazzScene newsletter to get a timely reminder of shows you will want to buy tickets to – before they sell out.

    – Alayne McGregor, with files from Brett Delmage

Related reading:

View photos from these concerts


Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button

Roddy Ellias emphasizes a point at a Carleton University masterclass. He'll be giving an object lesson in trio jazz at his GigSpace show Saturday -- and previewing tunes on his upcoming CD. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

See the video of the Roddy Ellias Trio from the November concert.

“I realized that October 31st marked my 51st anniversary from my first gig and I have three records out on my own name,” guitarist, composer, and improviser Roddy Ellias told recently. But now he's working hard to change that as he gets ready to record two albums of his own and appear on a third this year.

As part of that process, his jazz trio, with Thom Gossage on drums and Adrian Vedady on double bass, is performing at GigSpace on Saturday, The concert will preview his album of all-original tunes which they will record in early December. Listeners can expect melodic music influenced by Ellias' years of playing both jazz standards and chamber music, and "the wide spectrum of moods, rhythms, expression and colours that happen with Gossage and Vedady".

“I just find that I don't really want to record something until I have something good to offer. I don't like to just make records because I like making records. When I've compiled enough good tunes and I've worked at them enough then... it's time.”

Ellias would have been pressed to find time earlier to record in the manner he prefers. In this year alone, he was named as Canada's only Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association in April, organized the inaugural Guitar Now! Festival (which included renowned guitarists from around the world) at Carleton University in May, and wrote two commissioned pieces this summer, including one for the German Meininger Trio. All that on top of his 2012-13 GigSpace concert series and teaching at Carleton University and in martial arts.

Read more: Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button


Donations to jazz radio shows fall while CKCU exceeds funding target

Carleton University's community radio station CKCU FM (93.1 / ended its annual funding drive on Sunday, November 10, receiving $134,473 in pledges and exceeding its goal of $127,000. Donations to long-running jazz programs were down significantly, however.

CKCU FM exceeded its 2013 fundraising goal but donations to jazz shows fellAccording to CKCU station manager Matthew Crosier, $992 was donated to Swing is In the Air, $500 to Rabble Without A Cause (RWAC), and $1843 to In A Mellow Tone.

The annual fundraising campaign raises money to pay the $40 per hour it costs to operate the largely volunteer-based CKCU. This includes equipment purchase and maintenance, electricity (for the radio transmitter and station), rent, music licenses, “CKCU On Demand” streaming audio and archives, and a small core staff.

2013 donations to Swing is In the Air ($992) reached less than one-half the target of $2300, down from 2010 donations of $3141. This was the first fundraising drive that followed the sudden death in early January of longtime host Jacques Emond. Emond had hosted the show for 30 years and was also widely known and loved in the jazz community as the longtime programming director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

With new hosts, Swing is In the Air saw a format change this year, with even more airtime given to interviews with, and newly released music by, local musicians. It is now hosted by Vince Rimbach and Ralph Hopper, and occasional guest hosts.

Rabble Without A Cause's donations fell this year to $500, from $780 last year and $850 in 2011 according to host Bernard Stepien. RWAC serves a smaller audience, focusing since its inception in the mid 1970s on avant-garde jazz, and being the primary local radio show where this music is aired weekly. According to Stepien, RWAC allocated 21% of its programming “to local musicians of all styles and level of development” this past year, an increase over 10% in the past.

Read more: Donations to jazz radio shows fall while CKCU exceeds funding target


David Occhipinti in Ottawa Friday afternoon to debut his new chamber jazz CD

Toronto guitarist David Occhipinti recently released a new CD, Camera. It's Occhipinti's foray into chamber jazz which he talked about when interviewed him in 2012. has listened to the CD several times and was impressed by its fascinating textures and beautiful melodic music.

Occhipinti is touring right now in support of the CD with an ensemble of Toronto jazz musicians who also cross over into chamber music: for example, Andrew Downing on cello and Peter Lutek on clarinet/bassoon. Ottawa audiences last saw Occhipinti with the four-guitar Walrus Quartet.

This Friday afternoon, Occhipinti and his quintet will be giving a free masterclass/concert at Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University.

Read more: David Occhipinti in Ottawa Friday afternoon to debut his new chamber jazz CD


An early and jazzy start to Christmas

This Wednesday, Christmas comes early to Ottawa – or at least its jazzy soundtrack!

Vocalist Jozée Devoua, pianist and arranger J.P. Allain, and bassist and engineer Normand Glaude will be premiering their new Christmas CD, Jazz Winterlude, at the NAC Fourth Stage.

Just a bit early for the actual holiday, you might wonder? Glaude said they wanted to ensure they introduced the CD early enough to get it to possible buyers. And, in fact, he said, once Hallowe'en was over, ticket sales really picked up. “There definitely are some die-hard fans out there of Christmas that want to get into the mood early.”

The album was inspired by all the great jazz music which is also Christmas music. “Christmas is a fun time of year. There is a lot of Christmas music out there that people like to rejuvenate every year, and add new music to their portfolio. And quite honestly, I think that there are some really nice jazz standards that are great Christmas tunes.”

Read more: An early and jazzy start to Christmas


IMOOfest to return after financial break-even and artistic successes

(l-r) Linsey Wellman, Craig Pedersen, Justin Haynes take a break between sets. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman looked exhausted but happy at the end of IMOOfest 2013 on Sunday night.

The two IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) programming directors had been going full out for three days of the festival. They were organizing all the last-minute details and cleanup, introducing acts, and publicizing each night, as well as all the pre-festival arrangements which had occupied them for months beforehand. And although they had originally planned to play only in the IMOO orchestra, they each ended up unexpectedly performing in another set as well.

But they were satisfied: “I feel great”, they both said, with Wellman continuing that “musically, it was a big success. There was some really stellar music. That was the most important thing. And there were people here; everybody who came seemed to be really happy. It was just a really great chance to get some people in the community all together, in one place."

The festival featured a wide range of musicians from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto, all playing improvised music, but on many different instruments and presenting a wide diversity of sounds. Pedersen said one highlight for him was playing with (ex-Ottawa, now-Toronto) guitarist Justin Haynes. Haynes became an unexpected extra headliner when Jennifer Giles invited him to play in her trio – with results that “floored” Pedersen.

Read more: IMOOfest to return after financial break-even and artistic successes


IMOOfest 2013 Night 3: unpacking the music (review)

Jesse Stewart thought outside the box for his performance ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 3
Sunday, November 10, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

View the photos

Jesse Stewart, solo percussion

For his previous solo show at GigSpace, percussionist Jesse Stewart brought in a vibraphone, a set of heavy, carefully-tuned marble blocks, a drumkit, a giant sawblade, and many other percussion instruments: a load you'd need a large car or van to carry.

He showed up at IMOOfest 2013 with a plain cardboard box under his arm, about a cubic foot in size and obviously trivially light. He ignored the two full drumkits behind him, and he played the box in every possible way.

Opening the last night of the festival, Stewart embodied its pure improvising spirit – and playfulness. He began by simply shaking the box, letting the contents crash around inside. Then he turned it over and around. He rubbed the stubble on his face against it, and then put it down and ran his fingers over the corrugations on the side, creating light scratching sounds.

He drummed on it with his hands, on both the sides and top, starting with simple patterns which evolved into more complex and interrupted, and turned into a thundershower of sharp beats. He opened the box and pressed the flaps down alternately, fast and hard. Using a violin bow, he bowed the side of a flap, creating an attenuated screech like a creaking door in a horror film, and then pressed down harder and harder until the sound popped.

Read more: IMOOfest 2013 Night 3: unpacking the music (review)


IMOOfest 2013 Night 2: stretching the rules (review)

The IMOO Chamber Orchestra broke the rules ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 2
Saturday, November 9, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

View the photos

Night 2 of IMOOfest 2013 showed the diversity of what can be described as improvised music or avant-garde jazz.

It began with Jeff Morton playing what was billed as a solo electronics set, but which ended up at least as much acoustic. For the first half of the show, he played electronic dance music, a constantly adaptive ecology of sound with strong electronic figures over a muffled beat. It had a minimalist, hypnotic feel, and despite its intensity was never too loud.

A projection screen was set up to his right: for the first half it displayed changing abstract patterns; during the second half, his partner, Katrina Bray, moved paper origami figures to create frequently-changing, evocative shadows on the screen.

For the second half of his show, Morton pulled out a “Phono Fiddle”, an instrument sold mostly door-to-door in the early part of the 20th century for beginning musicians. It looked so odd that I had initially thought it was a home-brew device: it consists of a long wooden rod with a single metal string running down it. At the bridge, the string vibrates a phonograph needle, and that then transfers sound through a diaphragm and a small metal tube to a large metal horn attached at the bottom of the wooden rod.

Morton played it with a bow, touching both the string and the edge of the bell to double the sound. That created a sonorous but supernatural-feeling sound, initially high-pitched and then moving up and down in frequency. He added loops behind, but still kept the acoustic and very minimal feel as he continued with small variations on the melody, and eventually faded out to appreciative applause.

Read more: IMOOfest 2013 Night 2: stretching the rules (review)


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