Friday, February 8, 2013
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Elizabeth Shepherd produced a night of bittersweet music for a full house, at her NAC debut on February 8.
The show opened dramatically with “Love for Sale” by Cole Porter, the first song from her latest CD, Rewind. As on the CD, the Montreal-based vocalist emphasized the irony and the contrast between the light, romantic melody and the bleak lyrics. Singing in a slightly distanced manner, she first gestured with her hands and then used the piano to emphasize the syncopation in the melody.
The show's setlist ranged across Shepherd's career, with the jazz standards from Rewind fitting in well with originals from previous albums. If there was one defining characteristic, it was the contrast between her clear, smooth soprano and the strong underlying beat. One could enjoy the concert as a piano trio, as a collection of jazz songs, or as a combination of both.
Shepherd, playing piano and singing, was supported by two long-time musical compatriots, Ross MacIntyre on double bass and Colin Kingsmore on drums. Neither was a mere accompanist. For example, “Midnight Sun” (by jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton) began with MacIntyre's supple bass riff against strongly accented piano from Shepherd and hand-clapping from Kingsmore. Shepherd and McIntyre later continued in a duet, his bass echoing her melodies and fast rhythms on piano; then Shepherd and Kingsmore traded individual notes, his on cowbell and drums. Shepherd changed her vocal phrasing throughout the song as well, adding extra space as she repeated lyrics – and the whole was greeted by strong applause at the end.
John Scofield Trio
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
La Maison de la Culture, Gatineau
The opening night of the John Scofield Trio’s tour of Quebec began in the dimly lit, brilliant acoustics of the theatre of La Maison de la Culture de Gatineau, where its attentive audience barely made a whisper – when they weren’t cheering enthusiastically.
Scofield grooved with his mouth open, at times singing his parts and bending his knees dancing to the music. Drummer Bill Stewart demonstrated his prowess when holding down the groove, occasionally unleashing his ferocious mastery with the full force of his body. Bassist Scott Colley had his eyes focused on both Scofield and Stewart when he wasn't trancing with his solos, complementing both Stewart and Scofield as if he could read their minds.
It was a night of group interplay, hard swing, country ballads, blues, atmospheric soundscapes and, of course, groove. With this trio, Scofield demonstrated that he isn’t just a funk rock or jazz fusion guitar player, as he is popularly known. He reaffirmed to local audiences that he is more than capable of playing straight-ahead jazz without losing the trademark Scofield-isms that he’s known and relished for.
The Elizabeth Shepherd Trio plays the NAC Fourth Stage on Friday, February 8, 2013.
Elizabeth Shepherd came to jazz via Salvation Army brass bands, hip-hop, and French chanson. Her first four albums consisted almost completely of her own songs, and it's only with her latest that she has finally released an album of jazz standards.
It's not the standard career path for a jazz pianist and vocalist – especially since most of Shepherd's music is written within the standard pop song format, while still keeping the rhythms and complexity of jazz. On bandcamp, her music is tagged as “jazz”, but also as “chanson française”, “experimental pop”, and “soul-jazz”.
But it has allowed her to reach a broader audience – one that has regularly filled the Mercury Lounge on previous appearances in Ottawa, and which has had her touring as far away as Tokyo.
Nor has it harmed her jazz creds: she was picked by vibraphonist Peter Appleyard to be one of the “Sophisticated Ladies” whose vocals he collaborated with on his 2012 album, and she has recently toured with guitarist Michael Occhipinti for his Shine On project. She has also been nominated twice for a Juno for Best Vocal Jazz Album (2007 and 2009).
The Montreal-based musician will be appearing at the NAC Fourth Stage this Friday as part of the NAC Presents series. She will be with her long-time bassist and drummer – Ross MacIntyre and Colin Kingsmore – primarily playing music from her fifth album, Rewind.
Rewind, which was released in September 2012, and recorded about a year before that, is an album of uncommon jazz standards: two French songs, some less-well-known jazz songs by famous composers, and songs better known in their instrumental versions, like “Poinciana”. Shepherd's only writing contribution to the album was a set of lyrics to Bobby Hutcherson's instrumental, “When you are near”. The other eleven songs on the album are jazz classics – but more for Cannonball Adderley fans than for Diana Krall fans. The album opens with an unromantic version of Cole Porter's “Love for Sale”, and ends with a heartfelt duet with Denzal Sinclaire on “Prelude to a Kiss” by Duke Ellington.
John Scofield is one of the most successful jazz guitarists around today, renowned for his unique and extremely expressive soulful and funky sound. He has played with a plethora of top jazz musicians, including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, The Brecker Brothers, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Tony Williams, David Liebman and many more.
Scofield has a busy touring schedule. performing 200 days out of the year around the world. He has played at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, most recently with his New Orleans gospel style group, The Piety Street Band in 2010, and with his quartet in 2003.
On Wednesday, February 6, the John Scofield Trio began its tour of ‘la belle province’, organized by the Montreal Jazz Festival, with the first show of the tour at the Maison de la Culture de Gatineau here in the greater Ottawa/Gatineau region. See the OttawaJazzScene.ca review of that concert.
Justin Duhaime of OttawaJazzScene.ca had the pleasure of interviewing the friendly and down-to-earth Scofield on January 24 to ask him about this upcoming tour and more. Here is what they talked about.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Tell me about the people you will be playing with.
John Scofield: This time it’s two of my good buddies: Bill Stewart, drummer par excellence, who I’ve been playing with 20+ years on and off, but on a lot, and a great, great acoustic bass player named Scott Colley, who I’ve played with some. He was on my last record, A Moment’s Peace, that came out in 2011.
OJS: Your long-running trio usually has Steve Swallow in it. Could he not make the tour?
Scofield: Steve Swallow has a strange life. He lives in Tortola in the Caribbean between November and March, and won’t leave. He just stays down there and he just writes music. He and his wife Carla Bley don’t play gigs during that time of the year.
But I’ve been playing with Scott a lot, too. I’ve had a longer history with Steve, but Scott is no mere substitute for Steve Swallow. He’s his own man and a really remarkable musician.
Florquestra Brasil received an enthusiastic full house at Cabaret La Basoche in Aylmer on January 30. The event: the launch of their first album, Flortografia. The hour-long concert produced an immediate standing ovation at the end, and another after the encore.
The music was a mixture – Georges Brassens, Leonard Cohen, Brazilian jazz standards, and originals – sung in mostly French, but with some Portuguese and English too. It was all served with a cabaret sensibility and with strong Brazilian rhythms underneath, for a unified and highly infectious whole.
Léonard Constant (guitar, vocals), Regina Teixeira (percussion, vocals), Silvio Módolo (accordion, guitar, cavaquinho, keyboards, and more), and Angel Araos (drums, percussion) were joined by further musical friends. most of whom had also played on the album: Fernando Acosta (percussion), Jasmin Lalande (saxes), Paul Doyle (trumpet and flugelhorn), Ken Kanwisher (bass), and Gabriel Estrela Pinto (percussion). In particular it was their skillful use of Brazilian instruments: the berimbau, agogô, cavaquinho, tamborim, caxixi, surdo, pandeiro, viola caipira, zabumba, and more, which really added the extra flair to their music.
The Nick Fraser Quartet with Tony Malaby plays Ottawa on Friday, February 1 (NAC Fourth Stage); Toronto on Saturday, February 2 (the Tranzac); and Kingston on Sunday, February 3 (the Mansion).
You can't necessarily categorize drummer Nick Fraser. You can hear him play mainstream jazz with vocalist/pianist Fern Lindzon, singer/composer Sienna Dahlen, or quintet Peripheral Vision. There's world music with banjo player Jayme Stone. On the more avant-garde side, he accompanies trumpeter Lina Allemano, and is part of the collective avant-jazz quintet Drumheller, the improv trio Ugly Beauties, and the Steve Lacy tribute band, The Rent.
He's probably best known in Ottawa as the long-standing drummer in John Geggie's trio which anchors the Ottawa Jazz Festival's late night jam sessions – a testimony to his ability to play almost anything!
But for many years he's rarely been heard as the leader of his own group, playing his own compositions in the improv/free music vein.
That will change this week, as his quartet plays a three-city tour to release new CD called Towns and Villages. It's his first CD under his own name in almost a decade. The CD was recorded a year ago (February, 2012), and was inspired by a visit by NYC free jazz saxophonist Tony Malaby to Toronto.
“I've always thought of doing a project with Tony Malaby, who's one of my favourite musicians. And he was in Toronto doing something else, so I jumped at the chance to put something together.”
The two originally met at a jazz workshop in Idaho in 1996. “And I was about 20 and he was 35ish and had just moved to New York. And I was just really impressed with his musicianship and his sound and the breadth of what he can do with his instrument. He can play really freely but is really grounded in convention as well. That's something I aspire to.”
Also on the record are two musicians Fraser has played with practically since he moved to Toronto from Ottawa in 1996: bassist Rob Clutton and cellist Andrew Downing.
Downing had not previously played with Malaby, while Clutton and Malaby had played together once a decade before. That allowed for a mixture of familiarity and newness in the relationships that created the music on the record, Fraser said.
Fraser said he had originally envisioned Clutton and Downing both playing bass, but Downing suggested cello instead: “I think he gets more excited about projects when he gets to play cello.” But it ended up expanding the group's sound.
Pressed, a gourmet sandwich bar and coffee house on Gladstone Avenue, was literally filled with musicians making music and listeners making silence on the afternoon of January 19. It was the first jam of the second season of Saturday Afternoon Jazz Jams.
“It was fabulous,” said pianist Karen Rauh, leader of the quartet that is the new house band for the jams. Her quartet also includes Adrian Matte on saxophone, Mark Fraser on bass, and Allyson Rogers on drums.
“It was great to see familiar faces, new faces, and to have so many people involved with the jam. It was good energy.”
The Pressed jazz jams were started last May by a quartet led by Renée Yoxon and Craig Pedersen, who were the house band until the end of 2012, when they relinquished the chair to Rauh's group.
Seven or so guest musicians of a wide range of ages participated in this first jam of the season, playing everything from jazz standards to boogie woogie to samba, on piano, double bass, guitar, vocals and drums. But no woodwind or brass players sat in, keeping house band saxophonist Adrian Matte busy for much of the afternoon.
Amateur guitarist Jim Mattson came in from Carleton Place to play. He has been studying in Tim Bedner's Jazz Jam workshops and was looking for actual experience. It was his first time at Pressed and third time playing publicly.
Mattson had concluded that the monthly JazzWorks jams at the Carleton Tavern were “too noisy, crazy” for him.
But he found Pressed to his liking.
“Really nice energy in this place, people feel comfortable getting out and playing. As a participant I found it a very relaxing environment. I felt very comfortable playing in it,” he said.
“The sound in the room was very good and the band is wonderful to play with.”
Although he traveled 50 km from Carleton Place to Pressed, Mattson did not travel the farthest distance. “Mr. Big Hand Tom” Vandermeyden and his wife were visiting from Arnhem in the Netherlands (5700 km away). Vandermeyden found out about the jam and dropped in for the afternoon to listen and play, clearly enjoying the experience.
CKCU Tribute to Jacques Emond
Aired: Sunday January 20, 16:00 – 17:30 on CKCU FM 93.1 FM
Also available at CKCU On Demand on the Internet
Long-time jazz colleagues and friends of the late Jacques Emond gathered around the microphone at CKCU-FM on January 20 to pay tribute to him on “Swing is in the Air”. Emond had hosted the show for more than 30 years before suddenly passing away on January 6.
Fellow CKCU jazz radio show hosts, jazz journalists, Ottawa Jazz Festival staff, and jazz musicians spoke passionately about their experiences, friendships with, and respect for Jacques Emond. Their reminiscences easily filled the ninety minute show. Show host Joe Reilly and guests collectively shared more than 150 years of memories with their radio and Internet listeners. The recollections were interspersed with live and recorded jazz which had personal meanings and connections to Emond and his favourite jazz artists.
“He knew everybody, everybody knew him,” said Maurizio Ortolani, a former Executive Director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival and the New Media Producer at the National Arts Centre. Ortolani described how a short walk with Emond at a NYC jazz educators conference became a very slow trip, as many people who knew Emond over the years came up to chat enthusiastically with him – and Emond remembered them all.
“For someone with dimunitive stature, he was the big man on campus.”
Cory Weeds Quartet with Steve Davis
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Mid-way through his Ottawa concert, saxophonist Cory Weeds slowed down the blues and bop to acknowledge the three unexpected losses from the Canadian jazz community this month.
He first remembered Ottawa's Jacques Emond and Toronto's Del Dako, but it was clearly the death of Vancouver saxophonist Ross Taggart which had hit him the hardest. Taggart had been both his mentor and his close friend, and a musician he'd played with many times.
In remembrance, the band played Taggart's composition, “Thinking of You”. Weeds opened with a slow, sad line on tenor sax, and Steve Davis similarly responded on trombone. It was a reflective ballad, with strong piano chords underpinning it (Taggart played both piano and sax professionally), and attracted strong applause.
Although quite different in style from most of the repertoire that night, it showed off the strength of the group Weeds had assembled for this cross-continent tour. It was a collaboration of east and west: Weeds, pianist Tilden Webb, bassist Ken Lister, and drummer Jesse Cahill, all from Vancouver, and trombonist Steve Davis from New York City.
- How do you run a successful jazz club? We ask The Cellar's Cory Weeds
- Cory Weeds swings across the country and into Ottawa
- Remembering Jacques Emond's life-long love of jazz
- Local jazz fans pack the house for last Monday jazz night at Le Petit Chicago
- What's inside Chocolate Hot Pockets ?
- Our favourite shows (Ottawa-Gatineau jazz in 2012)
- Monday jazz at Le Petit Chicago canceled suddenly
- Bill Coon and Tim Bedner attract record crowd to ZenKitchen's jazz brunch
- Oswald, Thomson, Stewart play engaging improvisations at final 2012 IMOO concert
- Holly Cole Christmas at the NAC (review)
- 2013 Geggie series is shorter and starts later, but has the same spirit
- The Nepean All-City Jazz Band: never accepting "good enough"
- The Ottawa Junior Jazz Band: a passion to play
- Dave Brubeck, who thrilled record Ottawa audiences, dies at age 91
- Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis featured at both 2013 Ottawa and Montreal jazz festivals
- Sonia Johnson: not playing it safe with jazz
- Ottawa Jazz Festival AGM talks money, not music
- Rob Frayne dreams large
- Tim Bedner finds the right time for his first CD
- A musical connection which spans continents
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