You can't ever relax when managing a jazz club, according to Vancouver club owner and musician Cory Weeds.
Weeds bought the Cellar Jazz Club in 2000. It has appeared five times on Downbeat's list of the world’s top 100 jazz clubs, and is a pillar of the Vancouver, and Canadian, jazz scene. It offers jazz from local, Canadian, and international musicians, usually seven nights a week. Some better-known acts who have appeared or are scheduled to appear there include: Christian McBride, Russell Malone, Renee Rosnes, David 'Fathead' Newman, Tom Harrell, Benny Golson, and Kenny Garrett.
But that doesn't make it a fully secure proposition, nor is it likely that any jazz club can be that.
“We're never out of the water. I think there's a misconception that if you can get past the first five or six years or whatever it happens to be that you're home free. We're never, ever home free. Never. Not after 12 years, not after 14 years, probably not after 20. We're always two or three bad weekends away from being in trouble and that's just the way it is running a jazz club, at least the kind of jazz club we run.”
Which may be one reason why he excoriated jazz students in late 2012 for not showing up to live jazz shows.
Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds is ambivalent whether he wants jazz master Lou Donaldson to be at the last show of his current tour.
His tour, which includes an Ottawa stop on Wednesday, January 23, will feature Weeds with three well-known Vancouver musicians and NYC trombonist Steve Davis, playing what Weeds describes as “straight ahead, hard swinging” jazz.
In fact, in the same tradition as Donaldson, especially his recordings on alto sax in the 1960s with Art Blakey.
Weeds has had Donaldson play at his Vancouver jazz club, The Cellar. “He's the closest to bebop I'll ever get. He was playing with Clifford Brown and Art Blakey and those guys in like 1955. He's a crusty old dude and he's opinionated as they come.”
And for a self-confessed hard bopper like Weeds, he's someone to look up to. Others agree: Donaldson was named a Jazz Master in 2013 by the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.
Weeds said he learned recently from a mutual friend that Lou Donaldson had heard his latest CD, Up A Step, which is a tribute to Hank Mobley. His friend relayed Donaldson: “You tell Cory he's got a good record there. That's a good record. He sounded really good. You tell him that."
Weeds' friend then reported that he “was floored because Lou never says that.”
The tour, which started on January 9 in Portland, Oregon, covers Washington state, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New York state, and Connecticut, before ending in New York City on January 30.
And it's at that last show, at the Smoke Jazz Club, where Donaldson might show up.
Which leaves Weeds feeling both excited and a little nervous. “People are starting to see my name, like my musician friends who play [at Smoke] are starting to see my name on the calendar and they're like, 'Cory, we hear you're coming to Smoke, we're going to come down and check it out'. That's great and I know they're doing it to be supportive, but it's also making me a little nervous, because you never know who's going to show up there.”
The best place to find Jacques Emond was at a live jazz concert, where he'd generally be sitting there beaming, just enjoying and appreciating the performance. A life-long jazz fan, he never got tired of the music and tried to communicate that love to others.
And if it was a big band concert, even more so.
Emond, the founding programming manager of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, died suddenly on Sunday, January 6, 2013, after suffering a stroke. He was 78. He had been scheduled to broadcast his long-running jazz radio show, Swing is in the Air on CKCU-FM, that afternoon.
Emond set the sound for the Ottawa Jazz Festival for more than 25 years. Starting in the early 1980s and particularly from 1991 until his retirement in 2010, he promoted the best of new up-and-comers from Canada and beyond, showed off the skills of jazz veterans, produced blockbuster shows with artists like Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, and Diana Krall, and introduced Ottawa-Gatineau music lovers to an amazing range of jazz.
“It was through his efforts and his knowledge and the way he was respected by musicians all over the world with whom he either dealt with directly or through their agents,” said Ottawa jazz critic Lois Moody. “He'd obviously established a great rapport, and was able to, in spite of him being rather a timid guy, he was able to do all of that kind of negotiation and everybody dealt with him with respect. He just had these kind of quiet, honest qualities that people appreciated.”
View photos of the evening
The first anniversary of Curiosity Killed the Quartet's weekly shows at Le Petit Chicago attracted a packed house Monday night.
Unfortunately, it was also the end of that Monday late-night run – for now. But, as quartet leader Zakari Frantz told the crowd, "We are coming back." The club has said that it hopes to bring the band back in a few months.
Well over 50 people were present for the first set, and it was a listening crowd, attentive to the music. The quartet opened at 10:30 p.m. with a series of four standards. They started with "Body and Soul" and stretched each piece out into an extended 15-minute improvisation.
Most of the audience were local amateur and professional jazz musicians, ranging in age from the mid 20s to over 60. During the second set, many were invited up to jam, with musicians rotating on and off the stage one by one, allowing the line-up to morph while the music continued uninterrupted for 90 minutes. Particular highlights were trombonist Steve Berndt in a bluesy duo with Frantz, and trumpeters Kelly Craig and Ed Lister alternating lines.
The Chocolate Hot Pockets CD release party is this Friday (January 18).
The members of the Chocolate Hot Pockets - Alex Moxon (guitar), Jamie Holmes (drums), J.P Lapensée (bass), Ed Lister (trumpet) - have been some of the hardest-working young jazz musicians in Ottawa-Gatineau in the past few years. Hardly a week has gone by in the past few years without our listings including one of them, and usually a combination of them, playing in a local restaurant or club.
The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra's rhythm section took a big hit this fall after Moxon, Holmes and Lapensée completed their 'senior year' and had to leave to make room for younger members. Since then, the three Carleton University music graduates and Lister have not wasted any time getting their latest project cooking. Chocolate Hot Pockets' first CD will be released on January 18, 2013.
We talked with all four band members about their highly varied musical influences and how this has combined into the Chocolate Hot Pockets' sound. Our interview also includes music samples from their November and December live performances.
– Brett Delmage
One “problem” with the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene in 2012 was choice. There were many really great artists playing in and visiting Ottawa-Gatineau and one simply didn't have the time or energy to hear them all. Here's a few that we remember...
Alayne McGregor, editor: My first cut at this list contained almost 20 concerts. Just assume that all the ones Brett lists I enjoyed too, and more! We are blessed in Ottawa with our own strong jazz musicians and composers, and placed as we are between Toronto and Montreal, and with many embassies here, we're lucky enough to get an amazing range of musicians. But even beyond that, I wouldn't have expected a poetry series to bring in the CCMC, one of Canada's iconic free improvising groups, or to hear the fascinating story of how a German audiophile collaborated with Oscar Peterson, or to see labours of love like Rob Frayne's Dream Band.
The Monday jazz nights at Le Petit Chicago, which have been an important part of the local jazz community for more than eight years, will be ending for now. There will be a finale performance on Monday, January 14.
Since December, 2011, Curiosity Killed the Quartet, led by saxophonist Zakari Frantz, had run the Monday nights at Le Petit Chicago. Frantz said the band was sat down and told about the immediate cancellation on Monday night: “It was quite sudden and there was nothing we could do about it.”
Frantz said he was told this was part of a larger cancellation of most music programming at the downtown Gatineau club, especially on weekdays.
The club told him the plan was that the cancellation would be temporary, he said, but no restart date was given.
The last Monday jazz night at the club was December 17. There were no shows on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The series was supposed to restart January 7, but that show was canceled at the last moment.
Frantz said there was no hint of any cancellation when the band left in December. While he had been on tour with Souljazz Orchestra for much of the fall, he understood from the other band members that the attendance was quite good during that time, and it certainly was for the two weeks he played there in November. “In fact, I had a lot of friends show up.”
The cancellation was “a big blow", he said.
Vancouver guitarist Bill Coon dropped into Ottawa this weekend, teaming up with Ottawa guitarist Tim Bedner for an end-of-the-year jazz brunch at ZenKitchen. A record crowd – Zen tweeted they served more than 75 people – came to listen to the duo play and extend jazz standards, while enjoying the vegan taste sensations.
It was a true duet: Coon and Bedner easily switched leads and picked up each others' cues, moving in and out of the melodies. And the audience was clearly listening, with little conversation disrupting the music.
ZenKitchen started offering occasional jazz brunches last July; this was the fifth in their series.
Overcoming jams (of the traffic kind) on highway 401, drummer Jesse Stewart made sure he returned from Toronto in time to play with Toronto alto saxophonist John Oswald and trombonist Scott Thomson at IMOO on Sunday, December 30, because, as he told the audience, it was a show he did not want to miss.
While Oswald and Thomson have a regular duo, this was the first time all three had played together. But, as musicians long accustomed to improvisation, they easily fell into sync, playing two sets of free improv in which each of the instruments provided both the rhythm and the melody, and nothing was predictable. When Thomson played sweeping bass notes on his trombone, Oswald countered with punctuated high notes. Thompson produced a range of sounds from the light and breathy to conjuring up a full winter snowstorm. Stewart used his sticks in unexpected ways: dropping them together onto an upside down tom or the floor, and banging their ends into drums. Both Thomson and Stewart dismantled their instruments in various ways in order to produce new sounds. Stewart's percussive playing of his upside-down floor tom's legs against the floor led to the first time we've felt an IMOO performance through our feet. All three played a full dynamic range in their music, taking advantage of the near-silent venue and snow-muffled street outside to play to the possibly softest level heard in an IMOO concert. It was a concert which explored musical edges yet was still approachable.
- 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
- Chick Corea & Gary Burton: A fiery delight on a cold, wet night (review)
- IMOOfest 2012 Night 1: showing off variety in improvised music (review)
- Jesse Stewart brings the audience into his D.O.M.E at Electric Fields
- Larry Ochs and Hamid Drake at the Guelph Jazz Festival (review)
- Inaugural IMOOfest opens with a strong lineup, with more to follow tonight
- IMOO: Still making it up as they go, two years later (video)
- NAC Presents - an all-vocal jazz lineup for 2012-13
- The Happiness Project at the Guelph Jazz Festival (review)
- John Coltrane at the Guelph Jazz Festival (review)
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