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Ottawa jazz family commemorates local art centre's 25th with West Coast cool

The Denison family – matriarch Kay on piano and organ, her son Tom on bass and drums, and the younger generation of Patrick on saxophone, Emily on trumpet and violin, and Lucas on drums – have been a frequent presence in Ottawa's jazz scene for years now.

Emily Denison was one of five Denisons that played jazz to help celebrate the Nepean Creative Arts Centre's 25th Anniversary ©2015 Brett DelmageAnd with Emily and Lucas having taken some of their first jazz lessons at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre (through the centre's partner, the Bells Corners Academy of Music), and Patrick and Tom having taught and adjudicated there, it seemed natural that all four would perform a concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the centre.

The “Denison 4+1” concert was organized by pianist Yves Laroche, director of the Bells Corners Academy. Laroche was the “+1” in the August 2 show.

The musical theme was “West Coast Jazz”. The first piece, “Out of Somewhere”, by Jimmy Giuffre, exemplified the cool vibe of that style. It was followed by more upbeat examples: “Whisper Not” by Benny Golson, whose forward momentum was outlined by a bright, edged trumpet solo from Emily; and “Bernie's Tune”, made popular by Gerry Mulligan, which featured a hard, echoing drum solo from Lucas.

On “Lines for Lions” by Bob Curnow and “Moon and Sand” by Alec Wilder, Patrick doubled on flute, creating a quiet, reflective sound and shimmering duets with Emily's trumpet.

Read more: Ottawa jazz family commemorates local art centre's 25th with West Coast cool


Cool down with jazz in August in Ottawa-Gatineau

If the heat and the never-ending election ads have got you down, there's plenty of cool jazz to cheer you up and clear your ears in Ottawa in August.

Marc Morin of the Montreal Guitar Trio. The trio is back August 6 for a joint concert with the California Guitar Trio at Chamberfest. ©Brett Delmage, 2013This week you can hear Chamberfest's jazz crossover concerts, and the evening faculty concerts at the Carleton University Jazz Camp. Next week, there's the duo of Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald and legendary American pianist Harold Mabern, a pairing which won MacDonald a Juno this year.

But there's more: a musical tribute to Sarah Vaughn (and CD launch) by Montreal singer Kimberley Beyea; and a theatrical tribute to the Rat Pack in two different venues. Young up-and-coming musicians continue to present their music before heading back to university next month, and local musicians can be heard in venues simple and fancy on both sides of the river.

On Thursday, August 6, the Montreal Guitar Trio, who created quite a stir at Chamberfest a few years ago with their jazz/flamenco/world crossover music, return for a joint show with the California Guitar Trio (which, despite its name, contains one member from Utah, one from Belgium, and one from Japan). They'll be playing “original compositions and fresh arrangements of progressive rock, world, jazz, and classical music”.

Each year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp holds evening concerts for students and the public, featuring members of its faculty – some of whom are rarely heard in Ottawa. This year, the visitors include several renowned Toronto jazz musicians: trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, drummer Brian Barlow, and alto saxophonist Luis Deniz. They'll join well-known Ottawa musicians like Brian Browne, Roddy Ellias, Mark Ferguson, Mike Tremblay, and Elise Letourneau.

The concerts run from Tuesday, August 4 to Friday, August 7, and include everything from a tribute to Kenny Wheeler to a swinging big band. Read about these shows.

On Wednesday, August 5, a dynamic Montreal trio led by clarinetist and saxophonist Ted Crosby will perform the intricate compositions of pianist Thelonious Monk, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, and drummer Paul Motian – plus jazz standards – at Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata. Crosby has released three CDs with two other different groups in Montreal.

Read more: Cool down with jazz in August in Ottawa-Gatineau


Prince Edward County Jazz Festival looks back and forward

This year, the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival will look back, with tributes to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album and to vocalist Billie Holiday, and forward, with shows including three promising young Canadian jazz musicians.

Saxophonist Chet Doxas will join his drummer brother Jim in performing with iconic pianist Oliver Jones at the 2015 Prince Edward County Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012The festival, which runs from August 11 to 16, will also include many well-known Canadian jazz musicians not often enough heard in Ottawa: from Vancouver, bassist Jodi Proznick; from Toronto, clarinetist Bob DeAngelis, trumpeter John MacLeod, pianist Robi Botos, saxophonist Perry White, bassist Neil Swainson, and pianist Dave Restivo; and from Montreal, alto saxophonist Rémi Bolduc, pianist Oliver Jones, tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas, and drummer Jim Doxas.

The all-jazz line-up starts next Tuesday, August 11, with an informal talk and film presentation by festival Creative Director Brian Barlow about the making of Kind of Blue. It's followed on Wednesday by a jazz dinner with the Bob DeAngelis Quartet playing the music of New Orleans.

On Thursday, August 13, trumpeter Steve McDade (who played in Manteca, and with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass), performs a tribute to the timeless music in Kind of Blue, together with Bolduc, Proznick, Restivo, and two up-and-coming musicians: tenor saxophonist Eli Bennett and drummer Ian Wright.

On Friday, Proznick gives an afternoon talk on "Where are the women in jazz?", followed by an evening concert by veteran flugelhornist Guido Basso together with vocalist Shakura S'Aida, supported by Botos, Swainson, White, and Barlow on drums.

On Saturday, Proznick and White start the morning with a duo concert, followed in the afternoon by young bassist Marika Galea's tribute to iconic vocalist Billie Holiday. In the evening, Montreal piano legend Oliver Jones performs – with his regular drummer, Jim Doxas, and with a saxophonist he doesn't usually play with, Jim's brother Chet Doxas.

Sunday begins with a jazz mass, with Barlow leading a quartet including Proznick, Botos, and Chet Doxas. The day concludes with Barlow's big band, featuring Guido Basso and DeAngelis as soloists, playing the music of Rob McConnell, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman.

The daily schedules also include many other smaller concerts, and an after-hours jam session with the Robi Botos Trio.

Read more: Prince Edward County Jazz Festival looks back and forward


Carleton University concerts showcase Toronto musicians rarely seen in Ottawa

Jazz new to Ottawa – plus some long-time favourites – will be featured in a series of evening concerts starting tonight at Carleton University.

The Carleton University Jazz Camp has invited several musicians almost never heard in Ottawa to teach here this week. They'll be showcased in its evening concerts Tuesday to Friday, playing everything from atmospheric modern jazz, to a cappella vocals, to fast-paced mainstream jazz, to a full big band.

Brian Browne will perform solo Tuesday. ©Brett Delmage, 2010Kevin Turcotte will join in the tribute to fellow trumpeter Kenny Wheeler on Wednesday and Friday's big band. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Tonight (Tuesday) is an all-local night. Long-time Ottawa favourite Brian Browne will perform a solo piano concert, followed by a new vocal group, the Juliet Singers.

Concert organizer Mark Ferguson said he loved hearing Browne play solo piano, “because you just never know what's going to come next, and you know that he's going through the same process. He doesn't have a set list in front of him. He doesn't use set lists.”

“He just sits down and starts playing. And he plays these amazing tunes that have nothing to do with each other, but somehow he makes it all fit. So I can't tell you anything about what he's going to play and neither can he. But what I can tell you is that it's going to be great.”

Read more: Carleton University concerts showcase Toronto musicians rarely seen in Ottawa


The Emie R. Roussel Trio balances melody and groove in a happy Festival Desjardins show

Emie R. Roussel (piano) and Sébastien Pellerin (bass) easily commanded the attention of the audience at le Festival de Jazz Desjardins ©Brett Delmage, 2015Emie R. Roussel Trio
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Parc de l'Imaginaire, Gatineau (Aylmer)
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quebec jazz pianist Emie R. Roussel attracted an attentive audience and a standing ovation for her 75-minute show in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer Thursday. Her free concert was the second in this year's Festival de Jazz Desjardins, which runs until Saturday.

Together with her trio, Roussel performed originals, mostly from her 2015 album, Quantum, plus some from her previous CD, Transit. That 2013 CD featured the trio in dramatic conversation with a string quartet, while Quantum added more groove and R&B colours to classic piano jazz.

It was much the same material as Roussel played in her National Arts Centre debut in April. However, to my mind, the music was better integrated in this show, the groove underlining but not overwhelming the more delicate, introspective moments.

“Funambule” (Tightrope Walker) showed the more romantic, dramatic side of the trio, with an emphatic double bass solo from Sébastien Pellerin, and ringing keyboard lines. It received strong applause. On the other hand, drummer Dominic Cloutier introduced “Club” with a strong rat-a-tat drum solo which grew in complexity and intensity. Joined by Pellerin's electric bass and Roussel's Fender Rhodes-like keyboards, that piece strongly reminded me of 70s organ trio music, with a touch of funk – a cheery and crowd-pleasing number.

Read more: The Emie R. Roussel Trio balances melody and groove in a happy Festival Desjardins show


The Drew Jurecka Trio plays swirling rhythms with verve and enthusiasm

Drew Jurecka Trio
Ottawa Chamberfest, Chamberfringe series
Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts, Kildare Room
Friday, July 24, 2015 – 10 p.m.

The Drew Jurecka Trio's bright music was an immediate hit with its Chamberfringe audience Friday night.

The trio's combination of violin, piano, and double bass was a natural for their upbeat repertoire: mostly jazz standards from the last hundred years, combined with a few Jurecka originals. But it was how they played that material – with verve, style, and enthusiasm – that set the concert alight.

Jurecka is a veteran on the Toronto jazz scene, primarily playing violin but also doubling on many other instruments, including clarinet and saxophone. A long-time member of the late Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards, he currently tours with Jill Barber, and leads his own groups like the Hogtown Syncopators and the Hot Jazz String Quartet. He has also backed Diana Krall, Shirley Horn, and Dianne Reeves.

For 85 minutes, the trio – with Mark Kieswetter on piano, and Clark Johnston on double bass – kept their late-night audience not only awake, but clapping enthusiastically after each song and each solo. There were relatively few jazz regulars in attendance, but there was an immediate connection to the music in an audience which ranged from 20-year-olds to seniors.

They opened with the sweet, romantic “Lady, Be Good!” by the Gershwins, which featured swirling violin lines over a dancing beat on piano and bass. It set the tone for the concert: a warm vibe, infectious rhythms, and lots of smooth interplay among the trio.

Read more: The Drew Jurecka Trio plays swirling rhythms with verve and enthusiasm


Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows

Mugshots, the bar in Ottawa's downtown jail hostel which had hosted many jazz shows over the last 19 months, shut its doors abruptly Thursday afternoon. A jazz show scheduled for that evening was cancelled.

The Rake-Star Arkestra played their multi-layered, intense music at Mugshots in February. © Brett Delmage, 2015In a posting on Facebook, the hostel management said the closure was due to “issues with noise levels” which affected “our guests' experience” at the hostel.

“As such, the bar is closed. Should the bar re-open, it will only be available to our guests in the hostel. This was an extremely difficult decision, but a necessary one."

The bar had a full schedule of 18 shows scheduled for July, including open mic nights, DJs, indie rock, and a trivia night. On July 9, the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble was scheduled to perform; on July 18, the Adam Saikaley Quartet was set to play its monthly jazz night.

Starting in December, 2013, Mugshots had hosted monthly shows by the Saikaley Quartet. They were joined in February, 2014 by monthly appearances by the Mike Essoudry-Don Cummings drums-organ duo Bumpin' Binary. Jazz crossover groups like the Four Heavies, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, and The Super Awesome Club also appeared there in 2014.

Read more: Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows


The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: a rich hour of evocative solos & fine ensemble playing (review)

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra with Ingrid Jensen
Laurier Avenue Music Stage
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Sunday, June 28, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.

The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra played for one hour at the Ottawa Jazz Festival Sunday.

It was a very rich hour, filled with evocative solos, fine ensemble playing, and an overall abundant sound.

But when I later read that the 19-piece orchestra had played for nearly two hours at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, that confirmed how curtailed the Ottawa show felt. It was part of the early evening series at the Laurier Avenue Music Stage, where concerts were generally scheduled for only an hour to avoid sound bleed with the Main Stage and to allow time for sound-checking the late-evening shows. That time constraint led to a hurried concert.

The Ottawa show was the last stop on an extended tour which crossed Canada and went down into the U.S. Because the logistics and costs of taking 19 musicians on the road are daunting, it was a milestone for the orchestra. Jensen said the band had played nine shows in the previous two weeks – more than they had in the past five years.

Read more: The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: a rich hour of evocative solos & fine ensemble playing (review)


Majestic, beautiful music from Abdullah Ibrahim and the Mukashi Trio (review)

Abdullah Ibrahim “Mukashi” Trio
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Ottawa, South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim communicated strictly through his music. During his trio's 90-minute concert on the last night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, much was said, but not a word was spoken.

The three musicians – Ibrahim on grand piano, Noah Jackson on cello and double bass, and Cleave Guyton on clarinet, flute, and piccolo – performed an uninterrupted flow of music for the entire concert, without announcing any of the pieces. They did, however, have scores in front of them, and Jackson said afterwards that Ibrahim signaled them musically as to which piece he wanted to play next.

The cumulative effect was majestic and beautiful.

The 300-seat NAC Studio was completely sold out, and the audience was already primed – judging by the vehement initial applause – to enjoy the music. But it was also clear that Ibrahim's trio kept the listeners' attention throughout. No one moved, no one left.

Read more: Majestic, beautiful music from Abdullah Ibrahim and the Mukashi Trio (review)


The Enrico Rava Tribe makes joyous, complex music for a happy audience (review)

Enrico Rava Tribe featuring Gianluca Petrella
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 9 p.m.

From the first delicate notes filling the NAC Studio, it was clear that this show was going to be a spectacular pairing. The warm lines from Enrico Rava on flugelhorn and Gianluca Petrella on trombone intertwined into a finely-tuned soundscape.

The 75-year-old Rava, a veteran of Italian jazz, and the 40-year-old Petrella have been performing together since Petrella was 22. That experience showed; they could play intensely in unison, or create complementary melodies, or contrast smooth and frantic lines. And always they were working together to create a joyous experience.

They were also strongly supported by the driving rhythm section of Giovanni Guidi on piano, Gabriele Evangelista on double bass, and Fabrizio Sferra on drums. Guidi, in particular, added to the drama and nuance of every piece. His playing could be sparkling fast, or romantic, or accented with added glissandos; once he twanged the strings inside his grand piano.

Rava didn't announce the names of any of the six pieces played in this concert, or whether they were from any specific album. But they clearly all fit together. They tended towards the dramatic, often beginning quietly and building up to multi-layered behemoths with Petrella's trombone slicing through.

Read more: The Enrico Rava Tribe makes joyous, complex music for a happy audience (review)


Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura

A Filetta – Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 – 7 p.m.

From the Ottawa Jazz Festival's description, you might have reasonably concluded that this concert was an improvised jazz duet between Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and bandoneon player Daniele di Bonaventura, with some choral singing in the background.

Not quite.

A Filetta, a six-member a cappella male choir from Corsica, was front and centre on the Studio stage, and took the majority of the concert's time and attention. Fresu and di Bonaventura were primarily accompanying or soloing around their voices, and there were many times when only the choir was heard.

The choir, which formed in 1978, sings in Corsican, with the objective of saving that island's oral patrimony. In 2006, they first performed with Fresu and di Bonaventura. They all released an album together on ECM in 2011: Mistico Mediterraneo.

Read more: Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura


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