Monday, August 03, 2015
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Michel Delage tries new combinations in his Brookstreet tribute series

Ottawa drummer Michel Delage has found a way of playing his favourite jazz composers' music with some of his favourite jazz musicians.

This weekend will be the second in his series of tribute concerts at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge. Last month, Delage's group honoured Wayne Shorter; this month, it's Thelonious Monk; in late May it will be Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Performances will be on the last Friday and Saturday of each month.

Michel Delage at Stella Luna ©Brett Delmage, 2013Each month features a different band (except for Delage), with guest musicians from out of town. The March show was supposed to feature saxophonist Petr Cancura, who had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict and was replaced by Vince Rimbach; this weekend's show features pianist Adrean Farrugia from Hamilton.

Read the interview with Farrugia and Delage about this weekend's tribute to Thelonious Monk.

The Ellington/Strayhorn tribute in May will feature the husband and wife duo of pianist Nancy Walker and bassist Kieran Overs from Toronto, plus Ottawa guitarist Roddy Ellias.

Delage is really looking forward to that combination.

“Nancy has been one of my main inspirations as far as listening to jazz, because when I was in high school and after high school attending the jazz festival, I would go to the jazz jams pretty religiously and watch that [house] band play. I always loved Nancy's playing and her compositions. So I'm extremely excited to have her on board – and extremely nervous too, to play with such an accomplished musician!”

Walker and Overs were last here for the 2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, in a well-received concert playing selections from her most recent album, ‘Til Now Is Secret.

Delage said he wanted to bring in out-of-town musicians to “do a bit more of a collaboration – just to be able to play with more people and for other Ottawa musicians to play with people from out of town. And also to hopefully get some more audience out, because you know how hard it is for local Ottawa musicians to get audiences out to their shows sometimes. I think by doing this I might have a little bit more of a chance of bringing people out.”

The Wayne Shorter tribute in late March went well, he said, particularly the Saturday night when it appeared many audience members came out specifically to hear the music. “There were at least maybe 25-30 people who were all sitting and listening and clapping after solos and responding to everything. In between tunes, we'd always inform them what tune we were playing, and what the album it was off of, and stuff like that.”

Read more: Michel Delage tries new combinations in his Brookstreet tribute series


William Parker, David Mott, and Jesse Stewart have many stories to tell

When you go see a concert, those aren't disembodied instruments up there on stage. There are people behind them, with histories and individual approaches to their instruments – and lots of stories to recount, both musically and verbally.

"Ajay's Dream" by Jeff Schlanger, inspired by the Sonoluminescence Trio's 2007 performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival. It's the cover of their new CD, Telling Stories.Especially if they have years of experience and skill in improvisation and jazz, like NYC bassist William Parker, Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott, and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart.

This Friday, when the three step onto the stage at GigSpace, they'll be creating new musical narratives on the spot. It's just like at their first show together in 2007, just like their shows last spring at GigSpace, and just like in the new album they're releasing: Telling Stories.

Watch our associated video story
David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance

“I think the three of us are storytellers in many ways,” Mott told “That sounds funny, because I mean: what's the story? Well, of course anybody's free to interpret that any way they like or get it to overlay anything that they like. But I always look at music as some kind of a journey and/or story. Not quite a narrative in the usual sort of sense, but in some way that you're inviting the audience in. And I think storytelling is a good way to do that.”

Read more: William Parker, David Mott, and Jesse Stewart have many stories to tell


Dominique Forest launches her first CD, C'est a moi, with verve

Dominque Forest: 'C'est a moi' The CD will receive its second launch, in Sudbury, on April 18. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Dominique Forest is a popular and accomplished interpreter of jazz standards in the Ottawa-Gatineau scene. But when she started planning her first CD, C'est à moi, she became inspired to write all the material on the album herself, influenced by standards but also by other music she loves. was at the launch concert for the CD in January. We have excerpts from the concert and  a video interview with Dominique talking more about the CD.

She is presenting a second CD launch in Sudbury, where she grew up, this Saturday, April 18.

Be sure to also read our associated interview, Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Rémi Bolduc explores the surprises in Dave Brubeck's music

Dave Brubeck's jazz was the perfect example of how music can be both popular and musically interesting. Behind the beautiful melodies and the catchy swing – which even produced several Top 40 hit singles – was complex music, often featuring unusual time signatures and rhythms which made it even more memorable.

Saxophonist Rémi Bolduc at his 50th birthday concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012Those underpinnings are what attracted Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc and led him to create his latest project: a CD paying tribute to the music of the iconic American jazz pianist's classic quartet.

Bolduc will bring that tribute to a concert at la Maison de la Culture in Gatineau on Wednesday, as part of a 30-show tour that's taking him through Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and B.C.

The music is primarily from Brubeck's albums Time Out (1959) and Time Further Out (1961), plus a few memorable pieces from the mid-50s. And they all feature what Bolduc calls “highly sophisticated odd meters” – including, of course, Paul Desmond's “Take Five” in 5/4 time.

Bolduc's previous album, Random Masters (Effendi, 2013), also featured odd meters: in fact, mixed meters, with time signatures changing at every bar. It's a composing style he's been familiar with for a long time: “In the 1990s, I lived in New York, and I was playing with Andy Milne's group and I was studying with Steve Coleman. And I was also studying odd meters. And Steve was playing with Dave Holland and they played a lot of odd meters.”

“So it's something I feel really comfortable with, because I've worked at it so much.”

And one of the earliest innovators in that style was Brubeck. “Dave Brubeck was one of the first ones that really played a lot of odd meters in jazz. There was a few – I heard Booker Little doing something in 5, but not so many. And he did a lot!”

Read more: Rémi Bolduc explores the surprises in Dave Brubeck's music


April Jazz in Ottawa and Paris

Updated April 14: CHP CD release delayed

April is the month when the world celebrates jazz. And in Ottawa, there is lots of jazz to celebrate, in many different styles. Complementing the strong vocal performances we heard in March, April brings much more instrumental music.

Sonoluminescence: Jesse Stewart, William Parker, David Mott return to GigSpace with a new CD ©Brett Delmage, 2014Big bands, tributes to Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk, Latin American jazz, and free improv are all on the menu. Local musicians will present new and updated projects; musicians from Quebec and Ontario will bring their own voices.

April will close with International Jazz Day on the 30th, and a star-studded concert videocast from Paris, France. But it's JazzApril all month, and a chance to explore many different types of jazz here, including right down the centre, on every day of the week and from noon-hour concerts to midnight jams.

The 4th month of the year brings 4 CD releases

Four groups will release CDs with a broad range of sound in April.

Friday, April 17: One of the highlights of 2014 was renowned improviser and NYC bassist William Parker's visit to Ottawa, during which he played two sold-out concerts at GigSpace with Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart. For the following two days, the trio hunkered down at the studios of Bova Sound, and recorded an album of melodic and grooving improvisations – heavily influenced by their years of experience playing both mainstream and free jazz. They'll be back at GigSpace to release Telling Stories – but knowing how inventive each of them is, don't expect a reprise of either last year's shows or the CD, or either of their two shows to be the same! Read our interview with Mott and Stewart about the CD and the concert.

Thursday, April 23: The Chocolate Hot Pockets (CHP) unveil their second CD, Chocolate Dreams, which reinterprets fatback funk, jazz, and neo-soul, in the hot and sweaty environs of the Mercury Lounge – nicely fitting their original music written by guitarist Alex Moxon and trumpeter Ed Lister. The CD release show has been postponed to May 23.

Friday, April 24: The Craig Pedersen Quartet, which includes Ottawa saxophonist Linsey Wellman and ex-Ottawa trumpeter Pedersen, is touring Ontario and Quebec this month with its second album, Ghosts. CP4 plays everything from long grooving builds to bebop to free-jazz; expect their sound to fill Black Squirrel Books with a wide variety of listenable original music, and a soupçon of surprises.

April 24: The Lucas Haneman Express includes guitarist Lucas Haneman, drummer Jeff Asselin, and bassist Martin Newman – all stalwarts of the local jazz scene. But they say their first CD, Welcome Aboard, is more on the funk, blues, reggae, and rock side. You can hear whether their jazz instincts come through when they release it at Irene's Pub. The Sun Crescent BBQ Stompers will open, playing their popular New Orleans-style jazz.

Jazz that's a labour of love

At, we're particularly excited by several concerts that are clearly labours of love by local musicians.

Read more: April Jazz in Ottawa and Paris


Emie Roussel likes her jazz energetic, complex – and accessible

Jazz pianist Emie R. Roussel is only in her mid-20s, but she's already released her third album of her own compositions, and toured Europe and Australia – as well as winning accolades at home in Quebec.

The Emie R. Roussel Trio (photo by Yvan Couillard)But that's not completely surprising for someone who was listening to Keith Jarrett by the time she was five years old.

Roussel and her trio – with bassist Nicolas Bédard and drummer Dominic Cloutier – will appear at the NAC Fourth Stage on Friday as part of the NAC Presents series. They'll perform material from Roussel's last two albums: music she's described as “imaginative, introspective, but energetic”.

“Introspective, yes, because I think there is a lot of melody, easy to sing, easy to have in your head for maybe a few hours. And with harmony, sometimes complex parts, but accessible. I think people who love jazz, but also people who don't really listen to a lot of jazz can like it. It's well-balanced between jazz complexity and also something lyric, something accessible.”

That music has brought Roussel acclaim at home in Quebec. She first played the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2012, and was a nominee for the Grand Prix de Jazz TD Jazz Fest and Galaxie Rising Star Award in 2013. Her trio received a special mention from the Grand Prix jury, and opened for Stacey Kent at the 2014 festival. The trio also won the People’s Choice award at the 28th annual Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, and the Opus Jazz Disc of the Year in 2014. Roussel was named the Révélation Radio-Canada Jazz Artist of the Year for 2014-15.

Read more: Emie Roussel likes her jazz energetic, complex – and accessible


Amy Brandon presents new sonic landscapes

Since jazz guitarist Amy Brandon left Ottawa in 2007, she has only appeared briefly here – until she returned last fall to study for a Masters in composition at the University of Ottawa.

Amy Brandon ©2015 Brett DelmageShe's leaving again in a few weeks, but before then, jazz fans can hear her play several of her new compositions, including duos with notable guitarists Roddy Ellias and Mike Rud.

On Tuesday, March 31, she will be featured, along with two other graduate composition students, in a concert at university's Tabaret Hall. “It's going to be quite an evening. We're going from solo guitar all the way up to a very large chamber ensemble with timpanis and everything.”

Brandon will provide some of the quieter moments. She will play two guitar duets, one with Ellias and the other with Rud, in the first half of the concert, followed by four solo guitar pieces in the second half.

She described them as “sonic landscapes. Both my mother and my grandmother were visual artists. My grandmother was a sculptor and my mom is a painter. She recently retired as curator at the War Museum. So I've always grown up around a great deal of visual art, and I think that's influenced a lot in my music, or influenced me in my music a great deal. Because I like to think of colour, and theme, when I'm writing.”

The music is “basically drawn from jazz, classical, and improvised music. My background, of course, is in jazz – that's what I did my degree at Carleton [University] in. And then after I left Carleton, I started trying to teach myself classical guitar and so it's really a mix of the two.”

Brandon was a regular participant in Ottawa's jazz scene while she studied at Carleton from 2002-6. But the following year, she moved to Nova Scotia with her husband and has been primarily seen since around the Maritimes – except when she returned for family holidays at Christmas. She performed at the 2007 Ottawa International Jazz Festival and at Guitar Now in 2013, and played her original compositions at a “Winter's Flight” benefit concert here in December, 2011.

Read more: Amy Brandon presents new sonic landscapes


Rake-star carries forward the spark of Sun Ra

Ottawa's Rake-star Arkestra played its first full concert in years on February 28, with a full band and a quiver-full of music written by their inspiration – the idiosyncratic jazz genius, Sun Ra.

The show attracted an enthusiastic audience to Mugshots: both long-time jazz fans, and a 20-something crowd, who appeared to be enjoying the groove, the interplay, and the high energy.

Rake-star - a lot of music. They're back at Mugshots on Saturday, March 28. ©2015 Brett DelmageAfter a six-year hiatus, the Arkestra played an improvised show in January. But this was the first show with all the members present and with their classic repertoire. On the bottom end was Don Cummings' Hammond organ, Mike Essoudry's and Jamie Gullikson's drumsets, and David Broscoe's and John Sobol's baritone saxes. Soaring over them were Rob Frayne on tenor sax and synthesizer, Linsey Wellman on alto sax and flute, and Rory Magill and xylophone and assorted percussion – plus Broscoe and Sobol on other saxes, and Essoudry on clarinet. And Scott Warren added extra touches with pre-recorded voice clips and unexpected sounds, plus percussion.

The nine-piece band spilled off the stage into the audience. And the room, with its massive stone walls and pillars and low, arched ceiling, added another dimension, amplifying and resonating to the music.

Read more: Rake-star carries forward the spark of Sun Ra


A happy, bumpin' beat at the Elmdale

March 29 is the final day to hear organist Don Cummings and drummer Mike Essoudry's Bumpin' Binary duo at the Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern ©2015 Brett DelmageEach Sunday afternoon in March, drummer Mike Essoudry and organist Don Cummings have brought their Bumpin' Binary duo to the Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern in Hintonburg.

When walked over to see them on March 14, the room was almost full with a crowd clearly listening to the infectious mixture of jazz and R&B. Another attraction – particularly for the younger crowd and those more technologically inclined – was the intricate wiring on the back of Cummings' Hammond organ, which was facing the crowd.

The duo's last show is this Sunday, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., with special guest Tony Diteodoro on guitar, The Elmdale will continue late afternoon shows on Sundays this spring, with different groups each being showcased for a month. Subscribe to's weekly newsletter to get advance details about jazz-related shows.

   – Alayne McGregor

Photo: March 29 is the final day to hear organist Don Cummings and drummer Mike Essoudry's Bumpin' Binary duo at the Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern ©2015 Brett Delmage


Jazz at the 2015 Chamberfest: from Artie Shaw to the Avant-Garde

The 2015 Ottawa Chamberfest, which runs from July 23 to August 6, will feature some of the best jazz musicians in Canada – plus a one-of-a-kind improvising cellist from Holland. The full line-up was announced this morning.

Ernst Reijseger plays his cello, with foot pedal, at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2014The Dutch cellist is Ernst Reijseger, who made a huge splash at last year's Guelph Jazz Festival for his adventurous style and technical mastery. The Canadians include David Braid, Dave Young, Michael Occhipinti, Drew Jurecka, Bob DeAngelis, Gene DiNovi, David Mott, Mark Kieswetter, the Montreal Guitar Trio – and Ottawan Jesse Stewart.

Their concerts will range in style from swing-era clarinet, to free improv, to a combination of string quartet and jazz piano, to guitar virtuosity, to jazz interpretations of Sicilian folksongs.

The festival's prime-time concerts will continue to focus on the classical, chamber, and early music which it is best known for (and this year in particular on Joseph Haydn). But late at night and during the day, Chamberfest will again offer a good selection of concerts of interest to fans of jazz and improvised music in its Chamberfringe series.

Concerts include:

  • July 24, noon: Ernst Reijseger and friends (with guests Roman Borys on cello and Jamie Parker on piano)
  • July 24, 10 p.m.: Toronto jazz violinist, saxophonist, and vocalist Drew Jurecka performs in a trio with double bassist Dave Young and pianist Mark Kieswetter.
  • July 25, 1 p.m.: a free outdoor concert by the Drew Jurecka Trio at the National Gallery of Canada amphitheater.
  • July 25, 10 p.m.: Ernst Reijseger in a “late-night display of interpretive verve” with Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart.
  • July 26, 10 p.m.: Bernie Meets Artie: Clarinetists James Campbell and Bob DeAngelis team up with double bassist Dave Young and pianist Gene DiNovi to pay tribute to real-life rivals Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
  • July 27, 10 p.m.: Braid 'n' Strings. Toronto jazz pianist David Braid in concert with the Sinfonia UK Chamber Orchestra, the group with which he first started playing piano-strings compositions four years ago. They'll perform some of the same pieces Braid showcased at his NAC concert in March, including “Chauvet” and “Spirit Dance”, and some new pieces.

    Read more: Jazz at the 2015 Chamberfest: from Artie Shaw to the Avant-Garde


Humber College Studio Jazz Ensemble brings new big band collaborations to Ottawa

One of Canada's best student big bands is coming to town Tuesday night – not only to show off what they've learned from the likes of Donny McCaslin and Joe Lovano, but also to attract Ottawa jazz talent to their school.

The Nepean All-City Jazz Band (seen here in 2012) has invited the Humber College Studio Jazz Ensemble to perform with it in Ottawa on March 24. ©Brett Delmage, 2012

The Humber College Studio Jazz Ensemble from Toronto will share the stage with the Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) from Ottawa. Don't expect swing era music at the concert at Nepean High School: each big band will be featuring pieces primarily by modern jazz composers like McCaslin, Kenny Wheeler, Michael Brecker, and Pat Metheny.

Mark Promane, the director of the Humber ensemble, said the Ottawa concert was obviously something special for his students, to show “what we're made of” in another city. But they picked Ottawa, he said, because it's “a hotbed of young talent” which “we're looking at recruiting” for Humber.

NACJB director Neil Yorke-Slader said that the Studio Jazz Ensemble is “one of the elite post-secondary jazz ensembles in the country”, and that many former members of the NACJB have gone on to study at Humber.

Read more: Humber College Studio Jazz Ensemble brings new big band collaborations to Ottawa


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