Thursday, May 28, 2015
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Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago

Alex Bilodeau is starting a new era at Le Petit Chicago © Brett Delmage, 2014Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago are moving into new hands as of February 9. Ottawa bassist Alex Bilodeau will curate the long-standing late-night jazz showcase and jam, taking over from saxophonist Zakari Frantz.

Frantz is moving on to a new series he's created: Jazz Thursdays at the Lunenburg Pub, which started January 29. The shows at the Rideau-Street-area bar will highlight local jazz musicians and their projects.

The changeover at Le Petit Chicago is friendly: Bilodeau has been a regular participant in the late-night jams at the Gatineau bar. On Facebook, Frantz welcomed Bilodeau as the new curator. “A graduate of McGill University, Alex is one of the region's freshest talents & definitely no stranger to the LPC stage. Expect him to raise the bar with some new jazz/hip hop inspirations and a new sound to welcome in the spring!”

Bilodeau told that he planned to have the host bands – from the Ottawa/Gatineau region – rotate monthly. “You will definitely see some of my own projects performing for the monthly residencies but the plan is to bring in other exciting jazz groups as well.”

For the remainder of February, the host band will be Bilodeau on bass, Richard Page on saxophone, and Michel Delage on drums, performing jazz classics by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, as well as band members' original music.

In March, the Ed Lister Quartet, with Lister on trumpet, Marc Decho on bass, Pierre Chrétien on keyboards, and Mike Essoudry on drums, will perform, with “more of an electric aesthetic”, Bilodeau said. On March 23, that quartet will be joined by special guests Richard Page and Lee Hollingsworth.

The Jazz Monday format won't change: “The band hosting that month will perform during the first set and the second set will be an open jam.”

Read more: Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago


Linsey Wellman invites jazz fans to hear his new CD being recorded

You can hear music in the making, this Tuesday and Wednesday, in an art space in downtown Gatineau.

Linsey Wellman at the 2013 IMOOfest.  ©Brett Delmage, 2013Ottawa jazz musician Linsey Wellman will be recording a new solo saxophone album live over two evenings, and is inviting jazz fans to listen for free. The only requirement: show up on time – in fact, early – so you don't disturb the recording.

Wellman performs in a wide variety of contexts, from mainstream jazz to Punjabi folk/fusion to calypso to Balkan marching band to prog-noise, but is best known for playing avant-garde or free jazz and as a co-founder of the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO). In 2010, he released his first solo album, Ephemera, a suite of guided improvisations for saxophone.

The working title for this new CD is Manifesto, and Wellman says it reflects the solo performances he's been doing over the past few years. It's a “culmination of a lot of performing and a lot of ideas and a lot of the things that I've been doing. I don't think people will be surprised by what comes out. People who have heard me play a lot – there's some stuff people will have heard. There's at least one or two things that I haven't recorded but that I've played in solo saxophone settings.”

At least one of the pieces is a natural outgrowth of the material on Ephemera, he said, and the format is similar: both solo alto saxophone pieces of about the same length.

“But there's a lot of new material. I'm going to guess that this one is a little more 'out'. There's a little bit more textural playing than this one than on Ephemera, which had a lot of shifting tonal centres, whereas this one there's going to be a fair bit of textural playing. Clicking keys, a lot of multiphonics, and extra extended technique-sort of sounds. But not all that: there's definitely going to be some melodic sections, too.”

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Wellman will play two approximately 20-minute sets, performing “Manifesto”, the material which he has been composing for the album. He will follow that with a third set, of about the same length, which will be entirely improvised.

That third set could go anywhere. “Who knows? If it's good it might find its way onto a recording. Or maybe it's so much better than the other stuff, that that's what I want to put on a recording. I'm excited about doing that, because my solo playing to date has been very scripted. I mean obviously there's a lot a freedom in what I've written and a lot of it is more guidelines but it's been very scripted and I'm excited about the idea of just playing free for at least a section of the show.”

Read more: Linsey Wellman invites jazz fans to hear his new CD being recorded


Rake-star aims for the sublime, and sometimes the chaotic, in Sun Ra's music

For the past 15 years, Ottawa's Rake-star Arkestra has tried to capture the joy and passion of jazz iconoclast Sun Ra, with music which can range from the sublime to the chaotic.

Rory Magill at a previous IMOO concert ©Brett Delmage, 2010After an extended hiatus, they're back – for an Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) concert at the Raw Sugar Café on Sunday, and on February 28 at Mugshots.

“We're just doing because it's fun,” said Rake-star co-founder and percussionist Rory Magill. “Everybody loves to do it. Everyone in the group has an abiding love of Sun Ra and his music and his inspiration. So it's just an opportunity for everyone to get together and share that passion and explore ... it's a pretty free outfit, so there's tons of creative room for everybody to move.”

Magill said there has been “a shift in the sound” in the band to a combination of saxes and percussion, with a Hammond organ and baritone saxes providing the deep bass bottom of the music. But there's still lots of continuity: this edition of the group includes nine local musicians, five of whom have been with the band since it started in 2000 – and almost all of whom are very well known on the local jazz scene.

They primarily play Sun Ra's compositions, rearranged for their line-up, combined with some originals inspired by his music.

Sun Ra was a extraordinarily original musician, and a major figure in avant-garde jazz from the 50s to the early 90s. He started out in big bands in the 1940s, and was influenced by bebop, but then shifted into very much his own large-group sound with his Arkestra. To his jazz roots he added elements of avant-garde classical music; he was a pioneer in using electronic keyboards; and he believed in the power of spectacle, with his Arkestra usually dressed in bright, flamboyant costumes, and occasionally including jugglers or stilt-walkers. He became obsessed with Egyptology and the possibility that Earth had been visited by travelers from outer space, and much of his music referenced those ideas.

It made for a very diverse body of music over the decades.

“Ra loved the tradition,” Magill said. “He worked for Fletcher Henderson as an arranger and rehearsal pianist for years and that was his foundation in jazz. So he loved that stuff and he admired Duke Ellington and he's got that side. We [Rake-star] have some earlier sounds before from things reflecting his earlier days. But a lot of the tunes that we do are probably 60s/70s. Later on, the last couple recordings, he was going back in a sense to traditional big band, with a twist obviously, but far more subtle than his totally out-there astro-infinity.”

Read more: Rake-star aims for the sublime, and sometimes the chaotic, in Sun Ra's music


Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD

Dominique Forest's new CD is more personal – and more of a risk – than she had ever planned.

Dominique Forest with Normand Glaude at the Ella Fitizgerald-Billie Holiday Tribute concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2013The Ottawa jazz vocalist has made her name over the last dozen years as an assured interpreter of the Great American Songbook, a repertoire she loves. When she finally decided in 2013 to record her first CD, she put together a list of her favourite standards. And then she thought she'd add one original song. And then another...

On Saturday at the NAC Fourth Stage, Forest will launch the CD – a completely original album of her own compositions. Called C'est à moi – the English translation is “It's up to me” – it's also a very personal effort.

All the songs “tell a little bit about a life lived. If I had written this body of work three years ago, it would have been a very different album. This particular time in my life, it was one of hope and of joy and I really wanted to bring out reflections. It's reflective and introspective.”

The title song was particularly important to her: “ 'C'est à moi' is the first song that I wrote for this album. The words of the song are it's up to me to move forward and to find my way. I can't let grief or anything else stop me. And so it just made sense that if I was doing this album, as soon as I agreed that if I'm doing this body of work, then that's going to be the title song.”

The songs range in style from funk to pop to chanson, as well as more classic swinging jazz numbers and ballads. Some are directly personal – a tribute to her parents, a joyful celebration of a sister's recovery from illness – while others are just for fun.

Read more: Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD


Jazz film 'Whiplash' wins three Oscars

Updated February 23, 2015

Whiplash, the controversial new film about the toxic relationship between a professor and an aspiring drummer at a renowned (fictional) jazz conservatory, has received considerable notice in the 2015 Academy Awards race, with three Oscar wins out of five nominations.

The indie film, based on its director's own experiences as an aspiring big band jazz drummer, was nominated for:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (J.K. Simmons as the professor)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay (also by director Damien Chazelle)

It won Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. reviewed the movie in November, but had reservations about how it portrays jazz education and the experience of playing jazz. Have you seen the film? What did you think? Let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Read more: Jazz film 'Whiplash' wins three Oscars


2014: An improvised jazz year in Ottawa-Gatineau

2014 was a year of milestones – some worth celebrating, some unfortunate – in Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene.

There were several major anniversaries, including's fifth birthday in July! The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Carleton University Jazz Camp also turned five. It was the JazzWorks Jazz Camp's 21st anniversary, and the Apex Jazz Band's 40th.

Roddy Ellias was a strong influence in Ottawa's jazz scene in 2014, with a well-received trio album and new musical initiatives, and as the curator of the ZenKitchen jazz series and the organizer of the Ottawa Kenny Wheeler benefit. ©Brett Delmage, 2014The National Arts Centre – still the most prestigious jazz location in Ottawa – announced a major renovation over the next two years, to be finished for Canada's sesquicentennial (and the centre's 48th birthday) in 2017. It will substantially improve the centre's acoustics and facilities, but – as revealed – will mean closing the Fourth Stage (where most NAC jazz shows are staged) for several months; the exact timing and impact of that closure have not yet been determined.

This spring, initiated its Jazz Favourites Poll, which allowed local fans to identify and celebrate the successes in Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene. We were delighted at the warm response. More than 350 jazz fans voted on their favourites in nine categories covering many aspects of the local jazz and improvised music scene, from venues to CDs. But even more importantly, they told us why, in some fascinating comments which said a lot more. In some cases, the results were closely contested. In almost all cases, they were diverse, reflecting the many different types of music under the jazz umbrella, and the many ways to enjoy it.

Read more: 2014: An improvised jazz year in Ottawa-Gatineau


JazzWorks Sunday jazz jams looking for a broader audience

The JazzWorks Sunday afternoon jazz jams are moving to a new space with a new vibe this weekend, and hoping to attract a new, broader audience.

They'll be held at Festival House (the Bluesfest School of Music and Art) in Westboro, a more family-friendly, quiet location – and will feature coaching from a series of highly experienced local jazz teachers.

JazzWorks Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie in teaching mode at the 2008 JazzWorks jazz camp. ©Brett Delmage, 2008

“The primary goal of the Sunday sessions is to get people out playing music. People who have never had a chance, people who love to play and want to play on a Sunday,” said JazzWorks board member Peggy Cameron, who has been involved in planning the sessions.

She said the Sunday jams would be “much more relaxed, much less pressure” than JazzWorks' long-running evening jams.

“People who might have been intimidated by the Thursday night jams – the number of people and the quality of the music – might think, 'Well if I go Sunday afternoon, maybe I can play'. People who have been a little bit fearful maybe in the past, young people [for whom] Thursday night is too late for them. [We want to] get a different bunch of people involved.”

This Sunday's jam, which will run from 2 to 5 p.m., will be mentored by JazzWorks' Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie. In a posting on the JazzWorks website, Geggie said that this first jam would be “concentrating on the basics”, starting with two easy tunes which work for singers and instrumentalists of all descriptions: a blues, “Bag's Groove”, and George Gershwin's “I Got Rhythm”.

Read more: JazzWorks Sunday jazz jams looking for a broader audience


Doug Martin takes Canadian jazz to The Havana Jazz Festival

Doug Martin at Merrickville's Jazz Fest ©Brett Delmage, 2014

This week, Ottawa saxophonist Doug Martin is having an adventure at the Havana Jazz Festival – one that may provide inspiration for a new album.

He has been invited to perform three shows in theatres in the Cuban capital, as part of the festival. But he'll be playing with musicians he's never even met before.

“The only one whose name I know is Miguel de Armas, jr ,” Martin told shortly before he departed for Havana last week.

Yes, the son of Ottawa-based Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas, who began playing here in the spring of 2012, and has quickly made a splash in the Ottawa and Montreal jazz scenes.

“When I finally realized I wasn't going to be taking any musicians from here, and that I wanted to use Cuban musicians, I approached Miguel and asked if his son would be willing to play for me. And so the son, Miguel junior, is picking the other two musicians and I'm not sure who they are.”

The band will be de Armas jr. on piano, plus bass and drums, and possibly one or more conga players. They'll be playing primarily Martin's compositions, plus a few standards. He's looking forward to hearing an Afro-Cuban take on his music, which is mainstream modern jazz.

“I'm sure they'll have their own ideas, their own style, their own way of doing things. A lot of my tunes have never had a conga player in them, so it will be interesting to hear what that turns out to be.”

He's already sent his charts to Cuba and was hoping to rehearse for a few days before the group's first show at on Wednesday, December 17, at the Jardines del Teatro Mella theatre. They will also perform on Friday at Café Miramar, and on Saturday at Pabellón Cuba.

But he expected a fair amount of improvisation – not only in the music, but also in the arrangements. “Definitely it's going to be one minute to the next. I don't know what's going to happen. It will be an adventure for sure.”

The adventure first started in October, 2012, when Martin visited Cuba, and brought a few copies of his most recent CD, Odyssey, with him. “I never thought anything would happen, but just by chance I happened to meet a guy who had a jazz show on Radio Taino in Havana. And I gave him a couple CDs and he checked them out and he really liked them, so they started playing them on the radio down there.”

Read more: Doug Martin takes Canadian jazz to The Havana Jazz Festival


Sneak peek at the 2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival line-up

Update December 19: The Ottawa Jazz Festival finally confirmed part of its Winter Jazz Festival lineup, just a few hours before its office closed for the Christmas holidays. See the updated listing here.

In the program for Requiem for Fourteen Roses was an advertisement for the 2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, which provides a not-completely-confirmed peek at the Winter Jazz Festival's line-up. This information has not been yet published on the Ottawa Jazz Festival's website or Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Here's your first notice:

  • Oliver Mtukudzi & the Black Spirits
  • Megan Jerome, Fred Guignon, and Mike Essoudry
  • The Matt Wilson Quartet
  • The Nancy Walker Quintet
  • The Roddy Ellias Septet plays the Music of Kenny Wheeler
  • The Tigran Trio
    and more

Read more: Sneak peek at the 2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival line-up


Major NAC renovation will shutter Ottawa's favourite jazz hall for months in 2016

The National Arts Centre (NAC) announced an extensive renovation today – one that may disrupt jazz shows and the jazz festival in Ottawa in 2016.

The renovation will surround the current building with new glass wings on three sides, move the centre's primary entrance to Elgin Street, and upgrade the performance spaces, washrooms, and lobbies. It is scheduled to be ready in 2017, in time for Canada's 150th birthday.

Design concept for the renovated National Arts Centre, Elgin Street view, with the front windows of the updated Fourth Stage (Diamond Schmitt Architects)But its construction will require the closure of the Fourth Stage (which fronts on Elgin Street) for an indeterminate period in 2016. The NAC's Director of Communications, Rosemary Thompson, said “we don't actually know exactly how long it will take to reconstruct that portion of the building. The entire construction phase is 12 to 18 months. But that face of the building I don't exactly know yet.”

In the Jazz Favourites Poll this spring, the Fourth Stage was voted as local jazz fans' Favourite Jazz Concert Venue. The stage is heavily used by the NAC Presents series and by local musicians to present jazz and other shows.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival, which runs in late June, has regularly held its Improv Invitational series in the Fourth Stage, with two or three shows every night. The jazz festival is already facing the loss of its main outdoor venue in 2016, with Confederation Park undergoing major renovations, and has not yet found a substitute outdoor space.

Thompson said NAC Presents programming would not be affected for 2015, and she expected the Fourth Stage will continue to be open for the next 12 months. “It's 2016 that's the issue, and we'll have more clarity in the next weeks and months to come.”

Read more: Major NAC renovation will shutter Ottawa's favourite jazz hall for months in 2016


Requiem for Fourteen Roses inspires standing ovations for its emotion-laden music

Conductor Rachel Beausoleil does a final rehearsal with the choir ©Brett Delmage, 2014Requiem for 14 Roses
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Knox Presbyterian Church, Ottawa

It began with 14 ringing notes on a gong, the sound of each note rising and falling throughout Knox Presbyterian Church.

Then long lines of flickering candlelights slowly moved down the church's nave. They were held by 40 female and male choristers, there to sing the premiere of Elise Letourneau's Requiem for 14 Roses, and to remember the women killed in the École Polytechnique Massacre, exactly 25 years before.

As the music continued, first the men and then the women singers moved to the front of the church, singing the emotion-filled and deeply solemn music.

Letourneau combined choral passages, eloquent soloists (including jazz vocalist Sienna Dahlen and local cantor Jeremy Burko), and instrumental sections in her requiem. While remaining within the standard requiem form, she interposed 14 short instrumental passages throughout, featuring two trombones and two flugelhorns, to commemorate each of the women murdered, the melodies emphasizing the promise and loss of lives cut short.

Read more: Requiem for Fourteen Roses inspires standing ovations for its emotion-laden music


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