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Jon Ballantyne starts the Ottawa Jazz Festival with complex melodies (review)

2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, Day 1: Jon Ballantyne, Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Friday, June 20, 2014

Outdoors, the opening night of the 2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival was Bollywood. Indoors at the NAC Fourth Stage, two concerts presented interaction and improvisation – and pure jazz.

At 6 p.m., the festival's Improv Invitational series opened with NYC drummer Mike Pride and his band From Bacteria to Boys, with saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Alexis Marcelo, and double bassist Peter Bitenc. The room was about two-thirds full, attracting many of Ottawa's avant-garde jazz fans.

They opened with “79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the” a composition by Pride which also opens the group's latest album. It was a 10-minute exercise, played at high volume and speed, in which multiple streams of musical consciousness rarely intersected. It seemed designed more to show off individual technical brilliance than to form a cohesive whole; it left me cold. However, it didn't reflect the rest of the concert; the remaining pieces (all originals) united the musicians more closely and were much more interesting.

I've always enjoyed Irabagon's work in his many different groups – seeing his name in the listing was the reason I attended – and he fulfilled my high expectations. On songs like “Lullaby For Charlie”, his finely attuned sax lines evoked sweetness and sadness and then tightly circled above Marcelo's pointillist notes on piano. For this song he played what I thought was soprano sax; however, broadcaster Ron Sweetman discovered when he talked to Irabagon later that he had recently switched to sopranino saxophone, the next smallest sax, which has a slightly higher range than soprano.

Read more: Jon Ballantyne starts the Ottawa Jazz Festival with complex melodies (review)

 

ZenKitchen may be closer to reopening after packed fundraiser

View photos of the fundraiser.

ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan is not only planning to reopen his gourmet vegan restaurant. He's looking at doubling the number of nights it offers jazz.

ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan (left) happily surveys the room at Tuesday's 'Great Chefs Go Vegan' fundraiser. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Speaking at a packed fundraiser for the restaurant Tuesday, Loan said that there were still a few stumbling blocks to overcome before he could get back in business. But he hoped to open in three to four weeks, and preferably by the end of June.

He said he was overwhelmed by the support ZenKitchen had received from the community.

“A few weeks ago, I gave up. I cried a lot, and I told the staff we were done. And then voice after voice said 'We need to take action here.' ... You guys lifted me up and gave me the courage to fight.”

“I have been so touched and so overwhelmed by the community, by our friends, by our customers. I thought of us as just another little restaurant that was having some trouble, and the response has been unbelievable. I had no idea ... it makes me tearful all the time.” He choked up at this point.

An on-line donation campaign at gofundme.com has so far raised $7,140 (of a $20,000 goal). Tuesday's “Great Chefs Go Vegan” event raised about $10,000, Loan said. 74 tickets at $100 each were sold in advance, and at least one more ticket was sold at the door. A silent auction raised further funds, including a bid of over $500 for a cooking class and dinner with chef Caroline Ishii (the original ZenKitchen chef and co-founder).

Jazz was an important part of the fundraiser. Ten prominent local jazz musicians, almost all of whom had played at the restaurant, volunteered to perform.

Read more: ZenKitchen may be closer to reopening after packed fundraiser

 

Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard! OttawaJazzScene.ca celebrates 5 years, with a photo exhibit

The 'Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard!' exhibit: Just like any performance, you'll have to attend in person to fully appreciate it

OttawaJazzScene.ca is 5 years old on July 3! We're celebrating this milestone with a special photographic print exhibition of the Ottawa-Gatineau and Canadian jazz scene.

Originating in my work as OttawaJazzScene.ca's photojournalist, Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard!  speaks about the connections between listeners and musicians, photographed over the past decade.

The exhibit includes images made in many different locations, outside and inside, in small cafés and giant halls, mid-day and late at night, at festivals and one-time concerts.

There's something special about making an archival-quality, fine art photographic print to hang on a wall. As the famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams stated, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

Making my digital image is an essential first step in the public performance of my art, but it's only the beginning. The printing process provides opportunity to shape my digital score by cropping, and tonal and chromatic adjustments in subtle ways, and to select a paper that supports the image.

Read more: Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard! OttawaJazzScene.ca celebrates 5 years, with a photo exhibit

 

Vocalists, instrumentalists, Latin and more for free at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

Emile-Claire Barlow is one of six major Canadian female jazz vocalists who will appear on free stages at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

The Montreal Jazz Festival has announced its schedule of free concerts – ranging from well-known female jazz vocalists to late night jazz improv-on-the-spot, and featuring lots of Canadian talent.

The festival is noted for its big-name jazz acts, with big-name prices to match ($106.50 for best seats for Keith Jarrett's solo show on June 28, for example). But the Montreal Jazz Festival also presents many free shows, particularly (though not exclusively) promoting superb Canadian and Quebeçois jazz musicians.

This year, the festival's keynote outdoor show is with Diana Krall on June 29 – the very last stop in her Glad Rag Doll tour. But Krall won't be the only high-profile Canadian vocalist appearing in a festival free concert. Also performing on one of the festival's huge outdoor stages are Emilie-Claire Barlow (twice on June 30), Laila Biali (July 2), Coral Egan (twice on July 3), Susie Arioli (twice on July 4), and Térez Montcalm (July 6).

Grand Jazz competition brings in fine instrumental jazz acts

There won't be a lack of instrumental jazz, either. For many years, the festival has brought in up-and-coming jazz groups from across Canada to compete for its TD Grand Jazz Award. This year, nine groups will be judged on their free outdoor performances.

Ottawa audiences may recognize Myriad 3 (with pianist Chris Donnelly and drummer Ernesto Cervini), Toronto's Pram Trio, and Montreal's Kite Trio, who have all visited here before. But there's also some interesting other groups vying for the prize:

  • Montreal/NYC bassist Rick Rosato
  • Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter Alexander Brown, who has worked with Cuban percussion master Changuito, and his quintet which includes saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and pianist Dave Restivo
  • Alex Baro, also a Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter, who combines jazz, Dixie and Caribbean music in his latest CD
  • Montreal saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps, the winner of last year’s Grand Prix from the Rimouski Jazzfest
  • JAGG, a saxophone-trombone-led quartet which won the Concours de la Relève Jazz en Rafale this spring
  • Winnipeg-born drummer Curtis Nowosad, who now lives in NYC and brought a jazz approach to covers of Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley on his first album.

Read more: Vocalists, instrumentalists, Latin and more for free at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

 

Ottawa composers thrilled by JazzWorks Originals concert

Inspired by the creativity: Charley Gordon, Sam Cousineau, and John Graham. ©Lauren Walker, 2014“It was very exciting.”

Pianist David Miller was the first of eleven local jazz musicians who had their original compositions featured in a concert Sunday. While the experience of leading off the show was a bit nerve-wracking, he said, “the big thrill for me was playing with such great musicians. My rhythm section was Nick [Fraser] and John [Geggie], and they just buoy you right up and you play even better than you thought you could.”

The concert was arranged by JazzWorks, and showcased music which had been developed at the JazzWorks summer jazz camp in August 2013. It was hosted by John Geggie, the camp's artistic director, and included camp faculty from Montreal and Toronto – drummer Nick Fraser, pianist Nancy Walker, and saxophonist Rémi Bolduc – who had originally mentored the composers as they worked on their pieces. The faculty performed with many of the composers and other camp participants.

Miller's song, “Motion of the Ocean”, was typical of the pieces: mainstream modern jazz, strongly melodic with taut solos from Sam Cousineau on alto sax and atmospheric drumming from Fraser. Miller said he had the song “basically mapped out when I came to jazz camp, but it actually underwent a fair bit of change. There was an entire section of the melody that it was pointed out to me that I'd borrowed it from somewhere else, so I had to change that part, and then I changed the ending.”

Read more: Ottawa composers thrilled by JazzWorks Originals concert

 

The Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio swept the audience along with its vigorous music

Michel Reis' piano playing moved from delicate and airy to vibrating and intense. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Ottawa, Canada
Monday, March 31, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

If jazz is an international language – as we were told repeatedly on International Jazz Day – that doesn't mean it sounds the same all over the world. It still can have local dialects and catch-phrases, and listening to musicians from other places can teach us new vocabulary.

If they can get here to perform.

Sadly, we've seen fewer international jazz acts performing here in Ottawa in the last five years. A lot of that has had to do with the continued economic downtown and less government and other support, both in North America and in Europe, for touring musicians.

So it was a pleasure to hear a trio from Luxembourg play here this spring, bringing a more European rendition of jazz – and music well worth hearing – to a tour of four Canadian cities.

Pianist Michel Reis, bassist Marc Demuth, and drummer Paul Wiltgen were born and raised in Luxembourg – and still mostly tour in Europe. The three met and played together frequently as teenagers, but that was interrupted when two of them left to study music in the United States (Berklee and the New England Conservatory for Reis, the Manhattan School of Music for Wiltgen). In 2011, they reunited for a concert back home. They have been playing together since on both sides of the Atlantic, releasing their first, self-titled, CD in 2013.

So here we have three musicians whose initial exposure to music and to jazz was in the European tradition. But then two of them overlaid that tradition with a major and continuing American influence (Reis and Wiltgen have stayed primarily in the U.S.). How did that affect what Ottawa audiences heard?

Read more: The Reis Demuth Wiltgen Trio swept the audience along with its vigorous music

 

2014 Geggie Invitational Concert: complex tapestries of music (review)

David Braid, John Geggie, and Ted Warren play thoughtfully as Joel Miller, Jim Lewis, and Christine Jensen look on. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

John Geggie / David Braid / Christine Jensen / Jim Lewis / Joel Miller / Ted Warren
NAC Presents: Geggie Invitational Concert 2014
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Saturday, April 12, 2012 - 7:30 p.m.

View the photo gallery

It was a benediction of horns, all in unison. Soaring then falling, it opened John Geggie's only invitational concert of this season on an exalted note.

With those first notes of Christine Jensen's “Garden Hour”, the concert started as it would continue: with all six musicians contributing to the complex tapestries of music, each piece developed to its fullest extent while still retaining its individuality.

For this show Geggie invited five of his favourite Canadian musicians, all of them with decades of experience – both in mainstream jazz and as adventurous improvisers, an essential part of a concert like this. Except for the encore, all the pieces they played were their originals; Geggie told the audience they had more music than they had time to play, “but we're going to play as much as we can”.

If constrained by budgets to those living in Montreal and Toronto, he nevertheless was able to include three jazz Juno award winners: alto/soprano saxophonist Christine Jensen (2014), tenor saxophonist Joel Miller (2013), and pianist David Braid (2012). They were joined by drummer Ted Warren and trumpeter Jim Lewis, both also well-known to and appreciated by local audiences.

The sextet opened with an uninterrupted 20 minutes of music, “Garden Hour” segueing directly into “Don't Cry” by Jim Lewis. David Braid's piano provided the connection: slowly building in energy, its measured variations as thoughtful as Jensen's piece. And then, as Warren entered with bright, sharp drumming, the music burst into a rushing torrent, with Lewis' insistent trumpet line over all.

Read more: 2014 Geggie Invitational Concert: complex tapestries of music (review)

 

Diana Krall to perform a free outdoor concert at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

Diana Krall evoked melancholy moods in some of her songs at her two-hour, sold-out NAC concert in February, 2013. ©Brett Delmage, 2013Read about more free jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival, including with Emilie-Claire Barlow, Laila Biali and many more.

Diana Krall will perform a free outdoor concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival on June 29, to mark the festival's 35th anniversary.

The concert will also be the final performance in the Canadian jazz pianist and vocalist's Glad Rag Doll tour. The Ottawa stop on that tour sold out the NAC's Southam Hall for one concert and almost filled it for the second, in February, 2013.

In an announcement this afternoon, the festival noted that the concert was coming full circle, since the concept of Krall's Glad Rag Doll album “was inspired by three concerts she performed right here with us in 2011!"

That 2012 album consists of popular songs mainly dating from the 1920s and 1930s, evoking the little jazz clubs and smoky cabarets of the era. The festival said Krall would also be performing other songs from her long career.

Krall's first show at the Montreal Jazz Festival was in 1995. She was a featured artist for the Festival's 25th anniversary in 2004, and performed three solo concerts in Théâtre Maisonneuve in 2011.

The free concert is scheduled for Sunday, June 29 at 9:30 p.m. on the festival's large outdoor TD Stage (on rue Jeanne-Mance, between Ste. Catherine and Maisonneuve). This year's festival will be held from Thursday, June 26 to Sunday, July 6. 2014.

Read more: Diana Krall to perform a free outdoor concert at the 2014 Montreal Jazz Festival

 

What you - and we - learned from the OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll

Introduction

The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll was a journey of discovery – for both us and you. Read why and how we did this poll.

Besides voting for your jazz favourites, you also let us know about you and what you thought of the local jazz scene, and we've also analyzed those results. Sit back and discover!

What do jazz fans think of the local scene?

Respondents were asked to “list up to 5 individual words or a short phrase” that they felt describes the all-year jazz and improvised music scene in Ottawa-Gatineau. Here's what they came up with.

The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll: What do jazz fans think of the scene? © Brett Delmage, 2014

Click on the image for a larger view. Thanks to JasonDavies.com for the word cloud generator.

Who's listening ?

We analyzed some demographics that respondents provided us with. We compared the results with the StatsCan 2011 Canadian census data, adjusted to 2014.  (We again need to state that this poll was not a random survey of jazz fans; however, we were careful to create the poll and attract respondents to it in an unbiased manner. A truly random poll, that could be more reliably representative of the population of Ottawa-Gatineau jazz listeners and musicians, was beyond our resources.)

Learn who's listening

 

Some praise, some sorrow at jazz festival programming

Jazz fans have decided what they liked most about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2013, in The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll. These poll results are part of the complete report that OttawaJazzScene.ca is publishing this week.
Find out more about this poll and view all the results.

Favourite local jazz/improvised music festival: Ottawa Jazz Festival (June)

Runner-up: Merrickville's Jazzfest (October)

How the poll defined this category: “Nominees include festivals within 100 km of Parliament Hill, OttawaJazzScene.ca's listing area.”

The summer Ottawa Jazz Festival was the overwhelming favourite festival. It wasn't the leader without controversy, however.

Unlike any other favourite in this poll, there were a number of negative or more-in-sorrow-than-anger comments about the festival, and in particular its non-jazz programming.

No photo available. The Ottawa Jazz Festival did not permit OttawaJazzScene.ca's photojournalist to report their festivals from 2011-2014. So we can't bring you the full picture.

When it showcased jazz, respondents loved it. “Nothing beats the jazz festival! Low prices for students, incredible lineups year after year but this year was very special with Wayne Shorter, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Peter Bernstein, and a wealth of Canadian jazz artists."

“2013 marked somewhat of a refocus on jazz from the previous year. Thoroughly enjoyed the performances. Volunteers are terrific.”

“Biggest budget, so we hear lots of international jazz artists.”

“Jazzfest is spectacular. It's an extremely well-run festival with a diverse lineup. The shows I saw there last year were some of the best I have ever seen.”

“Great names. Brings a wider audience into the jazz world.”

“The lineup is amazing and the atmosphere is great for listening to music,” said one. Another praised the festival's “outdoors atmosphere”.

Since 2011, however, the headliners on the festival's outdoor main stage and related promotion of the festival have increasingly moved to non-jazz, with performers including Robert Plant, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin, Willie Nelson, Daryl Hall, David Byrne, and The Doobie Brothers. Similarly, the OLG late-night stage has featured an increased percentage of non-jazz artists, as have the free concerts by local musicians on prime weekends spots.

One listener was so annoyed that he/she couldn't even wait for the festivals question at the end of the poll, but included this comment under Concert Venues: “Confed Park is no longer hosting jazz. The 'jazz' festival is no longer. Mostly rock and forms of music not even remotely connected to jazz. Let's get back to basics. A Somalian folksinger or a famous comedian playing a banjo is not jazz. Back to basics, please.”

Read more: Some praise, some sorrow at jazz festival programming

 

Great teachers make the difference for jazz camps

Jazz fans have decided what they liked most about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2013, in The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll. These poll results are part of the complete report that OttawaJazzScene.ca is publishing this week.
Find out more about this poll and view all the results.

Favourite jazz camp: Carleton University Jazz Camp

Runner-up: JazzWorks Summer Jazz Workshop and Composers' Symposium

©Brett Delmage, 2010

How the poll defined this category: “A jazz camp is a multi-day/evening workshop that improves musicians' facility in playing jazz through intensive teaching and live performances with a variety of instrumentation and other players.”

The Carleton University Jazz Camp, which will mark its fifth anniversary this August, came out well ahead in votes over older camps in this category. The main reason stated: its faculty.

“The teachers are welcoming and friendly,” said one. “Incredible faculty every year, good location, great mix of class types,” said another. “Great faculty and program,” said a third.

“Great guest artists (Joel Frahm, André White) who gave inspiring masterclasses. Great concerts every night and getting to work in a small group under the direction of Joel was huge.”

The camp's in-town location – at the university, using its music department facilities and Kailash Mital theatre – was also appreciated by some: “It is cheaper and easier to get to,” said one. “So much opportunity to play, great location and facilities,” said another. One respondent appreciated its “strong Carleton University connection”.

Read more: Great teachers make the difference for jazz camps

 

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