Sunday, March 01, 2015
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Bernie Senensky, in two voices

Audiences will be able to hear two voices of Bernie Senensky in two cities this week – grooving in an organ quartet, and more intimately in a piano-guitar duet.

Bernie Senensky (photo courtesy of Bernie Senensky)The Toronto pianist is best known for the 20 years he spent playing with and writing for jazz legend Moe Koffman. But he's performed with many more musical greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Art Pepper, and Elvin Jones. He's played piano duets with Oscar Peterson and Marian McPartland, and been a member of groups including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, the and the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.

This will be his first Ottawa appearance in years – in two very different shows. On Wednesday, he'll be on piano, opening the new Wednesday jazz listening series at ZenKitchen. On Thursday, he's playing organ with the Toronto quartet Organic at Zola's.

On Friday and Saturday, he's at the Résonance Café in Montreal: first with Organic, and then with his Organ Quartet, including Roddy Ellias.

Speaking to him on the phone Saturday, he was enthusiastic about both.

The ZenKitchen show is a duet with guitarist Roddy Ellias. It will feature “some original music but there also will be some familiar music and it will be more intuitive.” While the music will be more spare, that “doesn't mean every tune will be very slow – it's going to be all kinds of things.”

“I love Roddy's playing: we've played together a few times and I've known him for years,” Senensky said. When Ellias was in Toronto a few months ago, he sat in as guest with another organ group which Senensky plays with, “and that was really great. I think we have a great rapport.”

“We've both been playing this music for many decades so that breeds a closeness and a knowledge of the genre and the style. And it's beautiful the way the guitar and the piano can resound together, played by the right people.”

Senensky has had decades of experience playing with great jazz guitarists, starting with Lenny Breau, and including Herb Ellis, Sonny Greenwich, and Bucky Pizzarelli – and especially Ed Bickert.

Read more: Bernie Senensky, in two voices


David Braid, Jill Barber, Mike Rud, and John Geggie featured in NAC concerts in 2015

David Braid ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Pianist David Braid, guitarist Mike Rud and singer Sienna Dahlen, pianist Emie R. Roussel, and singer Jill Barber are the new jazz additions to NAC Presents for 2015. The complete series lineup was announced this morning.

Additionally, Ottawa double bassist John Geggie returns for a single Geggie Invitational concert next April, this time with a two-reed front line with saxophonists Kelly Jefferson and Frank Lozano, along with drummer Jim Doxas.

NAC Presents is the National Arts Centre series showcasing popular music by Canadian musicians. In The Jazz Favourites Poll this spring, NAC Presents was chosen by Ottawa-Gatineau jazz fans as their favourite jazz series in 2013.

The NAC announced a total of 50 performances today for the series' fourth season, including folk, indie, pop, francophone – and jazz – shows. Some had previously been announced, including Brooklyn/Ottawa multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura (October 30), Montreal pianist/composer Marianne Trudel (October 25), and throat singer/improviser Tanya Tagaq (November 7).

Those announced today include:

Montreal guitarist Mike Rud is a popular visitor to Ottawa, frequently playing guitar duets and with larger groups. But the one lineup Ottawa audiences have never seen is that on his album, Notes on Montreal. which won the 2013 Juno for Best Vocal Jazz Album. On January 22, he'll appear with Dahlen, as she recreates her vocals from that album and sings Rud's songs, which pay tribute to the great literature about Montreal.

Vancouver jazz singer Jill Barber was last seen in Ottawa in June at the Jazz Festival, performing in Dominion Chalmers United Church. Her NAC date on March 7 will be in a comparably large space: the NAC Theatre. She will be presenting songs from her sixth album, Fool’s Gold [2013], which is primarily jazz but with a few touches of country.

Read more: David Braid, Jill Barber, Mike Rud, and John Geggie featured in NAC concerts in 2015


ZenKitchen doubles its jazz, with musicians rarely heard in Ottawa

Updated October 26 to update dates and add more musicians.

See the video of the first night of this series.

Wednesday evenings have just become much more special for Ottawa jazz fans. Starting September 24, ZenKitchen is introducing a high-profile series of jazz shows, featuring many musicians rarely heard in Ottawa.

Roddy Ellias (l) and Tim Bedner (r) anchor ZenKitchen's two nights of jazz each week this fall. ©2014 Brett Delmage

Curated by guitarist Roddy Ellias, the series will run weekly at the Centretown gourmet vegan restaurant. It will bring in well-known jazz artists from Montreal and Toronto, including Joel Miller, Dave Young, Lorne Lofsky, Bernie Senensky, Jeri Brown, and Mike Rud, as well as high-profile Ottawa-based musicians like Diane White and John Geggie – and Ellias.

The list includes several Juno Award winners, and musicians who have played with Canadian jazz icons like Oscar Peterson, Rob McConnell, and Moe Koffman.

Although food and drink will be served, “The focus will be on listening”, Ellias said.

ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan said that this series will be building on the success of the Sunday jazz programming which the restaurant has been running for the past two years – but with a slightly different concept.

Read more: ZenKitchen doubles its jazz, with musicians rarely heard in Ottawa


Merrickville's Jazz Fest features new artists, and some greatest hits, for its 4th year

Going into its fourth year, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is facing the problems of success.

The festival, which runs from October 16-19 this year, sold out three shows in 2013. It received almost twice as many applications from musicians in 2014 compared to 2013. And it's added one more concert over last year to an already-packed schedule. (continued below)

Read and watch's full coverage of the 2014 Merrickville's Jazz Fest

Marc Decho

Marcie Campbell
Miguel de Armas and Caridad Cruz
Brian Browne
 René Fortier

Adam Daudrich

A few of the musicians you can hear at Merrickville's Jazz Fest this year   all photos ©Brett Delmage,

Its 2014 program features 17 concerts at locations around downtown Merrickville, including:

  • a tribute to unique vocalist Blossom Dearie
  • acclaimed Ottawa pianist Brian Browne
  • the quartet of Montreal bebop drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve, with long-time Montreal jazz musicians Dave Turner, Eric Lagacé, and Félix Stüssi
  • Toronto swing and gypsy jazz vocalist Denielle Bassels, and
  • the trio of Montreal pianist and composer Adam Daudrich

along with shows by a wide range of Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians.

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest features new artists, and some greatest hits, for its 4th year


Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)

Barre Phillips (bass) and John Heward (drums) ©Brett Delmage, 2014

John Heward and Barre Phillips 80th Birthday Celebration
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Montreal jazz drummer John Heward is also renowned Canadian painter and sculptor John Heward, and he shows a similar experimental bent in both his artistic pursuits.

For the week of the Guelph Jazz Festival, the main floor walls of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre featured several of his artworks: canvas painted and twisted into large-scale dramatic pieces. When he performed at the art centre as the first evening show of the festival – with some of his favourite musicians – there was a similar feeling of drama, uncertainty, and flair.

The concert and show were to celebrate Heward's 80th birthday – but only his 31st year as a professional musician. He played the drums as a teenager, but then concentrated on the visual arts. In 1983, at 49 years old, he bought a set of drums, and started playing improvised music. He's played in various avant-garde groups in Montreal, including Nicolas Caloia's Ratchet Orchestra, and PO (“Provocative Operations”). He leads the free jazz group Murray Street Band.

Read more: Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)


Guelph 2014: Pugs & Crows didn't live up to its talent (review)

Meredith Bates played propulsive violin at the Pugs & Crows concert at the Guelph Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Pugs & Crows
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Thursday, September 4, 2014 – 5 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Pugs & Crows is a Vancouver-based instrumental group which creates “dramatic cinematic music” blending indie rock and modern jazz. Their most recent album, Fantastic Pictures, won the 2013 Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year.

They played an hour-long late afternoon show at the Guelph Jazz Festival, to an enthusiastic and packed crowd. Performing with lots of energy and tight arrangements, they went through a good selection of numbers from both their albums, plus a few new pieces.

The group has an unusual lineup, with piano (Cat Toren) and violin (Meredith Bates) joining electric guitar (Cole Schmidt) as lead instruments, together with double bass (Russell Sholberg) and drums (Ben Brown). For this show, their music was accented by guest Tony Wilson on electric guitar and slide guitar, adding fluid lines and strong emotional touches.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Pugs & Crows didn't live up to its talent (review)


Local improvisers put on the spot at IMOO season opener (review)

Rory Magill and Mark Molnar ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Concert #106
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO)
Raw Sugar Café
Sunday, September 14, 2014

IMOO opened its fourth season on Sunday by returning to its roots in the local scene. It brought together a diverse collection of Ottawa-area improvisers in unexpected combinations, in its first evening in IMOO's new home of Raw Sugar Café.

IMOO organizers Linsey Wellman (alto sax) and David Jackson (guitar) arranged for Ian Birse (electronics and electric guitar), David Broscoe (alto sax, tuning forks, and noisemakers), Laura Kavanaugh (violin), Rory Magill (xylophone and percussion), and Mark Molnar (cello) to play in duos, trios, quartets, and all together. They tried a new format: each group who played would pick the next set of musicians to be thrown together to improvise.

Wellman, Jackson, and Magill began quietly, with shimmering guitar and low tones on sax, and became more intense, with Magill joining in with light taps on xylophone near the end. The collaborations which followed constantly changed textures and sounds: rough-edged violin and cello contrasting with shakers; rattling bells and ringing tuning forks alternating with with buzzing electronically-altered electric guitar and punctuated notes on saxophone. Near the end, there was even an (atypical) string quartet.

Read more: Local improvisers put on the spot at IMOO season opener (review)


Guelph 2014: Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim astonish the audience (review)

Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim in intense conversation at the Guelph Youth Music Centre. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim
2014 Guelph Jazz Festival
Guelph Youth Music Centre
Sunday, September 7, 2014 – 10:30 a.m.

The Guelph Jazz Festival rarely deals in the obvious or the tried-and-true, but its 2014 closing concert really confounded the audience's expectations.

Lee Pui Ming is an improvising pianist, composer, and vocalist, who combines classical, jazz, and Chinese traditions, and is active in Toronto's new music community. Dong-Won Kim is a percussionist, composer, and vocalist from Korea, trained in the movements and instruments of that country's traditional music, but with a strong improvising bent,

On-stage was a Yamaha grand piano, and Kim's instruments: the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather drum; and two hanging bronze gongs.

So piano and percussion, right? Not exactly.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim astonish the audience (review)


Guelph Jazz Festival helps kids find their voices through technology

View photos of the performance

The gamut of music-making technology – from simple tin can shakers to advanced tangible electronic surfaces – contributed to the upbeat sound of the annual KidsAbility Youth Orchestra concert at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival.

At the KidsAbility Youth Orchestra concert at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival, musicians created music with AUMI software. ©2014 Brett Delmage

The result was lots of smiles and action – for both the participants and the children and adults in the audience – at the show at Guelph City Hall.

Each year, the Guelph Jazz Festival commissions a musician to work with young musicians with disabilities to help them learn more about music and tools they can use to express themselves musically. This year, Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart (who recently worked with disabled adults at H'Art of Ottawa) came to a local day camp run by Playsense to work with nine youth, for an hour daily over one week in late August. Most of the young musicians he worked with were able to participate in the Youth Orchestra concert which opened the jazz festival's series of free Saturday concerts.

At the concert, Stewart mentioned that this work exploring possible future sounds tied into the festival's theme of “Sounding Futures”.

The tools Stewart taught the students began with rattles, squeakers, and other simple percussion instruments. But they also included the AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) software and the Reactable.

Read more: Guelph Jazz Festival helps kids find their voices through technology - Into the next five years

An update from

On July 3, 2014, reached our 5th Anniversary! I founded the publication five years ago to celebrate and give greater public exposure to the vibrant 365-days-a-year jazz and improvised music scene in Ottawa-Gatineau and across Canada. Now, more than 10,000 articles and event listings later (a milestone which we reached in June, just before our anniversary) I feel we have made good progress towards accomplishing our initial objectives. There is strong interest in live local jazz performance, and other media have followed our lead in covering it.

Read more: - Into the next five years


Guelph Jazzfest celebrates Sun Ra, features Vijay Iyer and Randy Weston for its 21st year

We are reporting from one of our favourite festivals, the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, this week.

For its coming of age this week, the Guelph Jazz Festival is bringing in well-known performers from around the world – and as far out as Saturn.

Vijay Iyer will perform with his trio at the 2014 Guelph JazzFestival. © Brett DelmageThe festival, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday (September 3-7), is turning 21. To celebrate, it's shaken up its 2014 lineup with performers who are returning after long absences, including pianists Randy Weston, Vijay Iyer, and D.D. Jackson. But its biggest musical focus will be on Sun Ra, the late composer and bandleader, to celebrate the centennial of his arrival on Earth.

Sun Ra famously claimed he came from Saturn, and his cosmic music and other-worldly costuming was one of a kind. His Arkestra, now led by alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, will perform “Hymn to the Universe” on Saturday evening (September 6), in a collaboration with Quebec dance company Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie.

But there's more. For those interested in Sun Ra's life and work, the festival is offering a whole series of free talks and panels exploring his legacy, including a keynote address entitled “Sun Ra on Earth” by Columbia University professor and Sun Ra biographer John Szwed, and “Black Utopia LP” by American filmmaker and visual artist Cauleen Smith, who has intensely researched Sun Ra's work and influence. Four other researchers will discuss his Afrofuturist philosophy, which “fuses Egyptian iconography with the sounds, texts, and imagery of space travel and technology”; three will examine his myth-making and spirituality; and another will look as Sun Ra as a jester.

Read more: Guelph Jazzfest celebrates Sun Ra, features Vijay Iyer and Randy Weston for its 21st year


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