Saturday, October 25, 2014
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Jazz fans head west for their favourite bars, cafés, and restaurants

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

Favourite Jazz Bar, Café or Restaurant: Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge

Runner-up: Zola's Italian Restaurant and Eatery

How the poll defined this category: “These nominees offered jazz at least once a week throughout most of 2013.”

Just over a year ago, the Options Jazz Lounge at Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata moved to offering jazz seven nights a week. It now has a weekly jazz jam, and has steadily increased the variety of acts it showcases, bringing in more acts from out of town, and partnering with the Ottawa Jazz Festival for both its summer and winter festivals.

An intent audience listens to the Roddy Ellias Trio at Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge. ©Brett Delmage, 2013It's no surprise, therefore, that Brookstreet was well ahead as the favourite in this category.

“Relaxed atmosphere, great music, good acoustics. Very comfortable for serious listening” was one listener's reason for preferring Brookstreet. “Some great talent, just have to buy a drink and enjoy the show,” said another. “The range of musicians is great!” said a third.

“It is [a] beautiful venue! I love the stage and the RED piano. That is so cool. The bar is nice too and so is the food. It is nice to get out of the downtown and go to the suburbs for jazz!”

“Band is accessible, music is always different with interpretation varying on standards as invited guests get up and jam. You never know what you're going to get. NHL players frequent the club regularly. I've seen many politicians as well. It's fun to people watch.”

Read more: Jazz fans head west for their favourite bars, cafés, and restaurants Jazz Favourites Poll: Concert Venues

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

Favourite Jazz Concert Venue: National Arts Centre Fourth Stage

Runner-up: GigSpace Performance Studio

How the poll defined this category: “A jazz concert venue is defined as a facility where people go to listen to music without talking or socializing during the performance itself. Nominees presented at least five jazz concerts in 2013.”

An attentive audience enjoys an intimate Fourth Stage concert by Phil Nimmons, David Braid, and photographer Nathan Wirth ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The NAC Fourth Stage has been home to many memorable jazz concerts and seated thousands of jazz fans in its 14-year history. Those good memories may have helped it reach favourite status in our concert venue category.

Certainly it has a lot of enthusiastic fans. As one listener summarized: “Amazing sound, lighting, stage, ambiance, tables, space, green room areas, bar place is better for listening intimately to great jazz.”

Another described it as “fancy without being too formal. I like the tables and the bar and meeting other people there. It is a great place to bring visitors to show off the NAC, the downtown canal and Parliament.”

This venue's conversion from a former bookstore has clearly been successful according to listeners' observations: “very intimate and close but big enough that a band can really stretch out without being confined to playing quietly.”

“To me, it's a more natural setting for improvised music. Encourages more of a closer connection with the audience,” said one. Another praised the “attentive audiences”.

Read more: Jazz Favourites Poll: Concert Venues Jazz Favourites Poll: Big bands

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

Favourite Big Band: Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB)

Runner-up: Los Gringos

How the poll defined this category: “Nominees include bands based within 100 km of Ottawa, with at least nine members and something close to standard big band instrumentation.”

The Nepean All-City Jazz Band has been playing big band jazz, with strong tip of the hat to Canadians as well as the standard repertoire, for more than 25 years now. A labour of love for its high school musicians and director Neil Yorke-Slader, it has won many MusicFest awards, and a number of its alumni are now professional jazz musicians.

Neil Yorke-Slader inspires the Nepean All-City Jazz Band in concert ©Brett Delmage, 2012

The comments praised its “long history of developing fine young performers who are going places”, and the “talented young rising jazz musicians” in the band.

And, of course, its sound: “Mature playing, great ensemble sound, super tight.” One respondent said “They just play great music”. Another praised their “Fantastic energy. Fantastic sound. Fantastic Director. Passionate and excellent delivery.”

“They have as always, a stacked line up of the best young jazz musicians in the city and it shows.”

“The conductor has a passion for jazz that is unmatched. You can tell he is committed to helping students learn the art of jazz. The program promotes board-wide musicianship and social development in today's youth. Lastly, and most importantly, the music produced is top notch and supports local musicianship in the Ottawa area.”

Read more: Jazz Favourites Poll: Big bands


NAC Presents to feature Petr Cancura, Marianne Trudel, and Tanya Tagaq this fall

Petr Cancura ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Hometown boy Petr Cancura will finally bring his Juno-nominated band Down Home to a general Ottawa audience this fall.

He'll be here as part of the NAC Presents series, which announced its fall season today. The season includes three jazz/improvised music concerts: Petr Cancura (October 30), Montreal pianist/composer Marianne Trudel (October 25), and throat singer/improviser Tanya Tagaq (November 7).

Based on old black & white photographs of the American South, Down Home is jazz infused with American roots music, from country to blues. Cancura has said the music was specifically inspired by a trip to the Otha Turner Family Goat Roast and blues festival in Mississippi in the summer of 2009. The band's self-titled album was nominated in the Instrumental Album category in this year's Juno Awards.

All the Down Home band's members are from Brooklyn, where Cancura now lives; the band's instrumentation includes Cancura on saxophone, banjo, and musicbox, plus cornet, trombone, tuba, piano, and bass – and, in particular, Cancura's frequent collaborator Richie Barshay on drums.

The album was released in January 2013: that June, Cancura and Down Home played at Carleton University, for a select audience at the university's Alumni Leadership Gala. Since then, he's been back in town in his role as programming manager for the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and played occasionally with other groups this winter: twice with Bumpin' Binary at Mugshots, once at GigSpace with Trekan (with Roddy Ellias and Andrew Downing), and leading the jams at the Winter Jazz Festival.

Pianist/composer Marianne Trudel got a delighted response for her new trio Trifolia last summer, at the Ottawa and Montreal Jazz Festivals. The band's first album, Le Refuge, was named album of the year in Quebec's Opus Awards, and was nominated for a 2014 Juno Award in the Contemporary Jazz Album category.

She's also busy with other projects: composing and arranging for L'Orchestre national de jazz Montréal, arranging for and backing up the vocal trio Triades, and her own groups. She has released five albums since 2005: solo, duo, trio, quintet, septet. At the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival, she received the Prix Galaxie-Étoiles de Radio-Canada. An inventive improviser as well as a composer, she's also been featured several times at the Guelph Jazz Festival, most recently in a trio with masters William Parker and Hamid Drake.

Read more: NAC Presents to feature Petr Cancura, Marianne Trudel, and Tanya Tagaq this fall


Prince Edward County Jazz Festival to offer “all jazz, all the time!" in August

This summer, one nearby festival will offer “all jazz, all the time!” – and feature several Canadian musicians who haven't played in Ottawa in years.

The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival has just announced its 2014 lineup. The mid-August festival will feature major Canadian jazz musicians rarely seen in Ottawa – Guido Basso, Reg Schwager, Lorne Lofsky – and perennial favourites like Renee Rosnes, Rémi Bolduc, and David Braid.

Rémi Bolduc ©Brett Delmage, 2012Three concerts will commemorate legends of jazz, several of whom died recently. The Rémi Bolduc Quartet, with pianist François Bourassa, will pay tribute to Dave Brubeck. Four top Toronto guitarists will remember Jim Hall. And the Brian Barlow Big Band, featuring pianist David Braid, will perform George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue”.

In other shows, pianist Renee Rosnes (from BC, now living in NYC) will appear with her quartet; Toronto jazz veterans Guido Basso and Russ Little will headline the festival's gala; and Braid will perform a solo piano concert.

The festival runs from August 12 to 17, a quiet time in the Ottawa jazz schedule, after Chamberfest and before the jazz camps. It is located primarily in Picton, Ontario. About a three-hour drive from Ottawa, Picton is south-west of Kingston, and near the Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Highlights of this year's festival include:

Wednesday, August 13: Guido Basso has long been known for his mellow tone on flugelhorn, both in the Boss Brass and in smaller groups. He's joined by trombonist Russ Little, who was a founding member of the brass-rock band Lighthouse, belonged to the Count Basie and Woody Herman big bands, and is a long-time session player and jazz leader. They're playing with pianist Robi Botos, bassist Scott Alexander and drummer Brian Barlow, for a dinner and concert at the Huff Estates Winery.

Thursday, August 14: Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc will pay tribute to the late Dave Brubeck by playing the legendary recording Time Out in its entirety. Bolduc will take Paul Desmond's alto sax parts; bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing will provide a strong rhythm section. And, most importantly, versatile pianist François Bourassa should give a sensitive and swinging interpretation of Brubeck's wide-ranging oeuvre.

Read more: Prince Edward County Jazz Festival to offer “all jazz, all the time!" in August


H'Art artists and Jesse Stewart collaborate for a multi-media musical theatre show

“Collaborating with the artists at H'Art of Ottawa over the past four months has confirmed for me the idea that we are all musicians and we are all artists,” says Ottawa composer / percussionist / improviser and Juno winner Jesse Stewart.

Two H'Art artists rehearse music on less common instruments (photo from the video by Andrew Hall)

On Wednesday April 30 at the NAC Fourth Stage, he'll join the visual artists of H'Art of Ottawa, to present Turning the Page, a multi-media musical theatre piece. In the past few months, Stewart has been exploring the sounds of less-common musical instruments with these artists.

The live performance, which includes improvised music and dance, is part of a larger project. It also features a group exhibition (showing at Gallery 101 until Saturday) of works on paper by over 70 artists from H’Art of Ottawa and Arts Project Australia, two not-for-profit organizations that provide opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to make art.

“Everyone is inherently creative. Unfortunately, some people experience barriers to expressing their creativity – often early in life – due to a variety of factors including socio-economic circumstance, physical and/or mental disability, criticism/censorship from people in positions of authority, as well as self-criticism/self-censorship. That is why I consider organizations like H'Art of Ottawa, which facilitates and validates creative expression by people who have experienced challenges in life, to be so important,” Stewart wrote, based on his experience.

Watch the video


After 75 years of playing, Oliver Jones still masterfully shares the joy of jazz (review)

Oliver Jones Trio
NAC Presents
National Arts Centre, Studio
Thursday, April 24, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Near the end of his sold-out concert Thursday night, pianist Oliver Jones asked the audience to continue to support “all the wonderful musicians that we have in this country”.

“Now is the time to appreciate them!” he urged. “Don't wait until the big stars come from Europe or the United States. We have a lot right here.”

This is a message that Jones has been pushing for the last 50 years, and followed himself: the other two musicians in his trio are both from Canada and he's watched their careers grow. He's known his drummer, Jim Doxas, since Doxas was 8 years old, and his double bassist, Éric Lagacé, since Lagacé started playing professionally at about 18 or 19.

The three showed a musical rapport born of that long familiarity, as they played a mixture of standards, some originals by Jones, and several numbers by Canadian jazz icon Oscar Peterson. There were lots of smiles, and an almost intuitive understanding amongst the trio.

Jones' delicate handling of a slow ballad would be subtly underlined by Doxas' light brushes on cymbals and ringing chain of bells. Lagacé's bowed bass would join in with Jones' bright piano to provide two voices expressing the melody.

The concert opened with "Teach Me Tonight" by Gene De Paul and Sammy Cahn, one of the many jazz standards which Jones has always delighted in, and which the trio gave a swinging, full-bodied rendition with strongly propulsive drumming. Jones first recorded that song on Requestfully Yours back in 1986 – an apropos title given the number of requests he took from the audience in the second set of this show.

Read more: After 75 years of playing, Oliver Jones still masterfully shares the joy of jazz (review)


Kirk MacDonald shows 'next level of musicianship' at NACJB on Friday

This Friday evening, Kirk MacDonald, one of Canada's preeminent jazz saxophonists and composers, will make a rare Ottawa appearance.

But it won't be with his quartet or his big band. Instead, it will show a different side of MacDonald – as teacher and as a role model – as he appears as a guest artist with the Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB).

Kirk MacDonald at his last Ottawa appearance in May 2013. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

For the students in the band, playing with MacDonald will show “them in ways that words can't describe what the next level of musicianship is,” said NACJB director Neil Yorke-Slader.

“I think it's like playing on an athletic team with someone who's better than you. You see the next level up close. You think you're playing a particular line a certain way with the right amount of style or conviction or accuracy. And then somebody who's at the next level plays it, and you go 'Oh, I never really thought about that. I need to end the note exactly there, I need to shape the note this particular way, or I need to play with a certain vibrato on the front of the note. Or I need to attack it harder.' ”

Yorke-Slader said he finds that the high school students he works with need “to play with more conviction, play like you're 45 years old, play like you mean it! I can talk about that all I want, but to have somebody five feet away from them doing it just shows them.”

MacDonald said that performing with students puts what he does as a musician “on a more tangible level”.

“When you're on the bandstand there's a different kind of intensity than in the classroom. So [it puts] them in the situation where they have to deal with things as they come up and pretty much in the moment. Decisions are made very quickly, you need to commit to things, you need to be prepared, you need to be in shape musically, psychologically, physically. All those kinds of things.

“It's just like: here it is. This is what we do.”

When MacDonald works with students, he said, he tries to “assess where they are and try to have some kind of recollection of what things meant to you at that time, and find a way of communicating that. Encourage them to find ways of pursuing their own path with music, if that's what they want to do.”

Read more: Kirk MacDonald shows 'next level of musicianship' at NACJB on Friday


No Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year

There will be no Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year and there are no plans to replace it.

"Heavy-duty" construction in the mall means there will be no Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

That could mean 15 fewer concerts where listeners can hear local musicians at The Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2014, and a significant loss of local performances since the festival lost its World Exchange Plaza Stage in 2011. The only remaining stage featuring local performances will be the OLG Stage beside Ottawa City Hall, which featured 12 local groups plus two day-long showcases for student bands in 2013.

“We're not doing the jazz series this year,” Cindy VanBuskirk, the Rideau Centre General Manager, told

“The whole property is under redevelopment but that area in particular is going to be seeing some heavy-duty work through the next six to nine months. We won't be doing our jazz or blues series this year, but we will definitely be back at it next year, in 2015.”

VanBuskirk said that even the elevator that the stage has been adjacent to is moving.

Ottawa Jazz Festival Executive Director Catherine O'Grady confirmed the loss of the stage for 2014, and said the festival was not looking for a replacement.

Read more: No Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year


2014 Chamberfest features clarinetist Don Byron in its genre-bending concerts

Don Byron (photo: Christine Southworth)

The Ottawa Chamberfest will feature renowned jazz clarinetist Don Byron this summer in three shows – two jazz, and one more reminiscent of Brahms.

That's typical of this year's festival and in particular its late-night Chamberfringe. Many of its concerts will cross musical boundaries, combining jazz, classical, world music, and other genres:

“I'm thrilled to be able to have a number of very cool jazz components at this festival,” Chamberfest artistic director Roman Borys told at the festival launch April 15. “It's always a very special treat for me."

For jazz fans, the highest-profile show will be Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet on July 25. In 2012, Byron released Love, Peace, and Soul, a jazz hommage to the gospel tradition, and in particular the legacies of Thomas A. Dorsey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. He's been touring that combination of traditional Christian hymns with the rhythmic disciplines of jazz and blues ever since.

Roman Borys saw Byron perform with the quintet last fall in Toronto: “It was just fantastic.” That lineup included several Toronto jazz musicians who will also play at Chamberfest: Michael Occhipinti (guitar) and Roberto Occhipinti (bass), and Juno-awarding winning vocalist Divine Brown, who has a five-octave vocal range.

Read more: 2014 Chamberfest features clarinetist Don Byron in its genre-bending concerts


Jacques Emond's jazz recordings play on, at Carleton University

Jesse Stewart needed 60 boxes to transport Jacques Emond's 4,000 vinyl records to Carleton University © Brett Delmage, 2014

A year after his death, Jacques Emond's huge collection of jazz CDs and vinyl records lives on at Carleton University. They are a vital part of the tens of thousands of music recordings and scores which have been recently donated to or acquired by Carleton University – now making its music collection of more than 70,000 recordings one of the largest among Canadian universities.

“We had a minimal jazz collection, that consisted almost exclusively of CDs,” Carleton U music professor and Juno-award-winning jazz musician and improviser Dr. Jesse Stewart told

He was very much hands-on in helping grow the jazz collection in the last six months: purchasing boxes to move the music to Carleton University and packing and transporting the LPs. (He even used one of the sixty empty cardboard boxes as a startling musical instrument at the 2013 IMOOfest [review])

“I feel like Carleton will now have one of the best collections of any Canadian university in terms of recorded jazz.”

Read more: Jacques Emond's jazz recordings play on, at Carleton University


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