Tuesday, August 04, 2015
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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 OttawaJazzScene.ca 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 OttawaJazzScene.ca'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


Ottawa jazz groups have a new showcase at The Record Centre

A new showcase for local jazz groups has popped up in Hintonburg.

The Adam Saikaley Trio attracted listeners of all ages to hear its jazz interpretations of hip-hop at The Record Centre on February 8. ©Alayne McGregor, 2015The Record Centre, a store which sells vinyl, CDs, and vintage audio equipment, started offering regular jazz shows at the end of 2014, and plans to continue offering them at least every month.

Their next show is on Saturday, March 21 at 6 p.m., with the Sunburst Ensemble (with Pierre Chrétien, Alex Bilodeau, and Michel Delage) playing original music drawing from jazz, funk, and Afrobeat.

Record Centre owner John Thompson said the store wanted to support local musicians. “We still feel like we're building something, so hopefully people will come out and catch some live music.”

Over the past few years, the store has occasionally featured local indie/pop groups, he said, but last year it doubled in size, expanding into the storefront next door. The new location is “a good place to see a band – the acoustics in this room are incredible.”

“I think it started [because local jazz musician] Mark Ferguson shops here, looks at records. We were always joking that 'You're going to play in the store one day' – and he wanted to once we moved here. So he was almost the first jazz band.”

Read more: Ottawa jazz groups have a new showcase at The Record Centre


David Braid and Mike Rud each transfix the audience with their individual visions (review)

There's nothing quite as vibrant or intense as a live performance – as you could see from the transfixed faces of the audience at the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday.

On stage were two ensembles featuring Canadian jazz musicians. Guitarist Mike Rud and vocalist Sienna Dahlen opened the show as a duo; they were followed by pianist David Braid with the Penderecki String Quartet. Although they played very different material, both groups quickly captured the audience's interest and were warmly applauded throughout.

Mike Rud and Sienna Dahlen capture vignettes of Montreal

Mike Rud and Sienna Dahlen paid tribute to Montreal through songs inspired by its famous writers. ©2015 Brett DelmageIt's been a year since Rud won the Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album for his Notes on Montreal CD. But this was the first time in Ottawa that he had presented songs from the album in their final version, and performed it with Dahlen, his close collaborator. They were clearly very much at ease with each other and with the music.

They opened with “Florentine”, a song inspired by Gabrielle Roy's famous novel, The Tin Flute. Accompanied by tango-like rhythms on guitar, Dahlen's fluid vocals expressively told the story of poverty and desperation. “Streetcar 55” was happier and jazzier, with both Rud and Dahlen scatting at different times, while “LaPointe's Beat” (which Rud sang alone) was a simple slice of life through the eyes of a fictional detective, with a nicely-evoked film noir feel.

I particularly enjoyed Dahlen's singing on “Smoked Meat and The Main”. She hit exactly the right tone with her limpid vocals evoking the melancholy in Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version. The following song, “Parc La Fontaine”, she treated almost as an art song, her rounded notes capturing a moment in a well-beloved part of Montreal.

Read more: David Braid and Mike Rud each transfix the audience with their individual visions (review)


Jane Bunnett and Maqueque win 2015 Juno Award

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque brought Cuban heat to GigSpace last July ©Brett Delmage, 2014Updated March 15,  2015
Jane Bunnett
has been a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of Cuban jazz and Cuban musicians for decades. On Saturday, that support again bore fruit as she and her group Maqueque won the 2015 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year: Group.

The jazz and other genre music awards were handed out on Saturday, March 14, in Hamilton, Ontario. Other, mostly pop-oriented, awards were revealed on March 15.

Maqueque is an all-female group of young, energetic Cuban musicians, plus Bunnett. They released their first, self-titled, album last June to excellent reviews. Their series of four CD release concerts at GigSpace in early July were extremely warmly received by Ottawa audiences. OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed Bunnett about Maqueque in June.

Bunnett has won four previous Junos, in 1993, 2001, 2006, and 2009. The first three were also for albums featuring Cuban-influenced jazz.

Other jazz or improvised music artists taking home Juno awards this year included:

Read more: Jane Bunnett and Maqueque win 2015 Juno Award


David Braid's music was inspired by 30,000-year-old cave paintings

When Toronto jazz pianist David Braid saw the film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, it touched him on many levels, and made him reflect on how he composed music and communicated with his audience

It also inspired “Chauvet”, the piano and strings composition which is the centrepiece of his National Arts Centre concert Saturday.

The Werner Herzog movie is about the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave in southern France, which contains some of the oldest and most vividly beautiful and expressive cave art in the world. Paintings in the cave have been dated to as old as 32,000 years ago; when discovered in 1994, they had not been disturbed for 27,000 years. Only archaeologists and scientists can work in the cave in order to preserve the art, but in 2010, Herzog and his three-person crew were allowed very limited access over six days to film their documentary.

When the movie reached Toronto in 2011, Braid went to see it – and again, and again.

“There's this friend of mine whenever he says I should go see a movie – and he doesn't say it too often – I know there's a reason why I should go see this movie. So he's like, 'You should go see Cave of Forgotten Dreams'. And oh, OK, fine, I'm going. Because I know something heavy is going to happen. But still I didn't know much about the film.”

“I don't even know how to describe it in words, but that film had very special impact on me for a few different reasons, some which I can articulate and some which I can't. Among the things I can talk about, probably the first thing that hit me was the realization that experiencing these paintings through this film allowed me to have some shared imagination space with these artists who lived in this particular part of Europe tens of thousands of years ago. Now I have this strange kind of connection to them!”

Read more: David Braid's music was inspired by 30,000-year-old cave paintings


Mike Rud tasted the depths of a city in Notes on Montreal

Mike Rud took his obsession with a city, a Don Quixote-like quest, and his daughters' bed-time stories, and turned them into a Juno-winning album.

You can hear the results Saturday, as Rud showcases his album, Notes on Montreal, in a concert at the National Arts Centre. It's the first time that he'll present it in Ottawa in its final form, and the first time he's played the material here since it won a Juno in 2014 for best Vocal Jazz Album.

"Notes on Montreal" CD cover. Painting by Mark Lang.

The show will be simpler than the album – just Rud on guitar and Sienna Dahlen singing the lyrics. But it will still reflect how much Rud has been obsessed by the city of Montreal in the 16 years he's lived there, and how he captured the city and its people in music.

Read about Mike Rud's newest solo project in our linked story.

“I feel that I really had to say that album. I was really haunted by the place. I moved here [to Montreal] first in the late 80s and did an undergrad here, and then moved away, went to the west coast, went to New York, came back and did a graduate degree, and then moved back to the west coast and then moved to Ottawa for a few years, and then came back.”

“And every time I was gone from Montreal, I'd miss it fiercely. Just a sort of raging nostalgia for the place. That's why, when I got the idea, I think I was on to something about who I am as a person. I needed to take the long, long, long hours and walk around St. Henri and think about what the city had meant. I think it's partially because I'm from the West, and in Edmonton, a lot of the structures went up during the oil boom. It doesn't have ghosts the way this place does. And I was transfixed by that.”

Rud didn't just use his own impressions of the city, however. Over a period of four years, from 2009 until he recorded the CD in 2013, he read dozens of novels and plays by Québeçois authors, in both English and French. Those books then inspired almost all the songs on the album.

Read more: Mike Rud tasted the depths of a city in Notes on Montreal


Nick Fraser and Tony Malaby: improvising at the edges of compositions (video)

When Toronto (and ex-Ottawa) drummer Nick Fraser released his CD, Towns and Villages, with NYC saxophonist Tony Malaby two years ago, it turned out to be the start of a very fruitful musical relationship.

Nick Fraser Quartet at GigSpace  ©2013 Brett Delmage

Together with cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton, they're now on their third tour together, with a stop tonight in Ottawa at the Raw Sugar Café as part of the IMOO series.

On their second tour, OttawaJazzScene.ca filmed the group in concert at GigSpace, and interviewed Fraser about his compositions and how the group interprets and improvises on them. It's an experience he enthuses about: "It's pretty exciting for me to play my music with these guys who I admire so much. It's a dream for me, honestly,"

Our video story includes excerpts from the GigSpace show and the interview with Fraser.

    – Brett Delmage

See the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Fraser about the album: Nick Fraser's CD is full of resonances [2013].

Watch the video

Watch the video


Mike Essoudry brings groove and care to his sextet show Thursday

One of Ottawa's busiest jazz musicians returns to one of his favourite roles on Thursday – as a large ensemble composer and bandleader – after a break of five years.

Drummer Mike Essoudry will bring a stack of new compositions to the NAC Fourth Stage that evening, along with a new sextet to perform them. In February, 2010, he appeared there in a similar concert with his former octet.

Mike Essoudry reviews music at his septet performance at le Petit Chicago ©2010 Brett DelmageIt's an evening he's been planning for a long time. He wrote most of the music at least two years ago, he booked the hall last August, and he's been working with the musicians for several months. But that's Essoudry's style: lots of preparation to get everything just right.

“I remember that with the octet, it was always, 'OK is this going to be a train-wreck?' Because we'd have one rehearsal for these eight people for fairly complex things. So it was always tough for me because I'm always listening because I can hear it all. It's like, 'OK, how do I get to signal people from the drumkit – you need to be here, you need to be here.' How do I do that, on stage, performing?”

But he's a lot more secure with this group because they've had enough time to work together: “That means when I go to play the drums, I feel really comfortable playing my own music. I'm not too too worried about everybody else. That's nice.”

The group is all musicians from Ottawa, whom Essoudry has played with before in many different contexts. He picked them very deliberately to get the exact mix of sounds he needed for the music.

“It's not enough that this is a great player ... I mean everybody's a great player in this band. But I was really thinking about the sound.”

Read more: Mike Essoudry brings groove and care to his sextet show Thursday


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