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.
Three 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.
“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.
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.
Oliver Jones Trio
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.
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).
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.”
There will be no Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year and there are no plans to replace it.
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 OttawaJazzScene.ca.
“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.
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:
- Jazz cellist Andrew Downing explores Turkish music
- the Sicilian Jazz Project teams up with Franco-Italian singer Pilar
- Tim Brady performs 24 Frames for video and electric guitar
- the Campbell/Afiara Project brings a lush chamber sound to jazz and Brazilian choro
- Tiempo Libre combines Afro-Cuban jazz with Bach, and
- Ottawa composer Jesse Stewart goes off-planet.
“I'm thrilled to be able to have a number of very cool jazz components at this festival,” Chamberfest artistic director Roman Borys told OttawaJazzScene.ca 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.
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 OttawaJazzScene.ca.
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.”
For more than a dozen years, jazz bassist John Geggie has brought superb jazz players from Canada and the world to play together in new combinations. Tonight in Ottawa at the NAC Fourth Stage, and tomorrow afternoon in Kingston, is the latest – and perhaps last – in this long-running series of concerts.
But if it is, he's leaving with a great lineup, with many Juno-award-winning Canadian jazz musicians. Geggie has played with every one of them at a previous concert in his series, some several times.
Saxophonists Christine Jensen (2014 Juno) and Joel Miller (2013 Juno), and pianist David Braid (2012 Juno) are all well-known as ground-breaking composers as well as instrumentalists. Trumpeter and composer Jim Lewis is a frequent face in Ottawa, performing with Geggie and with Christine Duncan, and is a long-time instructor at the JazzWorks Jazz Camp. Drummer Ted Warren has played in many memorable concerts here.
The one thing you can guarantee about a Geggie Invitational concert is that it won't just be a collection of greatest hits. Each musician contributes music, but the group reworks it and gives it new interpretations. As Geggie said in an email, “Ultimately, I simply wanted to put together a fun band of friends and create some creative music.”
– Alayne McGregor
Omer Klein and Haggai Cohen-Milo
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.
One piano. One double bass. And they so filled the Fourth Stage to the walls with melody and layers of sound that nothing more was needed.
This show was pianist Omer Klein's debut performance in Canada. He made the most of it with an exhilarating and intense presentation, which clearly showed his strong and longstanding connection with bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo. The two were in constant visual and musical communication, trading off the lead and reacting to each other's ideas – important given the amount of improvisation they included in the music.
Klein was touring to support his latest album, To the Unknown [Plus Loin Music, 2013], and started the show with the first two pieces from that album. “Fear of Heights” began with repeated circling patterns and then developed into a flowing, classically-influenced melody, almost like a lullaby. “Bliss” started off in a jazzier mood, with a strong initial riff on both instruments; it then added more texture with flurries of notes, glissandos, fast repeated riffs (bass against piano), and staccato interludes – accented by occasional foot stomps from Klein.
The title of “Modesty” reflected the fact it was based on seven different modes – but also that it was a “modest attempt” by a composer to understand he can't come up with a better melody that would be produced by improvisation, Klein told the audience. The actual composition is just a list of chords and a bass line, without a specified melody, he said; the version he played wasn't going to sound like the piece on the album. This version opened in a more quiet, stately manner, and the melody progressed thoughtfully, exploring variations, before slowly diminishing into a stream of individual sparkling notes.Klein studied jazz at the New England Conservatory of Music, and privately with renowned pianists Danilo Perez and Fred Hersch. His compositions and improvisational style are clearly in the modern piano jazz tradition: multi-layered, strongly improvisational, and unpredictable with contrasting melodies and rhythms. In fact, he noted that he often doesn't even pick which song to play next before he sits back on the piano bench.
At Omer Klein's concert Wednesday night, you'll hear the result of a life-long love affair with the piano.
The Israeli-born jazz pianist, who studied in the U.S. with Fred Hersch and Danilo Perez, was immediately transfixed when, as a child, he saw a piano being played for the first time.
“It wasn't so much that the specific music did anything to me, it was just the sound of the instrument, and also the look – the black and white keys. It became very, very clear to me that I must press these keys. I don't know a better way to put it. I just felt very strongly that I needed to do that.”
His concert at the NAC Fourth Stage is the start of an eight-date cross-country tour, from Ottawa to Victoria. It will be his Canadian debut, the first time he has played here despite being introduced to jazz by an Oscar Peterson CD.
The piano will be up-front throughout: on the stage will just be Klein on piano and his long-time musical collaborator, Haggai Cohen-Milo, on double bass. No effects, just the natural sound of the instruments.
“The piano, it's such an amazing instrument. It's so open. It's inviting the pianist to find his or her way to create nuance, to get colours out of the instrument. It's really capable of a wide area of colours and nuance, and I don't think that any effects are necessary.”
He and Cohen-Milo “use a very wide variety of textures when we play, so there is a lot of interplay going on and listening to each other and reacting to each other. The melody can jump around in any direction, harmonies are played by everyone. So it's creating rich textures.”
Klein, who now lives in Germany, has toured worldwide, and released five albums. The latest consists of all originals and features his trio, with Cohen-Milo and drummer Ziv Ravitz. He calls the compositions on the album “songs”, and emphasizes they could be sung, hummed, or even whistled. “They have this kind of lyrical quality.”
“I think my first inspirations as a musician were songs, the human voice singing a three-minute song. That's what I heard first. I discovered jazz later and I discovered the classical instrumental music later. I just think that really emotionally I'm based in that, in song.”
But at the same time he stresses that he and Cohen-Milo are jazz musicians, and how important improvisation is to their performances.
The Mash Potato Mashers will parade for their final time on Friday, April 4, after four years of never standing still.
Masher leader Mike Essoudry told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the April 4 gig at Irene's Pub – where the band was a perennial favourite – would be the band's last.
“It was a great run, a great time. We had a [cross-Canada] tour, records. It was really fun. And I thought, if it's not going to be that fun and we can't work on stuff, then we can stop.”
One consistent description of the eight-piece marching band has been “fun”. No sitting down and looking serious. No sheet music (they memorize their entire repertoire). In performance they're constantly on the move, whether playing in the street at jazz festivals or shimmying through local clubs, and making the audience laugh with their musical and non-musical antics.
But managing a band that size is “difficult”, Essoudry said. “It used to be very easy, at the beginning of that band: the organization was easy, the gigs were very easy. It was easy to do the work when stuff was coming in; it was really great."
“But it was just getting harder and it was getting stressful for me to think about it. I'd get a call for a gig and then I'd email people and then I wouldn't get replies for days. And it's like I can't be chasing people. So that got a little frustrating that way. And I know people are busy: I know two kids have been born in the time and things have happened. Craig [Pedersen] has moved to Montreal, and the first drummer quit the band.”
He decided now was the time to leave. “But it was great. We had a really great time. It was fun; it was a good thing. It was a unique thing for Ottawa.”
- Steve Berndt and Brian Browne turn tasty leftovers into gold with "All Over Again"
- The Roddy Ellias Trio never stops talking with their music (video)
- Bumpin' Binary grooves on organ and drums
- The Adam Saikaley Quintet brings Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro to vivid life
- Beeched Wailers open a new jazz jam at the Rochester Pub & Eatery
- 2React takes hip-hop back to its roots in jazz
- Jesse Stewart brings renowned improviser William Parker to Ottawa for innovative concerts and lectures
- Jesse Stewart talks about the challenges of making music outdoors at -25C (video)
- After 30 years playing jazz, Phil Dwyer is going to law school
- Phil Dwyer Trio energizes BDT with a compelling collaboration (review)
- Three standing ovations for Jérôme Beaulieu Trio's first show outside Québec
- Café Nostalgica is bringing back jazz nights
- Matt Dusk and Molly Johnson to celebrate Christmas with the NAC Orchestra
- A Jazzy March in Ottawa-Gatineau
- Jérôme Beaulieu meets his audiences half-way, with melodic and unexpected jazz
- Jesse Stewart brings Jane Bunnett, one of his favourite musicians, to Ottawa
- Tonight is the last night for the iconic Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver
- Warm and sincere, Denzal Sinclaire wows the orchestra audience
- Denzal Sinclaire pays tribute to his musical hero Nat King Cole - with orchestra
- Once a year, Michael Pytura celebrates his favourite big band jazz singers
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