On September 8, Ottawa artist, composer, percussionist, instrument builder, writer and music educator Jesse Stewart will mark the passing of time – the 20-year life of the Guelph Jazz Festival - with Gnomon Variations, his specially commissioned piece for drumset and strings.
It's an exciting, creative opportunity for Stewart. He's had a long-standing interest in time, expressed in both the visual and musical arts, in addition to participating in the Guelph Jazz festival (GJF) since its first year.
"One of the things connecting my work in the visual and sonic arts is my ongoing interest in different representations and conceptions of time," Stewart told OttawaJazzScene.ca.
The Guelph Jazz Festival could not have found a more enthusiastic timekeeper. For the 2000 festival, Stewart was commissioned to create a multi-media jazz opera that “would serve as a sort of meditation on improvisation, impermanence, and the passage of time.” His first solo visual and musical exhibit, “Wheels of Time” followed at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in 2003. In 2011, he presented his first solo visual art exhibit at a major Ottawa art gallery: “Time Pieces”. It examined time in innovative ways, including both visually and musically.
“I was thinking of this idea of marking time, anniversaries and so on, and that's really where the genesis of the idea for the piece came from,” Stewart said. “The piece for me is about how we measure time, how we keep time, how we mark time, musically and otherwise.”
A gelato café is not the first place you'd check to hear hot jazz – but Stella Luna on Bank Street in Ottawa South has been offering a steadily increasing variety of jazz (and other music) on Sunday evenings. The Ottawa Folklore Centre Jazz Band broke the ice there in 2011, and over the last year more musicians have been showing up to entertain those waiting in line for gelato or sitting enjoying it.
Bassist Marc Decho tried out a new combination at the café on August 25, with guitarist Lucas Haneman and drummer Michel Delage. Despite never having played as a trio before, they easily slipped into a comfortable groove, performing and deconstructing Latin and jazz standards and adding their own improvisations on top. Decho and Haneman clearly had a great time playing off each other, especially when Haneman pulled out his mandolin and they traded fast riffs.– Alayne McGregor
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet Tribute to Dave Brubeck
Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Place des Arts
Montreal Jazz Festival
Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.
The late Dave Brubeck was always special to the Montreal Jazz Festival, and founder Alain Simard recognized that at the closing concert of the 2013 festival.
Before the concert started, Simard walked on-stage to pay tribute to the pianist and composer: “un grand ami du festival”, who even sent him Christmas cards. Brubeck performed 13 times at the festival, starting in 1981, with everything from his trio to a big band to symphony orchestras. His last appearance was in 2011.
This tribute featured two of Brubeck's four musician sons: Chris on electric bass and trombone, and Dan on drums, plus their regular collaborators Mike DeMicco on guitar, and Chuck Lamb on keyboards. This was particularly fitting because Dave Brubeck often included one or more of his sons in his performances starting in the 1960s. In fact, at Brubeck's very first Montreal jazz festival concert in 1981, Chris played trombone in his quartet.
But the tribute also included three stellar Montreal jazz musicians: Chet Doxas on saxophone, Adrian Vedady on double bass, and notably Lorraine Desmarais on piano, who played in the big band Diva in their two festival concerts with Brubeck in 1999. Adding those three to the Montreal concert was an inspired choice: their musicianship, enthusiasm, and new approaches enlivened and enhanced the concert.
Updated August 27, 2013
Orchestre national de jazz Montréal
Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Place des Arts
Montreal Jazz Festival
Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.
Montreal has a wealth of big bands, and an abundance of musicians accustomed to performing in big bands. Vic Vogel, Christine Jensen, Joe Sullivan, and Lorraine Desmarais: all those prominent musicians lead big bands. Plus there's the Montreal All-City Big Band, and many university and high school jazz bands. More than in most cities, there's a culture of enjoying large-scale jazz music.
And now there's another: the Orchestre national de jazz Montréal, which had its debut performance at the 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival, and which is scheduled to play monthly concerts at L'Astral starting in September.
The 16-piece orchestra is led by Christine Jensen, and includes a fine selection of Montreal jazz musicians, all but three of whom I recognized. It aims to provide “jazz creators with a permanent place where they can fully express their talent and creativity”, as well as to present the wide range of orchestral jazz music being written around the world.
Its inaugural concert started with three pieces by Quebec jazz composers – Jensen, Jean-Nicolas Trottier, and Marianne Trudel – each about 15 minutes long. Each was rearranged to take advantage of the greater number of voices in this band; there was much interplay in the arrangements, particularly in Trottier's piece. Frank Lozano's hard-edged saxophone started it off, but then a wide variety of instruments (notably André Leroux's flute) added considerable texture and layering to the thoughtful piece.
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Saturday, August 3, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.
Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Jayme Stone about this concert and his new CD: Jayme Stone expands the horizons of the banjo, along with his favourite musicians
The only problem with Jayme Stone's performance at Chamberfest was that it was too short.
In the 60 minutes allocated to him, Stone and his musicians played music from three of his four albums, plus a tip-of-the-hat to Chamberfest with a Bach suite. But there simply wasn't time to play the concerto which is the centerpiece of his just-released album, The Other Side of the Air. The concerto would have admirably suited the location and audience, and I was looking forward to hearing it live.
Regardless, the show was a good introduction to Stone, his original approach to the banjo, his genre-bending music, and the fine jazz musicians he plays with. It was well-paced and diverse, with Stone providing explanations and background for the music, and creating a strong connection with the audience.
The banjo has been pigeonholed as a bluegrass, Americana, or Dixieland instrument: Béla Fleck tore big holes in those barriers several decades ago, and Stone has continued that progress. Stone has reenvisioned the banjo as a simply a resonant, stringed instrument, and imagined new contexts for it: West African rhythms, music inspired by world folk dances, baroque classical music, and definitely jazz.
The Lemon Bucket Orkestra
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Saturday, August 3, 2013 – 11 p.m.
The Lemon Bucket Orkestra is a large group of musicians from Toronto – some of whom also play jazz – who play music inspired by folk dances and songs from Eastern Europe. They sing in Ukrainian, Roumanian, Slovakian, and other languages, accompanied by a wide variety of brass and woodwind instruments (including sousaphone), accordion, fiddle, Jews-harp, and a few I'd never seen before.
That description sounds very earnest, which is totally incorrect: the Orkestra is about as crowd-pleasing as you can get, mugging for the listeners, dancing all about about the stage (one of its members, Stephania Woloshyn, is a talented folk and belly dancer as well as a singer), and performing with a great deal of oompah. They are seriously wild men and women.
Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 10 p.m.
As the last notes of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” died out, Phil Dwyer told the audience that the root of the word “improvise” is “to improve”. And because neither he nor Don Thompson thought they could really improve on that particular tune, they simply played it straight – expressively, intently, and with just a little bit of an edge to offset its sweetness. They found the core of the tune, and the result was stunning.
Dwyer and Thompson have been playing jazz together for 31 years, in a wide variety of groups. They've just released their first duo album, Look for the Silver Lining [Triplet Records, 2013], and brought selections from it, plus a few more favourite standards, to an almost-completely full house at Chamberfest.
The lower hall at St. Brigid's is an intimate space with good acoustics, and neither Thompson at the grand piano nor Dwyer on tenor sax needed amplification. It also made for an informal, late-night vibe, with Dwyer easily chatting with the audience and describing the connections they had with each song. He said he'd only chosen the set list five minutes before the show – but that was the benefit of them performing together for so many years!
The moment I heard the opening number, “You Make Me Feel So Young”, I thought of Frank Sinatra, who made that song famous. It was more than that, though: the swinging vibe and Dwyer's dancing sax lines reminded me of Sinatra's full-bodied vocal style. And Dwyer confirmed the connection to the audience later: one of the first times he and Thompson played together, he put on a Frank Sinatra CD on the drive from the ferry to the gig. When they started the drive, they had no idea what they were going to play; when they reached the hall, they just played all the songs on the CD! And ever since then, he said they usually have a few Frank Sinatra numbers in the repertoire. This was a joyful rendition, with both playing around a bit with the tune.
Updated September 23, 2013
The second annual IMOOfest will be held this year from November 8 to 10. Ottawa's premiere festival of improvised and avant-garde music will be held in a new location: GigSpace (on Gladstone Avenue near Little Italy).
Headlining artists so far announced include
- the IMOO Chamber Orchestra, and
- Jean Martin & Christine Duncan
- Accordion Conspiracy (with Bernard Stepien and David Broscoe)
- Ellwood Epps and Joshua Zubot’s “Land of Marigold”
The Titanium Riot is no longer scheduled to appear.
The concert will also mark the release of the third IMOO CD: Other People’s Art, featuring Craig Pedersen, David Broscoe, Mark Molnar, and Scott Warren. They will play original compositions inspired by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and John Cage.
IMOO is also looking for volunteers to help put on the festival, and for donations. More info at www.improvisedmoo.com/ .
The first IMOOfest in October 2012 attracted good crowds to hear local and imported jazz improvisers play a wide variety of free jazz, ranging from electronics, to an improvised orchestra, to Lori Freedman showing the amazing sounds one can coax out of clarinet and bass clarinet.
Trumpeter Paul Tynan has seen big band music from both the Canadian and American sides of the border – and the styles aren't always the same.
“There's a lot of different influences in Canada than you find in the States,” he said, such as Canadians Rob McConnell (who led and composed and arranged for his legendary Boss Brass in Toronto for decades), and Kenny Wheeler (who rewrote big band music in the 70s into a much more harmonically dense and richly textured form).
“You don't see a lot of those influences heavily in the States.”
Instead, he said, there's the tradition of the Count Basie Band, as well as the influence of Bob Brookmeyer, and a lot of outgrowth of the music of Gil Evans. “Even though he is a Canadian, I don't hear much influence of Gil Evans on a lot of the Canadian composers living in Canada as you do with the American composers or the ex-pats.”
“I guess [Canadian big band music] has got a unique sound to it, a truly Canadian sound.”
You can judge where Tynan himself fits in tonight, when the faculty big band band at the Carleton University Jazz Camp will play a concert of Tynan's big band compositions.
Horace Silver Tribute
Carleton University Jazz Camp
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 7 p.m.
“If you're in a bad mood, just put on a Horace Silver record and you'll feel better.”
That was Mark Ferguson's prescription Wednesday night, as he explained how much he enjoyed the music by the hard bop pianist and composer, and how he'd been wanting to put on a tribute to Silver for a long time. Ferguson chose and arranged all the music for the Wednesday concert by faculty at the Carleton University Jazz Camp, and had a big smile on his face at the end of the evening.
Silver is best known for his up-tempo instrumental jazz numbers, and there were certainly lots of those. But Ferguson also chose some slower ballads, and showed off Silver's talent for writing lyrics as well. He also picked primarily less-well-known pieces, but ones which were well worth the introduction.
The Element Choir
Dominion Chalmers United Church
Friday, August 2, 2013 - noon
Ottawa City Hall
Thursday, August 1, 2013 - noon
“Let's see what happens.”
That's how Christine Duncan commenced the Element Choir's noon-hour performance Friday at Chamberfest. It was an unconventional and unpredictable choir performance – no scores, almost no words, and most importantly, completely improvised.
But what wasn't surprising, for those who have heard the choir before, was that the resulting music was often beautiful, interestingly textured, and unexpected – and repaid careful listening.
On the extended large stage in the church were 55 singers, raised up on several rows on risers, with Duncan in front conducting them, and three musicians: Jim Lewis on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jean Martin on drums, and Veryan Weston from England playing the church's huge pipe organ.
- Henrique Cazes and Sambacana fill St. Brigid's with gentle Brazilian rhythms (review)
- Jayme Stone expands the horizons of the banjo, along with his favourite musicians
- Scott Thomson explains how he fills large spaces with resonant sound
- The Jesse Stewart Trio sparks everyone's imagination (review)
- Montréal Guitare Trio starts Chamberfringe on a strong note (review)
- Renée Yoxon and her Gentlemen Friends swing the park (review)
- Three young musicians bring new music and their new experiences back to Ottawa
- Joel Miller and Honeycomb at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)
- Caridad Cruz and Miguel de Armas ignite their audience
- Trifolia: adventurous jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)
- Kellylee Evans charms Montreal audience with hip-hop and jazz (review)
- Prairie jazz wins the Grand Prix de Jazz (review)
- Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates 20th Anniversary with World Artist Summit Sep 3-8
- Ten Years of the Triplets of Belleville, in Ottawa et Montreal (review)
- Finding the patterns in Tim Berne's free jazz (review)
- A romantic evening: The Thomas Enhco Trio and the Steve Kuhn Trio at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)
- Christine Jensen, Ingrid Jensen, Gary Versace at the Montreal Jazz Festival (review)
- 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival celebrates pianists – and the late Dave Brubeck
- Almonte's JazzN announces new house concerts, reflects on successful first year
- AlphaSoul jazzfest jams get jammed
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