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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


John Geggie reunites with favourite Canadians for an Invitational concert tonight

John Geggie and Christine Jensen take a moment to go over the music they will play tonight at the NAC 4th Stage © Brett Delmage, 2014For 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

Read more: John Geggie reunites with favourite Canadians for an Invitational concert tonight


Omer Klein gave an exhilarating and intense performance for his Canadian debut

Omer Klein ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Omer Klein and Haggai Cohen-Milo
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Ottawa, Canada
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

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.

Read more: Omer Klein gave an exhilarating and intense performance for his Canadian debut


Omer Klein's lifelong love affair with the piano ... and improvisation

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.”

Omer Klein (photo provided by the artist).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.

Read more: Omer Klein's lifelong love affair with the piano ... and improvisation


The Mash Potato Mashers parade for their final time

The Mash Potato Mashers will parade for their final time on Friday, April 4, after four years of never standing still.

Mike Essoudry leads the Mashers in a crowd-pleasing outdoor concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival ©Alayne McGregor, 2012

Masher leader Mike Essoudry told 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.”

Read more: The Mash Potato Mashers parade for their final time


Steve Berndt and Brian Browne turn tasty leftovers into gold with "All Over Again"

The musical connection between pianist Brian Browne and vocalist Steve Berndt is immediately apparent. Walking into the piano showroom where I was to meet them, I could see Browne playing the piano, Berndt listening intently, with obvious enjoyment. As we talked, they amplified each others' comments, and laughed and joked together.

This Friday at the NAC Fourth Stage, they release their second album as a duo: All Over Again. It's a direct sequel to 2012's Déjà Vu, and even the album titles are linked. As Berndt explains, it's two halves of a quote from baseball great Yogi Berra: “It's déjà vu all over again”.

Four of the songs, all jazz standards, were recorded in 2012; others were recorded recently.

“Some of the tracks that we recorded in the original Déjà Vu sessions were very good, and I had to make a decision about having an album with 17 or 18 songs on it,” Berndt said. And so I made some decisions about what would be on Déjà Vu, and there's always been these extra tracks.”

“And so I began thinking it would be good to do a bookend album using those tracks, and also to have the chance to record with Brian again. So that's part of the reason I named it All Over Again. So all I had to do was to write a song called 'All Over Again' that was worth listening to and good.”

The bookend theme extends to the cover art. Both CD covers feature piano keyboards, but All Over Again is in ivory and gold, contrasting with Déjà Vu's black and white.

Read the full interview


The Roddy Ellias Trio never stops talking with their music (video)

Roddy Ellias and Adrian Vedady at GigSpace. © Brett Delmage, 2013

Ottawa guitarist and composer Roddy Ellias has left audiences in both Ottawa and Montreal absorbed and delighted by his live music with his trio. This month Ellias, bassist Adrian Vedady, and drummer Thom Gossage are putting out their first CD as a group, Monday's Dream. They're marking the occasion with a CD release concert in Ottawa on March 22 and in Montreal on March 30.

The trio recorded the album starting last December, and prepared for it with a well-received concert at GigSpace in November. interviewed Ellias after the concert about his music, and you see highlights from their concert and that interview in our video below.

   – Brett Delmage

You can hear samples from the Monday's Dream and purchase tracks or the whole album at

See's interview with Roddy about the upcoming CD, and our photos and story about their last Ottawa concert:

Watch the video


Bumpin' Binary grooves on organ and drums

On Thursday, the stone pillars in the basement of the old Ottawa jail will reflect a double groove.

Mike Essoudry ©Brett Delmage, 2013Mike Essoudry and Don Cummings have formed a new group called Bumpin' Binary: a minimalist configuration of just drums and Hammond organ. But Essoudry says that will be quite enough to fill the space with “funky jazz music”.

“It's a great sound. You have everything there. You have the bass, you have the melody and stuff, and you have the drums. You have this big sound that's possible there, and pretty full for two people.”

But they're adding another voice as well: Petr Cancura will be guesting on tenor sax, just as he did at the duo's first show a month ago. That show attracted a packed house, with strong applause and even a few dancers.

The names spill out from Essoudry as he gets enthusiastic about the heritage of organ music in jazz: John Patton, Jimmy Smith, Lonnie Smith, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes.

“So there's a bunch of people like that, a whole set of organ players who played jazz. But it's more of a heavy sound of jazz. It's funkier; it swings as well.”

But most specifically, the duo of jazz organist Larry Young and drummer Elvin Jones, and Young's 1966 album, Unity, on which they do an organ/drums duo of “Monk's Dream”. When Essoudry heard that track, “at that point, I said, I know that this is possible, and it's a great sound.”

Read more: Bumpin' Binary grooves on organ and drums


The Adam Saikaley Quintet brings Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro to vivid life

View photos of the performance

Filles de Kilimanjaro was a key album for trumpeter Miles Davis. Released in 1968, it was a transition between his mainstream quartet albums of the previous decade and the fusion style which dominated much of his further work.

Adam Saikaley and his quintet rearranged Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro with care, replacing trumpet with guitar, and tenor with alto sax, for their show at the Manx. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

It's also one of Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley's favourite jazz albums, and he's always regretted the fact it's not better known. So he decided to remedy this by playing it live with his own quintet.

Not straight note-for-note, though: Saikaley wasn't going to pretend that he was Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock. And while the rhythm section (Saikaley on electric piano, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Marc Decho on electric bass) were playing the same instruments as on the album, the other two weren't. Linsey Wellman played alto sax and Alex Moxon played electric guitar, instead of the tenor sax and trumpet that were on the album.

Saikaley's group has played the album twice so far: a shortened version as part of a multi-group show at Pressed on February 8, and then the full version at the Manx on March 9. The Manx show attracted a standing-room-only crowd, almost all of whom were focused on the stage. They loudly applauded during and at the end of the show.

One advantage of choosing this album, Saikaley pointed out, was that listeners wouldn't have as many preconceptions of the music as they would, for example, with Kind of Blue, and could listen to it with open ears.

He said the members of the quintet all contributed to rearranging the five pieces on the record for the new instrumentation. Throughout the show you could see the musicians checking the extensive scores for the new arrangements. They ended up slightly extending the music: 65 minutes for the Manx live version, compared to 56 minutes on the Miles Davis recording.

Read more: 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

View photos of the jam

A cozy and unpretentious pub in Centretown West was packed for Ottawa's newest jazz jam on Tuesday, March 4.

Beeched Wailers' Tyler Harris, Nicholas Dyson, and Dave Schroeder helped launch a new jazz jam on Tuesday. It attracted a pub full of enthusiastic players and listeners on its first night. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Trumpeter Nicholas Dyson brought his new quintet, The Beeched Wailers, to host the jam at the Rochester Pub & Eatery. For the jam's first night, they opened with a varied repertoire: pieces by well-known jazz instrumentalists including Steve Kuhn and Thelonious Monk, and two originals by Dyson and pianist Steve Boudreau.

The notes of the opening piece, Joe Henderson's “Recorda Me”, were only heard by a sparse audience, but by 10 p.m. the bar had started to fill, mostly with local professional and amateur jazz musicians, including some students. The pub's kitchen was open late, allowing hungry participants to fill their stomachs with burgers and fries as well as their ears with music.

The jam in the second set featured many musicians circling on and off the stage. Highlights included an intimate and expressive version of Duke Ellington's “In a Sentimental Mood” by vocalist Marcie Campbell, and Tariq Amery's intense flute solos and duets with Dyson on “Oleo”. The jam closed at 12:30 a.m. with the quintet (which also includes drummer Michel Delage, saxophonist Tyler Harris, and bassist Dave Schroeder) up again playing a propulsive and tight version of “Sticks” by Cannonball Adderley.

Read more: Beeched Wailers open a new jazz jam at the Rochester Pub & Eatery


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