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Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura

A Filetta – Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura
Studio Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Studio
Thursday, June 25, 2015 – 7 p.m.

From the Ottawa Jazz Festival's description, you might have reasonably concluded that this concert was an improvised jazz duet between Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and bandoneon player Daniele di Bonaventura, with some choral singing in the background.

Not quite.

A Filetta, a six-member a cappella male choir from Corsica, was front and centre on the Studio stage, and took the majority of the concert's time and attention. Fresu and di Bonaventura were primarily accompanying or soloing around their voices, and there were many times when only the choir was heard.

The choir, which formed in 1978, sings in Corsican, with the objective of saving that island's oral patrimony. In 2006, they first performed with Fresu and di Bonaventura. They all released an album together on ECM in 2011: Mistico Mediterraneo.

Read more: Too much choir, not enough jazz: A Filetta, Paolo Fresu & Daniele di Bonaventura

 

Kyle Shepherd plays with unexpected rhythms in his piano trio concert (review)

Kyle Shepherd Trio
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, June 26, 2015 – 8 p.m.

The South African pianist Kyle Shepherd, who is not yet 30, has garnered a great deal of attention in his short career – including at this concert, which was completely sold out. The lobby outside the Fourth Stage was a zoo, with many listeners I had not previously seen at jazzfest concerts, including one man in floor-length African tribal dress.

The concert was part of the festival's five-show South Africa NOW! Series, and was introduced by South Africa's High Commissioner to Canada.

Shepherd played selections from his most recent album, Dream State, a double CD featuring his own compositions. He began the concert by sitting on the bench of the piano, carrying a wooden skewer and a long stake with an open loop at one end. He played a single note on the piano and then began creating metallic sounds by tapping the stake – as well as whistling through its top. Throughout, he was applying effects, making it sound as though it were being played underwater. Then he looped the music and started lightly chanting over the result while continuing to tap.

Read more: Kyle Shepherd plays with unexpected rhythms in his piano trio concert (review)

 

Joe McPhee, Jesse Stewart & Nicolas Caloia create music that's out of the ordinary

Jesse Stewart / Nicolas Caloia / Joe McPhee
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 8 p.m.

The first thing my tablemate said when he sat down in the Fourth Stage was “What, no waterphone?” And, in fact, this concert went back to the basics in terms of instrumentation: Nicolas Caloia simply on double bass, Jesse Stewart just on a standard drumset without extra percussion or waterphone, and Joe McPhee alternating among tenor and soprano sax and pocket trumpet. Unlike many musicians I heard at this year's festival, they used no effects; they played strictly acoustically.

But the sounds they produced with those instruments were anything but ordinary.

All three have a long pedigree in avant-garde jazz and free improv. McPhee (from Poughkeepsie, NY) has performed with European and American masters including Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, and The Thing, as well as in his long-time Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. He's also a conceptual thinker in creative improvisation with his concept of “Po” (process of provocation) music.

Read more: Joe McPhee, Jesse Stewart & Nicolas Caloia create music that's out of the ordinary

 

July – a month of festivals with jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau

The month of July is one festival after another – including interesting jazz for all tastes.

With the Ottawa Jazz Festival just finished, listeners can continue to discover more jazz to enjoy at Music & Beyond, Bluesfest, Chamberfest, and the Festival de Jazz Desjardins.

Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald will play a duo concert with guitarist Lorne Lofsky on July 18 ©Brett Delmage, 2013Plus, of course, many individual concerts and shows: including a CD release, a tribute to Herbie Hancock and another to Etta James, a rare visit by Toronto jazz masters Kirk MacDonald and Lorne Lofsky, and a four-guitar evening.

Music and Beyond has a primarily chamber music focus, but two of its concerts will include well-known jazz musicians. Its opening gala on July 4 features local jazz stalwarts John Geggie, Mark Ferguson, and Jeff Asselin, and its program includes pieces by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

Then, on Monday, July 13, Toronto saxophonist Mike Murley will repeat his collaboration with Ottawa's Thirteen Strings – in a classical vein. They played together here in January (and Murley again in May, as part of Ontario Scene), and for this concert will perform the premiere of “The Delight of Paradise”, a new multi-movement work based on a text from the Odes of Solomon.

Bluesfest

You can find a few jazz gems in among the rock acts at Bluesfest. On July 9, Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars will bring a wide selection of Afro-Cuban styles – including bolero, chachachá, salsa, son montuno, timba, guajira, danzón, rumba and abakua – and fine Cuban musicians to heat up the night on the festival's Monster Energy stage.

Read more: July – a month of festivals with jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau

 

Jef Neve's dramatic piano compositions enthrall his Ottawa Jazz Festival audience

Jef Neve
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Monday, June 29, 2015 – 8 p.m.

Michael Bates' Northern Spy
Great Canadian Jazz
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Confederation Park
Monday, June 29, 2015 – 6:30 p.m.

Jef Neve is a Belgian pianist and composer with considerable credits in both classical and jazz, who has been touring and recording as a jazz artist for more than a dozen years now, including performing with vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher and American singer José James. He had just come from five days of performing in Japan before this show, and afterwards was heading off to Vancouver.

He's a polished performer – musically, in his appearance (three-piece brocade suit), and in his easy rapport with the audience. This was the first time he'd performed in Ottawa, but his demeanour throughout his solo piano show was natural and comfortable.

Neve had to compete with Pink Martini's full house in Confederation Park, so the Fourth Stage looked a bit empty to start but filled in throughout the first half-hour as listeners came in from the 7 p.m. Studio show. At the beginning, almost the entire audience was in the south half of the room, the better to see Neve's hands on the piano keyboard.

His set-list was a mixture of standards and originals, performed with verve but also sensitivity. He started by playing thunderously on the strings inside his grand piano, following that up with rumbling bass lines, and then letting vibrating notes resolve into a melody. It was Billy Strayhorn's “Lush Life”, performed gracefully and with added flourishes. Neve said later that the song had added meaning for him because of Strayhorn's role as a composer from a young age.

Read more: Jef Neve's dramatic piano compositions enthrall his Ottawa Jazz Festival audience

 

From hypnotic groove to intimate duets: two very different French groups at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (review)

Céline Bonacina Trio
Improv Invitational series: Spotlight on French Jazz
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 27, 2015 – 6 p.m.

Airelle Besson and Nelson Veras - Prelude
Improv Invitational series: Spotlight on French Jazz
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, June 27, 2015 – 8 p.m.

Half an hour into Céline Bonacina's concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, her trio was filling the Fourth Stage with a deep, hypnotic groove. Loud and all-encompassing, the groove was created by her fluid, circling lines on baritone sax, hard drumming, and deep bass notes.

It was typical of a concert that featured standard jazz instruments, but used them in different ways, altered them with effects and looping, and replaced swing with funk rhythms. Bonacina switched among baritone, alto, and soprano sax, and was joined by Olivier Carole, playing a five-string electric bass (with an added deeper string), and Hary Ratsimbazafy on drums.

It was what could only be described as an in-your-face show.

The French saxophonist primarily plays the baritone sax. Now the baritone can be a melodic instrument, or a mainstay of the rhythm section, but Bonacina played it as both. She easily drew out different sounds from it, and repeatedly used circular breathing to create extended vibrating lines. There was almost an element of cognitive dissonance hearing a person so short and slim producing such intense, huge sounds from that saxophone.

Read more: From hypnotic groove to intimate duets: two very different French groups at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (review)

 

Los Gringos brings their own original Latin jazz to the scene (video)

Los Gringos brings their own Latin jazz to a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28   ©2015 Brett DelmageLos Gringos has brought the joy of Latin big band music to Ottawa since the 1990s. Led by drummer Pete Beaudoin and trombonist/composer Mark Ferguson, their concerts feature crisp, complex percussion and driving horn sections.  Most of the material for the nine-member band is original, based on Afro-Cuban rhythms with their own twist.

OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed the two co-leaders at their most recent performance in April. Our video story also includes excerpts of that show.

Los Gringos are performing in a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28 at 2 p.m. on the Laurier Avenue Music Stage, at City Hall. Expect a rousing good time.

    – Brett Delmage

Watch the video

 

Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will not have to vacate Confederation Park during construction in 2016 as it originally feared. The National Capital Commission (NCC) and City Of Ottawa officials informed OttawaJazzScene.ca that they have now scheduled construction to accommodate the festival. The NCC had announced last year that the park would be unavailable, first in 2015 and then in 2016.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will be able to use Confederation Park in 2016, to accomodate 10,500 music fans, as attended the 2010 Dave Brubeck and NAC Orchestra concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2010

At the Ottawa Jazz Festival's annual meeting in November, 2014, executive director Catherine O'Grady stated that that the festival was trying to stay downtown, and was looking at alternate locations including Major's Hill Park during the expected construction next year.

Carina Duclos, Manager of Design and Construction for the City of Ottawa, informed OttawaJazzScene.ca that, “The City is planning to undertake work to rehabilitate a sewer located between Laurier Avenue and the Rideau Canal, adjacent to the Confederation Park (along the ramp from Queen Elizabeth Drive to Laurier Avenue). This work is being coordinated with the NCC and will occur at a time that have as little effect as possible on events organized in the area.”

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all

 

Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday

Wayne Eagles: "most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players"   ©2014 Brett DelmageOttawa guitarist Wayne Eagles has always preferred music with interaction and interplay, where all the musicians are important contributors.

And that's the feel he wants to convey with his group trio \ DEF, and its brand-new album of hard-hitting jazz originals. The trio will debut the album at a free show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Saturday afternoon.

“I would say that most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players. That's always been something I've found intriguing in music, and challenging in music – that communication that flows like a dialogue or has a compositional sense,” Eagles said.

The “DEF” in trio \ DEF stands for Marc-André Drouin on electric bass, Eagles on electric guitar, and Ian Froman on drums – and Eagles insists all three are essential to the group's multi-layered, intense sound. All three come from the Ottawa area: Drouin from Bourget, a small Valley town just east of Ottawa, and Froman and Eagles from the city itself, but Drouin and Froman have since moved far afield.

Drouin is now part of Montreal's jazz and other music scenes, after studying and working in Boston and Los Angeles. “I've worked with Marc on and off for quite a long time," Eagles said. "When I first met Marc he was astonishing but he was literally a kid, a teenager. And he just had incredible drive and proficiency and, of course, over the years that's even more the case. He's just a beautiful player with a beautiful sound and a beautiful melodicism. He can play a large number of roles and he's quick! You can give him difficult pieces of music and he brings something interesting to the conversation."

Froman, who is best-known in Canada for his collaborations with Mike Murley in Metalwood and DMBQ, has lived in New York for the past 25-odd years. “Ian is a very renowned player in New York. He still plays with the likes of [John] Abercrombie and [Dave] Liebman. He just came back from a tour of China with [guitarist] Sheryl Bailey. And a very busy educator of course, a prof at Berklee as well as several other schools. So that's just a level of experience and confidence that can only help bring things together cohesively.”

Read more: Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday

 

The joy in Robi Botos' music delights an Ottawa Jazz Festival audience (review)

Robi Botos Quartet with Seamus Blake
Great Canadian Jazz Series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Confederation Park
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – 6:30 p.m.

Toronto pianist Robi Botos communicates a real joy in music when he plays. He had a big smile on his face as he began his Ottawa Jazz Festival concert Tuesday, and told the crowd how excited he was to bring, for the first time, his original music here as leader.

He also had a new album to promote – Movin' Forward [A440/Universal, 2015]  – and a new sound that's more his own.

When Botos won the TD Grand Prize at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2012, his music still showed the strong influence of his mentor, Oscar Peterson. Botos certainly hasn't lost either his delicate touch on ballads or his driving rhythm on straight-ahead pieces, but he's developed and expanded his own sound. Now there's touches of funk and electronics adding a modern edge as well.

And he has good taste in musical collaborators: both the album and this concert featured ex-pat Canadian, now NYC tenor sax player Seamus Blake. Blake is one of those saxophonists with a major reputation; I've made a point of hearing him every time he's played in Ottawa in the last few years and his playing has always substantially enhanced the music.

Read more: The joy in Robi Botos' music delights an Ottawa Jazz Festival audience (review)

 

Emil Viklicky turns his Moravian heritage into melodic and dramatic jazz (review)

Emil Viklicky “Grand Moravia” Trio
Improv Invitational series
Ottawa Jazz Festival
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – 8 p.m.

Emil Viklicky is a pianist and composer from Moravia, the south-eastern region of the Czech Republic. Besides a jazz career spanning 40 years, he's also written several operas and TV and film scores. In 2004, Wynton Marsalis commissioned him to orchestrate the prison letters of former Czech President Václav Havel for a big band concert at Lincoln Centre.

And consistently throughout his career, Viklicky has used the folk music of his native Moravia as an inspiration for his jazz and classical compositions. As he said in one interview, that's his “calling card”. While he can play jazz standards, those folksongs are what he grew up with, and his own musical language.

Almost all of the pieces in this concert incorporated these Moravian themes, performed by Viklicky on piano with Petr Dvorsky on double bass and Cyril Zelenak on drums.

Read more: Emil Viklicky turns his Moravian heritage into melodic and dramatic jazz (review)

 

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