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Sold-out audience applauds Rob Frayne's return to the sax (video)

Rob Frayne ©Brett Delmage, 2014On October 10, 2014 Rob Frayne returned to the stage before a sold-out audience at GigSpace with his original compositions, musical friends, good humour – and his tenor saxophone.

It was the first time he'd played the sax in a concert in almost a decade. Read our full interview.

Ten years ago (November, 2004), Frayne's car was hit by a truck, and he was badly injured. His return followed a long period of recovery, readjustment – and determination.

OttawaJazzScene.ca was there to capture this momentous occasion on video, and talk with Frayne about his music and his return as a saxophonist.

He'll be back at GigSpace for round two on Saturday, November 15, in Cooking with Courage 4. He will play bass and sax to support his partner and the group leader Martine Courage on piano and vocals; they will be joined by Mike Essoudry on drums and Laura Nerenberg on violin.

Watch the video and see related stories

 

The unpredictable Brian Browne

Updated November 12, 2014
At his NAC Fourth Stage performance this Saturday, Ottawa pianist Brian Browne will let the music flow. Each beloved jazz standard will inspire the next one, unconstrained by a set list.

Brian Browne ©Brett Delmage, 2010“Most of the time I don't even know what I'm going to play until I go there. I don't even know when I'm there. As a matter of fact, a couple years ago, there's a joke about this, I wrote up a set list. I was forced to write a set list but when I got there I didn't do it. There's nothing more boring than to me than to do a set list.”

Browne said he starts with a “subconscious idea of flow” – what songs flow together well, rather than dictating the order in advance. He doesn't want to have to think about what tune comes next: “I don't want to be thinking – I just want to play. And sometimes if I'm playing a tune, when I'm into it, another tune might pop up into my head that should be next.”

And for Saturday's show, he'll be joined by two “top-drawer” Toronto jazz musicians who will have no trouble keeping up with that flow: bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke. Browne has known and performed with both for decades, but this will be the first time Ottawa audiences will hear them as a trio.

The show will be recorded for a possible CD, which would be Browne's 15th. That means his choice of music will be slightly more limited than usual.

“I don't want to record any songs I recorded on albums before, which is a awful lot of them. So I put a list of songs on a envelope here somewhere, and when the time comes, I'm going to do those. Some of them are just standards, standards like 'Come Rain or Come Shine' and 'Girl Talk' and a few things like that. Just stuff I haven't recorded before, that's all.”

Read more: The unpredictable Brian Browne

 

Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang: a passion for finding the sources of Gypsy jazz

One's a Montrealer, of Taiwanese-Canadian heritage. The other's from Belgium, of Flemish-Gypsy heritage.

But what guitarist Denis Chang and violinist Tcha Limberger have in common is a deep love of Manouche or Gypsy jazz – and the drive to spend years immersed in its culture and learning from its practitioners all over Europe.

And you can hear some of what they've learned in a trio concert in Ottawa this Thursday evening.

Limberger, 37, is blind. He has taught himself eight languages, most (including Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish) to give him the background on and allow him to understand musicians from Eastern Europe, including those playing Gypsy jazz. In his teens, he learned Django Reinhardt-style guitar playing from masters such as Fapy Lafertin and Koen De Cauter. At 17, he started studying the violin, inspired by stories from his grandfather, the legendary Manouche musician Piotto Limberger, and recordings of Toki Horvath. By the time he was 21, he left Belgium for Budapest, where he took classical and tzigane classes from Horvath Bela. He has founded a traditional Magyar Nota band, played folk music from Transylvania in the Kalotaszeg Trio, and started the jazz violin quintet Les Violons de Bruxelles. He also plays completely improvised music with guitarist Herman Schamp.

Chang, 32, has repeatedly learned from Manouche players in trips to Europe, including learning to understand the Romany language. He has performed abroad with top Gypsy jazz musicians including the Rosenberg Trio, Joscho Stephan, Gonzalo Bergara, Paulus Schäfer, and Limberger, and has toured with his own Gypsy Jazz Quartet across Canada, including playing six shows at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival.

Read more: Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang: a passion for finding the sources of Gypsy jazz

 

A nod to Johnny Hartman and a defining concert for Floyd Hutchinson

“The first time I heard Johnny Hartman, he left such an impression on me I never forgot about it. Even though I've gone back and liked other singers, I always come back to him,” vocalist Floyd Hutchinson told OttawaJazzScene.ca this week.

Floyd Hutchinson  ©Brett Delmage, 2008On Friday, he's stepping out front to give his own big nod to this jazz vocalist whom he has always admired, in what will be “a huge show” for him at GigSpace. He'll be performing with the Steve Boudreau Quartet: “four of Ottawa's premiere musicians,” he says, including Boudreau on piano, Jeff Asselin on drums, Brian Asselin on sax, and Joe Hincke on bass. They are musicians whom he has a musical history with and can put his full trust in for his important show.

“You have shows that define you as a musician. I think this is one of the shows that will define me, in my own brain, as a vocalist. I've sung a fair amount of shows [he had already sung two shows on the day we talked] but this is a show I've been waiting for a while. It was time for me to do the show.”

It's taken Hutchinson, who works for the Ottawa Police Service and is not a full-time musician, ten years of singing to get to this point – with almost 100 years of musical family history included in that. A related jazz singer in the 1920s. A second cousin who sings jazz standards in NYC. Relatives in a reggae band, and another relative who was a “heavy duty funk player in the 70s.” And more recently and influentially, “parents who always played music.”

“Maybe I'm just late coming out of the gate. But I'm not out of the show. Hugh O'Connor is still lighting up the town.”

Hutchinson grew up at a time when other music was wildly popular - but it didn't lead him astray.

“I went to my share of discos. I listened to my share of disco music too. But I never lost touch with listening to jazz. It's a very big part of my life. ...Mel and Nat, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Coltrane, Dizzy, Cannonball Adderley, Clifford Brown, it's always been a part of kind of who I am.”

Friday's concert of mostly Johnny Hartman ballads won't be a flashback to sparkling glass balls and dancing shoes. He elaborated about the singer, with whom he has a close affinity.

Read more: A nod to Johnny Hartman and a defining concert for Floyd Hutchinson

 

Guelph 2014: Ernst Reijseger plays the cello as you have not heard it before (review)

Ernst Reijseger, Harmen Fraanje, Mola Sylla blended hugely different bodies of music into a coherent and beautiful whole ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Ernst Reijseger – Harmen Fraanje – Mola Sylla
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre, Cooperators Hall
Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 8 p.m.

Ernst Reijseger solo
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 5 p.m.

Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger has an enviable reputation – both for the purity and breadth of his technique and the imaginativeness of his collaborations and projects. After starting out playing early and Baroque music, he switched to the avant-garde and jazz. He's performed with top European free jazz musicians like Derek Bailey, Eric Vloeimans, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway, has written and produced film scores for Werner Herzog, and has collaborated with world music artists as well as cellist Yo Yo Ma.

On stage, he's a wild man.

Both of his two concerts at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival featured jaw-dropping moments, as Reijseger expanded his audiences' understanding of how the cello could be played while producing lovely and unexpected music.

He turned the cello on its side and played it like a plump guitar – to audible gasps from some listeners. He hit the cello with his bow, and then ripped it savagely across the strings in an example of extreme bowing. He threaded his bow through the strings and then let the bow vibrate while plucking strings. He attached a plastic hair clip and wooden clothes pegs to the strings to dampen and mute their resonance, while still continuing to play. He let the cello swing in his hand, like a pendulum, as he played. He used the cello body as a drum, then shook it, and then moved its bottom spike in and out creating a creaking sound. He wetted his fingers to make the strings squeak. He whipped his bow through the air. He twirled around and around while playing.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Ernst Reijseger plays the cello as you have not heard it before (review)

 

Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)

Mark Ferguson has produced both of Geri Childs' CDs ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Geri Childs “More Than Magic” CD Release Concert
NAC Fourth Stage
Friday, October 31, 2014 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Opening with “Sentimental Journey” and closing with “Just Friends”, Geri Childs sang about love and long-time friendship in her CD release concert on Friday.

In particular, she talked about her friendship and collaboration with Mark Ferguson, her musical director for the CD and the concert, how they met in (of all places!) a hired band providing music for Joe Clark's leadership campaign, and how they worked together in picking the new standards in the CD. But “everyone here is a friend”, she said at the end of the concert, and certainly there were lots of smiles and appreciative applause throughout.

On stage were the same musicians who played on More Than Magic – Ferguson on piano, trombone, and melodica, John Geggie on double bass, Rob Graves on percussion, and Margaret Tobolowska on cello. They were joined by René Gely, on four different guitars, and Sharon Timmins on backup vocals. Gely added an extra percussive element brightening the music, and allowed Ferguson to move off the piano to trombone on some of the jazzier numbers.

Read more: Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)

 

Marianne Trudel Quintet: An exhilarating, subtle start to the 2014-15 NAC Presents jazz series (review)

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen shared a strong musical link at Saturday's concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Marianne Trudel Quintet
NAC Presents
NAC Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 25, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Marianne Trudel appeared spent but exhilarated at the end of her quintet's concert at the NAC Fourth Stage Saturday night. The Montreal pianist had just released a new album, La Vie Commence Ici, and this was the last stop on a week-long tour to promote it.

With notable improvisers like Ingrid Jensen and Trudel herself on stage, the show was far more than just a reenactment of the recording. The quintet – the same musicians as on the CD – expanded upon the music, adding new interpretations and texture, in an energetic yet subtle concert.

If the star power in the quintet was provided by Jensen on trumpet, the other four musicians (who played together on Trudel's 2007 live recording) created equally interesting musical moments. It was very much a joint endeavour, with sax and trumpet frequently playing in unison, with several trumpet-piano duets, and with creative bass and drums working together to propel the music forward.

Read more: Marianne Trudel Quintet: An exhilarating, subtle start to the 2014-15 NAC Presents jazz series (review)

 

Evoking the soul of Hank Mobley (review)

Richard Page enjoys some playing by Alex Moxon, who organized the project ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Soul Station Tribute Concert
The Manx Pub
Monday, October 6, 2014

View photos of this performance

I can't remember where I first heard about Hank Mobley, but I suspect it may have been because one of the musicians in this tribute concert was raving about him.

Mobley was a jazz musicians' musician – especially if you're into hard bop and bebop. A tenor saxophonist, he played with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Art Blakey – and even for a brief period with Miles Davis.

Between 1955 and 1970, he recorded many albums for Blue Note Records – and Soul Station (1960) is generally considered one of his best. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes it as the “one Mobley album that should be in every collection”, and praises his rhythmic subtlety, “accenting unexpected beats and planting emphases in places that take his phrasing out of the realms of cliché”.

Read more: Evoking the soul of Hank Mobley (review)

 

Lara Solnicki chose jazz, but added a classical twist

When Lara Solnicki abandoned opera and chose jazz, she went all out – and succeeded.

The Toronto vocalist, who will make her first Ottawa appearance on Saturday at GigSpace with guitarist Roddy Ellias, is a classically-trained singer with a four-octave range. She originally intended a career in opera, but in 2008, radically changed her direction – to jazz and creative music.

“I totally changed my technique and my voice. If you do it properly you're not supposed to be on the fence about it.”

She's now reached the point where Radio-Canada's primary jazz radio host, Stanley Péan, offered to write the liner notes for her just-released second CD. He praised Solnicki's “striking sense of nuance that characterizes her style as an interpreter, a lyricist and a composer,” and said that the new album reaffirmed “without doubt, her sure position in Canadian contemporary jazz.”

At the time she changed direction, Solnicki had been listening to jazz (for example, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson) for years, and had taken some jazz vocal lessons a decade before in New York City. “When I came back to Toronto, I didn't stay with jazz for some reason”, and instead took a degree in classical voice from the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music. “I listened to jazz all through my classical degree, too, but I never thought of singing it at that point.”

However, she realized she wanted more opportunities to compose, to combine her poetry with music, to be more creative, which she couldn't get with classical voice. “I started writing poetry when I finished my degree. I decided that it would be interesting to get into new music and do some collaborative stuff, and then I really did make a conscious decision, that if I wanted to be more of a creator type, that it would be better for me to move into jazz and creative music.”

“I wasn't at that point really that glued to singing Italian opera any more. So I gave it about a solid year, or year and a half, when I started trying out jazz and taking a few lessons, to make a decision whether or not I was going to go all the way with it.”

And the jazz choice worked: she started singing jazz regularly in restaurants around Toronto; she collaborated with well-known jazz musicians like guitarist Ted Quinlan and bassist George Koller; she released a well-reviewed album of jazz standards in 2010.

Read more: Lara Solnicki chose jazz, but added a classical twist

 

Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 3: polished vocals and joyful instrumentals

Merrickville's Jazz Fest closed on Sunday, October 19, with a celebration of polished jazz vocals, complementing the afternoon's instrumental concerts from Brian Browne and Peter Woods, and Norman Marshall Villeneuve's Jazz Message.

A Tribute to Blossom Dearie

Marcie Campbell would have done Dearie proud with her dead-on rendition of “Bruce” ©Brett Delmage, 2014

The main evening event was a tribute to Blossom Dearie, in a revival of the show featuring three local vocalists – Karen Oxorn, Caroline Gibson, and Marcie Campbell – which debuted in 2010 at the National Arts Centre. All three were in good voice and again easily conveyed their love of the iconic American vocalist/pianist and her repertoire. It was a fresh performance that was a little shorter and had a smaller band than the original.

Blossom Dearie knew how to deliver a lyric so that it made people laugh, or even get a bit uncomfortable. In between more conventional standards, she interspersed witty songs by Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough and herself, which ended up being the pieces she was best remembered for.

And Marcie Campbell would have done Dearie proud with her dead-on rendition of “Bruce”. Her helpful advice to a female impersonator without dress sense had the entire audience chortling. She also scored with Dearie's signature tune, “I'm Hip”, delivered with a bop feel in the music and gentle satire in the lyrics.

Dearie's own “Blossom's Blues” is bluesy in form, and quite blue in content. Caroline Gibson, assisted by Mark Ferguson on trombone and Brian Browne on piano, had lots of fun playing with the risqué lyrics, and got the audience laughing at them, too. Browne also cracked a few smiles, as he underlined lines like “My nightly occupation is stealing other women's men” with strong blues chords, and Gibson paid credit to him by changing “Ray” to “Brian” in “Ray Brown told me that I was built for speed.”

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 3: polished vocals and joyful instrumentals

 

Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 2: crowded with music

Vocalist Denielle Bassels with clarinetist/saxophonist Jacob Gorzhaltsan, played a high-energy and swinging show Saturday evening, bringing a ballroom full of listeners to their feet for a standing ovation. ©2014, Brett Delmage

Denielle Bassels Quintet

Probably the biggest surprise at this year's Merrickville's Jazz Fest was Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels. She was an unknown quantity when she walked onto the stage of the Baldachin Ballroom on Saturday, October 18, but her charisma and her quintet's swinging music quickly grabbed the audience's attention.

Playing to a packed room, the quintet combined swing, jazz, gypsy jazz, and a touch of funk. They took jazz standards, songs made popular by Nina Simone and Edith Piaf, a movie theme, and a pop song, and then added originals by Bassels and guitarist Andy Mac. The jazzified result got several audience members dancing, and then everyone on their feet for a standing ovation, followed by an encore.

They opened with “Gypsy Summer”, the title track of their recently-released EP. You could immediately see this was going to be a high energy show, with Bassels' scatting soaring over Mac's fast Django Reinhardt-influenced guitar, and Jacob Gorzhaltsan's bright clarinet solos curlicuing over and under.

The first jazz singer Bassels heard and loved was Nina Simone. She included several Simone numbers in the show, including some lesser-known ones. “Forbidden Fruit”, the story of Eve and the apple, was introduced with a slinky groove on Gorzhaltsan's tenor sax and Mac's guitar. Bassels sung it in a call-and-response gospel style, clearly dramatizing the story, accented by growls on tenor. The result was very catchy, and the audience responded with strong applause.

Read more: Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 2: crowded with music

 

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