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"Canada Scene" 2017 launches with Robi Botos' jazzy nod to Oscar Peterson

Pianist Robi Botos poses with the statue of Oscar Peterson outside  Canada's National Arts Centre. Botos, a protege of Pederson's, will help celebrate his music and inspiration as part of Canada Scene in 2017 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Canada's National Arts Centre (NAC) announced its 2017 Canada Scene festival today, including a major tribute to Oscar Peterson with pianists Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, Jon Kimura Parker, Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin.

The Canada Scene festival will run from June 15 to July 30, 2017 – the middle of Canada's 150th birthday year. It will feature artists from across Canada in music , dance, theatre, culinary and visual art, performing at the newly-renovated NAC. It will also be the culmination of seven previous “Scene” festivals at the NAC which celebrated different regions of Canada between 2003 and 2015.

Robi Botos opened the launch event playing a swinging and virtuosic rendition of Peterson's “Blues for Smedley”. He will be one of seven “renowned pianists and close friends of Peterson” included in the July 10 “Oscar, with Love” tribute in Southam Hall – playing on Peterson's own beloved Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano, which will travel to Ottawa for this occasion. The evening will be hosted by Peterson's daughter, Céline.

Fellow Canadians Oliver Jones and Jon Kimura Parker will also perform, along with Americans Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin. They will be accompanied by renowned Canadian bassist Dave Young, who played with Peterson for 35 years, in appearances in the Oscar Peterson Trio all over the world up until Peterson’s death in 2007.

Young released an Aspects Of Oscar tribute album with Botos in 2011. In 2012, Young, Botos, and drummer Terry Clarke appeared at a star-studded tribute to Peterson in Ottawa, organized by the German Embassy to celebrate the historical connections between Germany and the Canadian jazz icon.

Botos, Jones, Charlap, Clayton, Green, Kauflin, and Young are also included on the recently-released Oscar with Love CD organized by Peterson's widow, Kelly Peterson, of performances on Peterson's Bösendorfer of never-before-heard Peterson compositions.

Read more and watch our video story about the launch

 

The audience kept clapping for Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero

Miguel de Armas and Friends, with Claudia Salguero, Sylvio Módolo, and Juan-Luis Vasquez
The Ironstone Grill, The Marshes Golf Club
Friday, November 18, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Two well-known local Latin jazz musicians – pianist Miguel de Armas and vocalist Claudia Salguero – performed together for the first time Friday, to an enthusiastic crowd.

Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero created dramatic music that got the audience clapping in their first show together ©2016 Brett Delmage

In two one-hour sets, they played songs from Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba – and some of their favourite American jazz standards as well. Together with Sylvio Módolo on bass and Juan-Luis Vasquez on percussion, they created a warm, lively vibe which kept almost the entire audience intent and smiling – and singing and clapping along at times as well.

De Armas plays many clubs around Ottawa, as well as concerts here and in other cities with his Latin Jazz Quartet. Since January, he has hosted a regular Friday night series at the The Marshes in Kanata, inviting different Ottawa musicians to perform with him – a wide cross-section of some of the best-known names in Ottawa jazz scene.

Salguero, on the other hand, is best known for the large-scale, sold-out shows she's mounted annually at the National Arts Centre, which feature her singing boleros and other Latin American love songs, backed by a band of local Latin musicians in arrangements created by Módolo.

Friday's show opened with the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, “The Waters of March”, and moved smoothly through a series of songs in Spanish and English, mostly romantic ballads. But there were upbeat numbers, too: “Autumn Leaves” turned into an extended jam, with Salguero's voice swaying over the tight rhythms from piano, bass, and congas, while “Rayito de Luna” was a bright, sunny cha-cha-cha.

Read more: The audience kept clapping for Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero

 

Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz

Dutch jazz vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have developed many ties to Canadians in the last 25 years – starting with composer Kenny Wheeler and more recently with guitarist Michael Occhipinti. The duo is touring across Canada this month, including an Ottawa gig on Friday at the Mercury Lounge.

TDutch jazz duo of vocalist/pianist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt [photo by Jiri Büller]hey'll perform their own thoughtful and multi-layered original music – playing with different rhythm sections in each city – and also promote a book Vandoorn has written on the art of jazz singing from a very practical perspective.

Their first experiences of Canada were when they studied at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 1991 and 1993 – “really a very important thing for us”, Vandoorn said. At Banff, they met renowned Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, “and played his music and we started to be friends”.

“It was an honour to work with him. He loved Marc's music and his contributions were spot on. He was a very shy, but also witty man and we laughed a lot.”

Then when they were about to make their first CD, “we asked Kenny if he was interested in being our featured guest at the CD – and he wanted to do that, so that's how we got to know him better. So we played with him several times in the Netherlands.”

“We always kept in contact and Marc and Kenny discussed sometimes each others compositions and arrangements. Very special. He was also very generous and when he had heard us play he called us afterwards to tell us how much he loved it.”

In Banff, Vandoorn also met vocalist Norma Winstone, and “we became friends. At some point I was invited at a festival to do a special project, and I decided to invite her for a vocal duet. We did it twice at different festivals.”

In 2012, Vandoorn and van Vugt released a single, “Holysloot”, an intimate jazz song inspired by a Dutch lowlands winter scene. She agreed it was influenced by Wheeler and Winstone. “The way Kenny is composing and the way that he is treating harmonies I think that is something that both Marc and I like a lot. And I'm sure a fan of Norma's singing. And yes, you could hear that there.”

The duo has toured Canada five times, playing festivals including the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 1998. This will be their first time playing Canadian clubs, however, Vandoorn said. They've spent the last week in southern Ontario, teaching students at masterclasses and clinics (including with Christine Duncan's Element Choir) and playing concerts – and have been very happy with the response.

“I must say that all the Canadian audiences are very receptive for our music. First of all, I think that jazz is quite important in Canada. The people are much more used to listening to jazz, I would say, than maybe in the Netherlands. So we have really nice audiences, very committed. And they really love our music so so far it has been great.”

Read more: Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz

 

Amy Brandon creates altered states of guitar

Amy Brandon CD Release of Scavenger, with Roddy Ellias
Metro Music, Ottawa
Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 4 p.m.

Guitarist Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in an hour-long afternoon concert in Ottawa Saturday. The CD mixes jazz, classical, and new music, and features her playing solo and in duos, with guitarists Roddy Ellias and Mike Rud and vocalist Laura Swankey – but also with herself.

Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in Ottawa at Metro Music on November 12. She released it in Toronto the following day. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Many of the pieces on Scavenger are electro-acoustic, with Brandon playing guitar along with recordings of herself which she had substantially altered with effects. As she explained to the audience at the show, in electro-acoustic music the musician can either manipulate sound live (live-processed) or play against previously-recorded and processed music (fixed media).

She picked fixed media, and for four of the pieces she performed at the show, played sound files on her laptop along with her acoustic guitar. Her warm and resonant guitar-work contrasted with the recorded soundscapes, which were much more varied and unexpected. Sometimes they were dissonant and abrasive and metallic, other times attenuated and whispering and reminding one of birds calling or winds rushing.

The result was immersive and multi-layered, pulsating and almost hypnotic in places. Consistently you could hear how Brandon was responding in the moment to the soundscapes. Throughout the pieces, he audience was still and intent, listening carefully and applauding warmly.

Read more: Amy Brandon creates altered states of guitar

 

Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

Safe Low Limit
Le Petit Chicago
All Jazz Mondays in November, 2016

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Safe Low Limit opened its November residency at Le Petit Chicago Monday night – with music extending far into the bass clef.

Safe Low Limit (l-r): Steve Berndt, Michel Delage, Keith Hartshorn-Walton. Ken Kanwisher offer something different on Monday nights at LPC in November.   ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Trombone: Steve Berndt. Cello: Ken Kanwisher. Tuba: Keith Walton. Drums: Michel Delage. Your standard jazz quartet instrumentation it wasn't.

It was the very first show for the group as a quartet. Kanwisher first started working on these arrangements for a previous group, Berndt said – and then he and Berndt started playing together last spring. They debuted some of this music as a duo at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in June, and then decided to expand to a quartet.

“Keith Walton saw us and thought it was a cool idea so we decided to ask him if he'd like to join in.  That's when we made the decision to go all bass clef instruments, [to] ask Michel Delage if he'd like to get involved and not have a piano or guitar.

They picked the name “Safe Low Limit” because it is “an arranging term that describes a formula that identifies the low point at which harmony ceases to be clear based on the fundamental of a given series of notes played at the same time. It seemed to be the right name for this band!”

Read more: Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

 

Cole Porter without the words engages the audience at Brookstreet tribute show

Tribute to Cole Porter with Michel Delage, Allison Au, Todd Pentney, and Alex Bilodeau
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Songwriter Cole Porter famously said (quoting one of his teachers) that “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.” And yet jazz instrumentalists ranging from Miles Davis to Artie Shaw to Max Roach have had hits with Cole Porter's tunes because, even without Porter's witty lyrics, the melodies are memorable and full of joie de vivre.

Todd Pentney, Allison Au, Alex Bilodeau and Michel Delage paid tribute to Cole Porter at the Options Jazz Lounge ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Michel Delage's quartet showed off that joy and fun in a dynamic second night of a two-night stand at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge this weekend. Delage on drums and Alex Bilodeau on double bass teamed up with two Torontonians – Juno-winning composer Allison Au on alto sax and her frequent collaborator, Todd Pentney, on piano – to celebrate Porter's music as part of Delage's monthly series of jazz tributes.

Over three sets, they performed songs written between 1929 and 1954, almost all for Broadway shows. The first two sets were fast-paced, including well-known pieces like “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “Get Out of Town”, while the third slowed down to concentrate on ballads like “Easy to Love”.

There's a lot to explore in a Cole Porter song. Porter was a notable innovator in song form: for example, the alternating major and minor key changes in “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, or the 108-measure length of “Begin the Beguine”. Au, in particular, used the songs as a jumping-off point for exploration, while staying true to their melodies and themes. In “I Concentrate on You”, she created tender, warm, extended lines of melody, while “Just One of Those Things” was taken at a break-neck pace with circling riffs.

Read more: Cole Porter without the words engages the audience at Brookstreet tribute show

 

Maureen Kennedy's passion for finding hidden jazz standards

Toronto jazz vocalist Maureen Kennedy is always learning new songs and expanding her repertoire of jazz standards.

At her concert at GigSpace on October 29, Maureen Kennedy will sing some of the many jazz standards she's unearthed (photo by Paul Orenstein)“I have a passion for learning tunes. A real passion for it, and it's kind of nerdy.”

This summer, for example, she learned six new tunes just for one show. She'll be singing all six in Ottawa this Saturday at her quartet show at GigSpace, performing with saxophonist Rob Frayne, pianist Jeff Johnston, and bassist Alec Walkington.

Some she learns from sheet music, and some from listening to recordings of other singers, particularly from the classic vocal jazz era of the 1950s. But, after many years in the business, she's gone well beyond Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, or Sarah Vaughan to “obscure singers that people don't know that well”, such as Irene Kral or Jeri Southern.

“There was such a wealth of singers back in the 50s when singing standards was the popular music of the day. There were a lot of good singers that never became as famous … Teddi King was a really great singer. June Christy. Chris Connor. Singers that people aren't as familiar with. There are just a lot of great singers, and I've checked out a lot of their recordings and just picked up tunes from them.”

By day, Kennedy is a Media Librarian and visual researcher for the CBC in Toronto – where she has been able to access CBC's extensive sheet music collection. “In the days when we did a lot of music on television and radio, the Music Library would just order all this sheet music, and it's such a great collection!”

Read more: Maureen Kennedy's passion for finding hidden jazz standards

 

Maqueque notches up its Afro-Cuban jazz energy with its second album

Jane Bunnett is still amazed at the success of her all-woman Afro-Cuban jazz group, Maqueque.

“Three years ago, this project was a leap of faith. I didn't know if this idea would have any legs. But I thought, 'Let's try it! Let's try to put something together for a recording, all females, and just see what happens.' "

Maqueque got its crowd clapping and cheering for its first shows in Ottawa in 2014 at GigSpace ©2014 Brett DelmageSince then, Maqueque – the Canadian jazz saxophonist/flutist plus five young women musicians from Cuba – has toured all over Canada and the U.S. and as far away as Australia. They played before thousands at the Chicago Jazz Festival last fall, with an almost-unprecedented encore demanded by the crowd. In May, they received at standing ovation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and then recorded a “Tiny Desk Concert” in the offices of National Public Radio – which has so far garnered almost 29,000 views. And they won a Juno Award for their first album.

The group has just released its second album, Oddara, and will bring it to Ottawa on Wednesday, October 19, for a concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Besides Bunnett, Maqueque includes Yissy Garcia on drums, Dánae Olano on piano, Magdelys Savigne on batá drums and congas, Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin and vocals, and Celia Jiménez on bass.

Bunnett's heart was in the project, both musically and as an organizer, but she recognized the risks.

Read more: Maqueque notches up its Afro-Cuban jazz energy with its second album

 

The Ken Harper Trio brings commitment and energy to new concert series at Southminster

The Ken Harper Trio with Artie Roth and Bob Brough
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

This fall, Southminster United Church in Ottawa South began offering Saturday evening concerts, in addition to its popular Wednesday noon concerts. The third show in this new series – and the first jazz concert – featured the long-time trio of Ottawa drummer Ken Harper with two Toronto musicians, Artie Roth on double bass and Bob Brough on tenor sax.

The Ken Harper Trio played mainstream jazz with passion, skill, and creativity at their concert at Southminster United Church  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

With busy schedules and a 450 km distance to travel, this trio doesn't get together to perform as often as they'd like – Harper estimates only about four times a year – but you could hear an easy connection and a like-minded approach in their music.

Harper and Roth met in 1988, when they both started studying music at York University, and later teamed up with veteran saxophonist Brough for this trio. Over the past two years, they've played several Ottawa-area locations: clubs, a house concert, and GigSpace, but this was their biggest Ottawa venue yet.

Other than an announcement mic that wasn’t always turned on or used properly, the concert was all-acoustic, with a beautiful, rounded sound. The musicians made a point of playing to the space, using its resonance, and playing softly enough that their instruments could be heard overlaying and complementing each other. Harper's cymbal sounds were crisp and ringing; Roth's bass was clear and full; Brough's tenor lines were rich and commanding.

Read more: The Ken Harper Trio brings commitment and energy to new concert series at Southminster

 

Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul

Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway
IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) #147
House of Common, Ottawa
Monday, October 10, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Trombonist Samuel Blaser and drummer Gerry Hemingway opened their Canadian tour on Monday with a bravura performance in Ottawa, a concentrated display of deep communication and innovation.

Trombonist Samuel Blaser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway fed listeners' souls with astonishing music for thanksgiving desert  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Thanking the audience for coming out on the Thanksgiving holiday, Hemingway noted that, “At least we know you're not hungry. Now we'll feed the other part of your souls.”

And feed them they did, with music which explored the full ranges of their instruments, and moved from the tiniest threads of sound to all-out thunderous fanfares – to the intent interest and appreciation of their listeners.

Blaser (from Switzerland and now living in Berlin) and Hemingway (from the U.S. and now living in Switzerland) are more usually found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but are touring across Canada this week. Most of their shows on the tour are with Blaser's quartet, which also includes Russ Lossing on piano, and Masa Kamaguchi on bass. Montreal and Ottawa were the exceptions, where the two were scheduled to perform as a duo as part of local improvised music series.

Blaser and Hemingway are no less formidable as a duo. They're both well-known as free improvisers (Hemingway has been playing creative music for four decades), and have performed together in several of Blaser's groups.

Read more: Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul

 

Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention

Sienna Dahlen and François Jalbert
Court, mais jazz
La Nouvelle Scène
Saturday, October 8, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Sienna Dahlen's music floats comfortably in the intersection of jazz, singer-songwriter, chanson, art song, and cabaret. Her delivery and musicianship clearly show her jazz roots, but her songs are more confessional and intimate – and less swinging – than straight jazz.

God beams, short films, lots of stage fog, and audio distortion distracted from the fine musical performance  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

She's just released a new CD, Ice Age Paradise, a highly personal collection of songs chronicling a difficult time in her life. It was recorded with a nine-person ensemble including horns and strings, and, at shows this fall in Toronto and Montreal, she's presenting the music with the full ensemble.

But for Ottawa, she performed a stripped-down version: just her on vocals and keyboards, and François Jalbert on guitar. Even with simpler arrangements, the songs still ended up sounding rich and expressive, with Dahlen's strong and multi-octave voice well supported and underlined by Jalbert's inventive guitar lines.

Although the material was personal, the presentation was very Canadian: Dahlen switched effortlessly and frequently between English and French, within songs and during her introductions. This was partly because of the location: La Nouvelle Scène is Ottawa's francophone theatre space. But there was a easy naturalness to the interchange; it felt like simply another mode of expression rather than a political point – not surprising for a vocalist who divides her time between Montreal and Toronto.

Only two of the songs were from the new album. Three were from Dahlen's previous album, Verglas, and she also included a song by the late Montreal singer Lhasa de Sela.

Read more: Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention

 

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