Friday, October 09, 2015
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Mark Ferguson's Next Chapter unfolds beyond jazz

When I first asked Mark Ferguson about his new CD, he emphasized that it was not mainstream jazz, but instead had a lot of different elements. I was intrigued.

While Mark Ferguson's new CD, The Next Chapter, is primarily for piano trio, it also contains five evocative trombone interludes. ©2014 Brett DelmageOn Friday and Saturday, he will release his CD, called The Next Chapter, in two concerts at GigSpace. And listeners will be able to hear how he has combined a quieter strain of jazz with classical elements – but also a touch of Latin and a bit of bebop. It's as multi-faceted as Ferguson himself.

Ferguson is a pillar of Ottawa's jazz scene, whether as an arranger, composer, pianist, trombonist, or a university educator. He's written for big bands, intimate vocal showcases, and his beloved Latin jazz groups, and performed with many different groups, both in Ottawa and further afield.

He has also produced and performed on many jazz CDs. But this CD is the first that's just his.

“I've collaborated with people before, and I've produced a lot of CDs for singers over the years. But this is the first one where I'm doing all my own music. It's my project from beginning to end. So yes, this will be the first one that I've done all just for me.”

It's primarily a piano trio album, featuring Ferguson on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Scott Latham on drums and vibraphone.

Read more: Mark Ferguson's Next Chapter unfolds beyond jazz


Nicole Ratté celebrates 10 years of teaching the joy of jazz

This week, Nicole Ratté is celebrating the tenth anniversary of her jazz vocal courses – courses which are uniquely hers.

Nicole Ratté ©2011 Brett Delmage

They're bilingual – breaking the English/French language barrier – and they're based on her own experience of learning jazz essentially from scratch.

Ratté is now a long-time vocalist on the local jazz scene, regularly singing in restaurants and in larger projects such as the concert this spring celebrating Billie Holiday's centennial. But back in 1996, she was a total jazz novice.

She's warmly voluble and enthusiastic describing how she learned jazz and then realized she could pass that knowledge on to other vocalists, even those who have never sung in public before.

Before she attended the JazzWorks jazz camp, she said, “I didn't know a thing about jazz before I went to camp in 1996 to '98. It took me a long time to understand how it worked because it was very unclear. By singing with groups of people whom I met at jazz camp over a period of years, I just started to understand how it was working. And that's what I wanted to teach.”

She started teaching jazz vocalists in 2004. “It was totally unexpected and it was a change of career for me. I was a project coordinator in a hi-tech company before and then I had to take a leave from that.”

The director of a music school where Ratté was taking lessons knew she was doing jazz, and asked her if she would be interested in teaching jazz one on one – the usual type of private vocal lessons.

But as Ratté started thinking about how to do that, she realized it would be difficult to cover all the material she wanted to in only a one-hour lesson each week, and instead decided to start a workshop, based on the masterclasses she had enjoyed at jazz camp.

Read more: Nicole Ratté celebrates 10 years of teaching the joy of jazz


Peter Hum: Alpha Moment (CD review)

Alpha Moment by Peter Hum (front cover photo by Bruce Deachman). The CD will be released in Ottawa in a concert at the NAC Fourth Stage on Thursday, September 24.Alpha Moment
Peter Hum
Independent, 2015

Over the last year, I've heard Peter Hum in concert several times. Although he's often had a major role in arranging the music being played, he is usually seen off to the side, in the darker edges of the stage, letting others take the spotlight and talk about the music.

This approach is also present in his second album, Alpha Moment. While the compositions clearly reflect Hum's complex style, his piano playing is not particularly featured in this album. It's certainly there in the mix, but the leads and the solos are primarily by saxophonists Kenji Omae and Nathan Cepelinski and guitarist Mike Rud.

Instead, Hum's voice comes through in his writing and arranging. This CD demonstrates Hum's talent for layering instruments and contrasting voices: for example, Omae's more full-bodied sax style against Cepelinski's more finely-edged lines. His compositions flow and and develop, with considerable dynamic range throughout.

The CD also celebrates melody, supporting and developing those melodic threads throughout each piece, changing them in a way that works naturally from the initial statement.

Hum released his first album, A Boy's Journey, in 2010. This second album was mostly recorded in December, 2011, but has taken almost four years to release. Listening to both, it's clear that the two are companion CDs, with overall a similar sound.

Read more: Peter Hum: Alpha Moment (CD review)


Jazz fans hit up the 'burg for first night of Beeched Wailers new jam spot

Jam regulars Andrew Ferderber (drums) and Tariq Amery (sax) connect on a musical creation ©Brett Delmage, 2015

View photos of the jam by photojournalist Brett Delmage

The inaugural Beeched Wailers jam at their new space in Hintonburg on September 8 was packed with listeners and local musicians. The music and socializing spilled on to the sidewalk for the first part of the warm evening, and the music was still going strong well past midnight.

In their upbeat opening set, the Wailers celebrated the local jazz scene. Five of the six songs the group played were by local musicians, including by band members Nick Dyson and Tyler Harris. Dyson said later that all those numbers were ones that they recorded in August for their upcoming CD. They ended with a classic by one of the group's favourite composers: “The Sticks” by Cannonball Adderley.

Then musicians quickly stepped up to jam. Other than an initial Leonard Cohen tune which would have been a better fit at an open mic night elsewhere, the music was interactive and extended jazz. Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and lots of standards allowed locals to stretch out and have fun.

There were many faces familiar from the Wailers' former location. Newer, younger players were also supported and encouraged to play, in the fairly loose, comfortable atmosphere – although a bit tighter organization might have allowed more people to play.

The jams continue every Tuesday, starting at 9:30 p.m.

Read more: Jazz fans hit up the 'burg for first night of Beeched Wailers new jam spot


Major changes for JazzWorks jazz jams: new location and new night

The longest-running jazz jams in Ottawa are making some major changes this fall, to get a better listening experience.

The previous JazzWorks jam location at the Carleton Tavern was long and narrow. Even with a second speaker half-way back the music was difficult to hear. ©Brett Delmage, 2011The JazzWorks monthly jams are moving to the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South, and to Fridays instead of Thursdays. The first jam in the new location will be held this Friday, September 18.

JazzWorks executive director Judy Humenick told that the main reason was to improve the sound and the sightlines.

“As much as the Carleton Tavern has been wonderful, and they've been a great home for us for the last several years, the actual layout of the space doesn't work as well for vocalists. Because of the shape of the room – it's a long, narrow, room – it's a tricky room to have a jam session in.”

The jams had been hosted by the Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg since September, 2009. Humenick said that JazzWorks had looked at moving the stage and other fixes, but could not figure out any way to make it substantially easier for people to hear and see. “It's very tricky to set up the sound and everything. In the long run we decided we were better to make the shift.”

Read more: Major changes for JazzWorks jazz jams: new location and new night


Watch Rob Frayne's Dream Band (video)

©2015 Brett Delmage

Ottawa composer Rob Frayne isn't afraid to push for the stars with his Dream Band. Over the last three years, he's showcased several editions of the band — some larger, some smaller, and with different musicians from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

But what's stayed the same is the nature of Frayne's music, although he's continued to add new compositions and new arrangements. It's complex and multi-layered, with weaving horns which can be dreamy at one moment and full-out the next, complemented with a different kind of rhythm section - uniquely his.

On Friday, Frayne presents his latest edition of the Dream Band, this time an octet ("The Dream Combo"), at the NAC Fourth Stage. And this time he'll be playing saxophone in the band.'s Brett Delmage recorded the Dream BigBand's last show in April, which filled the Westboro Legion.

Here's an excerpt from that show, showing off its transcendent music, and featuring some of the musicians who will also appear in Friday's show.

    – Alayne McGregor with Brett Delmage

Updated 2015-09-10 to correct the group's name for the September 11 performance.

Watch the video


Gerri Trimble brings a fresh approach to her GigSpace concert Saturday

Gerri Trimble: 'The melodies are tricky and the intervals are tricky – and I really like it! I really like the challenge.' ©Brett Delmage, 2015Coming from an unconventional musical background, Ottawa jazz vocalist Gerri Trimble isn't afraid to challenge herself by singing music out of the ordinary. That's the approach she'll be taking at her show at GigSpace this Saturday.

“I once read an article where somebody was talking about a lack of courage in arrangements, and I guess really I want to bring some freshness to things. I do try for that. And if it can't be fresh, then darn it, it's going to be hard!"

But that's “hard” in terms of what she has to put into the performance – not for the listeners. And she emphasized that her quartet concert at GigSpace will be balanced between lighter and more ambitious jazz pieces.

“I do like trying to work on trickier tunes – there's no doubt about it. As I put together my set list for Saturday, I've been concerned that maybe I have too many meaty tunes, so then I've been balancing it with really, really fluffy ones. I'm hoping it will come to a happy middle place.”

On her Soundcloud page, for example, Trimble includes her performances of two songs by Thelonious Monk, who is famed for breaking the rules and getting away with things that no one else could. “If you look at the bridge of 'Monk's Dream', it's basically one chord for the whole thing, and most of us are trying to make chords progress into the next thing and he's just like 'No. I'm just going to go with this chord right here.' ”

“So it's things like that that interest me for sure, because I think sometimes you could try to take your idea and make it into a conventional form, or you could just let your idea be the way it is, and see what happens.”

Read more: Gerri Trimble brings a fresh approach to her GigSpace concert Saturday


A year later, Bernie Senensky and Roddy Ellias repeat their warm duet, with GigSpace's new piano (video)

This Sunday afternoon, you can hear the new grand piano at GigSpace played by the musician who made sure it was in fine shape before being purchased.

Bernie Senensky ©2014 Brett DelmageToronto pianist and three-time Juno nominee Bernie Senensky is back in Ottawa, for a duo show at GigSpace with guitarist Roddy Ellias. And he'll be playing the new piano.

This spring, after a successful fundraising campaign, GigSpace went looking for a piano, and found one outside Toronto. GigSpace artistic director Marilee Townsend-Alcorn wrote they had it checked by two Yamaha technicians, but “we wanted someone who knows pianos: the feel, the sound, to actually play it before we made an offer to purchase.”

“Bernie Senensky was able to clear his schedule and make time to do it right away. He played the piano for over an hour, all styles of music, and gave us a big thumbs up. And we have since received only high praise for its beautiful sound!”

Senensky was last in Ottawa a year ago, opening the weekly jazz series at the now-defunct ZenKitchen. His duo concert there with Ellias was warmly received by a full house of intent jazz listeners. was there and recorded the first set. You can watch some fun excerpts from their previous show below.

Watch the video


Vijay Iyer and Dr. L Subramaniam fuse jazz and Indian music into a propulsive and nuanced whole

Violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam in deep conversation with pianist Vijay Iyer. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Best of India, Best of Jazz
Vijay Iyer and Dr. L. Subramaniam
Harold Shenkman Hall
Shenkman Arts Centre, Ottawa
Saturday, September 5, 2015 – 7 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Growing up in the U.S. as the son of immigrants from India, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer was always aware of Indian classical music – and in particular the Carnatic tradition from south India and one of its major exemplars, violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam.

That life-long influence made Saturday's concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre particularly special. He told the audience that, while he had known Subramaniam for some time in person, this was the first time they had had a chance to work together. He sounded delighted at the prospect.

Both Iyer and Subramaniam have worked in cross-cultural contexts before: in 2011, Iyer released Tirtha, a trio album with Indian guitarist/composer Prasanna, and tablaist Nitin Mitta. Earlier this year, he played six nights in a Manhattan club with two Carnatic-trained musicians on violin and Indian percussion. He's also released several albums with Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.

For several decades, Subramaniam, who was trained in both the classical Indian and classical Western traditions, has been been performing “Global Fusion” concerts – combining Indian music with Western, and often jazz, music, and performing with everyone from Stéphane Grappelli to Larry Coryell to Herbie Hancock.

Read more: Vijay Iyer and Dr. L Subramaniam fuse jazz and Indian music into a propulsive and nuanced whole


Wealth of great jazz launches the 2015-16 Ottawa-Gatineau jazz season

Read about the jazz coming up this month: Jazz for all tastes in Ottawa-Gatineau in October

September is the beginning of the new 2015-16 jazz season – and here in Ottawa-Gatineau, it's sashaying in with a wealth of music.

Jump to:Mainstream
The jazz scene
Jazz jams

Touring musicians, including American pianist Vijay Iyer, Montreal guitarist Mike Rud, Toronto pianist Bernie Senensky, Toronto vocalist Maureen Kennedy, and Holland-based avant-garde cellist Tristan Honsinger, will bring new sounds (and in Rud's case, a new CD) here.

But, in fact, this month is most notable for all the local jazz projects which are being introduced and updated. You can choose from three CD release concerts from Mark Ferguson, from Peter Hum and from the Souljazz Orchestra, a tribute show to 50s/60s saxophonist Gene Ammons, the newest incarnation of Rob Frayne's Dream Big Band, the joy of standards from Steve Berndt and Brian Browne, upbeat Afro-Cuban and Brazilian shows, and lots of vocal jazz, sung in different styles.

Some weekends – particularly the fourth – are so packed, you'd have to scramble to hear everything.

Subscribe to our weekly jazz news and events newsletter to get the full details about these and other upcoming jazz events!

The season commences with a concert by Vijay Iyer on September 5 ©Brett Delmage, 2014The season kicks off this Saturday, September 5, with a joint concert by American pianist Vijay Iyer and south Indian violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam. Iyer is one of the most acclaimed musicians in jazz, whose music ranges from the intensely cerebral to beautiful standards, from piano trio to a poetic tribute to U.S. veterans of colour. Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music for the last three years, he also received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2013. He has released three duo albums with New York saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose music has been influenced by Indian improvisatory techniques.

Subramaniam was trained in the classical Indian Carnatic tradition, which includes both improvisation and composition, but also in Western classical music. In his more-than-50-year career, he has played in both traditions, but he has also created many cross-genre collaborations including with jazz musicians. He has released albums with jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli and jazz fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, as well as performing with Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Al Jarreau, Jean Luc Ponty, Ernie Watts, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, John Surman, Maynard Ferguson, and Ravi Coltrane.

The Ottawa show will be the first time Subramaniam and Iyer have performed together. The concert will be in three sections: a solo piano performance by Iyer; a trio performance of Indian classical music by Subramaniam with his son and a percussionist; and Iyer and Subramaniam together.

Read more: Wealth of great jazz launches the 2015-16 Ottawa-Gatineau jazz season


Merrickville's 2015 Jazz Fest embraces jazz with Juno nominees, jam-packed program

Merrickville's Jazz Fest returns for its fifth year this fall with an all-Canadian lineup of popular jazz musicians. From October 15 to 19, listeners can hear 17 jazz concerts in churches, restaurants, and a ballroom in the small Ontario town, a one-hour drive from Ottawa.

MJF Director Peggy Holloway: 'When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can'  ©2014 Brett DelmageAll locations are within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Merrickville. But, as we found ourselves doing last year, you may have to run between venues to be able to hear every group in the three days and four evenings packed with music.

“When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can,” festival co-founder and Director Peggy Holloway told, laughing.

Word is getting out about this festival. It  received even more applications this year from musicians from Quebec City to Toronto than last year's record number, according to Holloway.

In contrast to that other large regional jazz festival, the musicians at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest have solid connections to jazz and they are not embarrassed to mention that association. From a 2013 Juno Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year nominee to the young musicians who “feel most at home performing at the jazz venues of Toronto”, MJF 2015 is presenting musicians who can satisfy a jazz-hungry audience.

Win a Festival pass - Enter our contest!

Listeners' hunger will be satisfied with MJF's big buffet of jazz flavours, which include:

  • Snaggle's “own brash statement for the jazz fusion legacy”
  • toe-tapping Dixieland by the New Orleans Express
  • powerful, original Afro-Cuban rhythms from the Miguel de Armas Quartet
  • classic jazz and modern melodies and harmonies in the warm, inviting tones of vocalist Diane White
  • Sax Appeal's saxophone-only ensemble, with a full range from baritone to soprano sax
  • ... and a dozen other flavourful choices.

Notable groups which will be featured this year at Merrickville's Jazz Fest include:

Read more: Merrickville's 2015 Jazz Fest embraces jazz with Juno nominees, jam-packed program


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