A new Wednesday evening “vocal-centric” jazz series at Santé Restaurant launched earlier this month, with a full room listening to vocalist Karen Oxorn and guitarist Tim Bedner. It continues in the weeks ahead with an uncommon lineup of talented male jazz vocalists.
The new series, curated by Bedner. arose from a series of sessions his trio played at the restaurant during the Ottawa Jazz Festival in June, as part of the Downtown Rideau BIA's festival-related programming. Prior to that, Santé Restaurant presented eight mainstream and Latin jazz duos in 2012.
On Wednesday, September 17, when I heard Nicole Ratté perform with Bedner, the restaurant was approximately half-full of diners, who were reasonably quiet and appreciative, allowing me to clearly hear the music where I sat, almost at the back of the room.
Dominique Forest will be featured tonight. She's presenting a sneak preview – indeed the first live performance – of a few original songs from her upcoming first CD, which she will release in January. Bedner has been working with her on the project and was very excited when speaking about them, describing them as “beautiful, beautiful songs.”
In October, Bedner will play with a number of experienced male jazz vocalists singing in a variety of jazz styles, starting with Steve Berndt on October 1, followed by Jerry Sociedade (Oct. 8), and Floyd Hutchinson (Oct. 15).
Audiences will be able to hear two voices of Bernie Senensky in two cities this week – grooving in an organ quartet, and more intimately in a piano-guitar duet.
The Toronto pianist is best known for the 20 years he spent playing with and writing for jazz legend Moe Koffman. But he's performed with many more musical greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Williams, Art Pepper, and Elvin Jones. He's played piano duets with Oscar Peterson and Marian McPartland, and been a member of groups including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, the and the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
This will be his first Ottawa appearance in years – in two very different shows. On Wednesday, he'll be on piano, opening the new Wednesday jazz listening series at ZenKitchen. On Thursday, he's playing organ with the Toronto quartet Organic at Zola's.
On Friday and Saturday, he's at the Résonance Café in Montreal: first with Organic, and then with his Organ Quartet, including Roddy Ellias.
Speaking to him on the phone Saturday, he was enthusiastic about both.
The ZenKitchen show is a duet with guitarist Roddy Ellias. It will feature “some original music but there also will be some familiar music and it will be more intuitive.” While the music will be more spare, that “doesn't mean every tune will be very slow – it's going to be all kinds of things.”
“I love Roddy's playing: we've played together a few times and I've known him for years,” Senensky said. When Ellias was in Toronto a few months ago, he sat in as guest with another organ group which Senensky plays with, “and that was really great. I think we have a great rapport.”
“We've both been playing this music for many decades so that breeds a closeness and a knowledge of the genre and the style. And it's beautiful the way the guitar and the piano can resound together, played by the right people.”
Senensky has had decades of experience playing with great jazz guitarists, starting with Lenny Breau, and including Herb Ellis, Sonny Greenwich, and Bucky Pizzarelli – and especially Ed Bickert.
Pianist David Braid, guitarist Mike Rud and singer Sienna Dahlen, pianist Emie R. Roussel, and singer Jill Barber are the new jazz additions to NAC Presents for 2015. The complete series lineup was announced this morning.
Additionally, Ottawa double bassist John Geggie returns for a single Geggie Invitational concert next April, this time with a two-reed front line with saxophonists Kelly Jefferson and Frank Lozano, along with drummer Jim Doxas.
NAC Presents is the National Arts Centre series showcasing popular music by Canadian musicians. In The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll this spring, NAC Presents was chosen by Ottawa-Gatineau jazz fans as their favourite jazz series in 2013.
The NAC announced a total of 50 performances today for the series' fourth season, including folk, indie, pop, francophone – and jazz – shows. Some had previously been announced, including Brooklyn/Ottawa multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura (October 30), Montreal pianist/composer Marianne Trudel (October 25), and throat singer/improviser Tanya Tagaq (November 7).
Those announced today include:
Montreal guitarist Mike Rud is a popular visitor to Ottawa, frequently playing guitar duets and with larger groups. But the one lineup Ottawa audiences have never seen is that on his album, Notes on Montreal. which won the 2013 Juno for Best Vocal Jazz Album. On January 22, he'll appear with Dahlen, as she recreates her vocals from that album and sings Rud's songs, which pay tribute to the great literature about Montreal.
Vancouver jazz singer Jill Barber was last seen in Ottawa in June at the Jazz Festival, performing in Dominion Chalmers United Church. Her NAC date on March 7 will be in a comparably large space: the NAC Theatre. She will be presenting songs from her sixth album, Fool’s Gold , which is primarily jazz but with a few touches of country.
Wednesday evenings have just become much more special for Ottawa jazz fans. Starting September 24, ZenKitchen is introducing a high-profile series of jazz shows, featuring many musicians rarely heard in Ottawa.
Curated by guitarist Roddy Ellias, the series will run weekly at the Centretown gourmet vegan restaurant. It will bring in well-known jazz artists from Montreal and Toronto, including Joel Miller, Dave Young, Lorne Lofsky, Bernie Senensky, Jeri Brown, and Mike Rud, as well as high-profile Ottawa-based musicians like Diane White and John Geggie – and Ellias.
The list includes several Juno Award winners, and musicians who have played with Canadian jazz icons like Oscar Peterson, Rob McConnell, and Moe Koffman.
Although food and drink will be served, “The focus will be on listening”, Ellias said.
ZenKitchen co-founder Dave Loan said that this series will be building on the success of the Sunday jazz programming which the restaurant has been running for the past two years – but with a slightly different concept.
Going into its fourth year, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is facing the problems of success.
The festival, which runs from October 16-19 this year, sold out three shows in 2013. It received almost twice as many applications from musicians in 2014 compared to 2013. And it's added one more concert over last year to an already-packed schedule.
|A few of the musicians you can hear at Merrickville's Jazz Fest this year all photos ©Brett Delmage, OttawaJazzScene.ca|
Its 2014 program features 17 concerts at locations around downtown Merrickville, including:
- a tribute to unique vocalist Blossom Dearie
- acclaimed Ottawa pianist Brian Browne
- the quartet of Montreal bebop drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve, with long-time Montreal jazz musicians Dave Turner, Eric Lagacé, and Félix Stüssi
- Toronto swing and gypsy jazz vocalist Denielle Bassels, and
- the trio of Montreal pianist and composer Adam Daudrich
along with shows by a wide range of Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians.
John Heward and Barre Phillips 80th Birthday Celebration
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 8 p.m.
Montreal jazz drummer John Heward is also renowned Canadian painter and sculptor John Heward, and he shows a similar experimental bent in both his artistic pursuits.
For the week of the Guelph Jazz Festival, the main floor walls of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre featured several of his artworks: canvas painted and twisted into large-scale dramatic pieces. When he performed at the art centre as the first evening show of the festival – with some of his favourite musicians – there was a similar feeling of drama, uncertainty, and flair.
The concert and show were to celebrate Heward's 80th birthday – but only his 31st year as a professional musician. He played the drums as a teenager, but then concentrated on the visual arts. In 1983, at 49 years old, he bought a set of drums, and started playing improvised music. He's played in various avant-garde groups in Montreal, including Nicolas Caloia's Ratchet Orchestra, and PO (“Provocative Operations”). He leads the free jazz group Murray Street Band.
Pugs & Crows
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Thursday, September 4, 2014 – 5 p.m.
View photos of this performance
Pugs & Crows is a Vancouver-based instrumental group which creates “dramatic cinematic music” blending indie rock and modern jazz. Their most recent album, Fantastic Pictures, won the 2013 Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year.
They played an hour-long late afternoon show at the Guelph Jazz Festival, to an enthusiastic and packed crowd. Performing with lots of energy and tight arrangements, they went through a good selection of numbers from both their albums, plus a few new pieces.
The group has an unusual lineup, with piano (Cat Toren) and violin (Meredith Bates) joining electric guitar (Cole Schmidt) as lead instruments, together with double bass (Russell Sholberg) and drums (Ben Brown). For this show, their music was accented by guest Tony Wilson on electric guitar and slide guitar, adding fluid lines and strong emotional touches.
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO)
Raw Sugar Café
Sunday, September 14, 2014
IMOO opened its fourth season on Sunday by returning to its roots in the local scene. It brought together a diverse collection of Ottawa-area improvisers in unexpected combinations, in its first evening in IMOO's new home of Raw Sugar Café.
IMOO organizers Linsey Wellman (alto sax) and David Jackson (guitar) arranged for Ian Birse (electronics and electric guitar), David Broscoe (alto sax, tuning forks, and noisemakers), Laura Kavanaugh (violin), Rory Magill (xylophone and percussion), and Mark Molnar (cello) to play in duos, trios, quartets, and all together. They tried a new format: each group who played would pick the next set of musicians to be thrown together to improvise.
Wellman, Jackson, and Magill began quietly, with shimmering guitar and low tones on sax, and became more intense, with Magill joining in with light taps on xylophone near the end. The collaborations which followed constantly changed textures and sounds: rough-edged violin and cello contrasting with shakers; rattling bells and ringing tuning forks alternating with with buzzing electronically-altered electric guitar and punctuated notes on saxophone. Near the end, there was even an (atypical) string quartet.
Lee Pui Ming and Dong-Won Kim
2014 Guelph Jazz Festival
Guelph Youth Music Centre
Sunday, September 7, 2014 – 10:30 a.m.
The Guelph Jazz Festival rarely deals in the obvious or the tried-and-true, but its 2014 closing concert really confounded the audience's expectations.
Lee Pui Ming is an improvising pianist, composer, and vocalist, who combines classical, jazz, and Chinese traditions, and is active in Toronto's new music community. Dong-Won Kim is a percussionist, composer, and vocalist from Korea, trained in the movements and instruments of that country's traditional music, but with a strong improvising bent,
On-stage was a Yamaha grand piano, and Kim's instruments: the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather drum; and two hanging bronze gongs.
So piano and percussion, right? Not exactly.
The gamut of music-making technology – from simple tin can shakers to advanced tangible electronic surfaces – contributed to the upbeat sound of the annual KidsAbility Youth Orchestra concert at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival.
The result was lots of smiles and action – for both the participants and the children and adults in the audience – at the show at Guelph City Hall.
Each year, the Guelph Jazz Festival commissions a musician to work with young musicians with disabilities to help them learn more about music and tools they can use to express themselves musically. This year, Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart (who recently worked with disabled adults at H'Art of Ottawa) came to a local day camp run by Playsense to work with nine youth, for an hour daily over one week in late August. Most of the young musicians he worked with were able to participate in the Youth Orchestra concert which opened the jazz festival's series of free Saturday concerts.
At the concert, Stewart mentioned that this work exploring possible future sounds tied into the festival's theme of “Sounding Futures”.
The tools Stewart taught the students began with rattles, squeakers, and other simple percussion instruments. But they also included the AUMI (Adaptive Use Musical Instrument) software and the Reactable.
An update from OttawaJazzScene.ca
On July 3, 2014, OttawaJazzScene.ca reached our 5th Anniversary! I founded the publication five years ago to celebrate and give greater public exposure to the vibrant 365-days-a-year jazz and improvised music scene in Ottawa-Gatineau and across Canada. Now, more than 10,000 articles and event listings later (a milestone which we reached in June, just before our anniversary) I feel we have made good progress towards accomplishing our initial objectives. There is strong interest in live local jazz performance, and other media have followed our lead in covering it.
- Guelph Jazzfest celebrates Sun Ra, features Vijay Iyer and Randy Weston for its 21st year
- The Christian McBride Trio fulfills the tradition; the Darius Jones Quartet fights with it
- Bobby McFerrin never forgets to experiment (review)
- Collaboration in two acts: Newport Festival Now 60 & the Norma Winstone Trio
- Real jazz is a big hit in Confederation Park, with Kirk MacDonald and Dianne Reeves
- Virtuosity in improvisation and composition: Colin Stetson & Hamid Drake, Darcy James Argue (review)
- Jane Bunnett and Maqueque bring Cuban passion to Ottawa
- Jane Bunnett spotlights the spirit & energy of female Cuban musicians in Maqueque
- The Patrick Smith Trio recreates history (video)
- Kellylee Evans celebrates Canada Day with 2 free concerts with the NAC Orchestra
- Branford Marsalis to open Music and Beyond; Oliver Jones also featured
- Myriad3 creates dramatic, percussive music (review)
- Kirk MacDonald explores symmetry in music
- CYJO celebrates its 5th anniversary with flair and many past faces
- Jazz Festival jams at new Albion Rooms treat listeners to fine musical moments
- High-profile Montreal and Ottawa jazz artists to perform in Aylmer this summer
- Ottawa Fringe Festival will present jazz for the first time
- Jon Ballantyne starts the Ottawa Jazz Festival with complex melodies (review)
- ZenKitchen may be closer to reopening after packed fundraiser
- Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard! OttawaJazzScene.ca celebrates 5 years, with a photo exhibit
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