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William Parker and Ken Aldcroft: subtle textures which filled the room (review)

William Parker with doson ngoni listens to Ken Aldcroft play ©Brett Delmage, 2013

William Parker and Ken Aldcroft
Pressed Café, Ottawa
IMOO special presentation
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 (two shows)

View photos of this concert

Think texture.

Not only texture, of course: also unusual sounds, dynamic range, and a variety of contrasting rhythms.

But the most salient feature of William Parker's and Ken Aldcroft's two shows at Pressed was how they used the full capabilities of their instruments to produce full-bodied, evolving, and sometimes unexpected extemporized soundscapes.

Parker is a composer, bandleader, and teacher, whose double bass has graced stages around the world for decades, playing with a huge variety of high-profile musicians and especially those playing avant-garde jazz. For the last six years, one of his many collaborations has been with Aldcroft, a guitarist who's a mainstay of the free-jazz improvisation scene in Toronto. They've played a number of concerts there, and released a duo record called One Sunday on Trio Records in 2011.

For their Ottawa appearance, they played two shows, both just under an hour, mostly filling Pressed Café each time (some listeners stayed for both). The concert was organized by the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO), and IMOO organizer Linsey Wellman said afterwards that the turnout exceeded expectations.

Parker played the double bass, and, in the second set, the doson ngoni (a very tall lute from Mali) and the shakuhachi (a thick Japanese bamboo flute). Aldcroft was on electric guitar, with a selection of pedals. There was no set list, no compositions announced; they performed pure free improv.

Read more: William Parker and Ken Aldcroft: subtle textures which filled the room (review)

 

L'OFF Festival in Montreal and Le Festival de Jazz de Quebec announce lineups for October

L'OFF Jazz, the other Montreal jazz festival with a greater emphasis on local musicians, has just announced the lineup for its festival in early October.

Highlights of the October 3 to 12 event include:

  • the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra
  • Alec Walkington’s Contraband
  • Marianne Trudel + William Parker + Hamid Drake (reprising their energetic collaboration at Guelph)
  • Chet Doxas's Dive with Matt Stevens, Eric Doob and Zack Lober
  • the Jeff Johnston Trio
  • L’Ensemble Rémi-Jean LeBlanc,
  • Quartetski does Stravinsky – Le sacre du Printemps
  • the Litania Projekt
  • Trio Derome Guilbeault Tanguay launching their new album WOW!
  • World Colors – John Roney & JazzLab Orchestra + guest violinist Mark Feldman

and much more. And a couple Ottawa expats show up too: the Craig Pedersen Quartet and Renée Yoxon & Mark Ferguson.

More info: www.lofffestivaldejazz.com/

The Quebec City Jazz Festival also occurs next month, from October 15 to 27, and has recently announced its schedule.

International musicians are prominent, including the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, The Bad Plus and Kurt Rosenwinkel Solo, Tigran Hamasyan, and the Saxophone Summit with Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman & Ravi Coltrane.

Read more: L'OFF Festival in Montreal and Le Festival de Jazz de Quebec announce lineups for October

 

Guelph 2013: World Percussion Summit breaks the borders of rhythm (review)

Dong-Won Kim started the concert off on his chang-go ©Brett Delmage, 2013

World Percussion Summit
Jesse Stewart, Hamid Drake, Dong-Won Kim, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee
Cooperators Hall, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 8 p.m.

The Guelph Jazz Festival combined the familiar and the new, North America and the world for the opening concert of this year's festival.

It was the festival's 20th anniversary, and to celebrate that, it started a day early with a special free concert. For the familiar, the festival invited drummers Hamid Drake from Chicago and Jesse Stewart from Ottawa, both of whom have played there frequently. Their drumsets were right beside each other at centre stage.

For the new – and to fit this year's theme, “celebrating a world of jazz” – they invited tabla player Pandit Anindo Chatterjee (whom the festival described as “the living legend of the tabla”), and Korean percussionist Dong-Won Kim, known for his work in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. Their instruments flanked the drumsets on either side.

The concert had an Ottawa connection: although Drake and Stewart had known each other for years, their stint at GigSpace in Ottawa last March was the first time they'd formally played together. There, they fell into an immediate rapport, producing two 75-minute sets of improvised music where they intuitively enhanced each other's explorations.

Read more: Guelph 2013: World Percussion Summit breaks the borders of rhythm (review)

 

Jesse Stewart's Gnomon Variations a timely arrival for 20th Guelph Jazzfest

On September 8, Ottawa artist, composer, percussionist, instrument builder, writer and music educator Jesse Stewart will mark the passing of time – the 20-year life of the Guelph Jazz Festival - with Gnomon Variations, his specially commissioned piece for drumset and strings.

It's an exciting, creative opportunity for Stewart. He's had a long-standing interest in time, expressed in both the visual and musical arts, in addition to participating in the Guelph Jazz festival (GJF) since its first year.

Jesse Stewart © Brett Delmage, 2011"One of the things connecting my work in the visual and sonic arts is my ongoing interest in different representations and conceptions of time," Stewart told OttawaJazzScene.ca.

The Guelph Jazz Festival could not have found a more enthusiastic timekeeper. For the 2000 festival, Stewart was commissioned to create a multi-media jazz opera that “would serve as a sort of meditation on improvisation, impermanence, and the passage of time.” His first solo visual and musical exhibit, “Wheels of Time” followed at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in 2003. In 2011, he presented his first solo visual art exhibit at a major Ottawa art gallery: “Time Pieces”. It examined time in innovative ways, including both visually and musically.

“I was thinking of this idea of marking time, anniversaries and so on, and that's really where the genesis of the idea for the piece came from,” Stewart said. “The piece for me is about how we measure time, how we keep time, how we mark time, musically and otherwise.”

Read more: Jesse Stewart's Gnomon Variations a timely arrival for 20th Guelph Jazzfest

 

Cool and groovin' - with gelato

Lucas Haneman, Michel Delage, and Marc Decho (l-r) played some cool grooves at Stella Luna Gelato Café Sunday night. ©Brett Delmage, 2013View photos from the show

A gelato café is not the first place you'd check to hear hot jazz – but Stella Luna on Bank Street in Ottawa South has been offering a steadily increasing variety of jazz (and other music) on Sunday evenings. The Ottawa Folklore Centre Jazz Band broke the ice there in 2011, and over the last year more musicians have been showing up to entertain those waiting in line for gelato or sitting enjoying it.

Bassist Marc Decho tried out a new combination at the café on August 25, with guitarist Lucas Haneman and drummer Michel Delage. Despite never having played as a trio before, they easily slipped into a comfortable groove, performing and deconstructing Latin and jazz standards and adding their own improvisations on top. Decho and Haneman clearly had a great time playing off each other, especially when Haneman pulled out his mandolin and they traded fast riffs.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read more: Cool and groovin' - with gelato

 

The Montreal Jazz Festival pays an upbeat tribute to Dave Brubeck (review)

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, led by Chris Brubeck (bass) and Dan Brubeck (drums), was very familiar with Dave Brubeck's music, but performed it in a fresh, conversational manner. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet Tribute to Dave Brubeck
Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Place des Arts
Montreal Jazz Festival
Sunday, July 7, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The late Dave Brubeck was always special to the Montreal Jazz Festival, and founder Alain Simard recognized that at the closing concert of the 2013 festival.

Before the concert started, Simard walked on-stage to pay tribute to the pianist and composer: “un grand ami du festival”, who even sent him Christmas cards. Brubeck performed 13 times at the festival, starting in 1981, with everything from his trio to a big band to symphony orchestras. His last appearance was in 2011.

This tribute featured two of Brubeck's four musician sons: Chris on electric bass and trombone, and Dan on drums, plus their regular collaborators Mike DeMicco on guitar, and Chuck Lamb on keyboards. This was particularly fitting because Dave Brubeck often included one or more of his sons in his performances starting in the 1960s. In fact, at Brubeck's very first Montreal jazz festival concert in 1981, Chris played trombone in his quartet.

But the tribute also included three stellar Montreal jazz musicians: Chet Doxas on saxophone, Adrian Vedady on double bass, and notably Lorraine Desmarais on piano, who played in the big band Diva in their two festival concerts with Brubeck in 1999. Adding those three to the Montreal concert was an inspired choice: their musicianship, enthusiasm, and new approaches enlivened and enhanced the concert.

Read more: The Montreal Jazz Festival pays an upbeat tribute to Dave Brubeck (review)

 

Orchestre national de jazz Montréal scores with Joni Mitchell tribute (review)

Updated August 27, 2013
Orchestre national de jazz Montréal
Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Place des Arts
Montreal Jazz Festival
Saturday, July 6, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.

Montreal has a wealth of big bands, and an abundance of musicians accustomed to performing in big bands. Vic Vogel, Christine Jensen, Joe Sullivan, and Lorraine Desmarais: all those prominent musicians lead big bands. Plus there's the Montreal All-City Big Band, and many university and high school jazz bands. More than in most cities, there's a culture of enjoying large-scale jazz music.

And now there's another: the Orchestre national de jazz Montréal, which had its debut performance at the 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival, and which is scheduled to play monthly concerts at L'Astral starting in September.

The 16-piece orchestra is led by Christine Jensen, and includes a fine selection of Montreal jazz musicians, all but three of whom I recognized. It aims to provide “jazz creators with a permanent place where they can fully express their talent and creativity”, as well as to present the wide range of orchestral jazz music being written around the world.

Its inaugural concert started with three pieces by Quebec jazz composers – Jensen, Jean-Nicolas Trottier, and Marianne Trudel – each about 15 minutes long. Each was rearranged to take advantage of the greater number of voices in this band; there was much interplay in the arrangements, particularly in Trottier's piece. Frank Lozano's hard-edged saxophone started it off, but then a wide variety of instruments (notably André Leroux's flute) added considerable texture and layering to the thoughtful piece.

Read more: Orchestre national de jazz Montréal scores with Joni Mitchell tribute (review)

 

Jayme Stone melds chamber music, jazz, and bit of bluegrass into an intricate whole (review)

Jayme Stone's Chamberfringe concert was full of careful listening and intricate collborations. (l-r: Joe Phillips, Stone, Andrew Downing) ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Jayme Stone
Ottawa Chamberfest
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Saturday, August 3, 2013 – 9:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Jayme Stone about this concert and his new CD: Jayme Stone expands the horizons of the banjo, along with his favourite musicians

The only problem with Jayme Stone's performance at Chamberfest was that it was too short.

In the 60 minutes allocated to him, Stone and his musicians played music from three of his four albums, plus a tip-of-the-hat to Chamberfest with a Bach suite. But there simply wasn't time to play the concerto which is the centerpiece of his just-released album, The Other Side of the Air. The concerto would have admirably suited the location and audience, and I was looking forward to hearing it live.

Regardless, the show was a good introduction to Stone, his original approach to the banjo, his genre-bending music, and the fine jazz musicians he plays with. It was well-paced and diverse, with Stone providing explanations and background for the music, and creating a strong connection with the audience.

The banjo has been pigeonholed as a bluegrass, Americana, or Dixieland instrument: Béla Fleck tore big holes in those barriers several decades ago, and Stone has continued that progress. Stone has reenvisioned the banjo as a simply a resonant, stringed instrument, and imagined new contexts for it: West African rhythms, music inspired by world folk dances, baroque classical music, and definitely jazz.

Read more: Jayme Stone melds chamber music, jazz, and bit of bluegrass into an intricate whole (review)

 

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra: a dancing good time (review)

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra never stopped moving from first appearing on the back balcony until they marched off the stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Ottawa Chamberfest
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Saturday, August 3, 2013 – 11 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra is a large group of musicians from Toronto – some of whom also play jazz – who play music inspired by folk dances and songs from Eastern Europe. They sing in Ukrainian, Roumanian, Slovakian, and other languages, accompanied by a wide variety of brass and woodwind instruments (including sousaphone), accordion, fiddle, Jews-harp, and a few I'd never seen before.

That description sounds very earnest, which is totally incorrect: the Orkestra is about as crowd-pleasing as you can get, mugging for the listeners, dancing all about about the stage (one of its members, Stephania Woloshyn, is a talented folk and belly dancer as well as a singer), and performing with a great deal of oompah. They are seriously wild men and women.

Read more: The Lemon Bucket Orkestra: a dancing good time (review)

 

Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson celebrate the long-lasting beauty of standards (review)

©Brett Delmage, 2013

Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson
Ottawa Chamberfest
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 10 p.m.

As the last notes of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” died out, Phil Dwyer told the audience that the root of the word “improvise” is “to improve”. And because neither he nor Don Thompson thought they could really improve on that particular tune, they simply played it straight – expressively, intently, and with just a little bit of an edge to offset its sweetness. They found the core of the tune, and the result was stunning.

Dwyer and Thompson have been playing jazz together for 31 years, in a wide variety of groups. They've just released their first duo album, Look for the Silver Lining [Triplet Records, 2013], and brought selections from it, plus a few more favourite standards, to an almost-completely full house at Chamberfest.

The lower hall at St. Brigid's is an intimate space with good acoustics, and neither Thompson at the grand piano nor Dwyer on tenor sax needed amplification. It also made for an informal, late-night vibe, with Dwyer easily chatting with the audience and describing the connections they had with each song. He said he'd only chosen the set list five minutes before the show – but that was the benefit of them performing together for so many years!

The moment I heard the opening number, “You Make Me Feel So Young”, I thought of Frank Sinatra, who made that song famous. It was more than that, though: the swinging vibe and Dwyer's dancing sax lines reminded me of Sinatra's full-bodied vocal style. And Dwyer confirmed the connection to the audience later: one of the first times he and Thompson played together, he put on a Frank Sinatra CD on the drive from the ferry to the gig. When they started the drive, they had no idea what they were going to play; when they reached the hall, they just played all the songs on the CD! And ever since then, he said they usually have a few Frank Sinatra numbers in the repertoire. This was a joyful rendition, with both playing around a bit with the tune.

Read more: Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson celebrate the long-lasting beauty of standards (review)

 

Second annual IMOOfest in November

The Titanium Trio at IMOO in January, 2012. ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Updated September 23, 2013

The second annual IMOOfest will be held this year from November 8 to 10. Ottawa's premiere festival of improvised and avant-garde music will be held in a new location: GigSpace (on Gladstone Avenue near Little Italy).

Headlining artists so far announced include

  • the IMOO Chamber Orchestra, and
  • Jean Martin & Christine Duncan
  • Accordion Conspiracy (with Bernard Stepien and David Broscoe)
  • Ellwood Epps and Joshua Zubot’s “Land of Marigold”

The Titanium Riot is no longer scheduled to appear.

The concert will also mark the release of the third IMOO CD: Other People’s Art, featuring Craig Pedersen, David Broscoe, Mark Molnar, and Scott Warren. They will play original compositions inspired by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and John Cage.

IMOO is also looking for volunteers to help put on the festival, and for donations. More info at www.improvisedmoo.com/ .

The first IMOOfest in October 2012 attracted good crowds to hear local and imported jazz improvisers play a wide variety of free jazz, ranging from electronics, to an improvised orchestra, to Lori Freedman showing the amazing sounds one can coax out of clarinet and bass clarinet.

Read more: Second annual IMOOfest in November

 

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