How Music Works
by David Byrne
McSweeney's, 2012, $37.95
reviewed by Alayne McGregor
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I had, of course, listened to the Talking Heads, but I had never seen their ex-lead singer, David Byrne, in person until a few years ago. Byrne was on a book tour to promote a collection of essays about cycling – Bicycle Diaries – and spoke at the Ottawa Writers Festival. The book turned out to be an interesting mixture of the personal and the larger picture. In person, Byrne was modest and interesting to listen to without being dogmatic.
He's just written a second book – this time about music – and again it contains a mixture of personal experience and larger-scale musings on music as a social phenomenon and a creative spur. And its publication happens to coincide with a concert appearance by him in Ottawa, on Sunday, June 23, at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
Now, Byrne is a rock musician with worldbeat and art song influences. He doesn't play jazz. But a lot of what he has to say has great relevance to jazz listeners and musicians, because the music business and the experience of listening are common to all music fans. You may listen to different styles and different instruments and in different environments, but how you find that music or get to that concert poses the same challenges and provides the same joy.
Listening to Roberto López's Afro-Colombian Jazz Orchestra, you may experience moments of surprising unfamiliarity.
At first, this music may remind you of Afro-Cuban or Brazilian jazz: similar rhythm patterns, musical genres, and instruments – and similarly approachable and highly danceable.
But the accents will be different, the patterns subtly altered, because of where López's musical influences come from – Colombia, half-way between Cuba and Brazil.
You can hear the difference for yourself on Saturday, June 22, at 6 p.m., when López brings the orchestra to the main stage of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. It will be the first stop on a cross-Canada tour promoting the orchestra's first CD, Azul. The tour will also include a stop at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 3.
López grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, studied jazz at Concordia University in Montreal, and has now lived and played music in Canada for almost two decades. He has combined his Colombian heritage and his jazz training to create a unique polyglot – taking Columbia traditional music and music by famous Columbian composers, and then adding his own jazz compositions inspired by this music.
His orchestra is similarly cross-cultural. It features well-known Montreal jazz musicians like saxophonist Joel Miller, bassist Fraser Hollins, and trombonist Dave Grott. But it also features many Colombian instruments: López himself on tiple, tambora, and guacharaca and two percussionists on alegre, tambora, congas, and campanas.
This cross-fertilization started soon after López first arrived in Canada. As he was absorbing jazz standards, his fellow students were asking him about Colombian music. That inspired him to learn more about the music which had surrounded him while he was growing up – for what eventually turned out to be years of research.
Congratulation to Brady Leafloor, who won a 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival Bronze pass from OttawaJazzScene.ca. His name was randomly selected from the donors to our annual community funding campaign. Brady will enjoy a lot of great music during the next 10 days - and perform some himself! Catch him and his fellow Hornettes on the OLG Stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 29.
You have another opportunity to win Festival Passes!
Ottawa Chamberfest has generously donated a pair of passes to their 2013 Chamberfringe concert series (the late-night, on-the-edge part of Chamberfest) which we will be awarding to a lucky donor in mid-July, at the end of our fundraising campaign. These passes include a concert by jazz multi-instrumentalists Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson celebrating their 30 years of musical collaboration, as well as concerts by Jayme Stone and the Montreal Guitar Trio. Latin music lovers will also appreciate the Cuban and Brazilian music.
All donors of $20 or more to OttawaJazzScene.ca will be automatically be entered in our contest. And, more importantly, they will support OttawaJazzScene.ca's work for another year letting you know what's happening in jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau. Learn more about our work and how it's appreciated. Donate now!
André St. Jacques was eager to hear the opening night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam sessions, at their new location at the AlphaSoul Café in Hintonburg.
So after listening to concerts in Confederation Park, he pointed his four-wheel motorized scooter westward. 45 minutes and 3.5 km later, he arrived at the café and rolled right in. He happily listened until the music closed down at 1:45 a.m.
St. Jacques, the long-time host of the radio show Jazz et Compagnie on CHUO-FM, was only one of a group of listeners and musicians who drove, cycled, walked and rolled to reach the café Thursday night. There they heard several sets of almost completely-acoustic music – a pleasant contrast to music earlier in the evening in the park – which nevertheless filled the place from front to back. The sound was good even on the back patio at the far end of the café.
Three Montreal musicians – pianist Josh Rager, bassist Fraser Hollins, and drummer Rich Irwin – are hosting the first four nights of the jams (June 20-23). They played the first set themselves and then invited up guests.
The stand-out was tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, who is in Ottawa to perform with Tom Harrell's group Friday evening. In the three extended songs he played with a rotating group of musicians, his strong, clear, and assertive sax energized the space. Also playing were bassist Kodi Hutchinson, whose Hutchinson Andrew Trio had performed on the main stage earlier that evening; local drummer Ted Zarras; and pianist Deniz Lim-Sersan, who is currently studying at Humber College in Toronto.
The crowd listened intently and applauded enthusiastically. At least two listeners also applauded the café's refreshments, which included two local brands of beer, and fresh soups, sandwiches, and other healthy fare for those who had missed their dinner rushing from concert to concert.
This is the first time the Ottawa Jazz Festival jams have been located outside downtown. For more than a decade, the jams had been run at local downtown hotels, most recently at Arc The Hotel.
The breadth of Canadian jazz talent will be on display at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival, including more artists from Western Canada.
Many musicians not seen recently in Ottawa – John Stetch, Brad Turner, Peggy Lee, Vic Vogel, Jon Ballantyne, and Seamus Blake – will appear, along with some new names like Tyson Naylor, Alan Jones, and Roberto López.
Several of these are hidden in less-expected series or under less-obvious band names. But there's an advantage to that, too – you get to hear them play with new people and feature new material!
Festival programming director Petr Cancura told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the wider geographic range this year was deliberate: “We really sat down and said, 'Let's make the Great Canadian series a cross-Canada thing – you know, really work hard on that'.” When all the jazz festivals in Canada met together in November, he said, they decided to “really try to represent each part of the country. So we stuck to it. We didn't back out.”
There will also be some impressive locally-connected groups playing the Main Stage, the NAC or Dominion Chalmers – the Stretch Orchestra, Kellylee Evans, Los Gringos, Rob Frayne's Dream Band, and the Souljazz Orchestra – which you can read about in our Local Artists story.
Here's OttawaJazzScene.ca's guide to some of the best Canadians or Canadian expats appearing at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The first is a concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Oscar-nominated animated film, The Triplets of Belleville. Montreal guitarist Benoit Charest wrote the soundtrack to that movie, and won a French César Award for it. He was also nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar for one of its songs. He will be recreating the soundtrack on-stage, in a seven-piece band that includes Chet Doxas, keyboardist Dan Thouin, and drummer Jim Doxas, and instruments which range from tuba, vibraphone, and foley to vacuum-cleaner. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard Chet Doxas play an high-energy show together with Charest and Thouin at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival: see our review with photos.
Updated June 19, 2013
Three jazz radio hosts on CKCU (93.1 FM) will preview the musicians playing at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival this month. Each has already presented one festival preview show in the first week of June.
You can hear all these shows (and the ones below, after broadcast) on the Internet at cod.ckcufm.com; just search for the specific show.
Wednesday, June 19 from 11 p.m. to midnight: Bernard Stepien will present his third and last show about the Ottawa jazz festival on Rabble Without a Cause. He will interview festival programming director Petr Cancura about his "diversity of musical horizon" as a musician. "Petr will be in the studio tonight to discuss both his musical quest and how he puts it to use in programming the Jazz festival."
Sunday, June 23 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Swing is in the Air host Vince Rimbach will interview festival programming director Petr Cancura about Cancura's picks for the festival, plus his just-released album, Down Home. Rimbach will also interview Ottawa guitarist Garry Elliott and pianist Steve Boudreau about their new CD, Pre-Dawn Skies, which they will present in a free festival concert on Saturday, June 29 at noon at the Rideau Centre.
Three different jazz eras on three different blocks – that's what you could hear on Preston Street on Friday night, during the free Italian Week Festival activities.
Furthest north was Cuppa Soup Combo, whose repertoire is mostly from the 1920s and 30s: the start of jazz. They played toe-tapping music like “Pennies from Heaven” – particularly appropriate since they were rattling donation cups for the Shepherds of Good Hope as they always do.
As one band member announced, the group includes the only member of the Ottawa local of the Musicians Union who officially plays washboard: Sanders Mommers. He ended their first set with a bravura performance with thimbles, cowbells, cymbals and all!
A few blocks up was the Richard Page Quartet, who played mostly hard bop and postbop from the late 50s and 60s: the Hank Mobley and Art Blakey generation. Page was playing a tenor sax which he had recently rescued from being a plant stand. He just got it back this week from being refurbished, and was getting used to it; it produced a strong, rich sound which suited their repertoire.
Growing up in the interior of British Columbia, Ottawa trumpeter Craig Pedersen heard a lot of country and cowboy music. In fact, one of the towns he lived in, Williams Lake, has the second-largest Stampede in Canada.
And while Pedersen's musical tastes have long since veered to jazz, classical, and free improvisation, he's always had fond memories of the music he heard in that “dusty cowboy town” during his most important childhood years.
When he was recording his quartet's CD, Days Like Today, in 2011, he proposed including the Willie Nelson ballad, “Crazy”. The group played it, considered it, and told Craig that it sounded better as a duet between him and the bassist, Joel Kerr.
And that's how that song instead ended up in the middle of Pedersen's and Kerr's new duo album, It's a Free Country.
The album is being officially released this week with a six-city tour starting Tuesday in Quebec City, followed by Trois-Rivieres, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, and finally Ottawa on Sunday. The Ottawa show will be part of the IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) series that Pedersen co-created and still organizes.
Pedersen describes the album as a “bridge between traditional music and free improvisation, both to the listeners and performer, providing a vehicle for expression and connection not always otherwise available independently in these styles.”
“Both Joel and I love music so much and we love so many different types of music, and I think for us the lines are very, very, very blurry. I think one of the reasons Joel and I get along is that we both have a strong classical background, but in that classical background, we've played a lot of jazz music, we've played rock music and folk music, and contemporary music, and contemporary classical. And so for us, there was never a question of being lines or divisions between these different types of music. So the thing that both of us actively pursue is improvised music, and so why not also improvised music and folk music?”
In other words, it's cowboy music – and free improv – as you haven't heard it before.
One of the peculiarities of jazz in Ottawa is that you almost always find it downtown or west of downtown. With a few exceptions like Groovy's, east-end venues haven't presented jazz.
So it was delightful and unexpected to hear a jazz duo – tenor sax and guitar – at a Vietnamese restaurant in the south-east end of Orléans, on June 1.
Bernard Stepien, a 40-year veteran of Ottawa's jazz scene and longtime host of the jazz radio show Rabble Without a Cause on CKCU-FM, played saxophone. He teamed up with Nathan Corr on guitar; Corr just graduated from the music program at Carleton University, and won the student competition at Guitar Now! in May.
They ended up at Hanoi Pho (on Innes Road near Tenth Line) because Stepien knew the owner; they worked together in high tech years ago.
The duo played bebop and standards to a reasonably full house, and was greeted by steady applause and lots of interest between sets. For their last set, they were joined by Dr. Mortimer Katz on clarinet – who has been around the local jazz scene even longer than Stepien!
A group of musicians with broad musical experience got together to play jazz-anchored music among the visual art in the Cube Gallery on Sunday, June 2.
Charley Gordon (trumpet and flugelhorn), Vince Halfhide, (guitar and vocals), Scott Warren (drums) and Ann Downey (bass and vocals) have been playing together for ten years, although sometimes with long gaps between concerts.
Their concert's two sets included music from a broad repertoire: original songs by Gordon, and tunes by Hoagy Carmichael, Ornette Coleman, Tom Waits, and Ottawa folk icon Bill Hawkins. The pieces ranged from slow folk-rock ballads, to blues, to jazz standards. The musicians took time to talk about the songs, sometimes with personal or humorous anecdotes.
Editor Alayne McGregor and I had a great time appearing on two CKCU FM 93.1 jazz shows in the past few days. We talked about some of the music we are personally looking forward to hearing at this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival.
Bernard Stepien, host of CKCU's excellent avant-garde jazz program, Rabble Without A Cause (RWAC), and Vince Rimbach, one of the warm and knowledgeable hosts of Swing Is In The Air, played some wonderful tunes from some of the musicians we enthused about.
You can listen to the shows on CKCU On Demand, anytime. Hear our all-Canadian selections and why we think you should check out these musicians and their Ottawa Jazz Festival concerts.
– Brett Delmage
- 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams move 3.5 km west to Hintonburg
- Jazzfest 2013: Local musicians you will want to hear
- Stellar year for young Ottawa musicians at 2013 MusicFest Canada
- Gaby Warren's years as a jazz fan recognized at CD launch (review)
- Split Cycle plays intricately-woven modern jazz (review)
- Next concert in John Geggie Invitational series may be the last
- The community celebrates Ottawa Jazz Hero Roddy Ellias (video)
- Gaby Warren: a jazz fanatic steps to the other side of the footlights
- No Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions in 2013? Listeners object.
- Jeff Johnston Trio enraptures the audience (review)
- Kellylee Evans to appear again at NAC Presents
- Roddy Ellias: a humble Jazz Hero
- Jeff Johnston returns to his trio's musical roots and then moves forward with his new album
- Evandro Gracelli brings Brazilian warmth to Ottawa for three busy weeks
- Energetic music attracts a packed house at Rimbombante CD release show
- Expecting the unexpected at Saturday's GigSpace concert of improvising composers
- Listeners get JazzED at 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup announcement
- Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra - in the making (video)
- The Jivewires are on an upswing
- Ontario government funds jazz (and other Ottawa festivals)
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