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Ottawa-Gatineau's 2013 Jazz Score

©Brett Delmage, 2013

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Depending on how you looked at it the Ottawa-Gatineau jazz scene was either half empty or half-full in 2013. It was a year of expansion and contraction; it was a year of major achievements and major losses.

Read more: Ottawa-Gatineau's 2013 Jazz Score


Afrocentric jazz returns to Le Petit Chicago after an intense and satisfying debut

Pierre Chrétien was constantly exploring the capabilities of the vibraphone at the October concert at Le Petit Chicago. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View the photos

A new Afrocentric jazz group will have its second outing Monday, born out of learning a new instrument and the overlap among local jazz groups.

Pierre Chrétien, best known as the keyboardist/composer in the Souljazz Orchestra, started learning and experimenting with the vibraphone last spring. So when his fellow Souljazz member, Zakari Frantz, invited him to curate a Jazz Monday at Le Petit Chicago last October, it seemed like a good opportunity to unveil the vibes in public.

The lineup was Chrétien, plus three members of the Jazz Monday house band: Frantz on alto sax, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Joe Hincke on bass. They were joined for that evening only by Montreal trumpeter Rachel Therrien.

And the vibe that night was so intense and satisfying that they're back this Monday at Le Petit Chicago, with a proper name for the group: the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble. Chrétien has now written originals for the ensemble – “at least a dozen brand-new never­-before-heard original tunes”.

He described their music on Facebook as a “musical collision, in the middle of the Atlantic, between North American and African streams of jazz, resulting in a new, previously unknown world of sounds. Deep, spiritual, and modal excursions for the true jazz lovers out there.”

For Monday, they'll just be a quartet, but Frantz said they would be joined by trumpeter Ed Lister when he returns from cruise ship work in a few months.

Their first show attracted a full house to Le Petit Chicago on October 28, 2013, and filled the Gatineau bar with grooving, complex music.

Read more: Afrocentric jazz returns to Le Petit Chicago after an intense and satisfying debut


Roddy Ellias, Petr Cancura, and Andrew Downing form equal sides of trekan

Ottawa audiences will get the very first chance to hear a new trio this weekend – featuring three musicians active in jazz and chamber music scenes.

Andrew Downing © Brett Delmage, 2013Guitarist Roddy Ellias, multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura, and cellist Andrew Downing have formed a trio called trekan. They'll play chamber jazz, with perhaps a touch of bluegrass and Turkish music, at GigSpace on Saturday.

This will be their first public performance, Ellias told, although they recorded a three-song demo together three to four months ago and have been talking and sending around music since.

Saturday will also be a rare chance for Ottawa listeners to hear Cancura in concert. Despite regularly returning to Ottawa from Brooklyn for his job as programming manager of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, he hasn't performed publicly in Ottawa since last June's festival, and infrequently before then in the past five years. Downing, from Toronto, has visited Ottawa regularly in the last year, playing in groups led by Nick Fraser, Jayme Stone, and David Occhipinti.

Ellias said he really enjoyed playing with Cancura and Downing.

“They're both really good writers. They're both really good improvisers, who listen, and we have similar aesthetics. We like a wide variety of things and we like to take chances and do different things and like free playing. And we're very compatible people, which is important.”

Cancura and Ellias have had a longstanding arrangement to play together whenever Cancura's in Ottawa.

“He's in town once a month so he comes over to my house and we play. We love doing a duo, but we thought it would be nice to maybe make this into a trio. And we racked our brains and came up with Andrew. I'd been wanting to do something with Andrew and he with me for a long time, and I think Petr had already done some work with him, so it turns out to be a great fit,” Ellias said.

Read more: Roddy Ellias, Petr Cancura, and Andrew Downing form equal sides of trekan


Clayton Connell shows his piano range Wednesday, before heading off to Austria

With a broad grin, a strong sense of rhythm, and deft fingers, pianist Clayton Connell has made an increasing place for himself in the Ottawa jazz scene over the last few years. And now he's about to try his luck in Europe, after winning a major scholarship and entrance to a renowned Austrian university.

Clayton Connell © Brett Delmage, 2013

But he'd sure like the help and attention of Ottawa jazz lovers first, for a concert on Wednesday.

It's the graduation recital for his B.Music degree at Carleton University. But as you can tell from the title – Jazz: A Soirée with Clayton Connell – this will be more elaborate than just a final performance adjudication.

He's including horns, a string quartet, and his current jazz ensemble, Sugar Jazz. The concert will be a tribute to the diversity of music taught at Carleton, he said, with a wide range of different styles.

The admission fees will help pay for his next term of studies at a renowned music school in Graz, Austria, from mid-February to early July, where he will study jazz piano.

The Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (University for Music and the Performing Arts) has a “very significant jazz program, the strongest I think in the university world in Europe, certainly that part of Europe and arguably all of Europe,” says Dr. James Wright, the Supervisor of Performance Studies in Carleton's Music Department.

Read more: Clayton Connell shows his piano range Wednesday, before heading off to Austria


Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio melds Balkan rhythms and jazz

View photos of the performance and jam

Swirling lines, frenetic melodies, bright rhythms: all those were part of the very different sound of Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio at Le Petit Chicago on December 30.

Mike Essoudry, Linsey Wellman, and Joe Hincke (l-r) communicated the fun of their music to the audience at Le Petit Chicago. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Wellman – together with drummer Mike Essoudry and bassist Joe Hincke – has melded the folk melodies and styles of the Balkans with the klezmer/free jazz style of John Zorn's Masada to create fast-paced and energetic music. The nearest comparison? In Ottawa it would be the Mash Potato Mashers – which Essoudry leads and Wellman plays in – although that is more marching band music.

Combined with the group's original compositions (with titles like “The Trickle Down Doesn't Get Very Far” and “Below the Poverty Line”), it was an intense set list that kept the crowd at the Gatineau bar primarily listening and applauding appreciatively.

Essoudry changed his drum kit for the set, replacing his regular snare and tom with higher-pitched versions, substituting a greater number of smaller cymbals for normal large ones, and adding a tambourine on top of his hi-hat – all of which created a sound quite different from his usual jazz style. Wellman on alto sax and Hincke on bass also reflected very different Balkan rhythms in their playing.

Read more: Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio melds Balkan rhythms and jazz


Jazzin' the Holidays creates holiday cheer for GigSpace (video)

Elise Letourneau, Nicole Ratté, and Karen Oxorn (l-r, with Mark Alcorn on bass) raised $1100 for GigSpace at their sold-out holiday concert there Dec. 22. ©Brett Delmage, 2013A few days before Christmas, three Ottawa jazz vocalists teamed up with three local jazz instrumentalists to benefit a venue they enjoy performing at: GigSpace Performance Studio.

Despite two huge snowstorms that walloped Ottawa in the previous few days, Elise Letourneau, Karen Oxorn, and Nicole Ratté, presented Jazzin' the Holidays to a capacity audience. Performing songs ranging from traditional carols to Christmas favourites to songs which have become jazz standards, from serious to humorous, and in both English and French, they gave each their own twist.

GigSpace board member and concert bassist Mark Alcorn said the fundraising event raised more than $1100. Fellow board member and guitarist Tim Bedner said that GigSpace is becoming more popular with local and touring musicians, with events booked as far away as June, 2014. was there and recorded the concert to give you a taste of the experience. Watch our video after the turn.

Find out more about GigSpace and how to make a donation (it's a registered charity) at

    – Alayne McGregor

Watch the video


Gaby Warren hosts a baker's dozen of Christmas jazz jams

View photos of the performance

It was thirteen years lucky on December 19, as vocalist Gaby Warren again led his group to host the annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam at the Carleton Tavern.

Gaby Warren again led his group to host the annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam for the thirteenth time this year. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

It's a tradition for Warren to bring his favourite local jazz musicians – Rob Frayne on Nord organ, Linsey Wellman on alto sax, Alrick Huebener on bass, Mike Essoudry on drums – together at the December jam to play his favourite jazz classics. This year, they were joined by guitarist Garry Elliott, and were dubbed (the ever-changing group name is another tradition) “Ana's Santas”. That was in honour of Warren's wife, Ana, who celebrated a very significant birthday the day before.

The repertoire was more jazz than Christmas, starting with John Coltrane's “Equinox”, continuing through “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” from the little-known musical The Nervous Set; and ending with “Bacchanal” by Kenny Barron.

This year, Warren released his first CD as leader, and included two songs in this set-list for which he wrote the lyrics: Sam Rivers' “Beatrice”, and Miles Davis' “Nardis”. The latter was recorded but eventually had to be left off the album because he couldn't get permission from Davis' estate.

But the music did turn Christmas-y for one song: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, for which Warren put on a knitted hat which was an amazing example of Christmas kitsch. It had not only a red Santa hat, but also a 3D snowman section with black eyes and carrot nose, and long earflaps ending in small Christmas balls!

Wellman and Elliott in particular had a chance to shine with several melodic and vehement solos, but all the musicians added to the fine post-bop collaboration.Warren did occasionally have to ask the audience to tone down its conversations so that the group's musical artistry could be fully heard and appreciated.

View the photo gallery


AlphaSoul Café to close its doors after more than two years presenting jazz

The AlphaSoul Café in Hintonburg, a regular jazz venue and the location of the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams, is closing its doors.

Rachel Russo outside the jazz festival jam ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Its last music night will be Saturday, December 21, with the Berekete Afrobeat Band, organized by local saxophonist Adrian Matte. On Friday December 20, Matte's quartet will hold down the café's last jazz show, as they have on Fridays for the last 2 1/3 years.

Owner Rachel Russo said the reason for closing was simple: she and Maxine (her daughter and co-owner) were worn out, after non-stop 12-hour days since April, 2011.

“We're exhausted. We've lost two significant members of our family in the last year and it's just too much. We just need to take a break and stop.”

She said they would continue the AlphaSoul name and looking to create a new art-and-music venture starting in late spring or early summer, 2014 – but not a restaurant.

“AlphaSoul is music. It's really more about music than it is about a restaurant. Anybody can have a restaurant; there's lots of them around. But to create music is different. We need to hear their voices, so it's been really exciting in that respect. I hope to continue introducing music because AlphaSoul is not dead. It's going to keep on going. We just don't know its transformation yet.”

Russo owns the Wellington Street West location and said she would be looking to rent it to a new restaurant, but there is no guarantee a new venue would feature music.

Matte said he was told in mid-November, along with the restaurant staff, that the restaurant would be closing just before Christmas. “The sense I got from Rachel was that they weren't making enough money to sustain it.”

“We weren't filling the place every time we had music,” Russo said. “Oftentimes of course we did, but it would be nice to have just in the theatre they call it, more butts in seats, you know. So that time will come. I think it's more in the future. In a couple years I think this area will be really hopping. And so for us it's an opportunity to go and do more exciting things. We're still going to be part of the music scene but in a different way, without the bricks and mortar.”

Read more: AlphaSoul Café to close its doors after more than two years presenting jazz


The Adrian Matte Quartet heated up AlphaSoul on a frosty night

View photos of the performance

It was a frosty Friday outside, but the Adrian Matte Quartet easily heated up the AlphaSoul Café with instrumental jazz on December 13 – for their second-last show before the café closes. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The medium-sized audience, which included both long-time jazz fans and some newer listeners, was intent and appreciative, as the quartet performed three sets of standards.The musicians, listeners, and staff laughed together and chatted during the breaks, for a comfortable, easy-going ambiance.

The numbers were generally from the 50s and 60s, including Sonny Rollins' “Doxy”, and an extended and bright treatment of “Sunny”. Their quiet and intense version of the bossa nova tune “Corcovado” ended with a vibrating shimmer, as all four musicians played in unison.

It was an evening of swinging and well-modulated music, propelled by Ted Zarras on drums and Mark Fraser on bass, and with Alex Moxon on guitar and Matte on tenor sax providing strong melodic lines separately and together. They ended with “Think of One” by Thelonious Monk, its complicated interactions giving lots of room for all the musicians to shine, and for the audience to get energized for the frigid trip home.

The Adrian Matte Quartet will perform its last jazz evening at the AlphaSoul Cafe on Friday, December 20.

View the photo gallery


Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett: two voices in close conversation (review)

Jamie Baum Quintet featuring Jane Bunnett
Saturday, November 30, 2013 – 9 p.m.
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

Introducing her composition “In Another Life”, flute player Jamie Baum told the audience that it was inspired by the feeling you sometimes get when you meet and collaborate with someone: “it just feels like you knew them forever in another life.”

Watching her and fellow flute player Jane Bunnett on the stage, you could feel that applied to them. 

While bringing quite different styles to their performance, they collaborated beautifully, enhancing each other's lines and creating melodies that were more than the sum of their parts. In that, they were strongly supported by their rhythm section: Montreal pianist Paul Shrofel, NYC (and ex-Montreal) bassist Zack Lober, and Toronto drummer Nick Fraser, who added melody, depth, and even swing in many places.

Ottawa was the last stop on the quintet's tour of Ontario and Quebec. They played two back-to-back shows at GigSpace, the first of which was sold out and the second of which had only a few seats remaining.

This was a release tour for Baum's new CD, In This Life. But it also was the first time Baum (from NYC) and Bunnett (from Toronto) had had a chance to play together, although they had known each other for years. And it produced some interesting challenges for Bunnett, because her soprano sax was replacing both trumpet and alto sax parts in Baum's compositions.

Read more: Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett: two voices in close conversation (review)


CYJO brings a century of music to life in first 2013-14 concert

Myles Pelley (above, Tariq Amery below) brings tuba to the CYJO for the first time this year  ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) brought to life more than a century of music in their first concert of the 2013-14 season.

For the December 8 concert, band director Nick Dyson chose a set list which ranged from 1888 to the modern day, comfortably mixing modern composers like Lennie Niehaus with jazz icons like Charlie Parker and Freddie Hubbard.

The two oldest pieces performed by the student big band were “I Ain't Got Nobody”, which dates back to 1915, and “Anitra's Dance” from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, which was originally premiered in 1888.

But the band closed the concert with a very modern piece: “That's How We Roll”, written by Gordon Goodwin for his Big Phat Band and released in 2011.

The concert, which was enthusiastically received by the audience, allowed all the different sections of the band to shine in both upbeat and more measured numbers. Two slower numbers particularly stood out: the blues-tinged “A Minor Affair” by Sammy Nestico, and “Lil' Darlin'”, made famous by the Count Basie band, with its languorous tempo. Dyson described it as the hardest piece in the big band repertoire to play because it is so deliberately slow.

The concert was held in the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University, where the orchestra and audience were treated to the highly supportive lighting and sound provided by the theatre's enthusiastic, professional technical crew. Carleton University's music department supports CYJO by providing space for CYJO's rehearsals and performances.

More than half of CYJO's 17 student musicians are new this year, as many former members moved to study music in other cities. However, one new member, Myles Pelley, is a tuba player – a first for the band.

CYJO draws its members from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, and several local high schools. Its next concert will be held in February: the exact date and program have yet to be announced.

    – Alayne McGregor

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View photos from this concert


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