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Guillaume Martineau's cinematic music electrifies the NAC Fourth Stage

Guillaume Martineau Quintet
NAC Presents
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 24, 2015 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of The Guillaume Martineau Quintet

After the music ended and the applause died down, I simply sat for a few moments, reliving the the power of this quintet's performance at the NAC. It was a concert which began with quiet, classically-influenced passages and ended in thunderous jazz-rock, increasing in intensity and enveloping the audience during its 80-minute length.

At Guillaume Martineau's NAC Presents concert, there was a high degree of communication and conversation among the musicians (l-r Martineau, Tevet Sela, François Jalbert) ©Brett Delmage, 2015

The music was both electric – with the bass and guitar players making considerable use of pedals and effects – and acoustic – unadorned grand piano, saxophone, and drums – but with each voice contributing to the overall sound, whether simple and restrained, or all-out.

Montreal jazz pianist Guillaume Martineau describes his compositions as cinematic. And if you like your cinema mostly on a Lawrence of Arabia or Star Wars scale, rather than understated interior dramas, that adjective fits quite well. Each of the eight pieces he played at the NAC Presents show told its individual story through intertwining melodies and multiple sonic lines and each was memorable in its own way – some more grandiloquent than others.

That's not surprising with Martineau's wide-ranging CV: a Masters degree in classical piano from McGill University, followed by a jazz degree from Berklee College of Music. From his classical experience, he's developed a taste for multiple movements, multiple voices, and a large dynamic range in his compositions; from jazz, room for improvisation and collaboration.

Equally important to the sound were the other four other Montreal musicians on stage: Tevet Sela on alto and soprano sax, Simon Pagé on electric bass and effects, François Jalbert on electric guitar and effects, and Mark Nelson on drums. These are musicians Martineau has played with for the past three years, since he returned from Berklee. With the exception of Nelson, all appeared on his first album, Par 5 Chemins, released in 2014.

Read more: Guillaume Martineau's cinematic music electrifies the NAC Fourth Stage


Diane White expresses her love of Sixties music in jazz

Diane White, with Tim Bedner and Mark Fraser
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Saturday, October 17, 2015 – 3:30 p.m.

View photos of Diane White and her trio at MJF 2015

Presenting a jazz concert featuring the music of the Sixties – as vocalist Diane White and her trio did at Merrickville's Jazz Fest – has a number of pitfalls. For example, you have, if anything, far too much to choose from – and no clear focus.

Diane White clearly charmed the audience with the heartfelt feel she gave to the lyrics ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Obviously, the British invasion qualifies, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the Kinks and and Cream and many more. Surf music with the Beach Boys. Psychedelic rock with Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Burt Bacharach. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buffalo Springfield. Tiny Tim. Liberace. The Jackson 5, the Supremes, and other Motown groups. Frank Zappa. Broadway show tunes. Protest songs, blues, traditional folk, rock&roll – and did we mention all the great modal jazz, bop, post-bop, soul-jazz, avant-garde jazz and more?

You can't play it all. You can't even be truly representative. You can only pick what you'd like to play – and what works.

With two exceptions, I thought Diane White and her trio made excellent choices for her Sixties show at Merrickville. They picked songs with musical heft, ones which have lasted because they have memorable hooks and well-chosen lyrics, and their melodies insinuate themselves into your brain. Only one was an actual jazz tune, but they generally worked well in the trio's understated jazz arrangements.

Read more: Diane White expresses her love of Sixties music in jazz


Allison Au Quartet's original music warmly received at MJF

The Allison Au Quartet
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville United Church
Sunday, October 18, 2015 – 3 p.m.

View photos of The Allison Au Quartet at MJF 2015

Performing in Merrickville United Church is like theatre in the round – the band is almost surrounded on three sides by an audience above them. It's a daunting expanse to play to.

In '2601' Au evoked grieving and incredible loss through her combination of instrumental voices, without letting the music become bathetic, and still keeping a touch of hope at the end ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Toronto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet easily filled that space and more in their mid-afternoon concert at Merrickville's Jazz Fest. Playing pieces from the quartet's upcoming album, plus two standards, they fully captured the audience's attention with their melodic and finely interlaced music.

The quartet's first album, a collection of accessible and transparently multi-layered originals written by Au, was nominated for a Juno in 2013. Its new album, also composed by Au, is already recorded and will be released in February.

Three of the four members of the band – Au on alto sax, Todd Pentney on keyboards, and Jon Maharaj on bass – were present for the Merrickville concert, joined by drummer Ethan Ardelli. Ardelli is well-known on the Toronto jazz scene, playing with Nancy Walker, Mike Downes, and Jane Bunnett. He also played for several years in the host band for the Ottawa jazz festival jams.

What they played was very much an evolution, rather than a major change in direction, from their first CD. “Aureole”, their opening number, was definitely in the same voice as before, and again very much a group effort. Opening with nuanced rhythms and long, evolving lines on saxophone, it was an upbeat and intriguing introduction to Au's music. In particular, the piece was driven by Ardelli's hard-edged drumming. He added a consistently strong pulse to the group's sound.

The next piece, “Orange”, was a ballad featuring a duet between Au's evocative, slow alto and Pentney's romantic piano – clear and thoughtful with accents. It reminded me of floating down a river with a few eddies along the way, and had lots of forward momentum without being obvious about it.

Au described “Bolero” as a “ballad of sorts”. It was inspired by two of her music teachers at Humber College: pianist Hilario Duran and guitarist Luis Mario Ochoa, and, unsurprisingly, showed a strong Latin influence. After a quiet sax/piano introduction, Maharaj took over on bass, refining a subtle riff and then further developing the melody – a fine and nuanced performance.

Read more: Allison Au Quartet's original music warmly received at MJF


Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians make a splash in November

Updated November 18
November is a month to celebrate the depth of Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene.

While you can certainly hear some interesting jazz visitors in November, including Ken Aldcroft, BadBadNotGSaood, Terry Clarke, Esmerine, Pedro Navarro, Neil Swainson, and André White, this month is particularly notable for the Ottawa-Gatineau musicians who are presenting their own projects.

The Carlos Alberto Santata Trio will play modern jazz originals from a Latin viewpoint at their NAC show November 13 (l-r Carlos Alberto Santana, Angel Araos,  Daniel Chavolla) ©Brett Delmage, 2015Many will play their own compositions, but you'll also hear Thelonious Monk, jazz standards, and even jazz interpretations of folk and roots music. Renowned pianist Brian Browne will release a long-awaited solo CD at his trio concert; another trio will be taped for a possible vinyl release.

Also on this month: many benefit concerts with jazz musicians playing for good causes, a swing dance showdown, a cabaret tribute to Marilyn Monroe with Frank Sinatra interludes, and the annual Buckingham Buzz Jazz festival.

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

The month opens with a very busy Sunday. In the early afternoon of November 1, saxophonist Rob Frayne hosts the JazzWorks Sunday jam at Bluesfest House in Westboro, a family-friendly affair. Then Elise Letourneau and Tim Bedner perform a piano/flute/guitar duo for Jazz Vespers at All Saints-First United Church in Westboro.

Read more: Ottawa-Gatineau jazz musicians make a splash in November


Five Ottawa musicians co-operate in exploring their compositions (review)

The Jazz Co-op
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville United Church
Friday, October 16, 2015 – 4:30 p.m.

View photos of The Jazz Co-op at MJF 2015

Each of the five musicians in the Jazz Co-op is individually well-known in Ottawa, both as a jazz musician and composer. But what was interesting about their concert at Merrickville's Jazz Fest was how much they wrote for the others in the group, rather than treating them as backup to their themselves.

The Jazz Co-op held the attention of their audience at Merrickville's Jazz Fest with a varied set of originals by group members. (l-r Mike Essoudry, Alex Bilodeau, Vince Rimbach, Garry Eliott, Peter Hum) ©Brett Delmage, 2015It's a classic jazz quintet line-up: tenor sax (Vince Rimbach), piano (Peter Hum), guitar (Garry Elliott), double bass (Alex Bilodeau), and drums (Mike Essoudry). Collectively they have many decades of jazz experience. However, this was only their third public appearance as a group; they've also performed at GigSpace last November and at last June's Ottawa Jazz Festival.

The seven pieces they performed in their 65-minute-long concert were all originals and made good use of their amassed talent.

Hum opened the show with his composition, “The Good Fight”, a piece whose primary voice is saxophone, not piano. After an emphatic drum and piano intro, Rimbach took over with his tenor sax, at first wistful and then becoming stronger as he smoothly developed the melody. Hum's piano and Elliott's guitar provided a repeated percussive contrast in short solos, but it was ultimately Rimbach's fluid sax which told the uplifting story.

Read more: Five Ottawa musicians co-operate in exploring their compositions (review)


A swinging afternoon live and on-air with the Peter Liu Swing Sextet

As many as four swing dance couples danced to the classic music of the Peter Liu Swing Sextet at the Record Centre on Sunday ©Alayne McGregor, 2015The Peter Liu Swing Sextet played live – and live-to-air – at the Record Centre in Hintonburg on Sunday, October 25. The concert was broadcast live on CKCU-FM's “Swing is in the Air” show, which Liu co-hosts, and was part of the station's current fundraising drive.

The bright swing music drifted out into the street that afternoon and attracted many passers-by, who peeked in and even stayed for a while. The sextet (Liu on vocals, Scott Poll on clarinet, Peter Turner on trombone, Yves Laroche on piano, Tom Denison on bass, and Glenn Robb on drums) performed an upbeat collection of jazz standards like “Frim-fram sauce”, “Dancing cheek to cheek”, and “S'wonderful”. And what the radio audience couldn't see were the swing dancers who swirled gracefully in the store's entranceway, as many as four couples at a time, adding even more energy.

Read more: A swinging afternoon live and on-air with the Peter Liu Swing Sextet


The Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet and the Horizon Quintet create a dancing groove at MJF 2015

The Horizon Quintet
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville Community Centre
Saturday, October 17, 2015 – 12 noon

The Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville Community Centre
Saturday, October 17, 2015 – 1:30 p.m.

Pianist Miguel de Armas is a perennial favourite at Merrickville's Jazz Fest. Even performing in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, his Ottawa-based Latin Jazz Quartet filled a large room in the local community centre with fervent Afro-Cuban jazz enthusiasts, clapping and swaying to the beat.

Pianist Miguel de Armas in close musical conversation with percussionist Arien Villegas and bassist Marc Decho at Merrickville's Jazz Fest  ©Brett Delmage, 2015His show was the second half of a double bill, and the room already looked packed when we arrived partway into the first group's set. More people kept arriving, with a final count from the organizers of at least 130. But the community centre and the volunteers were prepared with chairs, and they steadily added them around the edges of the room.

The quartet has been preparing for its upcoming debut performance at the Havana Jazz Festival in December, and had a long list of tunes ready for this show – but no fixed set-list order. Instead, de Armas signalled the next tune as the applause died down from the previous one – and, in fact, the music flowed well from tune to tune, never losing its strong forward momentum.

View photos of the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet at MJF 2015

There was clearly an easy communication among the four players. Underlying all the tunes were Ottawa percussionist Arien Villegas' nuanced conga rhythms, giving the music its characteristic Cuban sound and energy, but also moving out at times into interesting variations. He was in frequent eye contact with Montreal drummer Michel Medrano, an assertive and dynamic player who provided a powerful underlying beat but who could also play quietly and atmospherically under ballads.

Read more: The Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet and the Horizon Quintet create a dancing groove at MJF 2015


Rake-Star returns with Ra energy to IMOO at Ra(w) Sugar tonight

"Space is the Place" - Linsey Wellman evokes an extra-terrestial experience in the light of the Mugshots bar   ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Tonight (Sunday, October 25), the Rake-Star Arkestra will fill the Ra(w) Sugar Café with layers of intense sound, cool experimentation, and jaw-droppingly-inventive hats. Rake-star is an Ottawa collective of nine adventuresome musicians and improvisers who gather periodically to plumb the songbook of the great Sun Ra – and substantially improvise on Ra's material,

OttawaJazzScene.ca was at the Arkestra's show at the now-closed Mugshots bar on February 28, to bring you a visual feel of their show.

View photos of the February 28 Mugshots performance in our new photo gallery

See related OttawaJazzScene.ca stories:


Révélations artist Guillaume Martineau is a marathon pianist

Montreal pianist Guillaume Martineau loves performing live so much that he's played for 13 hours straight.

Guillaume Martineau (photo provided by the artist)On Saturday, October 24, Martineau brings his jazz quintet for the first time to the National Arts Centre, and no one expects him to play anything more than two hours there that night. But he's played much more extended piano marathons in his home town of Montreal, and loved it.

For a jazz pianist, Martineau has an unexpected background – he has a Masters degree in classical piano from McGill, and has performed as a guest with six symphony orchestras. But he realized jazz was more his style, and went to study at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 2012.

He released his first album – a multi-layered, melodic CD whose sound ranges from romantic piano ballads to frantic sax and percussion duos – last year. This year he was chosen as Radio-Canada's Révélations jazz artist for 2015-16, a notable honour. He'll be playing from that first CD, plus material from an album he hopes to release in 2016, at his NAC show.

Martineau is an interesting fellow, with many facets. He hosts a weekly musical program about improvisation on a Montreal community radio station. He has a passion for science, which he studied in college, and which is reflected in several of the song titles on his first album. He played jazz standards with his wife, vocalist Janna Kate, earlier this month at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata – but he also plays in a quintet which combines Vietnamese and Chinese traditional music with jazz.

Read more: Révélations artist Guillaume Martineau is a marathon pianist


Carlos Alberto Santana draws from Mexico and Brubeck in a happy concert (review)

The Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio (l-r: Santana, Angel Araos, Daniel Chavolla) presented a concert whose sound was carefully modulated to work well in the reverberant St. Ann Catholic Church in Merrickville. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
St. Ann Catholic Church
Friday, October 16, 2015 – 3 p.m.

View photos of this performance

I first heard Ottawa pianist Carlos Alberto Santana a few years ago in local Latin and world music groups. But, as his trio concert at Merrickville's Jazz Fest showed, his musical range is much greater than that.

His hour-long concert on Friday afternoon was an appealing group of almost all originals, whose sound owed as much to Dave Brubeck as any Cuban or Brazilian composer.

By profession an electrical engineer, Santana also studied jazz with Juan Jose Calatayud in Mexico and Jan Jarczyk in Montreal. He moved to Canada from Mexico in 1998. His bassist, Daniel Chavolla, is also from Mexico, while drummer Angel Araos is from Chile. They've been playing together for well over a year, at locations around the region including a GigSpace show last summer.

Santana opened the concert with solo piano, beginning his composition “Oye Latino” as a reflective piano piece with almost a Bill Evans feel. Partway through, Chavolla and Araos joined in, and the mood became brighter and faster, with more of a Latin feel. With piano glissandos, assertive bass lines, and rumbling drums, the tune ended with a strong flourish – and evoked strong applause from the audience.

He followed that with another bright piece, “Las Chiquis”, dedicated to his daughters. Its dancing rhythms evolved throughout the piece, but remained consistently fast and fun.

“Back to I-95” was a tribute to Dave Brubeck, one of Santana's favourite jazz musicians. It had the forward momentum of traffic on that east-coast highway, but played with nuance – brushes on the drums and a sparkling melody on piano.

Read more: Carlos Alberto Santana draws from Mexico and Brubeck in a happy concert (review)


Fern Lindzon Trio wins over MJF audience with original approach to familar songs (review)

The strength and originality of Fern Lindzon's material and her approach won over Merrickville Jazz Fest's audience  ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Fern Lindzon Trio
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Baldachin Inn Ballroom
Sunday, October 18, 2015 – 8:15 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Toronto jazz vocalist and pianist Fern Lindzon had to win over an audience at Merrickville's Jazz Fest, which had just given a standing ovation 15 minutes before to a very different band with a very different sound. The fact that she was able to do so, and got a standing ovation herself at the end of the night, was testimony to the strength and originality of her material and her approach.

Lindzon was playing with Toronto bassist George Koller, her long-time collaborator and producer, and Ottawa drummer Michel Delage. The Juno-nominated musician performed a diverse set of songs from her last two albums, plus new material she's been developing recently.

She's been concentrating lately on Thelonious Monk, and opened with Monk's “Straight, No Chaser”. She sang it simply, accompanied just by double bass and drums – no piano.

No piano? That's because the version she was singing was called “Get It Straight”, with lyrics by Sally Swisher on top of Monk's original piano composition.

The lyrics had a strong message, very much in tune with Monk himself: “Don’t wait for no one / You have to go on / Because the moment is the place where it happens / And there's no one who can help you get straight”. Lindzon sang them in a very Monk-ish accented rhythm, combining the words with scatting.

Read more: Fern Lindzon Trio wins over MJF audience with original approach to familar songs (review)


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