Sunday, March 01, 2015
Text Size

Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 2: having fun with jazz

Jean-Michel Pilc Trio (National Arts Centre Fourth Stage)
Matt Wilson Quartet (National Arts Centre Fourth Stage)
Late-night jam sessions (Arc The Hotel)
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 2
Saturday, February 7, 2015 - 7 p.m., 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

It was remarkable how many times people I talked to about Saturday evening's winter jazzfest performances mentioned how much fun the shows were. I wasn't initially going to use that word in this review – one wants to be original, after all – but in fact, simple fun, both on the bandstand and in the audience, was an important part of both shows, by the Jean-Michel Pilc Trio and by the Matt Wilson Quartet.

Not that either concert was simple. They both involved highly talented musicians playing full-out and creating complicated and unexpected patterns on the fly.

But on top of all of that musical thought and dexterity was a deep love of and enjoyment in performing the music. Whether it was Matt Wilson's big grin or Jeff Lederer dancing as he played his tenor sax or the smiles flashing among Pilc's trio, you could see an underlying joy and playfulness.

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 2: having fun with jazz


Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: Megan Jerome presents a rich blend of instruments and observations

Megan Jerome Together Ensemble
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 1
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 5 p.m.

Megan Jerome went to a funeral on the morning of the day of her Winter Jazz Festival appearance. It was for her late mother's best friend, and it symbolized a change in the last few years in the music she'd been composing – to happier and less fraught.

The concert also featured a new, full-bodied sound for Jerome, with her Together Ensemble – Jerome on Wurlitzer, Don Cummings on full-size Hammond organ (and giant Leslie speaker), Fred Guignon on electric guitar, and husband Mike Essoudry on drums. The ensemble has been playing around town since late last fall, and the instruments provided a strong base for Jerome's soprano and the artful lyrics in her songs.

Jerome's music can't be easily categorized: the nearest might be alt-cabaret with jazz touches. Her background is in jazz piano, Essoudry plays everything from mainstream jazz to avant-garde improvisation, Cummings performs in both jazz and R&B/soul circles, while Guignon has primarily played in folk groups.

But it was a far richer blend than your average singer-songwriter show: Jerome's vocals floated over intricate patterns from Cummings' organ and Guignon's guitar, which both counterpointed and echoed her voice and provided a strong underlying groove and power

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: Megan Jerome presents a rich blend of instruments and observations


Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: the Nancy Walker Quintet layers its music well

Nancy Walker Quintet
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 1
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 7 p.m.

It's surprising how relatively infrequently Toronto jazz musicians make it up to Ottawa for shows – you wouldn't think the two cities were in the same province and only five hours apart. But, in the last three years, pianist Nancy Walker has only been sporadically in Ottawa and not at all as a leader, despite having picked up an enthusiastic Ottawa fan base from many years of playing in the Geggie house band for the jazz festival jams.

What finally brought her back here was her recently-released album, ‘Til Now Is Secret [Addo, 2014]. This concert primarily featured pieces from that CD, and four of the five musicians who played on it (drummer Jim Doxas sat in for Ethan Ardelli, who wasn't available for this date).

It was a strong set-list – all originals by Walker – and they were given an intense and propulsive treatment by the quintet. There was no one star in the show: Walker, Doxas, bassist Kieran Overs, guitarist Ted Quinlan, and reed player Shirantha Beddage all contributed noticeably to the sound.

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: the Nancy Walker Quintet layers its music well


Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago

Alex Bilodeau is starting a new era at Le Petit Chicago © Brett Delmage, 2014Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago are moving into new hands as of February 9. Ottawa bassist Alex Bilodeau will curate the long-standing late-night jazz showcase and jam, taking over from saxophonist Zakari Frantz.

Frantz is moving on to a new series he's created: Jazz Thursdays at the Lunenburg Pub, which started January 29. The shows at the Rideau-Street-area bar will highlight local jazz musicians and their projects.

The changeover at Le Petit Chicago is friendly: Bilodeau has been a regular participant in the late-night jams at the Gatineau bar. On Facebook, Frantz welcomed Bilodeau as the new curator. “A graduate of McGill University, Alex is one of the region's freshest talents & definitely no stranger to the LPC stage. Expect him to raise the bar with some new jazz/hip hop inspirations and a new sound to welcome in the spring!”

Bilodeau told that he planned to have the host bands – from the Ottawa/Gatineau region – rotate monthly. “You will definitely see some of my own projects performing for the monthly residencies but the plan is to bring in other exciting jazz groups as well.”

For the remainder of February, the host band will be Bilodeau on bass, Richard Page on saxophone, and Michel Delage on drums, performing jazz classics by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, as well as band members' original music.

In March, the Ed Lister Quartet, with Lister on trumpet, Marc Decho on bass, Pierre Chrétien on keyboards, and Mike Essoudry on drums, will perform, with “more of an electric aesthetic”, Bilodeau said. On March 23, that quartet will be joined by special guests Richard Page and Lee Hollingsworth.

The Jazz Monday format won't change: “The band hosting that month will perform during the first set and the second set will be an open jam.”

Read more: Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago


2015 Juno Award nominations announced, including jazz music played in Ottawa

The 2015 Juno award nominations, announced today, recognized several jazz musicians who presented major concerts in Ottawa in the last year.

Marianne Trudel telling the NAC audience about her new compositions on La Vie Commence Ici. ©2014 Brett DelmageThey include Marianne Trudel, Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, Tanya Tagaq, Myriad3, Kirk MacDonald, and the Sultans of String – but unfortunately no Ottawa/Gatineau jazz or improvising musicians.

Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel was recognized for her new CD with Ingrid Jensen. interviewed her about the CD and reviewed her release concert at the NAC Fourth Stage as part of NAC Presents.

Toronto saxophonist/flutist Jane Bunnett was nominated for her CD with her new group of female musicians from Cuba. We interviewed her about Maqueque and reviewed their sold-out concerts here in July at GigSpace.

Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald released two CDs in 2014, including the nominated album, Vista Obscura. interviewed him about his other album, Symmetry, and reviewed his show presenting that album at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Myriad3 (with Chris Donnelly, Ernesto Cervini, and Dan Fortin) presented their nominated album, The Where, at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, and we reviewed their concert.

Throat singer Tanya Tagaq presented her new album, Animism, with jazz artists Jesse Zubot and Jean Martin, in a sold-out show at the NAC Fourth Stage in November, also as part of NAC Presents. That CD was nominated both both “Alternative Album of the Year” and “Aboriginal Album Of The Year”. Zubot was also nominated as “Jack Richardson Producer Of The Year” for his work on two songs on that album.

Read more: 2015 Juno Award nominations announced, including jazz music played in Ottawa


Linsey Wellman invites jazz fans to hear his new CD being recorded

You can hear music in the making, this Tuesday and Wednesday, in an art space in downtown Gatineau.

Linsey Wellman at the 2013 IMOOfest.  ©Brett Delmage, 2013Ottawa jazz musician Linsey Wellman will be recording a new solo saxophone album live over two evenings, and is inviting jazz fans to listen for free. The only requirement: show up on time – in fact, early – so you don't disturb the recording.

Wellman performs in a wide variety of contexts, from mainstream jazz to Punjabi folk/fusion to calypso to Balkan marching band to prog-noise, but is best known for playing avant-garde or free jazz and as a co-founder of the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO). In 2010, he released his first solo album, Ephemera, a suite of guided improvisations for saxophone.

The working title for this new CD is Manifesto, and Wellman says it reflects the solo performances he's been doing over the past few years. It's a “culmination of a lot of performing and a lot of ideas and a lot of the things that I've been doing. I don't think people will be surprised by what comes out. People who have heard me play a lot – there's some stuff people will have heard. There's at least one or two things that I haven't recorded but that I've played in solo saxophone settings.”

At least one of the pieces is a natural outgrowth of the material on Ephemera, he said, and the format is similar: both solo alto saxophone pieces of about the same length.

“But there's a lot of new material. I'm going to guess that this one is a little more 'out'. There's a little bit more textural playing than this one than on Ephemera, which had a lot of shifting tonal centres, whereas this one there's going to be a fair bit of textural playing. Clicking keys, a lot of multiphonics, and extra extended technique-sort of sounds. But not all that: there's definitely going to be some melodic sections, too.”

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Wellman will play two approximately 20-minute sets, performing “Manifesto”, the material which he has been composing for the album. He will follow that with a third set, of about the same length, which will be entirely improvised.

That third set could go anywhere. “Who knows? If it's good it might find its way onto a recording. Or maybe it's so much better than the other stuff, that that's what I want to put on a recording. I'm excited about doing that, because my solo playing to date has been very scripted. I mean obviously there's a lot a freedom in what I've written and a lot of it is more guidelines but it's been very scripted and I'm excited about the idea of just playing free for at least a section of the show.”

Read more: Linsey Wellman invites jazz fans to hear his new CD being recorded


Rake-star aims for the sublime, and sometimes the chaotic, in Sun Ra's music

For the past 15 years, Ottawa's Rake-star Arkestra has tried to capture the joy and passion of jazz iconoclast Sun Ra, with music which can range from the sublime to the chaotic.

Rory Magill at a previous IMOO concert ©Brett Delmage, 2010After an extended hiatus, they're back – for an Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) concert at the Raw Sugar Café on Sunday, and on February 28 at Mugshots.

“We're just doing because it's fun,” said Rake-star co-founder and percussionist Rory Magill. “Everybody loves to do it. Everyone in the group has an abiding love of Sun Ra and his music and his inspiration. So it's just an opportunity for everyone to get together and share that passion and explore ... it's a pretty free outfit, so there's tons of creative room for everybody to move.”

Magill said there has been “a shift in the sound” in the band to a combination of saxes and percussion, with a Hammond organ and baritone saxes providing the deep bass bottom of the music. But there's still lots of continuity: this edition of the group includes nine local musicians, five of whom have been with the band since it started in 2000 – and almost all of whom are very well known on the local jazz scene.

They primarily play Sun Ra's compositions, rearranged for their line-up, combined with some originals inspired by his music.

Sun Ra was a extraordinarily original musician, and a major figure in avant-garde jazz from the 50s to the early 90s. He started out in big bands in the 1940s, and was influenced by bebop, but then shifted into very much his own large-group sound with his Arkestra. To his jazz roots he added elements of avant-garde classical music; he was a pioneer in using electronic keyboards; and he believed in the power of spectacle, with his Arkestra usually dressed in bright, flamboyant costumes, and occasionally including jugglers or stilt-walkers. He became obsessed with Egyptology and the possibility that Earth had been visited by travelers from outer space, and much of his music referenced those ideas.

It made for a very diverse body of music over the decades.

“Ra loved the tradition,” Magill said. “He worked for Fletcher Henderson as an arranger and rehearsal pianist for years and that was his foundation in jazz. So he loved that stuff and he admired Duke Ellington and he's got that side. We [Rake-star] have some earlier sounds before from things reflecting his earlier days. But a lot of the tunes that we do are probably 60s/70s. Later on, the last couple recordings, he was going back in a sense to traditional big band, with a twist obviously, but far more subtle than his totally out-there astro-infinity.”

Read more: Rake-star aims for the sublime, and sometimes the chaotic, in Sun Ra's music


Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD

Dominique Forest's new CD is more personal – and more of a risk – than she had ever planned.

Dominique Forest with Normand Glaude at the Ella Fitizgerald-Billie Holiday Tribute concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2013The Ottawa jazz vocalist has made her name over the last dozen years as an assured interpreter of the Great American Songbook, a repertoire she loves. When she finally decided in 2013 to record her first CD, she put together a list of her favourite standards. And then she thought she'd add one original song. And then another...

On Saturday at the NAC Fourth Stage, Forest will launch the CD – a completely original album of her own compositions. Called C'est à moi – the English translation is “It's up to me” – it's also a very personal effort.

All the songs “tell a little bit about a life lived. If I had written this body of work three years ago, it would have been a very different album. This particular time in my life, it was one of hope and of joy and I really wanted to bring out reflections. It's reflective and introspective.”

The title song was particularly important to her: “ 'C'est à moi' is the first song that I wrote for this album. The words of the song are it's up to me to move forward and to find my way. I can't let grief or anything else stop me. And so it just made sense that if I was doing this album, as soon as I agreed that if I'm doing this body of work, then that's going to be the title song.”

The songs range in style from funk to pop to chanson, as well as more classic swinging jazz numbers and ballads. Some are directly personal – a tribute to her parents, a joyful celebration of a sister's recovery from illness – while others are just for fun.

Read more: Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD


Jazz film 'Whiplash' wins three Oscars

Updated February 23, 2015

Whiplash, the controversial new film about the toxic relationship between a professor and an aspiring drummer at a renowned (fictional) jazz conservatory, has received considerable notice in the 2015 Academy Awards race, with three Oscar wins out of five nominations.

The indie film, based on its director's own experiences as an aspiring big band jazz drummer, was nominated for:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (J.K. Simmons as the professor)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay (also by director Damien Chazelle)

It won Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. reviewed the movie in November, but had reservations about how it portrays jazz education and the experience of playing jazz. Have you seen the film? What did you think? Let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Read more: Jazz film 'Whiplash' wins three Oscars


2014: An improvised jazz year in Ottawa-Gatineau

2014 was a year of milestones – some worth celebrating, some unfortunate – in Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene.

There were several major anniversaries, including's fifth birthday in July! The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Carleton University Jazz Camp also turned five. It was the JazzWorks Jazz Camp's 21st anniversary, and the Apex Jazz Band's 40th.

Roddy Ellias was a strong influence in Ottawa's jazz scene in 2014, with a well-received trio album and new musical initiatives, and as the curator of the ZenKitchen jazz series and the organizer of the Ottawa Kenny Wheeler benefit. ©Brett Delmage, 2014The National Arts Centre – still the most prestigious jazz location in Ottawa – announced a major renovation over the next two years, to be finished for Canada's sesquicentennial (and the centre's 48th birthday) in 2017. It will substantially improve the centre's acoustics and facilities, but – as revealed – will mean closing the Fourth Stage (where most NAC jazz shows are staged) for several months; the exact timing and impact of that closure have not yet been determined.

This spring, initiated its Jazz Favourites Poll, which allowed local fans to identify and celebrate the successes in Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene. We were delighted at the warm response. More than 350 jazz fans voted on their favourites in nine categories covering many aspects of the local jazz and improvised music scene, from venues to CDs. But even more importantly, they told us why, in some fascinating comments which said a lot more. In some cases, the results were closely contested. In almost all cases, they were diverse, reflecting the many different types of music under the jazz umbrella, and the many ways to enjoy it.

Read more: 2014: An improvised jazz year in Ottawa-Gatineau


JazzWorks Sunday jazz jams looking for a broader audience

The JazzWorks Sunday afternoon jazz jams are moving to a new space with a new vibe this weekend, and hoping to attract a new, broader audience.

They'll be held at Festival House (the Bluesfest School of Music and Art) in Westboro, a more family-friendly, quiet location – and will feature coaching from a series of highly experienced local jazz teachers.

JazzWorks Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie in teaching mode at the 2008 JazzWorks jazz camp. ©Brett Delmage, 2008

“The primary goal of the Sunday sessions is to get people out playing music. People who have never had a chance, people who love to play and want to play on a Sunday,” said JazzWorks board member Peggy Cameron, who has been involved in planning the sessions.

She said the Sunday jams would be “much more relaxed, much less pressure” than JazzWorks' long-running evening jams.

“People who might have been intimidated by the Thursday night jams – the number of people and the quality of the music – might think, 'Well if I go Sunday afternoon, maybe I can play'. People who have been a little bit fearful maybe in the past, young people [for whom] Thursday night is too late for them. [We want to] get a different bunch of people involved.”

This Sunday's jam, which will run from 2 to 5 p.m., will be mentored by JazzWorks' Artistic Director and double bassist John Geggie. In a posting on the JazzWorks website, Geggie said that this first jam would be “concentrating on the basics”, starting with two easy tunes which work for singers and instrumentalists of all descriptions: a blues, “Bag's Groove”, and George Gershwin's “I Got Rhythm”.

Read more: JazzWorks Sunday jazz jams looking for a broader audience


Page 1 of 41

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>