The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is going anti-theme but remaining 100% jazz in 2016, according to its creative director, Brian Barlow.
Unlike previous years, the festival, which runs August 16 to 21, will not feature any tributes to past jazz icons. “This year, we just chose people that we had wanted for a long time,” he said.
Those jazz musicians include two 2016 Juno Award winners – vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow and pianist Robi Botos – plus saxophonist Phil Dwyer, pianist Mark Eisenman, bassist Jodi Proznick, saxophonist Mike Murley, pianist Bernie Senensky, and a restaging of Joe Sealy's Africville Stories with vocalist Jackie Richardson. The festival's artist-in-residence, trumpeter Guido Basso, will also be featured in several shows.
And, as always, Barlow's star-studded big band will close the festival – this time featuring vocalist Alex Samaras.
In 2015, festival concerts commemorated Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday's birth; in 2014, George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, Jim Hall, and Dave Brubeck; in 2013, Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, and Oscar Peterson's Night Train album.
“We have done a lot of themes and tributes over the years, and a critic actually said that that must be what this festival only does – tributes and themes. I thought OK, this year, we're not going to do that, and so there's nothing whatsoever,” Barlow told OttawaJazzScene.ca.
He said that the festival's four-person artist selection committee, for example, had wanted to have his daughter, Emilie-Claire, return. “I'm extremely careful about the whole idea of nepotism, so I'm very cautious about that, but the committee had been asking for her for a couple of years to come back.”
She was actually booked before she won the Juno, he said. “That was fun to have that happen.”
Guitarist William O'Neill is a fan of big band music. On May 7, he presented his graduation recital with his big band, in the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University.
His concert featured his original tunes and arrangements and received a standing ovation.
“What really fostered, again, my love for big band music and big sound music was being a part of the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra. I love the big band style. There's so many options. You can have the power of a freight train or the softness of a soft wind. There are so many elements you can have in this size of group, which I think is just so important and so cool about jazz.”
After his recital, William talked with OttawaJazzScene.ca about how he put together this big band concert. He also spoke about his experience studying music for four years at Carleton University.
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– Brett Delmage
The first song that Erin Saoirse Adair wrote about sexual assault was a cheerful folksong accompanied by ukulele. Her latest begins with ten F-words and is backed by a jazz ensemble.
On Saturday, the Ottawa singer-songwriter will unveil her new EP, Gaslight, in a show at Pressed in Centretown. But there will be an “explicit” warning on several of the songs, reflecting the seriousness of the material, and Adair's furious approach.
It's an anger which has been shared by many women this spring, after the result of the Jian Ghomeshi assault trial, and disclosures of infamous rapes involving other celebrities. But Adair told OttawaJazzScene.ca that she started writing on this topic well before the Ghomeshi revelations.
“I've been writing songs like this for the last several years, and have been performing them somewhat, and have dabbled in the topic in all of my previous releases. The reason why I'm releasing it at this time is because it worked out that way. I had enough songs and I had the ability to release it as part of one of my classes at Carleton [University]."
The classic female protest song is vocals and guitar or piano, but Adair has added a strong jazz accompaniment. Local jazz musicians Michel Delage on drums, Nick Dyson on trumpet, and Richard Page on saxophone and clarinet back her on the EP's five tracks.
“I felt like the brass gave me more power in my singing and it made the song sound more angry in a way. More brash,” she said.
Oliver Jones Trio Farewell Tour
Theatre, National Arts Centre, Ottawa
Thursday, May 19, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Updated May 25, 2015
Some musicians might add special guests or a spectacular repertoire for their farewell tour. Oliver Jones just continues to play the jazz tunes he loves – superbly well.
Supported by his “sons”, the musicians he's collaborated with for the last decade – Éric Lagacé on double bass and Jim Doxas on drums – the Montreal pianist performed two fast-moving sets of standards to a sold-out house in the NAC Theatre on Thursday. The show was a paean to the Great American Songbook with a big side helping of Oscar Peterson, well-seasoned with swing and good humor.
In January, Jones announced he would be retiring for good this year, after a triple heart bypass last year and 76 years of playing piano. That gave a special importance to this show as the last time he might ever play Ottawa.
The audience acknowledged this with an immediate and hearty standing ovation as soon as Jones came on stage. Throughout the show, he was warmly received, with several people standing to clap after notable musical passages, and very strong applause after each song.
The Rachel Therrien Trio
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, May 14, 2016 – 8 p.m.
The Rachel Therrien trio demonstrated how standards and jazz classics could be reenergized and reimagined in their appealing show at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge Saturday evening.
Therrien on trumpet and flugelhorn was performing with two of the musicians from her long-standing Montreal quintet: Charles Trudel on piano, and Simon Pagé on six-string electric bass (last heard in Ottawa last fall with Guillaume Martineau). Therrien's quintet won the Grand Prix award at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival, where she presented her second album, Home Inspiration.
She played one song from that album during the second set – a moody piece with her on flugelhorn. With Trudel and Pagé providing a steady driving beat, her nuanced, fluid lines lightly danced over them, producing contrasting textures. That was, regrettably, the only original in the show.
It wasn't ideal conditions for performance: during the first two sets, a large contingent was talking loudly beside the bar, competing with the music. Nevertheless, for the tables of listeners who sat near the stage, listening closely and applauding regularly, there was much to enjoy.
I was particularly impressed by how Pagé expanded his role as bassist. In the first set, he opened Miles Davis' “Blue in Green” by tapping a steady percussion riff on the wood of his bass. He then recorded and looped that riff using his extensive pedal board, and added bass notes on top of it. Therrien on flugelhorn and Trudel on piano then joined in, creating a more accented and modern, and less “pretty” version of the jazz classic.
Music student Andrew Ferderber has been heard by Ottawa-Gatineau jazz audiences as the drummer driving the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Carleton University Fusion Ensembles, or jamming regularly at the Tuesday evening Beeched Wailers jams and at Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago. He's also played regularly around town in non-jazz groups: with Rômmel Ribeiro, in the Billy Love Band, and in Blast from the Sun.
On May 6, he presented his final graduation performance in Carleton University's Kailash Mital Theatre, with much enthusiasm and care, and a great deal of preparation. His work paid off well - he received a grade of A+ a few days later for his ninety-minute concert.
Ferderber spoke with OttawaJazzScene.ca at the end of his performance. He shared his thoughts on the value of studying four years of music at Carleton U, his preparations for the concert, and about music in general.
Thanks to Kailash Mital Theatre's sound engineer John Rosefield, who provided the live concert audio recording. He puts you right on Ferderber's drum throne for the performance of Spain (headphones recommended).
– Brett Delmage
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Pay the Duke: The Hard Bop Association plays Duke Ellington
Doors Open for Music at Southminster series
Southminster United Church
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 – 12 noon
Duke Ellington's music – reinterpreted for a new century – filled Southminster United Church with sweet swing and lots of vitality Wednesday at noon.
Led by trumpeter Ed Lister, a quintet of Ottawa jazz musicians paid loving tribute to classic tunes like “Caravan”, “Satin Doll”, “Cottontail”, and “Black and Tan Fantasy” – but in new arrangements by Lister and saxophonist Richard Page that were arresting and dynamic.
With a supple and steady rhythm section of Alex Bilodeau on double bass and David Pontello on drums keeping the swing going, Lister, Page, and pianist Mark Ferguson were able to stretch out and take the tunes to new places without ever losing track of the melodies. In particular, Page's playing the baritone sax, instead of the more usual tenor, in songs like “Satin Doll” added a gruffer bottom and more interesting textures to the well-known melodies. In “Black and Tan Fantasy”, you could imagine yourself in a 20s speakeasy with Lister's muted, bluesy trumpet lines and Ferguson's fast, inflected piano.
Page also contributed one of his own pieces, “Duke's Rhumba”, which was inspired by the Ellington tune “Oclupaca”. Its vibe and rhythm fit beautifully in with the Ellington canon. Lister's mellow flugelhorn nicely contrasted with the resonant baritone sax in alternating lines, and they steadily built up the insinuating rhythm together.
The quintet played without amplification, but were easily heard – and, in fact, the church's reverberant acoustics added richness to the sound.
The show ended with “Take the 'A' Train” – but played initially more slowly than the usual breakneck pace and then built to a rousing conclusion. The audience, who filled the church more than half-full, responded with strong and extended applause.
Fawn Fritzen Trio
Steinway Piano Gallery Ottawa
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.
Judging from her Ottawa CD release show, Fawn Fritzen is a jazz vocalist to watch.
In two one-hour sets, Fritzen charmed her audience with a nicely-judged mixture of jazz standards, gospel numbers, and originals, delivered with both sincerity and considerable animation. She sang a beautiful lullaby in Mandarin (her first language), and added lyrics in both French and German to standards in English, in a wide-ranging set list which never flagged.
The show was the second-last stop on a six-city tour of Ontario and Quebec (she's in Montreal tonight) – a rare chance to hear Fritzen, because she's based in Whitehorse, Yukon. She was showcasing her just-released second CD, Pairings, which consists of duets between her and a variety of Canadian jazz instrumentalists.
Two of those instrumentalists, both from Toronto, were on tour with her: David Restivo on piano and George Koller on double bass. Both have considerable experience performing with jazz vocalists, which showed in their sensitive playing and easy rapport. Several songs, including George and Ira Gershwin's “Do Do Do”, opened dramatically with Koller's signature growling bowed bass, and he also contributed occasional scatting and background vocals. Restivo in particular enhanced the ballads with sparkling solos and thoughtful intros.
Fritzen told the audience about her two-year quest to make Pairings, initially grabbing opportunities to record when musicians visited Whitehorse, and then finishing it off in Toronto. She sang most of the songs on the album, many of which were not recorded with piano or bass. Those featuring guitar or saxophone she adapted for piano, but she was especially inventive with the Cole Porter number “Begin the Beguine”, which is a percussion-voice duet on the album. For the concert, Koller (“my secret weapon”) drummed on the front and top of his double bass, adding a repeated, propulsive rhythm underneath her sensuous vocals.
Ed Lister still vividly remembers the music which first inspired him as he discovered jazz.
And that's why the 20-something Ottawa trumpeter is leading a quintet paying a modern and exuberant tribute to Duke Ellington at 12 noon on Wednesday – in a show called “Pay the Duke”.
“Sometimes in the modern music we all get wrapped up in, sometimes we forget some of the classic stuff that I feel led us to this point. So it's “Pay the Duke” ... I guess my idea behind the title was just to show some respect for the music that started off the whole jazz, swing thing.”
The concert is part of the Doors Open for Music at Southminster series at Southminster United Church in old Ottawa South. Most of the Wednesday noon-hour concerts in the weekly series feature classical music, but each year there's a few jazz shows as well.
Lister said he first heard Duke Ellington's music when he was about 12 or 13, “a couple years after I started playing trumpet”, through his father, a big jazz fan. “I immediately got into Wynton Marsalis and then [through him] Duke Ellington.”
Even though he didn't fully understand Ellington's compositions at the time, “I just liked the swing. I liked the groove on it, you know, like it was intricate music but it still grooved. It was something. He was quite ahead of his time, back then.”
Whitehorse, Yukon, is not the first place you think as a jazz mecca. But vocalist Fawn Fritzen doubts she would have ever starting singing jazz if it hadn't been for Whitehorse's supportive and nurturing arts scene.
"I really believe that if I hadn't moved to Whitehorse I wouldn't have pursued [singing] professionally."
And successfully enough that Fritzen has just released her second album, Pairings, featuring many high-profile Canadian jazz musicians. After two packed shows in Whitehorse, she's now in southern Canada for a series of CD release shows, including in Ottawa.
This CD has Fritzen singing in duos (voice/bass, voice/drums, voice/piano, and even voice/saxophones) with musicians including Steve Amirault, Dave Restivo, Reg Schwager, George Koller, Kurt Schwonik, Kelly Jefferson, Richard Underhill, and Shirantha Beddage. It combines popular jazz standards (Cole Porter) and some which should be better-known (Francesca Blumenthal) – and even includes a rare tune by The Guess Who. Fritzen also contributes four of her own originals, one of them inspired by CBC Tonic host Tim Tamashiro's ideas about "drinky" jazz.
At her Ottawa concert on Wednesday, May 11, she'll perform with two of the musicians on the CD: pianist Dave Restivo and bassist George Koller.
Fritzen was in Ottawa earlier this week. OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor got together with her to learn about the unexpected path that led her into jazz and to this new album.
In particular, Fritzen explained how she chose the different material on the CD, and how excited she was to have found lesser-known gems to record on it.
It's a swingin', bumpin' jazz month in May in Ottawa-Gatineau, with a nod to the jazz tradition and to the future.
Swing dancers will get many chances to show off their footwork, jazz musicians will visit from across Canada, and local musicians will display new and evolving projects. There's contemporary jazz, Latin rhythms, and vocals ranging from modern to the Great American Songbook.
Toronto pianist Dave Restivo, Toronto drummer Nick Fraser, and Yukon vocalist Fawn Fritzen release new CDs, a new monthly jazz series starts, and Montreal pianist Oliver Jones begins his farewell tour.
There's a bumper crop of visiting Canadians, including saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, vocalist Kate Hammett-Vaughn, trumpeter Rachel Therrien, reed player Ted Crosby, vocalist Florence K, bassist Brad Cheeseman, vocalist Amanda Martinez, guitarist Kim Ratcliffe, drummer Aubrey Dayle, harmonica player Carlos del Junco, bassist Henry Heillig, guitarist Eric St. Laurent, the Kite Trio, guitarist Alex Pelchat, bassist Stéphane Diamantakiou, trumpeter Paul Serralheiro, and percussionist Ivan Bamford. Ottawa drummer Ken Harper will bring in Toronto bassist Artie Roth and saxophonist Bob Brough.
These May jazz highlights are brought to you by Charles Buckingham, Marcie Campbell, Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra, Wayne Eagles, Dominique Forest, Caroline Gibson, Normand Glaude, Chris Halford, and Keith Hobbs. We greatly appreciate their support!
And on top of that, you can hear from some of Ottawa's most talented younger players, at the university and high school level.
- An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)
- Miles Ahead, but not in reality (movie review)
- Michael Kaeshammer and his audience have fun with energetic and varied music
- Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers
- Song of Lahore shows jazz triumphing over intolerance (movie review)
- Sitar, violin, guitar & cajon entice the audience at high-energy Sultans of String show
- The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar
- Polished performances from the Carleton University student Jazz Ensemble
- Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music
- Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert
- Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April
- 2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow
- Born To Be Blue stays true to Chet Baker's music, but romanticizes his life (movie review)
- Vocalese with Steve Berndt and Christine Fagan: "A jazz adventure" (video)
- Olivier Babaz shines a world of music on his new jazz album
- Brazilian drumming inspires Rob Frayne's latest percussive project, DrumSwamp
- Only applause broke the silence as the Sonoluminescence Trio played the Record Centre
- Ottawa Jazz Festival announces summer line-up, including Chick Corea, Dan Brubeck 4tet, Wynton Marsalis, The SF Jazz Collective, and Colin Stetson
- Rob Frayne recruits for a jazz band on a mega-scale
- David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance (video)
- Jazz to head to the NAC's Back Stage during construction
- James McGowan and Jesse Stewart improvise music from many streams
- First impressions: Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes with Miguel de Armas
- Have your ears stretched in March with jazz from unexpected places
- Rob McConnell's music is "the boss" at Sunday's CYJO concert
- The Harley Card Trio creates a layered and nuanced collaboration at Brookstreet
- David Renaud looks for grace and love in his new duo CD with Brian Browne
- René Lavoie pays hommage to Cannonball Adderley, the saxophonist who changed his life
- Laila Biali is letting her audiences hear songs in the making, in the spirit of jazz
- A wild night at Irene's with the Alive! Ensemble and the music of Grant Green (review)
- From all over the globe, the Florian Hoefner Group unites in presenting luminous jazz (review)
- HML Trio's weekly Brookstreet Options jazz jam celebrates three years of 'good music and a great hang' this week
- Nick Fraser stretches the boundaries of drumming with Justin Haynes' scores (review)
- Crossroads concert scribbled on genre boundaries while remaining true to Lynn Miles' songs (review)
- Vocalist Jeri Brown and drummer Jesse Stewart: 'things that I haven't heard before'
- Hear both the roots and the future of jazz in February
- 2016 Juno jazz nominations move westward, and in unexpected categories
- Linsey Wellman declares his bilingual Manifesto (video)
- Fraser Hollins picks long-time musical friends for his Jazzfest show: Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, and Joel Miller
- Karen Oxorn reflects 60 years of loving music in her concerts this weekend (podcast)
- An immersion in music from Pauline Oliveros and friends
- Standing Room Only packs the dance floor at its first Ottawa tea dance
- The Ken Harper Trio creates organic rhythms at Irene's
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