The inaugural IMOOfest (IMOO - Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais festival) takes place this Friday October 5 and Saturday October 6, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Club SAW [details]. This mini-festival marks the start of the third year of operation for IMOO and the end of two very busy and artistically successful years of this unique local improvised music series.
IMOO co-founders and improvising musicians Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman talked to OttawaJazzScene.ca about IMOOfest, and about the experience of running an improvised music series that has put Ottawa on the map for touring improvisers. We've combined the interview with some photos from past IMOO concerts.
OttawaJazzScene.ca is giving away some free passes to IMOOfest to listeners who are willing to try something new and tell us about the experience. Find out how to apply for free IMOO passes and see links to more stories about IMOO
The National Arts Centre's producer of Variety and Community Programming, Simone Deneau, sang about the 2012-13 “NAC Presents” series of Canadian artists at its official launch on September 25. And singing, specifically jazz vocals (albeit of high calibre), will be the only flavour of jazz that NAC audiences will get for their fix of jazz in the current season.
Straight instrumental jazz is not only absent from NAC Presents, but will also be presented much less by the NAC, with the Geggie Series being dropped from the “NAC Presents” series and returning with only three shows starting in January, half the number of concerts compared to recent seasons.
The eight NAC jazz concerts will present popular, mainstream Canadian vocalists who are generally well-known to and well-regarded by Ottawa-Gatineau listeners. They will have an increased probability of filling the NAC's seats with a broader range of listeners, including those who don't consider themselves jazz fans:
Alex Cuba [November 2-3, 2012/NAC Fourth Stage]: Cuban music crossed with pop, soul and rock. Winner of two Junos (2006 and 2008) in the World Music category.
Amélie et les Singes Bleus [December 6, 2012/NAC Fourth Stage]: French classics in a contemporary, manouche/cabaret interpretation.
Holly Cole Christmas [December 20, 2012/NAC Theatre]: A Canadian vocal jazz icon with a sophisticated style and a long international career, who has influenced many other Canadian jazz vocalists. The lead track of her new CD, Night (to be released in November), is a remake of the James Bond film theme “You Only Live Twice”, music she describes as coming with a wink.
Charles Spearin: The Happiness Project
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre (Cooperators Hall)
Sunday, September 9, 2012
We sing as we talk.
We may not realize it – we may not even be very good at it – but each of us has an inherent cadence in our speech, which reflects our selves, our times, and our personalities. And some of those cadences can carry beautiful melodies.
That realization allowed composer Charles Spearin to create what was the most delightfully surprising concert at the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival.
In 2009, Spearin released The Happiness Project, which went on to win the 2010 Juno for Best Contemporary Jazz Album against a strong field of contenders. The raw material for the project was interviews that Spearin conducted with his neighbours – old and young and from many different backgrounds – about how they saw happiness.
Coltrane's Ascension: Jeremy Strachan & Ensemble
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Friday, September 7, 2012
Coltrane Reimagined: ROVA's Electric Ascension
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre (Main Stage)
Friday, September 7, 2012
The Michael Stuart Quartet with Jerry Bergonzi
Guelph Jazz Festival
City Hall outdoor stage
Saturday, September 8, 2012
John Coltrane's iconic compositions had a substantial presence at the Guelph Jazz Festival this year, with two quite different – but both large-scale – interpretations of his free jazz piece Ascension, and a third, more melodic, tribute to his music of the same period by a Canadian and an American tenor saxophonist.
Ascension is considered a major inflection point in Coltrane's career, moving him further towards free jazz, as well as being an influential album in its own right. Recorded in June, 1965, it is only minimally composed, although it starts and ends with the same theme. Instead, it alternates between ensemble playing and individual solos: one musician indicates change points, but improvisation is the key to how this piece is played. It runs for about 40 minutes, uninterrupted although with frequent changes in musicians and emphasis.
It's also a large ensemble piece: the original recording had 11 musicians, and the two presentations in Guelph each had that number or more. Coltrane apparently referred to Ascension as his “big band thing”, but its sound is the antithesis of any standard big band.
In fact, on first listening you might call it cacophonous.
Jeremy Strachan & Ensemble: Ascension
The Guelph Jazz Festival's two presentations of Ascension were both on the same day: the first in the late afternoon at the university art gallery (MSAC), and the second in the evening in the largest concert hall in Guelph. The afternoon concert was organized by Toronto multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Strachan, who had initially presented Ascension live at Toronto's Tranzac Club in 2007.
Unfortunately, Strachan's group was ear-achingly loud right from the beginning, as evidenced by the number of listeners who hurriedly put in ear plugs. The 11-musician line-up – three tenors, two altos, two trumpets, two bass, piano, and drums – was the same as on the original album, but it didn't seem to have the same quality of nuance. The group started at an accelerated pace, playing all-out, and except for a few places near the end, stayed that way.
Guelph Jazz Festival
St. George's Church, Guelph
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Some concerts produce the perfect match between venue and musician, and this was one of them.
Colin Stetson is best known for playing the bass saxophone. It's an enormous instrument, especially when slung crosswise across his chest. Stetson is under six feet tall, and, at first glance, the saxophone seems almost as long as he is – and yet when he starts blowing into its mouthpiece, it becomes an extension of him, a vehicle for his breath and mind. It was particularly impressive at this concert because he was the only person on stage, accompanied simply by bass and alto saxophones.
At any venue, the bass saxophone produces a sound that's deep, resonant, multi-faceted, and quite simply big. But in an older church like St. George's, with a high, long sanctuary designed to enhance the joy of choir and organ together, the effect was spectacular.
View photos of the group members
So logically, OttawaJazzScene.ca, who heard two of the three concerts, should be able to give Ottawa audiences a preview of what they might expect to hear
We asked Huntsville guitarist Ivar Grydeland on Friday how similar their Guelph concerts would be to their appearance at IMOO in Ottawa on Sunday, and he explained that each would be influenced by whom they were playing with and would be substantially different. And that's exactly what happened.
Huntsville has been together for more than six years. Its music reshapes folksongs into more abstract patterns, including “drone Americana”, electro-acoustic noise and minimalist composition. The group has put out three albums.
Friday afternoon's concert was an improvisatory experience, entitled “Drones and Tones, Trance and Dance: Improvising Worlds of Sound”. These afternoon concerts, a regular feature at the Guelph festival, tend to be a challenge to the artists participating to try something new, and not play in their usual forms.
The three members of Huntsville – Grydeland, bassist Tonny Kluften, and percussionist Ingar Zach – matched with Canadian cellist Matt Brubeck, and with trombonist Werner Puntigam from Austria and percussionist Matchume Zango from Mozambique.
The match was one of the more successful I've heard at Guelph, with the six musicians easily building on each others' ideas. It was overall a nuanced wall of sound, not too loud, ebbing and flowing. Brubeck used putty to mute some of the strings on his cello to create a more percussive sound, Puntigam played conch shell (a very hollow sound) as well as breathy trombone, Zango used electronics wizardy as much as percussion. On the HuntsviLLe side, Zach produced some interesting sounds from metal bowls and bells, while Grydeland not only added banjo to the mkix, but actually bowed the banjo, for an odd haunting sound.
Depending on your taste in jazz, you can attend four different jazz festivals in Guelph next week:
- a world-class jazz and improvised music festival with a focus on the avant-garde, but with some interesting mainstream and Canadian artists as well
- mostly-Canadian jazz groups outdoors on Saturday afternoon and evening, in a pleasant, medium-sized Ontario city with a friendly, small-town vibe
- an impressively diverse Nuit Blanche – solidly grounded in jazz, and with links to the visual arts
- an accessible academic colloquium (with concerts) which links jazz and improvised music to larger social issues, and also gives listeners a chance to learn about jazz history and about new experiments in improvisation, and to hear interviews with leading jazz musicians.
Or a combination of all four. In fact, you'll probably get most out of the five days (or even just the Saturday) by mixing and matching. All are part of the 2012 Guelph Jazz Festival.
This year, the festival's main programming will feature four artists in particular:
See other articles about the visual arts and improvised music performances in Ottawa:
- Where there's no smoke there's Fire
- An improvised rock concert
- It's about time to see Jesse Stewart's "Time pieces"
Merely reviewing all the website details of the 58 performances and art presentations during Guelph's 2012 Nuit Blanche, from 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 8, to 7 a.m. on Sunday, made me exhausted. And that's actually a great sign for listeners and art installation and performance lovers. It indicates the incredible depth and breath of this festival within the Guelph Jazz Festival.
Despite being tired from a lot of reading, I'm incredibly excited about it too. (I'm also wondering how I should start my 'awake' training so I don't fall asleep at 3 a.m. like I did last year. Suggestions?)
'Cage'y. Eclectic. Improvised. Interactive. International. Inventive. Participatory. Visual. Vocal. Surprising. These are a few words that describe Guelph's Nuit Blanche, now in its third year.
As the festival points out, you can “Hear the world in one night!” Bringing a wide variety of styles and approaches, some exceptional performers are coming from afar. Three sets of artists not from here include:
Ottawa vocalist Renée Yoxon's campaign to raise $10,000 to help finance her new album with Mark Ferguson reached its goal as of August 27, with five days to go.
As of August 29, it had raised $10,049. The campaign remains open until August 31, allowing donations and opportunities to pre-order the CD.
This was the largest jazz fundraising campaign in Ottawa to date.
Yoxon and Ferguson will record the album in early September, and release it at a concert at the NAC Fourth Stage on December 7, 2012.
You can see OttawaJazzScene's video coverage of their fundraising concert in August, which previewed the CD.
– Alayne McGregor
On August 18, Renée Yoxon and Mark Ferguson previewed material from their new CD at an album fundraising concert at GigSpace. They will record the CD in early September, and release it at an NAC 4th Stage concert on December 7, 2012.
OttawaJazzScene.ca talked with them about their album, and the approach they are taking with their original songs, after the concert. Watch the video to learn more about the music and see exclusive footage of the performance.
You can learn more about the album and about their fundraising campaign for the CD production costs, which runs until August 31, at reneeyoxon.com/news/
Watch the video [5 min]
Updated October 19, 2012
The fall jazz season is starting to fill in, with announcements on Sunday from GigSpace, on Wednesday from the Centrepointe and Shenkman Theatres, and recently from the Ottawa Jazz Festival, as well as earlier announcements from the City of Gatineau and the National Arts Centre.
The biggest mainstream jazz names are Chick Corea and Gary Burton, on October 11. Big Canadian names include Vic Vogel in his 75th birthday concert on October 4, followed by Oliver Jones on October 23.
Roddy Ellias is curating an ambitious eight-concert series at GigSpace (some with multiple seatings) from September to April. The series includes performances with well-known jazz artists he has played with before like Vic Juris, Gene Bertoncini, and Petr Cancura, concerts ranging into the chamber music side (with string quartet, or with pipa and flute), one solo performance, and one with his trio.
You can also see the Walrus Quartet, with four prominent Canadian jazz guitarists, including Ellias, on October 12.
Vocalists Carol Welsman and Jill Barber will appear only five days apart in early December. Saxophonist Candy Dulfer is in town just before the holidays on December 19 (you could make the $80 ticket your Christmas gift?), and Holly Cole is presenting her Christmas concert on December 20.
Brazilian jazz fans have a wealth of big-name possibilities, starting with mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda on September 7, then guitarist Guinga as part of International Guitar Night on November 16, and then closely followed by vocalist and guitarist Gilberto Gil on November 20.
Cuban jazz fans will not want to miss Eliades Ochoa at the Museum of Civilization on November 2, or Caridad Cruz with Miguel de Armas on September 7. The NAC Orchestra will present A Night in Havana on December 13 to 15. Habana Café will be in Gatineau on April 12, 2013.
The new year brings Cory Weeds to the NAC Fourth Stage, John Scofield and Tigran Hamasyan separately to Gatineau, and Oliver Jones will be back with a violinist in May. The National Arts Centre is also bringing in a wide selection of Canadian female jazz vocalists.
- Mark Fewer's violin extravaganza at Ottawa Chamberfest (review)
- John MacLeod Big Band (review)
- John MacLeod harnesses the creative energy of a big band with his Rex Hotel Jazz Orchestra
- Riverside (review)
- Carleton U Jazz Camp goes batty presenting a quartet of duos
- 2012 Chamberfest: "a real fascination with jazz"
- Trumpets, Trumpets at IMOO
- Chamber Elements: Many unique ways of listening to improvised music
- FestivAsia brings Jazz to Chinatown this summer
- Thomson, Hood, and Stewart: Poetry in motion at IMOO
- Rachel Therrien develops new sounds at IMOO
- Notes in Triplicate's world premiere at Avant-Garde
- 2012 Community Fundraising Campaign a great success - thanks to you!
- Love lost, music found (review)
- Happy birthday – with saxophones (review)
- Mash Potato Mashers attract the masses in Montreal
- The Souljazz Orchestra sets the beat at the Montreal Jazz Festival
- More jazz - in Montreal
- Marc Copland and Roddy Ellias: finding connections
- David Mott's Journey to the Land of Oz
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