Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Text Size

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

Subscribe to's RSS feed for information about CYJO's upcoming concerts, or even better, subscribe to JazzScene, our free events newsletter, to win free concert tickets and receive a weekly reminder about jazz and improvised events and news you won't want to miss.

View photos from this concert


Ottawa Jazz Festival shows a 2013 surplus, mainly from non-jazz acts and beer

Ottawa Jazz Festival surpluses amd losses, 2009 to 2013.The Ottawa Jazz Festival reversed its 2012 deficit with a surplus in 2013 of $120,834.

Treasurer Jean Vanderzohn attributed the surplus to greater sales of passes and single tickets, increased liquor sales, the new Signature concert series – and non-jazz acts like Willie Nelson and the Doobie Brothers.

Speaking to the festival's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 27, she noted that artists' fees exceeded $1 million for the first time this year ($1.115M), primarily because of big non-jazz names like Nelson, the Doobies, and David Byrne and St. Vincent, as well as R&B/jazz crossover artist Boz Scaggs.

It also reflects “the continually increasing cost of artists”, she said. “Every time Catherine goes out and talks to somebody, it seems their fee's gone up from last year and the year before.”

This compares to only $710K for musicians in 2009 or $922K in 2012. In 2010, the festival spent $885K on musicians for its 30th anniversary, which featured major names like Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Roy Hargrove, George Benson, Joe Lovano, and Tord Gustavsen.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival shows a 2013 surplus, mainly from non-jazz acts and beer


Capital Vox remembers Dave Brubeck through both his words and music

Elise Letourneau ©Brett Delmage, 2012Dave Brubeck ©Brett Delmage, 2007

Capital Vox will celebrate a less-known side of Dave Brubeck at its opening season concert Saturday, with both choral pieces and solo piano music written by the late, renowned jazz pianist and composer.

The concert will be only a few days short of the first anniversary of Brubeck's death (December 5, 2012, just before his 92nd birthday). The Ottawa community jazz choir wanted to pay tribute to him, said director Elise Letourneau, by exploring the compositions he wrote for choir and voice.

But the piano won't be forgotten, either: the choir will be accompanied by pianist Sally Robinson, and keyboard master Brian Browne will perform solo in the middle of each set.

Brubeck is not usually associated with choral music, Letourneau said; most people have never heard the part of Brubeck's repertoire that Capital Vox will present.

In fact, up to about three years ago, she only knew of Brubeck's instrumental jazz – and then she discovered the choral compositions.

“I thought: this is really cool! And the more I looked the more I found. This wasn't just one or two choral pieces he wrote. He wrote a lot of music for choir. We're programming a whole concert of it, but there's probably a whole 'nother concert of Brubeck material that we didn't do, that we could. And then on top of that, he wrote a few Masses and music like that as well.”

Read more: Capital Vox remembers Dave Brubeck through both his words and music


Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett bring new, Indian-influenced music to life

Jamie Baum: her latest CD includes new ways of writing and improvising inspired by music from the Indian subcontinent. (photo by Vincent Soyez)

Jamie Baum is exploring new territory in her current Canadian tour, which reaches Ottawa on Saturday at GigSpace.

It's the first opportunity for the American jazz flute player to play with Jane Bunnett, her Canadian fellow flute player and longtime friend. It's also a release tour for her latest CD, which has taken her in new and original directions inspired by music from the Indian subcontinent.

“I really love Indian music and qawwali music,” Baum explained.

Jane Bunnett: The first show in the tour attracted a 'full house and a fantastic turnout – and the music is pretty adventuresome music. The crowd was really receptive; they loved it.' ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Several of the pieces on the album are directly inspired by performances by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was a singer of Qawwali, a form of Sufi devotional music. Others, while staying within the jazz mainstream, reflect Baum's experiences performing in India and listening to music from there. That led her to “new ways of writing and improvising”, which she enthusiastically described.

The quintet's tour includes Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Quebec City, Ottawa, and Kingston. spoke to Jane Bunnett the day after the first show in Waterloo, and she said that show attracted a “full house and a fantastic turnout – and the music is pretty adventuresome music. The crowd was really receptive. They loved it.”

Baum and Bunnett first met at a jazz convention in the 1990s, and have both been nominated in the same categories for Jazz Journalists Association Awards.

“So she would be there and I would be there, and we would start to bond and hang out. When she'd play in New York, I'd go hear her and we'd get a bite. When I was in Toronto, and even once in Montreal and she was there at the same time, we would just hang out,” Baum told

“She's been in the Downbeat polls as I've been in the Downbeat polls. We have a lot of mutual friends in common, with people who have written about woodwinds,” Bunnett said. “I think originally the first person was a writer-journalist-radio guy in New York named Bob Bernotas, who said to me, 'Oh you've got to meet Jamie. You'd just get along great!' And sometimes that can be the worst thing somebody tells you: oh you guys will just get along great, and you end up like can't stand the person, right? Why did they say that? But we really did: we hit it off. And so we've been friends ever since and we keep in touch.”

Read more: Amazing opportunities playing with Indian musicians


Bryn Roberts returns to making his own, lyrical music

Bryn Roberts (photo by Randy Cole. Used courtesy of the artist)

The Bryn Roberts Quartet plays GigSpace on Thursday, November 21, at 8 p.m. It's part of a cross-Canada tour which took them to the Cellar in Vancouver on Nov 15-16, and The West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg on November 17. The tour continues to the Jazz Bistro in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday, November 19-20, and the Upstairs Club in Montreal on Friday, November 22.

Pianist Bryn Roberts composes long, lyrical jazz melodies – memorable ones which are expressed through all the musicians in his quartet. You can hear them in his just-released third album, Fables – and when he appears with his all-star quartet at GigSpace on Thursday. That show will feature selections from Fables, as well as older compositions, some standards, and a few surprises.

Roberts grew up in Winnipeg, which is where editor Alayne McGregor caught up with him for a phone conversation on Sunday. He was at his parents' house for a brief stay, as he prepared for a concert that evening – and was a bit worried that a “pretty miserable snow storm” (a standard risk for Winnipeg in November) might affect attendance.

He's in the middle of a Canadian CD release tour which started with two sold-out nights in Vancouver last weekend, and will continue after Winnipeg to Toronto, Ottawa, and finally Montreal. While the CD was officially released in NYC in mid-September, and was briefly showcased in a European tour, this is the first extensive chance for audiences to hear this music.

It's also the first chance for Canadians to hear much of Roberts in many years. In the late 1990s, after he graduated from McGill, he was an important part of the Montreal jazz scene, and released his debut album in 2000 to considerable acclaim and a Montreal Jazz Festival appearance. But in 2001, he moved to New York City, and for most of the last decade his talents have been as much in demand to back up rock stars like Serena Ryder and singer-songwriters like Dar Williams as they are for straight jazz gigs.

For this tour, Roberts has brought three notable jazz musicians with him: tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, a Canadian expat who is highly influential in the NYC jazz scene and a member of John Scofield's “Quiet Band”; Matt Penman, best known to Ottawa audiences as the bassist in the SF Jazz Collective; and German drummer Jochen Rueckert, who has played with musicians like Mark Turner, Marc Copland, Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Abercrombie, and Madeleine Peyroux.

This is an edited version of our conversation:

Read more: Bryn Roberts returns to making his own, lyrical music


Diverse concerts sell out to Ottawa audiences

The Melissa Stylianou Quartet filled GigSpace on November 15. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View photos of these concerts

The Ottawa jazz scene showed its diversity and enthusiasm on the weekend, as two very different shows – one touring, one local – both filled GigSpace to the door.

On Friday night, Brooklyn (and ex-Toronto) vocalist Melissa Stylianou brought her quartet to Ottawa as part of a three-city mini-tour of Ontario. It was an intimate show of jazz standards, originals, and a few “left-field choices” which connected well with her audience. The overall sound was stunning.

On Saturday, Ottawa master guitarist Roddy Ellias introduced his updated trio, with Thom Gossage on drums joining Adrian Vedady on double bass. They played an uninterrupted 105-minute set which included the material which they will be recording in the next two weeks (and even took advance orders for that CD).

Roddy Ellias, Adrian Vedady, and Thom Gossage played an uninterrupted 105-minute set at GigSpace on November 16 to an appreciative audience. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Much of the material had been featured at previous trio concerts, but that didn't matter. By the time Ellias had improvised new beginnings to tunes and radically changed arrangements, this was a fresh and fascinating example of guitar trio. Vedady and Ellias played a number of duets demonstrating how their two different tonalities could intersect and compliment each other. Gossage added understated texture in some places, and some surprisingly assertive and unexpected percussion in others which served to highlight the entire trio's music.

There's lots of choice again this week, with the star-studded Bryn Roberts Quartet on Thursday and the Trombone Summit on Saturday at GigSpace. Vocal jazz fans will be torn between the Nylons at Shenkman, and Montreal bossa nova duo bet.e & stef at the Mercury Lounge, both on Thursday. Roberto Lopez brings his highly energetic and original jazz inspired by Afro-Columbia rhythms to downtown Gatineau on Friday (we were very impressed with his concerts in Ottawa and Montreal this summer), and Zola's is broadcasting a concert from New York City featuring noted saxophonist Chris Potter. And there's lots more!

Check our Upcoming shows listings for full details, and subscribe to our free weekly JazzScene newsletter to get a timely reminder of shows you will want to buy tickets to – before they sell out.

    – Alayne McGregor, with files from Brett Delmage

Related reading:

View photos from these concerts


Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button

Roddy Ellias emphasizes a point at a Carleton University masterclass. He'll be giving an object lesson in trio jazz at his GigSpace show Saturday -- and previewing tunes on his upcoming CD. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

See the video of the Roddy Ellias Trio from the November concert.

“I realized that October 31st marked my 51st anniversary from my first gig and I have three records out on my own name,” guitarist, composer, and improviser Roddy Ellias told recently. But now he's working hard to change that as he gets ready to record two albums of his own and appear on a third this year.

As part of that process, his jazz trio, with Thom Gossage on drums and Adrian Vedady on double bass, is performing at GigSpace on Saturday, The concert will preview his album of all-original tunes which they will record in early December. Listeners can expect melodic music influenced by Ellias' years of playing both jazz standards and chamber music, and "the wide spectrum of moods, rhythms, expression and colours that happen with Gossage and Vedady".

“I just find that I don't really want to record something until I have something good to offer. I don't like to just make records because I like making records. When I've compiled enough good tunes and I've worked at them enough then... it's time.”

Ellias would have been pressed to find time earlier to record in the manner he prefers. In this year alone, he was named as Canada's only Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association in April, organized the inaugural Guitar Now! Festival (which included renowned guitarists from around the world) at Carleton University in May, and wrote two commissioned pieces this summer, including one for the German Meininger Trio. All that on top of his 2012-13 GigSpace concert series and teaching at Carleton University and in martial arts.

Read more: Roddy Ellias stops fidgeting and hits the Record button


Donations to jazz radio shows fall while CKCU exceeds funding target

Carleton University's community radio station CKCU FM (93.1 / ended its annual funding drive on Sunday, November 10, receiving $134,473 in pledges and exceeding its goal of $127,000. Donations to long-running jazz programs were down significantly, however.

CKCU FM exceeded its 2013 fundraising goal but donations to jazz shows fellAccording to CKCU station manager Matthew Crosier, $992 was donated to Swing is In the Air, $500 to Rabble Without A Cause (RWAC), and $1843 to In A Mellow Tone.

The annual fundraising campaign raises money to pay the $40 per hour it costs to operate the largely volunteer-based CKCU. This includes equipment purchase and maintenance, electricity (for the radio transmitter and station), rent, music licenses, “CKCU On Demand” streaming audio and archives, and a small core staff.

2013 donations to Swing is In the Air ($992) reached less than one-half the target of $2300, down from 2010 donations of $3141. This was the first fundraising drive that followed the sudden death in early January of longtime host Jacques Emond. Emond had hosted the show for 30 years and was also widely known and loved in the jazz community as the longtime programming director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

With new hosts, Swing is In the Air saw a format change this year, with even more airtime given to interviews with, and newly released music by, local musicians. It is now hosted by Vince Rimbach and Ralph Hopper, and occasional guest hosts.

Rabble Without A Cause's donations fell this year to $500, from $780 last year and $850 in 2011 according to host Bernard Stepien. RWAC serves a smaller audience, focusing since its inception in the mid 1970s on avant-garde jazz, and being the primary local radio show where this music is aired weekly. According to Stepien, RWAC allocated 21% of its programming “to local musicians of all styles and level of development” this past year, an increase over 10% in the past.

Read more: Donations to jazz radio shows fall while CKCU exceeds funding target


Page 9 of 35