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Jazz for all tastes in Ottawa-Gatineau in October

It's a mixed bag of jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in October – some big band, some Latin, some vocalists, some avant-garde, and some mainstream jazz.

Mike Tremblay releases his first CD under his own name at a concert at Trinity United Church on October 18. The concert was recorded live at GigSpace, with Tremblay, bassist Ben Heard, and guitarist Tim Bedner (not shown) ©Brett Delmage, 2015Visiting artists from across Canada and the U.S., including Jill Barber and Steve Grossman, will add some glamour, while local musicians will show off their chops – including one CD release. And the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra will even get into jazz, with a concert series celebrating Jazz-Age music, including by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, and Charlie Chaplin.

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And there's a jazz festival mid-month. Merrickville's Jazz Fest (October 15-18) will showcase a wide variety of accessible jazz, with four Toronto groups (vocalist Alex Pangman, saxophonist Allison Au, vocalist and pianist Fern Lindzon, and the brash jazz fusion of Snaggle) – and many Ottawa-area musicians presenting recent projects.

Local highlights at Merrickville will include vocalists Diane White, Steve Berndt featuring Brian Browne, and Dominique Forest; Latin from the Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio and the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet; and mainstream jazz from groups like The Jazz CO-OP and The Horizon Quintet. The final night will feature Richard Page’s Night On The Town Band with their infectiously fun, propulsive music. Read about the full line-up in our story.

Read more: Jazz for all tastes in Ottawa-Gatineau in October


Alex Pangman embraces traditional swing, this "lovely, melodic, lyrical" music

Toronto jazz vocalist Alex Pangman loves the excitement and vibrancy of traditional swing music. Ever since her teens, she's been collecting recordings from the first part of the 20th century – and then celebrating that music in her performances.

Alex Pangman (photo by Steve Payne, used by permission)A three-time National Jazz Awards nominee, Pangman was mentored by blues guitarist and trumpeter Jeff Healey – a huge fan and collector of old-time swing music himself – who produced the first two of her seven albums.

On October 17, Pangman and her Alleycats will be one of the headliners at Merrickville's Jazz Fest. It's an uncommon Ottawa-area appearance. She got audiences dancing in the park at the 2014 Ottawa Jazz Festival, but her only other recent show here was at a swing dance in 2012.

Pangman talked with editor Alayne McGregor last week about her music, the musicians she's enthusiastic about playing with, and how she's now feeling “fit as a fiddle” after several major lung challenges. The following is an edited version of the conversation. What do you call the type of music that you sing?

Pangman: Hmmm... I've called it many things over the years. I think I would call it traditional swing.

It's very much rooted in the music from the 1930s. We play it as authentically as we know how, and we don't tart it up with rock drums or any of that. Could you give me a start and end date for the music you perform?

Pangman: I would say about 1920 to about 1945. I like a lot of other kinds of music, but this is the one that I professionally focus on. Of the music that you perform, is it all music that was written then, or is it music in that style?

Pangman: I would say that it's 90% music that was written then. The other 10% would be stuff that I have written in that style, inspired by the writers and the artists of the Great American Songbook and the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley. I think it is important to at least put your thumb-print in there as a songwriter once in a while.

Read more: Alex Pangman embraces traditional swing, this "lovely, melodic, lyrical" music


GigSpace's new piano gets a melodic try-out from Bernie Senensky and Roddy Ellias (video)

This summer, a very special new resident arrived at GigSpace: the Yamaha C3 piano which they were able to purchase with the $18,000 in their 88 Keys fundraiser.

GigSpace really did their homework making sure the piano would sound great, including asking three-time jazz Juno nominee Bernie Senensky to thoroughly play it this summer before they bought it.

On September 13, Senensky was in Ottawa to play an afternoon concert at GigSpace with guitarist Roddy Ellias – and he got to try out the piano in its new home. was there to hear the piano for ourselves and share its story with you. Senensky explained to us how he tested the piano, and you can see him play his own composition on it in our video story.

Watch the video


Nicole Ratté celebrates 10 years of teaching the joy of jazz

This week, Nicole Ratté is celebrating the tenth anniversary of her jazz vocal courses – courses which are uniquely hers.

Nicole Ratté ©2011 Brett Delmage

They're bilingual – breaking the English/French language barrier – and they're based on her own experience of learning jazz essentially from scratch.

Ratté is now a long-time vocalist on the local jazz scene, regularly singing in restaurants and in larger projects such as the concert this spring celebrating Billie Holiday's centennial. But back in 1996, she was a total jazz novice.

She's warmly voluble and enthusiastic describing how she learned jazz and then realized she could pass that knowledge on to other vocalists, even those who have never sung in public before.

Before she attended the JazzWorks jazz camp, she said, “I didn't know a thing about jazz before I went to camp in 1996 to '98. It took me a long time to understand how it worked because it was very unclear. By singing with groups of people whom I met at jazz camp over a period of years, I just started to understand how it was working. And that's what I wanted to teach.”

She started teaching jazz vocalists in 2004. “It was totally unexpected and it was a change of career for me. I was a project coordinator in a hi-tech company before and then I had to take a leave from that.”

The director of a music school where Ratté was taking lessons knew she was doing jazz, and asked her if she would be interested in teaching jazz one on one – the usual type of private vocal lessons.

But as Ratté started thinking about how to do that, she realized it would be difficult to cover all the material she wanted to in only a one-hour lesson each week, and instead decided to start a workshop, based on the masterclasses she had enjoyed at jazz camp.

Read more: Nicole Ratté celebrates 10 years of teaching the joy of jazz


Mark Ferguson's Next Chapter unfolds beyond jazz

When I first asked Mark Ferguson about his new CD, he emphasized that it was not mainstream jazz, but instead had a lot of different elements. I was intrigued.

While Mark Ferguson's new CD, The Next Chapter, is primarily for piano trio, it also contains five evocative trombone interludes. ©2014 Brett DelmageOn Friday and Saturday, he will release his CD, called The Next Chapter, in two concerts at GigSpace. And listeners will be able to hear how he has combined a quieter strain of jazz with classical elements – but also a touch of Latin and a bit of bebop. It's as multi-faceted as Ferguson himself.

Ferguson is a pillar of Ottawa's jazz scene, whether as an arranger, composer, pianist, trombonist, or a university educator. He's written for big bands, intimate vocal showcases, and his beloved Latin jazz groups, and performed with many different groups, both in Ottawa and further afield.

He has also produced and performed on many jazz CDs. But this CD is the first that's just his.

“I've collaborated with people before, and I've produced a lot of CDs for singers over the years. But this is the first one where I'm doing all my own music. It's my project from beginning to end. So yes, this will be the first one that I've done all just for me.”

It's primarily a piano trio album, featuring Ferguson on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Scott Latham on drums and vibraphone.

Read more: Mark Ferguson's Next Chapter unfolds beyond jazz


Jazz fans hit up the 'burg for first night of Beeched Wailers new jam spot

Jam regulars Andrew Ferderber (drums) and Tariq Amery (sax) connect on a musical creation ©Brett Delmage, 2015

View photos of the jam by photojournalist Brett Delmage

The inaugural Beeched Wailers jam at their new space in Hintonburg on September 8 was packed with listeners and local musicians. The music and socializing spilled on to the sidewalk for the first part of the warm evening, and the music was still going strong well past midnight.

In their upbeat opening set, the Wailers celebrated the local jazz scene. Five of the six songs the group played were by local musicians, including by band members Nick Dyson and Tyler Harris. Dyson said later that all those numbers were ones that they recorded in August for their upcoming CD. They ended with a classic by one of the group's favourite composers: “The Sticks” by Cannonball Adderley.

Then musicians quickly stepped up to jam. Other than an initial Leonard Cohen tune which would have been a better fit at an open mic night elsewhere, the music was interactive and extended jazz. Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and lots of standards allowed locals to stretch out and have fun.

There were many faces familiar from the Wailers' former location. Newer, younger players were also supported and encouraged to play, in the fairly loose, comfortable atmosphere – although a bit tighter organization might have allowed more people to play.

The jams continue every Tuesday, starting at 9:30 p.m.

Read more: Jazz fans hit up the 'burg for first night of Beeched Wailers new jam spot


Major changes for JazzWorks jazz jams: new location and new night

The longest-running jazz jams in Ottawa are making some major changes this fall, to get a better listening experience.

The previous JazzWorks jam location at the Carleton Tavern was long and narrow. Even with a second speaker half-way back the music was difficult to hear. ©Brett Delmage, 2011The JazzWorks monthly jams are moving to the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South, and to Fridays instead of Thursdays. The first jam in the new location will be held this Friday, September 18.

JazzWorks executive director Judy Humenick told that the main reason was to improve the sound and the sightlines.

“As much as the Carleton Tavern has been wonderful, and they've been a great home for us for the last several years, the actual layout of the space doesn't work as well for vocalists. Because of the shape of the room – it's a long, narrow, room – it's a tricky room to have a jam session in.”

The jams had been hosted by the Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg since September, 2009. Humenick said that JazzWorks had looked at moving the stage and other fixes, but could not figure out any way to make it substantially easier for people to hear and see. “It's very tricky to set up the sound and everything. In the long run we decided we were better to make the shift.”

Read more: Major changes for JazzWorks jazz jams: new location and new night


Watch Rob Frayne's Dream Band (video)

©2015 Brett Delmage

Ottawa composer Rob Frayne isn't afraid to push for the stars with his Dream Band. Over the last three years, he's showcased several editions of the band — some larger, some smaller, and with different musicians from Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

But what's stayed the same is the nature of Frayne's music, although he's continued to add new compositions and new arrangements. It's complex and multi-layered, with weaving horns which can be dreamy at one moment and full-out the next, complemented with a different kind of rhythm section - uniquely his.

On Friday, Frayne presents his latest edition of the Dream Band, this time an octet ("The Dream Combo"), at the NAC Fourth Stage. And this time he'll be playing saxophone in the band.'s Brett Delmage recorded the Dream BigBand's last show in April, which filled the Westboro Legion.

Here's an excerpt from that show, showing off its transcendent music, and featuring some of the musicians who will also appear in Friday's show.

    – Alayne McGregor with Brett Delmage

Updated 2015-09-10 to correct the group's name for the September 11 performance.

Watch the video


Gerri Trimble brings a fresh approach to her GigSpace concert Saturday

Gerri Trimble: 'The melodies are tricky and the intervals are tricky – and I really like it! I really like the challenge.' ©Brett Delmage, 2015Coming from an unconventional musical background, Ottawa jazz vocalist Gerri Trimble isn't afraid to challenge herself by singing music out of the ordinary. That's the approach she'll be taking at her show at GigSpace this Saturday.

“I once read an article where somebody was talking about a lack of courage in arrangements, and I guess really I want to bring some freshness to things. I do try for that. And if it can't be fresh, then darn it, it's going to be hard!"

But that's “hard” in terms of what she has to put into the performance – not for the listeners. And she emphasized that her quartet concert at GigSpace will be balanced between lighter and more ambitious jazz pieces.

“I do like trying to work on trickier tunes – there's no doubt about it. As I put together my set list for Saturday, I've been concerned that maybe I have too many meaty tunes, so then I've been balancing it with really, really fluffy ones. I'm hoping it will come to a happy middle place.”

On her Soundcloud page, for example, Trimble includes her performances of two songs by Thelonious Monk, who is famed for breaking the rules and getting away with things that no one else could. “If you look at the bridge of 'Monk's Dream', it's basically one chord for the whole thing, and most of us are trying to make chords progress into the next thing and he's just like 'No. I'm just going to go with this chord right here.' ”

“So it's things like that that interest me for sure, because I think sometimes you could try to take your idea and make it into a conventional form, or you could just let your idea be the way it is, and see what happens.”

Read more: Gerri Trimble brings a fresh approach to her GigSpace concert Saturday


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