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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' gets 5 Oscar nominations

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 Award race, with five Oscar 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) 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 , and we'll publish comments here before the awards broadcast.

Read more: Jazz film 'Whiplash' gets 5 Oscar nominations


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


Seven Ottawa-Gatineau jazz shows to bring in the New Year

The stress of Christmas (and Boxing Day) is over; the sparkle of New Year's is approaching. You may even have a few days off early this week, so you can enjoy late-night music you might not otherwise hear.

Why not brighten up the dark and cold with jazz? Here's seven Ottawa-Gatineau jazz shows to try out in the next week:

Bassist Marc Decho will bring his Sun Crescent Barbecue Stompers for one last hurrah at Irene's on Friday. Also in the New Orleans-influenced group: guitarist Lucas Haneman, drummer Mike Essoudry and (not shown) trumpeter Ed Lister and clarinetist Richard Page.  ©2014, Brett DelmageMonday, December 29: School holidays mean rising local jazz stars are home from university – and here to perform! Saxophonist Chris Maskell (McGill University), and drummer Dillon Colter and pianist Deniz Lim-Sersan (Humber College) have teamed up with two Ottawa regulars, guitarist Alex Moxon and bassist Alex Bilodeau to take over the regular Monday jazz night at Le Petit Chicago this week. They'll perform their original music and some standards starting at 10 p.m., and will open up for jamming later.

Tuesday, December 30: Since trumpeter Nick Dyson formed The Beeched Wailers last spring, their regular Tuesday night shows at the Rochester Pub have attracted a strong selection of local jazz musicians. The Wailers will show off their own impressive chops starting at 9:30 p.m. with an hour-long set of originals and some less-common standards, and then open the stage for jamming.

Wednesday, December 31 (New Year's Eve): You can celebrate New Year's Eve with quiet, intimate jazz, bright Latin beats, or jiving to a big band: your choice. On the more intimate side, vocalist Diane White, who performs as much in Japan and the Middle East as here, is back in town for one of her rare appearances, teaming up with guitarist Tim Bedner at Santé. Invigorating piano trio jazz from the Ian Clyne Trio combines with high-end steaks at Sterling in Gatineau. The Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet brings its propulsive Afro-Cuban rhythms to Brookstreet in Kanata. And at the National Arts Centre, there's a classic NYE: dinner, a midnight toast, and two big bands – Big Band Ottawa and Tuxedo Junction will feature three vocalists to allow you to dance the night away.

Read more: Seven Ottawa-Gatineau jazz shows to bring in the New Year


Our personal favourite stories from 2014 would like to share a few personal favourites with you from the stories we published in 2014. We would not have been able to allocate the time or had the resources to undertake these stories without donations from our readers and followers.

The Jazz Favourites Poll

“Why not celebrate our local jazz successes?” I asked myself. And that was the start of the Jazz Favourites Poll, which we ran this spring for the first time. More than 350 jazz fans participated, which we really appreciated. In a series of articles about the findings, our poll recognized those making the greatest contributions to jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in nine categories, and helpfully informed everyone about new venues that they could listen to live jazz in, CDs they could purchase, and new festivals they could explore. This was a unique project, which we were proud to pioneer. Sometimes you take a chance, put 80 hours of work into it (between Alayne and myself) and it pays off. - Brett

Read more: Our personal favourite stories from 2014


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