Wednesday, May 25, 2016
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William O'Neill: a guitarist talks about his love of big band music

Carleton U music student William O'Neill and his big band performed to a standing ovation for his graduation pertformance  ©2016 Brett Delmage

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 about how he put together this big band concert. He also spoke about his experience studying music for four years at Carleton University.

View photos of this performance

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   – Brett Delmage

Watch CYJO perform one of O'Neill's compositions


Erin Saoirse Adair adds power to her anger with a jazz backing

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.

Gaslight, Erin Saoirse Adair's new EP, uses jazz to add to its angry impact.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 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.

Read more: Erin Saoirse Adair adds power to her anger with a jazz backing


Andrew Ferderber's A+ graduation performance, and how he got there

Carleton U music student Andrew Ferderber played with enthusiasm throughout his 90-minute graduation pertformance  ©2016 Brett Delmage

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 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

View photos of this performance

 Listen to the podcast [28 minutes]

You are welcome to download the podcast for personal listening - Please respect our copyright. Do not copy our content to another website, including Facebook. Link to our page instead.


Ed Lister's hard-swinging tribute Wednesday to Duke Ellington's classic music

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”.

Ed Lister is best known in Ottawa for his funkier jazz bands like the Chocolate Hot Pockets, but he has never forgotten his initial love of Duke Ellington's music ©Brett Delmage, 2012“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.”

Read more: Ed Lister's hard-swinging tribute Wednesday to Duke Ellington's classic music


Fawn Fritzen takes a fresh approach to jazz standards

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.

Fawn Fritzen (l) vividly describes the process which led to her new album, Pairings, in an interview with editor Alayne McGregor. Her Ottawa release concert for the album is on Wednesday, May 11, at the Steinway Piano Gallery ©2016 Brett Delmage"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. 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.

Read more: Fawn Fritzen takes a fresh approach to jazz standards


Jazz swings through May

It's a swingin', bumpin' jazz month in May in Ottawa-Gatineau, with a nod to the jazz tradition and to the future.

Standing Room Only (SRO) had the dance floor swinging at its first Ottawa dance in January. They're back on May 14. ©2016 Brett Delmage

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.

Read more: Jazz swings through May


An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)

On April 9, guitarist Garry Elliott and pianist Steve Boudreau expanded their long-standing Ottawa duo into a quartet, with two musicians from Montreal. was at their GigSpace concert to record the result.

They added in bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camil Belisle, to create new sounds and, as Elliott told, allow him to dig in more while playing.

"We wanted to get a chance to play our music with different musicians,  just to get a different take on it, and stretch out a bit," Elliott said.

Boudreau said he liked "a lot of things that they added. It was different from other people would have added. I think that Adrian as a bass player is a really tasteful, melodic bass player, but he also has a really strong meaty time feel... And Camil, really super-swinging and really catches a lot of little details in the melodies. Between them, it was a very different experience."

"Some of these songs we've been playing for a while now and it's refreshing to hear a different take on them."

Watch our video report about that show, with two of the songs played that evening along with an interview with Elliott and Boudreau about their responses to what they collectively created.

Watch the video


Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers

Read the review of this concert

Michael Kaeshammer has two sides to his musical personality: the extroverted jazz musician highly attuned to his audiences, and the creative homebody.

Michael Kaeshammer (photo provided by the NAC)When he steps onto the stage of the NAC Theatre on Saturday, the audience will see the first side – and hear the results of the second.

Kaeshammer and his sextet will be playing music from the Canadian vocalist and pianist's extensive repertoire, but not just the classic boogie-woogie, blues, and jazz he was originally known for. Over the last few years, he has steadily been including more originals on his albums, and he told that writing those songs at home “is actually what gives me the most in music”.

He won't say exactly which originals he'll perform on Saturday, however: that's not the way he organizes his concerts. His strong, buoyant piano and vocals are a given, as is the tight playing of the five accomplished jazz musicians from Toronto and Montreal backing him. But which songs or in which order – that will be decided on the night.

The way he works is “let's see what happens when we're in the room. Because you can't tell – even when I know the room, I mean I've been in l'Astral a number of times, I've seen the other theatres at the NAC, but you just don't know how your night's going to unfold, until ... and being open to that is the most fun part about it, honestly. It really is the most exciting part about it.”

Read more: Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers


The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar

Growing up in Ottawa, violinist Chris McKhool took in a wide variety of concerts at the National Arts Centre – everything from the NAC Orchestra to Bruce Cockburn to Ravi Shankar.

Subcontinental Drift by the Sultans of StringOn Thursday, his band, the Sultans of String, will perform at the NAC for the first time – playing a similarly varied repertoire, with a basis in jazz.

The Sultans are known for combining Gypsy jazz, Arabic rhythms, Cuban percussion, and rumba flamenco to create their energetic music. Two of their albums were nominated for Juno Awards, including Symphony!, their collaboration with a symphony orchestra, in 2015.

For this show and for their latest album, they've gone one step further – adding classical Indian music and the sitar to the mix. But it's still all based on improvisation and jazz – with a strong world music flavour.

“Jazz and world music are so closely related because, the way we're playing it, they're both improvised music. So much of it is created in the moment and using deep listening skills,” McKhool told

The Toronto-based group, which celebrated its tenth anniversary on April 1, started when McKhool met guitarist Kevin Laliberté, soon adding in bassist Drew Birston and Cuban percussionist Rosendo 'Chendy' Leon. Each had a jazz background, but added other musical influences as well. Over four previous albums, McKhool and Laliberté wrote much of the group's material, bringing in guest artists who included trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and saxophonist Ernie Tollar to add specific colours.

But their latest album, Subcontinental Drift, took a very different path. Over an almost two-year period, they co-wrote many of the pieces with Toronto sitar player Anwar Khurshid.

Read more: The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar


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