Tuesday, March 03, 2015
   
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Ontario Scene blurs the boundaries in wide-ranging jazzy shows

Molly Johnson, the Mike Murley Septet, Kellylee Evans, Jesse Cook, and Jesse Stewart with and without the Stretch Orchestra will bring a jazzy and improvised edge to the National Arts Centre's Ontario Scene festival this spring.

Molly Johnson and pianist Robi Botos at Johnson's sold-out NAC show in 2013, where both Johnson and her band got separate ovations. Johnson and Botos return to the NAC on May 1 as part of Ontario Scene. ©Brett Delmage, 2013The festival's lineup was announced today, and will also include many musical genres from classical to indie, as well as books, food, dance, film, and theatre. It will run for two weeks, from April 29 to May 10, at locations across Ottawa including the NAC.

At Ontario Scene's launch event, producer Heather Moore emphasized that “Ontario is where artists blur artistic boundaries”. That's also true in several jazz-related events, including a blues revue featuring many jazz vocalists and instrumentalists, and a jazz artist providing music for a dance presentation.

Ottawa's own composer, percussionist, and visual artist Jesse Stewart will be heard around the scene in a week-long residency from April 30 to May 9. He'll put percussion into a variety of artistic and multi-disciplinary performances, including the tallest trio, disabled dance, and a BOOMy bass drum shelter solo.

Highlights include:

April 30, May 2: Jesse Stewart opens his residency as part of dance performances. He'll play live music in “The Eventual De-Expression of Rgs2,” a performance that takes its cue from American photographer Diane Arbus.

Read more: Ontario Scene blurs the boundaries in wide-ranging jazzy shows

 

Warming up with jazz in March

As Ottawa starts to wake up after the deep freeze, it's time to get out to more jazz and improvised music shows – and there's lots of choice in March. Many of this month's concerts will showcase our creative local musicians.

Miguel de Armas and his Latin Jazz Quartet warm up the first weekend in March  with hot Afro-Cuban jazz  ©2013 Brett DelmageHere are a few jazz highlights in the next month from OttawaJazzScene.ca's more extensive listings, which also include many events you can attend every week.

Thursday, March 5: Mike Essoudry presents new compositions and a new sextet in concert. Essoudry is is a man of many talents – including percussionist, xylophonist, clarinetist, and educator – and one of them is as a composer of multi-layered, extended jazz compositions. He's previously written for his Balkan marching band (the Mash Potato Mashers), and for his Ottawa-Montreal octet. With this new all-Ottawa group, Essoudry says to expect excellent ensemble playing, a wide range of textures, and lots of groove.

That same evening, a new weekly jazz jam curated by guitarist Tim Bedner starts at La Roma Restaurant in Little Italy. If not precisely a replacement for Bedner's now-ended monthly jazz and blues jams at GigSpace, it's certainly not far away. Bedner will team up with a different bassist each week to provide the host band (starting with Mark Alcorn on March 5). Expect a friendly, helpful vibe and an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz standards.

And also that evening, the HML Trio (Jamie Holmes on drums, Alex Moxon on guitar, J.P. Lapensée on bass) celebrate their second anniversary hosting Ottawa's weekly jazz jam in the west end, at the Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata.

Read more: Warming up with jazz in March

 

South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim makes rare appearance at 2015 Montreal Jazzfest

A three-concert series featuring South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim is the highlight of new additions to the 2015 Montreal Jazz Festival announced today.

Abdullah Ibrahim (photo provided by the Montreal Jazz Festival)Ibrahim's last Canadian performance was at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 2012. That festival describes his music as a “deeply soulful blend of gospel, kwela, and Ellington-inspired jazz that is elegant in its simplicity” and his compositions as “deeply lyrical”. Ibrahim was mentored by Duke Ellington in the 1960s and early 70s, and played with the Ellington Orchestra. In the 1970s, he founded the Cape Jazz sound: his music was used to support the black revolt against apartheid.

At Guelph, he played solo piano: an hour-long, uninterrupted piece, flowing between standards and his own works, but always beautiful and compelling.

At Montreal, he will play a solo show in the intimate Salle de Gésu on Thursday, July 2; and on July 3 will appear there with his Mukashi Trio (piano, cello, and flute/clarinet/saxophone), a chamber jazz group which released a well-received CD in 2014. “Mukashi” means “Once Upon A Time” in Japanese.

On July 4, Ibrahim will present his longstanding project, Ekaya, which he first launched in 1983. It's a septet, with tenor, alto, and baritone sax, trombone, and bass, drums, and piano. The Montreal jazz festival describes it as “an encounter between both instruments and cultures, between the oral musical tradition of South Africa and the vibrant legacies of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.”

Other 2015 Montreal jazz festival jazz concerts announced today:

Read more: South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim makes rare appearance at 2015 Montreal Jazzfest

 

Alex Moxon searches for the heart and soul of Grant Green's music

Alex Moxon loves taking his favourite jazz albums apart and seeing what makes them tick – and then reinterpreting them in live shows.

Alex Moxon in the 2014 tribute to Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro, with Marc Decho and Adam Saikaley. ©2014 Brett DelmageThis Sunday, the Ottawa guitarist and composer will pay tribute to Grant Green, a renowned jazz/bop guitarist from the 60s and 70s, with a quintet playing two of Green's albums from front to back. The show is the first in a new monthly jazz series in Lowertown.

The series, at the Das Lokal restaurant on Dalhousie Street (north of the ByWard Market), is scheduled for the last Sunday of each month, and will feature local jazz and improvising musicians playing a variety of jazz and singer-songwriter projects, each crossing genres at least a bit.

That includes the Green show, which will have touches of funk and soul. “This music is all pretty funky. No swingin'. It's sort of a 60s funk vibe.”

Green was particularly influential in soul jazz and organ trio music, Moxon said; he's “soulful, he's understated, and he's got very nice hornlike phrasing.”

Moxon first encountered Green's albums while researching material for his own group The Chocolate Hot Pockets. “Initially I heard an album he put out called Ain't It Funky Now?. It's all James Brown covers and things like that, arranged for a jazz group. I thought, 'Oh wow! That's super great!' ”

And it spoke to him. “His playing is ... he gets right to the heart of what he's talking about. There's no fluff. It's just like, this is the music. Deal with it.”

The quintet will perform the entirety of two Green albums, both live recordings on Blue Note. First up will be Alive! (1970), followed by Live at the Lighthouse (1972). “I've been waiting a long time to have an excuse to play that kind of music.”

Read more: Alex Moxon searches for the heart and soul of Grant Green's music

 

Steve Berndt and Brian Browne: live at the NAC, All Over Again (video)

Vocalist Steve Berndt and pianist Brian Browne released their second album as a duo: All Over Again, on March 28, 2014. It joined 2012's Déjà Vu, the first half of the paired set.

Four of the songs, all jazz standards, were recorded in 2012; others were recorded subsequently.

“Some of the tracks that we recorded in the original Déjà Vu sessions were very good, and I had to make a decision about having an album with 17 or 18 songs on it,” Berndt previously told OttawaJazzScene.ca.

“And so I began thinking it would be good to do a bookend album using those tracks, and also to have the chance to record with Brian again. So that's part of the reason I named it All Over Again. So all I had to do was to write a song called 'All Over Again' that was worth listening to and good.”

OttawaJazzScene.ca was at the CD release concert at the NAC Fourth Stage. Our video interview below the jump includes an excerpt of both album's title tracks: Déjà Vu, and  All Over Again, from the live performance.

    – Brett Delmage

See OttawaJazzScene.ca's video interview with Steve and Brian about the release of Déjà Vu, including clips from the CD release concert at the NAC Fourth Stage:

Read the full interview about the album

Watch the video

 

Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago

Alex Bilodeau is starting a new era at Le Petit Chicago © Brett Delmage, 2014Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago are moving into new hands as of February 9. Ottawa bassist Alex Bilodeau will curate the long-standing late-night jazz showcase and jam, taking over from saxophonist Zakari Frantz.

Frantz is moving on to a new series he's created: Jazz Thursdays at the Lunenburg Pub, which started January 29. The shows at the Rideau-Street-area bar will highlight local jazz musicians and their projects.

The changeover at Le Petit Chicago is friendly: Bilodeau has been a regular participant in the late-night jams at the Gatineau bar. On Facebook, Frantz welcomed Bilodeau as the new curator. “A graduate of McGill University, Alex is one of the region's freshest talents & definitely no stranger to the LPC stage. Expect him to raise the bar with some new jazz/hip hop inspirations and a new sound to welcome in the spring!”

Bilodeau told OttawaJazzScene.ca that he planned to have the host bands – from the Ottawa/Gatineau region – rotate monthly. “You will definitely see some of my own projects performing for the monthly residencies but the plan is to bring in other exciting jazz groups as well.”

For the remainder of February, the host band will be Bilodeau on bass, Richard Page on saxophone, and Michel Delage on drums, performing jazz classics by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, as well as band members' original music.

In March, the Ed Lister Quartet, with Lister on trumpet, Marc Decho on bass, Pierre Chrétien on keyboards, and Mike Essoudry on drums, will perform, with “more of an electric aesthetic”, Bilodeau said. On March 23, that quartet will be joined by special guests Richard Page and Lee Hollingsworth.

The Jazz Monday format won't change: “The band hosting that month will perform during the first set and the second set will be an open jam.”

Read more: Alex Bilodeau takes over Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago

 

February is a short month but is full of jazz

Updated February 19, 2015

See this week's jazz highlights

In Ottawa, February is the coldest month, but it's got plenty of hot music scheduled! Here are a few jazz highlights in the next month from OttawaJazzScene.ca's more extensive listings.

Vocalist Denzal Sinclaire will perform in Ottawa on February 20 in honour of Black History Month. ©Brett Delmage, 2014On Thursday, Florquestra is back, adding its Brazilian rhythms to la Chasse-Galerie's celebration of francophone music in the Market. And it's the second week of Zakari Frantz' new Jazz Thursdays downtown, which will feature some of Ottawa-Gatineau's brightest jazz musicians and highlight new projects each week.

On Friday evening, put on your dancing shoes and swing to two local bands who only occasionally play around town. At the Unitarian Church, Mango Upstart brings its Latin rhythms to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, while in Sandy Hill, Sonic Blue performs for swing dancers.

This Saturday (February 7), three well-known local jazz pianists – Steve Boudreau, Mark Ferguson, and Clayton Connell – are teaming up to help GigSpace buy its own piano. Expect a mix of their own compositions and standards, playing with lots of verve.

If you love organ music, you might want to attend the Saturday afternoon symposium sponsored by the Royal Canadian College of Organists on the history and technology of electronic organs. The talks at Christ Church Cathedral will be divided into “The Profane: Tonewheel (Hammond) & Transistor Organs” (with local Hammond enthusiast and jazz/R&B musician Don Cummings), and “The Sacred: Modern Digital Organs”.

Or, if your tastes run more to the avant-garde, trumpeter Peter Evans is guaranteed to stretch your ears on Saturday evening. Evans plays everything from Baroque music to the freeest of free jazz, and is a prominent member of the New York City scene. He was featured on trumpet in Blue, the controversial note-for-note reproduction of a Miles Davis recording by the avant-bebop group, Mostly Other People Do The Killing (he was a founding member of that group and left them just recently). Evans' solo set will be preceded by solo sets by two prominent Ottawa jazz musicians: Adam Saikaley on Rhodes and Linsey Wellman on alto sax.

Read more: February is a short month but is full of jazz

 

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. OttawaJazzScene.ca 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. OttawaJazzScene.ca 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

 

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