Friday, November 28, 2014
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Ottawa Jazz Festival loses money in 2014, needs new home in 2016

The Ottawa Jazz Festival has not yet found a new location for thousands of jazz fans to hear music outdoors in 2016.

And to add to its difficulties, the festival lost money this year, despite record ticket sales.

Where will 10,500 jazz fans go when the Ottawa Jazz Festival is kicked out of Confederation Park in 2016? ©Brett Delmage, 2010At the festival's annual general meeting November 19, executive director Catherine O'Grady confirmed that the National Capital Commission (NCC) will be completely renovating Confederation Park in 2016, in coordination with major sewer work by the City of Ottawa.

The NCC told the festival last spring that the park – the festival's primary location – would be closed in 2015, but has now pushed the work back a year.

O'Grady said she continues to negotiate with the NCC to find an alternative location for the festival's outdoor shows in 2016. “They do feel a kind of commitment to us to try and house us because we're grandfathered into everything the NCC does,” she said.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival loses money in 2014, needs new home in 2016


Jesse Stewart receives City of Ottawa award

Jesse Stewart ©Brett Delmage, 2011Ottawa jazz percussionist, composer, and educator Jesse Stewart was named to the Order of Ottawa last week.

He was among 15 local residents inducted into the order at a ceremony at City Hall on November 20. As part of the ceremony, Stewart performed alongside Korean master percussionist Dong-Won Kim, who was in Ottawa in order to perform and record with Stewart.  They had previously played together at this September's Guelph Jazz Festival.

The Order of Ottawa recognizes exceptional residents who have made a significant contribution in a professional capacity in many areas of city life, including arts and culture.

In 2012, the Stretch Orchestra (with Stewart, Kevin Breit, and Matt Brubeck) won the Juno Award for Instrumental Album of the Year. Stewart has also performed with numerous other notable jazz musicians and avant-garde improvisers, in Ottawa and elsewhere. He has been widely commissioned as a composer and his music has been featured at festivals throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.

Stewart is an associate professor in the music department at Carleton University, and an adjunct professor in the Visual Arts program at the University of Ottawa. At Carleton, he received the Marston LaFrance Research Fellowship in 2013 and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching Achievement Award in 2014. He has also volunteered his time to bring music and improvisation to local schools, H'Art of Ottawa, KidsAbility Youth Orchestra in Guelph, and the Ottawa Mission's Discovery University.

Read more: Jesse Stewart receives City of Ottawa award


Roddy Ellias returns to GigSpace alone (video)

Roddy Ellias and Adrian Vedady at GigSpace. © Brett Delmage, 2013

In the last year, Ottawa guitarist and composer Roddy Ellias was awarded a four-star review in Downbeat Magazine for his new trio album Monday's Dream. He's been playing steadily with his own group and other notable musicians in Ottawa and abroad. Now he returns to GigSpace on Saturday, November 22 to play by himself.

“As much as I love playing with other musicians, there’s a freedom that comes with playing solo guitar that is central to the way I hear music unfold,” he says.'s video documentary crew was at his previous solo concert at GigSpace on March 23, 2013, to capture the experience. Watch our video to experience (as much as one can in a video as opposed to actually being there) Ellias' performance, improvisation, and good humour. Listen carefully for Gigspace's exceptionally low noise: it's a highly supportive room for listening to a solo guitar performance with the subtlety and dynamic range that a master guitarist like Ellias delivers.

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang: a passion for finding the sources of Gypsy jazz

One's a Montrealer, of Taiwanese-Canadian heritage. The other's from Belgium, of Flemish-Gypsy heritage.

But what guitarist Denis Chang and violinist Tcha Limberger have in common is a deep love of Manouche or Gypsy jazz – and the drive to spend years immersed in its culture and learning from its practitioners all over Europe.

And you can hear some of what they've learned in a trio concert in Ottawa this Thursday evening.

Limberger, 37, is blind. He has taught himself eight languages, most (including Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish) to give him the background on and allow him to understand musicians from Eastern Europe, including those playing Gypsy jazz. In his teens, he learned Django Reinhardt-style guitar playing from masters such as Fapy Lafertin and Koen De Cauter. At 17, he started studying the violin, inspired by stories from his grandfather, the legendary Manouche musician Piotto Limberger, and recordings of Toki Horvath. By the time he was 21, he left Belgium for Budapest, where he took classical and tzigane classes from Horvath Bela. He has founded a traditional Magyar Nota band, played folk music from Transylvania in the Kalotaszeg Trio, and started the jazz violin quintet Les Violons de Bruxelles. He also plays completely improvised music with guitarist Herman Schamp.

Chang, 32, has repeatedly learned from Manouche players in trips to Europe, including learning to understand the Romany language. He has performed abroad with top Gypsy jazz musicians including the Rosenberg Trio, Joscho Stephan, Gonzalo Bergara, Paulus Schäfer, and Limberger, and has toured with his own Gypsy Jazz Quartet across Canada, including playing six shows at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival.

Read more: Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang: a passion for finding the sources of Gypsy jazz


The unpredictable Brian Browne

Updated November 12, 2014
At his NAC Fourth Stage performance this Saturday, Ottawa pianist Brian Browne will let the music flow. Each beloved jazz standard will inspire the next one, unconstrained by a set list.

Brian Browne ©Brett Delmage, 2010“Most of the time I don't even know what I'm going to play until I go there. I don't even know when I'm there. As a matter of fact, a couple years ago, there's a joke about this, I wrote up a set list. I was forced to write a set list but when I got there I didn't do it. There's nothing more boring than to me than to do a set list.”

Browne said he starts with a “subconscious idea of flow” – what songs flow together well, rather than dictating the order in advance. He doesn't want to have to think about what tune comes next: “I don't want to be thinking – I just want to play. And sometimes if I'm playing a tune, when I'm into it, another tune might pop up into my head that should be next.”

And for Saturday's show, he'll be joined by two “top-drawer” Toronto jazz musicians who will have no trouble keeping up with that flow: bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke. Browne has known and performed with both for decades, but this will be the first time Ottawa audiences will hear them as a trio.

The show will be recorded for a possible CD, which would be Browne's 15th. That means his choice of music will be slightly more limited than usual.

“I don't want to record any songs I recorded on albums before, which is a awful lot of them. So I put a list of songs on a envelope here somewhere, and when the time comes, I'm going to do those. Some of them are just standards, standards like 'Come Rain or Come Shine' and 'Girl Talk' and a few things like that. Just stuff I haven't recorded before, that's all.”

Read more: The unpredictable Brian Browne


Sold-out audience applauds Rob Frayne's return to the sax (video)

Rob Frayne ©Brett Delmage, 2014On October 10, 2014 Rob Frayne returned to the stage before a sold-out audience at GigSpace with his original compositions, musical friends, good humour – and his tenor saxophone.

It was the first time he'd played the sax in a concert in almost a decade. Read our full interview.

Ten years ago (November, 2004), Frayne's car was hit by a truck, and he was badly injured. His return followed a long period of recovery, readjustment – and determination. was there to capture this momentous occasion on video, and talk with Frayne about his music and his return as a saxophonist.

He'll be back at GigSpace for round two on Saturday, November 15, in Cooking with Courage 4. He will play bass and sax to support his partner and the group leader Martine Courage on piano and vocals; they will be joined by Mike Essoudry on drums and Laura Nerenberg on violin.

Watch the video and see related stories


A nod to Johnny Hartman and a defining concert for Floyd Hutchinson

“The first time I heard Johnny Hartman, he left such an impression on me I never forgot about it. Even though I've gone back and liked other singers, I always come back to him,” vocalist Floyd Hutchinson told this week.

Floyd Hutchinson  ©Brett Delmage, 2008On Friday, he's stepping out front to give his own big nod to this jazz vocalist whom he has always admired, in what will be “a huge show” for him at GigSpace. He'll be performing with the Steve Boudreau Quartet: “four of Ottawa's premiere musicians,” he says, including Boudreau on piano, Jeff Asselin on drums, Brian Asselin on sax, and Joe Hincke on bass. They are musicians whom he has a musical history with and can put his full trust in for his important show.

“You have shows that define you as a musician. I think this is one of the shows that will define me, in my own brain, as a vocalist. I've sung a fair amount of shows [he had already sung two shows on the day we talked] but this is a show I've been waiting for a while. It was time for me to do the show.”

It's taken Hutchinson, who works for the Ottawa Police Service and is not a full-time musician, ten years of singing to get to this point – with almost 100 years of musical family history included in that. A related jazz singer in the 1920s. A second cousin who sings jazz standards in NYC. Relatives in a reggae band, and another relative who was a “heavy duty funk player in the 70s.” And more recently and influentially, “parents who always played music.”

“Maybe I'm just late coming out of the gate. But I'm not out of the show. Hugh O'Connor is still lighting up the town.”

Hutchinson grew up at a time when other music was wildly popular - but it didn't lead him astray.

“I went to my share of discos. I listened to my share of disco music too. But I never lost touch with listening to jazz. It's a very big part of my life. ...Mel and Nat, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Coltrane, Dizzy, Cannonball Adderley, Clifford Brown, it's always been a part of kind of who I am.”

Friday's concert of mostly Johnny Hartman ballads won't be a flashback to sparkling glass balls and dancing shoes. He elaborated about the singer, with whom he has a close affinity.

Read more: A nod to Johnny Hartman and a defining concert for Floyd Hutchinson


Geri Childs puts her life into her second CD

In her new CD, Ottawa jazz vocalist Geri Childs is looking back – and maybe even getting a bit sentimental.

Geri Childs: More than MagicMore Than Magic has its official release concert this Friday at the NAC Fourth Stage. It contains “the songs that have influenced me not only as a singer, but as the woman I am today,” Childs said.

The CD is filled with ballads – but not the jazz standards she's best known for singing. Instead it contains some of her favourite songs from the movies and the folk and pop worlds, rearranged in a quiet jazz style by Ottawa composer/arranger Mark Ferguson.

“There's not one song in the CD that is what you would consider to be the Great American classic standard. Not because I don't like that music – I love that music! I just wanted to go in a different direction. I thought this is an opportunity to do songs that I've always wanted to do, and I grabbed it.”

Which gives it an interesting duality. “The CD has a sentimental feel to it. The lyrics are very sentimental. But the arrangements aren't necessarily. They're quite up in a way. It's a bit of a juxtaposition.”

It also reflects her own journey as a vocalist, where she only started singing jazz well into her 20s, after singing folk and pop professionally – and has kept singing despite many years abroad.

Ottawa audiences are probably most recently familiar with Childs from the sold-out concerts she's put on at the NAC Fourth Stage; the most recent (October 2013) was 'Torch', which celebrated torch songs, those jazzy, highly emotional, and sometimes risqué numbers. Her two previous shows, also with a specific theme, were 'Winter Songs and Stories' in 2006 and 'Nightfall' in 2012. She's also presented 'Homage' at Les Brasseurs du Temps and two Christmas shows at GigSpace, and sung at many jazz clubs around Ottawa-Gatineau.

But More Than Magic will only be her second CD, after a gap of 17 years. Credit Mark Ferguson, who also produced Childs' first CD, Intimate State of Mind, back in 1997.

Read more: Geri Childs puts her life into her second CD


Lara Solnicki chose jazz, but added a classical twist

When Lara Solnicki abandoned opera and chose jazz, she went all out – and succeeded.

The Toronto vocalist, who will make her first Ottawa appearance on Saturday at GigSpace with guitarist Roddy Ellias, is a classically-trained singer with a four-octave range. She originally intended a career in opera, but in 2008, radically changed her direction – to jazz and creative music.

“I totally changed my technique and my voice. If you do it properly you're not supposed to be on the fence about it.”

She's now reached the point where Radio-Canada's primary jazz radio host, Stanley Péan, offered to write the liner notes for her just-released second CD. He praised Solnicki's “striking sense of nuance that characterizes her style as an interpreter, a lyricist and a composer,” and said that the new album reaffirmed “without doubt, her sure position in Canadian contemporary jazz.”

At the time she changed direction, Solnicki had been listening to jazz (for example, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson) for years, and had taken some jazz vocal lessons a decade before in New York City. “When I came back to Toronto, I didn't stay with jazz for some reason”, and instead took a degree in classical voice from the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music. “I listened to jazz all through my classical degree, too, but I never thought of singing it at that point.”

However, she realized she wanted more opportunities to compose, to combine her poetry with music, to be more creative, which she couldn't get with classical voice. “I started writing poetry when I finished my degree. I decided that it would be interesting to get into new music and do some collaborative stuff, and then I really did make a conscious decision, that if I wanted to be more of a creator type, that it would be better for me to move into jazz and creative music.”

“I wasn't at that point really that glued to singing Italian opera any more. So I gave it about a solid year, or year and a half, when I started trying out jazz and taking a few lessons, to make a decision whether or not I was going to go all the way with it.”

And the jazz choice worked: she started singing jazz regularly in restaurants around Toronto; she collaborated with well-known jazz musicians like guitarist Ted Quinlan and bassist George Koller; she released a well-reviewed album of jazz standards in 2010.

Read more: Lara Solnicki chose jazz, but added a classical twist


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