Saturday, April 25, 2015
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Adrean Farrugia accepts the challenge and excitement of reinterpreting Monk

Pianist Adrean Farrugia won't be wearing a beret or sunglasses when he steps onto the stage at Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge this weekend. That's not how he wants to pay tribute to Thelonious Monk.

Adrean Farrugia at the Montreal Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012Monk was a hugely influential pianist and composer who helped redefine jazz in the 50s and 60s and wrote many of jazz's most enduring compositions, like “'Round Midnight” and “Ruby, My Dear”. And he had a strongly individual musical style, recognizable in only a few notes – and a similarly idiosyncratic personal look in suits, hats, and glasses.

And while that musical style can be honoured – as Farrugia will do with three Ottawa musicians on Friday and Saturday nights playing Monk's compositions – it can't be copied.

See's linked interview with Michel Delage about his jazz tribute series at Brookstreet.

It's just not possible, Farrugia said, because Monk's sound was “so unique. It's almost too obvious that you're doing Monk if you sound like that. For me it's not so much the substance of what he's playing but the spirit of what he's playing, that I can get really caught up in.”

“There's this amazing patience in his playing where he just sits there and he listens to what's going on around him until he'll just find the perfect sound and just slam it down on the piano. His sense of melody and harmony are just so unique. But for me it's the spirit of how he plays. I don't know how he does it, but he almost has this, even though he's an undeniable genius, he almost has this childlike quality when he plays, something that almost sounds like a child discovering sounds for the first time.”

Read more: Adrean Farrugia accepts the challenge and excitement of reinterpreting Monk


Michel Delage tries new combinations in his Brookstreet tribute series

Ottawa drummer Michel Delage has found a way of playing his favourite jazz composers' music with some of his favourite jazz musicians.

This weekend will be the second in his series of tribute concerts at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge. Last month, Delage's group honoured Wayne Shorter; this month, it's Thelonious Monk; in late May it will be Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Performances will be on the last Friday and Saturday of each month.

Michel Delage at Stella Luna ©Brett Delmage, 2013Each month features a different band (except for Delage), with guest musicians from out of town. The March show was supposed to feature saxophonist Petr Cancura, who had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict and was replaced by Vince Rimbach; this weekend's show features pianist Adrean Farrugia from Hamilton.

Read the interview with Farrugia and Delage about this weekend's tribute to Thelonious Monk.

The Ellington/Strayhorn tribute in May will feature the husband and wife duo of pianist Nancy Walker and bassist Kieran Overs from Toronto, plus Ottawa guitarist Roddy Ellias.

Delage is really looking forward to that combination.

“Nancy has been one of my main inspirations as far as listening to jazz, because when I was in high school and after high school attending the jazz festival, I would go to the jazz jams pretty religiously and watch that [house] band play. I always loved Nancy's playing and her compositions. So I'm extremely excited to have her on board – and extremely nervous too, to play with such an accomplished musician!”

Walker and Overs were last here for the 2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, in a well-received concert playing selections from her most recent album, ‘Til Now Is Secret.

Delage said he wanted to bring in out-of-town musicians to “do a bit more of a collaboration – just to be able to play with more people and for other Ottawa musicians to play with people from out of town. And also to hopefully get some more audience out, because you know how hard it is for local Ottawa musicians to get audiences out to their shows sometimes. I think by doing this I might have a little bit more of a chance of bringing people out.”

The Wayne Shorter tribute in late March went well, he said, particularly the Saturday night when it appeared many audience members came out specifically to hear the music. “There were at least maybe 25-30 people who were all sitting and listening and clapping after solos and responding to everything. In between tunes, we'd always inform them what tune we were playing, and what the album it was off of, and stuff like that.”

Read more: Michel Delage tries new combinations in his Brookstreet tribute series


All together now: Rob Frayne's big Dream Band spectacle

“I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” bandleader and composer Rob Frayne says as he arrives at's office to tell me all about his new Dream Band concert this Saturday. He refers to “lots of lists and checklists and spreadsheet-type things. Timings. People. Where they are, when they are. “

Rob Frayne's Dream Band concert on Saturday will be something to watch as well as listen to. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

No surprise. This “Back to the Future” concert (although “spectacle” might describe it better) features an 18-piece big band that includes a Juno award-winning sax player, a Hammond organ, and a tuba. To complement his big sound and deliver his vision of a concert that will span the decades and centuries, he's also featuring big visuals, with a choreographed and improvised modern dance element.

“Being a saxophone player, we have the lifelong... almost duty, to be in a big band,” Frayne says. He's been inspired, he says, by the big bands of Duke Ellington, Maynard Ferguson, the Sun Ra Arkestra (he recently played in Rake-star, a local version of it), and Charles Mingus.

“So you want to do at least one.”

This will actually be his fourth Dream Band performance in as many years (although not his largest; he's led an “80 piece triple concert/jazz band in around 1998”) The Dream Band launched at the Fourth Stage in October 2011 to two packed houses. The popular concert was repeated at the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival as part of a big band tribute to the late Jacques Émond.

Saturday's concert will feature new material, most of it composed by or arranged, and rearranged, by Frayne, with both returning and new band members performing it.

“It's the same ideas [as in the first Dream Band] except there's more of it. More lines weaving. So there's sometimes five or six lines because you have more pools of players. So you can have pairs of trios of players weaving their lines against pairs or trios. It's kind of neat. A lot of stuff going on. But it's hard not to resist the block sound of four beautiful trumpets in a choir, or a choir of saxophones or choir of trombones. They can do nice stuff.”

“The compositions are all written for 18 or 20 voices. So they're large scores. It basically took me, I'd say, about 5 months. I took every song I had before and totally redid it.”

“I tried to fight the urge to change things but I couldn't,” he said, smiling. “So I ended up changing or adding or subtracting ... everything. So a lot of new stuff [he laughs] and a lot of thick stuff and I got into what I call the can of spaghetti. If you open up a can of spaghetti it sometimes looks like that. I had to organize the strands of spaghetti into sensible parts.”

Win tickets to this concert! Enter our contest by Friday, April 24, 2015 at 1 p.m.

Read more: All together now: Rob Frayne's big Dream Band spectacle


Intent listeners enjoy the Cosmos Saxophone Quartet at the Record Centre

 ©Brett Delmage, 2015

On Sunday, April 19, the Cosmos Saxophone Quartet attracted an intent audience filling the aisles of The Record Centre in Hintonburg (and browsing the store's vinyl offerings too). About 30 people at its peak, the audience ranged from toddlers and pre-teens to experienced listeners, with many staying for the entire show and clapping enthusiastically.

The quartet (which got its name from the park where it played one of its first concerts) has been together for 15 years, and plays a mixture of jazz and classical material. All four members are well-known on the Ottawa scene: (l-r) Mike Tremblay on soprano and alto sax, Rene Lavoie on tenor and alto, Ian Babb on baritone, and Vince Rimbach on tenor and alto.

They closed with a memorable version of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years", emphasizing the song's jazz roots and its insinuatingly melancholy melody.

Read more: Intent listeners enjoy the Cosmos Saxophone Quartet at the Record Centre


Dominique Forest launches her first CD, C'est a moi, with verve

Dominque Forest: 'C'est a moi' The CD will receive its second launch, in Sudbury, on April 18. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Dominique Forest is a popular and accomplished interpreter of jazz standards in the Ottawa-Gatineau scene. But when she started planning her first CD, C'est à moi, she became inspired to write all the material on the album herself, influenced by standards but also by other music she loves. was at the launch concert for the CD in January. We have excerpts from the concert and  a video interview with Dominique talking more about the CD.

She is presenting a second CD launch in Sudbury, where she grew up, this Saturday, April 18.

Be sure to also read our associated interview, Dominique Forest finds her own way dans son nouveau CD

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


William Parker, David Mott, and Jesse Stewart have many stories to tell

When you go see a concert, those aren't disembodied instruments up there on stage. There are people behind them, with histories and individual approaches to their instruments – and lots of stories to recount, both musically and verbally.

"Ajay's Dream" by Jeff Schlanger, inspired by the Sonoluminescence Trio's 2007 performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival. It's the cover of their new CD, Telling Stories.Especially if they have years of experience and skill in improvisation and jazz, like NYC bassist William Parker, Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott, and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart.

This Friday, when the three step onto the stage at GigSpace, they'll be creating new musical narratives on the spot. It's just like at their first show together in 2007, just like their shows last spring at GigSpace, and just like in the new album they're releasing: Telling Stories.

Watch our associated video story
David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance

“I think the three of us are storytellers in many ways,” Mott told “That sounds funny, because I mean: what's the story? Well, of course anybody's free to interpret that any way they like or get it to overlay anything that they like. But I always look at music as some kind of a journey and/or story. Not quite a narrative in the usual sort of sense, but in some way that you're inviting the audience in. And I think storytelling is a good way to do that.”

Read more: William Parker, David Mott, and Jesse Stewart have many stories to tell


David Mott on the Sonoluminescence Trio in performance (video)

Sonoluminescence: Jesse Stewart, William Parker, David Mott at their warmly-received 2014 GigSpace concerts ©Brett Delmage, 2014 talked with Sonoluminescence Trio member and baritone saxophonist David Mott after the groups's live performance at GigSpace on March 14, 2014. We discovered why he loves the baritone sax, and about the process of making music with fellow members percussionist Jesse Stewart and bassist William Parker. The trio also performs their encore improvisation to an enthusiastic audience in the video.

Be sure to also read our associated story, William Parker, David Mott, and Jesse Stewart have many stories to tell.

   – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Rémi Bolduc explores the surprises in Dave Brubeck's music

Dave Brubeck's jazz was the perfect example of how music can be both popular and musically interesting. Behind the beautiful melodies and the catchy swing – which even produced several Top 40 hit singles – was complex music, often featuring unusual time signatures and rhythms which made it even more memorable.

Saxophonist Rémi Bolduc at his 50th birthday concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012Those underpinnings are what attracted Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc and led him to create his latest project: a CD paying tribute to the music of the iconic American jazz pianist's classic quartet.

Bolduc will bring that tribute to a concert at la Maison de la Culture in Gatineau on Wednesday, as part of a 30-show tour that's taking him through Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and B.C.

The music is primarily from Brubeck's albums Time Out (1959) and Time Further Out (1961), plus a few memorable pieces from the mid-50s. And they all feature what Bolduc calls “highly sophisticated odd meters” – including, of course, Paul Desmond's “Take Five” in 5/4 time.

Bolduc's previous album, Random Masters (Effendi, 2013), also featured odd meters: in fact, mixed meters, with time signatures changing at every bar. It's a composing style he's been familiar with for a long time: “In the 1990s, I lived in New York, and I was playing with Andy Milne's group and I was studying with Steve Coleman. And I was also studying odd meters. And Steve was playing with Dave Holland and they played a lot of odd meters.”

“So it's something I feel really comfortable with, because I've worked at it so much.”

And one of the earliest innovators in that style was Brubeck. “Dave Brubeck was one of the first ones that really played a lot of odd meters in jazz. There was a few – I heard Booker Little doing something in 5, but not so many. And he did a lot!”

Read more: Rémi Bolduc explores the surprises in Dave Brubeck's music


Emie Roussel likes her jazz energetic, complex – and accessible

Jazz pianist Emie R. Roussel is only in her mid-20s, but she's already released her third album of her own compositions, and toured Europe and Australia – as well as winning accolades at home in Quebec.

The Emie R. Roussel Trio (photo by Yvan Couillard)But that's not completely surprising for someone who was listening to Keith Jarrett by the time she was five years old.

Roussel and her trio – with bassist Nicolas Bédard and drummer Dominic Cloutier – will appear at the NAC Fourth Stage on Friday as part of the NAC Presents series. They'll perform material from Roussel's last two albums: music she's described as “imaginative, introspective, but energetic”.

“Introspective, yes, because I think there is a lot of melody, easy to sing, easy to have in your head for maybe a few hours. And with harmony, sometimes complex parts, but accessible. I think people who love jazz, but also people who don't really listen to a lot of jazz can like it. It's well-balanced between jazz complexity and also something lyric, something accessible.”

That music has brought Roussel acclaim at home in Quebec. She first played the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2012, and was a nominee for the Grand Prix de Jazz TD Jazz Fest and Galaxie Rising Star Award in 2013. Her trio received a special mention from the Grand Prix jury, and opened for Stacey Kent at the 2014 festival. The trio also won the People’s Choice award at the 28th annual Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, and the Opus Jazz Disc of the Year in 2014. Roussel was named the Révélation Radio-Canada Jazz Artist of the Year for 2014-15.

Read more: Emie Roussel likes her jazz energetic, complex – and accessible


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