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Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park

View photos by Brett Delmage of the sculpture launch and performance

Two Ottawa musicians unveiled a sculpture that sings in an Ottawa city park on Saturday.

Jesse Stewart and Matt Edwards created The Listening Tree in St. Luke's Park, on the north-east corner of Gladstone and Elgin. It's a 5-metre-high structure of stainless steel tubes which acts as a transition and gateway to the park. The individual tubes echo the stainless steel traffic signal poles on the adjacent sidewalk, while their combined form resembles the canopy of large trees in the park.

The Listening Tree visually bridges the stainless steel poles on Elgin Street to the park's tree canopy - and makes music in the wind ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Most importantly, this sculpture creates sound – but only when the wind is in the correct direction. Several of the tubes have carefully tuned slots in them which will channel the wind when it comes from the south or west – but most strongly from the southwest, when gusts blow up both Elgin and Gladstone. The result: a series of shifting tones.

“We thought it would be nice to have something that would draw people in a little closer so they could have a more intimate experience with [the park], and we decided to do that through sound,” Stewart said.

But not all the time. “It's not singing today, unfortunately. The wind is not blowing in the correct direction for that to happen, but, actually, we think one of the special things that can happen with this piece is that it's not always singing. You have to be here at a specific time. And so the experience is tied to that time,” Edwards told the audience of local residents, jazz lovers, and city staff and politicians.

“It's not supposed to be always active. It's just supposed to be once in a while, so the neighbours don't complain, but other neighbours get to enjoy it,” said local city councillor Catherine McKenny. When McKenny asked who had heard it during the ceremonies, several members of the audience put their hands up to indicate they had heard the sculpture singing since it had been installed a month before.

When Edwards was recently adding a protective layer of wax to the sculpture, he related, a man came up to him and said, “This amazing thing happened the other day. I came here and I heard it singing! It was a bit of a windy day, and I didn't realize that was going to happen. I've never heard anything like it.”

Stewart said they hoped the sculpture might allow people “to experience a sense of discovery – that they might be here and all of the sudden it will start singing.”

Saturday at 1 p.m. was the official opening. Stewart and Edwards played an short concert to start the ceremony, producing intimate, improvised music on two handpans, a drone-producing Shruti box, an accordion, and a frame drum.

Stewart and Edwards said they had known each other for many years but had only started working together in 2014 on public art projects, under the name Mixed Metaphors. Edwards' background is in architecture, while Stewart has also created several visual art installations as well as his better-known work as an award-winning musician and academic. This was their first successful commission.

The sculpture was created for the City of Ottawa Public Arts program. 1% of the budget of city capital projects – in this case, the reconstruction of Gladstone Avenue – is allocated for public art. “All that painful reconstruction project now culminates in a wonderful and unique work of art for this community,” Nicole Zuger, the public art program manager, told the crowd.

Mixed Metaphors' project was chosen by a jury from a field of seventeen, after public consultation on the three finalists. Besides artistic excellence and connection to the surroundings, the projects were also assessed for safety and durability – Stewart later thanked the engineer who scrutinized every weld holding the tubes together. The sculpture, which weighs 4200 pounds, was fabricated by Mike Milligan Ironworks in Ottawa. Edwards specifically recognized their expertise and collaborative spirit in creating the piece.

    – Alayne McGregor

View photos by Brett Delmage of the sculpture launch and performance

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Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know

Samba, bossa nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim: that's Brazilian music to most people. But there's lots of interesting and appealing music from that country rarely heard here.

Rachel Beausoleil and Jasmin Lalande perform in Sol da Capital ©Brett Delmage, 2011At GigSpace on Saturday, Rachel Beausoleil will introduce a much broader picture of Brazilian music to Ottawa.

The Ottawa vocalist has been studying “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB) for the last five years. She's now writing her PhD thesis about this music, which includes most of the genres that Canadians think of as Brazilian jazz. During three extended trips to Brazil, she's taken classes from master vocalists, attended conferences, and performed with musicians there.

At Saturday's concert, she and her group, Sol da Capital, will present songs by many composers covering the full range of these styles – from ballads to bossa nova, from music written a century ago to modern songs. What these songs have in common is a dedication to quality; rhythmic, harmonic, lyric, and melodic richness is insisted on in MPB, Beausoleil says.

Sol da Capital started when Beausoleil met Brazilian guitarist Evandro Gracelli, who spent a very busy two years in Ottawa, performing and working with many local musicians. During his stay in 2010-11, they formed the group to perform Brazilian music and their own compositions. They've kept up the connection, even when separated by 8000 km, and Beausoleil has continued performing in Ottawa with local musicians familiar with Brazilian music.

Read more: Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know

 

François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations

Listening to clarinetist François Houle, you hear a man endlessly fascinated by the myriad possibilities in music. His enthusiasm for his many different projects – even involving a mysterious hum – bubbles over as he talks.

François Houle [photo by Cameron Hood]

When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him over the phone this week, he got so involved in our conversation that when he was stung by a wasp while walking he ignored the pain and kept on talking.

Houle is an wide-ranging innovator on the clarinet, taking it to places ranging from free improvisation to classical to new music to world music to melodic jazz, and even as a first-call musician for indie rock artists like Matthew Good. He has been listed several times by Downbeat magazine's Critics' Poll and Reader’s Poll as a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and “Rising Star”. His more than 20 recordings have earned multiple Juno Award and West Coast Music Award nominations. His performances with French pianist Benoit Delbecq were a highlight of the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.

This week, he is on tour in Ontario and Quebec. He performs on Friday and Saturday in  two featured concerts at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He'll also play in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, and Montreal. He's playing a solo concert in Guelph;his other shows are in a trio with two fellow Vancouver musicians – guitarist Gordon Grdina and drummer Kenton Loewen.

They're long-time friends: “We've been working together as a group and in various projects for the last ten years. These guys are my brothers on the scene here. They're my go-to collaborators.”

Grdina is a Juno-winning composer and musician, who mixes mainstream jazz, free-form improvisation and classical Arabic music, as well as rock and punk. Loewen plays improvised and rock music, including with an anarchist punk band, an art pop group Mother Mother, and Tanya Tagaq.

Read more: François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations

 

Francois Houle: just the clarinet

For François Houle, it's always been about the clarinet, starting from when he was 7 years old.

François Houle [photo by Tim Matheson]

Unlike most other clarinetists, he doesn't double on saxophone, or even play the bass clarinet. He has regular B-flat, A, and E-flat clarinets, and that's it.

He was first introduced to the instrument through his father's big band LPs. Records by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman were often heard in their house – and they all played clarinet.

"And so I just got that sound in my head. One day when I was 7 years old, a cousin showed up and he had started the band program at school. He had his clarinet, and he said, 'Oh I really hate it! I don't want to play it,' and he left his clarinet at my place. And so I started tooting on it, just out of curiosity, and I just basically fell in love with the instrument. And having that sound of that music from the 30s and 40s and 50s in my head, I just started taking lessons and never looked back.”

“That was it. I was hooked from the get-go.”

When Houle was studying for his Masters in classical clarinet at Yale University, he got to meet Benny Goodman in person. “He came to do a fundraiser with his big band and I got to hang out with him for a few days – not just hearing him live but actually getting to hang out with him. That was pretty special!”

“He was already an old man, a bit grouchy, but very generous with his time and talking to us, the students about his career and his life, and his approach to the clarinet and all that. That was very informative and very inspiring.”

Read more: Francois Houle: just the clarinet

 

Musical friends return to 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival to celebrate founder's last year

Updated September 8
Jazz. Improvisation. Pushing the edge. The Guelph Jazz Festival has always had a very clear idea of what type of music it wants to present and what it's trying to promote.

Much of that is due to the festival's founder, musician and academic Ajay Heble, who has brought a deep love of jazz and an intellectual approach to improvisation to the festival. But after 23 years, Heble is retiring as the festival's artistic director.


Ajay Heble introduces the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival   photos ©Brett Delmage

The 2016 festival, which runs from September 14 to 18, will be the last he organizes – and he's brought back many festival favourites to perform.

From Vancouver: clarinetist François Houle, guitarist/oud player Gord Grdina, and drummer Kenton Loewen. From Montreal: pianist Marianne Trudel, saxophonist Jean Dérôme, and Esmerine. From the Toronto area: saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett, baritone saxophonist David Mott, reed player Peter Lutek, cellist Matt Brubeck, guitarist Kevin Breit, tabla player Ravi Naimpally, banjoist Tim Posgate, and guitarist Neil Hendry. From Ottawa: percussionist Jesse Stewart and violinist William Lamoureux.

From California: pianist Myra Melford. From Chicago: percussionist Hamid Drake, trumpeter Rob Mazurek, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins. From Philadelphia: drummer Chad Taylor. From NYC: trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Amina Claudine Myers, tuba player Howard Johnson, and pianist David Virelles.

Some of the music they play will look back: there will be two tributes to famous free jazz musicians, and one concert which will remix performances from previous Guelph festivals.

Others will expand possibilities, with performances as diverse as DJ/scratch artist Kid Koala, to the Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble, to the “heavy-handed” FreePunk of Peregrine Falls.

But the core of the festival remains improvised jazz. It has similarities to the Ottawa Jazz Festival's Improv Invitational series – ranging from melodic to highly avant-garde – but on a much larger scale.

Read more: Musical friends return to 2016 Guelph Jazz Festival to celebrate founder's last year

 

It's a new jazz season - and September sings!

Think "September Song", and you'll have a good idea of what's happening in jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau. It's a month to hear jazz vocals – and the start of a new jazz season in which you can hear award-winning vocalists.

Rachel Beausoleil (right) is singing in 2 very different concerts at GigSpace this month: honouring Burt Bacharach as part of the Juliet Singers on Sept. 10, and two weeks later bringing the authentic sounds of Brazil to Ottawa with Sol da Capital  ©Brett Delmage, 2016


Sign up to our JazzScene newsletter to get a full listing of all the jazz and improvised music events within 100 km of Parliament Hill in your inbox every week. You can also check our list of Ottawa-Gatineau-area jazz clubs.


Of course, there's still lots of opportunities to hear mainstream jazz and the avant-garde. But this fall, the big names will include Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Bet.e and Stef, Tanya Tagaq, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.

In September, you can hear the human voice celebrated in jazz in many different forms, from ballads to blues to Latin, with shows by the Nylons, Bet.e and Stef, The Juliet Singers, Diane Nalini, Kimberley Beyea, Nicole Ratté, Betty Ann Bryanton, Rachel Beausoleil, Megan Jerome, Anne Lewis, Peter Liu, Steve Berndt with the Jivewires, Hélène Knoerr, Rachelle Behrens, and Caroline Cook.


OttawaJazzScene.ca's September jazz highlights are brought to you by you, our readers. We greatly appreciated reader donations which make it possible for OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day this past season.

Please support our continued publishing in the 2016-17 season with your donation.


Read more: It's a new jazz season - and September sings!

 

The swinging style of Denielle Bassels

For Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels, swing music is a happy escape – one that she likes sharing with her audiences.

“I just love that sound. I'm drawn to this kind of rhythm, swing and happy rhythm, because I think it's an escape for me. You know, to feel this happy, driving force. It just takes you away from the monotony of life, and things that might be bothering you at the time, which for me is kind of an escape.”

Vocalist Denielle Bassels will give a sneak peek of her upcoming CD at GigSpace Saturday with her quintet, including saxophonist Jacob Gorzhaltsan and bassist Scott Hunter. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

And for her audiences? “I like to take them with me me, yes!”

Bassels and her quintet will perform this music – including selections from her upcoming CD – at GigSpace this Saturday, August 20. It will be her first full show in Ottawa proper, although she was a big hit at Merrickville's Jazz Fest in 2014.

Although Bassels is a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald, her music isn't just standards. Rather, it's a blend of her own originals, and covers of songs written anytime between the 1920s and the 1960s – all in a swinging style.

Why that style? “Because that's the way I feel the song. There's a lot of songs that I love that aren't swing, and I just find that when I do take a stab at singing them myself, there's just this rhythm they seem to fall in. I feel more attached to the song and more invested in the song when it feels right to me. And with that rhythm, it just flows more.”

Read more: The swinging style of Denielle Bassels

 

Trumpet Bootcamp gives students a different perspective

Besides the larger jazz camps where many different instruments are played, Ottawa also supports several camps devoted to players of a single instrument. This week, it's the turn of the trumpet.

Trumpet Bootcamp will present trumpeters in many combinations, from duets to large ensembles, in its free jazz and classical concerts this week on Thursday and Friday evenings in the Patrick Cardy Studio at Carleton University. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

This is the sixth year that Nick Dyson has run his Trumpet Bootcamp at Alcorn Music Studios. The camp, from August 15 to 19, is a chance for young trumpeters to get up to speed before the school year – and its free student concerts will provide music lovers a chance to hear trumpets in different combinations.

“It's not your typical jazz camp, because we cover both jazz and classical music,” Dyson told OttawaJazzScene.ca. “It's more about fundamental trumpet playing and music making.”

In jazz, trumpets are heard in big bands in packs of three or four, and singly in combos along with other instruments. But the trumpet is also featured in classical music, including in chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras.

Dyson is keeping both jazz and classical music “on equal footing” at the camp, he said, “because it's not about jazz music, it's not about classical music – it's about trumpet, and the way that the trumpet fits in to that [music]. I try to blur the lines as much as possible.”

Read more: Trumpet Bootcamp gives students a different perspective

 

The 2016 Merrickville's Jazz Fest gets funkier and celebrates John Lennon

In 2016, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is getting funkier – and celebrating John Lennon in jazz.

Toronto's Red Hot Ramble will perform New Orleans-style jazz, funk, and blues  photo: Sean Ryan The mid-October festival released its full line-up today, featuring musicians from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa-Gatineau. Opening with the grooving funk of Ottawa's ERU-ERA, and ending with the 70s-style horn band The Pharoahs, its shows will range from New Orleans-style to modern jazz, but definitely on the harder-hitting side than in previous years.

Highlights include

  • Toronto guitarist Michael Occhipinti presenting his “Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon” jazz project;
  • Red Hot Ramble from Toronto playing New Orleans-style jazz, funk, and blues;
  • the quartet of Ottawa pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson playing his melodic modern jazz compositions, with touches of classical, Latin, and bebop;
  • and the ten musicians in The Pharoahs bringing back the joy of Tower Of Power, James Brown, and Chaka Khan with their “Soul Sckool” show.

Read more: The 2016 Merrickville's Jazz Fest gets funkier and celebrates John Lennon

 

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