Friday, July 31, 2015
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Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows

Mugshots, the bar in Ottawa's downtown jail hostel which had hosted many jazz shows over the last 19 months, shut its doors abruptly Thursday afternoon. A jazz show scheduled for that evening was cancelled.

The Rake-Star Arkestra played their multi-layered, intense music at Mugshots in February. © Brett Delmage, 2015In a posting on Facebook, the hostel management said the closure was due to “issues with noise levels” which affected “our guests' experience” at the hostel.

“As such, the bar is closed. Should the bar re-open, it will only be available to our guests in the hostel. This was an extremely difficult decision, but a necessary one."

The bar had a full schedule of 18 shows scheduled for July, including open mic nights, DJs, indie rock, and a trivia night. On July 9, the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble was scheduled to perform; on July 18, the Adam Saikaley Quartet was set to play its monthly jazz night.

Starting in December, 2013, Mugshots had hosted monthly shows by the Saikaley Quartet. They were joined in February, 2014 by monthly appearances by the Mike Essoudry-Don Cummings drums-organ duo Bumpin' Binary. Jazz crossover groups like the Four Heavies, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, and The Super Awesome Club also appeared there in 2014.

Read more: Mugshots closes abruptly, ending long-standing jazz shows


July – a month of festivals with jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau

The month of July is one festival after another – including interesting jazz for all tastes.

With the Ottawa Jazz Festival just finished, listeners can continue to discover more jazz to enjoy at Music & Beyond, Bluesfest, Chamberfest, and the Festival de Jazz Desjardins.

Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald will play a duo concert with guitarist Lorne Lofsky on July 18 ©Brett Delmage, 2013Plus, of course, many individual concerts and shows: including a CD release, a tribute to Herbie Hancock and another to Etta James, a rare visit by Toronto jazz masters Kirk MacDonald and Lorne Lofsky, and a four-guitar evening.

Music and Beyond has a primarily chamber music focus, but two of its concerts will include well-known jazz musicians. Its opening gala on July 4 features local jazz stalwarts John Geggie, Mark Ferguson, and Jeff Asselin, and its program includes pieces by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

Then, on Monday, July 13, Toronto saxophonist Mike Murley will repeat his collaboration with Ottawa's Thirteen Strings – in a classical vein. They played together here in January (and Murley again in May, as part of Ontario Scene), and for this concert will perform the premiere of “The Delight of Paradise”, a new multi-movement work based on a text from the Odes of Solomon.


You can find a few jazz gems in among the rock acts at Bluesfest. On July 9, Juan de Marcos & the Afro-Cuban All Stars will bring a wide selection of Afro-Cuban styles – including bolero, chachachá, salsa, son montuno, timba, guajira, danzón, rumba and abakua – and fine Cuban musicians to heat up the night on the festival's Monster Energy stage.

Read more: July – a month of festivals with jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau


Celebrate Canada Day with Jazz!

The Youth Summit with young musicians from across Canada will play at 2 p.m. on Canada Day in Confederation Park. ©Brett Delmage, 2011Jazz musicians will celebrate Canada's birthday in Ottawa on July 1, in free concerts.

The jazz festival closes out with three free jazz shows in Confederation Park on the festival main stage. At 2 p.m., you can hear young jazz musicians from across Canada (right from St. John's to Vancouver) showing off what they've learned in the festival's Youth Summit in the last 10 days.

Did you know that the Canadian Forces has its own band, and many of Ottawa's most talented jazz musicians played or still do play in that band? At 4 p.m., their Central Band jazz quintet will play their originals and some standards . And at 6 p.m., the Heavyweights Brass Band from Toronto play music rooted in the New Orleans brass band tradition, with additions from other parts of the musical spectrum.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra will be collaborating with Quebec bossa nova singer Florence K for two free concerts in Southam Hall, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

And that afternoon, from noon to 5 p.m., the Adam Saikaley Quartet will be playing in the courtyard of the SAW Gallery. Their music will also include some of Alex Moxon's recent Grant Green tribute.

And, if you're not downtown,

Read more: Celebrate Canada Day with Jazz!


Los Gringos brings their own original Latin jazz to the scene (video)

Los Gringos brings their own Latin jazz to a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28   ©2015 Brett DelmageLos Gringos has brought the joy of Latin big band music to Ottawa since the 1990s. Led by drummer Pete Beaudoin and trombonist/composer Mark Ferguson, their concerts feature crisp, complex percussion and driving horn sections.  Most of the material for the nine-member band is original, based on Afro-Cuban rhythms with their own twist. interviewed the two co-leaders at their most recent performance in April. Our video story also includes excerpts of that show.

Los Gringos are performing in a free concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Sunday June 28 at 2 p.m. on the Laurier Avenue Music Stage, at City Hall. Expect a rousing good time.

    – Brett Delmage

Watch the video


Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will not have to vacate Confederation Park during construction in 2016 as it originally feared. The National Capital Commission (NCC) and City Of Ottawa officials informed that they have now scheduled construction to accommodate the festival. The NCC had announced last year that the park would be unavailable, first in 2015 and then in 2016.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival will be able to use Confederation Park in 2016, to accomodate 10,500 music fans, as attended the 2010 Dave Brubeck and NAC Orchestra concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2010

At the Ottawa Jazz Festival's annual meeting in November, 2014, executive director Catherine O'Grady stated that that the festival was trying to stay downtown, and was looking at alternate locations including Major's Hill Park during the expected construction next year.

Carina Duclos, Manager of Design and Construction for the City of Ottawa, informed that, “The City is planning to undertake work to rehabilitate a sewer located between Laurier Avenue and the Rideau Canal, adjacent to the Confederation Park (along the ramp from Queen Elizabeth Drive to Laurier Avenue). This work is being coordinated with the NCC and will occur at a time that have as little effect as possible on events organized in the area.”

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival won't have to vacate Confederation Park in 2016 after all


Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday

Wayne Eagles: "most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players"   ©2014 Brett DelmageOttawa guitarist Wayne Eagles has always preferred music with interaction and interplay, where all the musicians are important contributors.

And that's the feel he wants to convey with his group trio \ DEF, and its brand-new album of hard-hitting jazz originals. The trio will debut the album at a free show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Saturday afternoon.

“I would say that most of the music that I enjoy is something that does have this sense of interaction and interplay, where it's not just one person soloing, but there's a real give and take with the rhythm section and the other players. That's always been something I've found intriguing in music, and challenging in music – that communication that flows like a dialogue or has a compositional sense,” Eagles said.

The “DEF” in trio \ DEF stands for Marc-André Drouin on electric bass, Eagles on electric guitar, and Ian Froman on drums – and Eagles insists all three are essential to the group's multi-layered, intense sound. All three come from the Ottawa area: Drouin from Bourget, a small Valley town just east of Ottawa, and Froman and Eagles from the city itself, but Drouin and Froman have since moved far afield.

Drouin is now part of Montreal's jazz and other music scenes, after studying and working in Boston and Los Angeles. “I've worked with Marc on and off for quite a long time," Eagles said. "When I first met Marc he was astonishing but he was literally a kid, a teenager. And he just had incredible drive and proficiency and, of course, over the years that's even more the case. He's just a beautiful player with a beautiful sound and a beautiful melodicism. He can play a large number of roles and he's quick! You can give him difficult pieces of music and he brings something interesting to the conversation."

Froman, who is best-known in Canada for his collaborations with Mike Murley in Metalwood and DMBQ, has lived in New York for the past 25-odd years. “Ian is a very renowned player in New York. He still plays with the likes of [John] Abercrombie and [Dave] Liebman. He just came back from a tour of China with [guitarist] Sheryl Bailey. And a very busy educator of course, a prof at Berklee as well as several other schools. So that's just a level of experience and confidence that can only help bring things together cohesively.”

Read more: Marc-Andre Drouin, Wayne Eagles & Ian Froman debut a hard-hitting trio CD Saturday


Keen listeners share their 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival favs, and opinions

Overlapping concerts, long line-ups, people who won't shut up, and not enough jazz – those are the main frustrations to expect at the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival, according to respondents to's listeners poll.

On the other hand, many listeners love the festival's atmosphere, and highlighted jazz groups on the schedule which they were eagerly looking forward to.

The poll was open to subscribers of's weekly jazz events newsletter, in the week leading up the festival's start. Because it was not a randomly sampled poll, the results can only be considered indicative, not statistically significant.

A little more than one-half (55%) of those who responded aren't happy with the amount of jazz they'll be hearing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year, and several complained that the festival was moving its focus away from jazz and improvised music.

But they still were enthusiastic about some of the musicians and groups appearing at the festival, including Kneebody, Robi Botos and Seamus Blake, the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, Snarky Puppy, The Stanley Clarke Band and Branford Marsalis.

Interestingly enough, 50% of those who responded were not buying a pass for this festival, but instead were buying individual tickets to shows. 17% were buying an all-access Gold Pass, and 15% a Bronze Pass.

The prevalence of non-jazz in the Concert Under the Stars and other series was the most consistent criticism, although some people praised several non-jazz artists, including Tower of Power and Huey Lewis.

“I understand that non jazz acts are part of paying for the festival, but this year's main stage shows are the weakest ever. The headliners are b list at best,” said one. “There's so much non-jazz crapola in this category, it's like shooting fish in a barrel to diss it,” said another.

“It's better than in the worst years, but really - no serious jazz on the main stage, and a few evenings with only 1 or no real jazz artists,” said a third.

Read more: Keen listeners share their 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival favs, and opinions


A fanfare of horns opens the 35th Ottawa Jazz Festival

The Ottawa Jazz Festival opened with a slighted muted fanfare Thursday, with a late-afternoon concert featuring six horns celebrating its 35th anniversary.

It was a low-key affair, with the musicians simply standing or sitting in the shade of trees surrounding Confederation Park's fountain, and listeners pulling up plastic chairs nearby. But on the other hand, it was real jazz, not Bollywood or rock, and the audience sounded consistently appreciative.

Festival programming manager Petr Cancura brought together six well-known Ottawa musicians – Tyler Harris (alto sax), Ed Lister (trumpet), Mike Shultz (sousaphone), Ryan Purchase (trombone), Roddy Ellias (guitar), and Mike Essoudry (drums) – along with trumpeter Lina Allemano from Toronto, and himself on clarinet and tenor sax. They played a mixture of standards, rearrangements of pop tunes, and New Orleans and Balkan-style jazz.

Five years ago, the 30th edition of the festival opened with a procession down Elgin Street and through the park – led by Essoudry's marching band, The Mash Potato Mashers. While the Mashers ended their run last year, the set list for this show included several songs which were originally written or arranged for that group.

Read more: A fanfare of horns opens the 35th Ottawa Jazz Festival


Aylmer's free outdoor jazz festival announces a younger line-up for this summer

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins in Aylmer will feature the younger generation of Quebec and Ontario jazz artists in its free outdoor concerts this July and August. The line-up was announced this week.

Jérôme Beaulieu will be back in Ottawa-Gatineau for a free outdoor concert in Aylmer on July 31. ©Brett Delmage, 2014Pianists Emie R. Roussel and Jérôme Beaulieu – who both played well-received concerts recently at the National Arts Centre – will bring their trios to Aylmer, along with the Jazz Street Boyz from Montreal and the Chocolate Hot Pockets from Ottawa. The four consecutive evening concerts will run from July 29 to August 1, 2015.

On Wednesdays in July, the City of Gatineau will also feature Ontario and Quebec world music artists, several of which also have a jazz flavour: Patricia Cano, Elage Mbaye, and Vox Sambou.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins concerts will be held in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer, immediately across from the Aylmer Marina. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and last for at least an hour. Picnics and families are welcome. Listeners should bring their own lawn chairs or blankets, because seating is not provided. And they should hope for clear skies, because concerts are canceled in the event of rain. Donations are welcome.

This is the 29th year of the Desjardins festival, and in a change from previous years, all the musicians featured are in their 20s and in the earlier stages of their careers. Both Beaulieu and Roussel were named as Radio-Canada’s jazz “Discoveries of the Year” in its Révélations program, in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Read more: Aylmer's free outdoor jazz festival announces a younger line-up for this summer


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