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Warming up with jazz in March

Updated March 5
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.

The weekend of March 5 to 8 will be a hotbed of Latin jazz. On the Friday, Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas and his Latin Jazz Quartet will team up with Cuban-Ottawa vocalist Caridad Cruz and Julio Hong and the Afro Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble from Montreal to present an Afro-Cuban Night at the NAC Fourth Stage, taking the music from its folkloric origins through different popular genres until contemporary interpretations. The following evening, they'll repeat the show at the Centrepointe Studio Theatre in Ottawa's west end. On Sunday afternoon, Hong will run an Afro-Cuban dance workshop at la Maison du Citoyen in downtown Gatineau.

An energetic moment from La Roda da Samba at Le Petit Chicago ©Brett Delmage, 2011On the Saturday, local vocalist Rachelle Behrens will present her Latin Sound Machine with local Latin and jazz musicians, paying tribute to Santana, Gloria Estefan and other great Latin acts.

Dancing to a big band more your thing? On Friday and Saturday, Ottawa swing dancers hold their annual weekend celebration, the O-Town Showdown. The Boilermaker Jazz Band from Philadelphia will again provide the lively music, as they did last year.

Toronto's Ori Dagan, "Canada’s Next Top Crooner", will reimagine pop hits as jazz classics Friday and Saturday  at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge.

Saturday March 7: Ottawa composer/pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson brings his trio – vibraphone, piano, bass, and drums – and his original music to GigSpace. Also that evening, vocalist Jill Barber will cross jazz with country and pop in an NAC Presents concert.

The third (and so far, final) JazzWorks Sunday afternoon jazz jam will be held at Bluesfest House in Westboro on March 8, with pianist Steve Boudreau as mentor. This has been a three-month experiment in trying out a more family-friendly and educational environment, and the JazzWorks board will decide whether to continue it based on the turnout.

That evening, two of the most forceful jazz musicians around are in Ottawa, thanks to the the improvisers at IMOO. Drummer Nick Fraser is on tour with his quartet with NYC saxophonist Tony Malaby, playing Fraser's compositions. Together with Toronto cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton, they should fill Raw Sugar with intense and compelling music.

March 8 is the second installment in two “Months of Sundays”. Each Sunday afternoon this month, drummer Mike Essoudry and organist Don Cummings will showcase their Bumpin' Binary duo playing swinging, funky soul in a show at the Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern in Hintonburg. This is also notable for being the first jazz show in the Elmdale since it changed ownership well over a year ago. For the last year, the duo has also been performing one Thursday evening a month at Mugshots in the Jail Hostel downtown, and that will continue on March 12. The Elmdale show is likely to be quieter than at Mugshots.

Then, each Sunday evening, the Chocolate Hot Pockets will be showing off their new songs at Irene's Pub in the Glebe, in preparation for the release of their second album. Fans of funky rhythms, jazz/R&B crossover, and emphatic trumpet and guitar take note.

Nick Fraser, NYC saxophonist Tony Malaby, cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton come to IMOO on March 8 ©2012 Brett DelmageOn Tuesday, March 10, the Craig Pedersen Quartet will showcase music from their upcoming album, Ghosts, plus new compositions. The band plays everything from long grooving builds, to bebop and free-jazz. The quartet will also perform as an appetizer to an NAC Orchestra concert on Friday, March 13.

On Wednesday at noon, saxophonist and composer Doug Martin, along with pianist Yves Laroche and bassist Tom Denison, will perform jazz standards and Doug's originals in a concert at Southminster United Church. Martin recently performed at the Havana Jazz Festival, and will include a tune called “Spirit of Survival”, which he wrote about the Cuban people, in the show. No admission charge, but a freewill offering is encouraged.

Friday, March 13: it's a rare chance to experience the fun and high spirits of the Shuffle Demons from Toronto, a fast-moving group who have toured around the world, and today's your day! The Demons make their audiences kick up their heels – but also think. Leader Richard Underhill ran for Mayor of Toronto last year, against Rob Ford.

The same evening, you can also hear the NYC jazz trio Sweet Talk, led by trumpeter Jake Henry, at the Raw Sugar Cafe. This is how they describe themselves: “Henry’s compositions blend off-kilter melodies with intricate fingerpicked guitar that the band deconstructs into everything from trashy noise rock to delicately developed soundscapes.”

Saturday March 14: NAC Presents has a magnificent double bill of two Juno-Award-winning jazz musicians. First up is guitarist Mike Rud with vocalist Sienna Dahlen, presenting a acoustic rendition of Rud's songs from Notes on Montreal. These odes to the city of Montreal and to the literature it inspired are sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes funny, always compelling. Following that is Toronto jazz pianist David Braid, playing his compositions for strings together with The Penderecki String Quartet. Expect beautiful music with unexpected touches, including one piece inspired by cave paintings tens of thousands years old. And you could win tickets to this concert by entering our contest.

On the modern mainstream jazz front, brothers Justin and Derek Gray from Toronto are on tour with award-winning BC tenor saxophonist Eli Bennett and pianist Todd Pentney (and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, but she's skipping Ottawa). They'll bring their group Gray Matter, with an emphasis on groove and improvisation, to Brookstreet on March 14.

On March 19, the Guy Mintus Trio, from Israel via NYC, will use the sounds of the Mediterranean and the Sephardic Synagogue as a basis for jazz and improvisation, in a concert at Centrepointe's Studio Theatre.

Saturday, March 21: Warm up with the authentic sounds of Brazilian jazz with La Roda da Samba at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your lips and a swing to your hips.

Tuesday, March 24: the award-winning Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) invites another premier student band to town for a joint concert. See the Humber College "A" Jazz Band and the NACJB at Nepean High School. The following day at noon, there's a free student concert at noon: the University of Ottawa Jazz Ensemble in Freiman Hall at 50 University Street (entrance across the street from Café Nostalgica).

Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28: A double-header of local jazz groups will fill GigSpace with music. Guitarist Garry Elliott joins up with frequent collaborator Steve Boudreau on piano and John Geggie on double bass, for an evening of mostly original music to start the weekend. Expect thoughtful, lovely melodies. On Saturday, vocalist and trombonist Steve Berndt brings his quartet, including forceful young pianist Clayton Connell, for a show that will mix original music and standards with jazz interpretations of 70's pop hits, in a wide range of jazz styles.

That same weekend, saxophonist Petr Cancura will bring his Wayne Shorter Tribute to Brookstreet.

Floyd Hutchinson and Karen Oxorn will team up with pianist Mark Ferguson and a full band on March 28 ©2008 Brett DelmageAlso on that Saturday, two local vocalists and long-time musical friends – Floyd Hutchinson and Karen Oxorn – will team up with arranger and pianist Mark Ferguson and a full band for Something Old, Something New: An Evening of Jazz, Soul & Blues. Their inspirations? Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, and Peggy Lee, combined with more recent artists like Gregory Porter and Emilie-Claire Barlow, and Kellylee Evans.

The same evening, Ottawa jazz veteran John Haysom brings his trumpet, his flugelhorn, and his love of the classic repertoire to a JazzN house concert in the Almonte area, west of Ottawa. He'll perform with crowd-pleasing jazz vocalist Helen Glover and guitarist Rob Martin, for an evening of mellow, accessible jazz consisting of popular jazz standards and originals.

For the late-night crowd, the Souljazz Orchestra will groove out the Babylon Nightclub that night with “tropical jazz mayhem”. Don't expect to sit down. At Le Petit Chicago, guitarist Rômmel Ribeiro will team up with the Tupi Collective from Montreal for Brazilian grooves.

On Sunday afternoon, you can swing to the 18-piece Standing Room Only big band, in their last concert of the season at the Almonte Town Hall. This time they will feature vocalist Peter Liu.

That evening (March 29) is the second concert in the new Nachtmusik series at Das Lokal, featuring Pierre Chrétien's Sunburst Ensemble. The new trio, with keyboardist Chrétien, bassist Alex Bilodeau, and drummer Michel Delage, will play new compositions with lots of groove and a soul jazz feel.

Monday evening, March 30: the student Contemporary Guitar Ensemble will present a free concert in the Patrick Cardy Studio in the Loeb Building of Carleton University.

Of course, that's not all the jazz you can hear in Ottawa in March. There are many weekly shows and jazz jams also on throughout our reporting area of 100 km from Parliament Hill, catering to every taste. Subscribe to OttawaJazzScene.ca's weekly newsletter to get all the details, including venue locations and show times, the latest updates, links to our interviews with artists about their upcoming shows – and the opportunity to win free tickets to some of these fabulous shows.

    – Alayne McGregor

March 4: Updated the description of the Steve Berndt concert on March 28.
March 5: Added Brookstreet events on March 7&8, March 14, and March 27&28. Added a link to our ticket contest for the Mike Rud/David Braid concert.

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