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Ottawa jazz groups have a new showcase at The Record Centre

A new showcase for local jazz groups has popped up in Hintonburg.

The Adam Saikaley Trio attracted listeners of all ages to hear its jazz interpretations of hip-hop at The Record Centre on February 8. ©Alayne McGregor, 2015The Record Centre, a store which sells vinyl, CDs, and vintage audio equipment, started offering regular jazz shows at the end of 2014, and plans to continue offering them at least every month.

Their next show is on Saturday, March 21 at 6 p.m., with the Sunburst Ensemble (with Pierre Chrétien, Alex Bilodeau, and Michel Delage) playing original music drawing from jazz, funk, and Afrobeat.

Record Centre owner John Thompson said the store wanted to support local musicians. “We still feel like we're building something, so hopefully people will come out and catch some live music.”

Over the past few years, the store has occasionally featured local indie/pop groups, he said, but last year it doubled in size, expanding into the storefront next door. The new location is “a good place to see a band – the acoustics in this room are incredible.”

“I think it started [because local jazz musician] Mark Ferguson shops here, looks at records. We were always joking that 'You're going to play in the store one day' – and he wanted to once we moved here. So he was almost the first jazz band.”

In just a few months, the store has showcased a wide variety of musicians, starting with the Robert Fontaine Quartet, which made a live recording in the space. “That was a great show! That was our first unofficial show, because we hadn't really decided to do a jazz series.”

They were followed by the Chocolate Hot Pockets playing jazz mixed with funk and R&B in mid-December. Thompson knew their guitar player, Alex Moxon, because Moxon also plays in the pop band The Hilotrons, and the Record Centre's label is releasing the Hilotrons' next album. And when Ed Lister got going on his trumpet at that show, Thompson said, “he was incredible. But that just shows you ... you can push this room a little bit.”

The Record Centre is providing a monthly showcase for jazz musicians like bassist Alex Bilodeau. ©Alayne McGregor, 2015

“We also had the Denison clan play a jazz show here over Christmas – that was Tom and his two kids, Emily and Lucas, and their cousin as well. That was fantastic!”

In January, Mark Ferguson performed with two other well-known Ottawa jazz musicians: Roddy Ellias, and Vince Rimbach: “our first big jazz show. We had 50, 60 people turn up for that. It was really good.”

“So we want to do more. Other bands play here – rock bands too. But I think it's safe to say we'll do at least one jazz Sunday a month, and maybe more as the weather gets nicer.”

He expected the location in Hintonburg will bring in more traffic in warmer months. “This is such a good neighbourhood now. It's just so crowded here on the weekends in the summer – a little tougher in the middle of February to get people out.”

The most recent show, on February 8, featured the Adam Saikaley Trio (with Bilodeau and Mike Essoudry) performing before about 20 listeners. They played jazz interpretations and improvisations based on hip-hop tunes by artists like Mos Def, Notorious B.I.G., Scarface, J Dilla, and Mobb Deep, with consistent warm applause.

Admission to the shows is free, but donations are encouraged. “We pay all the bands that play here, and we do a pay-what-you-can. Now that rarely covers the band, so the store covers the rest. We do it because we love to hear live music, and that brings a lot of new people into the store. We sell lots of records and stereo equipment all week long so it's not a big deal to kick a little bit towards a band.”

Thompson said almost all the musicians had approached him – with the exception of Saikaley, whom he'd wanted to book for a while because of his interesting reinterpretations of jazz and other albums.

“I wanted to hear one of these themed shows. So that's what we got today. They were playing jazz versions of a lot of great 90s hip-hop songs. It was fun to hear that, and some great playing, too.”

    – Alayne McGregor

The Record Centre is located at 1099 Wellington Street West at Sherbrooke, a few blocks east of Parkdale Avenue. The store offers a wide range of previously-owned jazz albums on vinyl and CD, as well as music in other genres.