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Cool down with jazz in August in Ottawa-Gatineau

If the heat and the never-ending election ads have got you down, there's plenty of cool jazz to cheer you up and clear your ears in Ottawa in August.

Marc Morin of the Montreal Guitar Trio. The trio is back August 6 for a joint concert with the California Guitar Trio at Chamberfest. ©Brett Delmage, 2013This week you can hear Chamberfest's jazz crossover concerts, and the evening faculty concerts at the Carleton University Jazz Camp. Next week, there's the duo of Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald and legendary American pianist Harold Mabern, a pairing which won MacDonald a Juno this year.

But there's more: a musical tribute to Sarah Vaughn (and CD launch) by Montreal singer Kimberley Beyea; and a theatrical tribute to the Rat Pack in two different venues. Young up-and-coming musicians continue to present their music before heading back to university next month, and local musicians can be heard in venues simple and fancy on both sides of the river.

On Thursday, August 6, the Montreal Guitar Trio, who created quite a stir at Chamberfest a few years ago with their jazz/flamenco/world crossover music, return for a joint show with the California Guitar Trio (which, despite its name, contains one member from Utah, one from Belgium, and one from Japan). They'll be playing “original compositions and fresh arrangements of progressive rock, world, jazz, and classical music”.

Each year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp holds evening concerts for students and the public, featuring members of its faculty – some of whom are rarely heard in Ottawa. This year, the visitors include several renowned Toronto jazz musicians: trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, drummer Brian Barlow, and alto saxophonist Luis Deniz. They'll join well-known Ottawa musicians like Brian Browne, Roddy Ellias, Mark Ferguson, Mike Tremblay, and Elise Letourneau.

The concerts run from Tuesday, August 4 to Friday, August 7, and include everything from a tribute to Kenny Wheeler to a swinging big band. Read about these shows.

On Wednesday, August 5, a dynamic Montreal trio led by clarinetist and saxophonist Ted Crosby will perform the intricate compositions of pianist Thelonious Monk, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, and drummer Paul Motian – plus jazz standards – at Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata. Crosby has released three CDs with two other different groups in Montreal.

On Saturday, August 8, you can experience the joy of Brazilian music, as the Roda da Samba makes one of its regular appearances at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau. It's the reverse of a standard concert: a dozen or more Brazilian vocalists, guitarists, cavaquinho players, and especially percussionists sit around a large table in the middle of the room, playing traditional Brazilian instruments. Infectious Brazilian rhythms ring out and fairly soon almost everyone is on their feet in the crowded room, dancing to sambas and other Brazilian musical styles.

An energetic moment from La Roda da Samba. They're back at Le Petit Chicago August 8 ©Brett Delmage, 2011On Sunday, August 9, percussionist Jesse Stewart will honour the memory of those who died in the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki fifty years ago, with four half-hour solo waterphone concerts at the Diefenbunker in Carp. Stewart is one of the few virtuoso performers of the waterphone, “an experimental percussion instrument that consists of bronze rods, steel, and water”; he recently released a CD of solo waterphone music. All the shows are reported to be sold out.

Stewart is the artist-in-residence at the Diefenbunker this summer, with both musical and visual art installations. On Saturday, August 22 at 1 p.m., he will also be conducting a tour of the artwork he has installed in the Cold War bunker and museum. The tour requires advance registration; the regular admission charge to the museum applies.

Although the Ottawa Folklore Centre is no more, the OFC Jazz Band is continuing, according to leader and instructor Adrian Matte. It will make one more appearance under that name at Stella Luna in Ottawa South on Sunday, August 9, and Matte said he's hoping to continue the group and its Stella Luna shows after that.

Les Mardis Classiques is a long-running summer series of free outdoor concerts in the Parc des Deux-Ruisseaux in the Plateau area of Gatineau. On Tuesday, August 11, it presents the bright sounds of the Dixie Band, led by Ottawa clarinetist Dave Renaud. The four-member group evokes the heritage of New Orleans and its Dixieland music, with clarinet, saxophone, guitar, trombone, and tuba.

This month, Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald is touring eastern Canada with legendary American pianist Harold Mabern. Mabern was prominent in the 1960s hard bop scene, playing and recording with such greats as Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. In the 1970s, he performed with Clark Terry, and played jazz-pop electric piano with George Benson and Stanley Turrentine.

Late last year, MacDonald released a quintet album with Mabern, Vista Obscura, which won a Juno Award this spring. This tour, in fact, includes the official CD release concerts for that album in Toronto and Montreal.

On Saturday, August 15, MacDonald and Mabern will play a duo concert in Ottawa at Salt Lounge on Preston Street. The show will have two sets, priced separately, each with different repertoire for those who may want to catch both.

MacDonald told OttawaJazzScene.ca that they would be performing standards and jazz standards. “Anything from show tunes to Coltrane tunes... We will likely include a few pieces from Vista Obscura as well. I would also add that the chemistry has been pretty special the few times we have performed duo.”

On Friday, August 21, long-time Ottawa favourite pianist Brian Browne will play a duo concert with local vocalist Lee Anne Frederickson, at the Nepean Sailing Club: expect their favourite selections from the Great American Songbook, performed with lots of swing.

That same weekend, Montreal jazz vocalist and flutist Kimberley Beyea will be launching her new CD with her trio, for two nights at Brookstreet (August 21 and 22). The CD, Memories of Sarah, pays tribute to vocalist Sarah Vaughn, with songs spanning three decades of Vaughn's career, as well as three original songs. Beyea said her song list will include “Tenderly”, Vaughn's signature song for many years, and “Lullaby of Birdland”, which was on the album Vaughn made with trumpeter Clifford Brown, which was said to be her favourite.

Also that weekend (August 20-22), you can return to the 50s era of glamour and jazz crooners and Las Vegas cool in a local presentation of an American musical called The Rat Pack Lounge. Its premise: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, jr. are in heaven. But God forces them to go back to fulfill a promise Sinatra made to Vic, the owner of the Rat Pack Lounge – and they only have one night to do it.

The show includes songs made famous by those stars, and will be presented as a dinner-and-show evening at Britannia United Church (“with a choice of three meals based on the Rat Pack's favourite pre show meals”). The following weekend (August 27-29), it will presented as a show only at Live! on Elgin.

The Adam Saikaley group playing their tribute to Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro. They're back with a tribute to Bitches Brew on August 21. ©2014 Brett DelmageThe Aboretum Festival, which primarily focuses on indie and punk groups, is also on that weekend. In a late-night show on Friday, August 21, The Adam Saikaley Sextet will present a new Miles Davis tribute show, playing all of Bitches Brew, as well as selections from In a Silent Way and their previous tribute to Filles de Kilimanjaro. The festival will also present several non-jazz groups with jazz connections (FET.NAT, Gamelan Semara Winangun, and Scattered Clouds).

On Saturday, August 29, local vocalists Mary Moore and Sue McCarthy bring their Harmony Belles show to GigSpace, backed by jazz guitarist Tim Bedner, bassist Mark Alcorn, and drummer Marilee Townsend-Alcorn. Moore and McCarthy had decades of experience in folk and roots-inspired harmony vocals and then discovered jazz standards. In this concert, they plan on “reconnecting with their roots and bringing those harmonies into the jazz world”.

Many young, up-and-coming Ottawa jazz musicians go outside Ottawa to study jazz, but some come back in the summer and organize shows – particularly saxophonist Chris Maskell, who is about to enter his final year of an undergraduate degree in Jazz Performance's at McGill University. Maskell has four shows coming up in August.

On August 12, his trio (with local bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage) is half of a double bill at Pressed on Gladstone, exploring both “classic songs and more overlooked gems from the traditional jazz repertoire”. On the same bill is a trio with young trumpeter Michael Henley and drummer Keagan Eskritt, who are both studying jazz at the University of Toronto. Together with Bilodeau, they'll also feature their own interpretation of standards.

On August 15, Maskell brings his quartet to GigSpace, with Sam Kirmayer on guitar, Levi Dover on bass, and Afolabi Fapojuwo on drums. They're all young, emerging players from the Montreal jazz scene, who are studying at McGill or have already graduated. They'll perform their own original music, as well as re-imagining jazz standards.

The following day (August 16), Maskell's quartet will play an afternoon house concert in Manotick, in Ottawa's southern suburbs, organized by JazzN.ca. The show will be in the house's back yard, and so will be cancelled in case of bad weather. Pre-registration is required.

And on August 27, Maskell's trio, with Bilodeau and Delage, will play a last Ottawa show this summer, at the Avant-Garde Bar, before Maskell heads back to Montreal.

Another McGill student, alto saxophonist Sam Cousineau, has also organized another Ottawa show this month: at Pressed on August 18, with young bassist Ben Heard and Ottawa veteran drummer Mike Essoudry, and featuring Sam Kirmayer on guitar.

Of course, local jazz musicians are also presenting many shows throughout the month. Notably, the Sean Duhaime Trio is the August host band for Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau. The trio, which has been quite quiet recently, will be playing an initial set starting at 9 p.m. each Monday, and then opening the stage for jamming.

Changes are happening in Santé Restaurant's Wednesday jazz nights. Tim Bedner ended his year-long series of duo shows there in July, and says that a new host will start in September. In the interim, on August 5 and 12, guitarist Alex Moxon and vocalist Megan Jerome will present their “Stripped Down Soul” duo. Moxon said they will pare down music by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles for just voice and guitar, and then add old school jazz standards.

August, of course, tends to be a quieter month for jazz. Expect lots more in September, starting with renowned American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer coming to Shenkman Arts Centre on Saturday, September 5, in a duo concert with a South Indian classical violinist. Iyer was voted 2014 Pianist of the Year in the Down Beat poll, received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”, and is director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music. That concert should be a bang-up way to start the fall jazz season.

    – Alayne McGregor