Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Ottawa jazz family commemorates local art centre's 25th with West Coast cool

The Denison family – matriarch Kay on piano and organ, her son Tom on bass and drums, and the younger generation of Patrick on saxophone, Emily on trumpet and violin, and Lucas on drums – have been a frequent presence in Ottawa's jazz scene for years now.

Emily Denison was one of five Denisons that played jazz to help celebrate the Nepean Creative Arts Centre's 25th Anniversary ©2015 Brett DelmageAnd with Emily and Lucas having taken some of their first jazz lessons at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre (through the centre's partner, the Bells Corners Academy of Music), and Patrick and Tom having taught and adjudicated there, it seemed natural that all four would perform a concert to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the centre.

The “Denison 4+1” concert was organized by pianist Yves Laroche, director of the Bells Corners Academy. Laroche was the “+1” in the August 2 show.

The musical theme was “West Coast Jazz”. The first piece, “Out of Somewhere”, by Jimmy Giuffre, exemplified the cool vibe of that style. It was followed by more upbeat examples: “Whisper Not” by Benny Golson, whose forward momentum was outlined by a bright, edged trumpet solo from Emily; and “Bernie's Tune”, made popular by Gerry Mulligan, which featured a hard, echoing drum solo from Lucas.

On “Lines for Lions” by Bob Curnow and “Moon and Sand” by Alec Wilder, Patrick doubled on flute, creating a quiet, reflective sound and shimmering duets with Emily's trumpet.

Kay Denison sat in the middle of the hall, listening intently, for most of the concert. And then for the last two numbers, she was brought to the stage as a special guest and added strong piano lines, and occasional flourishes, to “Time After Time” and “That's All” – fitting in naturally and happily.

It was a rare chance to hear the Denisons together – Emily is now in Toronto and Lucas in Halifax, and the entire family only happened to be in town together for a family wedding. They attracted a mostly-full room of attentive listeners, who applauded strongly throughout.

This was the second of three free concerts to celebrate the arts centre's 25th anniversary. The third will feature saxophonist Zakari Frantz and his trio (and some surprise guests, Laroche said), and will be held Friday, September 25 at 7 p.m. at the arts centre.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read's profile of the Denison family:  The Denisons: a family playing jazz together

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2015