Updated November 18
November is a month to celebrate the depth of Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene.
While you can certainly hear some interesting jazz visitors in November, including Ken Aldcroft, BadBadNotGSaood, Terry Clarke, Esmerine, Pedro Navarro, Neil Swainson, and André White, this month is particularly notable for the Ottawa-Gatineau musicians who are presenting their own projects.
Many will play their own compositions, but you'll also hear Thelonious Monk, jazz standards, and even jazz interpretations of folk and roots music. Renowned pianist Brian Browne will release a long-awaited solo CD at his trio concert; another trio will be taped for a possible vinyl release.
Also on this month: many benefit concerts with jazz musicians playing for good causes, a swing dance showdown, a cabaret tribute to Marilyn Monroe with Frank Sinatra interludes, and the annual Buckingham Buzz Jazz festival.
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The month opens with a very busy Sunday. In the early afternoon of November 1, saxophonist Rob Frayne hosts the JazzWorks Sunday jam at Bluesfest House in Westboro, a family-friendly affair. Then Elise Letourneau and Tim Bedner perform a piano/flute/guitar duo for Jazz Vespers at All Saints-First United Church in Westboro.
Later that afternoon, saxophonist Vince Rimbach presents his new Wellington West Quartet in a live recording at the Record Centre in Hintonburg. Browse the bins of vinyl and enjoy Vince's originals! It's free but donations to the musicians are appreciated. That evening, you can hear jazz standards (and maybe a touch of Fats Waller) with Glebop with vocalist Helen Glover at the Arrow and Loon in the Glebe.
For improvisers and fans of avant-garde music, Bernard Stepien presents an hour of solo saxophone compositions influenced by the tonal systems of aboriginal music and inspired by his favourite Canadian national parks, at IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) at the Raw Sugar Café in Chinatown. The IMOO show continues with an hour of duo music from another Ottawa improvising saxophonist, John Sobol.
And trumpeter Ed Lister begins a month of Sunday evenings at Irene's in the Glebe, with his new ERU-ERA group. With seven musicians on stage, expect serious groove and funk!
The Daily Grind Café in Chinatown, which occasionally hosted jazz shows, was burned down in a construction accident in October. On Thursday, November 5, a benefit (with DJs) is being held at the Babylon Nightclub to help the businesses and residents who were displaced. There will also be an afternoon fundraiser on Sunday, November 8 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Dundonald Park.
On Friday, November 6, pianist Steve Boudreau will pay tribute to Thelonious Monk's compositions at GigSpace, with Monk’s classic instrumentation: piano, sax (Petr Cancura), bass, and drums. His quartet's interpretations will respect “the jazz tradition and the spirit of exploration that Monk embodied”. Downtown at the Mercury Lounge, Spanish guitarist Pedro Navarro will present his compositions, which uniquely blend Flamenco, jazz, Latin and classical music.
That same evening will see the opening of the seventh edition of the Buckingham Buzz Jazz festival, at the Café des Artistes de la Lièvre in Buckingham, Quebec. Each Friday this month, the café will present two jazz groups in hour-long sets. On November 6, vocalist Dominique Forest and her trio will perform material from her 2015 CD of original songs, C'est à moi. [Watch our video story about the CD release.] She'll be followed by the powerful jazz-funk of the Chocolate Hot Pockets, who also released a CD, Chocolate Dreamz, this spring.
On Saturday, November 7, three of Ottawa's most influential jazz musicians present a trio show at GigSpace. Saxophonist Mike Tremblay and pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson have played together in everything from duos to NAC Orchestra Pops concerts to big bands to Latin jazz; they released a CD, Home, together in 2009. With guitarist Tim Bedner, a frequent collaborator, they'll play originals by all three – all in new arrangements specifically for this trio. Ferguson also promises several uncommon and interesting bebop tunes, including “Fried Bananas” by Dexter Gordon and “Prince Albert” by Kenny Dorham.
Also on that evening: “Songs From A Drunken Piano”, a cross-over tribute by jazz musicians to the bourbon madness of singer/songwriter Tom Waits, at the NAC Fourth Stage. Vocalists Steve Berndt, Christine Fagan, and Megan Jerome will sing Waits' songs, supported by three instrumentalists playing “everything from glockenspiel to the kitchen sink”. And in Manotick, JazzN.ca will host a house concert with locals the Somerset Combo, playing “classy jazz”: Great American Songbook selections plus some modern standards from The Beatles and Stevie Wonder.
And also on November 7, La Roda da Samba will celebrate its eighth anniversary of filling Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau to overflowing with traditional and jazz-filled Brazilian music. This month's show will feature “samba, joy, and the celebration of popular resistance”.
On Thursday, November 12, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Carp will host a benefit support building latrines in a village in Ghana. Vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton and pianist Dave Miller will contribute jazz tunes to the concert.
On Friday, November 13, Ottawa pianist Carlos Alberto Santana will bring his jazz trio – and a two guests on saxophone and percussion – to the NAC Fourth Stage. Santana studied jazz both in his native Mexico and in Montreal; his music combines both North American jazz and classic and contemporary Latin music. The trio, which is currently recording its first CD, was a hit at this year's Merrickville's Jazz Fest with its approachable tunes and bright rhythms.
Also that evening, the Ottawa Swing Dance Society is celebrating its 16th anniversary, and is doing it in style with a Battle of the Bands. Two swing bands – the Peter Liu Swing Sextet versus Dave Renaud's Dr. Jazz – will play until 12:30 a.m. and dancers will declare the winner! The judge in case of a tie is Juno-award-winning jazz vocalist Kellylee Evans. Blues dancing will continue until 4 a.m.
And the November 13 installment of Buckingham Buzz Jazz will open with Heart & Soul, a vocal/guitar duo singing jazz standards in both English and French. They'll be followed by the Moonglow Jazz Ensemble, whose members sing in a total of four languages and who play original arrangements of jazz and bossa nova standards, spiked with classical or funky elements.
Guitarist Lucas Haneman has been doing extremely well with his new Lucas Haneman Express trio. It released its first CD this spring, which veered away from its members' jazz roots into blues and funk. The trio will compete in an international blues contest in Memphis, Tennessee in January. Want to hear how close they're still to jazz? They're at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield on Friday, November 13.
Also on Friday evening, the chamber jazz duo The Visit, with Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello and Heather Sita Black on vocals, will appear at the Branch Restaurant in Kemptville. In October, they released their first album, Through Darkness Into Light, a collection of ethereal and atmospheric acoustic music.
The next day – Saturday, November 14 – is even busier. Master pianist Brian Browne is holding his annual National Arts Centre show, again with two Toronto jazz veterans: bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke. OttawaJazzScene.ca's review of this trio's sold-out concert a year ago noted that “Browne's medley of Duke Ellington numbers, particularly “Satin Doll”, felt as though every note was just sliding perfectly into place, with Clarke adding texture on brushes underneath. He said afterwards that he felt as though he was floating on top of the rhythm section – something he hadn't felt since 40 years earlier with Archie Alleyne and Skip Beckwith.”
Browne recorded last year's concert, but he'll release another CD at this month's concert. It's a solo disc: Feelings, which he says is “about possibilities that expand as the artist sits alone at a piano and just lets the music flow, delving into rich sentimentality and luscious changes”.
In a quieter vein, two of Ottawa's most prominent jazz guitarists, Garry Elliott and Roddy Ellias, will play a duo show together at GigSpace on November 14. Expect standards, yes, but also unexpected rhythms, fine harmonies, and well-crafted original music that could range from chamber jazz to a notable groove. This concert has been postponed.
In a more contemporary vein, the controversial Toronto jazz/hip-hop trio BadBadNotGood will perform at Centretown United Church on November 14, in a benefit for the church's artistic and outreach programs for the homeless and others at risk. The trio were nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2014 and 2015; their most recent album is Sour Soup , a collaboration with rapper Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan. BadBadNotGood has challenged the rules on improvised jazz both verbally (which has caused most of the fuss around them) and in their music, using more contemporary referents as a basis for improvisation, but ultimately they play jazz improv on top of hip-hop beats with a great deal of soul influence, and it's not just for those 21 and under.
At the Mercury Lounge in the ByWard Market, the Ottawa instrumental group Cloud City (who cites Snarky Puppy as an influence) will release its self-titled debut CD, which combines elements of progressive funk, rock, and jazz.
Also on November 14: vocalist Gerri Trimble and pianist Steve Boudreau (well-known for his simpatico with vocalists) will play a free duo show in the lobby of the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Hintonburg, after that evening's play. The Nepean All-City Jazz Band will add big band jazz numbers to “Enchanted Mosaic - An Evening With The Arts” at Earl of March secondary school in Kanata. The proceeds will go to post-secondary scholarships for local high school graduates.
At Live on Elgin, vocalist Nadine Banville will present her interpretation of actress, singer, and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe. Banville will sing a collection of jazz and vintage standards, and will be joined by vocalist Doug Moyle performing in the style of Frank Sinatra. Across the river at Le Petit Chicago, the Souljazz Orchestra, just back from a bravura European tour, will play from their new album, Resistance. And
Dave Clark's Woodshed Orchestra, which mixes jazz and R&B and roots in its own unique package, plays Irene's in the Glebe, along with Bumpin' Binary (Update: the Woodshed Orchestra cancelled, and Bumpin' Binary will play both sets).
All that, and we're only halfway through the month!
On Sunday, November 15, the chamber jazz group Esmerine, which packed the hall at this year's Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, will present an afternoon show at the Black Sheep Inn. They'll be playing from their just-released album, Lost Voices; expect “exploratory soundscapes” with prominent cello and percussion. Opening for them will be The Visit.
That evening, pianist/DJ Adam Saikaley, who has played everything from serious electronica to tributes to Miles Davis albums, will present an IMOO show at Black Squirrel Books and Tea in Ottawa South. Saikaley will play a solo set, followed by a trio set with drummer Scott Warren and saxophonist Linsey Wellman. Expected the unexpected.
On Wednesday, November 18, Knox Presbyterian Church downtown will holding a fundraising concert with three long-time and very harmonious collaborators: pianist Brian Browne, saxophonist (and United Church minister) Peter Woods, and Gary Paterson, the former moderator of the United Church of Canada. Browne and Woods have played many times together, including a tour of the Maritimes, and released a CD, Honest Company, in 2013. For a concert several years ago, they joined up with Paterson reading poetry. They will recreate this mix of musical and poetic energy for this show, called "Jesus, Jazz & Hope - The Light Ahead". The money raised will support a Syrian refugee family.
On Friday, November 20, the NAC Orchestra's Casual Fridays classical concert will be preceded by jazz, this time from The Andrew Boudreau Trio from Montreal. In 2013, pianist Boudreau was featured in a “My First NAC” concert which showcased several promising young jazz and classical musicians. Boudreau has recently played with prominent Montreal musicians Rémi Bolduc, Bill Mahar, Joel Kerr, and Mark Nelson, and in duos with pianist Jeff Johnston.
Over at the NAC Fourth Stage, saxophonist Petr Cancura will lead an all-star quartet of Ottawa jazz mainstays Roddy Ellias on guitar and John Geggie on double bass, and Montrealer Greg Ritchie on drums – performing the music of Ottawa folk music veteran Ian Tamblyn. [Read our interview with Cancura and Tamblyn about this show.] In a career dating back to the early 70s, Tamblyn's music has gone from singer-songwriter to instrumentals on the hammered dulcimer and synthesizer, and included on-location field recordings. Many of his more recent recordings have been inspired by trips throughout Canada, including the North, and even to Antarctica. The concert will be a collaboration between Tamblyn and the jazz musicians – expect many unexpected new interpretations. This will be the first three such collaborations with folk musicians which Cancura is organizing: the jazz quartet will play with Lynn Miles in February and Jeremy Fisher in April.
But there's lot's more choices on November 20. At GigSpace, vocalist Martine Courage and her Courage4 present an evening of jazz inspired by her favourite vocalist, Shirley Horn. Horn was particularly known as a ballad-singer, and for her collaborations with jazz greats like Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. Expect something a bit different than your standard vocal jazz concert: Courage will be accompanied by an all-star jazz cast of Laura Nerenberg on violin, Mike Essoudry on drums, and husband Rob Frayne on electric bass and tenor sax. Frayne has been playing with increasing gusto since his return to the sax in 2014.
At the Raw Sugar Café, the Ottawa New Music Creators presents ground-breaking Montreal improvising saxophonist Huei Lin, and Kurdish Kamanche-player Shahriyar Jamshidi. For more than 24 years, Jamshidi has been working to recreate the classical Kurdish music in an understandable way for younger generations, in order to create a cultural bridge between past and future. Expect to get your ears stretched.
The November 20 Buckingham Buzz Jazz show at Café des Artistes de la Lièvre features Ottawa vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton & Her Gentlemen (guitarist Pierre Monfils and bassist Raymond Doré). Their aim: “to woo you, to draw you in with the beauty of the jazz standard melodies, maybe introducing a new love or rekindling the old love from years ago.” They'll be followed by the Outaouais-based Gabbro Jazz Quintet, which plays jazz standards, Latin numbers, blues, jazz funk, and their own originals.
On Friday and Saturday, November 20-21, locals Peter Hum (piano) and Mark Ferguson (trombone) will team up with Montrealers Alec Walkington (bass) and André White (drums), at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata. Expect swinging mainstream jazz, well played with a good touch of originality.
On Saturday, November 21, the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra showcases vocalist Diane Nalini in its second concert of the season at the NAC Fourth Stage. “Daydreams Under the Blossoms” will combine new original songs and jazz standards that paint “landscapes of daydreams, myths, legends, poetry, heartache and new love”.
On Sunday, November 22, Mark Ferguson and Mike Tremblay will reunite with guitarist Tim Bedner at The Record Centre, playing similar material to their GigSpace show on November 7. Expect an interesting conversation. The hour-long show in the store is free, but donations to the musicians are encouraged.
How well did the Ottawa Jazz Festival do this year? You can hear all the financial numbers and more at the festival's annual general meeting on Wednesday, November 25, at Ottawa City Hall, in the Colonel By Room on the second floor. Members of the public have been normally allowed in to listen, but, based on the last few AGMs, don't expect a lot of talk about programming.
At the end of each school term, Carleton University's different jazz ensembles present wide-ranging and energetic shows, usually at Kailash Mital Theatre (the former Alumni Theatre). On November 26, you can hear the Jazz Fusion Ensemble led by Wayne Eagles, with special guests The Beeched Wailers. On November 28, the Carleton Jazz-Roots Ensemble led by Petr Cancura will present its first show, in conjunction with the West African Rhythm Ensemble.
On Friday, November 27, there's lots of choices in music. On the avant-garde end, IMOO is bringing in Toronto improvising guitarist Ken Aldcroft for a duo with local reed player Linsey Wellman. Aldcroft has appeared in Ottawa several times before with other touring musicians, including renowned NYC bassist William Parker, performing well-received and innovative music.
At GigSpace that evening, Ottawa vocalist Mary Moore will sing original tunes and jazz standards, backed by her quintet. The concert also has a visual angle: GigSpace's art gallery will show Moore's paintings, inspired by jazz, for all of November.
And at Buckingham Buzz Jazz on November 27, you can hear vocalist Caroline Cook and her quartet reprise the best of their “Hazy Days of Summer” show performed at GigSpace last year. They'll be playing Latin, blues and a few extras, which “will surely put a little more groove in your step”. Second on the bill is the Horizon Quintet, who gave a very impressive performance at the recent Merrickville's Jazz Fest of under-appreciated tunes by 60s and 70s jazz artists such as Rusty Bryant, Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, and Houston Person. The quintet's groove, their barely-leashed forward momentum, and their multi-layered arrangements grabbed the audience and inspired a standing ovation.
Vocalist Doreen Smith is known as the voice in front of Big Band Ottawa. On Saturday, November 28, she be showcased in a more intimate setting – a house concert in the Almonte/Mississippi Mills area with her quartet. Expect classic songs from the Great American Songbook, “presented in true 'Old School' form in the tradition of Sinatra, O'Day and Holiday.”
In on-going series, guitarist Garry Elliott plays with a succession of male and female jazz vocalists on Wednesday evenings at Santé in the Market. In Little Italy, guitarist Tim Bedner performs with a series of local musicians on Thursday evenings in the intimate surroundings of La Roma, including violinist Véronique Turcotte on November 19.
And there's regular jazz jams for players and listeners: Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau; Tuesdays with the Beeched Wailers at The Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg; Thursdays with the HML Trio at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata. At the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South, Jacquie Dixon hosts her jazz jam on Friday, November 6, and JazzWorks their evening jam two weeks later on November 20.
The month ends with an live foretaste of holiday music to come. On Sunday, November 29, the Sax Appeal duo plays Christmas music – on two alto saxophones – at noon at the Rideau Centre.
That evening, Folkrum will be presenting an evening of fine Ottawa jazz artists: John Geggie and Roddy Ellias, René Lavoie and Miguel de Armas, and The Four Heavies, each playing 45-minute sets. It's in a new space in Vanier, at the corner of Montreal and River Roads, that Folkrum is trying out for the weekend to see if it will work as a concert hall and community musical hub. [Read more about the weekend in our article.]
Going into December, the first week's highlights include the Miguel De Armas Trio in a noon-hour concert at Southminster United Church (December 2). That same evening, you can hear Rob Frayne's eight-piece Dream Combo at the NAC Fourth Stage, with new compositions from Rob and a new collaborator: Toronto jazz vocalist Julie Michels. Frayne promises to also include music by Alan Toussaint and Lennon&McCartney, a "brand-new, hip arrangement of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow', and a surprise trio of Christmas tunes".
On December 3, you can choose between jazz vocalist Molly Johnson at Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans, or the Charlie Brown Christmas Show with the Jerry Granelli Trio at Dominion-Chalmers United Church downtown, or a joint concert by two award-winning student big bands (the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band and the Nepean All-City Jazz Band) in at Longfields-Davidson Heights School in Barrhaven.
And that weekend, composer Elise Letourneau will reprise her Requiem for Fourteen Roses in a new version: a “chamber electric” vocal show at Church of the Ascension on Saturday, December 5. The requiem commemorates the young women who were lost in the École Polytechnique Massacre, and was hugely moving and intensely musical at its première last year.
– Alayne McGregor
Update November 6: Added Rob Frayne's Dream Combo at the NAC Fourth Stage on December 2.
Update November 11: Kellylee Evans will be the tiebreaker judge at the Ottawa Swing Dance Society Battle of the Bands on November 13. Added the Souljazz Orchestra, and Dave Clark's Woodshed Orchestra, both on November 14. Updated the information about the November 22 show at The Record Centre.
Update November 12: Marked the November 14 Roddy Ellias/Garry Elliott show as postponed to a later date. Deleted the December 6 piano recital at St. Luke's, which is no longer occurring. Updated the description and location of the Adam Saikaley IMOO show on November 15.
Update November 13: The Woodshed Orchestra cancelled for November 14.
Update November 18: Added the Beeched Wailers to the Jazz Fusion concert. Added a link to the Ian Tamblyn/Petr Cancura interview. Added the Folkrum jazz night. Added the NACJB/OJJB concert.
Read some of OttawaJazzScene.ca's previous monthly previews: