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Hear the jazz world in January 2016 in Ottawa-Gatineau

Updated January 17, 2015
In January, visiting musicians will create the biggest sound in the Ottawa jazz scene.

Ben Grossman brings his hurdy gurdy to Ottawa as part of the Ottawa New Music Creators (ONMC) series ©Brett Delmage, 2012

While some notable concerts have been scheduled by Ottawa musicians, including Karen Oxorn's return to the stage, and new compositions from Steve Boudreau, there's a particularly good crop of fine jazz musicians from elsewhere in Canada performing in Ottawa this month.

From Toronto, look for Bill McBirnie on flute, saxophonist Bobby Hsu, guitarist Eric St. Laurent, iconoclastic jazz/hip hop group BADBADNOTGOOD, the percussion/sax/trumpet quintet DRUMHAND, saxophonist Paul Newman in duets with saxophonist Karen Ng and trombonist Heather Segger, and guitarist Kevin Barrett. From Quebec, there's “tango nuevo” group Norteño, and Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba – who teams up with Ben Grossman from Guelph on hurdy-gurdy. American free-jazz accoprdionist Pauline Oliveros will perform with Canadian and international improvisers. And to finish off the month, two Europeans: German pianist Florian Hoefner appears in a free concert with a high-powered quartet featuring Canadian ex-pat saxophonist Seamus Blake, while Israeli-Italian pianist Yakir Arbib will be presenting new experimental jazz pieces with New York percussionist Roberto Giaquinto.

The first weekend of the year set the style.

NYC drummer Andrew Kushnir – no slouch himself – brought two fine Montreal musicians, Adrian Vedady and Josh Rager, for his trio gig at Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge on January 1 and 2, playing jazz classics. Kushnir will be back again in Ottawa on Sunday, January 10, this time playing at the Rainbow Bistro with two Ottawa musicians: bassist Alex Bilodeau and guitarist Garry Elliott.

On Thursday, January 8, you can hear new jazz voices at the Avant-Garde Bar downtown, with the seven-piece jazz combo Adema and the No Bones, led by trombonist Nicholas Adema. Several of the musicians perform in local student bands like the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Nepean All-City Jazz Band. The septet will perform classic jazz standards.

Florquestra will energize Claudia Salguero's house concert series on January 16 ©2015 Brett Delmage

January 8 and 9 will provide some great listening opportunities for fans of jazz flute. On Friday and Saturday, Montreal vocalist and flutist Kimberley Beyea brings her trio to Brookstreet. Beyea was most recently in Ottawa in August, launching her CD Memories of Sarah, which pays tribute to vocalist Sarah Vaughn. The CD includes songs spanning three decades of Vaughn's career, such as “Tenderly” and “Lullaby of Birdland”, as well as three original songs.

On the Saturday, Toronto “Extreme Flute” player Bill McBirnie will appear at GigSpace with Ottawa jazz veterans Mark Ferguson on piano and John Geggie on double bass. McBirnie is a long-time jazz flutist and improviser on the Toronto scene, with finely-honed technique born of classical flute training and decades of practice and experimentation. He was solicited personally by renowned classical flutist Sir James Galway to serve as his resident Jazz Flute Specialist at Sir James’ official web site, and performed in concert with Galway last year in Toronto.

McBirnie has collaborated on four acoustic jazz CDs with Toronto piano masters including Bernie Senensky, Mark Eisenman, and Robi Botos, and will be performing a mix of standards and his own and Ferguson's originals. Both he and Ferguson share a deep love of Latin music – McBirnie has released two CDs with Brazilian guitarist and percussionist Bruce Jones, including his most recent CD – so you can expect some warm Latin grooves as well. McBirnie will also be offering a flute and improvisation clinic that afternoon at Long & McQuade in Alta Vista,

Also on that weekend is a JazzN.ca house concert in Almonte which will raise funds for the Almonte General Hospital/Fairview Manor and the Carleton Place & District Memorial Hospital. It will feature the Herbie's Hill quintet, led by Steve Boudreau and Michel Delage, paying tribute to the music of 60s jazz trailblazers Herbie Nichols and Andrew Hill.

Toronto's “Extreme Flute” player Bill McBirnie makes a rare appearance in Ottawa this month. photo by Diane Aubie

The Ottawa Jazz scene has sorely missed pianist Brian Browne, who has been recovering from cancer treatment. On January 13, he and his long-time collaborator, saxophonist Peter Woods, will present a noon-hour concert called “Wisdom For Winter” at Southminster United Church in Ottawa South. They will “bring light to the darkness with Jazz Standards, Hymns & Originals”. On January 30, Browne will perform with vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton for a dinner show at Festival Japan. (CANCELLED: Betty Ann will now be performing with pianist Tyson Chen).

On Thursday, January 14, the Rake-Star Arkestra invades the Mercury Lounge in the Market for another tribute to Sun Ra's music. Rake-star's shows are never exactly the same – no surprise with Sun Ra's huge repertoire – but always feature fascinating and unexpected combinations of sounds, skilled improvisations, and fine melodies and rhythms. There's great chemistry among the musicians, who include Rory Magill, Linsey Wellman, Rob Frayne, Scott Warren, Don Cummings, Mike Essoudry, David Broscoe, and John Sobol, with instruments ranging from varied saxes to flute to clarinet to Hammond organ to xylophone to drums to tape loops.

On Friday and Saturday, January 15 and 16, alto saxophonist Bobby Hsu brings his quartet to Brookstreet. Hsu is best known for his Sondheim Jazz Project, a jazz re-envisioning of the music of musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim.

On Saturday, January 16, pianist Steve Boudreau will present new compositions at GigSpace with his trio: Michel Delage on drums and John Geggie on double bass. Boudreau played with both musicians at last year's jazz festival for several evenings, hosting the late night jam sessions. He said he was “really excited to present some original music that I've been working on over the past several years” with them.

Also that evening, vocalist Claudia Salguero continues her series of house concerts in her artist studio. This evening, she's hosting Florquestra, who combine authentic and lively Brazilian rhythms (samba, forro, axé, and more) with the romantic music and poetic style of Georges Brassens.

On Sunday, January 17, the Standing Room Only big band comes to Ottawa. They're now in their tenth year of hosting monthly tea dances at the Almonte Town Hall (their next in Almonte is January 24). But now they're coming into Ottawa on the 17th, for an afternoon dance at the Glebe Community Centre with guest vocalist Pauline Proulx.

That evening, the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) present their first concert of 2016, at their new-ish location, Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa South (replacing the now-closed Raw Sugar Café). It's a CD release of long-scale duo compositions by Toronto (and ex-Ottawa) tenor saxophonist Peter Newman, in duet with two other well-known Toronto improvisers: alto saxophonist Karen Ng and trombonist Heather Segger.

On Wednesday, January 20, you can hear the James McGowan Quartet (McGowan on piano, Tariq Amery on sax and flute, Matt Devost on sax and clarinet, and William O’Neil on guitar) play for the monthly Jazz Vespers series at Knox Presbyterian Church downtown. Expect reverential but jazzy music.

Toronto guitarist Eric St. Laurent combines improvisation with Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, and blues. On Friday, January 22, he brings his trio (with Jordan O'Connor on bass and Michel DeQuevedo on percussion) to GigSpace, to play lyrical melodies and infectious grooves' with “a good dose of humour [to] round off the picture”.

Born in Montreal, St-Laurent studied improvisation in New York before moving to Berlin where he toured with both the big and small names of the German and Scandinavian music scenes. He won the SOCAN award for Best Original Composition at the Montreal Jazz Festival and The Best Band Award at the Vienne (France) Jazz Festival. He has been featured on over 50 recordings, produced multiple albums, composed scores for short films and theatre, and toured extensively in Europe and Canada, performing with musicians including Till Brönner, Dave Liebman, Dave Douglas, Slide Hampton, Richard Underhill, and David Binney.

Also on January 22, Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba) and Ben Grossman (hurdy-gurdy) will bring new sounds and ways of making sound – “raw and open” – to The Gallery Studios in the Glebe, presented by the Ottawa New Music Composers. “Both performers draw on a variety of musical traditions – from medieval music to Swedish folk, from musique-actuelle to electroacoustic.”

Adrian Vedady plays in Michel Delage's tribute to Lennie Tristano this month at Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge ©2015 Brett Delmage

The same evening, Toronto guitarist Kevin Barrett, who has taught for many years at the JazzWorks jazz camp, will appear at Zolas in Bells Corners. Barrett has collaborated with Toronto jazz singer Julie Michels, as well as with Patricia Cano, Gillian Margot, Molly Johnson, Lillian Allen, Kellylee Evans, Big Rude Jake, and DK Ibomeka.

BADBADNOTGOOD's last show in Ottawa in November – a benefit – completely sold out. They're back in Ottawa on January 22, together with the nine-person Montreal electrosoul/hip-hop collective Busty and the Bass, at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. The controversial jazz/hip-hop trio were nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2014 and 2015; their most recent album is Sour Soup [2015], a collaboration with rapper Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan.

On Saturday, January 23, Ottawa vocalist Gerri Trimble will bring her trio (with Kevin Barrett and bassist Normand Glaude) to Manotick for the new JazzN.ca house concert series south of Ottawa, performing “well-loved and rarer jazz tunes”.

That same evening, the world-music/jazz quartet Main Street Market performs at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, playing a blend of jazz, folk, African and Latin, in an acoustic format. Back in Ottawa at the NAC Fourth Stage, Norteño performs “Tango Nuevo” (a genre created by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla) in concert, accented by Pierre-Paul Provencher on bandonéon. The group from Gatineau has performed its mix of compositions by Piazzolla and Provencher several times at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

On Wednesday, January 27, young trumpeter Andrew Knox starts a bi-weekly series at Café Nostalgica, featuring local vocalists, along with his Feelin' Nostalgic quintet of Carleton University students. This show will feature jazz/pop singer Vivian Lim.

Michel Delage continues his jazz tribute series at Brookstreet on January 29 and 30. This time, he's paying tribute to pianist and bebop innovator Lennie Tristano, whom Time Magazine dubbed the “Schoenberg of Jazz” in 1951. Tristano was a master improviser, and in 1949, made the first recording of group free jazz improv along with Lee Konitz. He brought much of the techniques and approaches of art music into bebop, and was particularly interested in feeling and spontaneity in the creation of music. He influenced everyone from Konitz to Charles Mingus to Gerry Mulligan to Dave Brubeck.

Together with guitarist Garry Elliott, bassist Adrian Vedady, and saxophonist Vince Rimbach, Delage will be performing music from several of Tristano's recordings.

Karen Oxorn resumes her live performances this month, including her annual birthday celebration concert  ©2015 Brett Delmage

Karen Oxorn is one vocalist not shy about revealing her birthday. In fact, this is the third year in a row she's used it as the theme for a show. On January 29 and 30, she's presenting a double-header of concerts called “From 0 to 60: A Birthday Celebration in Song”. The Friday show is at GigSpace and the Saturday at The Baldachin Dining Room in Merrickville.

The shows, which Oxorn is performing with pianist Steve Boudreau, will celebrate her return to singing after a six-month interregnum to deal with other priorities. Oxorn said she'll use the set-list to reflect back on “the wide range of music and artists that I have enjoyed”, with jazz standards “made popular by some of my favourite interpreters”, plus pop, folk and musical theatre numbers which reflect her journey in music.

Saturday, January 30 has even more happening. At Pressed Café in Centretown West, the DRUMHAND quintet – three percussionists, one saxophonist, and one trumpeter – will present its mix of rhythms of West Africa, Cuba, India and Brazil with jazz-imbued horns. The group is influenced by New Orleans parade bands but also has a notable world music influence, with compositions featuring the one-stringed ‘stomach harp’ of Brazil or the box-shaped Gome foot-drum, alongside flutes and horns from around the globe, and vocals in a variety of languages.

At St. Brigid's in Lowertown, the German Embassy will present the Florian Hoefner Group. German-born jazz pianist Hoefner, who notably collaborated with Kurt Rosenwinkel, is on a cross-Canada tour to promote his third album, Luminosity. It features Seamus Blake on tenor and soprano saxophone, Sam Anning on bass, and Peter Kronreif on drums. A preview of this new material at the Montréal Jazz Festival 2015 resulted in Hoefner winning the Stingray Rising Star Award for his compositions. The album is infused with a diversity of styles including contemporary classical music, but also borrows from the traditional music of Hoefner's new home in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Admission to the concert is free, but requires pre-registration .

At the University of Ottawa, Israeli-Italian pianist Yakir Arbib will perform new experimental jazz pieces with New York percussionist Roberto Giaquinto. Guitarist Amy Brandon (formerly of Ottawa, now living in Nova Scotia) will open the show. Arbib and Giaquinto are on a five-show tour of Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.

Floyd Hutchinson is one of several male vocalists whom Garry Elliott is featuring this month in his regular series ©2012 Brett Delmage

Arbib is versed both in classical music and jazz, and won the Massimo Urbani International Jazz Award in 2008. At age 19 , he was signed by the European record label Philology, and released his first album, Portrait. In July 2015 he won the second prize at the Montreux International Piano Jazz Competition, and was declared "the most extremely original pianist" by the jury.

In continuing series, guitarist Garry Elliott continues his Wednesday evening shows with local male and female vocalists at Santé in the Market, while guitarist Tim Bedner is back at La Roma on Thursday nights, this month in duets with horn players. On Sunday nights this month, drummer Ken Harper will play with his trio at Irene's, along with a special guest each night.

On Mondays, vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton brings her duo to the Second Cup on Bank Street South
(UPDATE January 6: this show has been cancelled for the remainder of January, but will resume in February.).

Play well with others? You can find a jazz jam session many nights of the week: Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau (1 minute drive from the Quebec end of the Chaudière Bridge, and near the #8 OC Transpo route terminus), Tuesday nights with the Beeched Wailers at the Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg, and Thursdays with the HML Trio at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata.

On Friday, January 8, vocalist Jacquie Dixon will present her monthly jam session at the Georgetown Sports Pub in Ottawa South, with host band Red Jazz. JazzWorks presents its Sunday afternoon jazz jam at Bluesfest House on January 10, with guitarist Tim Bedner as mentor, and its monthly evening jam on Friday, January 15, at the Georgetown .

Going into February, the first week of that month is graced with a cornucopia of jazz: R&B/jazz vocalist Ferline Regis at the NAC Fourth Stage, in the start of a new Black Music Series put on by local producer Yasmina Provencher; percussionist Jesse Stewart and Montreal vocalist Jeri Brown at GigSpace; the second installment of Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/folk series at the NAC, this time with long-time Ottawa songwriter Lynn Miles; and the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

    – Alayne McGregor

Update January 6: The Betty Ann Bryanton shows at the Second Cup have been cancelled for the remainder of January, but will resume in February.

Update January 17: Betty Ann Bryanton will perform with Tyson Chen, not Brian Browne, on January 30.

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