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Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July

Updated July 13, 2016
July is a great time for jazz stay-cation in Ottawa. On this month are five local music festivals which include at least some jazz shows, a local jazz CD release, and jazz concerts and club shows all over town.

Lorraine Desmarais will be featured in the Festival de Jazz Desjardins at the end of July. ©Brett Delmage, 2012Appearing in July are seasoned jazz pianist Tommy Banks, jive musician Joe Jackson, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, pianist Oliver Jones, drummer Tim Shia, saxophonist Petr Cancura with two Brooklyn musicians, Dutch improvising cellist Ernst Reijseger, percussionist Jesse Stewart, baritone saxophonist David Mott, drummer Dafnis Prieto, guitarist Kevin Breit, saxophonist Jane Bunnett with her Cuban-based group Maqueque, guitarist Mike Rud, violinist Drew Jurecka, clarinetist James Campbell, bassist Dave Young, pianist Gene DiNovi, vocalist Terez Montcalm with pianist Lorraine Desmarais – and a saxophone quartet with the delightful name of Syrène Saxofoonkwartet.

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The month opens with the final three days of the Ottawa Jazz Festival (read the full schedule). Then in short order follow four more festivals: Music & Beyond, Bluesfest, Chamberfest, and Le Festival de Jazz Desjardins. First up are Music & Beyond (for classical music) and the Ottawa Bluesfest (for everything else).

Music & Beyond has often showcased jazz musicians who also have a classical side. This year, it has two – both of whom started playing before many of's readers were born.

Tuesday, July 5: the 79-year-old pianist Tommy Banks will appear with trumpeter Jens Lindemann at Dominion Chalmers United Church. In the first set, they'll perform both classical pieces and compositions by Duke Ellington and Jerome Kern, with the NAC Orchestra. In the second set, Banks and Lindemann will join up with well-known Montreal jazz musicians bassist Éric Lagacé and drummer Dave Laing to perform a tribute to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.'s  July jazz highlights are brought to you by Barry Cooper, GigSpace, Adrian Matte, James McGowan, Alexander Mommers, Debbie Reinhart, Marcia Rodriguez, Bernard Stepien, and John Upper. We greatly appreciate their financial support that helps to continue serving the jazz community every day of the year.

Oliver Jones' Trio will perform a hommage to Oscar Peterson at the Music & Beyond festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Banks' career has spanned more than 60 years, as a jazz and classical pianist, conductor, arranger, and composer. He led a jazz quintet at Expo 67; he hosted, performed on, and arranged and conducted music for The Tommy Banks Show, a TV talk show broadcast on CBC-TV from 1968–74 and 1980–83. In the 1970s, Banks occasionally hosted the CBC's Jazz Radio-Canada, which also regularly featured his jazz quartet and big band. His big band performed at the 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland; a double LP of its concert there won the Juno Award for Best Jazz Album. He and Lindemann were also nominated for a Juno this year for their CD, Legacy Live.

Monday, July 11: 81-year-old pianist Oliver Jones continues his farewell tour with a show at Dominion Chalmers United Church. You thought he bade farewell to Ottawa in May at the National Arts Centre? This concert's quite different from his NAC show (read our review of that show): Jones will perform his favourite classical pieces solo in the first half, and then will reunite with Lagacé and drummer Jim Doxas in the second half for a hommage to Oscar Peterson.

On the vocal front, Music & Beyond is also presenting Chanticleer, dubbed an “orchestra of voices”, on Saturday, July 16. The repertoire of the 12-member male chorus is primarily classical, but also includes spirituals and jazz.

Bluesfest concentrates on rock and blues acts, but sometimes stretches to jazz or jazz-influenced musicians. On Thursday, July 7, pianist/vocalist Joe Jackson will hit its City Stage in LeBreton Flats, playing from his latest album, which includes collaborations with well-known jazz musicians Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, and Donald Harrison (although none of those are in his band for this show). In his long career, Jackson has touched on many styles, but is particularly well-known for re-popularizing jive music; he was an early impetus for the Jivewires .

July means jazz outdoors! Outdoor fans can hear Miguel de Armas in another outdoor festival this month . ©Brett Delmage, 2016Bluesfest is also a great time to hear the generation of Ottawa jazz musicians in their 20s and 30s: those who have been honing their craft in local clubs and jam sessions, and trying out new combinations and cross-overs. They're displaying several of their projects on smaller Bluesfest stages this year, starting with the Lucas Haneman Express' blistering blues and funk grooves (July 8). You can hear the reggae-jazz crossover of the Treasure Dub Quartet on July 9, followed on July 10 by Thrust, a power trio which fuses funk and soul with electronica and hip-hop. On July 15, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, who have just recorded their third album, play their combination of jazz, funk, and neo-soul [read our review of their Winter Jazz Festival show],

But there's lots happening outside festivals in the first two weeks of July, too.

Sunday, July 3: the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) present several of their favourite musicians, playing highly improvised music, at the Hintonburg performance space House of Common. Featured is Gatineau-based Instant Places, with long-time partners Ian Birse on laptop and Laura Kavanaugh on laptop, violin, and vocals, plus the Montreal group Sound of the Mountain, with trumpeter and IMOO co-founder Craig Pedersen with clarinetist Elizabeth Millar.

Also on July 3, the Avalon Jazz Band will perform hot jazz with influences from gypsy jazz (jazz manouche) and zazou at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau. The band has been playing in NYC since 2012; its style has been inspired the jazz played in Paris in the 1930s and 40s, particularly the Hot Club of France, created by Django Reinhardt et Stéphane Grappelli. They also sing songs made popular by Jean Sablon, Yves Montand, Lucienne Delyle, Juliette Gréco, and in particular, Charles Trenet.

Thursday, July 7: the other IMOO co-founder, saxophonist Linsey Wellman, teams up with keyboard player/DJ Adam Saikaley for another show at House of Common. They'll each play a solo set. Wellman will perform selections from his new album, Manifesto, followed by a joint set.

Tuesday, July 5: the Beeched Wailers hold their monthly Composers' series during their weekly jam at the Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg. This month, they're showcasing the music of local guitarist Alex Moxon - a frequent presence on Ottawa;s jazz scene- and will play a number of his compositions together with him.

Wednesday, July 6: Django Libre brings in guitarist Justin Duhaime as a special guest for their monthly celebration of jazz manouche at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau. That same evening, the Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer opens its summer world/jazz music series with the award-winning Montreal klezmer group Kleztory, whose influences include jazz and swing. Their energetic shows blend “artistic virtuosity with numerous tempo changes, irregular rhythms, dissonance and an element of improvisation”.

Thursday, July 7: local musicians can get some hints on how to pry royalties out of SOCAN with the free workshop, “SOCAN: Do they owe you money?”. Ottawa Music Bus will present it at Live! on Elgin.

Friday, July 8: Chicago clarinetist James Falzone and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart will perform for the first time together at The Record Centre. Falzone is a clarinetist, composer, and improviser who "works at the intersection of jazz, classical and world music traditions". Similarly, Stewart straddles a variety of musical traditions, from straight jazz to free improv and the unclassifiable Stretch Orchestra.

Doug Martin releases his new CD in July, inspired by his interactions with musicians and ordinary people on the streets of Havana. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9: Ottawa saxophonist Doug Martin releases his third album, Spirit of Survival, in two shows with his quartet at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. The original compositions on the album are inspired by Martin's experiences in his two trips to Cuba and by his interactions with musicians and ordinary people on the streets of Havana. On the second trip, in December 2014, Martin performed with three Cuban musicians at the Havana Jazz Festival.

Friday, July 8: the Glenn Miller Orchestra brings together more than 20 musicians and singers to show off the swing bandleader's inimitable sound at the Centrepointe Theatre. With classics like “In the Mood”, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, “String of Pearls”, and “Tuxedo Junction”, the concert will bring the Swing Era back to life.

Saturday, July 9: Israeli-NYC jazz vocalist Sivan Arbel releases her debut album, Broken Lines, in a show at the Mercury Lounge. Arbel is on tour to promote the new album, which contains music written on and inspired by three continents – in Israel, where she was born and raised; in Dublin, Ireland, where she studied jazz; and most recently in NYC, where she has lived and performed since 2014. The CD's title represents the way Arbel shapes her songs: “like a meandering broken line, her music develops and travels through different forums as she allows the music to flow through her.” Her vocals combine soulfulness with improvisation, “rhythmic games that carries the harmony with Sivan's three-horn arrangements in the compositions.”

If you missed this show, Sivan Arbel will be back for a second show with the same quintet of Ottawa musicians (Alex Moxon, Mike Essoudry, Alex Bilodeau, Ed Lister, and Roland Rácz) at the Ranbow on Tuesday, July 19.

Sunday and Monday, July 10 and 11: young Ottawa-raised jazz saxophonist Chris Maskell brings his Montreal-based quartet to Ottawa for two shows: the first at Pressed on the Sunday, and second hosting Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago on the Monday. The band, which operates as a collective, will play choice jazz standards, and originals written by each member of the group – creating “nuanced, creative and exciting music”.

Wednesday. July 13: Zal Sissokho, originally from Senegal and now from Montreal, plays the kora, accompanied by his group Buntalo at Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer. Their repertoire consists of original creations by Zal Sissokho and Manu Pelé as well as classical Mandinka pieces, which he sings in Mandinka and Wolof.

Friday, July 15: vocalist Natalie L'amour will present “Retro Heart” at the Avant-Garde Bar downtown, together with guitarist Roland Doucet. She will be singing jazz standards made popular by artists like Billie Holiday, Etta James, Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, plus numbers from Patsy Cline, The Andrews Sisters, Nora Jones, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles.

Friday and Saturday, July 15 and 16: Toronto drummer Tim Shia brings his jazz band, The Worst Pop Band Ever (WPBE), to Brookstreet. The WPBEis on a mini-tour of New York, Montreal and Niagara falls this month, celebrating their tenth anniversary and the release of their new album, Blackout. The album is their musical take on what transpired in Toronto during the Great Northeastern Blackout of 2003.

Shia was most recently heard here playing in Bamboo Groove with Peter Liu [watch our video of the show]; he also has performed with jazz and world artists including Amanda Martinez, Elizabeth Shepherd, Richard Underhill, Julie Michels, and Kevin Barrett. The band also includes Juno winner Adrean Farrugia on piano (recently heard at Brookstreet in a tribute to Thelonious Monk), and Chris Gale on saxophone, with special guest Montreal bassist Levi Dover. The WPBE allows them to combine their love of improvisational jazz and indie pop.

Alex Moxon's Alive Ensemble returns to Irene's to pay tribute to the music of 1960s and 70s jazz guitarist Grant Green on July 22  ©Brett Delmage, 2016Young local violinist William Lamoureux has created quite a storm of interest lately, playing with everyone from pop bands to jazz vocalist Nicole Ratté. You can hear him with several adventurous Toronto musicians who play both jazz and world music on Wednesday, July 20, when So Long Seven appears in a free show at Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer. The group creates richly textured acoustic music which “fuses their many musical influences into a unique Canadian voice, at once playful and meditative”. The group enriches its original music with an unusual instrumentation: tabla (Ravi Naimpaly), five-string banjo (Tim Posgate), violin and vocals (Lamoureux), and mandolin and acoustic guitar (Neil Hendry).

From Thursday, July 21 to Saturday, July 23, you can hear a series of Latin-influenced groups for free in Vieux Hull (downtown Gatineau) at Festival Kafé-Karamel. On July 21, there's the wide-ranging sound palette of Sound Proof; on July 22, the tango nuevo of Norteño, followed by the Lottawence Latin Orchestra playing salsa, chacha and bachata. On the evening of July 23, Rafael and his Energía Dominicana from Montreal present sensual Latin music, followed by Sabor de Cuba, a new group of Ottawa musicians led by pianist Miguel de Armas performing Cuban music, including salsa, cha cha cha, and mambo.

Friday, July 22: Alex Moxon will bring back his Alive! Ensemble, which pays tribute to the music of 1960s and 70s jazz guitarist Grant Green, to Irene's. It's a high-energy show featuring some of the best jazz musicians in the city, playing the intense soul jazz and organ trio music which the jazz/bop guitarist made famous. [Read our review of the group at Irene's in February.]

That same evening, July 22, saxophonist Petr Cancura is importing two of his favourite musicians from his former life in Brooklyn: drummer Rob Garcia and bassist Matt Pavolka. They'll be together at GigSpace, playing original music in the classic instrumental arrangement of saxophone-bass-drums. Both Garcia and Pavolka are well-known in the New York scene as composers, each leading several bands.

Besides his Asian-influenced music and jazz standards, vocalist Peter Liu also loves swing music and has played for many swing dances. On Wednesday, July 27, Liu, together with the Pollcats led by clarinetist Scott Poll, will play “Bytown Swing Live” at Live! on Elgin. You can hear – and dance to – authentic vocal swing music in the style of the Golden Age of jazz of the 1930s and 1940’s. Experienced teachers will also provide an introductory Lindy Hop lesson. Attendees are asked to bring an extra pair of indoor shoes for dancing, and period attire is encouraged but optional.

Mike Rud is Michel Delage's special guest in his Brookstreet series, which pays tribute to renowned jazz guitarist George Benson this month.  ©Brett Delmage, 2012The last weekend in July, Michel Delage restarts his tribute series at Brookstreet. On July 29 and 30, he will present a tribute to renowned jazz guitarist George Benson, together with Montreal guitarist Mike Rud and bassist Alex Bilodeau. While George Benson is best known for his Grammy-winning song, “On Broadway”, he's had a long jazz career, playing with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Freddie Hubbard, and winning 10 Grammies for albums spanning successful jazz, pop, and R&B.

Can't make it out to Kanata? You'll also be able to hear a shorter version of the tribute on Sunday, July 31, at the Record Centre, in the afternoon.

As it started, July ends with more festivals: the annual Festival de Jazz Desjardins in Aylmer, and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival.

The Desjardins festival is held in a small park near the river in Aylmer, across the road from the Aylmer Marina. Each year, during the last week of July, it presents four outdoor jazz concerts with Ottawa and Quebec musicians. The concerts are cancelled in case of rain, but generally the weather is great and the combination of music and scenery is warm and inviting. There's no food or drink nearby, so eat early or bring a picnic dinner (or as we have done, grab a pizza on the way).

This year, the musicians being featured are the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet (Wednesday, July 27); the Gatineau funk/jazz/hip-hop group FUNK-A-TRON 5000 (July 28); and Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura (July 29). The highest-profile show is on Saturday, July 30, with the trio of Montreal vocalist Terez Montcalm along with acclaimed Quebec pianist Lorraine Desmarais.

Your other jazz choices at the end of July are at Chamberfest: particularly its late-night Chamberfringe concerts. This year, the late-night concerts have moved a few blocks within Lowertown, and will now be held at the newly-rebuilt La Nouvelle Scène (on King Edward, just north of Rideau Street). Other earlier-evening concerts will be held at Dominion Chalmers United Church in Centretown.

Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger will perform several times at Chamberfest ©Brett Delmage, 2014One of the most exciting artists expected at Chamberfest is Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger. Reijseger is a prodigously talented cellist and a notable showman, whom we have seen take his instrument to dimensions rarely reached by more conventional musicians. He'll be featured in several concerts, as will Toronto violin virtuoso Drew Jurecka.

You can read the full, updated listings of Chamberfest jazz-related offerings, from Duke Ellington to free improv, in our 2016 Chamberfest article.

One of the joys of summer is listening to jazz outdoors on patios. La Roma is featuring guitarist Tim Bedner with a rotating series of guests each Friday evening on the patio; every Wednesday you can hear trumpeter Kelly Craig and his group outdoors at Social, if it doesn't rain; and on Thursdays, you can hear jazz at Bistro Ambrosia in Aylmer (this cafe closed on July 13). The Artist Showcase at Cafe Nostalgica, with young trumpeter Andrew Knox and his band Feelin' Nostalgic, has also played outdoors; this month they'll be on July 13, and on July 27 (with William O'Neill as featured vocalist).

Jams also continue over the summer with Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago (this month with Richard Page, Michel Delage, and Alex Bilodeau), Tuesday with the Beeched Wailers at the Wellington Eatery, and Thursdays with The HML Trio at Brookstreet. Read our up-to-date listings of clubs and restaurants which offer jazz to get the full picture.

    – Alayne McGregor

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July 6: Updated the description of Bytown Swing Live on July 27. Added an extra show for the George Benson Tribute. Added the James Falzone/Jesse Stewart show on July 8.

July 13: Added Festival Kafé-Karamel. Added second show for Sivan Arbel. Noted that Bistro Ambrosia has closed.