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The Ottawa and Gatineau jazz scenes strut their stuff in August

It's a lower-key month in August, as the Ottawa jazz scene looks inwards.

Vocalist Denielle Bassels and clarinetist Jacob Gorzhaltsan were a hit at Merrickville's Jazzfest in 2014. Their swinging jazz energizes GigSpace on August 20.  ©Brett Delmage, 2014

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While some visiting musicians are back in Ottawa, including the Sultans of String, Boston saxophonist Benny Sharoni, NYC vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia and guitarist Rez Abbasi, Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels, and Toronto bassist Dan Fortin, what you'll hear this month is mostly home-grown – and in some new combinations.

Look for high-profile shows featuring pianist Steve Boudreau, Afro-Cuban vocalist Caridad Cruz and pianist Miguel de Armas, guitarist Rômmel Ribeiro, and Modasaurus, as well as a tribute to ground-breaking jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus.'s August jazz highlights are brought to you by Peggy  Holloway, Alrick  Huebener, Nancy  Preston, Richard  Thibodeau, Peter  Turner, Judd  Richardson, Chris  Smelser, Mike  Steinberg, and Riek  van  den  Berg. We greatly appreciate their financial support that helps to continue serving the jazz community every day of the year.

For many local jazz musicians, this month is also a chance to polish their skills – with three jazz camps this month. The longest-running, JazzWorks, is two hours outside of Ottawa, at CAMMAC Music Centre in Quebec (north of Hawkesbury), and runs from August 18-21. The other two are in town – the Carleton University Jazz Camp from August 8 to 12, and the Ottawa Brass Bootcamp from August 15-19 – and are each offering public concerts by students and faculty.

Violinist Chris McKhool and sitar player Anwar Khurshid easily crossed musical boundaries in their Sultans of String show at the NAC in April. They're back at Chamberfest on August 2.  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Chamberfest stretches into the first few days of August. The last concert in its late-night Chamberfringe series is on Tuesday, August 2, and features the Toronto world music/jazz group, the Sultans of String at La Nouvelle Scène. As in their April show at the National Arts Centre, the Sultans are collaborating with master sitar player Anwar Khurshid to create music informed by jazz, folk, and Pakistani music – much of it from their new joint album, Subcontinental Drift. Read the review of their NAC show.

Also on August 2: the Beeched Wailers are hosting their monthly composers' series as part of their jam session in Hintonburg. For the last hour of the jam, the Wailers will perform with Ottawa vocalist and composer Megan Jerome. Jerome's own music is primarily insightful cabaret-style songs sung over jazz instrumentals, but she's also sung pure jazz and plays piano and Wurlitzer. Expect new takes on both her and the Wailers' music – and maybe a few standards, too.

Saturday, August 6: From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., you can tap your toes to Dixieland – and benefit the community. Cuppa Soup, musicians who have loved old-timey jazz for many years, will play outdoors on George Street in the ByWard Market, and accept your donations for the Shepherds of Good Hope. Can't make that date? They'll be back in the same location on Friday, August 26, again from 4:30 to 7:30.

Wayne Eagles collaborates with pianist James McGowan in one of the Carleton University Jazz Camp's faculty concerts  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

August 8 to 11: Every year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp offers public concerts by the jazz musicians teaching at the camp. This year, however, it's presenting them in the late afternoon, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., instead of in the evening, although still in Kailash Mital Theatre at the university. On Monday, August 8, master pianist Brian Browne takes centre stage, playing solo and with other musicians, and celebrating the joy of classic and modern jazz standards.

Tuesday, August 9: pianist James McGowan and guitarist Wayne Eagles continue their long-standing musical friendship with an hour of tunes by each of them, complemented by one or two jazz-fusion standards. And on Wednesday, August 10, guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/flutist Elise Letourneau – who have been collaborating for more than 25 years in marriage and in music – will present some of their favourite jazz standards. On Thursday, August 11, you can hear a sextet of some of the best jazz musicians in town, including saxophonist Mike Tremblay, trumpeter Nick Dyson,   trombonist Ryan Purchase, pianist Mark Ferguson, double bassist John Geggie, and drummer Mike Essoudry. They'll be playing some of their own compositions and standards.

Friday, August 12: the jazz camp students take over for a free concert: starting at 7 p.m., they'll play the jazz – lots of standards and maybe even a few of their own pieces – which they've been working on all week.

Across the Ottawa River, the City of Gatineau is showing off local and Quebec culture with many free concerts this summer, which may also give you a chance to explore parts of that city you haven't seen before.

On Tuesday, August 9, you can hear Ayrad at Place de la Francophonie (1 Wellington Street in vieux Hull, in the island just west of Terrasses de la Chaudière). The six-member collective of multi-instrumentalists “explores myriad musical styles, shifting from Andalusian and Berber rhythms to Reggae, Raï and Latin grooves” – with lots of improvisation. Besides its own compositions, the group breathes new life into pieces drawn from the Maghrebian, Arab-Andalusian and Moroccan-Jewish repertoires.

Kiran Ahluwalia will perform music from her new CD, Sanata: Stillness, at her show in Aylmer August 10. (photo by Rez Abbasi)Wednesday, August 10: world/jazz vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia gives a free, outdoor concert at Parc de l'Imaginaire in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau. Originally from India, Ahluwalia was raised in Canada before moving to New York City, and has won two Juno Awards. She's married to acclaimed jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi, who will also be performing with her.

She's presenting her new CD, Sanata: Stillness, which combines Indian and Pakistani musical inspirations with jazz and Western Saharan blues. Ahluwalia says she's trying to create a new hybrid genre, blurring “the musical boundaries between my Indian background, influences from Western sounds and the things I love from the Sahara.” Her songs speak about “the unattainable, both the beloved and the divine, realizing female desire by throwing away all shame, and untying the knots that bind us to stale embraces.”

The show will be cancelled in case of rain. Bring a lawn-chair or a blanket to sit on. The Park is directly on the NCC path along the Gatineau side of the river. It's a wonderful ride there - but bring lights for the trip home.

Saturday, August 13: American saxophonist Benny Sharoni is at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, as part of a Canadian mini-tour. A straight-ahead player, he “fuses together the classic bop influences of Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Steve Grossman”, and then flavours them with Latin rhythms. Originally a flutist, he was drawn to the sound of the saxophone, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1986 to study jazz performance at Berklee School of Music. He's released two albums: Eternal Elixir and Slant Signature.

Or, if you'd prefer a Latin vibe that night, you can hear Miguel de Armas' new Cuban group, Sabor de Cuba, with seven musicians and two singers including Caridad Cruz. They will play classic salsa, cha cha cha, mambo and more in a free show at Danse Mania! at Place de la Cité in suburban Gatineau (at the corner of boulevard de la Gappe et boulevard de la Cité, near the Maison de la Culture).

Besides their Tuesday night jams, the Beeched Wailers will also play in the Ottawa Brass Bootcamp jazz concert on August 18. Seen here: Nick Dyson and Tyler Harris. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Tuesday, August 16: the local quintet Ritmomix, composed of musicians from several Latin cultures and countries, will contribute their energy, charisma, and passion to a show in the Mardis Classiques series at Parc des Deux-Ruisseaux in Gatineau. Bring your lawn-chairs. In case of rain, the show will move to a nearby school.

Also on August 16: vocalist Flavia Nascimento sings the spicy rhythms of Brazil in her rich, warm voice, in a free concert at Place de la Francophonie in Gatineau. She has recently released a new, self-titled mini-album, including original compositions, and classics of forró, the traditional music of northeastern Brazil, and Música Popular Brasileira, some of which she has translated into French.

Like trumpet? Like trombone? On Thursday, August 18, you can hear the jazz side of the Ottawa Brass Bootcamp, as the students present their jazz recital, followed by a set by The Beeched Wailers featuring Mark Ferguson.

Friday, August 19: two very promising young jazz musicians play a trio show at Pressed in Centretown West, along with well-known Ottawa drummer Mike Essoudry. Saxophonist Sam Cousineau is entering his last year at McGill, while bassist Ben Heard is starting his second year at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Modasaurus will present originals including jazz-fusion, gospel, funk, third-stream, and global music influences, on August 19 and 20 at Brookstreet. .©Brett Delmage, 2016

August 19 and 20: a new Ottawa jazz group, Modasaurus, plays Brookstreet. It consists of the members of the long-standing HML Trio (drummer Jamie Holmes, guitarist Alex Moxon, and bassist J.P. Lapensée) plus pianist and composer James McGowan. They primarily play McGowan's tunes, with a wide-ranging jazz-fusion palette that incorporates gospel, funk, third-stream, and global music influences. They're working on their first CD, with several tracks recorded last winter and another recording session booked for the end of this month.

Modasaurus debuted in May at GigSpace, and this show will include new material written since then, as well as pieces by local composers such as Mark Ferguson and Alex Moxon. Special guests, including saxophonist Mike Tremblay and guitarist Wayne Eagles, will also sit in.

Saturday, August 20: Jesse Stewart will be give a percussion performance and clinic, and answer questions, during the Arboretum Festival's free afternoon shows downtown. Stewart will be on at noon, playing in the parking lot behind Spaceman Music Store and Dave's Drum Shop on Gladstone, just west of Bank Street. Stewart is a highly inventive musician who plays everything from regular drumset to handpan, and also has been known to make music from stones, fire, water, ice, balloons, and even a cardboard box.

Also on at noon that day, Modasaurus will perform a free concert in the Glebe, at the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church. They'll feature guest vocalist Michael C. Hanna, who is as equally at home singing spirituals as he is with vocalese.

That evening, Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels is finally back in Ottawa. Two years ago, Bassels and her quintet brought the house down at Merrickville's jazz fest, with a high-energy show combining swing, jazz, gypsy jazz, and a touch of funk. They took jazz standards, songs made popular by Nina Simone and Edith Piaf, a movie theme, and a pop song, and then added originals – and brought the audience to their feet, dancing and applauding.

Steve Boudreau is giving listeners a second chance to hear his tribute to George Gershwin on August 26 at GigSpace. The next night, he'll be part of a tribute to Charles Mingus.©Brett Delmage, 2015

For this show, the group (including saxophonist and clarinetist Jacob Gorzhaltsan, who was particularly impressive in Merrickville) will perform a mix of standards from 30's to 60's to modern day, all given a swinging vibe. Bassels is about to release her first full-length CD this fall, and will also sing some of her original songs, including a pre-release of one of the CD's singles, "Dreamer".

In June, Steve Boudreau's tribute to George Gershwin's music sold out very quickly, leaving some disappointed listeners. He's bringing it back again to GigSpace on Friday, August 26, again with drummer Michel Delage but this time with a different bassist: Dan Fortin from Toronto. Boudreau recently recorded some of this material for his first trio album, but that CD was with yet another double bassist, Ottawa master John Geggie.

The trio will explore some of the lesser-known gems in the iconic American pianist's repertoire, arranged by Boudreau. He said he's hoping to add a few new Gershwin arrangements for this show. Boudreau has previously performed tributes to Oscar Peterson and Thelonious Monk, and is also well-known as a composer.

Saturday, August 27: Delage brings his monthly tribute series to Brookstreet, this time honouring iconoclastic and influential jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus. It's the same line-up as for Boudreau's show the night before, but with a very different vibe. Dan Fortin will be channeling the work of a musician who was not only recognized as a highly proficient bass player, but who produced some of the greatest jazz of the 20th century.

Mingus fought for equality, human rights and freedom through his music, and was a major innovator in his longer compositions, espousing collective improvisation and combining jazz and classical idioms. His best-known piece is probably the elegiac “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”.

Also on August 27: the Mercury Lounge is celebrating the return of Brazilian-Canadian guitarist and vocalist Rômmel Ribeiro to Ottawa. Ribeiro has spent the last year at the University of Liverpool in England, studying music on an exchange program. This summer, he went back to his native Brazil, both in Rio de Janeiro and in his hometown of Sao Luis, playing with many of the long-time musicians there. He is travelling back to Ottawa via San Francisco and NYC.

This month, Michel Delage pays tribute to iconoclastic jazz bassist Charles Mingus at Brookstreet on August 27. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

At his welcome-back party, Ribeiro will perform with Ottawa musicians including Tariq Amery on sax and flute – playing fresh songs written on the road, plus pieces from his last two albums, Nada Direito and Egologico Recycle. He will also be interpreting songs by several Brazilian songwriters from Sao Luis: Betto Pereira, Marceleza, and Adnon Soares.

Also on August 27: you can hear Sabor de Cuba play their regular monthly show at the British Hotel in Aylmer.

Of course, there's lots more jazz happening in August in Ottawa-Gatineau. Many local restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses across the city showcase jazz every week (or more often), with a rotating list of performers.

Jams also continue over the summer with Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau; Tuesday with the Beeched Wailers at the Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg; and Thursdays with The HML Trio at Brookstreet in Kanata. At Jazz Mondays, pianist Adam Saikaley takes the helm in several trio combinations, plus his reggae-jazz crossover group the Treasure Dub Quartet on August 22.

Read our up-to-date listings of clubs and restaurants which offer jazz to get the full picture.

       – Alayne McGregor

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