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2016 Carleton U Jazz Camp goes all-Ottawa, with afternoon concerts

The Carleton University Jazz Camp is sticking closer to home this year.

The camp, which runs from August 8 to 12, will be featuring its long-time Ottawa faculty this year, and not bringing in any instructors from out of town. It also has moved its faculty concerts, which are open to the public, from the evening to the afternoon.

The Carleton University Jazz Camp won't be bringing in outside musicians like John MacLeod (l) this year, or featuring a big band, because of budget cuts ©Brett Delmage, 2012

In its previous six years, the camp had been regularly including one to four instructors each year from elsewhere in Canada, and even renowned American saxophonist Dave Liebman in 2014.

The instructors are a who's-who of Ottawa's jazz scene, including double bassist John Geggie, drummer Mike Essoudry, trombonist/pianist Mark Ferguson, guitarist Tim Bedner, vocalist Elise Letourneau, trumpeter Nick Dyson, trombonist Ryan Purchase, guitarist Wayne Eagles, and camp director and saxophonist Mike Tremblay. Several are regular instructors at Carleton. Carleton music professor James McGowan will also be teaching at the camp.

Ferguson told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the camp had had “substantial” budget cuts this year, which meant they couldn't afford to bring instructors from outside Ottawa.

“So we're doing it all ourselves. It will be kind of an experiment. We're looking forward to it.”

“And to be honest, a lot of the students who would come to the camp weren't really aware of who – even Dave Liebman – was, or Alex Dean, or any of these names that are really familiar to us jazz fans.

The camp is open to musicians from age 14 up to senior citizens, although Ferguson said it had on occasion accepted 12-year-olds “if they show a real interest and some maturity”. The students play together in different small and large ensembles, based on their skill levels, from beginner to advanced.

“It's been interesting to watch the progress of the students because we get a lot of the same students back from year to year.”

In previous years, the camp faculty would present concerts each evening, many of which OttawaJazzScene.ca reviewed. This year, the concerts have been moved to the late afternoon, running from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

Ferguson said they thought the afternoon concerts might be better for the students. “It was tough on a lot of the kids to be there at 8:30 in the morning and then to be expected to stick around until 9:30 at night, so we shortened the day.”

“We couldn't make the evening concerts mandatory for the young ones. We tried to stress you've got to come out and hear these concerts – it's really important, but a lot of them, they're playing soccer or off doing something with their parents or there are things going on, so we just found that a lot of the evening concerts weren't as well attended as they should have been.”

The camp had also previously showcased big bands led by composer/arrangers like John MacLeod, Paul Tynan, or Brian Barlow. This won't happen this year, Ferguson said, because “we just really don't have the budget to pay all those musicians for a big band concert”.

The concerts, in Kailash Mital Theatre, will still be open to the public, with payment by donation. On Monday, August 8, Ottawa master pianist Brian Browne will play solo, in trio, and possibly with several horn players. On Tuesday, pianist James McGowan and guitarist Wayne Eagles continue their long-time jazz fusion collaboration. Wednesday, guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/pianist/flutist Elise Letourneau will perform their favourite jazz standards. A horn-heavy sextet, with Tremblay, Ferguson, Dyson, and Purchase, will perform some of their own compositions and “tunes we all know” on the final faculty concert on Thursday.

Friday's concert will feature the students performing the music they've been learning all week, and will be held in the evening, starting at 7 p.m.

One innovation the camp is introducing this year is electives, where different instructors will talk about topics like jazz theory or jazz history. Each of the instructors has developed two or three possible topics, Ferguson said, and students will be able to choose one hour-long elective session a day.

The electives will replace the group masterclasses in the middle of the day where one person would talk to all the students. “I think it will give them a little bit more variety and it will give them some choices in what they do. Basically every other year we've had it pretty much set, the days was set so that they'd have ear training, improv, jam sessions, big band, small band, and so on.”

As of mid-July, about 50 students had registered for the camp, Ferguson said. Registrations will be accepted until the camp starts. Last year, 54 students attended the camp, although it has attracted more than 70 students.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read related OttawaJazzScene.ca stories:

Correction (August 5): Updated to correctly name the Carleton University jazz camp faculty, not those who were listed on the Carleton University jazz camp website.