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November has a heart: our 1st week of jazz highlights this month

This month you can hear jazz projects close to the hearts of the musicians who are performing them.

Django Libre will deliver a joyful evening of gypsy jazz that they love  ©2014 Brett DelmageFrom CD releases to reunions to new combinations, from swing dance contests to tributes, there are many heartfelt projects being presented in November.

Visiting Ottawa will be vocalists Jill Barber, Karen Young, and Aubrey Johnson; acclaimed visual artist and pianist Michael Snow; chamber jazz group Esmerine; Dutch vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt; guitarists Amy Brandon, Mike Rud, and Ray Montford; the piano trios MISC and the Simon Denizart Trio from Montreal and the double-piano Parker Abbott Trio from Toronto; flutist Bill McBirnie; pianists Jean-Michel Pilc and Jean-Michel Blais; and Korean percussionist Dong-Won Kim.

The first week opens with two Ottawa vocalists, Martine Grenier and Caroline Cook, at Les Brasseurs du Temps on November 1. In a reprise of their successful show last June, "Now is the time!", they're celebrating life and their passion for performing and honoring an important birthday for both of them.

On Wednesday, November 2, Django Libre is back for its monthly show of fast-paced gypsy jazz at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau.

Michael Snow's improvised 2010 performance with Jesse Stewart received an immediate standing ovation ©2014 Brett DelmageOn Thursday, November 3, pianist and long-time jazz innovator Michael Snow reunites with Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart at the National Gallery for a completely improvised concert. The concert will mark the release of a recording by the duo titled Live at the National Gallery.

Although Snow is known around the world as a sculptor, visual artist, and an edge-pushing film-maker, he is also a founding member of the The Canadian Creative Music Collective (CCMC), which was one of the first Canadian professional free improvisation groups. Stewart has played with many renowned jazz improvisers from Canada and abroad, and is known for making new sounds from unexpected sources.

This is only the second time Stewart and Snow have performed together as a duo. After their show at the Gallery in 2010, there was an immediate standing ovation – and a mutual hug.

On Friday, November 4 at 7 p.m., there will be a free screening of Snow’s landmark experimental films Wavelength (1967) and So Is This (1982) in room 100 of the St. Patrick’s Building at Carleton University.

On Friday, November 4, NAC Presents brings the Montreal piano trio MISC to the Back Stage as its first jazz group of the season. The trio of pianist Jérôme Beaulieu, bassist Philippe Leduc, and drummer William Côté has received an enthusiastic response from Ottawa and Gatineau audiences each time they've performed here. The trio plays modern jazz with a twist, tastefully adding in audio sampling, effects, and prepared instruments – and even the analog sound of an old manual typewriter – and keeping their music melodic and accessible.

Ottawa has a thriving swing dance community who love swinging across the floor to live jazz bands. Last year, the Ottawa Swing Dance Society held its first “Battle of the Bands”, where two local bands alternated playing all night, and dancers voted for their favourite after midnight. Vocalist Peter Liu and the Pollcats, who perform vintage swing music authentic to the Golden Age of jazz of the 1930s and 1940’s, won that contest. They're back again this year to defend their title against the Sonic Blue Jazz Combo, who play classic swing to modern groove. The contest goes down November 4 at St-Joseph's Parish in Sandy Hill, and admission includes dance lessons both for beginners and for those with some swing dance experience.

Two bands will compete for swing dancers favs in 'Battle of the Bands' at the Ottawa Swing Dance Society's monthly dance ©2015 Alayne McGregorAlso on November 4, finger-style guitarist Ray Montford will perform at GigSpace. He recently released his sixth studio album, Vintage Is Now, an evocative collection of originals steeped in a seamless mix of jazz, blues and rock.

This is the eighth year that a café in the eastern part of Gatineau has hosted a jazz festival in November. On each Friday night this month, Buckingham Buzz Jazz presents a double bill of local groups, in a large variety of jazz styles. On November 4, Cuppa Joe, a jazz-based vocal ensemble inspired by The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices, opens the evening. They're followed by the Massie-Johnson Combo, who contrast traditional standards with contemporary jazz-funk compositions.

On Saturday, November 5, you can catch The Parker Abbott Trio in an afternoon show at The Rainbow Bistro. With two pianists (and a variety of keyboards) and one drummer, the Toronto-based trio has a “huge sonic palette” and “a pan-stylistic approach to composition and improvisation”. They're currently on a cross-Canada tour promoting their newest album, Elevation, which they describe as an “introspective and uplifting sonic journey full of indomitable tunes that swing, shuffle, simmer, and blaze – original, forward-thinking instrumental music.”

The Juliet Singers pay tribute to Henry Mancini ©2015 Brett DelmageThat evening, the vocal harmony group The Juliet Singers pays tribute to composer Henry Mancini, who wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century as part of his movie scores and television themes. Songs like “Moon River”, the theme from “The Pink Panther”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, “Charade”, and “Le Jazz Hot!” all came from his pen – and have since become standards. His background was in big band arranging, and two of his early film scores were for The Glenn Miller Story (for which he received his first Academy Award nomination) and The Benny Goodman Story. Elise Letourneau, Rachel Beausoleil, and Kathleen Eagan will sing their arrangements of Mancini's memorable themes, which have secured their place in the jazz canon, in a concert at St. Luke's Anglican Church. They will be accompanied by guitarist Tim Bedner.

Monday night listeners at Le Petit Chicago will be treated to a different sound featuring cello, trombone, tuba and drums  ©2016 Brett DelmageEvery Monday this month, starting on November 7, a brand-new group will host the late-night Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago. Trombonist Steve Berndt and cellist Ken Kanwisher first got together as “Bone and Cello Jazz” at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble last June. Now they've expanded the group with even more bass clef instruments – Keith Hartshorn-Walton on tuba and Michel Delage on drums, who also performed in the Jazz Ramble at different times – to create Safe Low Limit. They'll be playing originals, as well as more obscure jazz tunes, from the lower end of the musical spectrum. They'll play the first set each Monday, and then open the stage up for jamming.

Read the jazz highlights for the second week of November.

    – Alayne McGregor

There's lots more happening in November. Donate to's November community funding campaign to learn about it!

As soon as you support our work, you can read about the entire exciting month. After enough readers donate to our 2016-17 season campaign, we'll make the full article available to all – and create feature stories, interviews, and reviews to inform you about these fabulous, upcoming shows.