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Ottawa-Gatineau celebrates Canadian jazz in January for 2017

OttawaJazzScene.ca donors received full advance details of these shows and more than a hundred other jazz performances this month as a token of our appreciation for helping us shine a spotlight on the scene. Become a donor!

2017, Canada's 150th birthday, is a year to celebrate our own culture, including Canadian jazz. And this month will give you many opportunities to do that in Ottawa-Gatineau.

Christine Duncan will add vocal innovation to her performance with the Rakestar Arkestra January 22 ©2013 Brett DelmageLocal and Canadian jazz groups predominate in January – and several are taking interesting chances. The Rakestar Arkestra has a major concert planned with vocalist Christine Duncan and the Tone Cluster choir. Vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton is trying out a new repertoire of strictly Canadian jazz music with her trio. Record Runner Rehearsal Studios is presenting its second concert featuring a pianist not heard before in Ottawa in duo with an Ottawa native.


These January, 2017 jazz highlights are brought to you by OttawaJazzScene.ca readers Peter Liu, Karen Oxorn, Jesse Stewart, and Gaby Warren. We thank them for their support that makes this article possible.


It's also been a month that's continue to evolve and become more crowded even after the New Year’s fireworks. As we've been compiling this update,notifications of new shows and line-up changes have been popping up frequently.

On Sunday, January 8, Florquestra will play a rare late-afternoon show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. The group combines an encyclopedic knowledge of Brazilian rhythms with a French melodic sensibility, in an always-exciting presentation.

That evening, the Glebop Jazz Trio, now in their 13th year, will collaborate with local vocalist Dominique Forest for an evening of smooth interpretations of jazz's most memorable songs at the Arrow and Loon in the Glebe.

Florquestra, with Regina Gomes Teixeira and Léonard Constant, plays an afternoon show on January 8. ©2013 Brett DelmageOn Thursday, January 12, it's the first all-jazz show at the Brass Monkey bar in Nepean, which more usually programs rock bands on Thursdays. Three local jazz groups will appear: Easy Living playing jazz standards with a twist, the vocal/guitar duo of Diane Ross and Jim Mattson, and the jazz-funk music of Night Shift.

FACTOR (the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) is a public/private foundation which supports Canadian musicians to record and produce primarily English-language, independent sound recordings. It won't provide all the money you need to record your CD, but it can help. On Friday, January 13, FACTOR coordinator Shevaughn Battle will explain the ins and outs of this program at a free afternoon masterclass at the Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University.

International Orange is a Brooklyn-based jazz fusion trio with a slide guitar edge. Their name came from a Snapple cap which said, "The Golden Gate Bridge is painted in international orange". Their music has been influenced by decades of NYC experience, as well as extensive travels around the globe, and includes Indian, African, and Brazilian flavors.

They're on a short cross-border tour mid-month promoting their their new EP, Blue Side Up. At the Options Jazz Lounge of the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata on Friday, January 13, they'll play tunes from that EP as well as from their debut disc.

On Saturday, January 14, the National Arts Centre (NAC) presents Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura again collaborating with a local singer-songwriter in the second year of his Crossroads series. Country-folk musician Lynne Hanson's most recent album was a collection of murder and revenge ballads; it should be interesting to see if Cancura and his house band – Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, and Greg Ritchie – manage to put a jazz spin on Hanson's music.

Kellylee Evans starts her semester as Carleton University Music artist-in-residence with a masterclass January 20 ©2013 Brett DelmageAlso on January 14, vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton and her trio will perform all-Canadian jazz at a house concert in Almonte, in a variety of styles: swing, bossa, waltz, blues, samba, rumba, and ballad. The music will be by composers that include Mark Ferguson, Renée Yoxon, Fawn Fritzen, Steven Hardy, Lisa Lindo, and Bryanton herself and her pianist David Miller. Bryanton will also include jazz versions of songs by Leonard Cohen, Sam Masich, and Shirley Eikhard. Can't make it out to the Valley? The trio will reprise the show in Ottawa in March at Pressed.

The first CD release show of the year features ex-Ottawa, now-Toronto saxophonist Paul Newman. The Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) will present Newman on Sunday, January 15 at House of Common in Hintonburg. His new CD is called Music for Solo Tenor Saxophone, and it takes the tenor sax in a distinctly experimental and questioning direction.

This semester's Music artist-in-residence at Carleton University is local jazz/pop vocalist Kellylee Evans, who won a 2011 Juno Award for her album Nina, a tribute to jazz icon Nina Simone. Evans has a large fan base in France as well as North America for her energetic music and expressive voice, but has been quiet for the last year recovering after being hit by lightning. She'll start her Carleton residency by giving a masterclass on the afternoon of Friday, January 20, at the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University.

For the past few years, Folkrum has been on a quest to create a community music hub, and ran a weekend showcase in Vanier just over a year ago to try out one possible location. That fell through, but they haven't given up: they're presenting a “Big Chill” fundraiser at La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown on Friday, January 20. On the bill are singer-songwriter Kristine St-Pierre, jazz guitarist Roddy Ellias with cellist Joan Harrison (who has appeared with the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra as well as in many classical and chamber groups), and Ottawa's high energy jump blues and jive jazz group, The Jivewires.

Last April, guitarist Garry Elliott debuted a new quartet with long-time collaborator pianist Steve Boudreau plus two Montreal musicians: bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camile Belisle. Since then they've been recording together, and they're back at GigSpace on Saturday, January 21. Elliott's promising new and classic tunes by himself and Boudreau, and says that the quartet has been really inspiring to play with. After their first show, Boudreau said that was “refreshing to hear a different take” on his and Elliott's music from playing with Vedady and Belisle.

Looking for an Afrobeat groove to ward off the January chill? The Souljazz Orchestra starts its 2017 season with a show at the Black Sheep Inn on Saturday, January 21.

Joan Harrison performs with Roddy Ellias at the Folkrum Big Chill January 20 ©2015 Brett DelmagePercussionist Rory Magill has been thinking steadily bigger since he revived the Rakestar Arkestra a few years ago. Rakestar is a constellation of eight excellent and adventurous Ottawa jazz musicians who pay tribute to the music of the unique American composer and bandleader Sun Ra, and have been regularly playing shows around Ottawa.

Ra's music was based in the jazz tradition, but he took it out to outer space, adding new sounds and mythologies, and exuberant visuals in costumes and dance. His performances were costumed celebrations, rich explorations of music and movement. He left planet Earth in 1993, leaving behind such anthems as "We Travel The Spaceways" and "Space Is The Place".

On Sunday, January 22, Rakestar will present “Sung Ra”, a vocal celebration of Sun Ra's music, at the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East. The Arkestra will join up with improvising vocalist Christine Duncan from Toronto directing the 35-voice Ottawa choir, Tone Cluster. The choir will be decked out in extravagant full-colour costumes, and the Arkestra promises new frontiers in extraordinary hats. Expect a visually and audibly fascinating spectacle of voices and instruments.

Peter Woods and the Evensong Ensemble showcase their mix of jazz and gospel January 23 ©2016 Brett DelmageOn Monday, January 23, the Evensong EnsemblePeter Woods on saxophone, James McGowan on piano, Jamie Holmes on drums, J.P. Lapensée on bass, and Leah Cogan on vocals – will appear downtown, with guest vocalist Michael C. Hanna. Woods is a United Church minister and several others have strong religious connections, so it's no surprise that their music has a gospel tinge along with the jazz as well as a bit of blues and pop. But they also have strong jazz backgrounds: Woods regularly plays with pianist Brian Browne and in other jazz groups; McGowan is a music professor at Carleton University and a jazz pianist in several contexts; Holmes and Lapensée are in the HML Trio and the Chocolate Hot Pockets.

Rachel Beausoleil celebrates 'Tom' Jobim's birthday January 25 ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Wednesday, January 25, vocalist Rachel Beausoleil presents a birthday tribute to the renowned Brazilian jazz composer, Antonio Carlos (“Tom”) Jobim, as part of Southminster United Church's weekly noon-hour concert series. Together with Garry Elliott on guitar, Mark Alcorn on bass, and Marilee Townsend on drums, Beausoleil will perform Jobim's famous and lesser-known songs, singing them in the original Portuguese. Beausoleil is currently writing her PhD thesis on “Música Popular Brasileira”, which includes most of the genres that Canadians think of as Brazilian jazz, and has studied and performed in Brazil.

It's going to be a difficult choice picking which jazz show to attend on Friday, January 27. At Live on Elgin downtown, saxophonist and composer Doug Martin and his quartet will play music from his recently-released CD, Spirit of Survival, as well as some previously unreleased originals. The CD is inspired by Martin's travels to Cuba. Martin recently returned from his third trip there, performing again with Cuban musicians at the Havana Jazz Festival in December.

On January 27, pianist Brian Browne and vocalist Steve Berndt will appear in Gatineau, performing ballads from the two duo CDs they've released together. Berndt says to expect “improvised arrangements of jazz standards, some pop tunes and some of my originals including 'Déjà Vu' and 'All Over Again'. A romantic evening in a romantic country setting on a beautiful winter's evening!”

Gentiane MG is a young jazz pianist and composer from Montreal with an impressive resume. At McGill University, she won the $15,000 Schulich Scholarship for undergraduate jazz performance degree, and then followed that up with a Graduate Excellence Fellowship Award. She's currently studying with renowned pianist Jean-Michel Pilc at McGill, and is active with her trio in Montreal's jazz scene, playing at clubs that include Upstairs, Dièse Onze, and Resonance.

Floyd Hutchinson collaborates with Soundproof January 28 ©2012 Brett DelmageOn January 27, Ottawa saxophonist Chris Maskell (also a Masters student at McGill) has invited her to make her Ottawa debut, playing with him in a concert at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios on Colonnade Road in Nepean. It's only the second concert that the Studio has presented, and will include jazz standards and originals by both.

At Pressed in Centretown on January 27, you can warm up with the bright tones of gypsy jazz by Django Fet. The five-piece jazz ensemble plays standards and mixes new and old tunes, with an emphasis on gypsy jazz and finger-style guitar. Their name is a play on words from the Star Wars character Jango Fett and the famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Every month drummer Michel Delage pays tribute to an influential jazz composer with bassist Alex Bilodeau and different special guests. On Saturday, January 28, Delage's quartet will interpret a giant of bebop: alto saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker. Zakari Frantz will have the challenge of evoking Parker's blisteringly fast virtuosic solos. Alex Moxon, who has written pieces inspired by Parker, will add his driving guitar to the mix as well.

Festival Japan regularly serves up jazz along with its ramen and sushi, but its show on Saturday, January 28, will be a bit different. Instead of the quiet duo shows the restaurant usually presents, you'll hear vocalist Floyd Hutchinson collaborating with local jazz group Soundproof. Hutchinson has a rich, melodic, bass voice and a love of great jazz standard singers like Johnny Hartman; Soundproof is a grooving piano trio playing jazz, gospel, soul, and hip hop.

Brian Browne and Steve Berndt share the joy of jazz standards in a log cabin on January 27 ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Sunday, January 29, vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton teams up with a favourite local guitarist, Pierre Monfils. They'll perform tunes “which are uplifting, reminiscent in some way, or otherwise, soulful”.

Of course, there's lots more jazz happening in Ottawa-Gatineau, with weekly and monthly jazz jams, and restaurants and bars which offer jazz every day or every week.

    – Alayne McGregor

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Updated January 21