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John Stetch to reimagine classical compositions at 2017 Ottawa Chamberfest

Jazz pianist John Stetch will continue his rethinking of classical concertos and sonatas in a concert at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Chamberfest) this summer.

John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016The festival today unveiled 15 of the shows which it will present from July 22 to August 4 – primarily from the core classical repertoire, but also including crossover concerts with jazz, the Beatles, contemporary pop, and film music, as well as interpretations of Canada's Arctic and unexpected takes on musicals and audiovisual performance. The remainder of the line-up will be revealed in April.

OttawaJazzScene.ca learned after the announcement that Toronto jazz pianist David Braid will also appear at the festival.

On July 26, Stetch will perform at La Nouvelle Scène in a show entitled “Classical Meets Jazz”. The festival says he will blend “dashes of classical” along with his “percussive and improvisational brand of piano playing”.

Stetch, who began his jazz career in Alberta but has lived and worked in or near NYC for decades, is a prolific original composer. His most recent CD is Improvisations [2015], an album of “unedited and un-premeditated solo improvisations”.

He leavens this with music other jazz pianists don't cover: pieces inspired by his Ukrainian-Canadian heritage; take-offs on vintage TV theme songs; and his reinterpretations of classical concertos and sonatas. In 2015, he received his sixth Juno nomination for Off With the Cuffs, in which he took well-known classical compositions by Mozart, Shostakovich, Chopin, and Bach, stripped them back to their roots and reinvigorated them.

When he last performed in Ottawa, at the Steinway Piano Gallery last September, Stetch deconstructed and reconstructed pieces by Bach, Chopin, and Mozart, as well several Ukrainian folk melody pieces and the theme from The Brady Bunch. A 70-strong audience listened intensely and warmly applauded throughout. Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca review and see the photos

David Braid to perform with all-star Canadian string quartet

While not included in the festival announcement, Toronto jazz pianist David Braid will also appear at the 2017 Chamberfest, in another one of his jazz/chamber music crossover concerts.

Braid has been regularly performing with a variety of string quartets in the last three years in Europe and North America. At the 2015 Ottawa Chamberfest, he collaborated with the Sinfonia UK Chamber Orchestra . He's recorded many of these compositions on his 2016 album, Flow, which was nominated for a Juno in the Instrumental category this year.

This year, he will play with an all-star Canadian string quartet at Chamberfest: Mark Fewer on violin, Steven Dann on viola, and two members of the Gryphon Trio, cellist Roman Borys and violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon. Both Fewer and the Gryphon Trio have previously extended their classical range in collaborations with jazz performers.

They'll perform on July 29 in a late-evening show at La Nouvelle Scène. Braid says their repertoire will be from Flow, although they won't repeat his large-scale composition "Chauvet", which they'd previously played at Chamberfest and at the National Arts Centre.

Other shows

Other 2017 Chamberfest concerts announced today of possible interest to jazz and improvised music listeners:

July 24: Sweat: a multi-lingual, a cappella work by the Bicycle Opera Project which brings the audience into the heart of a contemporary sweatshop. “Improvisation and percussive spoken text contrast the world of the factory floor with the dreams of the women who labour there.”

July 26: Canadian National Brass Project: an all-star brass ensemble will highlight Canadian composers, with well-loved classics and a new piece by Scott Good, who directed the Conjunction classical-jazz concert at last year's Chamberfest.

August 3: Home Within: The Syrian Experience: a 60-minute audiovisual performance by Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad in “an abstract journey to redefine home”. This show is currently touring North America raising awareness and funds for Syrian refugees.

Individual tickets for these shows and the Stetch and Braid concert go on sale May 1. Festival passes and tickets to the festival's gala concerts will be available on March 20.

   – Alayne McGregor

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