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Cynthia Tauro: 1st woman to host Jazz Mondays at Petit Chicago

In April, pianist Cynthia Tauro and her quartet is hosting the late-night Jazz Monday jam sessions. It's the culmination for her of many years enjoying the music at those jams.

The Cynthia Tauro Quartet will host Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago for all of April: (l-r) Cynthia Tauro, Alex Moxon, Alex Bilodeau, Michel Delage ©Brett Delmage, 2017

She's the first woman leader of a host band at Jazz Mondays in its 12-year history at Le Petit Chicago. OttawaJazzScene.ca checked its archived event listings, and while we found other women who had played on that stage on Mondays, Tauro was the first to lead a group.

She's playing with three musicians who frequently appear at this jam: guitarist Alex Moxon, drummer Michel Delage, and bassist Alex Bilodeau. Bilodeau also coordinates Jazz Mondays. At their first show on April 3, they performed Tauro's own original songs in the first set, ranging from Latin numbers to soulful to romantic to grooving. Tauro both sang and played keyboards, with the rhythm section providing a strong jazz propulsion filling the downtown Gatineau club. As usual, they opened the second set to jammers.

Tauro graduated in 2016 with a degree in jazz piano and voice from Carleton University. Originally from Toronto, she's now living in Ottawa and performing in venues across the city.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Tauro between sets at Le Petit Chicago on April 3.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Cynthia, what attracted you to hosting the Jazz Mondays this month?

Cynthia Tauro: I've been coming to Petit Chicago for honestly the last five years now – ever since I started at Carleton in 2012. And now that I have my own band and I'm staying in Ottawa and I'm not in school anymore, I was talking to Alex [Bilodeau] one time and said, “Why don't I host a Petit Chicago?” And he said, “April is free”, and I'm like OK, perfect.

I've been coming here for so long and I figured I'd love to do it, so why not?

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How long have you been playing with this particular band?

Tauro: With this band, we've been playing only a couple months. I have my band in Toronto, and then I decided to make one here like maybe in October, November of 2016. And we've been playing together since then.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Did you prepare anything special for this month?

Tauro: Kind of. We're playing my original tunes, and maybe we have some spins on them. We're putting in some different things that might be just because we feel like it, or it might be intentional – we're not really sure. But basically all my original tunes. And then standards: some Latin standards, some jazz standards.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Is this different from what you've been playing at Das Lokal or the Options Jazz Lounge at Brookstreet?

Tauro: This is very different because it's with the full band. At Das, I always just play solo piano, so it's myself for three hours. At Brookstreet, I play just by myself, solo piano and voice – I sing at Brookstreet as well.

These kind of gigs [at Petit Chicago] are very different. And I like them better, honestly, because people are actually listening to you. I was happy that people were listening inside [tonight]. And then you get to actually interact with other musicians rather than just being by yourself. By yourself, you get to practice, basically, because no one's listening and you can do whatever you want. But, yes, these gigs are fun because I'm with these amazing players!

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How do you think your career has progressed or changed since you graduated from Carleton University?

Tauro: I feel like I've actually progressed quite a bit. I've recorded twice – one live off the floor recording almost a year ago now, a year ago in May. I started my own band in Toronto, I started my own band here. And I've just been playing a lot in the Ottawa scene and in the Toronto scene, and getting myself out there, playing weddings and events and fundraisers.

So yes, it's progressed slowly but surely, getting more and more gigs.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: And as a composer, writing your own songs?

Tauro: Honestly, writing is like up and down, because there's times when I write all the time. It all just pours out of me. But then there are other times where I go through a month or two of a dry spell of writing. I feel like it fluctuates.

My writing has, I guess, changed with all the different experiences I have and keep on having.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: As far as we could determine, you are the first female host band leader at Jazz Mondays.

Tauro: No way! Well, wow! Go woman. Feminism all the way! That's exciting, I guess, something to be proud of, being the first female. That's really cool.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Will you be doing anything different each week at Jazz Mondays?

Tauro: I think we'll vary it a bit. I might call a couple of my friends in, to ask if they want to sit in for the first set. So there might be some special guest appearances. I won't let out who that is yet. But mostly just myself and the band. We'll vary it up a bit, so it won't be like totally the same all four weeks.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you keep coming back to Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago? What attracted you, week after week?

Tauro: Well, the music. I love listening to live music. And also friends. It would be a hang-out spot on Mondays where you'd go and you'd have a couple drinks, you'd sit in with the band. I could only sit in if they had keys, which was actually not a lot of times, sadly.

But still it's nice to go out and listen to live music and jazz and then just be with all of your friends from school who were in the music program with you, who also love listening and just chilling.

    – Alayne McGregor

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