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Ottawa-Gatineau May jazz highlights: From Poland to pool bottom

Read about jazz in the second half of May

A birthday party fiesta, an improvised house concert, a show inside a swimming pool, tributes to Horace Silver, Cole Porter, and Nat King Cole – all these are part of Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene in May, 2017.

Artur Dutkiewicz - photo provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in OttawaNotable jazz artists including pianist DD Jackson, vocalist Fawn Fritzen and pianist Dave Restivo, vocalist Micah Barnes, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra will be visiting local concert halls. Local artists are well represented performing jazz from many eras – perhaps inspired by the local jazz celebrations in April.

On Wednesday, May 3, the Polish Embassy is bringing in jazz pianist Artur Dutkiewicz with his trio. It's a free afternoon concert (3 p.m.) at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park in the Glebe.

Dutkiewicz is a leading jazz musician and composer in Poland; he was a finalist in the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1987. His solo album Mazurkas was influenced by Polish composers Frédéric Chopin and Karol Szymanowski, but also includes other Polish folk motifs, like the oberek and the kujawiak, all in a jazz style. On a different note, he's also released a piano trio album of music by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, including interpretations of “Crosstown Traffic” and “Voodoo Chile”.

Trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, who has ancestors from Poland and who is prominent in the Montreal jazz scene, will also perform at the show. Séguin's recent Litania Projekt marries “neoclassical melodies with Northern European jazz and subtle electronics”.

That evening (May 3), Ed Lister brings his Prime Rib Big Band for a third outing at Irene's Pub in the Glebe. They'll play Lister's original compositions, rooted in “big band swing in the style of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk”.

On Thursday, May 4, Ottawa-based Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas celebrates his birthday doing what he loves best – performing. He's bringing his seven-piece Fiesta Cubana band to the Mercury Lounge for a show where you'll want your dancing shoes. The ensemble “combines Latin hits with their Afro Cuban roots to produce performances that range from Salsa, Merengue, Cha cha cha to a rhythmic and explosive show”.

Also on May 4, The Brass Monkey in Nepean is holding its second jazz night. Local jazz quartet Easy Living, and the vocal-guitar duo of Diane Ross and Jim Mattson will return. They will be joined by the Massie-Johnson Jazz Band mixing standards with contemporary jazz-funk. Read our review of the first jazz night at the Brass Monkey.

With the Georgetown Pub closing (the owners are retiring), Jacquie Dixon has moved her monthly jazz jam. Friday, May 5, will be her first jam at the Black Irish Pub in Vanier, just east of the Cummings Bridge. This month's host band is a quintet led by vocalist Katie Diamond, who reentered the Ottawa jazz scene just last year.

On Saturday, May 6, Toronto vocalist Micah Barnes brings his new “Crowd Sourced Cabaret” project to GigSpace. Barnes, a former member of the Nylons, tried out the songs during his recent Canadian tour – and then judged whether they worked based on the audience response. He's continuing to include new songs, and says that each audience's reaction will affect the final line-up.

The music is cover songs – and a few Nylons classics. Barnes featured them in his set to communicate “the vast musical history of New York from Uptown Jazz and Broadway to Back Alley Blues and Doo Wop.” He “auditioned” songs by Tom Waits, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Mose Allison, and Laura Nyro. And what worked? “The little known Marvin Gaye tune 'The Bells', an old Harold Arlen tune covered by Sammy Davis Jr from the show 'St Louis Woman' called 'Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home' and of course 'A Sunday Kind Of Love', (an old pop standard that became a Doo Wop hit before Etta James shaped it into an R&B classic).”

Also on May 6, the Latin-chanson quartet Florquestra returns to Le Petit Chicago to play the Brazilian rhythms they know so well. It will be a night of Samba and Forró, with two special guests: vocalist and guitarist Rômmel Ribeiro, and percussionist Liz Hanson.

The House of Common in Hintonburg, where the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) has been presenting its free jazz shows in the last year has closed. The organizers are renovating another space nearby for a new performance space, but it's not yet ready.

So on Sunday, May 7, IMOO will hold its very first house concert – and it will be in Kanata, convenient for west-end improvised music lovers. The concert will feature IMOO regulars Rory Magill on xylophone, David Broscoe on saxophone and other reeds and surprises, David Jackson on guitar, and Linsey Wellman on saxophone and bass clarinet. As for what they'll be playing: they're improvisers! Interested in attending? Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for directions.

Also on May 7, the Glebop Jazz Trio presents its monthly vocalist series at the Arrow and Loon Pub in the Glebe. featuring Floyd Hutchinson, who is known for his rich, melodic bass voice. Hutchinson, who only started singing himself in his mid-40s, admires the great jazz standard singers of past and present, and in particular Johnny Hartman. Pianist David Miller will sit in for Glebop member Bert Waslander.

Sunday, May 7 also marks the end of the latest session of jazz vocal classes led by Nicole Ratté. She's showcasing her students in a “Jazz Night Out” at Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau. The nine students will sing well-known jazz standards as well as a “captivating pot-pourri” of Latin songs, accompanied by a jazz quartet led by pianist J.P. Allain, a perennial favourite of local vocalists.

The Sunday Sessions at Irene's Pub in the Glebe have been the birthplace of several notable local jazz projects. Each group has a month-long residency at Irene's, playing later in the evening every Sunday, and can try out new material and new approaches. There's no cover charge, so it's easy to check out whether the sound works for you. In May, Petr Cancura brings his new 6-piece band, Star Drifter, to Irene's. It includes well-known Ottawa jazz musicians Ed Lister on trumpet, Roddy Ellias on guitar, Mike Essoudry on drums, Alex Bilodeau on bass, Ryan Purchase on trombone, and Cancura himself on banjo and saxophone.

Ed Lister is hosting the long-running late-night Jazz Mondays on Le Petit Chicago this month. Starting May 8, he's bringing his groove and funk-heavy ERU-ERA band there as the host band. They'll play the first set, and open the second for jammers.

Watch OttawaJazzScene.ca (and in your Inbox for an early view if you are a donor) for details about additional interesting jazz in the weeks ahead.

Read about jazz in the second half of May

    – Alayne McGregor