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May, oh my! Lots of great jazz coming your way

Read about jazz in the first half of May

If you like big band and swing music there's lots to choose from in the second half of May. It starts on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, when the Glenn Miller Orchestra takes the stage in Gatineau at Salle Odyssée in La Maison de la Culture.

Fawn Fritzen and David Restivo return later this month ©Brett Delmage, 2016What jazz fan has not heard "String of Pearls", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "Moonlight Serenade", or "String of Pearls"? Glenn Miller's Orchestra was one of the greatest of the Swing Era, with its own style and sound based on a mix of clarinet and saxophones. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world. At their shows, over 20 musicians and singers evoke the Glenn Miller sound and perform those remembered songs.


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The Canadian Tulip Festival was inspired by the long-time friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, which was born out of WW2 and commemorated by gifts of Dutch tulips every year. So it's no surprise that the festival frequently looks back to that era in music as well, with big bands and swing dances.

Peter Liu and the Pollcats bring their lively and experienced brand of vintage swing on the festival's opening day, Friday, May 12. They'll perform starting at 2:15 p.m., on the Friendship Stage outside the Aberdeen Pavilion of Lansdowne Park. Both dancers and listeners are welcome.

On Friday, May 19, the festival will hold its second annual evening Swing Dance with the big band Standing Room Only with vocalist Pauline Proulx. Dancers are encouraged to wear WWII period dress for the all-ages dance, as a number of participants in the WWII Vintage Military Displays in WWII military garb are likely to attend.

A festival day pass is required for both dances.

On Saturday, May 20, the festival hosts the seven-piece Phoenix Big Band at the Aberdeen Pavilion, in a fundraiser for local cancer care. The band plays traditional blues and jazz-blues fusion with touches of reggae.

Big Band Ottawa leader Robert Vogelsang (trombone) ©Brett Delmage, 2015You can also hear free outdoor shows at a stage in Commissioner's Park at Dow's Lake, in front of the tulip beds (weather permitting). On Sunday, May 22, Big Band Ottawa will perform there. Read our review of a previous Tulip Festival performance by Big Band Ottawa.

Smaller band in smaller venues are also busy this month. On Wednesday, May 10, two younger jazz groups appear at Pressed for a “Modern Jazz Happening”. Saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema will perform with the experienced rhythm section of drummer Michel Delage and bassist Alex Bilodeau. They'll be followed by MAH2 (Musicians are humans too), with trumpeter Kaelin Murphy, drummer Keagan Eskritt, and bassist Caleb Klager. They promise to play music which is “Modern, Open, Free, and the style that is Electric-Groove”.

Also on May 10, pianist Brian Browne and clarinetist Dave Renaud bring their finely-attuned mutual musical understanding and love of jazz standards to the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. [Read our review of their most recent concert.] And saxophonist Davina Pearl and her trio makes their monthly appearance playing standards and Latin jazz at the Wellington West Royal Oak, but delayed one day to May 10 because of the hockey play-offs.

There's something magical about the great jazz songs: how each vocalist can make a slightly different connection and find a new facet to the music and lyrics. On May 12 and 13, you have the opportunity to hear several very different vocalists interpret standards.

On Friday, May 12, baritone Luc Lalonde sings the elegant songs written by Cole Porter, accompanied by jazz pianist Steve Boudreau, at Auditorium De La Salle in Lowertown. Lalonde has extensive experience in classical voice, choral music, and opera (both grand opera and Howard Shore’s modern opera The Fly). But he's decided to “leave his zone of comfort” to explore what Porter has to say on “What is this thing called love?”.

Geri Childs celebrates Nat King Cole at GigSpace in May ©Brett Delmage, 2014On Saturday, May 13, long-time Ottawa vocalist Geri Childs and her quartet present "Paper Moon: The songs of Nat King Cole” at GigSpace. Childs says that she has a “cornucopia of wonderful songs to choose from. It was hard to limit ourselves.” That's not surprising, because Nat King Cole had more than 100 pop chart singles and more than two dozen chart albums, a figure only surpassed by Frank Sinatra. He was initially highly successful as a jazz pianist (and an early influence on Oscar Peterson). After he added vocals to his music in the mid-40s, he hit the top, and stayed there until his his death in 1965. Among his most popular songs are "Straighten Up and Fly Right", “Ramblin' Rose”, and "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer", and in particular ballads like “Nature Boy”, “Smile”, “Mona Lisa”, and "Unforgettable".

Also on May 13, vocalist Renée Landry and pianist John Kofi Dapaah will pay tribute to “the timeless classics of Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Brown” in a concert in the showroom at Ottawa Pianos on Bank Street South. Dapaah is a well-known local performer in both the classical and jazz realms, while Landry has presented tribute concerts to both blues singer Amy Winehouse and jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald.

Fieldwork is an outdoor art gallery in the Ottawa Valley near Perth. This year, it's presenting “Soundwork”, an exhibition that explores the use of sound in art. The six installations include one by Mixed Metaphors (percussionist Jesse Stewart and pianist Matt Edwards), who produced a singing stainless steel tree last fall in downtown Ottawa. May 13 from 2 to 5 p.m. is the exhibit's opening, and will also include artists' talks, a tour, performances, and workshops.

Also on May 13, the Chocolate Hot Pockets will bring their mix of groove and nuanced original jazz to Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge. [Read our review of their performance at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest.]

Peter Woods doubles as a jazz saxophonist and a United Church minister, so it's not surprising that a group he plays in, the Evensong Ensemble, is performing at a benefit for a multi-faith affordable housing community. The Haven, in Barrhaven, is partially completed and local United Churches are raising money for its last sections. The 5-piece jazz/gospel ensemble, which also includes pianist James McGowan, will perform at a dinner concert in the community room at The Haven on May 13.

McGowan and Woods will also perform in another church-related jazz concert on Wednesday, May, 17: this season's final Jazz Vespers at Knox Presbyterian Church downtown.

Also on May 17, Ed Lister brings his Prime Rib Big Band to Southminster United Church for their noon-hour series. It will be a larger and more resonant location for the band than Irene's Pub, and should give the audience to hear all eleven musicians play full-out. Lister's music is rooted in big band swing. Last year, he played a smaller tribute concert to Duke Ellington at the church.

With the Georgetown Pub closing, JazzWorks has again had to move its monthly jazz jam. Thursday, May 18, will be its first jam at the Black Irish Pub in Vanier, just east of the Cummings Bridge. The host band will be the long-time Ottawa jazz trio Glebop with added friends.

D.D. Jackson photo by Dave KaufmanJuno-winning jazz pianist D.D. Jackson was raised in Ottawa and had his first professional gig at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, but it's been almost a decade since he last played here. He's back for two shows, the first as part of the Kiwanis Music Festival. He'll play several solo piano pieces as part of the festival's Highlights Concert on Thursday, May 18, at the Algonquin College Commons Theatre.

Then, on May 19, he reunites with his long-time musical compatriot, bassist John Geggie, at GigSpace. They played together at the Ottawa Jazz Festival 23 years ago, on Jackson's first two albums, and many times since. At both shows, Jackson will perform several of his recent compositions inspired by the current tumultuous politics in his adopted country, the United States.

On May 19 and 20, pianist Peter Hum again brings together two saxophonists in a quintet celebrating the tradition of double-tenor bands blowing long and strong. This is the fourth outing of the “Two Tenors” project, and the second with Chris Maskell and Petr Cancura on the horns, along with Hum and the powerful rhythm section of drummer Michel Delage and bassist Alex Bilodeau. At previous outings, they performed modern originals and covers. Catch them at the Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge.

From May 18 to 20, le Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau is offering a three-day “Jazz Jazz Jazz” festival. On Thursday, it's Bianca Basso, with jazz vocalist Bianca Pittoors and bassist Marc Langis. Accompanied by percussionist Alvaro de Minaya, they'll introduce and perform their own sophisticated and passionate music.

On Friday, vocalist Yves Turbide and musical director Louise Poirier present Paysâmes, jazz inspired by the collection of essays by author Julie Huard. Huard wrote about the beauty and harshness of people and places she encountered during her world tour, and her book, Paysâmes et miroirs du monde, won the Gatineau Prix coup de coeur littéraire in 2016.

And on Saturday, May 20, Quebec vocalist France Maisonneuve and her trio will revisit classic jazz standards made famous by Etta James, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, as well as her own compositions.

Also on May 20, La Nouvelle Scène presents an Open Mic show with two local artists: jazz vocalist Janie Renée and poet Sonia Lamontagne. Each will perform for 30 minutes and then open the stage for local musicians and poets. Janie Renée has released two albums, each recorded with notable local jazz artists. The first featured original songs in styles ranging from jazz to blues to “grande chanson”; the second flirted with Brazilian jazz.

That same evening at Kaffé 1870 in Wakefield, you can hear vocalist Megan Jerome and her Together Ensemble play some of the new material she's working on for a new album.

On any level – visual or acoustic – Safe Low Limit has to have arranged the oddest location ever for videoing their group playing. It's inside an empty swimming pool behind a house in Vanier, at 130 Ste-Cecile Street. The group itself known for its unusual sound – all instruments in the bass clef range, including tuba, trombone, cello, and drums – which are likely to produce interesting reverb inside the hard walls of the pool. They've invited listeners to come hear them, and watch the recording, starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20.

Greenfields Pub, a predominantly rock venue in suburban Barrhaven, has recently morphed into Greenfields Gastro Public House. On May 19, they'll feature jazz/soul vocalist Rebecca Noelle and her nine-piece band, playing “funky, brassy, and soulful selections from her solo CD Soulstice.” The Commotions, 12 top jazz and funk players led by saxophonist Brian Asselin, will open the show with their Motown-influenced sound.

On May 20, 45north will perform its strictly-Canadian music at Greenfields. The local 6-piece jazz/pop band performs pieces by jazz artists ranging from Oscar Peterson to David Braid to Snaggle, but also jazz/blues-influenced pop by artists such as the Powder Blues Band, Joni Mitchell, Lighthouse, and Jeff Healey.

Avant-garde jazz aficionados won't want to miss the next IMOO concert. On Monday, May 22, at Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa South, they'll present two notable improvisers: cellist Tristan Honsinger and bassist Nicolas Caloia. The duo is on a cross-border tour to promote Caloia's new album, In the Sea, the recording of a project Caloia has been working on with Honsinger and violinist Josh Zubot for several years (they played music from it at an IMOO concert here in 2015 ).

Honsinger started improvising in Montreal more than forty years ago, prior to his decisive move to the Europe in 1974, where he’s been at the centre of improvised music activity ever since. He's had long-time collaborations with free jazz masters Cecil Taylor and Derek Bailey, as well as with Evan Parker, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, and Peter Brötzmann. Caloia is the leader of the Ratchet Orchestra, a large ensemble which has been a mainstay of Montreal’s creative music scene for more than a decade.

The last weekend in May has all-too-many choices for jazz lovers, in every style.

La Grange de la Gatineau, a two-story wooden cabin in the woods near Cantley, Quebec, has frequently featured jazz groups in in its intimate space. Claudia Salguero's septet may be one of the largest to appear there – and certainly one of the most emotionally intense.

 ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Friday, May 26 Salguero returns to La Grange to sing boleros and love songs from her native Colombia and other Latin American countries, with exuberant harmonies and rich instrumentation. She'll be accompanied by the same core musicians regularly featured at her sold-out National Arts Centre shows: pianist Sylvio Modolo, guitarist Izzy Martinez, bassist Ken Seeley, flutist Luis Abanto, drummer Alvaro de Minaya, and percussionist Juan Luis Vasquez.

On Friday and Saturday, May 26-27, drummer Michel Delage continues his monthly series of tributes to jazz masters at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge. This month, you'll hear music by the irrepressible and instantly recognizable Horace Silver. The hard bop pianist and composer wrote many jazz classics, including “Song for My Father”, “Peace”, and “Sister Sadie”, ranging from gently melodic to Latin to bluesy and upbeat. Celebrating Silver's music will be the hard-driving lineup of pianist Steve Boudreau, baritone saxophonist Richard Page, trumpeter Ed Lister, bassist Alex Bilodeau, and drummer Delage.

When Fawn Fritzen came down from the Yukon a year ago on a tour to release her second album, Pairings, she charmed her Ottawa audience with a warm and lovingly-presented show of standards and originals. Her considerable talent as a vocalist was only enhanced by two fine Toronto jazz musicians: bassist George Koller and pianist David Restivo. She's back in Ottawa with Restivo on Saturday, May 27 for a show at GigSpace. They promise to “showcase a varied and rich palette of musical textures and weave songs into stories”.

Saxophonist and bassist Rob Frayne, vocalist and pianist Martine Courage, violinist Laura Nerenberg, and drummer Mike Essoudry immediately grabbed the audience's attention at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest with their original arrangements of jazz standards, that deftly blended and counterpointed violin and vocals against piano and bass for a dynamic and lovely sound. The same four musicians are playing a house concert in Almonte on May 27. Frayne promises “interesting takes on jazz standards with a few cool surprises”.

That same evening, the Juliet Singers present their tribute to Paul Simon's songs, in “Simon Says” at St. Luke's Anglican Church downtown. The vocal harmony trio – Elise Letourneau, Rachel Beausoleil, and new member Lindsey Sikora – will be accompanied by bassist Ken Seeley and drummer Marilee Townsend. Both as part of the iconic folk duo Simon and Garfunkel and in his decades-long solo career, Simon produced many memorable songs. He also consistently pushed the edges in incorporating new sounds and ideas from diverse cultures, including touring with jazz musicians like the Brecker Brothers.

Jazz composer and arranger Petr Cancura has taken on a considerable challenge for the last two years: to work with singer-songwriters to make their music fit a jazz quartet. His final Crossroads collaboration for 2016-17 is with Justin Rutledge, an Ontario alt-country singer. Cancura often combines roots music with his jazz, so this is not as big a stretch for him as you might think. The other members of the Crossroads quartet – guitarist Roddy Ellias, bassist John Geggie, and drummer Greg Ritchie – are top jazz musicians who keep the music going and add interesting touches. They'll appear in the NAC Studio on May 27.

Sunday, May 28 is your last chance (for now) to catch The Grey Jazz Big Band playing for dancers at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre. The early-evening show will feature popular swing hits of the big band era. Admission is free but donations to the Parkinson's Society are greatly appreciated.

Les Dames Tabouret (The Bossa Ladies) are three local francophone singers – Valérie Poulin, Annie Bayeur, and Sylvie Lavallée – who bring their voices together in harmony for French chanson, jazz standards, and songs with a bossa nova flavour. In particular, they love the music of Trio Esperança from Brazil, Trio Serafine from Slovenia, and Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf, Georges Brassens, and Michel Legrand from France. They'll perform at Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau on Tuesday, May 30, accompanied by guitarist Pierre Monfils, bassist Hélène Knoerr, and percussionist Bernard Roy.

PreDestined blends musical influences all over the spectrum, into a “heavy, modern jazz sound”. Led by young pianist Clayton Connell and drummer Matt Welsh, the Ottawa jazz group features two veteran saxophonists (Brian Asselin and Brady Leafloor). The group is headlining at Live! On Elgin on Wednesday, May 31.

Looking forward into June, vocalist Karen Oxorn will celebrate Canada's 150th birthday in song in Merrickville. She'll be at the Baldachin Inn on Saturday, June 3, with her quartet for a supper show. On the menu is jazz standards (and one or two other songs) – all of which were recorded by some of Oxorn's favourite Canadian jazz artists, including Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, Susie Arioli, Bria Skonberg, Diana Panton, Denzal Sinclaire, and k.d.lang.

Also on June 3, upstate New York jazz and blues organist-pianist-vocalist Don Washington appears for the first time at GigSpace. He'll perform with the Ottawa trio of Elise Letourneau on vocals and flute, Tim Bedner on guitar, and Marilee Townsend on drums. A multi-instrumentalist (he even plays the tuba!), Don “carries on the tradition of Les McCann, Jimmy Smith, Gil Scott-Heron, and Nina Simone with powerful vocals and piano-organ playing”.

Of course, there's lots more jazz happening in Ottawa-Gatineau, with weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly jazz jams in locations from Kanata to Vanier, regular big band and swing dances, and many restaurants and bars which offer jazz weekly or even daily.

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Read about jazz in the first half of May