Jazz went into the woods February 19, as La Grange de la Gatineau presented its first regular music night, featuring vocalist Renée Yoxon and guitarist René Gely.
The music series opener attracted a capacity crowd, with 80 tickets sold. A show of hands partway through the evening showed that fewer than a quarter of the listeners came from Ottawa, and a large number were from the local Cantley, Québec area, about 18 km north of downtown Ottawa. And what was also remarkable – compared to Ottawa crowds – was the almost-complete quiet while the musicians were performing.
All smiles at the end of the evening, music programmer Jean-Pierre Moisan said, "I came to see this place once, and I thought this duo would really create a magical atmosphere. I think I made a good decision!"
The audience gave Yoxon and Gely a standing ovation after the two one-hour sets, and demanded a repeat of the opening number, "The Look of Love", as an encore.
"We charged $15 here and people came out – in the woods!" Moisan said. "It was quite a victory."
The Grange, located outside Cantley, Quebec, is a large historic building, built primarily from logs, and decorated with many historical artifacts. It's normally used as a meeting and conference centre, but Moisan said the management wanted to try a regular monthly music series. The remainder of the shows he has booked until summer are folk, blues, or francophone, but he said he was open to more jazz acts.
"But, you know, jazz is difficult. I book also at Les Brasseurs du Temps and you've got to bring in jazz that's accessible to everyone. Having singers always helps. I have a lot of friends who would like to play at Les Brasseurs du Temps, but if you bring in instrumentalists: we don't have a jazz crowd there. It's not like [Café] Paradiso."
Moisan scheduled Anouk-Michelle Grégoire at Les Brasseurs du Temps for Valentine's Day, and is bringing in Florquestra Brasil and Kellylee Evans there in the next month. If Evans in particular does well, he said, he can bring in more jazz acts.
"I don't think there's enough of [a jazz] audience in Ottawa. There's the festival: it gathers a lot of people. I'm not sure it's always jazz aficionados, because the festival itself has gone a bit popular. There's an overload at one point, and then there's hardly any venues that are really jazz."
He said he didn't think that night's audience was necessarily a jazz crowd, "but they discovered something excellent."
Yoxon and Gely played primarily from their CD, Let's Call It a Day, but added other pieces including Miles Davis' "All Blues", "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime", and "The Wood So Wild", a Renaissance piece dating back to 1540.
– Alayne McGregor