The Carleton University Jazz Camp is thinking big with its evening concerts this year.
Two big bands – one Latin, one modern. One quintet. And a series of four different duos.
Four prominent jazz musicians from Toronto who are infrequently seen in Ottawa will play in the concerts:
- saxophonist Kelly Jefferson (Juno nominee, 2011),
- pianist Brian Dickinson (Juno winner, 1992),
- drummer Ted Warren, and
- trumpeter and big-band arranger John MacLeod (Juno winner, 2011).
“These are folks that are at the top tier of the musical jazz musical food chain, [to be] here in Ottawa and sharing their talents with us. We're very excited,” said camp assistant director Tim Bedner.
Now in its third year, the camp will present concerts every evening from August 7 to 11, starting at 7 p.m.:
- Tuesday: Duos Concerts, with four sets of musicians
- Wednesday: the nine-piece Ottawa Latin band Los Gringos
- Thursday: a new quintet led by two tenor saxophonists, Kelly Jefferson and Mike Tremblay
- Friday: The John MacLeod Big Band, using MacLeod's charts from his long-standing Rex Hotel Jazz Orchestra
- Saturday: Camp Participants' Concert
All concerts are open to the public, and will be held in the 444-seat Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University. Admission to the concerts on Tuesday to Friday nights is $10 each night, payable only at the door (no advance sales). There is no charge for the Saturday participants' concert, although donations to the camp scholarship fund are appreciated.
Win free concert tickets!
Every day this week at noon, OttawaJazzScene.ca will draw for a free pair of tickets to that evening's concert, courtesy of Carleton University Jazz Camp. To enter the draws, visit OttawaJazzScene.ca. See you at the concerts.
The concerts primarily feature the camp faculty, but this year there will be a few guests also sitting in.
According to camp director Mike Tremblay, the greater number of larger bands is “just how it worked out. We were trying to keep it a little different and not have the same sort of acts every year.”
He had been trying to get MacLeod for last year's camp, he said, “but he was just too busy. But this year he was available, and we booked him early.” MacLeod is best known for his 20-piece Rex Hotel Orchestra, which he formed in 2003 as a vehicle for his arranging and composing, and which has maintained a gig at the Rex Hotel Blues & Jazz Bar in Toronto on the last Monday of the month ever since.
But the first concert, on Tuesday, will be more intimate, Tremblay said. The Kailash Mital Theatre is “such a great space for quiet music. I really like the sound of that hall, with the piano and everything for really quiet stuff. You can hear a pin drop in there” – which will make it perfect for four duo performances, each about 20 minutes long.
The evening will start will start with a less-expected combination: pianist James McGowan and guitarist Wayne Eagles. McGowan's interests include 18th- and 19th-century art music, as well as tonal jazz; Eagles is particular interested in jazz fusion and avant-garde jazz. “I know they're looking forward to trying some stuff out,” Bedner said. With the two musicians' versatility and compositional backgrounds, “I'm sure they'll be able to come to a common agreement and make some great music.”
Next will be Bedner (guitar) and Elise Letourneau (vocals, flute), who are much more accustomed to each other's music. “This is what we've been doing for over 20 years, so it will be real easy for us to do our thing and push the improv connection to see what we can come up with. We don't want it to be too predictable, so we want to push ourselves to be creative and musical, so we'll see what happens. But it will be fun.”
They will be followed by trumpeter John MacLeod and pianist Brian Dickinson, who have also been playing with each other for more than two decades, though not necessarily as a duo. Both MacLeod and Dickinson teach at the Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts; MacLeod plays in Dickinson's quintet and Dickinson has sat in with MacLeod's Orchestra.
Last will be saxophonist Kelly Jefferson and drummer Ted Warren, who both hail from Regina and have played together many times before in different combinations. Bedner noted that Jefferson is no stranger to the sax / drums format; he regularly plays duos with drummer Jim Blackley, who mentioned this when Blackley was recently in Ottawa. “So I have a feeling that Kelly is just continuing that connection with Ted Warren.”
Wednesday night will feature the Ottawa Latin band, Los Gringos, including camp assistant director Mark Ferguson, who has written many of their songs. Los Gringos appeared at a camp in 2010, Tremblay said, “and we packed the place! … We could put together a Latin band with the staff we have, but why? We've got Los Gringos here, they're great and they sound amazing.”
“Mark and some of the other musicians' arrangements are just awesome,” Bedner said, “and with the high energy that band brings, you can't sit still when you listen to that music!”
Tremblay invited Kelly Jefferson to be his guest artist at Tremblay's first Saxophone Camp, in 2007. Ferguson suggested they try playing together again in a quintet this year (along with Dickinson, John Geggie on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums).
“I thought “OK, that would be cool!” so I'm looking forward to that. It's always an honour for me to play with that level of player. And he's such a nice guy: it will be so easy. I'll take a couple of tunes; Kelly will take a couple of tunes. I emailed Brian [Dickinson] yesterday and asked him to pick a couple of tunes. And then we'll go ahead and it should be a lot of fun,” Tremblay said.
He said he hoped the setlist would be a mixture of some standards or arranged standards, as well as original compositions.
MacLeod will be bringing his charts for his 20-piece orchestra, but the seats in Friday's band will be filled with camp faculty, a few other local musicians to fill out the ranks, and several advanced students from the camp.
“So for the students who have achieved a certain level of proficiency, here they have the opportunity to play some top-notch arrangements with some world-class musicians,” Bedner said.
Tremblay said he expected the big band would be the highlight of the concerts. “I can't wait for that night! There's going to be lots of doubles: the saxophone players are going to be playing flutes and clarinets. I believe we've got a couple of French horns coming in. It's going to be a really neat set-up. … I haven't been told what I'm playing yet, but I have a feeling I'll be playing alto and Kelly will be playing tenor and that will just build out from there.”
All the musicians will have to be quick studies: with the tight camp schedule, Tremblay said he expected only one hour-long official rehearsal before the concert.
On Saturday, the students will get their chance to play before an audience for a free concert, with smaller combos in the afternoon and larger combos and big bands in the evening.
“We're going to try to keep the talking down so it's just more performance. It won't be quite as much of a marathon: we're learning to streamline things,” Bedner said.
Concerts an essential part of the camp
Tremblay said he always planned to have evening concerts as part of the jazz camp, based on what he saw working very well in Phil Nimmons' jazz camp many years ago: “one night it was Ed Bickert, and Moe Koffman and an ensemble, and the next night the Humber Big Band was playing, and the next night they had guys from the Boss Brass doing their thing … So it was just like a star-studded affair every night to hear these great acts play.”
“There's so many demands put on the students during the day, with their ear training, small ensembles, large ensembles, the masterclasses – they really, I think, need that downtime. And Pat LaBarbera told me [that] many years ago, when I first saw him. He said that 50% of playing jazz comes from listening to great jazz and there's no better way to listen to jazz than live.”
“When you get a chance to see some of these world-class experienced musicians, jazz performers demonstrate what they've been talking about during the day, you can get the “Aha!” moments happening, which is really nice,” Bedner said. “And also the inspiration when you see folks up there having fun, and you hear a high level of communication, that skill that comes from being very proficient at this art form, and when you love the music, you can't help but get inspired and want to come back the next day and work a little harder.”
“Seeing live music is such an awesome experience – being in that energy and that environment. YouTube or videos on-line or your big-screen TV – that's great, and but there's a level of disconnect. When you're there live, it can feel your soul for a another year or more. I'm still reeling from when I saw Kieran Overs, Alex Dean, and Jeff Asselin last year. That was just an amazing concert; the three of them playing … fond memories [which are] still feeding me.”
And that of course, can also apply to the non-student members of the audience, too, who will see and hear musicians who don't often make it to Ottawa.
“It should be a great week of music,” Bedner said, “...a little mini-jazz festival of some great performances in the evening here in Ottawa.”
New performers every year
Tremblay said he planned to continue to change which faculty he brought from outside Ottawa. “We can start to mix it up now. Every year, we're going to try to bring in some different guys from out of town, and just try to keep things happening.”
For this year, he said, the camp is continuing to expand, with more than 70 students – enough bodies for three big bands. Despite renovations at Carleton, he said the basic format of the camp wasn't changing, other than moving to Tuesday to Saturday, rather than Monday to Friday, because of the August civic holiday.
– Alayne McGregor
- John MacLeod harnesses the creative energy of a big band with his Rex Hotel Jazz Orchestra
- John MacLeod Big Band (review)
- Carleton U Jazz Camp goes batty presenting a quartet of duos
- OttawaJazzScene.ca's coverage of the 2010 Carleton University Jazz Camp
- Carleton University Jazz Camp: from the inside 
Read more about last year's Carleton University Jazz Camp concerts:
- A rare chance to hear Charlie Parker's music live
- Monday: Brian Browne Trio opens 2011 Carleton U Jazz Camp concert series
- Tuesday: Alex Dean charms the audience at the 2011 Carleton U Jazz Camp concert series
- Wednesday: Tribute to Charlie Parker at the 2011 Carleton U Jazz Camp concert series
- Thursday: The Roddy Ellias Trio at the 2011 Carleton U Jazz Camp concert series
The library expansion construction has completely closed part of Library Road and affects access to the Kailash Mital Theatre from one the east. Motorists should consider using the easy, southwest access off Colonel By Drive rather than entering via Bronson. Turn into the University from Colonel By, then turn immediately left onto Library Road. Proceed up the hill to the parking lot (first turn on your right).
If entering from Bronson Avenue, first follow University Avenue (to the left) all the way until it meets Library Road, then proceed as above.
Cyclists (crossing at Hartwells Locks) should go south on Colonel By until after the construction, and then cross the grassy berm through the trees to get into the parking lot and access to the bike parking next to the theatre, or also use the Colonel By entrance.
Pedestrians and transit users will be least affected, but will find some of the tunnels and sidewalks near the library detoured.