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Monday jazz at Le Petit Chicago canceled suddenly

The Monday jazz nights at Le Petit Chicago, which have been an important part of the local jazz community for more than eight years, will be ending for now. There will be a finale performance on Monday, January 14.

Zakari Frantz (alto) and fellow musicians got the audience up and dancing in July 2012  ©Brett Delmage, 2012Since December, 2011, Curiosity Killed the Quartet, led by saxophonist Zakari Frantz, had run the Monday nights at Le Petit Chicago. Frantz said the band was sat down and told about the immediate cancellation on Monday night: “It was quite sudden and there was nothing we could do about it.”

Frantz said he was told this was part of a larger cancellation of most music programming at the downtown Gatineau club, especially on weekdays.

The club told him the plan was that the cancellation would be temporary, he said, but no restart date was given.

The last Monday jazz night at the club was December 17. There were no shows on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The series was supposed to restart January 7, but that show was canceled at the last moment.

Frantz said there was no hint of any cancellation when the band left in December. While he had been on tour with Souljazz Orchestra for much of the fall, he understood from the other band members that the attendance was quite good during that time, and it certainly was for the two weeks he played there in November. “In fact, I had a lot of friends show up.”

The cancellation was “a big blow", he said.

"I had big plans for this year. Everybody in the band was excited to start working on a book of new things that we were wanting to attempt. We're going to have to find somewhere else to do that. But the band will stay together, and we'll probably end up using Monday nights to rehearse now.”

The band had hoped to use the Petit Chicago evenings as a springboard to recording an album, and Frantz said he still hoped to do that in the near future. “I'd like to get the band recorded and documented.”

While the Monday jazz nights at Le Petit Chicago attracted a steady groups of listeners, young and old, they were particularly important to local jazz musicians. Generally, the house band opened up the second and third sets of the night to allow other musicians to play, and it was also important place to network. It was a late-night jam, starting about 10 p.m, and ending around 1 to 2 a.m.

Were there enough listeners? “There's always a reason not to go out to shows. It's always going to be too cold or too hot or to rainy or too dry. Or too late, or too early. Or on a day that ends in “y”. There's always going to be a reason. But you have to figure out a way to get people to the shows. And when I figure out how to do that, I guess I'll be doing that.”

And he emphasized how grateful he was to those who did make it out to Gatineau for the evenings.

The band which initiated the Monday jazz nights at Petit Chicago was Search Engine, led by Brian and Jeff Asselin, along with several other musicians, most recently Eric Disero on keyboards, and Alex Mastronardi on bass. Brian Asselin approached Le Petit Chicago about eight years ago to try a jazz night, and it proved successful enough to make it a weekly fixture at the club. Search Engine played the majority of the evenings, but there were several months where other groups, including the Don Cummings and the Back-Talk Organ Trio, and Mike Essoudry Septet took over.

Search Engine had released its first CD at the club in April, 2011, but since then it had been having other musicians fill in, and it happily relinquished the evening to Frantz starting in December, 2011.

Frantz said he now planned to spend 2012 studying saxophone and flute with some teachers, and to continue working with Curiosity as well as another trio project, and maybe expand his Peace and Rhythm trio as well. He also expected to tour with Souljazz in the summer.

Le Petit Chicago responded to OttawaJazzScene.ca via email, saying that it was currently reviewing all our activities for the new year. "A change in the structure of the jazz night's was imperative and we couldn't get to an agreement with the band."

"We will still be playing jazz music over the P.A. and hope to get Curiosity Killed the Quartet back on stage as soon as possible."

    – Alayne McGregor

Updated January 14 to include a response from Le Petit Chicago.

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