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Safe Low Limit fills a pool with sound, not water (video)

Safe Low Limit members prepare for their first pool concert   ©2017 Brett Delmage

How do you perform a concert in a swimming pool?

Take one empty swimming pool. (OK, almost empty, but everyone avoided getting wet feet.) Carefully fit in wood risers into the deep end to cover up the remaining ponds of water in there. Add amps, mic stands and mics, cables, music stands, and chairs.

Lift down and assemble the sections of the drum set. Then gingerly carry down (being careful not to slip on the slippery steep slope between the shallow and deep ends) a trombone, a cello, and a tuba.

Smile and chat with your audience, seated 12 feet above you. And perform, letting the low sounds resonate around you and rise up.

Safe Low Limit, Ottawa's bass clef jazz quartet, picked a highly unusual location for their latest show – an empty outdoor swimming pool behind a house in Vanier. (The homeowners were friends of Steve Berndt, the band's leader, trombonist and vocalist, and let him borrow the pool, currently being renovated, for the show.)

With sunny skies and pleasant temperatures which did not require a swimming pool filled with water on Saturday afternoon, it turned out to be the perfect location for a friendly outdoor concert. About three dozen listeners attended the pay-what-you-can house concert and warmly applauded throughout.

OttawaJazzScene.ca was there to share the experience. Watch our video, with interviews with Steve Berndt and Keith Hartshorn-Walton along with an excerpt from the show.

    – Alayne McGregor

Related:

Watch the Inside the Scene video story

 

A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations

This week will be a homecoming for Juno-winning pianist D.D. Jackson – back to the Ottawa student music festivals where he made his first public performances, and back to playing with a long-time musical friend.

D.D. Jackson's two concerts in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday are a homecoming for him after almost 10 years photo by Dave KaufmanAnd back to jazz. Jackson recently returned to jazz performance, after several years concentrating on TV and film scores (for which he's won an Emmy) and on raising his son and daughter. He'll be unveiling brand-new compositions at his concerts here on Thursday and Friday, which he hopes to include in a new album – his 13th.

On Thursday, Jackson is the featured artist at the Highlights Concert for the Kiwanis Music Festival at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. His solo piano performances will be a concert highlight, together with top Ottawa student performances at the show. On Friday, he'll give a closed masterclass to Canterbury High School students in the morning. In the evening, he has a sold-out show at GigSpace with Ottawa double bassist John Geggie, with whom he's performed and recorded for 22 years. The concert will include solo piano pieces as well as piano/bass duos.

Jackson grew up in Ottawa, attending W. Erskine Johnston Public School and the Earl of March High School in Kanata. His piano talent was obvious from an early age – but at that time, strictly channeled into classical music. It wasn't until after he attended Indiana University for a degree in classical piano, that he began looking at jazz. When he moved to New York City to take his masters at the Manhattan School of Music, it was in jazz performance, and he has remained in the NYC area and in jazz ever since.

Read more: A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations

 

Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall

NAC Presents has again gone for the tried and true, with Diana Krall headlining a sparse selection of jazz artists in its fall line-up.

Diana Krall returns to jazz in two shows at the NAC Southam Hall December 1 and 2. ©2013 Brett DelmageThis edition of the popular music series at the National Arts Centre was fully curated by its new producer, former Halifax Jazz Festival executive director Heather Gibson. 6 of the 52 concerts announced today are jazz-related, including Krall, Toronto guitarist Jesse Cook, Montreal pianist Emie R Roussel, Toronto vocalist Shakura S'Aida, and Ottawa Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas.

Most of the series concerts will be in the newly-renovated Fourth Stage, which reopens at the beginning of October. NAC Presents is also unveiling a new “Fridays at the Fourth” sub-series featuring many “emerging” artists, including Ottawa soul-jazz vocalist Rebecca Noelle. The Fourth Stage will now open early on Fridays “so people can drop in for a drink after work or come early for the show, with the performance starting at 8:30 p.m.” The shows will be priced at $15, or $10 for students.

In previous years, the only inclusion of Ottawa jazz artists in NAC Presents was in Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/roots series. That series was not included in this announcement.

With 52 shows announced for just September to December, NAC Presents has substantially increased the number of Canadian musicians it's showcasing. It had consistently presented about 60 artists total in the fall and spring in previous seasons. However, there's little increase in jazz. Last fall, it presented four jazz artists, plus Diana Krall performing at the NAC Gala. In 2015, there were five jazz shows in the fall, and in the fall of 2014, three.

Vocalist and pianist Diana Krall will unveil her new jazz album, Turn Up the Quiet, in two shows in the 2,065-seat Southam Hall on December 1 and 2. Krall is spending most of this year touring throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada to promote this album, which sees her return to jazz standards after a strictly pop outing with Wallflower in 2015.

On the CD, Krall sings classics that include “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, "Isn't It Romantic?" by Rodgers and Hart, the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E”, the Latin “Sway”, Johnny Mercer's “Dream”, and Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies”. There's a definite retro feel to the selections, with many of the songs originally written in the 1920s and 1930s, and the overall vibe of the choices is intimate and soft. The album was produced by the late Tommy LiPuma, who had produced several of Krall’s best-known albums, including All For You, The Look Of Love, and Live In Paris.

Read more: Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall

 

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.


OttawaJazzScene.ca's jazz highlights and other reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to our sponsors this month: Tyler Harris, Anne Joliceur, The Record Center, John Wilson.

Your reader donation helps  OttawaJazzScene.ca's promote jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau with our unique and in-depth reporting that celebrates live jazz all year long.

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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.

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

 

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”.

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

 

The Courage 4: different instruments, well-loved standards (video)

Courage4 in rehearsal: Mike Essoudry, Martine Courage, Rob Frayne, Laura Nerenberg ©2017 Brett Delmage

The Courage4 plays jazz standards – but not with your typical instrumentation.

Pianist and vocalist Martine Courage leads the group, which also includes Rob Frayne on tenor sax and Fender bass, Mike Essoudry on drums – and Laura Nerenberg on violin. They play their own arrangements in an atmospheric, grooving style: not like your typical jazz quartet.

“It's not a pop band, it's not a jazz band, but it's somewhere in the middle. But it's jazzy in the process,” says Frayne.

Courage met Nerenberg at the JazzWorks jazz camp in 2001, and played with her at local jams, and liked the sound. “The idea of having a unique jazz sound, a unique instrument to jazz, which to me is the violin, was a compelling idea for me, so I thought it would be great to have Laura in on this idea. It definitely worked really nicely.”

Nerenberg grew up listening to her father play jazz standards, but in her own career went strictly to classical. But then it occurred to her that it might be fun to improvise. In the video below, she explains how she got into jazz and “didn't look back”.

Watch the OttawaJazzScene.ca video of the group at their latest rehearsal, with them playing “What is This Thing Called Love?”, and including interviews by Brett Delmage with Courage, Frayne, and Nerenberg.

   – Brett Delmage

The Courage4 will perform at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 30. Tickets for their 40-minute show are $10, and can be bought on-line, or in person at Alcorn Music Studios, or by calling 613-729-0693. GigSpace is located within Alcorn Music Studios at 953 Gladstone Avenue, beside the O-Train tracks and one long block west of Preston Avenue. OC Transpo route 14 stops in front, and route 85 stops nearby on Preston Avenue.

Watch the Inside the Scene video story

 

Modasaurus' collective creation multiplies the meanings in its music

With Modasaurus, it's never just one thing.

The Ottawa jazz group – pianist James McGowan, guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist J.P. Lapensée, and drummer Jamie Holmes – makes a point of fusing different musical traditions together in their music. Even their name, “Modasaurus”, has multiple meanings.

James McGowan: 'Our goal is to explore and not be limited to a style or rooted in a style, but expand out and just totally challenge ourselves to find the fusion in things that don't necessarily typically find themselves getting fused.' ©Brett Delmage, 2016“Our goal is to explore and not be limited to a style or rooted in a style, but expand out and just totally challenge ourselves to find the fusion in things that don't necessarily typically find themselves getting fused,” McGowan told OttawaJazzScene.ca this week. They'll demonstrate how that can be done in their show at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest on Friday, April 28.

The quartet has “a funky sound, like a jazz core sound, and with that basic sound we're looking at going into other realms. Sometimes it's bluesy, sometimes it explores other traditions: Latin, Middle Eastern. Different sonic environments. Each piece has its own identity but the challenge and the joy of the project is routing all that into a jazz fusion sound that we've been cultivating.”

He emphasized this wasn't in particular rooted in the jazz-rock fusion sound made popular in the 1970s, “but more in the idea of the more broad sense of fusion, always looking to expand and integrate other sounds.”

They'll likely introduce two new pieces at GigSpace, McGowan said. One of these incorporates a North Indian (Hindustani) classical sound – a new source for the group. They'll also be playing music they've recorded for the group's upcoming debut album.

The four started playing together in early 2016, and have performed at various venues: GigSpace, Brookstreet, and shows in local churches. Their original connection was through Carleton University, where McGowan has been a professor of music since 2010, with a background in classical and choral music and contemporary improvisation.

Read more: Modasaurus' collective creation multiplies the meanings in its music

 

Tariq Amery captures his love affair with live music in his debut CD

Tariq Amery allowed the 7 other musicians on his debut CD to express their own voices - just like in the live performances he loves ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Go to a live jazz show or jam in Ottawa in the last few years, and there's a good chance you would see Tariq Amery. If he wasn't joining in on flute or tenor sax, he'd be listening intently and with obvious enjoyment.

Live music is his passion – for as many as 15 shows a week.

But now the young jazz musician with the big grin is moving outwards. He's releasing his debut CD, and he's looking at jazz scenes outside Ottawa, including possibly studying in Europe.

On Friday, April 21, Amery will release the CD at his own show at the Avant-Garde Bar. It's an atmospheric blend of voices and textures, in styles ranging from ballads to Wayne Shorter-style experimental modern jazz to Latin. He wrote most of the compositions on it last October, and recorded it in sessions in November and December.

It was an ambitious project, involving eight musicians from Ottawa and Montreal. Amery's soaring flute is an important part of the mix, but so is Daniel Ko's fierce saxophone, Ed Lister's powerful trumpet, Clayton Connell's electric piano, and Will O'Neill's fluent guitar. Vovo Saramanda drives the music with energetic Brazilian-style percussion along with Michel Delage on drums and J.P. Lapensée on bass.

Each of these musicians has a strong individual voice, and Amery's philosophy with the CD was to give them the room to express that. “I mean it when I say I wasn’t projecting anything onto the project. I really wanted it to be what it was.”

“I think the big thing for me was leaving it really open for other people to be themselves. I didn’t try to force any specific ideas. I had a general outline of what I wanted it to be, and then I was just like, ‘You guys do your thing and we’ll see of what we can make of this.’ ”

“I would throw things out there but nothing specific enough to make it obvious what to play. I was really letting the music ask for what it wanted.”

The CD is called Indefinity, a word which Amery created by gluing together “indefinite” and “infinity”. It turns out that word is also in the dictionary, meaning “being vague and poorly defined” – which isn't far off what he was aiming at.

Read more: Tariq Amery captures his love affair with live music in his debut CD

 

More April jazz, leading up to International Jazz Day

April culminates in International Jazz Day on the 30th – and there's many opportunities to hear local, Canadian, and American jazz artists in the last two weeks of the month, leading up to that day.

Chris Maskell  ©2015 Brett DelmageIf you're a lark instead of an owl, you have an alternate location and time to hear the Cynthia Tauro Quartet this month. Besides being the host band at Le Petit Chicago, they're also presenting a show at Pressed in Centretown on Thursday, April 20. The quartet will again be performing Tauro's original tunes as well as jazz standarWildCds, Latin standards, and various pop covers.

Also on the bill at Pressed is Fox Club, a new Montreal trio with Ottawa ex-pat saxophonist Chris Maskell along with bassist Jonny Chapman and drummer Aaron Dolman. Fox Club is a chordless trio which explores “creative original music and covers that make use of electronic instruments, improvisation and feel-good grooves”.

The JazzWorks monthly jam will shortly be on the move again. JazzWorks says that Thursday, April 20 will be its last time at the Georgetown Pub, because the location is being taken over by new owners. The host band for the final Georgetown evening will be fronted by vocalist Patricia Balfour – her first time leading a JazzWorks host band. Balfour says they'll be presenting “an eclectic mix of bright and cheery and slow and torchy, including a groovy bass-and-voice-only version of 'Feelin' Groovy', fast-paced scat tunes by Billy Eckstine and Thelonious Monk, and Mark Ferguson and Renée Yoxon's lively 'There's Only You' ”.


OttawaJazzScene.ca is made possible by reader donations. We'd like to thank Riek van den Berg and Mike Steinberg for their donations which enabled us to research and report these April highlights. Read the first part of this April highlights story here.


An Ottawa home-town folk favourite will have his songs shaken out and given a jazz gloss on Friday, April 21. Singer-songwriter Jim Bryson will perform with saxophonist Petr Cancura as part of Cancura's jazz-roots Crossroads series – along with the house band of Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, and Greg Ritchie. Cancura has been working with Bryson to select and rearrange his or her material to work with the jazz quartet for the concert.

Read more: More April jazz, leading up to International Jazz Day

 

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