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“I've never seen musical borders”: Adam Saikaley unveils his jazz trio music

Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley is a musical Renaissance man. Adept at playing hip-hop, reggae, punk, pop, and jazz, he's also worked as a DJ, and as a classical music producer on CBC Radio. In the jazz sphere, he's led tributes to his favourite Miles Davis albums, played 60s and 70s jazz with his quartet, and performed free jazz with local improvisers.

Adam Saikaley's jazz trio will perform at the GigSpace Jazz MicroFest on Saturday, April 29 ©Brett Delmage, 2015

His newest project is a jazz piano trio with bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage. But don't think Oscar Peterson: Saikaley's music, while definitely melodic, is influenced by avant-garde pianists like Cecil Taylor and Kris Davis. On April 1, the trio was the opening act for the JUNOfest jazz showcase at Live! on Elgin, the only local group to join the JUNO nominees in that showcase. Their rendition of Saikaley's dynamically-rich original compositions evoked warm applause from the audience.

Their next concert outing will be at GigSpace's Jazz MicroFest, where they'll open the Saturday evening concerts on April 29. They also play at Bar Robo on the last Wednesday of each month.

When editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Saikaley on the morning of Monday, April 3, he and the trio had had a very busy weekend. Saturday was their JUNOfest show, and the next day, they recorded their first album.

We began by talking about Saikaley's love for real pianos, whose sound he loves and which he doesn't get to play on often enough at shows, although he has one at home. At JUNOfest and at the recording session, he played Steinway pianos; at GigSpace, he'll have a Yamaha to stretch out on. And having a piano to play on does make a real difference to the sound, he contends.

This is a lightly edited version of our conversation.'s reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to Barry Cooper whose support helped make this interview possible.

Read more: “I've never seen musical borders”: Adam Saikaley unveils his jazz trio music


Audience enjoys new look at Canadian jazz with trombone

Nicholas Adema Quintet: Music from Famous Canadian Trombonists
St. Luke's Anglican Church
Sunday, April 9, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

Nicholas Adema celebrated music by Canadian trombonists at his special concert  ©Brett Delmage, 2017

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

It was a night for the trombone on Sunday as Nicholas Adema brought together three Ottawa musicians and one Toronto musician to play compositions by well-known Canadian trombonists.

And it sparked a definite interest. In his introduction, the St. Luke's Church music series coordinator stated that the show had attracted one of their largest audiences. The 17-year-old trombonist, composer, arranger, and senior high school student had been working for the last year to organize it.

The set list included numbers by Rob McConnell (from the Boss Brass), Ian McDougall, and Terry Promane, plus several numbers by local composer Mark Ferguson. Ferguson was also on the bandstand, but playing piano, not trombone. Bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage provided a flexible but driving rhythm section (and several emphatic solos).

Adema also included several of his own compositions, including “Samba Not So Samba” which he had also performed recently with the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra, but in a quite different arrangement with more room for trombone. Trumpeter Kaelin Murphy, who is currently studying at the University of Toronto, contributed a particularly fine flugelhorn finale to the ballad Adema had written in honour of Ferguson, “M.F.”.

Read more: Audience enjoys new look at Canadian jazz with trombone


Cynthia Tauro: 1st woman to host Jazz Mondays at Petit Chicago

In April, pianist Cynthia Tauro and her quartet is hosting the late-night Jazz Monday jam sessions. It's the culmination for her of many years enjoying the music at those jams.

The Cynthia Tauro Quartet will host Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago for all of April: (l-r) Cynthia Tauro, Alex Moxon, Alex Bilodeau, Michel Delage ©Brett Delmage, 2017

She's the first woman leader of a host band at Jazz Mondays in its 12-year history at Le Petit Chicago. checked its archived event listings, and while we found other women who had played on that stage on Mondays, Tauro was the first to lead a group.

She's playing with three musicians who frequently appear at this jam: guitarist Alex Moxon, drummer Michel Delage, and bassist Alex Bilodeau. Bilodeau also coordinates Jazz Mondays. At their first show on April 3, they performed Tauro's own original songs in the first set, ranging from Latin numbers to soulful to romantic to grooving. Tauro both sang and played keyboards, with the rhythm section providing a strong jazz propulsion filling the downtown Gatineau club. As usual, they opened the second set to jammers.

Tauro graduated in 2016 with a degree in jazz piano and voice from Carleton University. Originally from Toronto, she's now living in Ottawa and performing in venues across the city. editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Tauro between sets at Le Petit Chicago on April 3.

Read more: Cynthia Tauro: 1st woman to host Jazz Mondays at Petit Chicago


Nicholas Adema dedicates a concert to Canadian trombonists (video)

Nicholas Adema with the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra ©2017 Brett Delmage

The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra presented their third concert of this season on Sunday, April 2 at Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University. The band’s strong lineup, which included members who have played in CYJO for several years, hit the right notes – and rhythms – on a variety of tough Latin tunes.

A surprise composer stepped forward mid-concert to present his own composition. Nicholas Adema is the orchestra's 17-year-old second trombonist and is also active in Nepean All City Jazz Band (NACJB). He led the orchestra and soloed in his own composition “Samba not so Samba”.

He’s been working on his own very special concert, as a personal high school graduation project and a signficant step in his early professional music career. It’s been a marathon. Adema booked the venue almost one year ago, then started transcribing music last summer, followed by rehearsing and putting a band together.

On Sunday, the Nicholas Adema Quintet will perform “exciting jazz music from famous Canadian trombonists that you probably have never heard before.” Adema will include some of his own compositions as well as those by Ottawa composer and trombonist/pianist Mark Ferguson.

   – Brett Delmage

The Nicholas Adema Quintet (with Nicholas Adema, Mark Ferguson, Alex Bilodeau, Michel Delage, and Kaelin Murphy) will perform at St. Luke's Church, 760 Somerset West (in Chinatown, at Bell Street just west of Bronson Avenue) on Sunday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is pay what you can.

Watch the Inside the Scene video story


Stories behind the 2017 Jazz Juno Award winners

Bria Skonberg on the 2017 Juno red capet. She won the Vocal Jazz Juno for her album Bria. ©2017 Brett DelmageThe Cellar Live record label in Vancouver released Metalwood's Juno-winning album because of its ties to this country.

“Metalwood is Canadian, like really Canadian, and they come from across Canada, and so it was totally a natural fit,” said record owner Cory Weeds.

It was an illuminating comment in a year when most of the winners in the Juno jazz categories live in New York City.

The 2017 jazz-related Junos were awarded on Saturday to:

  • Metalwood: Twenty (Jazz Album of the Year: Group)
  • Renee Rosnes: Written in the Rocks (Jazz Album of the Year: Solo)
  • Bria Skonberg: Bria (Vocal Jazz Album of the Year)
  • Diana Panton: I Believe in Little Things (Children's Album of the Year)

Rosnes, Skonberg, and two of Metalwood's four members are Canadian ex-pats who now live in New York City.

When asked to comment on this, Rosnes said, “Well, it's the mecca of our music. New York has a fantastic jazz scene as you know. It's very vibrant, and a lot of Canadian musicians go there to play and learn and a lot of us end up staying.”

She noted that the Canadian musicians in New York are “all friendly with one another, and we have a great love for Canada and we come back very often to perform and to see family of course as well.”

In her acceptance speech, Skonberg said, “I'm proud to be Canadian.” She thanked the New York City community, “for lifting me up”, and her home town of Chilliwack, BC, “for keeping me grounded”.

View photos by Brett Delmage of JUNO jazz award nominees and winners on the red carpet

Read more: Stories behind the 2017 Jazz Juno Award winners


National Arts Centre announces Canada Scene jazz concerts

Updated April 5, 2017

Update May 4: The five Canada Scene jazz concerts being co-sponsored by the Ottawa Jazz Festival were finally officially announced this morning: David Occhipinti's Camera Ensemble (June 22); Erin Costelo (June 23); Gord Grdina's Haram (June 24); Al Muirhead Trio featuring Guido Basso (June 25); and Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms (June 26). All are Canadians, and all will be performing in the NAC Back Stage at 6 p.m.

The National Arts Centre announced today some of the Canadian jazz musicians it will present as part of its Canada Scene festival to celebrate Canada's 150th.

The festival, which will run from June 15 to July 23, will present 1000 Canadian artists in more than 100 events in the National Capital Region, including music, theatre, circus, dance, visual arts, film, and culinary arts. It announced its full line-up this morning.

Six jazz groups will be presented at the NAC in joint concerts with the Ottawa Jazz Festival between June 22 and 26. They include:

  • Toronto guitarist David Occhipinti’s Camera
  • Vancouver guitarist/oud player Gord Grdina with his Haram project
  • Calgary trumpeter Al Muirhead and his straight-ahead quartet, with Alberta bassist Kodi Hutchinson, Toronto flugelhornist Guido Basso, and Ottawa pianist Brian Browne. Hutchinson told that Browne has replaced the originally-announced Don Thompson.
  • Montrealer improviser, saxophonist and objects player Jean Derome
  • and two more concerts, which have not yet been confirmed.

The highest-profile Canada Scene jazz concert was announced last fall: the July 10 “Oscar, with Love” tribute in Southam Hall – with six renowned jazz pianists, but ironically not all Canadian, playing on Peterson's own beloved Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano, which will travel to Ottawa for this occasion. The evening will be hosted by Peterson's daughter, Céline. [See the video interview with Robi Botos about that show]

Read more and watch our video story about the launch


April showers Ottawa-Gatineau with jazz

For jazz fans, April in Ottawa is bookended by two notable events – the 2017 Juno Awards at the beginning of the month, and the first GigSpace Jazz MicroFest (and International Jazz Day) at the end. But you'll have plenty to hear in the middle as well.

Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up. He performs at Junofest on Saturday night  ©Brett Delmage, 2016Modern jazz. Bossa. Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. Avant-garde. Tributes to jazz giants of the past. Big bands. Jazz fusion. Most any jazz style you like you're bound to find someone performing it this month.

On Saturday, April 1, the jazz-related Juno Awards will be handed out in the early evening at a gala dinner at the convention centre. Nearby, at Live! on Elgin downtown, jazz fans will be able to hear three of the jazz nominees starting at 9 p.m., in the second JUNOfest jazz showcase. We asked the nominees what they'd be playing at the showcase, and you can read all the details in our Juno Awards overview article.

The non-jazz awards will be handed out on Sunday, April 2, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, in a televised show. 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.

But there are alternatives to the Juno excitement and crowds. Toronto guitarist James Brown has been playing with bassist Jim Vivian for two decades now, and you can hear their intimate and intricate musical conversation at GigSpace on April 1. It's a rare chance to hear either Brown or Vivian, who is one of the finest jazz bassists in Canada. No line-ups, no fuss, just Brown's creative originals plus some new and classic standards. Read our interview with Brown to learn more.

Also on April 1, the Ottawa group 45north tips its hat to the Junos with its jazz take on Canadian music – some jazz, some popular – at Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse in the Market.

Read more: April showers Ottawa-Gatineau with jazz


Mayor Watson: City of Ottawa will develop its first music strategy

The City of Ottawa will develop its first music strategy for Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson announced Friday morning at a city-sponsored “Ottawa as a Music City” panel. But not everyone there was convinced that developing a strategy was the best use for the money.

Mayor Watson: We're very excited and bullish about the possibility of the [music] industry here in Ottawa growing even faster and bigger. ©2017 Brett DelmageThe city and the non-profit Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) will “strike a task force of music industry stakeholders and business leaders from connected sectors, such as the festival network and Ottawa Tourism, to develop something we need to chart our future, the very first Ottawa Music Strategy in our city's history,” Watson said. The city is allocating $30,000 to fund the necessary research and consultation work, and assigning city staff to work with the task force. No specific timeline was given for creating the strategy.

Watson said the strategy would identify ways to grow Ottawa's musical talent base and music industry. “We're very excited and bullish about the possibility of the industry here in Ottawa growing even faster and bigger. But in order to do that we need a little bit of coordination and we need a little bit of direction and people to step up and help us.”

But panelist Kathleen Edwards was more skeptical. Edwards is an Ottawa singer-songwriter, and also the owner of the Quitters coffee shop in Stittsville. Last November, she sold out the 900-seat NAC Theatre for a Crossroads concert with a jazz ensemble led by Petr Cancura.

“Sometimes I hear 'advisory committee' and I think, 'Why don't you spend that money on a venue that has a long-term plan, that's going to be lasting?' ” she said. “Rather than let's talk how to make that, let's just make that.”

What Ottawa really needs is more venues which that local musicians can book, Edwards said. “We definitely don't have enough venues. There are some really great venues in this city, [but] they're of a size that are pretty inaccessible and unaffordable for certain-tier artists to go into.”

Read more: Mayor Watson: City of Ottawa will develop its first music strategy


“No extra clutter”: James Brown and Jim Vivian have a guitar-bass conversation

Jazz musician James Brown is a composer, first and foremost. His instrument is the guitar – but his multi-layered musical vision extends well beyond that.

James Brown composes for both jazz and classical ensembles - sometimes with the same pieces in different incarnations (photo by Stewart Lowe)

He'll play his compositions – some of which were originally written for classical ensembles and some for jazz quintet – when he makes his GigSpace debut on April 1.

It’s a smaller group, however – a duo concert with well-known Toronto bassist Jim Vivian, where they'll also play some standards and music by the Beatles and Joni Mitchell. Brown and Vivian have been performing together regularly for two decades – “It's one of the duos that I keep coming back to,” Brown says.

Brown has played jazz in Toronto for more than 20 years, with a who's-who of musicians in Toronto's jazz scene. His recent performance list includes shows with Andrew Downing, Artie Roth, Ernie Tollar, Ted Quinlan, Vivian, and Yvette Tollar, as well as Latin jazz with flutists Bill McBirnie, Christopher Lee, and Christine Beard. He's released four jazz CDs, one collaboration, and three as a leader; the most recent as leader, Sevendaze [2009], featured Don Thompson on piano, Quinsin Nachoff on sax, Vivian on bass, and Anthony Michelli on drums. Brown is on faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he teaches guitar and jazz improvisation.

As a composer, he's written for everything from solo guitar to symphony orchestra. His pieces have been performed and recorded by ensembles including Orchestra Toronto, the Trinity Chamber Ensemble, and The Montreal Guitar Trio.

This dual perspective on music is not completely surprising given how late Brown came to jazz.

“Like most kids, I got into rock & roll, and that's what hooked me into the guitar initially when I was about 13 years old. My Grade 7 teacher was a guitarist, and he had a lunch-time guitar club. I joined that, and it just led me down the path of playing the guitar."

He played in a few high school bands, but then a friend began taking lessons at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. “He was doing classical guitar and when I heard and witnessed what he was doing, it really grabbed my attention. So I ended up signing up myself at the Conservatory in Toronto.”

Read more: “No extra clutter”: James Brown and Jim Vivian have a guitar-bass conversation


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