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Juno Awards Week: jazz nominees from across Canada present new and different music in Canada's capital

Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up ©Brett Delmage, 2016Updated March 29, 2017
At the end of March, musicians of every genre will gather in Canada's capital for the 2017 Juno Awards ceremonies. And they won't just be accepting awards – they'll be showing off the diversity and new frontiers in Canadian music, including jazz.

The main attraction will be the JUNOfest concerts on Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1, at 15 locations across Ottawa, featuring nominated and local artists in many genres. Individual tickets and all-location wristbands are available for the shows, giving fans a chance to hear musicians from across the country. However, many of the locations are not large, and may fill up quickly.

Bassists Dave Young and Brandi Disterheft, pianists Amanda Tosoff and David Braid, vocalists Heather Bambrick and Felicity Williams, saxophonists Quinsin Nachoff, Shirantha Beddage, and Perry White, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, guitarists Reg Schwager and Alex Goodman, and drummer Terry Clarke will be among the jazz musicians performing at JUNOfest. [See the list of 2017 Juno Award nominees in the jazz and related categories]

The Juno Awards are also sponsoring exhibits of art, photography, and memorabilia associated with Juno-winning musicians, and several panel discussions about the music industry.

For jazz fans, the focus will be on Live! On Elgin downtown where four jazz groups – almost all Juno nominees – will perform each evening between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Jazz musicians nominated in the Children's and Instrumental categories will also perform in other JUNOfest venues.

On Friday, March 31, the jazz showcase at Live! On Elgin will open at 9 p.m. with Toronto vocalist Heather Bambrick accompanied by pianist David Braid. Bambrick is nominated in the Jazz Vocal category for You’ll Never Know, a collection of classic standards, originals, and even a Bruce Cockburn song, backed by a Toronto jazz septet.

Read more: Juno Awards Week: jazz nominees from across Canada present new and different music in Canada's capital

 

John Stetch to reimagine classical compositions at 2017 Ottawa Chamberfest

Jazz pianist John Stetch will continue his rethinking of classical concertos and sonatas in a concert at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Chamberfest) this summer.

John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016The festival today unveiled 15 of the shows which it will present from July 22 to August 4 – primarily from the core classical repertoire, but also including crossover concerts with jazz, the Beatles, contemporary pop, and film music, as well as interpretations of Canada's Arctic and unexpected takes on musicals and audiovisual performance. The remainder of the line-up will be revealed in April.

OttawaJazzScene.ca learned after the announcement that Toronto jazz pianist David Braid will also appear at the festival.

On July 26, Stetch will perform at La Nouvelle Scène in a show entitled “Classical Meets Jazz”. The festival says he will blend “dashes of classical” along with his “percussive and improvisational brand of piano playing”.

Stetch, who began his jazz career in Alberta but has lived and worked in or near NYC for decades, is a prolific original composer. His most recent CD is Improvisations [2015], an album of “unedited and un-premeditated solo improvisations”.

Read more: John Stetch to reimagine classical compositions at 2017 Ottawa Chamberfest

 

Ottawa jazz focuses on Canada in March, leading up to the Junos

Updated with new events added on March 15, 2017
At the end of March, many Canadians will look to Ottawa for the Juno Awards and all its associated concerts here. But that's only the climax of a month of fine Canadian jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau.

The Stretch Orchestra return to Ottawa with genre-bending music March 3&4 ©Brett Delmage, 2015With music ranging from big bands and swing, to tributes to vocalists like Nat King Cole and Joni Mitchell, to improvisation that pushes the boundaries, it's a diverse month – with a bit of extra push due to Juno concert microgrants. And to top it off, there's a CD release from David Renaud, a companion to his first duo record with Brian Browne.


We would like to thank GigSpace Performance Studio, Alrick Huebener, Marie Fleming, and Record Runner Rehearsal Studios whose donations made this unique March jazz highlights report possible.

OttawaJazzScene.ca’s reporting is made possible by reader donations. By becoming a donor you can help OttawaJazzScene.ca shine a spotlight on the scene every month of the year.


March begins with a blast – of horns, as Ed Lister premieres his new Prime Rib big band at Irene's on March 1. Lister has gathered together ten other well-known local jazz musicians to play mainly his own original material with a few covers thrown in. While Lister is better known for the funkier music of ERU-ERA or the Chocolate Hot Pockets, he's also a big fan of the swing classics (read our review of his Ellington tribute concert). He says that the style of this new band is “very much rooted in big band swing in the style of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk”.

Read more: Ottawa jazz focuses on Canada in March, leading up to the Junos

 

Listening to Oscar Peterson has given Rémi Bolduc a new view on jazz

Over the last two years, Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc has immersed himself in pianist Oscar Peterson's music – and developed an immense respect for Peterson as a composer and musician as a result.

Saxophonist Rémi Bolduc is paying hommage to Oscar Peterson in his current tour with his quartet, including bassist Fraser Hollins. ©Brett Delmage, 2012Bolduc has just released a tribute CD to Peterson, Swingin' with Oscar, with his arrangements of Peterson's compositions. He is currently on tour with his quartet playing this music throughout Ontario and then further east, including a stop in Gatineau on April 12.

And, in the process, he's broadened his outlook on jazz. It used to be that when Bolduc listened to albums by the Canadian jazz icon, he would choose those Peterson made with famous saxophonists.

“I was really focusing on sax players. And I put a lot of my energy into transcribing solos of all sax players. And, of course, I heard Oscar Peterson on some of his records, but because I was checking out Sonny Stitt with Oscar, or Ben Webster with Oscar. I was really always taking the angle of the sax player. And as I get more mature in my music, I opened my mind. I'm like, OK, you've got to go further that that.”

In the fall of 2015, Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts asked Bolduc to perform a tribute show to Peterson, to honour the 90th anniversary of Peterson's birth. It was one of a series of tribute concerts he's played there, each time honouring a different jazz master. For the show, he brought in Taurey Butler on piano, along with long-time collaborators Fraser Hollins on bass and Dave Laing on drums.

He said he picked Taurey Butler as the pianist for this project because “we'd played together, and I thought that Oscar had a big influence on him.”

Butler studied classical piano as a child, but stopped playing piano after age 12. “And then he heard Oscar Peterson, and that brought him back to jazz. So Taurey, when he plays, he has that approach. He's really, of course, virtuosic, he uses all kinds of elements on the piano, and the way he plays the chords and his time feel and his whole vocabulary is highly influenced by Oscar Peterson. In Montreal, I couldn't really think of anybody else that had that power when he plays.”

After the concert, “my agent started to call me and say ‘People would be interested to hear that project again.’ And so we did a few concerts, and I decided, OK, let's do a CD. I guess people love that music – especially Oscar Peterson in Canada.”

Read more: Listening to Oscar Peterson has given Rémi Bolduc a new view on jazz

 

French pianist Simon Denizart is inspired by new culture & new musicians in Quebec

Some Canadians might dream of living in Europe, but French pianist Simon Denizart went in the opposite direction. For Denizart, Quebec has been the exotic new land where his jazz career has flourished.

The Simon Denizart Trio (l-r: Simon Bellemare, Simon Denizart, Jeanne Corpataux) performs its first formal Canadian concert outside Quebec at the NAC on March 4 ©2016 Brett DelmageRaised in Créteil, a suburb of Paris, Denizart moved to Montreal in 2011. In 2014, his trio won the people's favourite award at the Festi Jazz International de Rimouski. They've released two albums, toured extensively throughout Quebec and appeared at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and made two tours of Europe, going as far afield as Poland and the Czech Republic.

Radio-Canada named Denizart their Révélation Jazz selection for 2016/2017. It's a considerable honour which has boosted the careers of previous picks.

On Saturday, he'll perform his first formal concert in Canada outside Quebec, when NAC Presents brings his trio to the National Arts Centre Back Stage.

Read more: French pianist Simon Denizart is inspired by new culture & new musicians in Quebec

 

GigSpace Jazz MicroFest puts the local into International Jazz Day

Updated March 5, 2017
GigSpace will celebrate International Jazz Day in April with a new three-day festival promoting Ottawa's jazz musicians.

GigSpace 2017 MicrFest logoThe GigSpace Jazz MicroFest will debut on April 28 to 30, with performances by 38 local musicians in 15 shows. The music will range from well-known and not-so-standard jazz standards, to groove based compositions, to folk and roots-inspired cabaret music, to lyrical modern jazz originals. The musicians will be familiar to readers of OttawaJazzScene.ca: many are popular names with long jazz careers here.

“It's a community-building effort,” said Marilee Townsend-Alcorn, the artistic director of the 45-seat concert venue. “It's raising the profile of the musicians in Ottawa. It's showing that we do have stellar musicians in our midst, playing at a very high level.”

The festival is a project that the GigSpace organizers have been wanting to undertake ever since they opened. “Probably every time there's a jazz festival, someone says, 'Wouldn't it be nice to just have Ottawa-only musicians? A festival for just the Ottawa people.' And we've all said that for five years,” she said.

GigSpace director and guitarist Tim Bedner in particular has been driving the project. With Canada's 150th birthday this year, “He really put the push on. 'Let's make it happen!'”

Read more: GigSpace Jazz MicroFest puts the local into International Jazz Day

 

The Stretch Orchestra (video)

©2016 Brett DelmageThe Stretch Orchestra is back in Ottawa on Friday, for two shows at GigSpace Performance Studio that may end up as a live recording.

The group, with Kevin Breit on guitars and mandolin, Jesse Stewart on percussion, and Matt Brubeck on cello, creates music that is energetic, complex, and fun, coming out of their joint background as jazz improvisers but drawing from almost every genre imaginable to create their very individual sound.

OttawaJazzScene.ca's Inside the Scene interviewed all three at their last show in Ottawa at Ontario Scene in 2015. It was very difficult to keep a straight face. And you can see what makes their music uniquely theirs in excerpts from their NAC Fourth Stage performance.

– Brett Delmage

Related: The Stretch Orchestra makes jazz bend [interview with Matt Brubeck]

Watch the Inside the Scene video story

 

Jazz tuba advocate Keith Hartshorn-Walton blows his own horn

Keith Hartshorn-Walton is behind the tuba and he'll be out front at his concert on Friday ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Keith Hartshorn-Walton is an advocate for the jazz tuba, but he’ll blow his own horn when he leads a group for the first time in Ottawa this Friday. His unusual quartet will also feature John Geggie on double bass, Michel Delage on drums, and Peter Hum on keyboard.

Ottawa listeners have heard Hartshorn-Walton play front-line tuba in a variety of groups in the past year: in Safe Low Limit, with his wife and vocalist Mélanie Hartshorn-Walton, and in various jams. Some might be surprised that he is a multi-instrumentalist.

“Since moving to Ottawa, it's been my pleasure to just really focus on the tuba,” Hartshorn-Walton said. “But when I was living near Toronto I was playing a piano, tuba, bass, bass trombone, and organ in churches. So that's a lot of different instruments.”

Not to mention the tuba’s cousin, the sousaphone, which he plays in Mike Essoudry's Bank Street Bonbons.

Hartshorn-Walton says he’s always aspired to play the tuba as a front-line instrument.

“It's something I always wanted to do, from the very beginning almost, and having more and more chances to do it. But you have to make those chances happen – you can't wait around. No one's going to call you. You show them it's possible, and then they're interested.”

“That's what I did here. I started going to the jam sessions and playing a bit – and more projects started happening. But you always have to be a bit of an advocate for it. Any other tuba player has done that. They tend to be evangelizing about the tuba all the time,” he said, laughing.

As other musicians have been, he was introduced to his uncommon instrument of choice by an early school experience.

“I started piano at age 6. Then when it came time to start band, they wanted to put me originally on electric bass and drums but I wanted to take an instrument home like everybody else, so I took a tuba home. And I surprised my parents with it one day. That was in Grade 7. And I've never stopped.”

Read more: Jazz tuba advocate Keith Hartshorn-Walton blows his own horn

 

One-third of 2017 Juno jazz nominees don't live in Canada

In a year of national celebrations showing Canadians' pride in and attachment to their country, the national music awards have nominated a surprising number of jazz ex-pats living in the United States.

See the list of 2017 Juno Award nominees in the jazz and related categories

Saxophonist Mike Murley is nominated in the 2017 Juno Awards for Mealwood's long-anticipated album, Twenty, while pianist David Braid is nominated for his chamber jazz album, Flow. Both are Canadian residents, living in Toronto. ©Brett Delmage, 2015The 2017 Juno Award nominations were released this morning. Among those selected in the three Juno jazz categories were NYC residents Darcy James Argue, Bria Skonberg, Brandi Disterheft, Renee Rosnes, and Seamus Blake – as well as Quinsin Nachoff, who divides his time between Toronto and NYC. That's more than one-third of the 15 nominees in the jazz categories.

In 2016, only one of 15 musicians or groups nominated in the jazz categories was based in the U.S. In 2015, two of 15 were American-based.

Most of the remaining 2017 nominated jazz artists are from the greater Toronto area.

To be eligible for a Juno award, musicians must directly submit their albums for judging. For each category, the Junos establishes a 10-person expert judging panel, whose first task is to make a first selection from all the submitted albums (which could be as many as 40 or 50) to five nominees. Each panel member then ranks the nominated albums in a second round of voting, and the album with the most votes wins.

As usual, the jazz categories cover a wide range of styles, from Argue's large-scale orchestrations to samba-flavoured vocal duets to jazz fusion. Notable are Metalwood's reunion twenty years after their Juno award-winning debut and fourteen years since their last release, and the Order of Canada Band, composed of renowned jazz musicians who have been awarded that national honour, paying tribute to Oscar Peterson's compositions.

Almost all the nominees are different from those nominated in 2015 or in 2016.

See the full list of jazz award nominees

 

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