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Beeched Wailers attract keen listeners and players for 1st jam night at Bar Robo

Beeched Wailers' Tuesday Jazz Jam
Bar Robo
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 – 8:30 to 11 p.m.

View photos of the Beeched Wailers' jam on January 24, 2017 by Brett Delmage

Bar Robo was filled with jammers on the stage and waiting to play on the first Tuesday of the bi-weekly Beeched Wailers jam ©2017 Brett DelmageThe Beeched Wailers drew a full and enthusiastic crowd of players and listeners to the first night of their new jazz jam location on January 24. They'll be back for a second night tonight (February 7).

The jam has moved to what Wailers' trumpeter Nick Dyson described as “more comfortable surroundings”: Bar Robo in Chinatown, which is in the same location as the former Raw Sugar Café. It has a sleek vibe and good sight lines, as well as a proper stage and decent acoustics. The beer, coffee, and soft drink prices are reasonable, and the bar also offers an interesting line in exotic meat and veggie hot dogs.

While the jam remains on Tuesday evenings, it will now run every second week rather than weekly.

On the first night, jammers – including high school and university students – were already lining up to play at 8 p.m. The Wailers played one song and then relinquished the stage until 10:15 p.m., when they performed their traditional closing set.

Read more: Beeched Wailers attract keen listeners and players for 1st jam night at Bar Robo

 

"Let's play!" Jane Bunnett and Miguel de Armas combine their jazz and Afro-Cuban energy

When Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas and Toronto saxophonist Jane Bunnett got together to play for the first time a few years ago, they didn't want to stop.

Miguel de Armas is celebrating 5 years of composing and performing in Canada with this show  ©Brett Delmage, 2015Bunnett still remembers their after-dinner jam at her house in Toronto. “We just kept doing tune and tune after tune. It was like, Omigod, as I was winding down, Miguel was winding up! He was this incredible atomic energy. It's why we love Cubans. This is why they're just amazing. They're so full of energy and creative spirit and collaboration, and let's go for it. We played and played, probably for a couple of hours, to my neighbours' chagrin, and definitely after midnight.”

At their Ottawa concert this Saturday, the music will be limited to 75 minutes, but the zest for playing will be there as much as ever.

Bunnett is one of the best-known proponents of Afro-Cuban jazz in North America; her ground-breaking and award-winning recording, Spirits of Havana, released in 1991, was the first major collaboration of North American and Cuban musicians. De Armas had an extensive professional jazz career in Cuba before coming to Canada.

Saturday's concert will be their first public performance together.

The show will also mark de Armas' fifth anniversary in Canada. He came here to marry Yasmina Proveyer, a Canadian who now acts as his manager and spokesperson. De Armas quickly found a musical niche in Ottawa, performing at festivals and clubs here and in Montreal and southern Ontario. He's made a point of playing with a wide variety of musicians, both inside and outside the Latin community.

Read more: "Let's play!" Jane Bunnett and Miguel de Armas combine their jazz and Afro-Cuban energy

 

Brighten mid-winter with romantic jazz: Ottawa-Gatineau jazz highlights this month

Updated February 14
Jazzed with love? Or in love with jazz? You've got lots of opportunities this month to celebrate romance – or to be cheered up with a touch of swing and groove.

Gerri Trimble is one of many local jazz musicians playing Valentine's Day shows this month - but she's subverting the concept! ©2015 Brett DelmageVisiting musicians this month include guitarist Jordan Officer, pianists Steve Holt and Jean-Michel Blais, vocalists Betty Bonifassi and Nancy Martinez, swing vocalist Alex Pangman, and the deep Chicago groove and mastery of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble.

And local musicians are playing their hearts out as well, with shows by the Back-Talk Organ Sextet, the Bank Street Bonbons, Safe Low Limit, Sabor de Cuba, the Apex Jazz Band, and the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra this month.

February is also Black History month, and several concerts will commemorate the contributions of black musicians to jazz.

But particularly noticeable this month is a whole series of Valentine-themed shows.

Even the NAC Orchestra gets into the romantic jazz act this month. It will perform the evocative score to “Casablanca” as part of a three-evening screening of the classic Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman film on February 9 to 11. Max Steiner's lush score to that film also includes six jazz standards, and in particular “As Time Goes By”, which Steiner refers back to repeatedly in snatches of melody throughout the score. Each evening, Ottawa jazz pianist Steve Boudreau will also play an hour-long solo set of jazz standards in the NAC Foyer before the orchestra takes to the stage in Southam Hall.

Toronto swing vocalist Alex Pangman loves performing at swing dances, singing her favourite vintage tunes that fill the dance floor with bright energy. On Friday, February 10, she's the featured guest of Peter Liu & the Pollcats – also a consistent favourite with Ottawa dancers – for an Ottawa Swing Dance Society Valentine's dance. The music will concentrate on love-themed songs. Listeners are welcomed too.

Read more: Brighten mid-winter with romantic jazz: Ottawa-Gatineau jazz highlights this month

 

Gentiane MG: "stretching to explore the unknown"

On Friday, Montreal jazz pianist Gentiane MG (short for Michaud-Gagnon) makes her Ottawa debut in a duo concert at the Record Runner Rehearsal Studios. She's performing with Ottawa-born tenor saxophonist Chris Maskell; both are currently in the master's program in jazz performance at McGill University. They'll be playing standards and some of their own compositions.

Montreal pianist Gentiane MG recently paid tribute to Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk, the three pianists she thinks have contributed the most to the evolution of jazz piano playing and composition (photo by Jean-François Hayeur)Gentiane is from Saguenay, Quebec, and discovered the piano at five years old. She originally studied classical piano, winning two Quebec competitions and reaching the finals in the Canadian Music Competition – but then moved into studying jazz and improvisation. She studied jazz performance at McGill University with a $15,000 Schulich Scholarship, finishing her undergrad degree in 2014. She received a Graduate Excellence Fellowship Award to work on her master's, and study with renowned French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc.

For several years, she's been playing with bassist Levi Dover (who has also performed with Maskell) and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel in her trio, and performing regularly on the Montreal jazz scene. This month, she's playing at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill every Tuesday with different musicians and a different repertoire each week.

Friday's concert is the second in the Live @ Record Runner series at the new Record Runner Rehearsal Studios in mid-west Ottawa.

Read the interview with Gentiane MG

 

Doug Martin gets in the groove in his second Havana Jazz Festival appearance

When Ottawa saxophonist and composer Doug Martin stepped out before several hundred listeners in Havana, Cuba, in December, he realized he had to pick up his game. It was his second time playing the Havana Jazz Festival – but it was in much bigger halls than his first time in 2014.

Doug Martin (second from right) was impressed with the Cuban musicians he performed with at the Havana Jazz Festival: (l-r) Miguel de Armas jr,  Alain Ledrón,  Arturo Cruz - photo by Roberto Proveyer, 2016“I thought, OK, I've got to take a step upward here because I don't usually get to play venues like that. So I had to come up to the mark and I think we did very well at that. I felt very relaxed and in the groove, in the zone.”

And he'll be using that experience in Ottawa this Friday, playing the same material in a show at the 80-seat Live! on Elgin hall.

In Havana, Martin teamed up with three Cuban musicians: bassist Arturo Cruz, drummer Alain Ledrón, and pianist Miguel de Armas jr., who is the son of Ottawa-based jazz pianist Miguel de Armas. Martin had played with de Armas jr. and Cruz in 2014 as well.

“I think we did two better shows this time than we did last time.”

They performed Martin's original music inspired by his first two trips to Cuba, which he released as a CD, Spirit of Survival, last summer. The pieces on that CD are a tribute to the Cuban people and their “admirable” optimistic approach to life in spite of hardship, but are not Afro-Cuban in style.

Martin said he was reminded again how good the Cuban musicians were, and in particular de Armas jr. “He's a marvelous player!”

Read more: Doug Martin gets in the groove in his second Havana Jazz Festival appearance

 

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OttawaJazzScene.ca told you about jazz in unexpected contexts like this Conjunction show at Chamberfest ©Brett Delmage, 2016

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Sung Ra spectacle adds voices, costumes, and dancing to the Rakestar Arkestra

Rory Magill can't hide his excitement, as he prepares for the biggest and most impressive concert he's organized in a decade.

Rory Magill and Christine Duncan discuss the music before the Sung Ra rehearsal January 8 ©Brett Delmage, 2017On Sunday, January 22, Magill and the seven other instrumentalists in the Rakestar Arkestra will join the 35-voice Tone Cluster choir and vocalist Christine Duncan to create “Sung Ra: The Songs of Sun Ra”. They'll fill the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East with costumes, fancy hats, dancing – and entertaining, full-bodied jazz which can jump from melodic to awe-inspiring

View photos from the January 8 rehearsal with Rakestar, Tone Cluster, and Christine Duncan

The concert is a tribute to the unique jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra, who in the decades between the 50s and 80s created “cosmic jazz” with his own mythology. To his jazz roots he added elements of avant-garde classical music; he was a pioneer in using electronic keyboards; and he believed in the power of spectacle, with his Arkestra usually dressed in bright, flamboyant costumes, and occasionally including dancers or jugglers or stilt-walkers. That's the spirit Magill wants the January 22 show to have.

“Sun Ra's concerts were always festooned with amazing costumes and ornaments and so on, and this is theatrics as he would do it. It's full-dress this time."

It's a concert which Magill has wanted to present for years. He's been working intensely on it since last year – writing grant proposals, composing music, and inviting other musicians to participate. He received a Canada Council grant for the project last summer – “a huge morale boost” – along with support from the City of Ottawa and the Juno 2017 committee.

Read more: Sung Ra spectacle adds voices, costumes, and dancing to the Rakestar Arkestra

 

Christine Duncan audaciously rethinks choral music in her Element Choir

Updated January 21, 2017
The most unusual choir in Canada will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

Christine Duncan conducts the Element Choir in Dominion Chalmers United Church at Chamberfest 2013 © Brett Delmage, 2013It has no fixed membership, although many vocalists have been part of it for years. It has formed and reformed in cities across Canada. It doesn't use sheet music, but instead creates its music in the moment. And it uses all the possibilities of the human voice – singing, yes, but also growls, shrieks, water and air ambient noises, and many more sounds.

The Element Choir is the brainchild of Toronto vocalist Christine Duncan, who is its conductor and spark-plug – and it reflects her own audacious spirit as a vocalist and musician.

This week, Duncan is in Ottawa to conduct a local choir – Tone Cluster – as part of the large-scale “Sung Ra” concert with the Rakestar Arkestra. For Sunday's concert, most of the music will be composed rather than the completely free improv of an Element Choir show, but Duncan will use the same system of conducting cues and many of the same musical ideas.

It's a system she's been developing since 2007, and using to perform stand-alone and with musicians like Tanya Tagaq. But it came about almost by accident – as part of a release concert for a CD project. “It was a very bizarre and random thing,” Duncan says.

Read more: Christine Duncan audaciously rethinks choral music in her Element Choir

 

Ottawa-Gatineau celebrates Canadian jazz in January for 2017

OttawaJazzScene.ca donors received full advance details of these shows and more than a hundred other jazz performances this month as a token of our appreciation for helping us shine a spotlight on the scene. Become a donor!

2017, Canada's 150th birthday, is a year to celebrate our own culture, including Canadian jazz. And this month will give you many opportunities to do that in Ottawa-Gatineau.

Christine Duncan will add vocal innovation to her performance with the Rakestar Arkestra January 22 ©2013 Brett DelmageLocal and Canadian jazz groups predominate in January – and several are taking interesting chances. The Rakestar Arkestra has a major concert planned with vocalist Christine Duncan and the Tone Cluster choir. Vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton is trying out a new repertoire of strictly Canadian jazz music with her trio. Record Runner Rehearsal Studios is presenting its second concert featuring a pianist not heard before in Ottawa in duo with an Ottawa native.


These January, 2017 jazz highlights are brought to you by OttawaJazzScene.ca readers Peter Liu, Karen Oxorn, Jesse Stewart, and Gaby Warren. We thank them for their support that makes this article possible.


It's also been a month that's continue to evolve and become more crowded even after the New Year’s fireworks. As we've been compiling this update,notifications of new shows and line-up changes have been popping up frequently.

On Sunday, January 8, Florquestra will play a rare late-afternoon show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. The group combines an encyclopedic knowledge of Brazilian rhythms with a French melodic sensibility, in an always-exciting presentation.

Read more: Ottawa-Gatineau celebrates Canadian jazz in January for 2017

 

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