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Three views of jazz at Christmas

Three very different Christmas shows were presented by Ottawa's jazz and improvising musicians this month.

On December 14, Ottawa's Latin big band, Los Gringos, performed their Gringos-style adaptations of holiday favourites, with lots of horns, in their annual Christmas show. On December 16, Ottawa jazz aficionado and vocalist Gaby Warren hosted the JazzWorks Christmas jam for the 16th consecutive year, together with his friends – an accomplished group of Ottawa musicians. And on December 18, radio host, composer, and saxophonist Bernard Stepien and his orchestra presented the 10th annual rendition of A Very Ayler Christmas, a mixture of free jazz and carols, presented by the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO).

We recorded one Christmas-themed song from each show, and present the videos below.

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Watch the 3 videos and read an interview With Bernard Stepien


More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December

Updated December 12, 2016
No need to feel hemmed in musically in the second week of December! There continues to be lots of jazz choice, with a few Christmas cookies as well.

Bassist Harrison Bankhead plays with David Murray at Mercury Lounge on December 8  ©Brett Delmage, 2013On Thursday, December 8, you have a rare chance to hear three major jazz voices from Chicago in the All Star Ritual Trio at the Mercury Lounge. Saxophonist David Murray was a hit with audiences at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival with his big band featuring R&B vocalist Macy Gray; he's also a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet and has worked with greats like Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, and Randy Weston.

Percussionist Kahil El’Zabar is an AACM member and the leader of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, which played Ottawa annually for years. He's worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Pharoah Sanders, among others. Bassist Harrison Bankhead plays everything from straight-ahead to free jazz; was very impressed with his interpretive ability when we heard him with Nicole Mitchell in 2013. He's played with Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Hamiet Bluiett, and many more.

Expect a deep understanding of the jazz tradition – and the ability to turn that tradition on its head. Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura's trio will play an opening set.

Also on December 8, you can hear four groups whose music ranges from free jazz to experimental music at Daïmôn in Gatineau. The show is called “Électrons Libres”, and it pairs sound artists and instrumentalists together for improvised sets. The show features Ottawa improvisers Instant Places (Laura Kavanaugh and Ian Birse) playing a short set with saxophonist Linsey Wellman, plus the touring American duo Elka Bong (Al Margolis and Walter Wright). Margolis is an experimental violinist and clarinetist whose works cover both fairly spontaneous studio constructions and more process-oriented composition, while Wright plays drums and electronics and includes electro-acoustic music and videos in his performance. Just don't expect to hear any Art Blakey here...

Read more: More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December


Ottawa Jazz Festival balances books in 2016 by cutting musician budget by one-third

The Ottawa Jazz Festival made a sliver of a surplus in 2016 after cutting its payments to musicians by more than a third, while staff and contract costs remained stable.

graphics: Brett DelmageAt the festival's annual general meeting on November 28, festival treasurer Lee Tessmer reported that “after two challenging years, we're back in the black”. The festival had a net income of $3,449 this year, after losses of $123K in 2015 and $141K in 2014.

But the tiny surplus did not come from greater ticket sales, which were down by almost 10% in 2016 from the previous year. (The weather during this year’s festival was primarily warm and sunny, with rain on only two days with ticketed concerts.) Similarly, grants were down 29% and corporate sponsorship down 24%, and advertising revenue was zero.

Instead, the festival cut costs – and particularly for musicians' fees. In 2016, it spent $954,671 on programming, compared to $1,459,246 in 2015 and $1,496,535 in 2014. This was despite 2016 being the festival's 35th anniversary.

The festival spent marginally more on non-musician wages and contract services, from $493K in 2015 to $497K in 2016. In 2015, according to the most recent Canadian Revenue Agency filings, the festival had three employees earning from $40,000 to $79,999, and one employee earning from $80,000 to $119,999.

Read more: Ottawa Jazz Festival balances books in 2016 by cutting musician budget by one-third


Jazz mashed with Christmas carols (and more!) at the end of December

For earlier in December, see More jazz than Jingle Bells in the second week of December

Even as we get closer to Christmas, there's lots of opportunities to clear your musical palate with jazz.

Gaby Warren presents his annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam for the 16th year. ©Brett Delmage, 2013It's now become a 16-year tradition: Ottawa vocalist and jazz aficionado Gaby Warren hosts the JazzWorks Christmas jazz jam. Warren has an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz – and not just his specialty, Afro-Cuban jazz – and can amaze you by recounting the musicians whom he's heard in person. Each year he brings this experience to picking his song list – mostly jazz classics with just a touch of seasonal music – and then performs them with a group of fine jazz musicians.

His group's 45-minute set starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 16, at the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South – don't be late! After that, the stage is open for jamming.

On Saturday, December 17, you can celebrate the season with two high-profile concerts. At Live! on Elgin, vocalist Renée Landry pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald's famous 1960 album, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas, backed by six experienced musicians from Ottawa's younger jazz crowd. At the show, she's also releasing an EP, A Christmas Night, with her music and lyrics, produced by pianist Clayton Connell and with arrangements by Richard Page. The show is currently sold out.Watch for your opportunity to win a copy of this CD from us.

GigSpace, Ottawa's intimate jazz venue, is marking its fifth anniversary with two “Jazzin’ the Holidays” fundraisers on December 17 with Toronto-area vocalist and pianist Micah Barnes. Barnes is best-known for the years he spent singing in The Nylons; more recently, he has recorded a series of critically acclaimed solo jazz recordings. This spring, he released New York Stories, which evokes “the rich musical history of the Big Apple with songs that describe a long distance romance using the rhythms of the Cotton Club, the Brill Building, The Apollo Theatre and classic Broadway”.

Read more: Jazz mashed with Christmas carols (and more!) at the end of December


Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with enthusiastic listeners

Bassist Dave Watts, drummer Dave Laing, vocalist Ranee Lee, and guitarist Richard Ring have performed together for years and it showed in their fine delivery of everything from upbeat jazz classics to heartfelt ballads In Ottawa on Friday. ©2016 Brett Delmage

Ranee Lee doesn't just sing: her voice is a flexible instrument that can softly caress a lyric – or jump, growl, and bop the night away. In a 2¼-hour high-energy show at Shenkman Arts Centre on Friday night, she and her quintet moved from jazz standards to pop ballads to lesser-known gems, and gave each song an arrangement and the attention which allowed it to shine. The 250-strong audience responded with enthusiastic applause throughout and two standing ovations.

Read the full review on Read our interview with Ranee Lee


Jazz vocalist Ranee Lee has flourished in Canada

More than 45 years ago, Ranee Lee chose Canada for love – and she's never regretted it.

Ranee Lee (photo by Pierre Arsenault)The award-winning Montreal jazz vocalist will make a rare appearance in Ottawa on Friday at the Shenkman Arts Centre, performing music from her latest CD with an all-Canadian band, including a string quartet. And when spoke to her on Monday, she praised the many Canadians who contributed to that CD and to her career as a whole.

Canada has given her “every opportunity”, Lee said. “It's given me my life.”

“I don't like the attitude of small fish, big fish. I don't like that attitude, because I believe we all have to swim accordingly. I feel that the opportunities to raise a family, to be diverse enough to act, to sing, to dance, to play instruments – all of which was afforded me this opportunity through having my roots planted in Canada now.”

“I've toured most of the world as a Canadian ambassador, representing our art form in many countries. Just two months ago, we were in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a jazz festival there. So my Canadian roots have reached far and wide. And due to that, and the fact that I have a long history with McGill University as a vocal teacher there, I was given the Order of Canada. And you can't live anywhere else and get that!”

“So I believe that by fortune of birth I was given the opportunity to be born in the United States, which I don't regret. I had a wonderful childhood and a great family, and still do, and I got to see the best that the world could offer me, the best career that I could ever choose for myself.”

Lee has had a highly successful career as a musician, musical theatre performer, actress, and educator. She has released 12 jazz albums for the Canadian label Justin Time, and won a Juno for best vocal jazz album in 2010. In 2006, her joint album with pianist Oliver Jones was named Album of the Year at the National Jazz Awards. She was awarded a Dora Mavor Moore award for her performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, and produced and starred in the musical Dark Divas about the lives of seven renowned female jazz vocalists. She was named to the Order of Canada in 2006.

Read more: Jazz vocalist Ranee Lee has flourished in Canada


Escape the Christmas carols with jazz in December

Read about week 2's jazz in December

You don't have to be stuck in a Christmas carol jail this month. There's lots of non-seasonal jazz to keep you happy.

Daniel Ko is featured in Record Runner Rehearsal Studio's first concert on Dec 2. ©Brett Delmage, 2012From big bands to jazz vocals, from creative exploration to jazz influenced by Gershwin or Shostakovich, there's a variety of interesting music available in December in Ottawa-Gatineau – as well as Christmas cheer!

The month opens with a holiday classic, with the Jerry Granelli Trio performing their annual Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas at Dominion Chalmers United Church. Drummer Granelli is the only remaining musician who played on that iconic recording of Vince Guaraldi's music, and he's teamed up with two Canadian musicians – Chris Gestrin on piano and Simon Fisk on bass – to recreate it, this year with the The Cross Town Youth Chorus providing the vocals. You want comfort music – you've got it!

Also on December 1: the local jazz band Stay Tuned plays “accessible jazz” to raise money for refugees at a show at the Sheba's Cove restaurant in Westboro. There's no cover or minimum, but donations to assist refugees getting settled here in Ottawa will be welcomed. Or, if you like swinging across the dance floor, the Starlighters big band will be playing a Christmas-themed dance at the Ron Kolbus Centre on December 1.

Read more: Escape the Christmas carols with jazz in December


More heartfelt jazz: November 17-30 jazz highlights

Updated November 22
There's lots more heartfelt jazz to hear in Ottawa-Gatineau in the final half of November. Here's's independent look at what's bright in jazz in a traditionally grey month.

Subscribe to our weekly jazz newsletter for details of these events and more.

On Thursday, November 17, Montreal jazz vocalist Karen Young makes a rare local appearance together with long-time musical compatriots guitarist Sylvain Provost and bassist Normand Guilbeault. They'll be performing at La Scène des Galeries Aylmer in Gatineau, showcasing their album You Make me Feel So Young. Expect songs by Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, and Billy Strayhorn, in interpretations full of “groove, swing, and sleek sensuality”.

Student performances start this month, with the Carleton University Jazz Fusion ensemble directed by Wayne Eagles ©Brett Delmage, 2014If you prefer a heavier beat, the Carleton University Jazz Fusion student ensembles, directed by Wayne Eagles, will present their fall recital on November 17, in Kailash Mital Theatre at the university. It will be a joint concert with the West African Rhythm Ensemble, who will be playing with the university's music artist-in-residence Dong-Won Kim.

You have two opportunities to hear the Dutch jazz duo of vocalist/pianist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt on Friday, November 18. They're touring across Canada in mid-November, playing with different, well-known rhythm sections in each city – in Ottawa with bassist John Geggie and drummer Michel Delage.

In the afternoon, they'll give a masterclass at Carleton University, with Vandoorn presenting material from her book, Singing From the Inside Out. That evening, they'll be at the Mercury Lounge. Winners of the Edison Award (the Dutch equivalent of our Juno), the duo explores both improvisation and lyrical songs, “full of rich harmonies and haunting melodies” and including echoes of the Brazilian choro and Scandinavian pop. Read our interview with Ineke Vandoorn.

Buckingham Buzz Jazz returns on November 18 for its third installment. It opens with Betty Ann Bryanton's Sideways Bend, which played two sold-out and happily-received concerts of uncommon jazz tunes earlier this year [read our review]. They're followed by the Ottawa trio Jazz'n Time, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, performing a mix of standards, contemporary tunes, and originals.

Each year, CBC Radio-Canada chooses a promising young jazz artist from Quebec to promote in its Révélations series, and Montreal pianist Simon Denizart is the 2016-17 winner. He and his trio, with Jeanne Corpataux on bass and Simon Bellemare on drums, release their second CD, Beautiful People, this month. They’ll appear at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge on November 18-19 – just before they play l'Astral in Montreal. Initially influenced by Esbjörn Svensson, Avishai Cohen, Tigran Hamasyan, and Keith Jarrett, the trio primarily now plays Denizart's originals: music that is “soft and melodic while always driving, due to the energy the trio establishes every time they hit the band stand.”

Dutch jazz duo of vocalist/pianist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt help Mercury Lounge celebrate its 20th Anniversary [photo by Jiri Büller]Pianist Miguel de Armas is shaking up his Friday night series at the Marshes golf club in Kanata this month. On November 18, de Armas is joined by vocalist Claudia Salguero, well-known for her sold-out NAC shows of boleros and Latin jazz, and bassist Sylvio Modolo – for their first public collaboration. And on November 25, guitarist and vocalist Rômmel Ribeiro pays tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim, along with de Armas and bassist J.P. Lapensée.

Stephane Wrembel learned his craft among the Gypsies at campsites in the French countryside (after years of training in classical piano) – and scored the theme to the 2012 Oscar-winning film Midnight in Paris. A summa cum laude Berklee graduate, Wrembel has just released his fifth album, Origins, in which he endeavours to transcend and expand his original music beyond Django Reinhardt-style jazz manouche, adding influences from blues to flamenco. He performs two shows of different material with his band at GigSpace on Saturday, November 19, and will also be offering a jazz guitar workshop.

On November 19, Rômmel Ribeiro brings his Rommelera Band to Le Petit Chicago, playing Brazilian music and jazz, with touches of Afrobeat, reggae, and funk.

On Sunday, November 20, Standing Room Only plays its regular afternoon tea dance in Almonte with classic big band tunes which invite you to get up and dance. The dances are held in Almonte's Old Town Hall, which not only has a sprung wooden floor for dancing, but also has excellent acoustics for listening.

That evening, you can hear a much edgier large ensemble, as the eight-piece Rakestar Arkestra performs improvised music at the House of Common which is by Sun Ra or inspired by his cosmic vision. For this show, the Arkestra will play a single “long and extra-adventurous set of Sun Ra melodies by tossing them helter-skelter into the musical mixing bowl and stirring them together. No set list, no limits.”

Korean percussionist and vocalist Dong-Won Kim is Carleton University's music artist-in-residence this fall, and has been offering a series of Friday morning masterclasses to students on listening and composition.'s editors have seen him perform several times at the Guelph Jazz Festival and have been very impressed by his inventiveness and responsiveness in the moment.

On Tuesday, November 22, Dong-Won Kim will perform with pianist and Carleton University professor James McGowan in a free concert at Steinway Piano Gallery off Innes Road in Ottawa's east end. The show is called Spontaneous Sound & Spirituality, and will feature the two creating inter-cultural music in real time without any pre-defined themes or musical agenda. “Drawing upon both the juxtapositions and inter-connections among stylistic traditions, instrumental timbres, and conceptions of spirituality, what results when these two experienced improvisers come together transcends labels and creates an engaging fusion of sound and energy.”

Korean percussioniust Dong-Won Kim brings his music to Ottawa ears this month in several concerts and masterclasses ©2014 Brett DelmageIMOO, which is having a busy month, will hold a special show on Wednesday, November 23 at House of Common, featuring PLANT – Quebec bassist Éric Normand and Australian flutist and saxophonist Jim Denley. Both also use electronics in their music. The duo has performed together twice in Rimouski, Quebec, and has released the live recordings of both performances as CDs or LPs.

Their homes are separated by almost 17,000 km and the Pacific ocean, and they have different native tongues, and yet “they are involved in a music practice that allows them to come together, without rehearsal and shared experience, to collectively create. This is true ‘world music’.  … There is no ‘compromise’ in this coming together, each musician is able to be himself, with local influences undiluted, but with enough shared methodology to work in parallel.”  

On Thursday, November 24, the Quebec chamber jazz group Esmerine make their yearly trek to the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. A perennial favourite for both jazz and world music fans, the group is centred on cello and percussion with other instruments like violin adding special touches. Its music incorporates genres such as drone music, post punk, and Turkish folk. Esmerine won an Juno for Instrumental Album for Dalmak [2013].

Also that evening, the Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Band officially releases its debut CD, Oye Latino, in a show at the Mercury Lounge. You can read about the circuitous path Santana took to releasing this album in the interview.

On November 18, vocalist Claudia Salguero appears at Miguel de Armas Friday night jazz series for their first public collaboration. ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Thursday, November 24, saxophonist Petr Cancura begins a new year of his National Arts Centre Crossroads folk/jazz series, the time in the NAC Theatre with local singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. The idea behind the series is that Cancura works with the folk musician to create jazz arrangements of their sonigs; they then perform the arrangements together, along with jazz musicians Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, and Greg Ritchie. reported the first of these collaborations in video, with Ian Tamblyn  [Petr Cancura and Ian Tamblyn combine jazz, folk in satisfying Crossroads concert] and reviewed the second Crossroads show with Lynn Miles. Expect the singer-songwriter ethos to predominate over the jazz arrangements.

On Friday, November 25, Dong-Won Kim reunites with Ottawa percussionist and Carleton University professor Jesse Stewart. The two musical friends have performed several times together in Ottawa, Guelph, and elsewhere. They'll perform two shows at GigSpace, freely improvised, with each energizing and engaging the other with different instruments and ideas. Dong-Won Kim plays specifically Korean drums and gongs, but has also been known to create music from whatever's at hand – even drumming on a convenient piano.

On Friday, November 25, local saxophonist and flutist Rene Lavoie collaborates with Toronto flutist Bill McBirnie in the Court Mais Jazz series at La Nouvelle Scène. Together with Tim Bedner on guitar and Normand Glaude on bass, they'll play a varied selection of classic jazz tunes: Brazilian melodies, standards like “In a Sentimental Mood”, classic bebop and post-bop tunes by Dizzy Gillespie,  Hank Mobley, and Horace Silver – and some Miles Davis and Monk.

The series has an unusual format, including National Film Board short films interleaved with the  music. Read our review of the first show in the series with Sienna Dahlen.

McBirnie will also give a free masterclass at noon on November 25 at Carleton University, in the Patrick Cardy Studio (A900) in the Loeb Building.

The last show in this year's Buckingham Buzz Jazz series, on November 25, opens with a reprise of Caroline Cook's and Martine Grenier's Now is the Time show from earlier this month. They will be followed by a rare appearance by Florquestra, which combines authentic and lively Brazilian rhythms (samba, forró, axé, and more) with the romantic music and poetic style of French songwriter Georges Brassens.

Also on November 25, guitarist and vocalist Rômmel Ribeiro pays tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim at the Marshes, along with Miguel de Armas and bassist J.P. Lapensée.

Percussionist Michel Delage pays tribute to Monk this month, featuring Montreal pianist Jean Michel Pilc [photo by Steve Sussman]Michel Delage has brought in some excellent musicians from other Canadian cities for his monthly tribute series at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge. He's got a real catch this month. On Friday, November 25 and Saturday, November 26, he and bassist Alex Bilodeau will perform with renowned French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, who is currently based in Montreal and teaching jazz at McGill University. Pilc was last in Ottawa in 2015, in a joyous and tender trio show at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival [read our review]

They’ll reinterpret the music of pianist Thelonious Monk – a composer whose work is so notoriously individual and immediately recognizable that any musicians playing his compositions must walk a very fine line between excessive reverence and not staying true to the bones of the music. Pilc promises “lots of improvisation and lots of fun” in the shows, but says he hasn't yet picked which Monk tunes the trio will play. As he writes with a twinkle in his keyboard: “I love all of TM's music so I don't really have favorites, or rather, they are all favorites of mine.”

This is the second time Delage has paid tribute to Monk: the first was with Hamilton pianist Adrean Farrugia 18 months ago [review]

On Sunday, November 27, the trio will perform a shorter version of this tribute in an afternoon show at The Record Centre in Hintonburg.

Ottawa vocalist Steve Berndt gives a sneak preview of his  upcoming CD at GigSpace ©2015 Brett DelmageOn Saturday, November 26, Ottawa vocalist Steve Berndt will give a sneak preview of his  upcoming CD when he appears at GigSpace, together with Steve Boudreau on piano, Alex Mastronardi on bass, and David Pontello on drums. Berndt has written a number of original songs for the album, which will be his first solo release: he'll present those along with pop tunes from the 60's and 70's done in a jazz treatment.

Berndt has released two duo albums of standards with pianist Brian Brown, Déjà Vu and All Over Again, each of which included one of his own songs evoking the classic feel of jazz standards. He's also written many originals for the jivin' jump blues/jazz group The Jivewires for their five albums.

Also on November 26, the NAC will again present Polaris and Juno-winning throat singer Tanya Tagaq with two notable improvisers – percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot –   this time in the NAC Theatre. And at the Mercury Lounge, you can hear the dancing rhythms of the Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra on November 26. The orchestra, which was nominated for a Juno this year, fuses Colombian percussion with the music of gypsy brass bands from Eastern Europe.

On Sunday, November 27, the new jazz series at the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East will showcase Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio. was particularly impressed with this trio's mix of Balkan melodies and fiery improvisation when it was premiered at Le Petit Chicago in 2014, and is glad to see Wellman reviving it. [review] Wellman says he's excited at how the rehearsals are going, with himself on alto sax, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Keith Hartshorn-Walton sitting  in on tuba. He expects they will be including at least a couple new tunes. We reported about the positive experience at the first Ascension Jazz series show last month.

Ottawa-Gatineau is jam-packed with with jazz jams, in locations across both cities and on many days of the week: Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau, Tuesday jams with the Beeched Wailers at The Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg, Wednesday jams at Café Nostalgica in Sandy Hill, Thursdays with the HML Trio at Brookstreet in Kanata, two Fridays a month at the Georgetown Pub in Ottawa South, and JazzWorks' monthly Sunday afternoon jams in Westboro.

Now a new monthly jam is starting: at the Record Runner Studios on Colonnade Road in central Nepean. The open jam will run from 7 to 10 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month: November 27 this month.

You'll hear talk about financial charts, not musical charts played, at the Ottawa Jazz Festival Annual General Meeting this month [graphic:]Interested in the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s financial and operational results this past year? On Monday, November 28 at 6 p.m., the Festival holds its annual general meeting in the Colonel By Room on the second floor of Ottawa City Hall, where it will elect next year's board of directors and hear reports from the treasurer, the president, and the executive director. Read our reports about what happened in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

Looking for a more harmonious experience? Also on November 28, the Carleton University Guitar Ensemble will hold a free recital in the Patrick Cardy Studio, Room A900 in the Loeb Building at the University.

And if you'd prefer a larger sound, the Stan Clark Orchestra will fill the Metropolitain Brasserie downtown with big band fanfares and the vocals of veteran Ottawa crooner Johny Vegas on November 28.

Peeking into December, the first week is extremely busy with vocals and instrumentals, and everything from classic favourites to the avant-garde. We've already got details of 19 events in just the first five days of December! Donate to our reader funding campaign to be one of the first to learn more about them.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read about the first week of November's highlights, including series continuing throughout this month.

Update November 22: Added the Carlos Alberto Santana CD release show on November 24.

“Don't waste your notes”: an interview with Dong-Won Kim

Dong-Won Kim is a master percussionist from South Korea. He has studied various forms of traditional Korean percussion music for three decades, including farmer’s drumming and dance, shamanic music, and Pansori accompaniment, and has performed throughout Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan, and many other countries. He's also a member of cellist Yo Yo Ma's multi-national Silk Road Project.

Korean percussioniust Dong-Won Kim  ©2014 Brett DelmageHis instruments include the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped drum with hide-covered ends; the buk, a round leather barrel drum; and bronze gongs.

But he's gone beyond that tradition – creating new possibilities in jazz and creative improvised music. And that's the type of music he'll be playing on Friday with GigSpace in two duo concerts with Juno Award-winning percussionist Jesse Stewart.

Kim created a notable stir with his inventive performances in several appearances at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He has played and recorded with Stewart both in Guelph and in Ottawa.

He's been living in Ottawa since mid-September, working as Carleton University's musical artist-in-residence for the fall term. He's taught weekly lessons in Korean rhythms, but also lectured on the theory and practice of improvisation and musical performance. His lecture topics have included “Rhythm for Designing Space”, “Composition in Improvisation”, and “Movement in Sound, Sound in Movement”. editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Kim on Monday about Friday's concert, what he's been teaching at Carleton, and how he approaches music – but also about his experiences as a political prisoner in Korea in the 1980s, and how that solidified his determination to become a musician. This is an edited version of our conversation. What's it been like being in Ottawa?

Dong-Won Kim: Good! I'm very much enjoying being here in Ottawa. I really enjoy it. It's been a little longer than two months so far, and one more month to go. How did you first start studying traditional Korean percussion music?

Read more: “Don't waste your notes”: an interview with Dong-Won Kim


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