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More heartfelt jazz: our 2nd week of jazz highlights in November

There's more heartfelt jazz to hear in Ottawa-Gatineau in the second week of November.

When clarinetist David Renaud released his duo album with Brian Browne in February, you only had one opportunity to hear them play the music live. But you have two more opportunities this month!

On Wednesday, November 9, they'll perform selections from First Love in a noon-hour concert at Southminster United Church. Browne will play the church's recently-refurbished nine-foot Heintzman grand piano, and the excellent acoustics will provide a fine background for the duo's romantic melodies and gospel numbers. If you can't make that show, Renaud and Browne will also perform at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata on the evening of Wednesday, November 30. Renaud is working on a second duo album with Browne, with material they recorded but didn't have room for on the first album, and may also include songs from that upcoming CD at both shows.

Also on November 9 at Southminster, vocalist Jill Barber and her quartet will headline an Ottawa Jazz Festival benefit concert in the evening. Barber's latest album “explores different musical styles, from traditional country, to jazz and Motown”.

Over the years, Adrian Cho has frequently explored the connections between jazz and the American Civil Rights movement in his Ottawa Jazz Orchestra concerts. On Thursday, November 10, the orchestra presents “Freedom Fighters” at the NAC Back Stage.

Cho says that this show will include “some of the music we've never performed before. However you can be sure we'll also perform a number of the civil rights and black church 'jazz anthems' that are hard to go past. This music is always so exciting and intense and there are so many important stories behind that make the music still truly relevant today given what's happening around the world.”

On Friday, November 11, the second installment of Buckingham Buzz Jazz takes the stage, beginning with vocalist Doreen Smith singing “songs of anticipation, unfettered joy and heartbreak presented in true 'old School' form”, accompanied by guitarist Tim Bedner. They'll be followed by the Quebec group Cinq Gars Une Fille, which blends Latin and South American jazz rhythms with classic French songs – performed on accordion, guitar, violin, bass, and percussion. Their influences include Richard Galliano, Astor Piazzolla, Raoul Barboza, and Marc Berthoumieux.

Read more: More heartfelt jazz: our 2nd week of jazz highlights in November


November has a heart: our 1st week of jazz highlights this month

This month you can hear jazz projects close to the hearts of the musicians who are performing them.

Django Libre will deliver a joyful evening of gypsy jazz that they love  ©2014 Brett DelmageFrom CD releases to reunions to new combinations, from swing dance contests to tributes, there are many heartfelt projects being presented in November.

Visiting Ottawa will be vocalists Jill Barber, Karen Young, and Aubrey Johnson; acclaimed visual artist and pianist Michael Snow; chamber jazz group Esmerine; Dutch vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt; guitarists Amy Brandon, Mike Rud, and Ray Montford; the piano trios MISC and the Simon Denizart Trio from Montreal and the double-piano Parker Abbott Trio from Toronto; flutist Bill McBirnie; pianists Jean-Michel Pilc and Jean-Michel Blais; and Korean percussionist Dong-Won Kim.

The first week opens with two Ottawa vocalists, Martine Grenier and Caroline Cook, at Les Brasseurs du Temps on November 1. In a reprise of their successful show last June, "Now is the time!", they're celebrating life and their passion for performing and honoring an important birthday for both of them.

Read more: November has a heart: our 1st week of jazz highlights this month


Maureen Kennedy's passion for finding hidden jazz standards

Toronto jazz vocalist Maureen Kennedy is always learning new songs and expanding her repertoire of jazz standards.

At her concert at GigSpace on October 29, Maureen Kennedy will sing some of the many jazz standards she's unearthed (photo by Paul Orenstein)“I have a passion for learning tunes. A real passion for it, and it's kind of nerdy.”

This summer, for example, she learned six new tunes just for one show. She'll be singing all six in Ottawa this Saturday at her quartet show at GigSpace, performing with saxophonist Rob Frayne, pianist Jeff Johnston, and bassist Alec Walkington.

Some she learns from sheet music, and some from listening to recordings of other singers, particularly from the classic vocal jazz era of the 1950s. But, after many years in the business, she's gone well beyond Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, or Sarah Vaughan to “obscure singers that people don't know that well”, such as Irene Kral or Jeri Southern.

“There was such a wealth of singers back in the 50s when singing standards was the popular music of the day. There were a lot of good singers that never became as famous … Teddi King was a really great singer. June Christy. Chris Connor. Singers that people aren't as familiar with. There are just a lot of great singers, and I've checked out a lot of their recordings and just picked up tunes from them.”

By day, Kennedy is a Media Librarian and visual researcher for the CBC in Toronto – where she has been able to access CBC's extensive sheet music collection. “In the days when we did a lot of music on television and radio, the Music Library would just order all this sheet music, and it's such a great collection!”

Read more: Maureen Kennedy's passion for finding hidden jazz standards


Maqueque notches up its Afro-Cuban jazz energy with its second album

Jane Bunnett is still amazed at the success of her all-woman Afro-Cuban jazz group, Maqueque.

“Three years ago, this project was a leap of faith. I didn't know if this idea would have any legs. But I thought, 'Let's try it! Let's try to put something together for a recording, all females, and just see what happens.' "

Maqueque got its crowd clapping and cheering for its first shows in Ottawa in 2014 at GigSpace ©2014 Brett DelmageSince then, Maqueque – the Canadian jazz saxophonist/flutist plus five young women musicians from Cuba – has toured all over Canada and the U.S. and as far away as Australia. They played before thousands at the Chicago Jazz Festival last fall, with an almost-unprecedented encore demanded by the crowd. In May, they received at standing ovation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and then recorded a “Tiny Desk Concert” in the offices of National Public Radio – which has so far garnered almost 29,000 views. And they won a Juno Award for their first album.

The group has just released its second album, Oddara, and will bring it to Ottawa on Wednesday, October 19, for a concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Besides Bunnett, Maqueque includes Yissy Garcia on drums, Dánae Olano on piano, Magdelys Savigne on batá drums and congas, Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin and vocals, and Celia Jiménez on bass.

Bunnett's heart was in the project, both musically and as an organizer, but she recognized the risks.

Read more: Maqueque notches up its Afro-Cuban jazz energy with its second album


October is a dynamic month for jazz, from swing to Latin to vocals to the avant-garde

Updated October 27, 2016
From swing to the avant-garde, with vocal jazz and Latin in between, October is shaping up as a dynamic month for jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau.

Subscribe to OttawaJazzScene.ca's comprehensively compiled and carefully edited weekly newsletter to discover who will be playing when, and to get all the details so you can make an informed choice of where you would like to enjoy spending your hard-earned entertainment dollars.

Emilie-Claire Barlow brings her swinging band to Gatineau on October 20 ©2011 Brett DelmageFamed drummer Gerry Hemingway, vocalists Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, and Sienna Dahlen, the Afro-Cuban vocals of Augusto Enríquez and of Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, and pianist Bryn Roberts are among the headliners this month. The Chocolate Hot Pockets, the Sean Duhaime Trio, and the Lucas Haneman Express are releasing new albums, and you can revisit the classic jazz of Duke Ellington and of Billie Holiday.

The month opens on a Brazilian note with Samba Agoniza mas não Morre at Le Petit Chicago on Saturday, October 1: “a farewell party for some of our members in great style and with a lot of Samba, joy and jamming”. If you enjoyed Rachel Beausoleil's Brazilian vocal numbers last week, you should enjoy the bright rhythms of this regular Roda de Samba gathering, billed as the only one above the 45th parallel! Expect to see the musicians – guitarists, vocalists, percussionists and more – gathered around a large table and the crowd dancing and clapping all around them.

Read more: October is a dynamic month for jazz, from swing to Latin to vocals to the avant-garde


Tim Bedner & Elise Letourneau revisit their Thursday nights at Cafe Paradiso on Saturday

Five years later, fans still remember Thursday jazz nights at Café Paradiso – and are paying to hear that music again this weekend.

'That is what every musician dreams of, getting something on a weekly, steady basis, because you show up every week trying to do better than you did the week before, adding new repertoire, tweaking songs out.'  photo: Tim Bedner at Cafe Paradiso ©Brett Delmage, 2008Three jazz listeners are sponsoring a concert on Saturday at GigSpace, where guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/pianist/flute player Elise Letourneau will recreate the music they used to play at that former Ottawa jazz venue.

“We were totally taken aback that someone missed what we were doing on Thursday nights,” Bedner said. “That was good for the heart and soul - that there were folks out there who would miss what we would do, with piano, guitar, voice, and flute. Also the repertoire that we had – favourites for folks that would come out.”

Café Paradiso closed in mid-2012, after a 14-year run, and more than 10 years as a major downtown jazz venue. It was a high-end restaurant which showcased jazz musicians visiting from Toronto, Montreal, and New York City (including Christine Jensen, Kirk MacDonald, David Braid, Sheila Jordan, and Dave Liebman), as well as well-known Ottawa jazz musicians such as Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, Mark Ferguson, and Diane White.

And every week for 4½ years, Bedner and Letourneau would play jazz standards, tunes by guitarist Pat Metheny, music by the Beatles and by Paul Simon, and choice Latin bossa novas.

“That is what every musician dreams of, getting something like that on a weekly, steady basis, because you show up every week trying to do better than you did the week before, adding new repertoire, tweaking songs out,” Bedner said. “Trying to come up with different things each time we play it, or go deeper in the tune, it's valuable! Having that: it's definitely like going back to school again.”

“I've been very, very lucky that I've been able to continue playing weekly at other venues since Café Paradiso. Again it's just getting that connection to music using the creative process of, 'OK here I am again, playing this tune, maybe a little bit differently, hopefully still as musical as I can be.' ”

“I respond well to deadlines, and having a reason to learn a tune or two or three every week was really valuable – having that Thursday night target,” Letourneau said. “It was really good for repertoire building. I thought I had a pretty good repertoire before, but just having that reason to keep adding to it, and having a place to try it out and gauge – 'OK, people seem to enjoy that, or people were kind of indifferent.' Sometimes they were indifferent, sometimes they were just focused on their meals.”

Read more: Tim Bedner & Elise Letourneau revisit their Thursday nights at Cafe Paradiso on Saturday


Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park

View photos by Brett Delmage of the sculpture launch and performance

Two Ottawa musicians unveiled a sculpture that sings in an Ottawa city park on Saturday.

Jesse Stewart and Matt Edwards created The Listening Tree in St. Luke's Park, on the north-east corner of Gladstone and Elgin. It's a 5-metre-high structure of stainless steel tubes which acts as a transition and gateway to the park. The individual tubes echo the stainless steel traffic signal poles on the adjacent sidewalk, while their combined form resembles the canopy of large trees in the park.

The Listening Tree visually bridges the stainless steel poles on Elgin Street to the park's tree canopy - and makes music in the wind ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Most importantly, this sculpture creates sound – but only when the wind is in the correct direction. Several of the tubes have carefully tuned slots in them which will channel the wind when it comes from the south or west – but most strongly from the southwest, when gusts blow up both Elgin and Gladstone. The result: a series of shifting tones.

“We thought it would be nice to have something that would draw people in a little closer so they could have a more intimate experience with [the park], and we decided to do that through sound,” Stewart said.

But not all the time. “It's not singing today, unfortunately. The wind is not blowing in the correct direction for that to happen, but, actually, we think one of the special things that can happen with this piece is that it's not always singing. You have to be here at a specific time. And so the experience is tied to that time,” Edwards told the audience of local residents, jazz lovers, and city staff and politicians.

“It's not supposed to be always active. It's just supposed to be once in a while, so the neighbours don't complain, but other neighbours get to enjoy it,” said local city councillor Catherine McKenney. When McKenney asked who had heard it during the ceremonies, several members of the audience put their hands up to indicate they had heard the sculpture singing since it had been installed a month before.

When Edwards was recently adding a protective layer of wax to the sculpture, he related, a man came up to him and said, “This amazing thing happened the other day. I came here and I heard it singing! It was a bit of a windy day, and I didn't realize that was going to happen. I've never heard anything like it.”

Stewart said they hoped the sculpture might allow people “to experience a sense of discovery – that they might be here and all of the sudden it will start singing.”

Saturday at 1 p.m. was the official opening. Stewart and Edwards played an short concert to start the ceremony, producing intimate, improvised music on two handpans, a drone-producing Shruti box, an accordion, a bamboo flute, and a frame drum.

Read more: Two musicians make their sculpture sing in an Ottawa park


Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know

Samba, bossa nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim: that's Brazilian music to most people. But there's lots of interesting and appealing music from that country rarely heard here.

Rachel Beausoleil and Jasmin Lalande perform in Sol da Capital ©Brett Delmage, 2011At GigSpace on Saturday, Rachel Beausoleil will introduce a much broader picture of Brazilian music to Ottawa.

The Ottawa vocalist has been studying “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB) for the last five years. She's now writing her PhD thesis about this music, which includes most of the genres that Canadians think of as Brazilian jazz. During three extended trips to Brazil, she's taken classes from master vocalists, attended conferences, and performed with musicians there.

At Saturday's concert, she and her group, Sol da Capital, will present songs by many composers covering the full range of these styles – from ballads to bossa nova, from music written a century ago to modern songs. What these songs have in common is a dedication to quality; rhythmic, harmonic, lyric, and melodic richness is insisted on in MPB, Beausoleil says.

Sol da Capital started when Beausoleil met Brazilian guitarist Evandro Gracelli, who spent a very busy two years in Ottawa, performing and working with many local musicians. During his stay in 2010-11, they formed the group to perform Brazilian music and their own compositions. They've kept up the connection, even when separated by 8000 km, and Beausoleil has continued performing in Ottawa with local musicians familiar with Brazilian music.

Read more: Rachel Beausoleil shares the Brazilian popular music you don't know


François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations

Listening to clarinetist François Houle, you hear a man endlessly fascinated by the myriad possibilities in music. His enthusiasm for his many different projects – even involving a mysterious hum – bubbles over as he talks.

François Houle [photo by Cameron Hood]

When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him over the phone this week, he got so involved in our conversation that when he was stung by a wasp while walking he ignored the pain and kept on talking.

Houle is an wide-ranging innovator on the clarinet, taking it to places ranging from free improvisation to classical to new music to world music to melodic jazz, and even as a first-call musician for indie rock artists like Matthew Good. He has been listed several times by Downbeat magazine's Critics' Poll and Reader’s Poll as a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and “Rising Star”. His more than 20 recordings have earned multiple Juno Award and West Coast Music Award nominations. His performances with French pianist Benoit Delbecq were a highlight of the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.

This week, he is on tour in Ontario and Quebec. He performs on Friday and Saturday in  two featured concerts at the Guelph Jazz Festival. He'll also play in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, and Montreal. He's playing a solo concert in Guelph;his other shows are in a trio with two fellow Vancouver musicians – guitarist Gordon Grdina and drummer Kenton Loewen.

They're long-time friends: “We've been working together as a group and in various projects for the last ten years. These guys are my brothers on the scene here. They're my go-to collaborators.”

Grdina is a Juno-winning composer and musician, who mixes mainstream jazz, free-form improvisation and classical Arabic music, as well as rock and punk. Loewen plays improvised and rock music, including with an anarchist punk band, an art pop group Mother Mother, and Tanya Tagaq.

Read more: François Houle excited about new projects, long-time collaborations


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