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Safe Low Limit: creative, new low blows and bows (video)

Safe Low Limits's Steve Berndt and Keith Walton    ©2016 Brett DelmageSafe Low Limit presented its music, which extends far into the bass clef, to appreciative listeners at Le Petit Chicago on Monday nights in November. This was their first public performance as a quartet.'s Inside the Scene interviewed all four members of the group: Steve Berndt (trombone and vocals), Ken Kanwisher (cello). Dr. Keith Walton (tuba), and Michel Delage (drums). All four enthusiastically shared their motivations for participating in this project, the challenges and pleasure of making this music, and what a Doctorate  in tuba is all about (fascinating!) on-camera.

Our story also features excerpts from their performance of Steve Bendt's composition, Safe Low Limit.

– Brett Delmage

Related: Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

Watch the Inside the Scene video story


"Canada Scene" 2017 launches with Robi Botos' jazzy nod to Oscar Peterson

Pianist Robi Botos poses with the statue of Oscar Peterson outside  Canada's National Arts Centre. Botos, a protege of Pederson's, will help celebrate his music and inspiration as part of Canada Scene in 2017 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Canada's National Arts Centre (NAC) announced its 2017 Canada Scene festival today, including a major tribute to Oscar Peterson with pianists Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, Jon Kimura Parker, Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin.

The Canada Scene festival will run from June 15 to July 30, 2017 – the middle of Canada's 150th birthday year. It will feature artists from across Canada in music , dance, theatre, culinary and visual art, performing at the newly-renovated NAC. It will also be the culmination of seven previous “Scene” festivals at the NAC which celebrated different regions of Canada between 2003 and 2015.

Robi Botos opened the launch event playing a swinging and virtuosic rendition of Peterson's “Blues for Smedley”. He will be one of seven “renowned pianists and close friends of Peterson” included in the July 10 “Oscar, with Love” tribute in Southam Hall – 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.

Fellow Canadians Oliver Jones and Jon Kimura Parker will also perform, along with Americans Bill Charlap, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, and Justin Kauflin. They will be accompanied by renowned Canadian bassist Dave Young, who played with Peterson for 35 years, in appearances in the Oscar Peterson Trio all over the world up until Peterson’s death in 2007.

Young released an Aspects Of Oscar tribute album with Botos in 2011. In 2012, Young, Botos, and drummer Terry Clarke appeared at a star-studded tribute to Peterson in Ottawa, organized by the German Embassy to celebrate the historical connections between Germany and the Canadian jazz icon.

Botos, Jones, Charlap, Clayton, Green, Kauflin, and Young are also included on the recently-released Oscar with Love CD organized by Peterson's widow, Kelly Peterson, of performances on Peterson's Bösendorfer of never-before-heard Peterson compositions.

Read more and watch our video story about the launch


More heartfelt jazz: November 24-30 jazz highlights

Florquestra makes a rare apopearance, in the final weekend of Buckingham Buzz Jazz series on November 25   ©2013 Brett DelmageThere'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 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 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.

Read more: More heartfelt jazz: November 24-30 jazz highlights


November 17 to 23 jazz highlights

There's lots more heartfelt jazz to hear in Ottawa-Gatineau in the third week 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.”

Read more: November 17 to 23 jazz highlights


Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz

Dutch jazz vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have developed many ties to Canadians in the last 25 years – starting with composer Kenny Wheeler and more recently with guitarist Michael Occhipinti. The duo is touring across Canada this month, including an Ottawa gig on Friday at the Mercury Lounge.

TDutch jazz duo of vocalist/pianist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt [photo by Jiri Büller]hey'll perform their own thoughtful and multi-layered original music – playing with different rhythm sections in each city – and also promote a book Vandoorn has written on the art of jazz singing from a very practical perspective.

Their first experiences of Canada were when they studied at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 1991 and 1993 – “really a very important thing for us”, Vandoorn said. At Banff, they met renowned Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, “and played his music and we started to be friends”.

“It was an honour to work with him. He loved Marc's music and his contributions were spot on. He was a very shy, but also witty man and we laughed a lot.”

Then when they were about to make their first CD, “we asked Kenny if he was interested in being our featured guest at the CD – and he wanted to do that, so that's how we got to know him better. So we played with him several times in the Netherlands.”

“We always kept in contact and Marc and Kenny discussed sometimes each others compositions and arrangements. Very special. He was also very generous and when he had heard us play he called us afterwards to tell us how much he loved it.”

In Banff, Vandoorn also met vocalist Norma Winstone, and “we became friends. At some point I was invited at a festival to do a special project, and I decided to invite her for a vocal duet. We did it twice at different festivals.”

In 2012, Vandoorn and van Vugt released a single, “Holysloot”, an intimate jazz song inspired by a Dutch lowlands winter scene. She agreed it was influenced by Wheeler and Winstone. “The way Kenny is composing and the way that he is treating harmonies I think that is something that both Marc and I like a lot. And I'm sure a fan of Norma's singing. And yes, you could hear that there.”

The duo has toured Canada five times, playing festivals including the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 1998. This will be their first time playing Canadian clubs, however, Vandoorn said. They've spent the last week in southern Ontario, teaching students at masterclasses and clinics (including with Christine Duncan's Element Choir) and playing concerts – and have been very happy with the response.

“I must say that all the Canadian audiences are very receptive for our music. First of all, I think that jazz is quite important in Canada. The people are much more used to listening to jazz, I would say, than maybe in the Netherlands. So we have really nice audiences, very committed. And they really love our music so so far it has been great.”

Read more: Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz


Amy Brandon creates altered states of guitar

Amy Brandon CD Release of Scavenger, with Roddy Ellias
Metro Music, Ottawa
Saturday, November 12, 2016 – 4 p.m.

Guitarist Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in an hour-long afternoon concert in Ottawa Saturday. The CD mixes jazz, classical, and new music, and features her playing solo and in duos, with guitarists Roddy Ellias and Mike Rud and vocalist Laura Swankey – but also with herself.

Amy Brandon released her debut CD, Scavenger, in Ottawa at Metro Music on November 12. She released it in Toronto the following day. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Many of the pieces on Scavenger are electro-acoustic, with Brandon playing guitar along with recordings of herself which she had substantially altered with effects. As she explained to the audience at the show, in electro-acoustic music the musician can either manipulate sound live (live-processed) or play against previously-recorded and processed music (fixed media).

She picked fixed media, and for four of the pieces she performed at the show, played sound files on her laptop along with her acoustic guitar. Her warm and resonant guitar-work contrasted with the recorded soundscapes, which were much more varied and unexpected. Sometimes they were dissonant and abrasive and metallic, other times attenuated and whispering and reminding one of birds calling or winds rushing.

The result was immersive and multi-layered, pulsating and almost hypnotic in places. Consistently you could hear how Brandon was responding in the moment to the soundscapes. Throughout the pieces, he audience was still and intent, listening carefully and applauding warmly.

Read more: Amy Brandon creates altered states of guitar


Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

Safe Low Limit
Le Petit Chicago
All Jazz Mondays in November, 2016

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Safe Low Limit opened its November residency at Le Petit Chicago Monday night – with music extending far into the bass clef.

Safe Low Limit (l-r): Steve Berndt, Michel Delage, Keith Hartshorn-Walton. Ken Kanwisher offer something different on Monday nights at LPC in November.   ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Trombone: Steve Berndt. Cello: Ken Kanwisher. Tuba: Keith Walton. Drums: Michel Delage. Your standard jazz quartet instrumentation it wasn't.

It was the very first show for the group as a quartet. Kanwisher first started working on these arrangements for a previous group, Berndt said – and then he and Berndt started playing together last spring. They debuted some of this music as a duo at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in June, and then decided to expand to a quartet.

“Keith Walton saw us and thought it was a cool idea so we decided to ask him if he'd like to join in.  That's when we made the decision to go all bass clef instruments, [to] ask Michel Delage if he'd like to get involved and not have a piano or guitar.

They picked the name “Safe Low Limit” because it is “an arranging term that describes a formula that identifies the low point at which harmony ceases to be clear based on the fundamental of a given series of notes played at the same time. It seemed to be the right name for this band!”

Read more: Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November


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


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