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A show of thanks: Mike Rud honours jazz guitarist George Benson this weekend

Updated July 27 to include Thursday show in Montreal.

Montreal jazz guitarist and Juno-winning composer Mike Rud is a frequent visitor to Ottawa, most recently this month for a sold-out duo gig with Peter Bernstein. He's back this weekend for two nights at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata and a Sunday afternoon gig at the Record Centre, paying tribute to best-selling guitarist George Benson.

Mike Rud will pay tribute to George Benson, a jazz guitarist who profoundly affected his playing, at Brookstreet and at The Record Centre this weekend. ©Brett Delmage 2012While Benson is best known for his Grammy-winning song, “On Broadway”, he's had a long jazz career, playing with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Freddie Hubbard, and winning 10 Grammys for albums spanning jazz, pop, and R&B. He performed at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2010.

The shows are part of drummer Michel Delage's continuing monthly tribute series at Brookstreet, and Rud will be playing with Delage and bassist Alex Bilodeau. But the choice of George Benson was all Rud's.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor talked with Mike Rud about the shows, and his love of George Benson's music, earlier this month. This is an edited version of the interview.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you suggest doing a tribute to George Benson?

Mike Rud: Because, if I think of a particular artist whose artist I'm familiar enough with to feel like I've done a good review before going ahead – it would probably be Benson. There would only be two or three guys that I'd really feel that I'd listened to their whole catalogue, and Benson's certainly one of them.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: When did you first hear him?

Rud: I had a guitar teacher when I was in high school named Brian Hughes, who's an adult contemporary jazz guitar star. He lives in California now. And it was Brian who turned me on to George Benson. Brian used to play a couple of tunes from Benson's catalogue in his show, and he gave me the source recordings. He said, 'Well, if you like that, you should listen to this record.' I got them, and I just couldn't believe it!

Read more: A show of thanks: Mike Rud honours jazz guitarist George Benson this weekend


Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello

Cellist Ernst Reijseger has a constant passion for music and for musical invention (seen here with vocalist Mola Sylla at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival) ©2014 Brett DelmageErnst Reijseger was exhausted.

The celebrated Dutch cellist and composer had just finished two back-to-back recording sessions for film soundtracks, one for Werner Herzog's latest documentary and the other for an American feature film, when OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed him on July 15.

More about Ernst Reijseger
Ernst Reijseger takes risks to create unpredictable music
Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation

But one thing did energize him – the thought of just playing, in a series of concerts at the 2016 Ottawa Chamber Music Festival from July 23 to 26.

“Just taking my cello and playing – I'm really looking forward to that.”

This week, he's in Ottawa for the very first time, playing four concerts (two free, two ticketed) at the festival. They'll range from a short introductory concert and interview, to a solo show for children, to a celebration of the cello with 11 other cellists, to completely free improvised jazz. But all of them will be informed by Reijseger's iconoclastic approach to the cello and the different sounds he creates with it.

Read more: Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello


Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation

Jesse Stewart ©Brett Delmage, 2011David Mott ©Brett Delmage, 2013Ernst Reijseger ©Brett Delmage, 2014
(l-r) Jesse Sterwart, David Mott, and Ernst Reijseger
share a common passion for making music
in the moment   photos ©Brett Delmage

When Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger, Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott, and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart first played together in Toronto in 2014, it was a memorable concert.

“He's a showman,” Stewart recalls. “The concert we did in Toronto, it was actually at David's karate dojo. Towards the end of the concert we knew this was going to be the last piece and Ernst stood up and was playing while he was walking.

“And he left the room, and he was still playing! He was in another room where there was all David's martial arts equipment and while he was still playing cello and walking, he started knocking stuff over with his foot. We could hardly play because we were laughing so hard. It was so, so funny! But, yes, he's a showman, that's for sure. But also incredibly musical and just a wonderful improviser.”

More about Ernst Reijseger
• Ernst Reijseger takes risks to create unpredictable music
• Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello

The three will reunite in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 26, for a late-night Chamberfringe concert. It's one of several concerts which Reijseger is performing at the 2016 Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, but, unlike the others, this concert will be leaning much more in the direction of free jazz.

Read more: Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation


Ernst Reijseger takes risks to create unpredictable music

Unlike many other cellists, Ernst Reijseger is looking for the widest possible variety of sounds from his instrument – and is willing to take risks to get them.

Ernst Reijseger twirls his 5-string cello on his finger to create new sounds at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival ©2014 Brett Delmage“I always like other things in my vocabulary than only the aim for the most beautiful tone, and impeccable intonation and technique. I think there are qualities in trying to play [a] boring [passage], or there are qualities in trying to make ugly sounds … because they really give you the opportunity to have a much wider palette of expression – if you are able to also play really convincingly bad. And people don't practice that.”

More about Ernst Reijseger
• Jesse Stewart, David Mott & Ernst Reijseger share a passion for invention & improvisation
• Ernst Reijseger at Chamberfest: reinventing how audiences see and hear the cello

The renowned Dutch cellist will appear in four concerts at the 2016 Chamberfest. He started improvising as a child, almost soon as he picked up the cello – and he's always surprised that many instrumentalists don't practice improvisation, “or making up notes themselves, or an order of notes, or rhythmical structures. In the classical world, it's stunningly not part of the training, to think in phrases of more than eight bars and to be able to fill them with coherent phrasing.”

Read more: Ernst Reijseger takes risks to create unpredictable music


Will Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson put jazz on NAC stages as the new NAC Presents producer?

Heather Gibson, the newly appointed producer of NAC Presents and the current executive director of the Halifax Jazz Festival, has a greater familiarity with jazz than her predecessor. But it's unclear if she has the mandate and will take the opportunity to present jazz on Canada's National Arts Centre (NAC) stages which will represent the breadth and quality of Canadian jazz musicians.

Will the appointment of Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson as the Producer of NAC Presents lead to more real jazz on NAC stages this season? ©Brett Delmage, 2016Citing her extensive and relevant experience, the NAC enthusiastically announced her appointment today. "We are so fortunate to be welcoming Heather Gibson to the National Arts Centre where she will help us deepen our relationship with Canada’s best singer-songwriters,” said Peter Herrndorf, the President and CEO of the National Arts Centre.

Gibson takes her post on September 20, in advance of the formal October 13 launch of NAC Presents.

The series is the only NAC series which can present jazz at the NAC, although a few jazz performances were part of the Orchestra's performances in recent years. NAC Presents announced the first half of its 2016-17 season in May, with relatively few jazz-related performances. More concerts will be announced in October. Based on previous years, the 31 shows listed on July 20 are half of a normal 60-show series.

This fall at the NAC, listeners will be able to hear hear Diana Krall, and a young jazz trio from Montreal, and the return of Petr Cancura's Crossroads series – plus several other jazz crossover shows. But the scheduled concerts nowhere near reflect the diversity of jazz in Canada, both in styles and where musicians are from, or its quality and popularity – or what listeners just heard at Gibson's own Halifax Jazz Festival.

Read more: Will Halifax Jazz Festival's Heather Gibson put jazz on NAC stages as the new NAC Presents producer?


Oliver Jones takes on new challenges in his farewell tour

Canadian jazz pianist Oliver Jones – now 81 years old – is on a extended farewell tour, which is taking him across Canada and into Europe and the Caribbean. He sold out the National Arts Centre Theatre in May, and is back in Ottawa tonight for a concert with a quite different repertoire.

Oliver Jones receives a standing ovation before his concert starts, at the  National Arts Centre in May 2016 ©Brett Delmage, 2016It's part of the Music & Beyond chamber music festival, and appropriately enough, it will demonstrate his classical music origins and his continuing interest in composers which include Bach and Chopin, but not in a standard classical style. He'll also pay tribute to his friend and mentor, Oscar Peterson, in the second half of the show, joined by his long-time trio-mates Éric Lagacé on bass and Jim Doxas on drums.

This afternoon, OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed Jones about his tour, his future plans, and how he keeps challenging himself on this tour with different repertoire.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: I'd like to start by asking you how your farewell tour has been going.

Oliver Jones: So far everything's been excellent. Ten out of the eleven places have been sold out, so we're kind of happy about that. But it's a lot of traveling and going from way out west up to the Yukon and then back down to Toronto and then back up to Edmonton and Victoria and Vancouver. So It's been hectic, as far as that's concerned, but it's been very, very rewarding.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: What kind of response have you been getting from the audiences?

Read more: Oliver Jones takes on new challenges in his farewell tour


Doug Martin revisits Cuba in music in his new CD, Spirit of Survival

Ottawa saxophonist and composer Doug Martin was deeply impressed with Cuba and its remarkable people on the two trips he's taken there – so much so that he's releasing a CD inspired by them.

Spirit of Survival CD cover

Called Spirit of Survival, the CD will be officially released this Friday and Saturday night, when Martin's quartet performs at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata.

But Martin emphasizes that the music he's written for the CD is not Cuban in style. Like his previous CD, Odyssey [2011], it's based on his experiences rather than directly reflecting the music he heard there.

“I wrote music as I would write it, not as a Cuban would write it.”

The music was based on “my own feelings and my own impressions of places and people,” he said – inspired by everything from Cuba's troubled history, to locations in Havana, to his favourite Cuban liqueur. The front cover illustration is based on a photo Martin took of the Havana skyline.

After his first trip to Cuba in October, 2012, Martin wrote the CD's title track, “Spirit of Survival”, based on the people he met.

The song is “very happy and upbeat”, he said, because it reflects the attitudes of Cuban people, “their approach to life. They live in a situation which is less than ideal, of course, and in spite of that, they have this approach to life which I find a bit remarkable.”

Read more: Doug Martin revisits Cuba in music in his new CD, Spirit of Survival


Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July

Updated July 13, 2016
July is a great time for jazz stay-cation in Ottawa. On this month are five local music festivals which include at least some jazz shows, a local jazz CD release, and jazz concerts and club shows all over town.

Lorraine Desmarais will be featured in the Festival de Jazz Desjardins at the end of July. ©Brett Delmage, 2012Appearing in July are seasoned jazz pianist Tommy Banks, jive musician Joe Jackson, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, pianist Oliver Jones, drummer Tim Shia, saxophonist Petr Cancura with two Brooklyn musicians, Dutch improvising cellist Ernst Reijseger, percussionist Jesse Stewart, baritone saxophonist David Mott, drummer Dafnis Prieto, guitarist Kevin Breit, saxophonist Jane Bunnett with her Cuban-based group Maqueque, guitarist Mike Rud, violinist Drew Jurecka, clarinetist James Campbell, bassist Dave Young, pianist Gene DiNovi, vocalist Terez Montcalm with pianist Lorraine Desmarais – and a saxophone quartet with the delightful name of Syrène Saxofoonkwartet.

Sign up to our JazzScene newsletter to get a full listing of all the jazz and improvised music events within 100 km of Parliament Hill in your inbox every week. You can also check our list of Ottawa-Gatineau-area jazz clubs, and our daily On The Scene listing on our website's front page (and in your RSS feed) to learn more about what's going on in jazz locally right now.

The month opens with the final three days of the Ottawa Jazz Festival (read the full schedule). Then in short order follow four more festivals: Music & Beyond, Bluesfest, Chamberfest, and Le Festival de Jazz Desjardins. First up are Music & Beyond (for classical music) and the Ottawa Bluesfest (for everything else).

Music & Beyond has often showcased jazz musicians who also have a classical side. This year, it has two – both of whom started playing before many of OttawaJazzScene.ca's readers were born.

Tuesday, July 5: the 79-year-old pianist Tommy Banks will appear with trumpeter Jens Lindemann at Dominion Chalmers United Church. In the first set, they'll perform both classical pieces and compositions by Duke Ellington and Jerome Kern, with the NAC Orchestra. In the second set, Banks and Lindemann will join up with well-known Montreal jazz musicians bassist Éric Lagacé and drummer Dave Laing to perform a tribute to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

OttawaJazzScene.ca's  July jazz highlights are brought to you by Barry Cooper, GigSpace, Adrian Matte, James McGowan, Alexander Mommers, Debbie Reinhart, Marcia Rodriguez, Bernard Stepien, and John Upper. We greatly appreciate their financial support that helps OttawaJazzScene.ca to continue serving the jazz community every day of the year.

Read more: Take a Jazz Stay-cation: Ottawa jazz highlights in July


Canadian saxophonist P.J. Perry named to the Order of Canada

P.J. Perry at Katie Malloch's Montreal farewell concert ©Brett Delmage, 2012Veteran Canadian jazz saxophonist P.J. Perry has been made a member of the Order of Canada, according to the list released by the Governor-General's office today.

The 75-year-old Perry, who lives in Edmonton, is still active on the jazz scene, touring and recording. He was featured on trumpeter Al Muirhead's album, It's About Time, which was nominated for a Juno Award in 2016.

Perry won a jazz Juno Award in 1993 for his album My Ideal, and was nominated for his 1999 recording with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He also played on the Rob McConnell Tentet's Juno-winning album in 2001.

According to his website, he's “shared the stage with countless jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Michel LeGrand, Pepper Adams, Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell, Rob McConnell, Slide Hampton, Herb Spanier, Bobby Shew, Fraser McPherson, Tommy Banks, Joe LaBarbera, Clarence “Big” Miller, Red Rodney and many more talented artists, to numerous to list here"

"Recently, he was a featured soloist on the hit 2010 Broadway production of Come Fly Away, highlighting the songs of Frank Sinatra.”

The Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Other jazz musicians who have been awarded this honour include vocalist Molly Johnson, saxophonist Phil Dwyer, drummer Archie Alleyne, pianist Lorraine Desmarais, trombonist Ian McDougall, vocalist Ranee Lee, pianist Oscar Peterson, pianist Oliver Jones, pianist Paul Bley, guitarist Sonny Greenwich, multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson, bassist Michel Donato, and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read more: Canadian saxophonist P.J. Perry named to the Order of Canada


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