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An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)

On April 9, guitarist Garry Elliott and pianist Steve Boudreau expanded their long-standing Ottawa duo into a quartet, with two musicians from Montreal. was at their GigSpace concert to record the result.

They added in bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camil Belisle, to create new sounds and, as Elliott told, allow him to dig in more while playing.

"We wanted to get a chance to play our music with different musicians,  just to get a different take on it, and stretch out a bit," Elliott said.

Boudreau said he liked "a lot of things that they added. It was different from other people would have added. I think that Adrian as a bass player is a really tasteful, melodic bass player, but he also has a really strong meaty time feel... And Camil, really super-swinging and really catches a lot of little details in the melodies. Between them, it was a very different experience."

"Some of these songs we've been playing for a while now and it's refreshing to hear a different take on them."

Watch our video report about that show, with two of the songs played that evening along with an interview with Elliott and Boudreau about their responses to what they collectively created.

Watch the video


Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers

Read the review of this concert

Michael Kaeshammer has two sides to his musical personality: the extroverted jazz musician highly attuned to his audiences, and the creative homebody.

Michael Kaeshammer (photo provided by the NAC)When he steps onto the stage of the NAC Theatre on Saturday, the audience will see the first side – and hear the results of the second.

Kaeshammer and his sextet will be playing music from the Canadian vocalist and pianist's extensive repertoire, but not just the classic boogie-woogie, blues, and jazz he was originally known for. Over the last few years, he has steadily been including more originals on his albums, and he told that writing those songs at home “is actually what gives me the most in music”.

He won't say exactly which originals he'll perform on Saturday, however: that's not the way he organizes his concerts. His strong, buoyant piano and vocals are a given, as is the tight playing of the five accomplished jazz musicians from Toronto and Montreal backing him. But which songs or in which order – that will be decided on the night.

The way he works is “let's see what happens when we're in the room. Because you can't tell – even when I know the room, I mean I've been in l'Astral a number of times, I've seen the other theatres at the NAC, but you just don't know how your night's going to unfold, until ... and being open to that is the most fun part about it, honestly. It really is the most exciting part about it.”

Read more: Michael Kaeshammer plays the music he loves and that's in his fingers


The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar

Growing up in Ottawa, violinist Chris McKhool took in a wide variety of concerts at the National Arts Centre – everything from the NAC Orchestra to Bruce Cockburn to Ravi Shankar.

Subcontinental Drift by the Sultans of StringOn Thursday, his band, the Sultans of String, will perform at the NAC for the first time – playing a similarly varied repertoire, with a basis in jazz.

The Sultans are known for combining Gypsy jazz, Arabic rhythms, Cuban percussion, and rumba flamenco to create their energetic music. Two of their albums were nominated for Juno Awards, including Symphony!, their collaboration with a symphony orchestra, in 2015.

For this show and for their latest album, they've gone one step further – adding classical Indian music and the sitar to the mix. But it's still all based on improvisation and jazz – with a strong world music flavour.

“Jazz and world music are so closely related because, the way we're playing it, they're both improvised music. So much of it is created in the moment and using deep listening skills,” McKhool told

The Toronto-based group, which celebrated its tenth anniversary on April 1, started when McKhool met guitarist Kevin Laliberté, soon adding in bassist Drew Birston and Cuban percussionist Rosendo 'Chendy' Leon. Each had a jazz background, but added other musical influences as well. Over four previous albums, McKhool and Laliberté wrote much of the group's material, bringing in guest artists who included trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and saxophonist Ernie Tollar to add specific colours.

But their latest album, Subcontinental Drift, took a very different path. Over an almost two-year period, they co-wrote many of the pieces with Toronto sitar player Anwar Khurshid.

Read more: The Sultans of String create an improvised collaboration with Indian sitar


Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert

It wasn't your typical concert. It wasn't even your typical jazz concert, as students in Carleton University's music program showed off their year-end accomplishments in a free concert in Patrick Cardy Studio on April 5. The double bill included free and conducted improvised music, followed by a set of roots and jazz, both played to an appreciative audience which filled the studio.

 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

The first set was the final performance of professor Jesse Stewart's “Improvisation in theory and practice” class. Stewart described the performance as “music that never existed before. It will never exist again.” The first song was conducted, as was the third in a much more dramatic way, while still being improvised by the individual players. “It's structured in the course of the performance in real time by virtue of the conducting and the decisions we collectively make in the moment,” Stewart said.

The class consisted of 17 students from a wide variety of backgrounds, Stewart said. “Some people are coming from a jazz background. Others are coming from a singer-songwriter background, some are coming from a classical background, so in many ways this ensemble is very much about the negotiation of differences. That's the joy and fun of exploring those differences throughout the semester and here this evening.”

It was lights out for the third piece and ensemble's term project, where the players were conducted by light. “We talked about light replacing graphic scores during the course. We will use light almost as a moving graphic score,” Stewart said. The audience was also handed glow rods and laser pointers and encouraged to provide additional input to the performance.

Read more: Students fuse genres to create new music in year-end Carleton University concert


Classical and jazz dance together at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest

This article was substantially updated from the first version released April 6, 2016, to reflect further concerts added to the festival.

The Ottawa Chamber Music Festival will showcase Cuban and avant-garde jazz in its 2016 edition, with performances by Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, renowned Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto, bassist Roberto Occhipinti, guitarist Kevin Breit, violinist Drew Jurecka, and cellist Ernst Reijseger – plus a tribute to Duke Ellington.

Jane Bunnett (l) and Maqueque are back in Ottawa in July after two years of steady touring, performing at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest ©2014 Brett DelmageThe festival, which will run from July 21 to August 3, 2016, is again complementing its core classical offerings with late-night jazz and improvised music – even combining them in some cases.

Chamberfest will offer its late-night concerts at the recently-reopened La Nouvelle Scène on King Edward Avenue in Lowertown, with that location replacing St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts.

Highlights include:

Saturday, July 23: The Syrène Saxofoonkwartet consists of four women saxophonists from the Netherlands, playing soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax. The previous day, they are scheduled to play a classical show, but on Saturday, their repertoire for their free outdoor show in the National Gallery Amphitheatre is ragtime and jazz. At 1 p.m., they'll open with Leonard Bernstein's “Overture to Candide”, and then move to classic rags like “The Maple Leaf Rag” and “Kitten on the Keys”, before ending with George Gershwin's “An American in Paris”.

Saturday, July 23: wunderkind Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger is a featured artist this year at Chamberfest, playing classical music, freely improvised music, and his own compositions. He'll be introduced to the festival at a short, free snapshot concert at 5:45 p.m. at Dominion Chalmers United Church. [Read our interview with Reijseger.]

Saturday, July 23: Jazz composer Claude Bolling mixes “Baroque elegance with modern technique” in his Suite for Violin and Jazz Piano Trio. The eight movements are based on mostly classical dance forms, with mainstream jazz segments (and a few vintage ones) inserted around and under the violin soloist – and with the rhythm section propelling each movement and adding lots of swing. This performance at La Nouvelle Scène features Alexandre DaCosta on violin and Graham Wood on jazz piano, along with Éric Lagacé on double-bass (seen here with Oliver Jones) and Dave Laing (Christine Jensen's drummer) on percussion. The second half of the concert will include pieces by Dizzy Gillespie, Michel Legrand, and Lennon & McCartney.

Read more: Classical and jazz dance together at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest


Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music

Watch the video story about this show: An expanded quartet rethinks the music (video)

At their GigSpace concert on Saturday, Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau are giving their compositions an opportunity to evolve and get better.

Garry Elliott is back at GigSpace Saturday with long-time collaborator Steve Boudreau, in a new quartet with bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camil Belisle ©Brett Delmage, 2015The Ottawa jazz guitarist and pianist have played together as a duo for years, including releasing a well-received CD of quiet and nuanced originals in 2013. But on Saturday, they'll add two new musical viewpoints from Montreal: bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Camil Belisle.

It's a chance to showcase the new music they've written in the last three years, Elliott says, but also to make their older material even better – for the benefit of the audience as well.

“The thing about writing is that you only play [your songs] once in a while. So you don't really explore them in the same way as, say, you would when you play standards. Because you're always playing the standards, so you get to know them really well.”

Back in the heyday of jazz, “the boppers or even Lennie Tristano or the Bill Evans Trio – any of those people – they played their material every night in clubs. We don't really get the opportunity to do that as much any more.”

“So it's not so much putting out too much new material but getting better playing the old material, because we really don't play them enough.”

Read more: Garry Elliott and Steve Boudreau add new voices and viewpoints to their music


Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April

Learn what's happening in jazz in May

April is the month when the world officially raises a toast to jazz, ending on the 30th with a gala concert in Washington, D.C. hosted by President Obama. In Ottawa, the month is a little more low-key, but there's still lots of jazz, particularly showing off local and Canadian talent.

'Miles Ahead' is the most controversial of three jazz films being shown in Ottawa this month.There's three new jazz films being premiered at the ByTowne Cinema. There's three CD launches – by Toronto vocalist Micah Barnes, by Montreal drummer Mark Nelson, and by the Atlantis Jazz Ensemble. There's a large-scale tribute to the ground-breaking Canadian jazz composer and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and the third in Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/folk series. And there's a giant, one-time-only MegaBand being created and trained by Rob Frayne for a mid-April concert.

These April jazz highlights are brought to you by Robert Godin, Tyler Harris, Jonathan Langsner, Brady Leafloor, Mark Miller, Ron Sweetman, and Geoff Zeiss. We greatly appreciate their support!

Visiting musicians to listen for in April include pianist/vocalist Michael Kaeshammer, Montreal saxophonist Tevet Sela, the Sultans of String, Ontario pianist Steve Holt, and Americans trumpeter Byron Stripling with drummer Bob Breithaupt.

And to top it all off, this is the month local students show off what they've learned in the last year with wide-ranging ensemble concerts and graduation recitals.

Read more: Raise a glass (or several!) to jazz in Ottawa in April


2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow

Toronto saxophonist Allison Au now has a perfect Juno record: two albums, two Junos. This evening, she was awarded 2016 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year (Group) for her new release of multi-layered original music, Forest Grove. She had previously won a Juno for her debut album in 2013. Ottawa-area audiences heard Au performing a number of the pieces from Forest Grove at Merrickville's Jazzfest last October.

Saxophonist Allison Au previewed songs from Forest Grove in her quartet's show at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Toronto pianist Robi Botos won Jazz Album of the Year (Solo) for Movin' Forward, his propulsive combination of originals and standards supported by a strong combination of NYC musicians (saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Robert Leslie Hurst III, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts). That music was very warmly received when Botos presented it at last summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival.

And Montreal-based vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow won Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, for Clear Day, her music-in-the-large orchestral project with the Metropole Orkestre. She presented several selections from that album in her concert with the NAC Orchestra last December, and will present it again with orchestra at this summer's Montreal Jazz Festival. She also won a Juno for her previous album, Seule Ce Soir, in 2013.

Au and Botos were later featured together in a Juno Jazz All-Stars performance at the Juno awards banquet in Calgary, along with fellow nominee Al Muirhead on trumpet.

Montreal saxophonist Colin Neufeld and violinist Sarah Neufeld won Instrumental Album of the Year for their joint album, Never Were The Way She Was. Stetson is acclaimed in the jazz community for his improvisations, particularly on bass saxophone, but also plays with many indie groups. He and Neufeld are scheduled to perform together at this summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Ottawa group The Souljazz Orchestra were nominated for World Music Album of the Year for Resistance, but were beaten out by Boogat.

The winners in most Juno categories were announced this evening, but the most high-profile pop/rock categories will be announced Sunday.

Read more: 2016 Jazz Juno Awards winners: Allison Au, Robi Botos, and Emilie-Claire Barlow


Petr Cancura and Ian Tamblyn combine jazz, folk in satisfying Crossroads concert (video)

At the end of their packed show on Friday, November 20, 2015, both singer/songwriter Ian Tamblyn and jazz saxophonist Petr Cancura looked tired, happy – and relieved. It was the culmination of several months of collaboration, having jazz musicians work with Tamblyn's songs, and an exploration of new territory for both. recorded the Crossroads concert and interviewed Petr Cancura, Ian Tamblyn, and two keen listeners after the performance. Watch our video to hear Cancura explain what it was all about, and to decide for yourself how the cross-genre collaboration worked.

The concert was the first in the NAC Presents Crossroads series. Lynn Miles shared the stage on February 4, 2016 (review). Jeremy Fisher joins Cancura's  jazz group on April 7 for the final Crossroads concert of the 2015-16 first season.

   – Brett Delmage

Read our pre-concert interview, Ian Tamblyn and Petr Cancura are outside their comfort zone mixing jazz and folk

Related story: Crossroads concert scribbled on genre boundaries while remaining true to Lynn Miles' songs (review)

Interested in knowing about live folk music in the Ottawa-area? Visit Ottawa Folk Music Events Listings

Watch the video


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