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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


Catherine O’Grady Day proclaimed by Mayor Jim Watson

photo provided by City of OttawaOttawa Jazz Festival goers (but not necessarily jazz fans, as many were inside the NAC listening to Myra Melford) were surprised on June 23 when Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson showed up in Confederation Park and took to the Main stage himself. Between sets of two American blues acts, and with vocal mic in-hand he sang not jazz standards, but praises of Ottawa Jazz Festival Executive Producer Catherine O'Grady. Watson officially declared it "Catherine O'Grady Day" in the City of Ottawa, citing her as "a visionary" and "passionate advocate"  (text below).

O'Grady joins Ottawa guitarist Roddy Ellias who has played jazz in Ottawa since he was a teenager, as the second person in the jazz community to have a day officially named for them.

   – Brett Delmage

Related stories

Read the full text of the proclamation


Steve Bilodeau reaches the semi-finals in Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition

This evening, you can hear what Steve Bilodeau will perform before judges at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland next month.

The spotlight will be on guitarist Steve Bilodeau at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland next month. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The Ottawa-raised jazz guitarist will play with his trio at Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago starting at 9 p.m. And one of the reasons he'll be there is to preview – and try out – some of the material he's prepared for the Montreux Jazz Festival's International Guitar Competition.

Bilodeau has been chosen as one of the 10 semi-finalists in the 2016 competition, which will run from July 2 to 4. He's the only North American, he said, with others coming from Israel, South Africa, and across Europe.

It's the third time lucky for Bilodeau: he applied twice before but this was the first time he was short-listed for the competition. This time, he said, he took a different approach with the three recordings he submitted with his application – not trying to second-guess the judges.

“This year, I sent the most eclectic combination of recordings that I had sent so far. I really stopped thinking about what I thought they would want to hear, and I just sent what I wanted to send them. And that was the key, I guess!"

“Instead of trying to play the game of what you'll think they'd like, just do your thing. And it worked out. Now I'm going to go over there and see how it goes.”

Bilodeau has two friends who have won the competition: Toronto guitarist Alex Goodman, who was awarded first prize and the Public's Choice Award in 2014, and Brazilian guitarist Leandro Pellegrino, who won in 2013. Goodman was the first Canadian to ever win this competition.

“I talked to both Alex and Leandro about the competition and they said that each year that they've seen it or heard the guys in it, it's been totally different. It changes from year to year – they have different judges and I think maybe they change the emphasis of what they're looking for. So it's not always the same every year; they're not looking for the same type of guitar player.”

Read more: Steve Bilodeau reaches the semi-finals in Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition


Brian Browne and Peter Woods fill the Record Centre with standards

Brian Browne and Peter Woods discuss their encore song, at their well-received Record Centre performance ©Brett Delmage, 2016It was Take 2 for pianist Brian Browne and saxophonist Peter Woods at the Record Centre on Saturday afternoon, a reprise of their first intimate and successful show there a few months ago. They performed many of their favourite standards and the occasional hymn like "The Water is Wide". In their second set, they were also joined by vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton for evocative and extended versions of songs like "God Bless the Child". Woods and Browne have had a long-standing musical partnership, including a CD, Honest Company, released in 2013.

This afternoon at 2 p.m., guitarist Steve Bilodeau and bassist Alex Bilodeau – brothers and long-time musical companions – will perform an hour-long set at the Record Centre of mostly originals. It's free but donations are encouraged.

It's also your last chance to see publisher Brett Delmage's photo exhibit, Jazz Scene: Jazz Heard, which is currently on display at the Record Centre. Today is the exhibit's last day.

   – Alayne McGregor


Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera are back in town, celebrating musical friendships

Read the review of this quartet's first show in Gatineau

More than three decades ago, renowned Canadian saxophonists Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald played their very first joint concert – in Ottawa.

Kirk MacDonald will team up with Pat LaBarbera for a two-saxophonist show on Tuesday, July 28, at Les Brasseurs du Temps, showcasing their decades of musical friendship. ©Brett Delmage, 2013They're back in town next Tuesday, June 28, co-leading a show at Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau – this time also featuring American post-bop drummer Adam Nussbaum and Canadian bassist Kieran Overs.

It will be something old and something new – an exploration of long-time musical friendships between LaBarbera and MacDonald, and between LaBarbera and Nussbaum – but in a new grouping playing brand-new compositions. It's the start of a multi-city tour (including Montreal and Toronto) which will also take the quartet into the recording studio.

MacDonald said he picked a two-saxophone format with just bass and drums, “because Pat also worked for many years with [famous American jazz drummer] Elvin Jones and oftentimes that was the format, too. So it just seemed like an opportune time to put those elements together.”

Although they play the same instruments – tenor and soprano sax – LaBarbera and MacDonald have collaborated frequently over the years, including in 2014 on MacDonald's Juno-Award-winning album, Vista Obscura. They met when MacDonald first came to Toronto: “Pat was one of the first people that I sought out to study with. He's been very much a mentor to me in many ways over the years.”

“I think we have a very strong connection musically – and that was apparent to me the first time we played together,” MacDonald told “It was just great to play with him! I used to sit in with him when I was really young, in my early 20s, I suppose, the early 1980s.”

The first time they actually worked together was a concert at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa, organized by Jacques Émond, the former programming director of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. They played a two-tenor concert in one of the hotel's ballrooms “and I believe the year was 1991 or 1990. That's the first we officially did a co-led thing like that. And from that spun the [John] Coltrane tribute which we've been doing ever since.”

Starting in 1991, he said, they've celebrated Coltrane's music for a yearly three-night stand at the Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar in Toronto – the dates picked to be on or close to Coltrane's birthday. They've also taken the tribute elsewhere: this summer to jazz festivals in Huntsville and Port Hope.

For next Tuesday's concert, however, the quartet will be performing almost all originals, some written by LaBarbera and MacDonald specifically for this new quartet. MacDonald said he had also invited Nussbaum and Overs to contribute compositions. “The idea is basically to create a repertoire for this band."

Read more: Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera are back in town, celebrating musical friendships


Ottawa's jazz fans discover new groups and new sounds in the 24 hours of the Jazz Ramble

Adam Saikaley looked slightly bemused after his set at the Record Centre Tuesday morning. It was about the earliest he'd ever performed jazz piano, he told

5:11 a.m.: Record Centre owner John Thompson (seated, center-right) was not alone, joined by other listeners who were at the Jazz Ramble to listen to alto sax and poetry by The Julian Calendars: Julian Selody & JM Francheteau. The duo received an enthusiastic response. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Saikaley's 10 a.m. set opened the Ottawa Jazz Festival's Jazz Ramble event at the record store. It was a quiet and graceful evocation of mostly 60s jazz classics, including pieces by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, and ending with “Body and Soul” – and a fine start to 24 hours of music, celebrating the strength of Ottawa's jazz scene.

The free event, the first ever by the festival, showcased Ottawa-area jazz musicians, performing everything from standards to funk to free improv to poetry. Fans could hear both well-tried and brand-new groups, but not necessarily playing in their comfort zones, or at times of the day they were used to.

It was a cornucopia of interesting music – something for almost all tastes.

View photos by photojournalist Brett Delmage of all 24 Jazz Ramble performances

The ramble attracted a constantly-changing group of listeners. There was a noticeable shift in the audience after every set, with listeners leaving and new ones entering, but there was always at least a dozen listeners even in the early hours of the morning.

In the late afternoon and evening, the place was packed with jazz fans, many spilling out onto the sidewalk. Toddlers danced to the music with their parents smiling beside them; a few of the older seniors really appreciated the chairs and stools set out by the store. Many people were recognizable from local jazz jams, but there were also many new faces.

Read more: Ottawa's jazz fans discover new groups and new sounds in the 24 hours of the Jazz Ramble


The Record Centre spins a 24-hour nonstop live 'Jazz Ramble' on Tuesday

After next Tuesday, more people could know how diverse and active Ottawa's jazz scene is.

The Record Centre is hosting 24 hours of live local jazz starting at 10 a.m. The music will range from jazz vocals, to guitar trios, to solo saxophone improvisations, to organ and drum grooves, to a tuba/voice duet.

John Thompson,  owner of The Record Centre, is excited about hosting 24 hours of live jazz music on Tuesday, June 14, organized by the Ottawa Jazz Festival  ©Brett Delmage, 2016Well-known local jazz musicians including John Geggie, Roddy Ellias, Rob Frayne, Mike Essoudry, Tim Bedner, Alex Moxon, Christine Fagan, Megan Jerome, Petr Cancura, Zakari Frantz, Richard Page, Lucas Haneman, Linsey Wellman, Ed Lister, Michel Delage, Alex Bilodeau, and many more are performing. Ottawa Citizen jazz journalist Peter Hum is leading one trio.

The event is the brainchild of Ottawa Jazz Festival programming director Petr Cancura, who has teamed up with the Hintonburg vinyl and audio store to offer 24 mini-concerts from 10 a.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday. Each concert is 45 minutes long, starting on the hour. There's no admission charge, but donations will be encouraged.

It's a last-minute event: Cancura only came up with the idea this week. On Tuesday morning, he phoned Record Centre owner John Thompson, and received Thompson's immediate and enthusiastic assent. The list of groups was still being finalized as late as Thursday, and a few more changes were published Friday evening. But both Thompson and Cancura were confident that it would be a success.

Read more: The Record Centre spins a 24-hour nonstop live 'Jazz Ramble' on Tuesday


A rural county excited by jazz: what Prince Edward County Jazz Festival does differently

The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival is, in many ways, the exact opposite of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Instead of a few blocks of downtown, it covers a large part of a 1000 km² rural county in eastern Ontario. Unlike Ottawa, the Prince Edward County festival receives no government grants. And it's a pure jazz festival – no rock or pop artists.

Brian Barlow, the festival's creative director for the last 13 years, explained to how the festival has been successful by doing things differently. The interview has been lightly edited and some sections rearranged. How has the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival evolved over the last 16 years?

'I actually was involved at the very, very beginning in a strange way' - Prince Edward County Jazz Festival's 's Creative Director Brian Barlow ©Brett Delmage, 2015Brian Barlow: I think it's spread throughout the county. One of the things that makes it unique as a festival is the large area that it covers. Prince Edward County is fairly large [1,048.3 km²]. When I first got involved, the festival took place mostly in the town of Picton, but now it's all over the county, which is great, including wineries. When we first started, there wasn't a wine industry in the county and now as you may know it's quite a highly-respected wine area.

So we have events at a number of wineries, and in some of the small little villages, and on church steps – It's great. There's music everywhere. So I think that's part of the way it's evolved.

Read about the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival's 2016 line-up, and about its innovative student jazz programs.

I actually was involved at the very, very beginning in a strange way. I just happened to be shopping in a bookstore in Picton, and a woman found out I was a musician. My daughters were looking for books and that takes forever, so we were talking. And she said, we're thinking of starting a jazz festival. So I did a little bit of consulting the very first year, but I came on board the third year as creative director. I performed I think the second year with my band. What's your role as creative director?

Barlow: I would like to know that [laughs]. I think they called me that, rather than artistic director, because I think they wanted me more involved in other things other than just booking the musicians.

I take a fairly active role in working with sponsors. We receive no government grants, this festival, and I think that's another thing that makes us unique. We run it like a business. We pay our artists really well.

And so I'm involved in almost all aspects of the festival – sponsors, advertising. There's a committee I work with that chooses the musicians every year. I don't think it's something I would want to do totally on my own, and we get terrific input from that committee, in terms of musicians to chose.

Read more: A rural county excited by jazz: what Prince Edward County Jazz Festival does differently


Finding new ways to develop young jazz talent at the Prince Edward County Jazzfest

The Prince Edward County Jazz Festival has found a different way of helping student jazz ensembles develop, and the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (OJJB) was one of the beneficiaries of that approach this year.

At Westfest on Saturday, the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band played many of the tunes they had worked on at the Prince Edward County high school jazz weekend ©Brett Delmage, 2016Every April, the festival invites four high school bands from across Ontario to participate in a weekend in Picton. But instead of fighting for medals, the bands work together and are mentored by professional musicians.

“I really don't think music should be about competition – that's why I take all of the awards and things like that with a grain of salt, because I don't think that you can really compare. You can't really choose who the best guitar player is,” said festival creative director Brian Barlow.

The festival's student coordinator, trumpeter Blair Yarranton, proposed this new approach seven years ago. “He said that the one thing that bothered him with his school, is that all of the opportunities they had to go to festivals were competitive. He felt there was a real need for a non-competitive school jazz program. So we started that, and it's been hugely successful,” Barlow said.

Read more: Finding new ways to develop young jazz talent at the Prince Edward County Jazzfest


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