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Ottawa jazz flourishes at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival

They've developed new projects and combined with new musical partners, and many are showcasing recent or upcoming CDs. They're playing music ranging from jazz classics to Latin to big band to modern mainstream. Get acquainted with the wide variety of Ottawa-area jazz groups performing in the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival local line-up.

Guitarist Wayne Eagles deliberately started his jazz trio with  John Geggie on double bass, and Jesse Stewart on percussion 'to make better use of the remarkable players here in town'.    ©2016 Brett DelmageFor decades, Ottawa-area jazz groups have presented a variety of free shows at the daytime stages of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. This year, though, you'll need to see them at different times.

With the Rideau Centre no longer sponsoring a stage, local performances will primarily be held at the festival's stage at Ottawa City Hall. And that's meant a change in times. From Monday to Friday, shows will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day, instead of noon. Consider taking an early – or late – lunch in order to hear them (you can eat your sandwiches while you listen). Weekend shows will be at 12 and 2 p.m., as they have been in past years.

Read what your fellow jazz fans are saying about the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival in the reader poll.

There's are many interesting musical projects being showcased from Ottawa-Gatineau jazz groups which you won’t want to overlook in the line-up

Steve Boudreau Trio (Friday, June 23, 11 a.m.)

The trio (Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Michel Delage on drums) will play pieces from several of their recent projects, including their celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. But the major focus will be a preview of their new album, Preludes, a creative re-imagining of music written and inspired by George Gershwin. The album is a mixture of well-known and lesser-known Gershwin compositions, plus two pieces by Boudreau, and one by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Boudreau has been studying Gershwin's music for several years. One nudge was the release of a Gershwin tribute album a few years ago by Wilson, since Wilson has been a strong influence on his music; another was his teacher Ran Blake having him learn Gershwin's “Where's My Bess” when he was studying at the New England Conservatory. But “it was really reading a biography of George Gershwin and discovering his early recordings of his piano Preludes that pushed me towards having a full album plus worth of material by him under my fingers.”

Read more: Ottawa jazz flourishes at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival


Passionate melodies, deep emotion, and nostalgia in Rachelle Behrens' first CD

For her first CD, Rachelle Behrens is reaching back to the classic Latin American music which surrounded her as she was growing up.

Rachelle Behrens' Nostalgia CD coverEvoking passion and deep emotion, these songs have been a mainstay of Latin jazz for decades. The Ottawa jazz/soul vocalist has recorded seven of her favourites, from across South and Central America. She'll showcase them at a CD release concert on Sunday, along with an ensemble of notable local jazz and Latin jazz musicians.

But not as you might be used to hearing them. While Behrens usually sings in English, for this project, all the lyrics are in Spanish, her first language.

“Well, it's a Latin CD, so I figured just do it legit – do it in Spanish! Don't muddy the waters with English or an Anglicized version of something. It's a traditional Spanish album that's in Spanish.”

The album is called Nostalgia – a word that's the same in both Spanish and English. The tunes are ones that Behrens plays regularly with her combo, music which she says crosses the language barrier.

“There's so much emotion in the music. I think that's what reaches people who don't speak Spanish. You can tell when a song... these melodies are so big and so passionate I think that's what reaches the people. They're good songs, well-written songs, and as long as I portray the song properly, people will feel what it's about.”

Read more: Passionate melodies, deep emotion, and nostalgia in Rachelle Behrens' first CD


“There's something irresistible in it”: Mike Rud pays tribute to Wes Montgomery

Juno-winning guitarist Mike Rud is back in Ottawa this weekend – for his second tribute to an iconic jazz guitarist.

Mike Rud pays tribute to one of his first influences, Wes Montgomery, this weekend ©Brett Delmage 2012Last summer, Rud collaborated with Ottawa drummer Michel Delage to celebrate George Benson, and ended up taking that show to Montreal as well. This time, he and Delage are going back another step – to a guitarist who was a major influence not only on George Benson, but on Rud himself.

Wes Montgomery introduced an entirely new approach to playing guitar in the 1960s – including his octave technique (playing the same note on two strings usually one octave apart) and his use of chords in solos. He won the Down Beat Critic's Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960–63, 1966, and 1967. He was nominated for six Grammy Awards, and won two: for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance in 1966 and in 1969.

Guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, and Lee Ritenour all credited Montgomery as a major influence. His most celebrated records among his peers were the hard bop records he recorded in the early 60s, but he achieved great commercial success with more melodic records (including jazz versions of Beatles songs) in the late 60s, before his sudden death of a heart attack in 1968.

Rud and Delage, along with Alex Bilodeau on bass and Peter Hum on piano, will perform Montgomery's music at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata on Friday and Saturday evening, and at the Record Centre in Hintonburg on Sunday afternoon. The trio (minus Hum) will also perform at Upstairs in Montreal on the following Tuesday. editor Alayne McGregor spoke with Mike Rud last week about the shows, his regard for Montgomery and how he was influenced by him, and his plans to record some of these songs this summer. This is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Read more: “There's something irresistible in it”: Mike Rud pays tribute to Wes Montgomery


21 jammed June jazz days, before the Ottawa Jazz Festival starts

Updated June 27
Jazz is in the air in June. Downtown streets are lined with bannerGenerals for the jazz festival; there are advertisements everywhere for concerts. And there's no reason to wait: Ottawa-Gatineau is jumping with jazz all over every week in June. You could miss the festival completely and still get a great dose of enjoyable jazz.

So Long Seven, with violinist William Lamoureux, performs their complex mix of jazz and world music in Gatineau on June 10 ©Brett Delmage, 2016From out of town, you can hear American pianist Don Washington, Montreal guitarist Mike Rud, Vancouver pianist Matt Choboter, Toronto vocalist Alex Samaras, NYC guitarist Pravin Thompson and drummer Jarrett Walser, Toronto world-jazz group So Long Seven, Toronto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet, Montreal improvisers Sound of the Mountain, and Vancouver crooner Michael Bublé.

There are two shows celebrating Canada's 150th birthday, two CD release shows, and music ranging from deep organ/drum grooves to vocal jazz to a Cuban fiesta.'s jazz highlights and all  other reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to these June highlights sponsors: Barry Cooper, Gregory Klowak, Jonathan Langsner, Barry Paulson, Geoffrey Zeiss

Your reader donation is essential so that's can promote jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau with our unique and in-depth reporting

Click here and Celebrate jazz with us all year long

This month McKay United Church presents lunch-time jazz every Wednesday at noon. It's the second year for the free series, with McKay's minister and saxophonist Peter Woods playing with a different guest each week – mostly musicians he frequently collaborates with. The series opens with pianist James McGowan (June 1), and continues with trumpeter Charley Gordon, guitarist Rob Martin, and vocalist Gerri Trimble (June 8), McGowan and vocalist Leah Cogan from the Evensong Ensemble (June 15), a Country Jazz Revue with guitarist Campbell Woods and guitarist/bassist Tim Jackson (June 22), and not least of all, master pianist Brian Browne (June 29).

On Saturday, June 3, vocalist Karen Oxorn and her quartet celebrate Canada's 150th in song at the Baldachin Inn in Merrickville. Oxorn has listened to many albums by Canadian jazz vocalists, and picked jazz standards which they recorded – as well as a few songs composed by Canadians. Her selections include songs made famous by Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Susie Arioli, Bria Skonberg, Diana Panton, Denzal Sinclaire, Carol Welsman, Leonard Cohen, and k.d.lang.

Read more: 21 jammed June jazz days, before the Ottawa Jazz Festival starts


Safe Low Limit fills a pool with sound, not water (video)

Safe Low Limit members prepare for their first pool concert   ©2017 Brett Delmage

How do you perform a concert in a swimming pool?

Take one empty swimming pool. (OK, almost empty, but everyone avoided getting wet feet.) Carefully fit in wood risers into the deep end to cover up the remaining ponds of water in there. Add amps, mic stands and mics, cables, music stands, and chairs.

Lift down and assemble the sections of the drum set. Then gingerly carry down (being careful not to slip on the slippery steep slope between the shallow and deep ends) a trombone, a cello, and a tuba.

Smile and chat with your audience, seated 12 feet above you. And perform, letting the low sounds resonate around you and rise up.

Safe Low Limit, Ottawa's bass clef jazz quartet, picked a highly unusual location for their latest show – an empty outdoor swimming pool behind a house in Vanier. (The homeowners were friends of Steve Berndt, the band's leader, trombonist and vocalist, and let him borrow the pool, currently being renovated, for the show.)

With sunny skies and pleasant temperatures which did not require a swimming pool filled with water on Saturday afternoon, it turned out to be the perfect location for a friendly outdoor concert. About three dozen listeners attended the pay-what-you-can house concert and warmly applauded throughout. was there to share the experience. Watch our video, with interviews with Steve Berndt and Keith Hartshorn-Walton along with an excerpt from the show.

    – Alayne McGregor


Watch the Inside the Scene video story


A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations

This week will be a homecoming for Juno-winning pianist D.D. Jackson – back to the Ottawa student music festivals where he made his first public performances, and back to playing with a long-time musical friend.

D.D. Jackson's two concerts in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday are a homecoming for him after almost 10 years photo by Dave KaufmanAnd back to jazz. Jackson recently returned to jazz performance, after several years concentrating on TV and film scores (for which he's won an Emmy) and on raising his son and daughter. He'll be unveiling brand-new compositions at his concerts here on Thursday and Friday, which he hopes to include in a new album – his 13th.

On Thursday, Jackson is the featured artist at the Highlights Concert for the Kiwanis Music Festival at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. His solo piano performances will be a concert highlight, together with top Ottawa student performances at the show. On Friday, he'll give a closed masterclass to Canterbury High School students in the morning. In the evening, he has a sold-out show at GigSpace with Ottawa double bassist John Geggie, with whom he's performed and recorded for 22 years. The concert will include solo piano pieces as well as piano/bass duos.

Jackson grew up in Ottawa, attending W. Erskine Johnston Public School and the Earl of March High School in Kanata. His piano talent was obvious from an early age – but at that time, strictly channeled into classical music. It wasn't until after he attended Indiana University for a degree in classical piano, that he began looking at jazz. When he moved to New York City to take his masters at the Manhattan School of Music, it was in jazz performance, and he has remained in the NYC area and in jazz ever since.

Read more: A conversation with D.D. Jackson – on his Ottawa homecoming and his musical inspirations


Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall

NAC Presents has again gone for the tried and true, with Diana Krall headlining a sparse selection of jazz artists in its fall line-up.

Diana Krall returns to jazz in two shows at the NAC Southam Hall December 1 and 2. ©2013 Brett DelmageThis edition of the popular music series at the National Arts Centre was fully curated by its new producer, former Halifax Jazz Festival executive director Heather Gibson. 6 of the 52 concerts announced today are jazz-related, including Krall, Toronto guitarist Jesse Cook, Montreal pianist Emie R Roussel, Toronto vocalist Shakura S'Aida, and Ottawa Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas.

Most of the series concerts will be in the newly-renovated Fourth Stage, which reopens at the beginning of October. NAC Presents is also unveiling a new “Fridays at the Fourth” sub-series featuring many “emerging” artists, including Ottawa soul-jazz vocalist Rebecca Noelle. The Fourth Stage will now open early on Fridays “so people can drop in for a drink after work or come early for the show, with the performance starting at 8:30 p.m.” The shows will be priced at $15, or $10 for students.

In previous years, the only inclusion of Ottawa jazz artists in NAC Presents was in Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/roots series. That series was not included in this announcement.

With 52 shows announced for just September to December, NAC Presents has substantially increased the number of Canadian musicians it's showcasing. It had consistently presented about 60 artists total in the fall and spring in previous seasons. However, there's little increase in jazz. Last fall, it presented four jazz artists, plus Diana Krall performing at the NAC Gala. In 2015, there were five jazz shows in the fall, and in the fall of 2014, three.

Vocalist and pianist Diana Krall will unveil her new jazz album, Turn Up the Quiet, in two shows in the 2,065-seat Southam Hall on December 1 and 2. Krall is spending most of this year touring throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada to promote this album, which sees her return to jazz standards after a strictly pop outing with Wallflower in 2015.

On the CD, Krall sings classics that include “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, "Isn't It Romantic?" by Rodgers and Hart, the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E”, the Latin “Sway”, Johnny Mercer's “Dream”, and Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies”. There's a definite retro feel to the selections, with many of the songs originally written in the 1920s and 1930s, and the overall vibe of the choices is intimate and soft. The album was produced by the late Tommy LiPuma, who had produced several of Krall’s best-known albums, including All For You, The Look Of Love, and Live In Paris.

Read more: Diana Krall headlines the jazz in NAC Presents this fall


May, oh my! Lots of great jazz coming your way

Read about jazz in the first half of May

If you like big band and swing music there's lots to choose from in the second half of May. It starts on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, when the Glenn Miller Orchestra takes the stage in Gatineau at Salle Odyssée in La Maison de la Culture.

Fawn Fritzen and David Restivo return later this month ©Brett Delmage, 2016What jazz fan has not heard "String of Pearls", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "Moonlight Serenade", or "String of Pearls"? Glenn Miller's Orchestra was one of the greatest of the Swing Era, with its own style and sound based on a mix of clarinet and saxophones. The present Glenn Miller Orchestra was formed in 1956 and has been touring consistently since, playing an average of 300 live dates a year all around the world. At their shows, over 20 musicians and singers evoke the Glenn Miller sound and perform those remembered songs.'s jazz highlights and other reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to our sponsors this month: Tyler Harris, Anne Joliceur, The Record Center, John Wilson.

Your reader donation helps's promote jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau with our unique and in-depth reporting that celebrates live jazz all year long.

Celebrate jazz with us

The Canadian Tulip Festival was inspired by the long-time friendship between Canada and the Netherlands, which was born out of WW2 and commemorated by gifts of Dutch tulips every year. So it's no surprise that the festival frequently looks back to that era in music as well, with big bands and swing dances.

Read more: May, oh my! Lots of great jazz coming your way


Ottawa-Gatineau May jazz highlights: From Poland to pool bottom

Read about jazz in the second half of May

A birthday party fiesta, an improvised house concert, a show inside a swimming pool, tributes to Horace Silver, Cole Porter, and Nat King Cole – all these are part of Ottawa-Gatineau's jazz scene in May, 2017.

Artur Dutkiewicz - photo provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in OttawaNotable jazz artists including pianist DD Jackson, vocalist Fawn Fritzen and pianist Dave Restivo, vocalist Micah Barnes, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra will be visiting local concert halls. Local artists are well represented performing jazz from many eras – perhaps inspired by the local jazz celebrations in April.

On Wednesday, May 3, the Polish Embassy is bringing in jazz pianist Artur Dutkiewicz with his trio. It's a free afternoon concert (3 p.m.) at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park in the Glebe.

Dutkiewicz is a leading jazz musician and composer in Poland; he was a finalist in the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1987. His solo album Mazurkas was influenced by Polish composers Frédéric Chopin and Karol Szymanowski, but also includes other Polish folk motifs, like the oberek and the kujawiak, all in a jazz style. On a different note, he's also released a piano trio album of music by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, including interpretations of “Crosstown Traffic” and “Voodoo Chile”.

Trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, who has ancestors from Poland and who is prominent in the Montreal jazz scene, will also perform at the show. Séguin's recent Litania Projekt marries “neoclassical melodies with Northern European jazz and subtle electronics”.

Read more: Ottawa-Gatineau May jazz highlights: From Poland to pool bottom


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