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Original voices shine in holiday show

Saorsa (Patrick Smith, Dan Pitt, Harrison Vetro)
Keagan Eskritt and Roddy Ellias
Pressed
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 – 9 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of the Eskritt/Ellias performance
View photos by Brett Delmage of the Saorsa performance

Two up-and-coming Ottawa musicians demonstrated another growth spurt in their music in a eye-opening, two-part performance at Pressed in December.

Keagan Eskritt and Roddy Ellias' performance attracted an intent audience ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Saxophonist Patrick Smith and drummer Keagan Eskritt grew up here in Ottawa, played in local student bands, participated in the jazzfest's Jazz-Ed program taught by master guitarist Roddy Ellias, and won scholarships and awards. For the past few years, both have been studying jazz performance at the University of Toronto – but over the holidays they came back, and performed for a home-city crowd.

The show opened with a 45-minute duo performance by Eskritt and Ellias, followed by an hour-long set by Saorsa, an improvising jazz fusion group which Smith has formed with two fellow U of T students, guitarist Dan Pitt and drummer Harrison Vetro.

Ellias is one of Eskritt's mentors and they've played together several times before. They opened the show with a lyrical set of guitar and drums, very much in the jazz tradition but with strong original voices of their own.

Read more: Original voices shine in holiday show

 

Miguel de Armas brings in 2017 with a bright Latin beat

Miguel de Armas Septet – New Year's Eve
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, December 31, 2016

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

If you were looking for a hopeful, happy way to kick 2016 out the door and look forward to 2017, you couldn't have done better than listening to the upbeat music from Miguel de Armas and his bandmates on New Year's Eve at Brookstreet.

The Miguel de Armas Septet got listeners up and dancing to celebrate the start of 2017 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

The Cuban-Canadian pianist is ferociously energetic, and he surrounded himself with equally dynamic Latin musicians for this show. Most were from his Sabor de Cuba band, but he also brought in bassist Roberto Riveron – a fellow Cuban who has lived in Toronto since 2007 and has performed with Cuban bands Cubanismo and Klimax, and with Toronto jazz musicians Luis Mario Ochoa, Eddie Bullen, Jane Bunnett, and Hilario Durán.

By the time the music started at 8:25 p.m. – a few minutes early – there was a full house, with all the tables in the main part of the lounge filled. de Armas opened with a lively and flowing standard, supported by Riveron on six-string electric bass and Arien Villegas on congas. Drummer Frank Martinez joined in on the second song, and they remained a quartet for the first hour-long set.

Read more: Miguel de Armas brings in 2017 with a bright Latin beat

 

Renée Landry adds swing and originals to holiday songs

Renée Landry Wishes You A Swinging Christmas
Live! on Elgin
Saturday, December 17, 2016 – 8:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Back in 1960, Ella Fitzgerald released an album called Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas. It quickly became a classic, because of Fitzgerald's joyful and clear vocal interpretations and Frank de Vol's well-chosen and swinging orchestral jazz arrangements. It was an album which celebrated the season and the well-known holiday songs – without being arch or ironic. Instead, it let you enjoy the songs for the well-crafted gems that they are.

Renée Landry gave expressive interpretations of the songs from Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas album at her Swinging Christmas show, backed by a fine sextet ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Ottawa vocalist Renée Landry reinvoked the magic of that compilation on Saturday, with her second annual “Swinging Christmas” concert. Backed by a sextet of Ottawa musicians who understand classic jazz well, she sang the songs from the Ella album plus three of her own – keeping the joy and avoided the cutesy.

It's a project which she said she and the musicians had been working on since October, with arrangements by saxophonist Richard Page and Landry. The 90-minute show was by no means a copy of the album – for one thing, there weren't any strings in these arrangements – but Page retained De Vol's strong jazz vitality. And the songs were presented in almost the identical order as on Ella's album, with one of the CD's bonus tracks added and one song moved to the encore.

Read more: Renée Landry adds swing and originals to holiday songs

 

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais
(IMOO) #151
House of Common, Ottawa
Sunday, December 18, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The cello is, in essence, a wooden resonating box with a neck and strings played by a bow or fingers. The tradition is to use it to produce beautiful, elevating sounds that unroll like ribbons and sigh like lovers.

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport played one bow against another in his solo cello set at IMOO Sunday ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Judging by his Ottawa concert on Sunday, Rémy Bélanger de Beauport does not follow this tradition.

The Quebec City cellist astonished and delighted his listeners at the last IMOO concert of 2016 with a short but very intense set of free improv. In the course of 15 minutes, he actively undercut everything they might expect from cello music, even in an improvised jazz context.

Melody was absent. The very first notes he played were jagged and raw, produced by very fast bowing, with some of his strings muted by a metal clip. de Beauport let his dissonant sounds echo around the room, soft and loud, sounding like buzzing bees and then attenuating down to barely audible vibrations.

His bow lightly rubbed the cello strings, and then pressed in again, creating at first atonal cries and then sounds like a foghorn and then high dissonant harmonics. He added occasional plucked notes to the bowing – and then increased the speed again before finally letting the last notes ring out into the space.

The audience asked for a second piece, and de Beauport obliged with harsh machine-like screeches, created by pressing a metal tuning fork within the strings. Then he threaded one bow through the strings and used a second bow to bow the first, creating a hard, crackling sound. As he sped up this two-bow performance, it almost sounded like not-quite-distinct conversation. He pressed his fingers along the strings as he continued bowing to continuously change the pitch, and then finally let the sounds fade out.

Read more: Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places

 

45north plays all-Canadian jazz with enthusiasm and flair

45north
The Record Centre
Sunday, December 11, 2016 – 4 to 5 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Every note was Canadian when 45north played the Record Centre Sunday afternoon.

A young listener (appropriately wearing a 'Canada' toque) danced to 45north's all-Canadian jazz at their show Sunday at the Record Centre  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

The Ottawa jazz sextet specializes in music by fellow Canucks – both straight jazz and jazz fusion interpretations of pop and rock songs. So Joni Mitchell's “Both Sides Now” was followed by Mike Murley's “Stanstill”, and David Braid's “Cowboy Bebop” by the Powder Blues Band's “Doin' It Right”.

The combination – lively and upbeat, with horns – was a good antidote to the looming dark and frigid weather outside. The band played to customers who came and went and a varied group of listeners who stayed and clapped enthusiastically – adding to the beat during some songs as well as afterwards. Near the end of the show, a youngster in a blue snowsuit (and a 'Canada' toque) peered through the outer door from the sidewalk in fascination for almost 10 minutes, but couldn't be coaxed inside to hear the band directly.

Read more: 45north plays all-Canadian jazz with enthusiasm and flair

 

Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with many sides

Ranee Lee
Harold Shenkman Hall, Shenkman Arts Centre
Friday, December 2, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ranee Lee doesn't just sing: her voice is a flexible instrument that can softly caress a lyric – or jump, growl, and bop the night away..

'I enjoy every second of what I do' - Ranee Lee  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

At 8 p.m. on Friday, she sashayed onto the stage at the Shenkman Arts Centre, and, from then until 10:45 p.m., the energy never flagged. In two sets totaling 2¼ hours, the Montreal jazz vocalist performed jazz standards to pop ballads to lesser-known gems in a show which flowed easily and kept the audience entranced.

Lee's career has lasted more than 50 years – and the experience showed in how she gave each song an arrangement and the attention which allowed it to shine. She could project lyrics with blistering precision and speed, as she did in her opening number, or slowly bring out their beauty in a thoughtful “Lullaby of the Leaves”.

She used her expressive voice and her hands to underline the meaning of the lyrics – but also to incorporate her vocals as part of the overall sound. In that, she was well supported by her band of experienced Montreal jazz musicians: her husband, guitarist Richard Ring, plus drummer Dave Laing, double bassist Dave Watts, and pianist Taurey Butler. There was a comfortable, swinging vibe on stage, and an easy, quick communication among the musicians.

The concert was advertised as showcasing Lee's latest CD, What's Going On [2014]. I thought the pieces from that CD were among the highlights of the show, particularly when she was joined by the members of the Birds on a Wire string quartet, who contributed rich and lovely melodies to the mix.

Cellist Jane Chan was featured on “White Gardenia”, a plaintive ballad which Lee's long-time musical associate Roger Peace especially contributed to the album, along with Butler. Chan added full, melancholy cello lines and a solo, which underlined the lyrics' story of lost love, as did Ring's evocative guitar solo. Lee sang the elegy with care and deep emotion, letting her voice ring through the hall.

Read more: Ranee Lee shares a generous performance with many sides

 

The Crooked Jazz Trio doesn't travel straight-ahead

The Crooked Jazz Trio
The Record Centre
Sunday, November 20, 2016 – 4 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Outside was the first snowstorm of the season: wet, cold, slippery. Inside the Record Centre, the Crooked Jazz Trio performed music that ranged from toasty to sizzling.

Crooked Jazz Trio: Dave Schroeder (bass), Jeff Asselin (drums), Steve Boudreau (keys) ©2016 Brett DelmageThe trio is Dave Schroeder on electric bass and guitar, Steve Boudreau on keyboards, and Jeff Asselin on drums – three Ottawa jazz musicians who each spent a great deal of time away from this city, studying and touring, and who are now back and playing jazz together.

But not straight-ahead jazz. Schroeder said that their name comes from their flexible approach to the music: “We're what could be called '"jazz'" but we are in no way bound to adhere to any stylistic limitations. And I play electric bass (though I do intend to play upright with the trio as well), and that is not a 'straight' or traditional approach to jazz. And we're all shifty and 'crooked' in that sense. So we're happy to corrupt any style of music!”

They opened Sunday's show with Boudreau's “Schraday”, a tip of the hat to Schroeder. It was a warm, inviting number, with a Dr. John vibe and an easy New Orleans-style groove, with Boudreau vamping on keyboards and Schroeder playing harmonica. They built up the pace in the next number, Boudreau's “Running Gun”, a more exploratory number with a strong forward momentum.

Schroeder and Boudreau are both former members of the local jazz band The Beeched Wailers, and they included “Harvest Stroll”, a piece Boudreau had written for that group – but given a quite different interpretation. This version opened slowly and slinkily, and created a integral groove with the bass line underlying the strong organ riffs. Asselin played brushes on his snares and cymbals, but still created emphatic rhythms underneath.

Schroeder said one reason he liked playing with this trio was that many of his tunes suited the line-up. “I don't generate as much music as Steve does, but I have tunes that will suit the trio. Playing with the Beeched Wailers, a lot of my music wasn't that effective with the quintet, but I really like to write for a trio. So it's nice to get those tunes off the ground.”

Read more: The Crooked Jazz Trio doesn't travel straight-ahead

 

The audience kept clapping for Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero

Miguel de Armas and Friends, with Claudia Salguero, Sylvio Módolo, and Juan-Luis Vasquez
The Ironstone Grill, The Marshes Golf Club
Friday, November 18, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Two well-known local Latin jazz musicians – pianist Miguel de Armas and vocalist Claudia Salguero – performed together for the first time Friday, to an enthusiastic crowd.

Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero created dramatic music that got the audience clapping in their first show together ©2016 Brett Delmage

In two one-hour sets, they played songs from Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba – and some of their favourite American jazz standards as well. Together with Sylvio Módolo on bass and Juan-Luis Vasquez on percussion, they created a warm, lively vibe which kept almost the entire audience intent and smiling – and singing and clapping along at times as well.

De Armas plays many clubs around Ottawa, as well as concerts here and in other cities with his Latin Jazz Quartet. Since January, he has hosted a regular Friday night series at the The Marshes in Kanata, inviting different Ottawa musicians to perform with him – a wide cross-section of some of the best-known names in Ottawa jazz scene.

Salguero, on the other hand, is best known for the large-scale, sold-out shows she's mounted annually at the National Arts Centre, which feature her singing boleros and other Latin American love songs, backed by a band of local Latin musicians in arrangements created by Módolo.

Friday's show opened with the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, “The Waters of March”, and moved smoothly through a series of songs in Spanish and English, mostly romantic ballads. But there were upbeat numbers, too: “Autumn Leaves” turned into an extended jam, with Salguero's voice swaying over the tight rhythms from piano, bass, and congas, while “Rayito de Luna” was a bright, sunny cha-cha-cha.

Read more: The audience kept clapping for Miguel de Armas and Claudia Salguero

 

Cole Porter without the words engages the audience at Brookstreet tribute show

Tribute to Cole Porter with Michel Delage, Allison Au, Todd Pentney, and Alex Bilodeau
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Songwriter Cole Porter famously said (quoting one of his teachers) that “Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one.” And yet jazz instrumentalists ranging from Miles Davis to Artie Shaw to Max Roach have had hits with Cole Porter's tunes because, even without Porter's witty lyrics, the melodies are memorable and full of joie de vivre.

Todd Pentney, Allison Au, Alex Bilodeau and Michel Delage paid tribute to Cole Porter at the Options Jazz Lounge ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Michel Delage's quartet showed off that joy and fun in a dynamic second night of a two-night stand at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge this weekend. Delage on drums and Alex Bilodeau on double bass teamed up with two Torontonians – Juno-winning composer Allison Au on alto sax and her frequent collaborator, Todd Pentney, on piano – to celebrate Porter's music as part of Delage's monthly series of jazz tributes.

Over three sets, they performed songs written between 1929 and 1954, almost all for Broadway shows. The first two sets were fast-paced, including well-known pieces like “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To” and “Get Out of Town”, while the third slowed down to concentrate on ballads like “Easy to Love”.

There's a lot to explore in a Cole Porter song. Porter was a notable innovator in song form: for example, the alternating major and minor key changes in “What Is This Thing Called Love?”, or the 108-measure length of “Begin the Beguine”. Au, in particular, used the songs as a jumping-off point for exploration, while staying true to their melodies and themes. In “I Concentrate on You”, she created tender, warm, extended lines of melody, while “Just One of Those Things” was taken at a break-neck pace with circling riffs.

Read more: Cole Porter without the words engages the audience at Brookstreet tribute show

 

The Ken Harper Trio brings commitment and energy to new concert series at Southminster

The Ken Harper Trio with Artie Roth and Bob Brough
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 15, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

This fall, Southminster United Church in Ottawa South began offering Saturday evening concerts, in addition to its popular Wednesday noon concerts. The third show in this new series – and the first jazz concert – featured the long-time trio of Ottawa drummer Ken Harper with two Toronto musicians, Artie Roth on double bass and Bob Brough on tenor sax.

The Ken Harper Trio played mainstream jazz with passion, skill, and creativity at their concert at Southminster United Church  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

With busy schedules and a 450 km distance to travel, this trio doesn't get together to perform as often as they'd like – Harper estimates only about four times a year – but you could hear an easy connection and a like-minded approach in their music.

Harper and Roth met in 1988, when they both started studying music at York University, and later teamed up with veteran saxophonist Brough for this trio. Over the past two years, they've played several Ottawa-area locations: clubs, a house concert, and GigSpace, but this was their biggest Ottawa venue yet.

Other than an announcement mic that wasn’t always turned on or used properly, the concert was all-acoustic, with a beautiful, rounded sound. The musicians made a point of playing to the space, using its resonance, and playing softly enough that their instruments could be heard overlaying and complementing each other. Harper's cymbal sounds were crisp and ringing; Roth's bass was clear and full; Brough's tenor lines were rich and commanding.

Read more: The Ken Harper Trio brings commitment and energy to new concert series at Southminster

 

Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention

Sienna Dahlen and François Jalbert
Court, mais jazz
La Nouvelle Scène
Saturday, October 8, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Sienna Dahlen's music floats comfortably in the intersection of jazz, singer-songwriter, chanson, art song, and cabaret. Her delivery and musicianship clearly show her jazz roots, but her songs are more confessional and intimate – and less swinging – than straight jazz.

God beams, short films, lots of stage fog, and audio distortion distracted from the fine musical performance  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

She's just released a new CD, Ice Age Paradise, a highly personal collection of songs chronicling a difficult time in her life. It was recorded with a nine-person ensemble including horns and strings, and, at shows this fall in Toronto and Montreal, she's presenting the music with the full ensemble.

But for Ottawa, she performed a stripped-down version: just her on vocals and keyboards, and François Jalbert on guitar. Even with simpler arrangements, the songs still ended up sounding rich and expressive, with Dahlen's strong and multi-octave voice well supported and underlined by Jalbert's inventive guitar lines.

Although the material was personal, the presentation was very Canadian: Dahlen switched effortlessly and frequently between English and French, within songs and during her introductions. This was partly because of the location: La Nouvelle Scène is Ottawa's francophone theatre space. But there was a easy naturalness to the interchange; it felt like simply another mode of expression rather than a political point – not surprising for a vocalist who divides her time between Montreal and Toronto.

Only two of the songs were from the new album. Three were from Dahlen's previous album, Verglas, and she also included a song by the late Montreal singer Lhasa de Sela.

Read more: Sienna Dahlen's expressive music deserves an audience's full attention

 

Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul

Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway
IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) #147
House of Common, Ottawa
Monday, October 10, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Trombonist Samuel Blaser and drummer Gerry Hemingway opened their Canadian tour on Monday with a bravura performance in Ottawa, a concentrated display of deep communication and innovation.

Trombonist Samuel Blaser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway fed listeners' souls with astonishing music for thanksgiving desert  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Thanking the audience for coming out on the Thanksgiving holiday, Hemingway noted that, “At least we know you're not hungry. Now we'll feed the other part of your souls.”

And feed them they did, with music which explored the full ranges of their instruments, and moved from the tiniest threads of sound to all-out thunderous fanfares – to the intent interest and appreciation of their listeners.

Blaser (from Switzerland and now living in Berlin) and Hemingway (from the U.S. and now living in Switzerland) are more usually found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but are touring across Canada this week. Most of their shows on the tour are with Blaser's quartet, which also includes Russ Lossing on piano, and Masa Kamaguchi on bass. Montreal and Ottawa were the exceptions, where the two were scheduled to perform as a duo as part of local improvised music series.

Blaser and Hemingway are no less formidable as a duo. They're both well-known as free improvisers (Hemingway has been playing creative music for four decades), and have performed together in several of Blaser's groups.

Read more: Samuel Blaser and Gerry Hemingway perform music to feed the soul

 

The Canto Trio blends two sax voices and bass in an evening of classic jazz

The Canto Trio
Ascension Jazz Series
Church of the Ascension, Ottawa
Sunday, September 25, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The Canto Trio – Peter Woods, Devon Woods, and Hélène Knoerr – consists of two saxophonists and one double bassist/vocalist. It's not your typical jazz group, or trio sound.

The Canto Trio: Peter Woods, Helene Knoerr, Devon Woods showed the versatility of a 2-sax, chordless format as they opened the new Ascension Jazz series in Ottawa. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

But this chordless ensemble did a more-than-credible job of performing a well-chosen selection of jazz classics at their concert Sunday, to an appreciative audience.

The concert was also the first in a new jazz series at this church in Ottawa East, and showed off the church's excellent acoustics and friendly ambiance.

Peter Woods, Devon Woods (no relation), and Hélène Knoerr first met and played together at an Ottawa jam session a few months ago. They started chatting, and it turned out that Devon Woods had a large folder of arrangements for two saxophones. In July, the three performed a noon-hour concert at MacKay United Church, where Peter Woods is minister; this was their second full show.

Both Peter Woods and Devon Woods had a tenor sax and a soprano sax, and they played them in all possible combinations (two tenors, two sopranos, soprano/tenor, and tenor/soprano). Sometimes they'd play in unison, and other times they'd play contrasting melodies, entwining and circling around each others' lines – but always they were listening and responding to each other. Devon Woods also brought a vintage metal clarinet dating from the 1930s, and added its richer sound to “Mood Indigo” and “East of the Sun” to good effect.

Read more: The Canto Trio blends two sax voices and bass in an evening of classic jazz

 

John Stetch dramatically mixes folksong, classical, and TV themes into dynamic jazz

John Stetch
Steinway Piano Gallery, Ottawa
Thursday, September 22, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

For his current solo piano tour across Canada, John Stetch has reached forward and backwards, to his own roots in music and to a rethinking of the well-known classical repertoire. And the result, at his first tour stop in Ottawa, was a dynamic and engrossing hour of music.

John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Although he's a jazz pianist, the pieces Stetch played Thursday weren't drawn from the standard repertoire. That's a deliberate decision, as he told the audience. He's been to jam sessions in New York City, where he currently lives, and heard other pianists play standards – all too similarly to the way he would.

So he's creating his own sound by playing music other jazz pianists don't: his reinterpretations of classical concertos and sonatas; take-offs on TV theme songs; and music inspired by his Ukrainian-Canadian heritage.

Stetch is originally from Edmonton, and one of his earlier albums was called Ukrainianism [2002]. He played several pieces from that album, based on folk melodies and on Ukrainian history. He also drew from his 2013 Juno-nominated Off the Cuffs album, in which he took well-known classical compositions by Mozart, Shostakovich, Chopin, and Bach, stripped them back to their roots and reinvigorated them.

Read more: John Stetch dramatically mixes folksong, classical, and TV themes into dynamic jazz

 

Marianne Trudel pays a rich tribute to Guelph Jazz Festival founder

Marianne Trudel Quartet with Ingrid Jensen
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre, Co-operators Hall
Thursday, September 15, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen
Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium
University of Guelph
Friday, September 16, 2016 – 9 a.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage

Marianne Trudel wasn't going to let anything stop her getting to the Guelph Jazz Festival this year.

The Montreal jazz pianist, composer, and improviser suffered a serious concussion this summer, and hadn't played the piano for two months – only starting again 12 days before the festival. Her doctor had recommended she not perform.

Marianne Trudel did not want to miss this year's Guelph Jazz Festival, and gave a full-bodied performance there with her quartet. ©2016 Brett Delmage

But as a long-time performer at Guelph, she did not want to miss the last festival to be curated by artistic director Ajay Heble. “This is my favourite festival in the country,” she told the audience at her Thursday night concert, “and Ajay is a very, very special person, close to my heart. I think he did a merveilleux with this festival, and it's something special to be here for his last show.”

For this concert, she was accompanied by three stalwarts of the Montreal jazz scene: Jim Doxas on drums, Rémi-Jean Leblanc on double bass, and Jonathan Stewart on tenor and soprano sax – plus trumpeter Ingrid Jensen (formerly of BC, now of Queens, NY). They performed six pieces from Trudel's most recent CD, La Vie Commence Ici [2014], all originals of considerable sweep and richness.

The theme of the album is the ability to be fully present in the moment – an ability which Trudel contends many of us have lost. For many years, she said, she was the only musician in Montreal without an iPhone, and getting one, after considerable peer pressure, was her “worst mistake ever”.

Trudel was very much present at this concert. Given the vibrancy of her performance, you would not have known she had been ill.

Read more: Marianne Trudel pays a rich tribute to Guelph Jazz Festival founder

 

Betty Ann Bryanton takes her musical revenge, to a happy full house

Betty Ann Bryanton Presents Sideways Bend Reprise
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau
Saturday, September 10, 2016 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Like many jazz fans, Ottawa vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton prefers the night to the morning – and figures she should be able to sleep in on a Saturday! But the City of Ottawa allows construction to start at 7 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Over the last 18 months, with three different large buildings going up in her neighbourhood, she's heard far too many loud beeps and bangs at times she'd rather be sleeping.

Betty Ann Bryanton and her sextet brought a finely-tuned set list and lots of joy to their packed Sideways Bend Reprise show at BDT on September 10 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

At her Sideways Bend show on Saturday, she took revenge – in song.

“The Noisy Blues” was a fast-paced blues which she wrote one morning when she was woken up, again. She and her band played it with an edge, and added beeping, barking, bird calls, and other raucous noises to demonstrate exactly how annoying the noise really was. With lots of energy and even some scatting, it was a performance that grabbed the audience and received strong applause.

But it was only one of the highlights in a well-tuned performance of jazz vocal pieces which Bryanton organized. After a sold-out premiere at GigSpace last May, this was the second time she had presented the material. This reprise show also sold out, with the lower room of Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau completely packed.

In two sets, each more than an hour long, Bryanton performed songs from across the 20th century, ranging from ballads to blues to Latin to upbeat jazz numbers. She had spent a year preparing the original show, and this clearly showed in its professionalism and smoothness. And with Pierre Monfils on guitar, Howard Tweddle on electric and double bass, Lu Frattaroli on drums, David R. Miller on keyboards, and Dmitry Egunov on soprano and tenor sax, she had a good local band which was clearly comfortable with the music.

Read more: Betty Ann Bryanton takes her musical revenge, to a happy full house

   

Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's

Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome with guest Ed Lister at Irene's Pub
Sunday, September 4, 2016 – 9:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

OttawaJazzScene.ca chose this show as our jazz pick of the week – and we're glad we did!

Guitarist Roddy Ellias and vocalist Megan Jerome created a zone of beauty and intimacy Sunday night at Irene's, at the first of four weekly shows they're performing there this month.

Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome combined their music in an intense yet quiet show at Irene's September 4, the first of four Sundays they'll play there this month  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Together with guest Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, they combined originals by both of them with jazz standards in two flowing sets. It was a quieter show than most Sunday sessions at Irene's, but their audience was intent and almost completely silent, and applauded generously throughout. (The same could not be said for the five-some playing pool at the back of the room, but they eventually did quiet down and left by the start of the second set.) 

Ellias and Jerome have performed together in larger ensembles, but this is the first time they've performed as a duo. Jerome told the audience “We're just trying things out, doing things other than what we normally do”. Ellias has often played standards, particularly in duos with other guitarists, but he hadn't performed Jerome's songs before; Jerome primarily plays her own material, and doesn't often play standards or Ellias' compositions. Lister's own bands, like the Chocolate Hot Pockets and ERU-ERA, are much more hard-hitting and loud, although he also performs in quieter ensembles.

Read more: Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's

   

Conjunction: three jazz and three classical musicians make music that sings (review)

The musicians in Conjunction 'pushed the boundaries and found that sometimes the boundaries pushed back.' ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Conjunction: The Gryphon Trio with Scott Good, Dafnis Prieto, and Roberto Occhipinti
Chamberfest: Chamberfringe series
La Nouvelle Scène
Friday, July 29, 2016 - 10 p.m.

Dafnis Prieto and Max Pollak
Chamberfest: Siskind Snapshots
Dominion Chalmers United Church
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - 5:45 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto is best known for leading Latin jazz bands and collaborating with the cream of the NYC avant-garde jazz scene. Roberto Occhipinti is a prominent jazz bassist and bandleader in Toronto. Scott Good has played trombone with many Canadian jazz musicians.

Did you realize that each of them also composes and performs chamber music?

In one of the most fascinating concerts I've heard this year, these three musicians collaborated with the Gryphon Trio at Chamberfest. In a 90-minute show, they presented four pieces which crossed back and forth between jazz and classical music, building on the strengths of both and ending up with beautiful music.

The Gryphon Trio – Roman Borys on cello, Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin, and James Parker on piano – was a natural partner for this endeavour. The trio may be best celebrated for its interpretations of works by Beethoven and Schubert, but it has also consistently expanded its range outside the standard chamber repertoire, many times together with Occhipinti. Borys is also Chamberfest's artistic director, and has made a point of programming many jazz and jazz-crossover concerts in its late-night Chamberfringe series.

Read more: Conjunction: three jazz and three classical musicians make music that sings (review)

   

A powerful jazz fusion outing for Modasaurus (review)

Modasaurus
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, August 20, 2016 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The four Ottawa jazz musicians in Modasaurus are nothing if not versatile. In the many different groups they're involved in, I've heard them play everything from straight standards to serious funk, with reggae, pop, and classical, and blues excursions as well.

Bassist J.P Lapensée opened pianist James McGowan's 'Khaleegy' with an extended and melodic bass solo, to enthusiastic audience response  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

But it's jazz fusion that they play in this group – a driving and intense jazz style with touches of rock. The group is also a fusion in another sense: between pianist and composer James McGowan, and the three members of the HML Trio: guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist J.P. Lapensée and drummer Jamie Holmes (who are also three-quarters of the Chocolate Hot Pockets).

As you might guess from their dinosaur-inspired name, Modasaurus has a big sound – not excessively loud, but full-bodied and complex. Most of their repertoire is original compositions by McGowan, which use the talents of all four, and allow for considerable interaction and interplay.

This weekend was their third outing as a group. They used the two nights to showcase several new tunes, and to bring in guests: saxophonist Mike Tremblay on Friday, and guitarist Wayne Eagles on both Friday and Saturday.

OttawaJazzScene.ca heard them on Saturday. Any group playing that night was going to have some serious competition: the Tragically Hip was playing its final concert, which was broadcast everywhere in Canada and attracted the kind of national attention usually only given to two Canuck teams playing for the Stanley Cup. The Options Jazz Lounge turned on the broadcast on its TV screen between sets, but otherwise put the jazz first.

Read more: A powerful jazz fusion outing for Modasaurus (review)

   

Carleton U Jazz Camp faculty quintet enjoys the upbeat (review)

Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Quintet
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, June 11, 2016 - 3:30 p.m.

This year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp has moved its faculty concerts to the late afternoons from the evenings to make it easier for the camp's students to attend. This made for a more informal vibe but still much skilled playing at the final faculty concert, which featured a classic jazz quintet.

It was a fine 50 minutes of mainstream jazz, played with enjoyment and a sense of fun, which easily communicated itself to the audience. The set-list mixed originals with classic 60s bop tunes and one ballad.

Five camp instructors, all well-known and experienced Ottawa jazz musicians, shared the stage – Mike Tremblay on tenor sax, Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone, Nick Dyson on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Geggie on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums. They've played together in many different arrangements before, and were clearly comfortable together – which was good, because they were just receiving the sheet music for one of the numbers as they started.

They opened with Horace Silver's “The Jody Grind”, a fast, grooving tune with the trumpet and sax pumping out the beat over a strong bass line, and then moved to a more thoughtful mood with “Falling Grace” by Steve Swallow, with flowing sax lines over multi-faceted piano lines. The originals included Dyson's “April Fools”, a bright, brassy tune which was given a more punctuated feel here than in the Beeched Wailers' version, followed by Ferguson's “Is That All?”, a strongly appealing tune with anthemic trombone, assured saxophone, and sweet and full trumpet solos.

Read more: Carleton U Jazz Camp faculty quintet enjoys the upbeat (review)