Monday, April 21, 2014
Text Size



days left
to vote

Here's a trio of reasons to vote in the Jazz Favourites Poll

  • you get to tell others where to go (for your favourite jazz)
  • you'll learn more about the local jazz scene
  • it's fun and easy

  Click here before time runs out


Omer Klein gave an exhilarating and intense performance for his Canadian debut

Omer Klein ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Omer Klein and Haggai Cohen-Milo
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Ottawa, Canada
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

One piano. One double bass. And they so filled the Fourth Stage to the walls with melody and layers of sound that nothing more was needed.

This show was pianist Omer Klein's debut performance in Canada. He made the most of it with an exhilarating and intense presentation, which clearly showed his strong and longstanding connection with bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo. The two were in constant visual and musical communication, trading off the lead and reacting to each other's ideas – important given the amount of improvisation they included in the music.

Klein was touring to support his latest album, To the Unknown [Plus Loin Music, 2013], and started the show with the first two pieces from that album. “Fear of Heights” began with repeated circling patterns and then developed into a flowing, classically-influenced melody, almost like a lullaby. “Bliss” started off in a jazzier mood, with a strong initial riff on both instruments; it then added more texture with flurries of notes, glissandos, fast repeated riffs (bass against piano), and staccato interludes – accented by occasional foot stomps from Klein.

The title of “Modesty” reflected the fact it was based on seven different modes – but also that it was a “modest attempt” by a composer to understand he can't come up with a better melody that would be produced by improvisation, Klein told the audience. The actual composition is just a list of chords and a bass line, without a specified melody, he said; the version he played wasn't going to sound like the piece on the album. This version opened in a more quiet, stately manner, and the melody progressed thoughtfully, exploring variations, before slowly diminishing into a stream of individual sparkling notes.

Klein studied jazz at the New England Conservatory of Music, and privately with renowned pianists Danilo Perez and Fred Hersch. His compositions and improvisational style are clearly in the modern piano jazz tradition: multi-layered, strongly improvisational, and unpredictable with contrasting melodies and rhythms. In fact, he noted that he often doesn't even pick which song to play next before he sits back on the piano bench.

Read more: Omer Klein gave an exhilarating and intense performance for his Canadian debut


The Adam Saikaley Quintet brings Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro to vivid life

View photos of the performance

Filles de Kilimanjaro was a key album for trumpeter Miles Davis. Released in 1968, it was a transition between his mainstream quartet albums of the previous decade and the fusion style which dominated much of his further work.

Adam Saikaley and his quintet rearranged Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro with care, replacing trumpet with guitar, and tenor with alto sax, for their show at the Manx. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

It's also one of Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley's favourite jazz albums, and he's always regretted the fact it's not better known. So he decided to remedy this by playing it live with his own quintet.

Not straight note-for-note, though: Saikaley wasn't going to pretend that he was Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock. And while the rhythm section (Saikaley on electric piano, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Marc Decho on electric bass) were playing the same instruments as on the album, the other two weren't. Linsey Wellman played alto sax and Alex Moxon played electric guitar, instead of the tenor sax and trumpet that were on the album.

Saikaley's group has played the album twice so far: a shortened version as part of a multi-group show at Pressed on February 8, and then the full version at the Manx on March 9. The Manx show attracted a standing-room-only crowd, almost all of whom were focused on the stage. They loudly applauded during and at the end of the show.

One advantage of choosing this album, Saikaley pointed out, was that listeners wouldn't have as many preconceptions of the music as they would, for example, with Kind of Blue, and could listen to it with open ears.

He said the members of the quintet all contributed to rearranging the five pieces on the record for the new instrumentation. Throughout the show you could see the musicians checking the extensive scores for the new arrangements. They ended up slightly extending the music: 65 minutes for the Manx live version, compared to 56 minutes on the Miles Davis recording.

Read more: The Adam Saikaley Quintet brings Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro to vivid life


Phil Dwyer Trio energizes BDT with a compelling collaboration (review)

Phil Dwyer Trio
Les Brasseurs du Temps
Sunday, March 2, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Based in Vancouver Island, Juno-winning musician and composer Phil Dwyer doesn't often perform in Ottawa-Gatineau. Local jazz fans were lucky that he had a series of dates and recording sessions in Toronto last week, and that musicians Sylvie Duchesneau and J.P. Moisan figured out how to extend that trip by one more day to bring him to Les Brasseurs du Temps (BDT) in Gatineau.

It was a chance for Dwyer to play with his son Ben on double bass, and with Jim Doxas on drums. And what they gave an appreciative audience was straight down the mainstream, a mixture of standards and a Dwyer original, but all delivered with verve and clarity.

Unlike his quieter show with Don Thompson last summer at Chamberfest, this time Dwyer chose a generally energetic set-list, featuring pieces by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. His tenor sax strongly rang out through the large upstairs concert area at BDT, sometimes commanding, other times coaxing, and always creating enjoyable music.

The show opened with Monk's “We See”, which showed off Dwyer's pure tone on sax. Its swinging vibe put both the audience and the musicians at ease. The intensity increased with “Village Green” (best known in the recording by drummer Elvin Jones), and demonstrated what would be a consistent pattern throughout the show: the strong communication among the trio, each underlining the other's performance. The piece included a rumbling bass/drums duet, and pungent, vibrating lines on sax, and inspired strong applause.

Read more: Phil Dwyer Trio energizes BDT with a compelling collaboration (review)


Three standing ovations for Jérôme Beaulieu Trio's first show outside Québec

The Jérôme Beaulieu Trio played piano, bass, drums, and typewriter for their opening number at their enthusiastically-received NAC Fourth Stage show on March 1. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

The Jérôme Beaulieu Trio
NAC Presents
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Saturday, March 1, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Sitting front and centre on the stage Saturday night was a manual typewriter – a portable Remington – placed on a small box. Not your typical accessory for a jazz piano trio, you might think.

But as a percussion instrument, and a way to intrigue the audience, it worked remarkably well.

This trio of 20-something Montrealers – Jérôme Beaulieu on piano, Philippe Leduc on bass, William Côté on drums – have made a point of including unexpected sounds, loops, and effects to enhance their music. So there were extensive collections of effect pedals next to both the piano and the double bass, and Côté could play sound clips from his drum pad, as well as deploying his own repertoire of bells and other percussion instruments.

But, at the same time, those effects never distracted from the essential flow and melody of the music.

Read more: Three standing ovations for Jérôme Beaulieu Trio's first show outside Québec


Warm and sincere, Denzal Sinclaire wows the orchestra audience

Jazz vocalist Denzal Sinclaire held the attention of the orchestra audience for both his Nat King Cole repertoire and other songs. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Denzal Sinclaire Sings the Nat King Cole Songbook and More with the NAC Orchestra
NAC Southam Hall
Thursday, February 20, 2014 – 8 p.m.

View photos of this concert

As a singer, Nat King Cole was known for his personal warmth and sincerity. He wasn't hip, or arch, or trying to appeal to the in-crowd – he sang simply and naturally.

Those same qualities were in the foreground as Canadian jazz vocalist Denzal Sinclaire, together with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, paid tribute to Cole. The Thursday evening concert was the first of a three-night run, and will repeat on Friday and Saturday.

Performing to a mostly-full house, Sinclaire was debonair and cordial, introducing the songs with informality and occasional humor. The first set was all-Nat-King-Cole, showing the late singer's range: from classics like “Nature Boy” to lesser-known ballads like “To the Ends of the Earth”; from up-tempo rousers like “Route 66” to the moving “Mona Lisa”.

And the audience greeted the music enthusiastically. Throughout, they were intently focused on the stage, and occasionally greeted songs with welcoming hand clapping. The applause after each song ranged from strong to very strong to heavy, and the concert ended with a standing ovation.

This was one of the Orchestra's regular Pops concerts, but it was led by guest conductor Jeff Tyzik, who also arranged all the music and selected the songs in conjunction with Sinclaire. Tyzik and Sinclaire have been molding this show for the last year, with three concerts in Western Canada in 2013, and more planned for the United States next year (the 50th anniversary of Cole's untimely death).

Read more: Warm and sincere, Denzal Sinclaire wows the orchestra audience


The Sicilian Jazz Project reached the audience's hearts (and made them dance)

Louis Simão's accordion added intensity and emotion to the music in Michael Occhipinti's Sicilian Jazz Project. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Sicilian Jazz Project
Parc de l'imaginaire
Gatineau (secteur Aylmer), PQ
Festival de Jazz Desjardins
Saturday, July 27, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The Sicilian Jazz Project, which is back in Ottawa this weekend, demonstrated how well jazz can reach an audience's heart in a performance in an Aylmer park last summer.

Toronto vocalist Dominic Mancuso sang the entire concert in a dialect of Sicilian – but that didn't matter because the songs were about universals like love, work, discrimination, and celebration, and because of the sheer infectiousness, energy, and beauty of the music.

By the end of the show, most of the audience was singing along with Mancuso – and didn't have to stand for the final ovation because they had already got up to dance or sway to the music.

The project is the brainchild of Toronto jazz guitarist/composer Michael Occhipinti, and is based on his own Sicilian family heritage, as well as field recordings made by musicologist Alan Lomax in Sicily in 1954. But as with several of his other projects, Occhipinti used the original folk music only as a starting point, adding his own jazz sensibility, rhythms, arrangements, and improvisation to produce a highly listenable cross-cultural mix.

Read more: The Sicilian Jazz Project reached the audience's hearts (and made them dance)


The Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2013: from sublime to frustrating

The Ottawa Jazz Festival concentrated its efforts into its Winter and summer jazz festival in 2013. The music ranged from sublime and delightful, to puzzling or frustrating or simply not jazz.

The season began at the end of January, with the second annual winter jazzfest presented by the Festival. Unlike in 2012 where each night featured several concerts, this festival began with a high-profile single concert in Dominion Chalmers United Church featuring Fred Hersch and his trio, with NYC-Vancouver group Michael Blake's Variety Hour opening. Both groups gave really fine performances, and it was a great pity the church was only half-full.

Read more: The Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2013: from sublime to frustrating


Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett: two voices in close conversation (review)

Jamie Baum Quintet featuring Jane Bunnett
Saturday, November 30, 2013 – 9 p.m.
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

Introducing her composition “In Another Life”, flute player Jamie Baum told the audience that it was inspired by the feeling you sometimes get when you meet and collaborate with someone: “it just feels like you knew them forever in another life.”

Watching her and fellow flute player Jane Bunnett on the stage, you could feel that applied to them. 

While bringing quite different styles to their performance, they collaborated beautifully, enhancing each other's lines and creating melodies that were more than the sum of their parts. In that, they were strongly supported by their rhythm section: Montreal pianist Paul Shrofel, NYC (and ex-Montreal) bassist Zack Lober, and Toronto drummer Nick Fraser, who added melody, depth, and even swing in many places.

Ottawa was the last stop on the quintet's tour of Ontario and Quebec. They played two back-to-back shows at GigSpace, the first of which was sold out and the second of which had only a few seats remaining.

This was a release tour for Baum's new CD, In This Life. But it also was the first time Baum (from NYC) and Bunnett (from Toronto) had had a chance to play together, although they had known each other for years. And it produced some interesting challenges for Bunnett, because her soprano sax was replacing both trumpet and alto sax parts in Baum's compositions.

Read more: Jamie Baum and Jane Bunnett: two voices in close conversation (review)


IMOOfest 2013 Night 3: unpacking the music (review)

Jesse Stewart thought outside the box for his performance ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 3
Sunday, November 10, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

View the photos

Jesse Stewart, solo percussion

For his previous solo show at GigSpace, percussionist Jesse Stewart brought in a vibraphone, a set of heavy, carefully-tuned marble blocks, a drumkit, a giant sawblade, and many other percussion instruments: a load you'd need a large car or van to carry.

He showed up at IMOOfest 2013 with a plain cardboard box under his arm, about a cubic foot in size and obviously trivially light. He ignored the two full drumkits behind him, and he played the box in every possible way.

Opening the last night of the festival, Stewart embodied its pure improvising spirit – and playfulness. He began by simply shaking the box, letting the contents crash around inside. Then he turned it over and around. He rubbed the stubble on his face against it, and then put it down and ran his fingers over the corrugations on the side, creating light scratching sounds.

He drummed on it with his hands, on both the sides and top, starting with simple patterns which evolved into more complex and interrupted, and turned into a thundershower of sharp beats. He opened the box and pressed the flaps down alternately, fast and hard. Using a violin bow, he bowed the side of a flap, creating an attenuated screech like a creaking door in a horror film, and then pressed down harder and harder until the sound popped.

Read more: IMOOfest 2013 Night 3: unpacking the music (review)


IMOOfest 2013 Night 2: stretching the rules (review)

The IMOO Chamber Orchestra broke the rules ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 2
Saturday, November 9, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

View the photos

Night 2 of IMOOfest 2013 showed the diversity of what can be described as improvised music or avant-garde jazz.

It began with Jeff Morton playing what was billed as a solo electronics set, but which ended up at least as much acoustic. For the first half of the show, he played electronic dance music, a constantly adaptive ecology of sound with strong electronic figures over a muffled beat. It had a minimalist, hypnotic feel, and despite its intensity was never too loud.

A projection screen was set up to his right: for the first half it displayed changing abstract patterns; during the second half, his partner, Katrina Bray, moved paper origami figures to create frequently-changing, evocative shadows on the screen.

For the second half of his show, Morton pulled out a “Phono Fiddle”, an instrument sold mostly door-to-door in the early part of the 20th century for beginning musicians. It looked so odd that I had initially thought it was a home-brew device: it consists of a long wooden rod with a single metal string running down it. At the bridge, the string vibrates a phonograph needle, and that then transfers sound through a diaphragm and a small metal tube to a large metal horn attached at the bottom of the wooden rod.

Morton played it with a bow, touching both the string and the edge of the bell to double the sound. That created a sonorous but supernatural-feeling sound, initially high-pitched and then moving up and down in frequency. He added loops behind, but still kept the acoustic and very minimal feel as he continued with small variations on the melody, and eventually faded out to appreciative applause.

Read more: IMOOfest 2013 Night 2: stretching the rules (review)


IMOOfest 2013 Night 1: a huge dynamic range (review)

Justin Haynes and Linsey Wellman played together for the first time at IMOOfest 2013. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais
IMOOfest 2013, night 1
Friday, November 8, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio, Ottawa

View the photos

The second edition of IMOOfest opened with three performances, which each reached their audience's hearts and minds, but in quite separate ways.

The festival is being held this year in the intimate GigSpace, which gave it a warm, inviting, and informal feeling: where a peaceful baby could snooze in his mother's arms during quiet sections or watch and listen (protected by ear muffs) to louder passages. There was lots of time between acts and before and after the show for the performers and listeners to chat together, enjoy refreshments, and look at the performers' CDs.

The festival opened with an extended solo guitar piece by David Jackson. Playing electric guitar with a variety of effects pedals and loops, Jackson layered sounds on top of each other like a watercolour painter. He started with a simple musical aura, produced using his effects pedals while he lightly drummed on his guitar body. He added a few harmonics, and then superimposed on another light overall tone on top of the first.

Read more: IMOOfest 2013 Night 1: a huge dynamic range (review)


Organ-ic fusion fills the church (review)

Wayne Eagles matched his guitar to organ or piano. ©Alayne McGregor, 2013eagles – mcgowan – wittet
Trinity United Church
Saturday, October 19, 2013 – 7:30 p.m.

Freddie Hubbard's “Little Sunflower” is a jazz classic because of its great groove and its infectious melody. I've heard it played in many different configurations by organ trios, in jazz jams, and by student big bands. But the version that opened this concert was one of the best ever.

And that related directly back to the reason for this concert: to raise money for the (just-finished) refurbishing of Trinity United Church's Casavant organ. James McGowan, who is both the church's director of music and the keyboard third of this trio, played the Casavant organ in this and several other numbers during the concert. It added depth and a richness of tone to a really notable degree, and certainly surprised me how well it fit in with the jazz repertoire.

As McGowan explained later, this organ is almost a hundred years old, and was originally installed in a chapel in Montreal. When that chapel closed, Trinity, which originally didn't have an organ, bought it and had it reinstalled behind a screen at the front of the church.

But including a church organ wasn't much of a stretch for this trio, whose members come from quite different backgrounds aside from their mutual love of jazz and improvisation. McGowan is a professor in the music department at Carleton University, whose research interests include 18th- and 19th-century art music. Guitarist Wayne Eagles is a long-time performance instructor and ensemble director at Carleton, who runs the jazz fusion ensemble. T. Bruce Wittet has been a music journalist and drummer, in many different genres, for more than 30 years.

The concert started in an almost-classical vein, with a short stretch of solo organ before Eagles entered with fluid electric guitar lines and Wittet with light mallets on drums. Their notes coalesced after a minute or two into Hubbard's distinctive riff, and the music swelled to fill the church right to the back.

Read more: Organ-ic fusion fills the church (review)


Guelph 2013: Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers moved from sorrow to triumph (review)

Wadada Leo Smith and his Golden Quartet played four suites from Ten Freedom Summers at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quartet
Ten Freedom Summers
Main Stage, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 8 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The story of the American civil rights movement is stirring, tragic, and full of hope. All those emotions are reflected in Wadada Leo Smith's massive and eloquent work, Ten Freedom Summers, part of which he performed at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.

And that took 90 very intense minutes. The full work takes three evenings to perform, and has been recorded on a four-CD set.

But even hearing only four of the pieces still gave the Guelph audience a feel for the beauty of this composition, and how potent it was in performance.

Ten Freedom Summers memorializes key moments in the history of civil rights in the United States, from 1954 to 1964. Its subjects range from Rosa Parks to Emmett Till, from President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier to Thurgood Marshall to Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a collection of suites; each stands alone, but they can be played together or in different combinations.

The day before the concert, Smith told an audience at the jazz festival's colloquium that he wrote the first suite in 1977. It was the story of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was a big hero to blacks in Mississippi, where Smith grew up. He composed it in response to a request by jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins for a piece to perform at an Italian jazz festival, and it gave him the opportunity to explore themes which he had been ruminating about for several years.

And then, as he researched those events, he said he found that some of the most important speeches in the history of civil rights were improvised – relating right back to the type of music he had been playing for decades, within and outside the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) to which he and Jenkins both belonged.

Read more: Guelph 2013: Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers moved from sorrow to triumph (review)


Guelph Jazz Festival listeners treated to elevator music (review)

Listeners engage with the improvised elevator music made by Lori Freedman (bass clarinet), Jean Derome (sax) and Scott Thomson (trombone) ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View photos of this workshop

Some of these musicians will appear at the IMOO Ensemble SuperMusique concert at Club SAW on Sunday, October 20.

It isn't every musical performance or workshop where listeners have to get out of their seats not just to dance, but to follow the musicians around the building so they can still hear them play.

Listeners, walls, and ceilings became performing partners in the post-lunch musical performance at Guelph Jazz Festival's academic colloquium on Friday, September 6. The music commenced as it usually does, on the main stage space of the Macdonald Stewart Arts Centre (MSAC). Festival Artistic Director Ajay Heble switched hats (while still retaining his signature black beret), taking position at the piano instead of his usual listening post among the audience.

Before long, one musician investigated the ability of the gallery's drywall to modify the sound of his horn. Another walked among seated listeners with his trombone to create a moving point of sound.

Read more: Guelph Jazz Festival listeners treated to elevator music (review)


Guelph 2013: The improvisers get improv'd

MT Space in action at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.  ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View photos of this performance

It was an ordinary Thursday morning at the Guelph Jazz Festival. Academics, musicians, and listeners were crowded into a small meeting room to listen to talks about Intercultural Musical Exchange, all part of the festival's academic colloquium.

And then several people, new to the colloquium, crowded into the room, taking the most disruptive routes possible to find empty seats and disturbing the crowd. Not much later, the same people started to interrupt speaker Sandy Evans, asking her edged questions and challenging what she was saying. Evans took the interruptions gracefully and answered them as best she could, but after several interruptions, the audience became edgy, and asked the interruptors to stop. This being Canada, it was all smoothed over eventually, but it was odd and unexpected – not the warm and respectful feel normally seen in those sessions.

Fast forward to Friday, mid-morning, to what was supposed to be a “Rapporteur Summary Session and Performance”. Pianist Marianne Trudel and drummer Hamid Drake started playing, and the same people interrupted again, even more in-your-face.

Read more: Guelph 2013: The improvisers get improv'd


Guelph 2013: Pharoah Sanders and The Underground had lots of talent, but didn't gel (review)

Pharoah Sanders and the Underground at the 2013 Guelph Jazzfest ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Pharoah Sanders and The Underground
Main Stage, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 10 p.m.

View photos of this concert

If you had listened carefully the morning before, you might have forecast what you would hear at Pharoah Sanders' and the Underground's concert at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.

Sanders is a legendary jazz saxophonist, who played with John Coltrane in his late ensembles in the mid-60s, and then in the 1970s with Alice Coltrane. He's also recorded with McCoy Tyner, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and many others, and released dozens of his own albums as a leader, playing in contexts ranging from aggressive free improv to more mainstream jazz.

As one of the main headliners at the festival, he was scheduled for a 9 a.m. public interview (jointly with Wadada Leo Smith) at the festival colloquium about his career and his music. Now that early on a Friday morning is not what I would describe as an ideal time for intense rumination, especially not by a jazz musician, or even by many listeners. While Sanders showed up on time, he wasn't particularly forthcoming, and the interviewer's fulsome introduction probably didn't help.

Questions asking him to reflect about why and how he played and his relationship to the audience got mostly short responses. Finally, he simply responded, “I don't feel I have to have an audience: I just play, whatever the spirit tells me to do that's what I do. It never ends. It's just what I do all the time. I don't feel the same way every day. The movements of my fingers ... I just let it happen. I don't come to play music: I come to play me.”

Read more: Guelph 2013: Pharoah Sanders and The Underground had lots of talent, but didn't gel (review)


Guelph 2013: Bomata warmed a rainy-day audience with melodic yet unusual jazz

Bomata had a warm, all-acoustic sound that was a delight to listen to  ©Brett Delmage, 2013Bomata
Guelph Market Square (outdoors)
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 2:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Montreal trio Bomata plays melodic mainstream jazz – with surprises. Led by Jean Félix Mailloux on double bass, it features a less-usual instrumentation: Guillaume Bourque on clarinet and bass clarinet, and Patrick Graham on drumset and a wide variety of percussion instruments. Ottawa audiences may remember Graham's range of textures from his appearance with Trifolia with Marianne Trudel at the 2013 Ottawa jazz festival, and his earlier collaborations with Jesse Stewart.

Their hour-long concert on the Guelph Jazz Festival's outdoor stage on a Saturday afternoon attracted a reasonably large and quite attentive crowd, who heard eight originals from the trio's two albums. The group showed considerable inventiveness in styles and rhythms, and demonstrated a fine blending of different tonal qualities; the deep notes from Bourque's bass clarinet melded well with Mailloux's full-bodied bass riffs. Graham added an adventurous quality with his frequent shifts among instruments, including an extended solo on kanjira and another on frame drum.

Overall, the trio's warm, all-acoustic sound was a delight to listen to: too interesting to be called mellow, but easily approachable by even peripheral jazz or world music listeners.

Read more: Guelph 2013: Bomata warmed a rainy-day audience with melodic yet unusual jazz


Guelph 2013: Satoko Fujii and Kaze blew away preconceptions

Satoko Fujii was all over the keyboard, frantic and furious, before reverting to slow and delicate ©Brett Delmage, 2013Satoko Fujii and Kaze
Cooperators Hall, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 10:30 a.m.

View photos of this concert

What kind of music would you expect at 10:30 on a Saturday morning?

As soon as I saw this ensemble – one pianist, one drummer, and two trumpeters – I figured this was not going to be your typical jazz show, not even your typical free jazz show. But the Japanese-French collaboration within Kaze produced some empathetic and kinetic music, with all the musicians working to support each other.

Which isn't surprising, given the intertwining connections within the group.

The best-known member of the quartet is Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii. She and French drummer Peter Orins flanked two trumpeters: Natsuki Tamura from Japan and Christian Pruvost from France. Fujii and Tamura are not only married to each other; they've also recorded and performed together in ensembles ranging from duos on upwards. Orins and Pruvost also have long-standing ties: they both belong to the French improvisers’ collective Muzzix.

The four have been playing together since 2010, and have released two albums: Rafale (2011) and just recently, Tornado (2013). However, no composition names were announced during this concert, so it was not clear which, if any, of the pieces from those albums were included, or whether the concert was strictly free improv.

This tour (which covered Boston, Portland (Maine), and California, as well as Montreal and Guelph) was also the first time that Orins and Pruvost had played in North America – surprising given the quality of musicianship and originality they displayed in this hour-long concert.

Read more: Guelph 2013: Satoko Fujii and Kaze blew away preconceptions


Guelph 2013: Hamid Drake & Jesse Stewart share a creative imagination (review)

Jesse Stewart (l) and Hamid Drake (r) brought hundreds of listeners to total silence by their playing ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart
St. George's Church (Mitchell Hall)
Guelph Jazz Festival
Friday, September 6, 2013 - 11:30 p.m.

View photos of this concert

Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart share a creative imagination which allows them to hear rhythms and create interesting sounds from unexpected sources – which became clear at their late night duo concert at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.

The two percussionists, Drake from Chicago, Stewart from Ottawa (and formerly Guelph), played in a basement church hall to an almost-capacity audience. Their two drumsets sat closely beside each other on a low stage, surrounded by a wide range of other percussion instruments within easy reach.

Drake and Stewart first met at the Guelph Jazz Festival a decade ago, but their first concerts together didn't happen until last March in Ottawa. Those shows were so successful – standing ovations and the two drummers grinning at each other at the end in perfect happiness – that they decided to repeat the experience in Guelph.

Read more: Guelph 2013: Hamid Drake & Jesse Stewart share a creative imagination (review)


Guelph Jazzfest's community-built concert reaches new heights

A young musician plays his part in Scheherazade with verve ©Brett Delmage, 2013

View photos of Friendly Rich's Scheherazade

It was a Guelph Jazz Festival performance of epic proportions.

Friendly Rich Marsella brought together 1001 Arabian Nights, more than 17 musicians, kids of all abilities, a church full of listeners, some uncommon instruments, musical theatre, and balloons. He put a new face and sound on Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade for the symphony's 125 birthday and the Guelph Jazz Festival's 20th anniversary.

The spectacle was the highlight of a summer of rehearsals and instrument-building driven by Marsella's work as Improviser-in-Residence at Musagetes/Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP), the close academic partner of the festival.

Friendly Rich's Scheherazade again demonstrated the wonderful performances that can be created by enthusiastic professional and amateur artists of all ages and abilities working together, motivated by the festival's core commitment to community engagement.

The free noon-time concert on September 7 filled the sanctuary of St. George's, one of the largest churches in Guelph, right up to its vaulted ceiling, and kept listeners listening, laughing, and totally engaged with music and theatre designed for all ages.

   – Brett Delmage

View photos of Friendly Rich's Scheherazade

Read more: Guelph Jazzfest's community-built concert reaches new heights