Friday, February 27, 2015
   
Text Size

Vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara was alternately stunning and frustrating (review)

Mary Margaret O'Hara, Peggy Lee, and Aidan Closs
Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 6
Dominion Chalmers United Church
Sunday, February 15, 2015 – 7 p.m.

I first heard vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara and cellist Peggy Lee play together in 2012. Their Beautiful Tool project, which also incorporated several other talented Vancouver musicians, opened that year's edition of the Guelph Jazz Festival. I was immediately highly impressed with the group sound and inventiveness of Lee and the other instrumentalists, but I found O'Hara frustrating – in particular because I had consistent difficulty understanding her words, whether sung or spoken.

I decided not to review that concert because the art gallery they performed in is notorious for “eating” and distorting vocals, and I might not have been fair to the show. Given O'Hara's performance this Sunday at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, perhaps I was being overly cautious.

Read more: Vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara was alternately stunning and frustrating (review)

 

The Lost Fingers take gypsy jazz to places it doesn't belong (review)

The Lost Fingers
Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 4
Dominion Chalmers United Church
Friday, February 13, 2015 – 9:30 p.m.

Around the end of the 1960s, as rock became preeminent and jazz started to decline in popularity, some record executives had the bright idea of making jazz vocalists more “with it” and “hip” by having them sing modern rock hits.

In 1970, Columbia Records president Clive Davis forced vocalist Tony Bennett to make an album called The Greatest Hits of Today. The story goes that Bennett was so upset at the choice of material that he actually vomited before the first recording session for the album. Reviews were not kind, particularly for the totally unsuitable "Little Green Apples".

Some rock and pop songs – particularly those with strong melodies – can be adapted into beautiful and intriguing jazz versions, but not all of them. So when I read the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival description of this show and realized that the Lost Fingers would be dedicating almost all the concert to gypsy jazz versions of rock, house, disco, and pop songs, a little warning light went on in my brain.

Read more: The Lost Fingers take gypsy jazz to places it doesn't belong (review)

 

Keep On Keepin' On: the power of love, commitment, and mentorship (review)

Keep On Keepin' On [2014]
with Clark Terry and Justin Kauflin
directed by Alan Hicks
Wakefield International Film Festival, February 21-22, 2015


Keep On Keepin' On will receive its Ottawa-Gatineau premiere at the Wakefield International Film Festival, with two showings on February 21 and 22.


Parents find this out all too quickly: it's not what you say, it's what you do when it comes to raising children. How you act is more important than what you tell them.

And that's also what makes this recent documentary about the great jazz trumpeter Clark Terry so intensely believable and so emotionally strong. In the film, you can see Terry working with his students, passing on his love and knowledge of particular songs and of jazz in general, and connecting with his longtime musical colleagues. In archival clips, you can see him in action in his heyday, playing his heart out and clearly communicating his joy in the music.

Keep On Keepin 'On posterTerry is now 94. He came to fame playing in Count Basie's band, and then spent almost a decade in what he referred in as the “University of Ellingtonia” with Duke Ellington, before becoming the first African American staff musician at the NBC TV network in 1960. In 1991, he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master; in 2010, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; in 2013, he was inducted into the Jazz at Lincoln Center Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. He has performed on more than 900 recordings, including several collaborations with Oscar Peterson.

Biographies of him say that he established a lasting reputation in his long career for “his wide range of styles (from swing to hard bop), technical proficiency, and infectious good humor” – and that's what comes through in this film, despite Terry's increasing physical frailty throughout. In 84-minutes, it tells a compelling story, both about Terry's illustrious career, but also about how he's kept on going into his 90s.

But it wouldn't be so strong if it wasn't also about one of his long-time students, jazz pianist Justin Kauflin. They first met at the William Paterson School of Music in New Jersey, where Terry taught as a visiting professor, and Kauflin has kept returning for private lessons even when Terry moved to Arkansas. The film shows Kauflin trying to establish his own career but even more importantly finding his own voice as a musician, and the intense work he puts into this despite setbacks.

Read more: Keep On Keepin' On: the power of love, commitment, and mentorship (review)

 

Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 2: having fun with jazz

Jean-Michel Pilc Trio (National Arts Centre Fourth Stage)
Matt Wilson Quartet (National Arts Centre Fourth Stage)
Late-night jam sessions (Arc The Hotel)
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 2
Saturday, February 7, 2015 - 7 p.m., 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m.

It was remarkable how many times people I talked to about Saturday evening's winter jazzfest performances mentioned how much fun the shows were. I wasn't initially going to use that word in this review – one wants to be original, after all – but in fact, simple fun, both on the bandstand and in the audience, was an important part of both shows, by the Jean-Michel Pilc Trio and by the Matt Wilson Quartet.

Not that either concert was simple. They both involved highly talented musicians playing full-out and creating complicated and unexpected patterns on the fly.

But on top of all of that musical thought and dexterity was a deep love of and enjoyment in performing the music. Whether it was Matt Wilson's big grin or Jeff Lederer dancing as he played his tenor sax or the smiles flashing among Pilc's trio, you could see an underlying joy and playfulness.

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 2: having fun with jazz

 

Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: Megan Jerome presents a rich blend of instruments and observations

Megan Jerome Together Ensemble
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 1
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 5 p.m.

Megan Jerome went to a funeral on the morning of the day of her Winter Jazz Festival appearance. It was for her late mother's best friend, and it symbolized a change in the last few years in the music she'd been composing – to happier and less fraught.

The concert also featured a new, full-bodied sound for Jerome, with her Together Ensemble – Jerome on Wurlitzer, Don Cummings on full-size Hammond organ (and giant Leslie speaker), Fred Guignon on electric guitar, and husband Mike Essoudry on drums. The ensemble has been playing around town since late last fall, and the instruments provided a strong base for Jerome's soprano and the artful lyrics in her songs.

Jerome's music can't be easily categorized: the nearest might be alt-cabaret with jazz touches. Her background is in jazz piano, Essoudry plays everything from mainstream jazz to avant-garde improvisation, Cummings performs in both jazz and R&B/soul circles, while Guignon has primarily played in folk groups.

But it was a far richer blend than your average singer-songwriter show: Jerome's vocals floated over intricate patterns from Cummings' organ and Guignon's guitar, which both counterpointed and echoed her voice and provided a strong underlying groove and power

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: Megan Jerome presents a rich blend of instruments and observations

 

Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: the Nancy Walker Quintet layers its music well

Nancy Walker Quintet
2015 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Day 1
National Arts Centre Fourth Stage
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 7 p.m.

It's surprising how relatively infrequently Toronto jazz musicians make it up to Ottawa for shows – you wouldn't think the two cities were in the same province and only five hours apart. But, in the last three years, pianist Nancy Walker has only been sporadically in Ottawa and not at all as a leader, despite having picked up an enthusiastic Ottawa fan base from many years of playing in the Geggie house band for the jazz festival jams.

What finally brought her back here was her recently-released album, ‘Til Now Is Secret [Addo, 2014]. This concert primarily featured pieces from that CD, and four of the five musicians who played on it (drummer Jim Doxas sat in for Ethan Ardelli, who wasn't available for this date).

It was a strong set-list – all originals by Walker – and they were given an intense and propulsive treatment by the quintet. There was no one star in the show: Walker, Doxas, bassist Kieran Overs, guitarist Ted Quinlan, and reed player Shirantha Beddage all contributed noticeably to the sound.

Read more: Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 1: the Nancy Walker Quintet layers its music well

 

Audacious vocalist Phil Minton inspires IMOO improvisers

Phil Minton ©Alayne McGregor, 2014

Concert #111: Phil Minton
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO)
Raw Sugar Café
Sunday, December 7, 2014

British vocalist Phil Minton has taken the human voice to completely unexpected places and possibilities in the last 40-odd years. His improvisations don't use words – nor even word-like sounds. Instead, through extended vocal techniques, Minton creates a huge variety of sounds with different textures and timbres and rhythms.

His voice produces snake-like hisses, bird whistles, and guttural lion growls, and he fits them together into coherent sonic landscapes that range from barely audible whispering to crack-the-whip shrieks to what sounds remarkably like static. He turns the voice into a percussive instrument, but also a sibilant and even a tuneful one, and adds considerable emotional depth as well. To listen to Minton is to be constantly – and happily – surprised.

Ottawa's A B Series, which presents musical and literary events, brought Minton back to Ottawa for a long weekend starting last Friday. Over the weekend, he taught Ottawa volunteers how to sing in his Feral Choir, teaching them that anyone who can breathe can create beautiful or interesting sounds – outside of standard cultural references.

Tonight (Monday, December 8), he will conduct the Feral Choir in a free concert at St John's Anglican Church at Somerset and Elgin downtown at 7:30 p.m., and then perform solo there in a ticketed concert at 9 p.m.

Minton also collaborated with a wide collection of Ottawa's most dedicated improvisers at an IMOO concert Sunday evening – a concert which broke down the barriers between vocal and instrumental music.

Read more: Audacious vocalist Phil Minton inspires IMOO improvisers

 

The Brian Browne Trio shows why the jazz piano trio has enduring appeal (review)

Brian Browne Trio
NAC Fourth Stage, Ottawa
Saturday, November 15, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos from this concert.

The energy was palpable inside the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday, as pianist Brian Browne, bassist Neil Swainson, and drummer Terry Clarke began to play.

Brian Browne Trio ©Brett Delmage, 2014

But it was almost as much from the audience as from the stage: these were listeners intent on and eager for the music. The room was completely packed, filling almost as soon as the doors opened, and there were lots of smiles on faces as first Clarke appeared, then Swainson, and finally Browne.

Clarke began the evening with a complex and changing series of patterns on his drum using brushes; after a minute or so, Swainson added in a steady, full-bodied bass riff; and then Browne entered with a strong swinging piano. It was a full-on trio production – lots of interplay, changing tempos alternating between more syncopated and more bluesy, and trading fours (alternating quick solos) between Clarke and Browne – before ending in a strong flourish.

The trio then slowed down for a delicate and heartfelt version of Burt Bacharach's “What the World Needs Now Is Love”. That set the pattern for the evening – varied but always melodic. Browne had no sheet music in front him, playing instead from memory, and the two sheets of paper on the piano just had some song titles jotted on them, not a formal, numbered set list.

Read more: The Brian Browne Trio shows why the jazz piano trio has enduring appeal (review)

 

The Alex Goodman Trio presents a wide-ranging show of fast, fluid jazz (review)

Alex Goodman ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Alex Goodman Trio
Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge, Ottawa
Friday, November 14, 2014 – 8 p.m.

View photos of this evening

This July, Alex Goodman won first prize and the Public's Choice Award at the Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition. He is the first Canadian to ever win this competition.

Listeners at the Options Jazz Lounge on Friday could hear that technical skill – and considerable composing chops as well – when Goodman's trio appeared there last Friday. In three sets over three hours, the trio combined Goodman's originals and less-common standards for a fast-moving and enjoyable evening.

Goodman has released four albums, the latest being a series of solo guitar études released in 2013; his previous album, Bridges, was a quintet release and a JUNO nominee in 2011 for contemporary jazz album of the year.

For this show, he teamed up with a different trio than on his recordings: Fabio Ragnelli on drums and Rick Rosato on double bass. All three have considerable experience in the Canadian scene (Goodman and Ragnelli until recently in Toronto, and Rosato in Montreal), but currently live in New York City.

They opened with a Cole Porter number, “From this moment on”, fast and swinging with extended improvisation on guitar and bass. Goodman noted later that Porter was one of his favourite composers, and included another of his songs, “You Do Something to Me”, which also had lots of room for exploration while retaining the sweetness of the melody.

Read more: The Alex Goodman Trio presents a wide-ranging show of fast, fluid jazz (review)

 

The Adam Saikaley Quartet sets the walls to grooving at Mugshots (review)

(l-r) Adam Saikaley, Alex Moxon, Marc Decho, Mike Essoudry ©Brett Delmage, 2014

The Adam Saikaley Quartet
Mugshots (Nicholas Street Jail Hostel)
Saturday, November 15, 2014 – 10 p.m.

View photos from this performance

In order to get into Mugshots, you must cross the courtyard where convicted murderers were hanged. On a winter's night, it's dark and filled with shadows, and the grey metal door leading into the bar is more security-conscious than inviting.

But inside on Saturday night, the Adam Saikaley Quartet filled the room with bright, inviting music.

The bar is located on the ground floor of of Ottawa's former jail (now a hostel). It's a long low space, with thick stone walls, curving brick-lined ceilings, and heavy pillars marching down the centre of the room. Vibrations travel really well through the floors and walls – which only increased the intensity of the quartet's grooves.

A year ago, Saikaley started bringing his jazz quartet, with Linsey Wellman on sax and clarinet, Joe Hincke on bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums, for monthly shows at Mugshots. They've been playing there regularly ever since, with Marc Decho recently replacing Hincke. This fall, Saikaley wrote all new arrangements for the group, featuring everything from Ornette Coleman free bop, to 60s and 70s modal jazz, to Brazilian samba, to Afro-Cuban and African rhythms.

But always the groove, as was obvious Saturday. Guitarist Alex Moxon was sitting in for Wellman, and Saikaley's keyboards set up a strong Rhodes-like vibe which easily reached into every corner. Starting with classics like Freddie Hubbard's “Little Sunflower”, their first set had a strong jazz fusion feel. Lead lines on keyboards and electric guitar glided over propulsive rhythms on drumset and double bass, and the whole was warmly received by a generally-young crowd. When OttawaJazzScene.ca's editors left at midnight, there was still lots of energy in the room.

Read more: The Adam Saikaley Quartet sets the walls to grooving at Mugshots (review)

 

Whiplash drums up the tension, but doesn't do justice to jazz (movie review)

February 22: In the 2015 Academy Awards announced today, Whiplash won three Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. It had also been nominated for Best Picture and Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay.

Whiplash [2014]
Directed by Damien Chazelle
ByTowne Cinema (November 14-27, varying times)

Whiplash starts with a drumbeat – one that becomes steadily faster and fiercer. We look down a long white corridor and there, silhouetted in a doorway, is Andrew Neiman [Miles Teller], playing his heart out on the drums late at night. And then an older man appears, listening carefully. When Andrew stops, he orders him to keep going – and play harder than ever.

Left to right: Miles Teller as Andrew and J.K. Simmons as Fletcher. Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsThat scene sets the tempo for this movie – a breakneck-paced examination of a toxic relationship between student and teacher. Full of unexpected twists and jolts, it's 106 minutes of psychological intensity almost to the level of breakdown.

As a piece of cinema, this film is brilliant: beautifully shot, tightly directed, and well-acted. But I suspect most jazz musicians (especially drummers) and educators are going to have problems with it, because its presentation of jazz and its processes is seriously warped.

Andrew is a first-year student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory of Music in Manhattan [possibly based on the Juilliard School], which he describes as the greatest music school in the country. He has immersed himself in jazz and drumming for years, and hero-worships Buddy Rich.

Terence Fletcher [J.K. Simmons] is a jazz pianist and teacher at the conservatory, renowned for his high standards, and always on the prowl – even late at night – for new talent for his award-winning Studio jazz band. Cool and elegant in a tight black T-shirt and jeans, he seems the epitome of the ageless jazz musician and an obvious role model for Andrew.

Read more: Whiplash drums up the tension, but doesn't do justice to jazz (movie review)

 

A memorable evening of Gypsy Jazz & more with Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang (review)

Tcha Limberger ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang
NECTAR (the New Edinburgh Community and Arts Centre)
Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 7 p.m.

View photos of this evening

Even arriving early on a cold winter night, you could hear the jazz. Shining violin and bright guitar music was spilling out of the room where the musicians were warming up, lively jazz standards that only increased the anticipation of the audience members waiting in the hall.

This all-acoustic concert featured Flemish-Gypsy prodigy Tcha Limberger on violin and occasional guitar, along with Montrealers Denis Chang and William Dickerson on guitar. It was billed as gypsy jazz – and there was certainly lots of that. But, the music covered a wider range, also not surprising given that Limberger's own musical interests go well beyond that genre.

Limberger is descended from a long line of Romany musicians on his father's side, several of whom are renowned in European Manouche circles and helped revive Gypsy jazz in the last 50 years. The trio opened with a piece which was composed by his uncle and grand-uncle, Fapy Lafertin and Biske Limberger. Chang said it was about old-style gypsy life: a bit clichéd but “very nicely put”. Sung in Romany, it was upbeat with a touch of nostalgia with lots of interplay between the violin and guitars.

Read more: A memorable evening of Gypsy Jazz & more with Tcha Limberger and Denis Chang (review)

 

Guelph 2014: Ernst Reijseger plays the cello as you have not heard it before (review)

Ernst Reijseger, Harmen Fraanje, Mola Sylla blended hugely different bodies of music into a coherent and beautiful whole ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Ernst Reijseger – Harmen Fraanje – Mola Sylla
Guelph Jazz Festival
River Run Centre, Cooperators Hall
Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 8 p.m.

Ernst Reijseger solo
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 5 p.m.

Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger has an enviable reputation – both for the purity and breadth of his technique and the imaginativeness of his collaborations and projects. After starting out playing early and Baroque music, he switched to the avant-garde and jazz. He's performed with top European free jazz musicians like Derek Bailey, Eric Vloeimans, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway, has written and produced film scores for Werner Herzog, and has collaborated with world music artists as well as cellist Yo Yo Ma.

On stage, he's a wild man.

Both of his two concerts at the 2014 Guelph Jazz Festival featured jaw-dropping moments, as Reijseger expanded his audiences' understanding of how the cello could be played while producing lovely and unexpected music.

He turned the cello on its side and played it like a plump guitar – to audible gasps from some listeners. He hit the cello with his bow, and then ripped it savagely across the strings in an example of extreme bowing. He threaded his bow through the strings and then let the bow vibrate while plucking strings. He attached a plastic hair clip and wooden clothes pegs to the strings to dampen and mute their resonance, while still continuing to play. He let the cello swing in his hand, like a pendulum, as he played. He used the cello body as a drum, then shook it, and then moved its bottom spike in and out creating a creaking sound. He wetted his fingers to make the strings squeak. He whipped his bow through the air. He twirled around and around while playing.

Read more: Guelph 2014: Ernst Reijseger plays the cello as you have not heard it before (review)

 

Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)

Mark Ferguson has produced both of Geri Childs' CDs ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Geri Childs “More Than Magic” CD Release Concert
NAC Fourth Stage
Friday, October 31, 2014 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Opening with “Sentimental Journey” and closing with “Just Friends”, Geri Childs sang about love and long-time friendship in her CD release concert on Friday.

In particular, she talked about her friendship and collaboration with Mark Ferguson, her musical director for the CD and the concert, how they met in (of all places!) a hired band providing music for Joe Clark's leadership campaign, and how they worked together in picking the new standards in the CD. But “everyone here is a friend”, she said at the end of the concert, and certainly there were lots of smiles and appreciative applause throughout.

On stage were the same musicians who played on More Than Magic – Ferguson on piano, trombone, and melodica, John Geggie on double bass, Rob Graves on percussion, and Margaret Tobolowska on cello. They were joined by René Gely, on four different guitars, and Sharon Timmins on backup vocals. Gely added an extra percussive element brightening the music, and allowed Ferguson to move off the piano to trombone on some of the jazzier numbers.

Read more: Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)

 

Marianne Trudel Quintet: An exhilarating, subtle start to the 2014-15 NAC Presents jazz series (review)

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen shared a strong musical link at Saturday's concert. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Marianne Trudel Quintet
NAC Presents
NAC Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 25, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

Marianne Trudel appeared spent but exhilarated at the end of her quintet's concert at the NAC Fourth Stage Saturday night. The Montreal pianist had just released a new album, La Vie Commence Ici, and this was the last stop on a week-long tour to promote it.

With notable improvisers like Ingrid Jensen and Trudel herself on stage, the show was far more than just a reenactment of the recording. The quintet – the same musicians as on the CD – expanded upon the music, adding new interpretations and texture, in an energetic yet subtle concert.

If the star power in the quintet was provided by Jensen on trumpet, the other four musicians (who played together on Trudel's 2007 live recording) created equally interesting musical moments. It was very much a joint endeavour, with sax and trumpet frequently playing in unison, with several trumpet-piano duets, and with creative bass and drums working together to propel the music forward.

Read more: Marianne Trudel Quintet: An exhilarating, subtle start to the 2014-15 NAC Presents jazz series (review)

 

Evoking the soul of Hank Mobley (review)

Richard Page enjoys some playing by Alex Moxon, who organized the project ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Soul Station Tribute Concert
The Manx Pub
Monday, October 6, 2014

View photos of this performance

I can't remember where I first heard about Hank Mobley, but I suspect it may have been because one of the musicians in this tribute concert was raving about him.

Mobley was a jazz musicians' musician – especially if you're into hard bop and bebop. A tenor saxophonist, he played with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Art Blakey – and even for a brief period with Miles Davis.

Between 1955 and 1970, he recorded many albums for Blue Note Records – and Soul Station (1960) is generally considered one of his best. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes it as the “one Mobley album that should be in every collection”, and praises his rhythmic subtlety, “accenting unexpected beats and planting emphases in places that take his phrasing out of the realms of cliché”.

Read more: Evoking the soul of Hank Mobley (review)

   

The Marianne Trudel Quintet puts joy into their NAC show

Marianne Trudel and Ingrid Jensen frequently collaborated during the quintet's NAC show. ©Brett Delmage, 2014By the time Marianne Trudel's Quintet opened at the NAC Fourth Stage tonight, they were thoroughly warmed up.

The Quintet has been touring to promote Trudel's just-released CD, La Vie Commence Ici, for the last week. By tonight, you could hear the ease in their playing, the confident attack in their solos, and the sheer joy and fire they put into the music. They left many listeners very happy.

Watch for a full review of the concert with photos on Sunday.

    – Alayne McGregor

Read OttawaJazzScene's interview with Trudel about this tour and the CD:

Read our related stories:

   

A cross-Canada celebration of poet P.K. Page in music and dance

Scott Thomson, Susanna Hood, Linsey Wellman at the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais show. Thomson and Hood will present an expanded version of this show in Montreal this week. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Scott Thomson and Susanna Hood: The Muted Note
IMOO #107
Raw Sugar Café
Ottawa
Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 7 p.m.

Award-winning Canadian poet P.K. Page had her work interpreted as a one-woman play, as a documentary film, and as a print/calligraphy exhibition.

Now composer Scott Thomson has translated a number of Page's imagery-laden poems into music and movement. In collaboration with choreographer and vocalist Susanna Hood, he has produced a new album, The Muted Note, containing compositions based on Page's poems.

This month they began their cross-Canada tour, presenting the music as a dance/music collaboration, with Thomson on trombone and Hood singing and using her body to express the emotion in the words. On September 21, they appeared in Ottawa, performing several pieces from the album in the first half of the show, and then improvising with Ottawa saxophonist Linsey Wellman in the second half.

Many of Thomson and Hood's shows are only as a duo, but this week in Montréal (October 2 to 5), they're enhancing the show with three more dancers and three more musicians, as part of l'OFF Festival de Jazz. The expanded show was also presented in Toronto in early September.

At the Ottawa show, the duo presented six pieces based on Page's poems. Hood sung the words and interspersed them with wordless singing and movement, while Thomson played trombone. It was a quiet, intimate show, well-suited to the cramped space in the Raw Sugar Café (some furniture was moved to give Hood enough space to dance), and kept the audience raptly attentive throughout.

Read more: A cross-Canada celebration of poet P.K. Page in music and dance

   

Ottawa audience enjoys Organic's groove (review)

Nathan Hiltz and Mike Essoudry, in musical conversation. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Nathan Hiltz's Organic, featuring Bernie Senensky
Zola's Restaurant
Thursday, September 25, 2014 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos of this performance

I love jazz organ music. There's something about the deep throb of a organ – whether a Hammond B3 or a church organ – that adds richness and immediacy to the music. And a lot of groove.

But there aren't that many real Hammond organs out there – or organists – so it was a treat to hear the Toronto quartet Organic in Ottawa for its first appearance Thursday.

Guitarist Nathan Hiltz and pianist/organist Bernie Senensky started playing together every Sunday night at a downtown Toronto club seven years ago. Senensky loved the sound of the club's Hammond B3; Hiltz was influenced by guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green who had regularly played with organists.

A few years later, they added tenor saxophonist Ryan Oliver and drummer Morgan Childs, and they've been performing weekly as Organic ever since. You could see and hear that familiarity in the quartet's playing: there was an ease and suppleness in how they switched leads and supported each other.

Read more: Ottawa audience enjoys Organic's groove (review)

   

Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)

Barre Phillips (bass) and John Heward (drums) ©Brett Delmage, 2014

John Heward and Barre Phillips 80th Birthday Celebration
Guelph Jazz Festival
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Montreal jazz drummer John Heward is also renowned Canadian painter and sculptor John Heward, and he shows a similar experimental bent in both his artistic pursuits.

For the week of the Guelph Jazz Festival, the main floor walls of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre featured several of his artworks: canvas painted and twisted into large-scale dramatic pieces. When he performed at the art centre as the first evening show of the festival – with some of his favourite musicians – there was a similar feeling of drama, uncertainty, and flair.

The concert and show were to celebrate Heward's 80th birthday – but only his 31st year as a professional musician. He played the drums as a teenager, but then concentrated on the visual arts. In 1983, at 49 years old, he bought a set of drums, and started playing improvised music. He's played in various avant-garde groups in Montreal, including Nicolas Caloia's Ratchet Orchestra, and PO (“Provocative Operations”). He leads the free jazz group Murray Street Band.

Read more: Guelph 2014: John Heward and Barre Phillips are 80-year-olds with oomph (review)