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Fluid, fast, and fun: Mike Rud invokes Wes Montgomery at Brookstreet (review)

Wes Montgomery Tribute
with Mike Rud, Michel Delage, Alex Bilodeau, and Peter Hum
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, June 10, 2017 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Fluid guitar, bright piano, propulsive bass and drums, and overall high energy: that's what the audience enjoyed Saturday in a tribute to guitarist and composer Wes Montgomery at Brookstreet.

Guitarist Mike Rud gave a vibrant performance of classic numbers by Wes Montgomery at Brookstreet, including duets with pianist Peter Hum ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Montgomery has been a long-time jazz hero to Montreal guitarist Mike Rud [Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Rud about this show], and he communicated that enthusiasm for Montgomery's repertoire to both his bandmates and those listening. The quartet played a good selection of well-known pieces by Montgomery, plus standards in the same style.

From the first few notes of the first set, there was a distinctive style evident in the music: fast but not flashy, accomplished and almost inevitable in the way one note followed the next. The songs felt polished to a fine sheen, logically consistent and carefully put together for maximum impact.

Overall, it had a strong early 60s vibe – in Montgomery's heyday – in the mode of the playing and the material: sophisticated and well-finished. And did I mention fast? Most of the pieces were really fast.

Read more: Fluid, fast, and fun: Mike Rud invokes Wes Montgomery at Brookstreet (review)

 

The beauty of Horace Silver's lesser-known tunes shines in Brookstreet tribute (review)

Tribute to Horace Silver
with Michel Delage, Steve Boudreau, Alex Bilodeau, Ed Lister, and Richard Page
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, May 27, 2017 – 8 p.m.

Even for fans of pianist and composer Horace Silver, the music performed at Michel Delage's May tribute show was substantially different.

The latest jazz tribute from Michel Delage (r) featured lesser-known, but high-quality music by hard bop piano master Horace Silver. Also playing: pianist Steve Boudreau and bassist Alex Bilodeau, along with (not shown) saxophonist Richard Page and trumpeter Ed Lister ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Yes, it certainly was Silver's music, and just as enjoyable as I expected – but it went beyond the standard pieces one always hears. Instead, the quintet treated the listeners in the Options Jazz Lounge to a collection of hard bop tunes and soulful ballads which demonstrated the depth of Silver's writing. Four of them were taken from his less-known 1973 album, In Pursuit of the 27th Man.

For this show, drummer Michel Delage assembled a quintet of Ottawa musicians: his frequent musical partner Alex Bilodeau on double bass, Steve Boudreau taking Silver's place on piano and transcribing much of the material, and the strong front line of Ed Lister on trumpet and Richard Page on baritone sax. Page showed the versatility of his baritone in this show, often playing smoothly up in the tenor range to reflect the original instrumentation on the albums (In Pursuit of the 27th Man, for example, featured Michael Brecker on tenor).

Lister and Page have often performed together. In fact their “Hard Bop Association” group often played Silver's tunes. You could hear that easy familiarity in their lovingly-blended tones throughout the evening. They frequently played together – in unison, alternating lines, or playing contrasting lines – in energetic, inventive, and evocative forms.

Read more: The beauty of Horace Silver's lesser-known tunes shines in Brookstreet tribute (review)

 

D.D. Jackson presents impressive brand-new music in his return to Ottawa (review)

D.D. Jackson
Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival 2017 Highlights Concert
Algonquin Commons Theatre, Ottawa
Thursday, May 18, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

Coming back to Ottawa gave D.D. Jackson the inspiration for a name for one of his new compositions.

The Ottawa-raised, now New Jersey-resident, pianist has recently returned to jazz, and has been on a furious composition kick lately. He's planned to record his new jazz pieces this summer for a new CD.

He told the audience at the Kiwanis Music Festival Highlights Concert Thursday evening that he had been trying to find a title for one piece, and realized that “in coming here, I had the perfect title from what I was trying to express, and didn't realize it – and that is 'Homecoming'.”

Jackson is back in his home town this week for two concerts. He was the special guest at the annual student highlights concert on Thursday, and will play a duo show at GigSpace on Friday.

To warm up, Jackson opened with Thelonious Monk's “I Mean You” – surrounding the angular melody with complex flurries of notes, almost obscuring the piece's highly-recognizable off-kilter rhythm. The original peeked through, but this was definitely a more dramatic and less-standard rendition. Jackson played it with his entire body, tapping his foot in time, almost attacking the keyboard in places, and at one point bending down to the keys to listen.

He then presented three new compositions: “These are brand-new – I've never played them for anybody.” He started with “Homecoming”, a beautiful ballad expressing both the joy and mixed feeling of returning. Its contemplative melody was accented by gleaming strings of pointillist notes flying above.

Read more: D.D. Jackson presents impressive brand-new music in his return to Ottawa (review)

 

Every adventurous sound was heard at IMOO's first intimate house concert (review)

Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) #158: Our first house concert
with David Broscoe, David Jackson, Rory Magill, Linsey Wellman
Sunday, May 7, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

A new concert location gave inspiration for new sounds from four of Ottawa's mainstay improvising musicians at the most recent IMOO concert.

David Jackson did not bring his guitar, but he brought and performed samples of it  ©Brett Delmage, 2017

With IMOO temporarily between regular locations – the House of Common space has been re-purposed and the General Assembly is not yet finished renovations – the Ottawa avant-garde jazz concert series needed a place for its bi-weekly concerts.

IMOO regular listener Bradley Evans stepped up, offering his suburban house in North Kanata for their next show. Evans' basement rec room turned out to be a fine location, very quiet and with lots of resonance, which the musicians took full advantage of. Evans brought down chairs from around the house and set up a simple concert space in the room, with hockey action figures cheering on from the high windowsills.

Rory Magill carried the different pieces of his xylophone around the bends in the stairs, and reassembled it. David Broscoe brought down his alto and baritone saxophones in their cases – plus a bag of interesting assorted musical accompaniments which included tuning forks, mallets, a metal tart pan, assorted pop cans, a Nigerian cowbell, a Chinese gong, and ceramic pieces from knob and tube electrical wiring, which he spread out on a cloth in front of him.

Read more: Every adventurous sound was heard at IMOO's first intimate house concert (review)

 

Modern Jazz Happening showcases talents of young jazz musicians

Modern Jazz Happening
with MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too) and the Adema-Smith Quartet
Pressed
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ottawa listeners turned out in force Wednesday, to welcome back two young musicians who have just finished their jazz studies at the University of Toronto, and to send off another who will start there next fall. It was the latest in a developing tradition of talented young musicians performing at Pressed in May after returning from music studies elsewhere.

Saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema consistently played delicious harmonies ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Pressed was packed with listeners for a double bill: the Adema-Smith Quartet, and MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too). All the seats were taken, and a few people were standing at the side of the room.MAH2 consists of drummer Keagan Eskritt from Ottawa plus two other U of T jazz students: trumpeter Kaelin Murphy from Owen Sound, and Caleb Klager from Calgary (and previously from Ottawa). The Adema-Smith Quartet is led by saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema, plus two “mainstays of the Ottawa scene” (as Smith described them): drummer Michel Delage and bassist J.P. Lapensée. Eskritt and Smith have just finished their final year of their bachelor's degree at U of T, while Adema begins his first year studying jazz there next fall.

Both sets showcased many originals by band members. MAH2 played primarily freely improvised pieces, each with a specified starting inspiration, such as the music of rapper J Dilla, or the devastation of the current local floods, or thoughts of summer. They also included compositions by Eskritt and Klager.

Read more: Modern Jazz Happening showcases talents of young jazz musicians

 

Four different views of Ottawa jazz at GigSpace MicroFest's 1st evening

The GigSpace Jazz MicroFest opened Friday to full houses and enthusiastic applause throughout.

Karen Oxorn sang a breezy and upbeat set of standards inspired by recent jazz cruises, accompanied by Tim Bedner on guitar and Mark Alcorn on bass. ©2017 Brett DelmageThe festival, whose aim is to celebrate jazz in Ottawa, featured two vocal groups and two instrumental groups for its first evening – and not one of them sounded anything like the others.

Vocalist Karen Oxorn opened the festival with a breezy and fun set of standards all related to two jazz cruises she recently sailed on. She recounted the not-so-mournful tale of a lover on one ship who was not meant to be, and added a new original and well-crafted verse to “Nice 'n' Easy” talking about that experience. Accompanied by Tim Bedner on guitar and Mark Alcorn on bass, she sang several new-to-her sea-linked songs, as well as “Let's Get Lost”, a song she heard Cyrille Aimee sing during one of the jazz cruise concerts.

Oxorn also paid tribute to her perennial favourite singer, Ella Fitzgerald, with two songs, including a heartfelt and lovely “How Deep is the Ocean?”. I particularly liked the Stephen Sondheim number, “Live Alone And Like It”, a tune in which her smooth clear vocals nicely delivered the clever lyrics. She closed with the sweet Caribbean vibe of the Henri Salvador tune "Dans mon île" – another sea-related song – and told the audience that the song is said to have been an influence on Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim in developing the bossa nova.

Read more: Four different views of Ottawa jazz at GigSpace MicroFest's 1st evening

 

Cuppa Joe's four voices provide an afternoon full of song

Cuppa Joe
Pressed Café
Sunday, April 23, 2017 – 3 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Cuppa Joe is a quartet of four Ottawa vocalists, who combine their voices in jazz arrangements of standards, classic and modern.

Peter Feldman (r) filled in for instruments throughout Cuppa Joe's afternoon show at Pressed ©Brett Delmage, 2017

That's it. No piano. No guitar. No bass or drums. Just soprano, alto, tenor, and bass vocals, plus very occasional hand percussion. And yet their voices filled the Pressed café completely on Sunday afternoon, in two sets that were consistently warmly received and earned quiet attention.

Cuppa Joe follows in the tradition of groups which include The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices: vocal ensembles who use close harmony and clever arrangements to sing jazz a cappella. For their show on Sunday, the quartet did use microphones and amplification to balance the voices and to ensure clarity right to the back of the café, which worked very well.

The group – Valérie Bouillant (soprano), Deanna Rozon (alto), John Wilson (tenor), and Peter Feldman (baritone) – sung what was clearly a carefully-prepared program of 22 songs, 11 in each set. They divided their show into two themed sets: one vintage, one modern. They even changed their appearance for the second set, doffing jackets and the men changing ties.

Read more: Cuppa Joe's four voices provide an afternoon full of song

 

Bass clarinet adds further depth to David Renaud and Brian Browne's attuned duo show

David Renaud and Brian Browne
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios
Friday, April 14, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Clarinetist David Renaud and pianist Brian Browne have an easy rapport, born of shared musical tastes and a joint willingness to experiment and have fun with their music.

David Renaud (r) enjoys one of Brian Browne's solos at their show at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios April 14. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The duo communicated that rapport with their audience on Friday, in a happy and varied show at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios. They played songs from the two albums they've recorded together: 2016's First Love, and the just-released Encore.

Jazz standards, gospel numbers, and blues all appeared in the set list, played with nuance and a great deal of verve – and the occasional unexpected musical tease by Browne. These were all well-known pieces – in fact, Browne played completely from memory, without any sheet music – but the duo didn't take them for granted. They immersed themselves in each song's melody and rhythms, and then used them as stepping-off places for exploration.

The two Ottawa musicians have known each other for years. “He's good for me. He makes me listen,” Renaud told the audience.

Read more: Bass clarinet adds further depth to David Renaud and Brian Browne's attuned duo show

 

JUNOfest night 2: all eyes on the stage for projects from the heart

JUNOfest 2017 Jazz Night #2: Adam Saikaley Trio, Quinsin Nachoff Trio and Septet, Brandi Disterheft Quartet, Dave Young Quintet
Live! on Elgin
Saturday, April 1, 2017 - 9 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of these performances

The second evening of JUNOfest jazz concerts emphasized instrumental music, with ensembles playing both swinging mainstream jazz and more experimental orchestral jazz music.

In three 45-minute sets, Quinsin Nachoff, Brandi Disterheft, and Dave Young presented music which they had recorded on their Juno-nominated albums (or, as Nachoff said with a smile, “our Juno-losing albums”).

If anything, Live! on Elgin was even more packed than Friday night, with appreciative applause from the audience throughout. Listeners were focused on the music, and any conversations were quiet and respectful of the performances and other listeners. Jazz fans of all ages were present, enjoying the music.

Ottawa pianist Adam Saikaley opened the evening, playing his original music with his trio: bassist Alex Bilodeau and drummer Michel Delage. Unfortunately, I was still reporting on the Juno Awards dinner (which ran substantially late) at the same time as his set.

Read the full review

 

JUNOfest night 1: three very different vocal jazz groups plus baritone sax

Amanda Tosoff Quintet  ©2017 Brett Delmage

JUNOfest 2017 Jazz Night #1: Heather Bambrick and David Braid, Shirantha Beddage Quartet, Amanda Tosoff Quintet, Barbra Lica Quintet
Live! on Elgin
Friday, March 31, 2017 - 9 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of these performances

With the Junos in Ottawa, many nominated jazz musicians were here for the ceremonies. And some were also here to perform, in JUNOfest concerts across the city.

For jazz fans, the action was primarily at Live! on Elgin downtown, where four ensembles played Friday night in 45-minute sets. It's a compact club which was packed with enthusiastic listeners and stayed that way all evening.

The Friday show was all-Toronto – not surprising since this year's nominees were mostly from Toronto and NYC.

Read all the reviews

 

A tuba (and jazz) fantasia with the Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet (review)

The Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

I admit it: I'm prejudiced in favour of the tuba. I've always found that instrument's deep sound to be rich and beautiful and wonderfully resonant in a room. I've enjoyed the very occasional times I've heard American tuba masters like Howard Johnson.

Keith Hartshorn-Walton (tuba) listens to Michel Delage (drums) in their Live @ Record Runner show ©Brett Delmage, 2017

But opportunities to hear the tuba in a jazz context in Ottawa have been rare – until Keith Hartshorn-Walton moved here in 2015. As he's gradually increased his performances with a variety of local jazz groups, we've had more chances to hear the tuba in unexpected places. This concert, though, was his first show as leader.

By the end of the show, you could see why Hartshorn-Walton is such an advocate for the tuba and its abilities, as he deployed it in roles ranging from lead horn to bass background, and did full justice to a wide variety of classic jazz pieces.

For this show, he teamed up with three well-known Ottawa jazz musicians: John Geggie on double bass, Michel Delage on drums, and Peter Hum on keyboards. Hum also contributed two of his own recent original pieces to the set list.

For the remainder, Hartshorn-Walton picked jazz standards and classics – a few well-known, but most less commonly heard. Some Latin, some swing, some show tunes, some blues, but primarily enjoyable music that connected with the audience, and gave all the musicians room to play and innovate.

Read more: A tuba (and jazz) fantasia with the Keith Hartshorn-Walton Quartet (review)

 

Simon Denizart Trio wins over NAC audience with energetic, multi-faceted jazz

The Simon Denizart Trio
NAC Presents
National Arts Centre, Back Stage
Saturday, March 4, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

At their NAC première, the Simon Denizart Trio easily won over their audience with original music produced with liveliness and zest. From their first song onwards, the Montreal jazz trio's pieces evoked strong applause, and culminated in a standing ovation.

Simon Denizart on piano, Jeanne Corpataux on double bass, and Simon Bellemare on drums kept the energy level high and the musical interplay intense at their NAC premiere March 4. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Their music was a celebration – and an expansion – of the classic jazz piano trio form, with each piece taking an initial musical idea and stretching it, while retaining accessible melodies and rhythms. The trio released their second album, Beautiful People, last November, and, at this concert, performed all the tracks from that album, plus two songs from their first CD, Between Two Worlds.

The audience's warm reception wasn't because of familiarity – these pieces hadn't previously been performed in Ottawa. And while the trio is well-known in Quebec and has toured twice across Europe, Ottawa is the only city in Canada outside Quebec they've ever played in.

Denizart is the composer in the group, but all three musicians – Denizart on piano, Jeanne Corpataux on double bass, and Simon Bellemare on drums – contributed substantially to the sound. It was a highly interactive 90-minute show, with the music flowing easily among the musicians.

Read more: Simon Denizart Trio wins over NAC audience with energetic, multi-faceted jazz

 

Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG play approachable yet complex jazz

Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG Duo
Live @ Record Runner
Record Runner Rehearsal Studios, Ottawa
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The minimalist configuration of tenor sax and keyboards is not your usual jazz group. Most musicians would add a rhythm section of bass and drums and possibly another horn. But Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG (Michaud-Gagnon) showed that the two instruments could speak very well together in an intimate show in Ottawa.

 ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Saxophonist Maskell and pianist Gentiane MG met through McGill University, where both are currently studying in the demanding Masters in Jazz Performance program. They've played several shows together in Montreal, and demonstrated an easy camaraderie in this show, which was Gentiane MG's Ottawa debut.

This was also only the second show in the Live @ Record Runner series. The Record Runner Rehearsal Studios are somewhat hidden away in the west-end Colonnade Road business park, which was bleak and dark that January evening and could have used street numbers more visible from the road. However, there is regular OC Transpo service to the park, with bus stops right at the building. Once inside, the studios were notably warm and welcoming, and even offered refreshments at the intermission.

The concert was held in a cozy and comfortable 37-seat “Great Room”. Record Runner owner Paul Adjeleian has made a point of designing good acoustics and sound separation into the studios. Gentiane MG’s keyboard sounded clear and warm using the room's built-in speakers. The room was full, including some of Maskell's friends and family from Ottawa.

The set list was primarily standards, but performed with intense attention. The duo began with “Gemma”, a ballad by Maskell which he's performed in other Ottawa shows. It contrasted rough-edged saxophone with quiet piano in an expressively romantic piece.

I liked how Gentiane MG opened “Solar”, with careful, spacious piano lines reminding me of a nursery rhyme – and then gradually modulating into a more resonant and emotional rendition. Maskell's saxophone entered quietly, and they embarked on a thoughtful conversation, finding variations in the piece's theme.

Read more: Chris Maskell and Gentiane MG play approachable yet complex jazz

 

The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet evokes the elegance and beauty of Jobim's music

The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet: “Happy Birthday, Tom!”
Doors Open For Music at Southminster
Southminster United Church, Ottawa
Wednesday, January 23, 2017 – 12 noon to 1 p.m.

To many North Americans, the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim is synonymous with Brazilian jazz. With his Grammy-winning albums in the 60s and his elegant melodies and subtle bossa rhythms, he created such a recognizable sound that it defined a genre.

In Brazil, he's an icon. In fact, one of the mascots for the Rio Olympics was named “Tom” (the Brazilian nickname for Jobim) after a public vote.

While everyone's heard “The Girl from Ipanema” and “Corcovado” (Quiet Nights), Jobim also wrote many other memorable songs which are not as well known. And, sung in the original Portuguese, his melodies sound even more fluidly beautiful.

It was, therefore, a real treat to have Ottawa vocalist Rachel Beausoleil sing an entire programme of Jobim in Portuguese, for a concert at Southminster United Church in their Wednesday noon series. She was accompanied by guitarist Garry Elliott, bassist Mark Alcorn, and drummer Marilee Townsend-Alcorn.

Beausoleil is currently writing her doctoral thesis on “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB), a major genre of Brazilian music which includes Jobim's compositions. She's made three extended trips to Brazil in order to take classes from master vocalists, attend conferences, and perform with musicians there – and gained considerable fluency in Portuguese and knowledge of Jobim's music.

Read more: The Rachel Beausoleil Quartet evokes the elegance and beauty of Jobim's music

 

The Caroline Cook Trio shares jazz grooves in a warm mid-winter show

Jazz Grooves for the February Blues
The Caroline Cook Trio

Les Brasseurs du Temps, Gatineau
Saturday, February 4, 2017 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

On the set list for this concert, each song had a rhythm marked against it: bossa, medium swing, jazz waltz, groove, jazz shuffle, gypsy jazz, and more. But they all had this in common: an approachable vibe which warmed the audience on a blustery winter evening.

Vocalist Caroline Cook enjoyed listening to the other two members of her trio - Normand Glaude on bass and harmonica and  Kevin Barrett on guitar - in her trio show at BDT. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

This was the first time that Ottawa vocalist Caroline Cook had played professionally with Toronto guitarist Kevin Barrett, whom she met when he was on the faculty of the JazzWorks Jazz Camp. As she told the audience, “I said to Kevin we're going to play together one day – and we did!”

Together with Ottawa double bassist Normand Glaude, they had originally planned to do a house concert in Manotick. When that series was cancelled, Cook moved the show to BDT, where she had previously held several successful shows.

It was very much the jazz trio show it was billed as, rather than vocalist with accompanists. In fact, Cook wasn't even on-stage for the first song of each set. Instead, she left the opening numbers to Barrett and Glaude – and particularly Glaude's harmonica and the evocative melodies he can coax from it.

Read more: The Caroline Cook Trio shares jazz grooves in a warm mid-winter show

 

Sung Ra extravaganza inspires standing ovation

Sung Ra
with Rakestar Arkestra, Tone Cluster Choir, and Christine Duncan
Church of the Ascension, Ottawa
Sunday, January 22, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

It was an evening of joyful, exuberant singing, dancing, and instrumental performance – with some stretching of the musical edges and even some preaching, as Ottawa's Rakestar Arkestra along with the Tone Cluster choir and vocalist and conductor Christine Duncan – 30 musicians in total – paid tribute to the music of its inspiration, American jazz icon Sun Ra.

Rakestar Arkestra baritone saxophinist John Sobol gave a rousing welcome to Sung Ra ©2017 Brett DelmageThe Church of the Ascension was packed, with last-minute arrivals having problems finding seats. Listeners were treated to two sets of a fast-moving, multi-layered music that was rooted in the jazz tradition and then rocketed into the ionosphere.


View photos of Sung Ra's concert on January 22, 2017 by Brett Delmage

View photos of Sung Ra's dress rehearsal on January 21, 2017 by Brett Delmage


The concert was the vision of Ottawa percussionist and composer Rory Magill, a founding member of Rakestar, who had also previously written choral pieces for Tone Cluster. Magill contributed two pieces to the show – in particular, the opening piece, “Ready”, in which the the choir introduced the audience to Sun Ra in beautiful, close-knit harmonies.

Baritone saxophonist John Sobol intoned a welcome to open the show, followed by the choir, directed by Kurt Ala-Kantti, brightly singing “Ready”. The music was presented in a steady journey through space throughout two sets and kept the audience riveted to the stage. The compositions were primarily by Sun Ra, rearranged by Rakestar for this show, but also included originals by Magill and David Broscoe.

Christine Duncan led the choir in extraordinary sound-making: sometimes melodic, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes recreating the animal noises from a Middle Eastern market. She also sang as a soloist with Rakestar, creating some astounding vocal pyrotechnics. In “Today is the Shadow”, she delivered a full-on revivalist sermon , raising everyone's spirits for the end of the show.

Don Cummings' Hammond organ reverberated through the church, sometimes caressing, sometimes deeply ominous. Tone Cluster's pianist, Vincent Mar, added piano and organ embellishments on many pieces, particularly “Ready”, which beautifully accompanied the choir. Mike Essoudry on drums energized the music, as well as playing sinuous clarinet. Scott Warren not only provided unusual percussion and drums; he also contributed other-worldly recorded sound clips, and acoustic augmentations. Magill's bright xylophone playing added a magical feel throughout. The four saxophonists (Broscoe, Sobol, Rob Frayne, and Linsey Wellman) fired up the music both in unison, and with extended, impassioned solos.

Read more: Sung Ra extravaganza inspires standing ovation

   

First Jazz Night at The Brass Monkey presents three bands to an appreciative audience

There was a big smile on Jumpin' Jimmy Leroux's face on January 12. Leroux coordinates the music on Thursday nights at the Brass Monkey, a brightly-lit basement pool hall and performance space on Greenbank Road in Ottawa's suburban west end.

Diane Ross and Jim Mattson were clearly musically at ease together as the second act of the evening ©2017 Brett DelmageView photos by Brett Delmage

That evening was an experiment, the hall's first jazz night instead of the local rock bands Leroux usually programs for his new talent showcase. And to his delight, it attracted about 35 interested listeners to hear three Ottawa-area jazz groups, filling almost all the seats available. They enthusiastically applauded the music, and even Leroux's between-set jokes.

“It's a cold Canadian night,” Leroux told the audience, “and the easiest thing is to stay home on your couch. But here you came out to support music. Thanks!”

Up first on stage was Easy Living, a quartet providing smooth and easy-going versions of jazz standards including “But Not For Me” and “Summertime”. Vocalist Fiona George provided a flowing and clear version of “My Little Boat”, with guitarist Jim Mattson, bassist Len Leclair, and drummer Dan Quinlan warming the place with bright samba rhythms.

Read more: First Jazz Night at The Brass Monkey presents three bands to an appreciative audience

   

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