Thursday, April 27, 2017
   
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Ottawa Jazz Festival June 19 - jam session (review)

Even a short stay at the first night of jamming on June 19 gave me a good feeling for what to expect late at night at this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Walking in at 11 p.m., I saw a pianist intently bent over his keyboard, his hair obscuring his face. He was producing long strings of separated notes, clearly playing free jazz improv. Guitarist Roddy Ellias standing nearby on the stage, was responding to and contributing to the pointillist flow, together with John Geggie on double bass and Nick Fraser on drums. The music kept cornering unexpectedly – you couldn't predict where it would go – but it was very clear there was a strong thread connecting all four.

The pianist was Benoît Delbecq, who had appeared in the with the group Fourth Landscape earlier that evening, but still had lots of energy to spare. In particularly, he inspired Ellias, the two of them pushing each other higher and higher for a good 10 minutes or more (reminding me of Ellias at Guitar Now!). That piece was followed by another improvisation, with Delbecq, Geggie, and Fraser, who showed off his own years of free improv experience with his taut, bright drumming. It was the antithesis of the standards one usually hear at jams.

Then young Ottawa saxophonist Patrick Smith joined in on tenor sax, and music took a more traditional, but still energetic and interesting form.

There were about 30 listeners in the room, with chairs arranged in a semi-circle around the stage, at the Kent Street end. With extra chairs moved closer to the stage, it looked as thought there was room for at least 50 although the view from some tables may be blocked. The audience had a warm, interested, listening vibe.

The same house band will host the late-night jams until the end of Tuesday, and other musicians playing after that. Read the full details in our preview story about the late-night jamming.

   – Alayne McGregor

Correction: Clarified that the jam being described happened on Friday, June 19, 2015.