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Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam an upbeat completion to Saturday's music

Festival programming manager Petr Cancura (l) listens to a swinging duet by jam hosts pianist Steve Boudreau (on June 27-30) and guitarist Roddy Ellias. All three played with a variety of guest musicians throughout the jam  ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Ottawa Jazz Festival Late-night jam
Spin Kitchen & Bar, Ottawa Marriott Hotel
10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20 to 1 a.m. Sunday, June 21, 2015

View photos of this jam by photojournalist Brett Delmage

Jazz fans who wanted an upbeat end to Saturday evening would have enjoyed the Ottawa Jazz Festival's late-night jam session. For 2½ hours, Spin Kitchen & Bar was filled with fast-moving jazz, with a good participation by both local and visiting musicians.

The house band – Roddy Ellias (guitar), John Geggie (double bass), and Nick Fraser (drums) – all have years of experience running jams. They opened with a half-hour set of three standards, including “Cheek to Cheek” and “Domino”. Each was given an extended treatment, and the music quickly captured the attention of the listeners near the stage.

By 11 p.m., the room, seating approximately 50 with clear sight lines to the stage, was mostly full. Ellias called up local pianist Steve Boudreau to the stage to join the band for several instrumentals. That set the shape of the music for the evening: energetic with lots of interplay, including a swinging duet between Boudreau and Ellias. The audience responded with continued appreciative applause.

Earlier that evening, the mostly-Canadian vocal trio Duchess had filled Confederation Park with crowd-pleasing harmonies accompanied by a strong rhythm section. Their Toronto-based bassist, Dan Fortin, and drummer, Ernesto Cervini, joined Boudreau for two standards, the first cymbal-rich and evocative, the second rollicking.

By this point (midnight), there were only a few empty seats in the part of the room nearest the stage.

Then the stage filled, with ex-Ottawa, now-Montreal vocalist Renée Yoxon taking the lead, accompanied by Geggie, Ellias, Boudreau, Andrew Kushnir on drums, and festival programming manager Petr Cancura on tenor sax, for a cheerful “Bye Bye Blackbird”, featuring a fluid solo by Ellias, a modulated and romantic solo from Cancura, and delicate piano from Boudreau. Yoxon played around with the lyrics and pacing, holding notes and having fun with the melody – as all the musicians were. They followed that with a slow blues, including scatting from Yoxon, and a finely-nuanced guitar from Ellias.

Then all three vocalists from Duchess – Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, and Melissa Stylianou, came on stage, accompanied by their pianist, Michael Cabe, bassist Alec Walkington, Ellias, Cancura, and Fraser. Singing the chorus in unison but alternating verses, they reprised a song that got lots of applause at their show – Doris Day's hit “Que Sera Sera”. It was a wistful rendition, accompanied by an extended piano solo that extemporized on and embellished the melody – and the jam audience loved it too.

The audience started to thin out after 12:30 a.m. The music returned to instrumentals for the rest of the night, with Ellias, Walkington, and Fraser backing Cancura in a classic bop tune featuring a fine solo from Walkington. Then just Ellias, Walkington, and Fraser played a lovely rendition of “Body and Soul”, conversational and melodic, which ended with vibrating notes and touch of cymbals. Then they closed the show on an up note with another bright, fast standard, to finish at 1 p.m.

At the end, Ellias said thought this year's jam sessions were going great: they'd been fun to play in and it had been easy for the host band to get musicians up to play. He said he was particularly pleased to have been able to play a more improvisatory piece – not just tunes – with Benoit Delbecq on Friday, because it wasn't often one got a chance to do that at a jam.

    – Alayne McGregor

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All photos copyright ©Brett Delmage, 2015
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