Saturday, June 24, 2017
Text Size

Five Ottawa musicians co-operate in exploring their compositions (review)

The Jazz Co-op
Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville United Church
Friday, October 16, 2015 – 4:30 p.m.

View photos of The Jazz Co-op at MJF 2015

Each of the five musicians in the Jazz Co-op is individually well-known in Ottawa, both as a jazz musician and composer. But what was interesting about their concert at Merrickville's Jazz Fest was how much they wrote for the others in the group, rather than treating them as backup to their themselves.

The Jazz Co-op held the attention of their audience at Merrickville's Jazz Fest with a varied set of originals by group members. (l-r Mike Essoudry, Alex Bilodeau, Vince Rimbach, Garry Eliott, Peter Hum) ©Brett Delmage, 2015It's a classic jazz quintet line-up: tenor sax (Vince Rimbach), piano (Peter Hum), guitar (Garry Elliott), double bass (Alex Bilodeau), and drums (Mike Essoudry). Collectively they have many decades of jazz experience. However, this was only their third public appearance as a group; they've also performed at GigSpace last November and at last June's Ottawa Jazz Festival.

The seven pieces they performed in their 65-minute-long concert were all originals and made good use of their amassed talent.

Hum opened the show with his composition, “The Good Fight”, a piece whose primary voice is saxophone, not piano. After an emphatic drum and piano intro, Rimbach took over with his tenor sax, at first wistful and then becoming stronger as he smoothly developed the melody. Hum's piano and Elliott's guitar provided a repeated percussive contrast in short solos, but it was ultimately Rimbach's fluid sax which told the uplifting story.

Rimbach followed with his “Tango for the Garden State”, a reflective piece with a light Latin feel which featured Elliott on both djembe and guitar, and Hum in an extended exploratory piano solo. Essoudry's “Flying the Coop” began with a quick repeated riff jointly played by Elliott and Rimbach, and then included flowing guitar from Elliott and extended accented piano from Hum.

Elliott's “Sharron” (dedicated to Sharron Timmins) had a similar mix of sax, piano, and guitar, with contrasting textures in a sunny, yet reflective, piece. “First Flower” by Bilodeau featured musical patterns on piano, sax, and guitar which diverged and then came together again, with an overarching minor key theme.

The group then slowed for a ballad by Essoudry, “Forsaken but not Forgotten”, with a quiet, full-bodied bass solo, singing guitar notes, and melancholy sax lines adding to the reminiscent feel.

The quintet closed with Hum's “Voice from Afar”, which he had dedicated to influential former CBC jazz broadcaster Katie Malloch. The quintet opened it in a fast, upbeat rendition, with notable underlying rhythms on both drums and Elliott's djembe. The melody moved from piano to saxophone to guitar and then built up to a joint, intense riff, with guitar lines soaring above, before resolving with a quiet sax flourish.

This concert was a varied and appealing collection of compositions – and musicians – who worked well together. Jazz festival host Karen Oxorn ended the concert by noting that she would have been happy to sit and listen all day to the group – if it weren't for the festival's tight schedule and the next concert in less than half an hour. Judging from the appreciative and extended applause the group received, many in the audience agreed.

    – Alayne McGregor

View photos of the Jazz Co-op at MJF 2015

Read's reviews of concerts at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest, and interviews with musicians appearing at the festival, linked to from our main festival article:

Read related stories about the members of the Jazz Co-op: