Miguel de Armas is a hardworking and respected musician who has shared his authentic, high-energy, and original Afro-Cuban music with Ottawa music lovers in special performances and regular, monthly shows. Audiences have consistently responded enthusiastically and in large numbers to his groups' music.
On January 15, de Armas launched his newest series, Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes, at the Ironstone Grill at The Marshes Golf Club. Each week, the pianist collaborates with a different group of local musicians playing jazz standards and Latin music.
For the many jazz listeners who are familiar with the Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge in the Kanata North Business Park, the Marshes Gold Club is on the opposite (east) side of the golf course from Brookstreet. It's a 15-minute walk between the two on a cold winter night, or a five-minute walk from the route 93 bus which also serves Brookstreet.
The event's promotional message invokes imagery of “your favorite NYC jazz club”. Now, the nineteenth hole at a golf course in a suburban business park - especially in the middle of an Ottawa winter - doesn't really fit that imagery. But on OttawaJazzScene.ca's first visit to Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes on February 26, we were pleasantly surprised. Think “Après-ski” with jazz, in a warm and physically-appealing chalet-style building.
OttawaJazzScene.ca Editor Alayne McGregor and I arrived before the musicians did, and we stayed for the first set before we had to leave to hear The Harley Card Trio at Options Jazz Lounge.
What we discovered was a cozy environment that was neither too hot nor cold or drafty. Sight lines to the stage were clear from all tables.
After the musicians started to play, the Ironstone Grill's acoustics immediately appealed to me. The sound was clear throughout the space, and had a natural reverb from the peaked, vaulted ceiling that sounded just right to my ears.
That evening, de Armas had teamed up with Normand Glaude on double bass and René Lavoie on tenor sax and flute. De Armas and Lavoie have played together several times, including at Folkrum last fall and in a GigSpace concert, and you could see how comfortable all three were together, enjoying stretching out and adding Latin flair to standards like “Monk's Dream” The audience particularly liked "I Remember April" – both for its lovely melody and for its promise of warmer temperatures!
One regret that I had was eating before arriving. I was stuffed and could not possibly sample the menu, despite its appeal in print. At set break, one of the musicians informed me that he had tried much of the menu and had never been disappointed. Although we only drank juice, our server was friendly, informative and attentive. The food is very reasonably priced, especially considering there is no cover charge, with entrees ranging in price from $14 to $23.
Sometimes the absence of something is not noticed yet makes the music listening experience more enjoyable. The Grill's bar, with the requisite TVs displaying sports competitions, were at the back of the room, behind everyone and well back from the listening area. Any (noisy) activity around those is not likely to be nearly as disruptive to the listening experience as the nearby bar at Options, or as the ill-timed cappuccino steaming was at Café Paradiso.
Given its somewhat remote location in north Kanata, I would expect that patrons at Ironstone Grill during Friday night jazz would be there to listen to and enjoy the music, not have a noisy birthday party. (Did I tell you that I was not a big fan of Cafe Paradiso? The owner asked patrons “to keep it down to a dull roar” and unfortunately that's often exactly what they did.)
Something that was was missing from this performance was the light from one of two stage lights which was present but not illuminated. These events are called "shows" and there's a reason for that. Watching the performance is an important part of the experience. You can't enjoy watching musicians in the dark.
I'm looking forward to another visit to Friday Night Jazz at The Marshes, this time for the full evening to hear some interesting music from de Armas and his guests and to enjoy the food.
– Brett Delmage, with files from Alayne McGregor
Miguel de Armas hosts the next Friday Night Jazz at the Marshes with Petr Cancura on saxophone and Roddy Ellias on guitar on Friday, March 11. The Ironstone Grill is at 320 Terry Fox Drive, across the golf course from Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge [map]