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Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome create quiet beauty in a new collaboration at Irene's

Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome with guest Ed Lister at Irene's Pub
Sunday, September 4, 2016 – 9:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

OttawaJazzScene.ca chose this show as our jazz pick of the week – and we're glad we did!

Guitarist Roddy Ellias and vocalist Megan Jerome created a zone of beauty and intimacy Sunday night at Irene's, at the first of four weekly shows they're performing there this month.

Roddy Ellias and Megan Jerome combined their music in an intense yet quiet show at Irene's September 4, the first of four Sundays they'll play there this month  ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Together with guest Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, they combined originals by both of them with jazz standards in two flowing sets. It was a quieter show than most Sunday sessions at Irene's, but their audience was intent and almost completely silent, and applauded generously throughout. (The same could not be said for the five-some playing pool at the back of the room, but they eventually did quiet down and left by the start of the second set.) 

Ellias and Jerome have performed together in larger ensembles, but this is the first time they've performed as a duo. Jerome told the audience “We're just trying things out, doing things other than what we normally do”. Ellias has often played standards, particularly in duos with other guitarists, but he hadn't performed Jerome's songs before; Jerome primarily plays her own material, and doesn't often play standards or Ellias' compositions. Lister's own bands, like the Chocolate Hot Pockets and ERU-ERA, are much more hard-hitting and loud, although he also performs in quieter ensembles.

The show was also the debut of a new guitar for Ellias, this one an electric by local luthier Brian Fitzgibbon.It had a beautiful tone and a very clear sound.

They opened with a perfect twosome tune, Irving Berlin's “Cheek to Cheek”. Its lyrics are charming and passionate and Jerome gave them their full due, while Lister encircled the melody with finely-attuned trumpet lines and Ellias added a nuanced guitar solo. This song was originally sung as part of a movie dance number, and their rendition kept that swaying rhythm, sweeping the audience along in a happy wave.

“Joy”, originally written by Jerome for her Together Ensemble, followed. Like several of her songs in this show, it had a strong gospel influence. She sang soulfully over soaring guitar lines and New Orleans-influenced trumpet.

A highlight of the show was Ellias' composition “Too Far” from his CD Monday's Dream. It's a piece I can recognize from just the first few notes, its resonant notes creating a mesmerizing and elegiac feel and immersing you in the melody. Ellias mostly plays it as an instrumental, so it was particularly interesting to hear Jerome singing its minimalist yet soul-aching lyrics by Sandra Nicholls. Jerome sang them from the heart, simply and beautifully, the effect enhanced by Ellias' glistening guitar lines and Lister's light flugelhorn lines.

The first set closed with a new Ellias composition, “Postcard”, which is included on the just-released trekan album. A romantic ballad in feel, it included extended, multi-layered guitar passages, with Ellias' fingers moving up and down the fretboard sparking out intricate combinations of notes. Jerome complemented the guitar with light, heartfelt vocals, sung without words.

The second set opened on a teasing note, with Ellias performing multiple and inventive variations on Happy Birthday for Jerome's husband, drummer Mike Essoudry , who had just arrived from another gig.

Jerome's upbeat number, “Warm”, featuring an expressive trumpet solo from Lister circling around the melody, received strong applause, as did their romantic swinging rendition of the standard “It's Only a Paper Moon”. I particularly enjoyed Ellias' “Sticks and Stones”, a thoughtful piece featuring Lister creating textured lines on flugelhorn. Slow and quiet, it had a late-night vibe with patterns developing gradually on guitar, enhanced by Jerome's serene wordless vocals.

Ellias and Jerome also included one song they had composed together, recently enough that it didn't have lyrics yet. It alternated between accented patterns and more flowing helical patterns on guitar, echoed by long flowing lines on flugelhorn. Jerome added sinuous vocals and the piece ended with her high vocal notes matched by accented harmonics on guitar.

The evening closed with Jerome's song, “Love”, from her Together Ensemble album. Almost hypnotic in its repeated verbal and musical motifs, the song slowly morphed and developed and enveloped the audience in its sound, with voice, guitar, and flugelhorn melding together. It was a soothing and upbeat ending to a fine show.

Ellias and Jerome will perform each Sunday in September at Irene's, each week with a different guest. Mike Essoudry joins them on drums on September 11, followed by John Geggie on double bass on September 18, and Petr Cancura on saxophone on September 25. Based on this first show, they're well worth checking out.

 – Alayne McGregor

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Set List

  • Cheek to Cheek / Irving Berlin
  • Joy / Megan Jerome
  • Time After Time / Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne
  • Too Far / Roddy Ellias
  • There is No Greater Love / Isham Jones and Marty Symes
  • I Am / Megan Jerome
  • Postcard / Roddy Ellias
  • Celtic song arranged by Roddy Ellias
  • Warm / Megan Jerome
  • new song / Megan Jerome and Roddy Ellias
  • Sticks and Stones / Roddy Ellias
  • It's Only a Paper Moon / Harold Arlen
  • Love / Megan Jerome