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Way North Irene's Pub, Ottawa Wednesday, September 11, 2019 – 8:20 p.m.
The crossborder jazz quartet Way North created an oasis of calm and good feelings in Irene's Pub in Ottawa on Wednesday night, playing two sets of upbeat original music.
The band members – Rebecca Hennessy on trumpet, Petr Cancura on tenor sax, Michael Herring on double bass, and Richie Barshay on drums – performed a fast-moving and entertaining show, which primarily showcased new material that they've recorded for their upcoming third album.
Though the band has been billed as combining roots music and jazz, the sound I heard was more reminiscent of old-timey jazz – think Louis Armstrong and 20s/30s jazz, or New Orleans second line – with touches of gospel and Latin jazz.
Hennessy and Cancura overlaid and alternated trumpet and tenor lines in appealing harmonies, and Herring and Barshay drove the music with strong and interestingly varied rhythms. The tunes provided considerable space for each to solo – and in the case of Herring and Barshay, often to have fun trading fours in increasingly fast and complex interactions.
All four musicians were showcased in the opening number, Hennessy's “Play”. Its sweet multi-layered melody on trumpet and tenor sax was ornamented by a charged and clear trumpet solo, a vibrating and assured tenor solo, streams of fast notes in a bass solo, and a dancing drum solo, before ending in a comfortable all-band vibe.
Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca highlights a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide. There's a great deal of interesting, new jazz to choose from every week, so it's often a difficult choice!
Sunday, September 22, 2019: Tariq Amery's "A Coltrane Supreme" at the Westboro Legion
Saxophonist Tariq Amery pays homage to one of the jazz greats of his instrument, John Coltrane, next weekend – the 93rd anniversary of Coltrane's birth.
His quartet will perform the entirety of one of Coltrane's most acclaimed albums, A Love Supreme, plus other Coltrane numbers. Expect to be immersed in a flood of emotionally intense and majestic music.
The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes that 1964 album as “Coltrane's most profoundly spiritual statement.” It's in four movements: “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”. In the first movement, “the four notes stated and then restated by [drummer] Jimmy Garrison and then echoed by Coltrane in a questioning variation of keys are probably the best known in the whole of modern jazz.”
Amery has been refining and expanding his quartet's interpretation of this music in shows around Ottawa over the last two years. While trying to stay as close to the music as he can, he's researched different versions of the suite – for example, Branford Marsalis' version which adds a piano solo in the first movement.
For this weekend, Amery will collaborate with well-known Ottawa jazz musicians Keith Hartshorn-Walton on double bass, and Valeriy Nehovora on drums. He has also re-envisioned the piano part for guitar, and brought in American guitarist Zach Fischer.
Fischer is “an amazing player, who will really do the music justice,” Amery told OttawaJazzScene.ca. Fischer is currently studying jazz performance at McGill University and received several scholarships for excellence in music and guitar. His music draws inspiration from sources as diverse as “post-bop, indian classical music, cuban music and modern classical music”, and he's performed with jazz musicians including Ambrose Akinmusire, John Hollenbeck, Kevin Dean, Dave Laing, Erik Hove, Mike Rud, Jaleel Shaw, John Stowell, Jean-Michel Pilc, and Matt Mitchell.
“At this point, I'm only worried about doing enough practicing on my part to do the music justice,” Amery says, “But I'll do it!”
The emotional music of the “Angry Man of Jazz” – bassist, pianist, composer, and bandleader Charles Mingus – “blew my mind,” says 26-year old Montreal bassist Stephen Menold.
For six years, he mulled over how to respond to it. Now he’s put together his septet Oh. My. Mingus. “of all jazz cats [who] have very distinct playing personalities” to deliver their personal, reverential, and improvised take on the range of emotions in Mingus' music. They have been regularly performing in Montreal for the last year and a half, and will make their first Ottawa appearance this Saturday evening.
OttawaJazzScene.ca journalist Brett Delmage interviewed Oh. My. Mingus. arranger, leader and bassist Stephen Menold by email this week. This is a lightly edited version of that conversation.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you discover Charles Mingus' music? Why does his jazz, performed and recorded 30 to 60 years ago, connect with you?
Stephen Menold: I first heard Mingus when I was first getting into jazz. One of my first records I stumbled upon was the Massey Hall record [Jazz at Massey Hall], which blew my mind. Then I think heard “Moanin’” and it hit me hard.
I’ve always been pulled towards it somehow or another. I remember when I was playing trumpet in grade school trying to solo and swing, though I’m sure it just sounded like a bunch of noise. I suppose it's the rhythm, there’s something in the swing and personalities of the musicians, you can hear it in their solos… especially Mingus.
This year's Guelph Jazz Festival features master performers on musical instruments rarely if ever seen at a jazzfest.
The Breton bagpipes (Erwan Keravec); the jaw harp (chik white); Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, Japanese biwa, and Korean soribuk drum (Jen Shyu); hurdy-gurdy (Ben Grossman); harpsichord and Casavant pipe organ (John Kameel Farah); shakuhachi (Ab Baars); and pedal-steel guitar (Susan Alcorn) will all be showcased in indoor or outdoor concerts at the festival. Even a street-sweeper bristle will be used to play off-kilter walking bass lines (Ryan Driver, of The Titillators).
The festival's associated academic colloquium is also taking up this “Improvising instruments” theme, and Ottawa's Jesse Stewart will be speaking on Thursday about the unusual instruments he's been playing. He told OttawaJazzScene.ca he'll likely demonstrate the waterphone, the palette, and the handpan at his free lecture. But he'll also debut a new instrument: the euphone, which an instrument builder in France has been building for him and will deliver to him at the festival. Its sound comes from finely-crafted glass rods, which when stroked trigger tuning rods and metal and fiberglass amplifying resonators, creating haunting, bell-like resonances.
Music ranging from mainstream jazz to crossover to highly experimental will all be included at the festival, which runs Wednesday to Sunday in locations around Guelph, Ontario. It's known for being the first – and sometimes only – Canadian jazz festival to present musicians at the forefront of new jazz trends, but it features highly accessible music as well.
IMOO Fest 2019 – Day 2 GigSpace, Ottawa Saturday, September 7, 2019 – 7 to 10 p.m.
The second evening of IMOO Fest 2019 was a study in complete contrasts: from nuanced sounds in near-silence, to joyful South African grooves, to a four-part improvisation.
Up first was a trio from Montreal and Guelph, playing unusual instruments in graceful harmony. Pierre-Yves Martel performed on various whistles and on the viola da gamba – bowed, pizzicato, and rubbing against the instrument's wooden body at its waist. Ben Grossman created melodies, drones, and rhythms on his hurdy-gurdy. Patrick Graham produced sinuous sounds and complex rhythms on a wide variety of drums, rattles, and triangles. Their improvised show was crisp, beautiful, and used the GigSpace's quietness very well.
Togetherness! took its vibe primarily from South African jazz, with pieces by Abdullah Ibrahim and Dudu Pukwana predominating. Their three-horn front line – Scott Thomson on trombone, Ellwood Epps on trumpet, and Aurélien Tomasi on alto sax and clarinet – played joyous melodies over a strong rhythm section of Stephane Diamantakiou on double bass and Ivan Bamford on drums.
IMOO – Improvising and Experimental Music of Ottawa and Outwards – is used to improvising at the last minute. So when the opening act of IMOO Fest 2019 was called away by a hurricane, they just rolled with the change.
Nicole Rampersaud had to make a last-minute, emergency trip to the Bahamas to assist relatives affected by Hurricane Dorian. IMOO coordinators Linsey Wellman and David Jackson stepped in on seven hours' notice to play a duo set in her place – and produced a complex and coordinated mix of baritone saxophone and unadorned electric guitar.
They were the first of three duos, each different, which were featured at The Record Centre on Friday. The three sets attracted more than 30 listeners, some long-time free jazz fans, some new listeners, to sit among the bins of vinyl records and vintage audio in the store. Throughout, the audience was consistently attentive and applauded appreciatively.
Wellman and Jackson have played together in many different large groups at IMOO shows, but only once before as a duo. Their music opened with fast and angular lines, quietened into light breathing into the saxophone and attenuated single notes on guitar, and then sprang back up into loud growls. This wide dynamic range and diversity of textures – from both players – continued throughout, with Wellman's baritone popping out individual notes and sounding like birds chirping, and Jackson creating metallic rubbing sounds, deep grunts, and muted strums on his guitar.
They were clearly listening carefully, attuned to each other: a melancholy melody on baritone was accented by twanging guitar; Wellman's fast descending lines on baritone were echoed by Jackson. They closed with a intense, almost chaotic, mix of screeches and rumbles, ending abruptly together.
Edra Silva Cavada premiered several of her songs from her upcoming album on Wednesday, as the Chilean-Canadian jazz vocalist and her band played a half-hour set at Live! on Elgin, opening for Cynthia Tauro.
It was an appealing performance of four originals, one cover, and one jazz standard, with Cavada singing the first three songs in Spanish, the next in Portuguese, and the last two in English. She was backed by four talented younger Ottawa jazz players: Justin Duhaime on guitar (with whom she's frequently performed), Szymon Szańczuk on bass, Miguel Angel de Armas (jr.) on keyboard, and Jose García on drums.
She opened with “Cayendo”, a serene and deliberately-paced Latin number. Cavada's slightly husky voice, reminding me of Astrud Gilberto, was enfolded in sparkling guitar and keyboards as she expressively sang the lyrics.
Cavada told the audience that she's been mostly playing jazz “for a very long time so I really have that sound in my veins” – but she also likes to experiment with taking elements from other styles of music. In “Recae”, Szańczuk underlined her singing and de Armas' organ-voiced keyboards with a heavy and almost ominous bass line, creating a dramatic soundscape that built up and up, and ended with her scatting over the powerful funk-influenced flow.
“Lumbera Lunar” was inspired by Cavada's experiences playing on cruise ships, where from on deck she could see the moon reflected on the sea. The complete dark of the sea and sky contrasted with the very bright moon – beautiful and overwhelming – and it became a metaphor for hope in times of darkness. It was a optimistic tune, sung simply and smoothly to a graceful rhythm like rocking waves.
Cynthia Tauro received a warm welcome back on Wednesday as she gave her first album, Moments, its Ottawa release.
The pianist and vocalist performed many of the tunes from that album – her originals and a few jazz standards – along with two classic 70s pop songs. She told the audience at Live! on Elgin that she had written most of the originals during the six years she lived in Ottawa. “I got my groundings, my bearings here,” she said, in studying for her music degree at Carleton University and then playing professionally in Ottawa's jazz scene: She returned to Toronto in 2018.
The show was the start of Tauro's first multi-city tour – “I'm excited to start it off in Ottawa!” – which will also take her to the Upstairs Jazz Bar in Montreal on Saturday, followed by concerts in south-western Ontario and a Toronto jazz festival.
It was also an opportunity for her to play again with two well-known Ottawa jazz musicians – guitarist Alex Moxon, who had been in her first jazz band in 2016, and drummer Stephen Adubofuor – and for the first time with jazz bassist Marc Decho. The four musicians played smoothly together, creating a sound that ranged from straight jazz to R&B to pop, but with enough added touches to keep the music interesting. Both Moxon and Decho contributed fluid solos throughout, adding effects and changing styles to fit the songs, while Adubofuor's vigorous but modulated drumming energized the show.
All of Tauro's own songs were about relationships, and generally about romance gone wrong. She opened her one-hour set exactly on-time, with “Wondering”, an earlier tune which she had first recorded with Moxon. It was a pensive ballad about whether to reunite with a lover, whose upbeat chorus created an interesting hook, and her keyboard playing had considerable intensity and dynamic range. She followed it with “Like That”, a confessional song about not being able to forget someone, which opened with a insinuatingly bluesy bass line and whose sad lyrics contrasted with the bright keyboard accompaniment.