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Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.
Wednesday, June 20, 8 p.m.: IMOO #180 - Monicker at General Assembly
One of the real pleasures of jazz is how it encourages collaborations from musicians with different backgrounds. The contrasting experiences and styles add energy and spark new ideas - as with Monicker, a trio which is touring across Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes this week, including a stop in Ottawa. Its members cross both geographic and generational boundaries.
Monicker consists of drummer Roger Turner, from London, England; guitarist Arthur Bull, from Digby Neck, Nova Scotia; and trombonist Scott Thomson, who divides his time between Toronto and Montreal. Turner has been on the improvised jazz scene since the 1970s, playing worldwide (from Sydney to the Arctic, Tokyo to Belfast, New York to Beirut) with renowned jazz musicians including Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Phil Minton, Marilyn Crispell, and Annette Peacock. Bull has also been active since the 70s, playing with Canadian innovators Paul Dutton, Michael Snow, John Oswald, and John Heward (all members of Toronto's CCMC), as well as with Derek Bailey and Roscoe Mitchell.
Turner and Bull first played together in 2002 in a workshop at the Guelph Jazz Festival, a frequent hatchery for new partnerships, and got on so well they've performed as a duo periodically ever since. In 2017, a residency in Halifax inspired them to expand to a trio by inviting Thomson, from a much younger generation of Canadian creative musicians (he was only born in 1975).
It won't be the same Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2018.
The festival, which announced much of its summer line-up today, is facing the double whammy of construction in Confederation Park and the National Arts Centre's closure for rewiring. Most of its 2018 shows will be in the grounds of Ottawa City Hall and a nearby church, and it will only be able to use the Fourth Stage at the NAC.
American headliners announced today include pianist Herbie Hancock (June 30), vocalist Boz Scaggs (June 22), guitarist Russell Malone (June 23), and trumpeter Terence Blanchard (June 26). They join the already-announced trumpeter Chris Botti (June 21), vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (June 24), bluegrass-roots vocalist Alison Krauss (June 26), and improvising banjo player Béla Fleck with the original Flecktones (June 28). Announced later were funk queen Chaka Khan (June 25), and French musician St Germain (June 27), who plays nu jazz, a mix of jazz and electronic music.
Festival programming so far emphasizes jazz more than in recent years, with Khan, Krauss, and Lake Street Dive the only non-jazz headliners announced this year, and fewer non-jazz acts in most series. Last year, 70% of headliners were non-jazz, and about 36% overall (excluding local groups); this year, only 33% of the headliners announced so far are non-jazz, and 16% non-jazz overall.
First, I photographed all 24 hours and 25 performances in the 2018 Jazz Ramble.
Then I sat in front of my computer screen for another 24 hours: reviewing, grouping, rating, and adjusting selected photos and tagging metadata to produce a set of photos that was acceptable for publishing in OttawaJazzScene.ca’s photo gallery. Thankfully I did not have to complete this photo editing in another single 24-hour session! My eyes couldn’t have taken that.
I made 1211 photos at the event. Of those, 225 photos were published to our photo gallery, in addition to 24 other photos that were tweeted.
People ask me at a jazz event “Are you getting any good photos?”. My honest response is always “I don’t know.” I cannot reliably tell by looking at the tiny screen on the back of my camera. And if I spent much time looking at my camera I’d miss other memorable moments during the performance.
Jazz has a remarkable ability to encompass and absorb music and rhythms from around the world. It started with the blues, spirituals, and ragtime, but over the years it's melded with music from Brazil, from Cuba, and from the Roma. Chamber jazz brought in classical influences; jazz fusion blended in rock music styles; and Broadway shows became a major source of jazz standards.
And one great source has been music from the Middle East and the Jewish diaspora. Dave Brubeck's “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is an obvious example; so are the Benny Goodman big band numbers “And the Angels Sing” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön”.
On Sunday evening, Ottawa heard an appealing and well-presented reeinterpretation of this music, as the Hoffman-Lemish Quartet performed at Black Squirrel Books as part of the release tour for their first CD, Pardes.
Updated June 7 to include details of Browne's memorial service on June 15.
One of Ottawa's most distinctive jazz voices, pianist Brian Browne, died Tuesday afternoon. He was 81 years old.
Browne's greatest joy was in playing jazz standards, songs he considered “basically masterpieces that have survived the test of time, and that's why they're still around. They'll be around forever.”. He would perform them both with sensitivity and with considerable relish and élan – and never the same way twice.
“I could play 'Autumn Leaves' every night of my life and it would be different every night. The only thing that's the same is the title and the framework, the actual skeleton of the actual piece of music. I could play it in different keys, for a different feeling once in a while,” he told OttawaJazzScene.ca in 2014.
“And that's the beauty of playing the standards because even if the title is the same and the framework is the same, it's like building a house. The frame is the same but every time you play you have different rooms, different walls, different pictures on the wall, different colour rugs. It's always different. And that's what's fresh about playing jazz!”
His definition of a standard, though, was wider than just the Great American Songbook. It reached from the 1920s into the 1970s and 80s, with songs by the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, and Billy Joel.
Browne had an bluesy piano style that swung strongly but could also slow down, for example in his rendition of Cohen's “Hallelujah”, to become powerfully emotional. His playing was in the tradition of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson (with whom he studied), Errol Garner and Bill Evans, but was immediately identifiable as his own.