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When Roddy Ellias, Marc Copland, and Adrian Vedady entered the studio last May to record their first album together, they dumped their egos outside the door.
"There was nobody saying, 'Well, I'm playing this'. Everybody's listening to everybody and trying to just find something that fits together nicely. It's a real group dynamic and a group approach, with no ego," Ellias said.
The Ottawa guitarist, NYC pianist, and Montreal bassist debuted as a trio in Ottawa in 2012. They're back this weekend for two shows – Saturday in Montreal and Sunday in Ottawa – which will mark the official release of their first album, Sticks and Stones.
For Ellias, this trio has been a very special experience. "It's rare when you get three people so connected. The group dynamic is fantastic – it's a dream!"
While all three musicians take solos in the music, "none of us are over-extending. We're just trying to stay in the mood of the piece, and play the the piece. It's more about playing together and the group thing and making musical statements."
Saturday (April 21, 2018) is Record Store Day, a day which celebrates the culture of independent record stores. To mark it, OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed John Thompson, the owner of The Record Centre in Ottawa. His store's core business is vintage vinyl and audio equipment, but he's expanded beyond that into supporting Ottawa's live music scene.
John Thompson is always on the hunt for great music.
For decades, he's been collecting and selling used vinyl – making a living doing exactly he loves and not having a "real job" – with jazz records a good part of his stock.
But more recently, he's expanded into current music – hosting live shows by local and touring musicians, and running his own record label.
Since 2014, Thompson's Record Centre store in Hintonburg has become a place for local musicians, including many jazz groups, to showcase their projects. The store has hosted more than 300 shows in the last four years. Some live-off-the-floor recordings at the store have been released on the store's own Record Centre record label.
One of the biggest live music events at the store was all jazz: 24 groups in 24 hours at the Jazz Ramble in 2016. Thompson said the store will be repeating that event next month: hosting a second Jazz Ramble in conjunction with the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The 2018 ramble will run from 10 a.m. on Friday, May 25 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 26.
The store has a large jazz collection, reflecting Thompson's own love of jazz. On a recent visit, he showed off many recent jazz acquisitions on vinyl – from Dave Brubeck to Roland Raahsan Kirk to Sun Ra, with some highly uncommon treasures.
For his current Dream Band project, Rob Frayne is simply writing what he loves.
"At this point, I think I'm old enough just to play from the heart. I turned 60 this year, and I realized, 'What the heck! Let's just go for it!' "
The Ottawa jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist will showcase 14 musicians at the NAC Fourth Stage on Wednesday, April 18, playing his recent compositions and arrangements. For this concert, he said, "I'm trying just to be myself" – and giving the same free-thinking direction to his musicians.
Frayne himself is a powerhouse in Ottawa's jazz scene: as a composer, arranger, teacher, and instrumentalist. He has led groups like the groundbreaking Chelsea Bridge, co-founded the JazzWorks jazz camp, and played across North America and beyond with everyone from Kenny Wheeler to the Gil Evans Orchestra to the Shuffle Demons.
He has picked his "dream" musicians, from Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, for this show – just as he did for previous Dream Band shows in 2012, 2013, and 2015. Each musician in the 2018 band has a considerable jazz pedigree: trombonist William Carn and alto saxophonist Tara Davidson, for example, were JUNO Award nominees this year.
The music they'll play reaches beyond mainstream jazz. One the one side there's percussion and groove; on the other, classical brass and woodwinds. And all of that's combined with jazz soloists on trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and guitar.
"There's two sides that are new: the South African, like Dollar Brand [early Abdullah Ibrahim] groovy African jazz, and the classical thing are different. Before, I think it was more straight-ahead, more jazzy. This time, it's a little more folk, a little more classical."
Compared to previous Dream Bands, this music is "a bit looser. It's a bit more groove-oriented. Half of the stuff is like that. Half the stuff is like lots of percussion and simple South African township jive groove. But the other half is, because I had the flute and clarinet and tuba, I was all of the sudden excited to use the classical vibe."
At Ottawa's summer music festivals – the Jazz Festival, Music & Beyond, Bluesfest, and Chamberfest – almost all of the hundreds of people who who keep the festival going are volunteers. And these festivals are already looking for volunteers for this summer.
Whether you want to sell tickets, usher at concerts, work on stages, sell beer or T-shirts, or pick up garbage (surprisingly, it can be fun), there’s a volunteer task that you could enjoy doing.
This Sunday (April 15), the Ottawa Jazz Festival is opening up applications for new volunteers (returning volunteers do not need to reapply). You will be asked about your skills, availability, and what volunteer jobs you're interested in. Applications for more popular slots close quickly, so it's advisable to apply soon.
The strategy argues that the city will benefit from a vibrant music economy through "job creation, economic growth, tourism development, city brand building and artistic growth. A strong music community also aids in attracting highly skilled employees from across various industries, who put a high value on quality of life."
The goal is to "create hometown pride and global renown". It aims to create a "music friendly" environment where "musicians and music businesses of all sizes and types, from live music venues to studios to manufacturers, can flourish".
The committee approved implementing only the first stage of the strategy, with primarily bureaucratic changes. They include reassigning a city staff person to be a Music Development Officer, responsible for implementing the strategy in coordination with the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC), and providing $100,000 in funding to OMIC in 2018. It also agreed to promote music-friendly policies in planning, transportation, and bylaw/police departments (for example, noise regulations).
Mike Rud, Don Cummings, and Michel Delage Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel Saturday, March 31, 2018 – 8 p.m.
There's a strong tradition in modern jazz of combining guitar with organ, and Don Cummings and Mike Rud drew upon that soulful style last weekend at the Brookstreet Hotel. In their show on Saturday, Cummings' Hammond organ created swelling chords and a powerful vibe over which Rud added intense, flying guitar lines, with drummer Michel Delage propelling the music on drums.
The show was part of Delage's monthly tribute series in Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge, but it didn't have a specific theme. Instead, the musicians made a point of learning new-to-them repertoire for organ and guitar, generally from the hard bop and soul jazz era of the 1960s. They included pieces by organists Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith, guitarists Kenny Burrell and George Benson, and jazz icons John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, and Lee Morgan. I particularly enjoyed the trio's sincere and beautiful rendition of Ellington's “Come Sunday”.