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On Wednesday, the festival unveiled 13 of the shows which it will present from July 26 to August 9, 2018 in a slightly longer programme than usual to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The announced shows are primarily from the core classical repertoire, but several are also of interest to jazz fans.
On July 26 and 27, violin virtuoso Roby Lakatos will appear with his gypsy jazz quartet. Lakatos comes from a family of Romani violinists descended from Janos Bihari, an influential composer and performer who brought gypsy music into aristocratic fashion in the early 19th century, and whose melodies were used by Liszt and Beethoven.
Lakatos moves easily between classical, jazz, and his native Hungarian folk idioms. His violin training came both from within his own family, and at the Béla Bartók Conservatory of Budapest, where he won the first prize for classical violin in 1984. His biography notes that he has collaborated with Vadim Repin and Stéphane Grappelli, and his playing was greatly admired by Sir Yehudi Menuhin, who always made a point of visiting the club in Brussels to hear Lakatos. In the jazz realm, his ensemble has played with Herbie Hancock, Nigel Kennedy, and Randy Brecker.
Last fall, Lakatos and guitarist Biréli Lagrène – who also played with Stéphane Grappelli as a youth – released Tribute to Stéphane & Django, along with the big band of the Modern Art Orchestra, and jazz drummer Niek de Bruijn and guitarist Andreas Varady. The CD/DVD included Jazz Manouche standards such as "Djangology", "Nuages", "Minor Swing", and "Nuits de Saint-Germain-Des-Près".
Lakatos will perform a classically-oriented concert on July 26 at Dominion Chalmers United Church, and a jazzier late-night concert on July 27 at La Nouvelle Scène.
Most tributes to Jazz Age composer George Gershwin either concentrate on the piano or give his music a full orchestral treatment. But Montreal's Buzz Brass quintet has a different idea: their Gershwin show combines piano with two trumpets, two trombones, and French horn.
Ross Taggart was a central figure in Vancouver's and Canada’s jazz scene, as a pianist, saxophonist, educator, and composer. CBC Radio's “Hot Air” jazz program described him as “one of our most beloved jazz musicians, and a founding member of many of the best jazz bands in BC.” When he became seriously ill with cancer in 2012, musicians immediately organized a benefit for him. He died in 2013, at only 45.
He was also a very important person in pianist Sharon Minemoto's life. He was her teacher, the saxophonist in her jazz quintet, and for a number of years her husband – and always a beloved friend.
Minemoto has dedicated her new CD, Safe Travels, to Taggart, and she and her quartet are about begin a short Ontario tour to introduce it here. Their first stop, on Friday, March 23, is at GigSpace in Ottawa, followed by shows in Waterloo and Toronto.
She emphasizes this won't be a sad occasion.
“I hope that they will hear our passion for the music, and I hope that if any of them know Ross they will perhaps hear the humour in it. Because we really don't feel a lot of sadness when we're playing that music anymore. It's mostly just remembering all the fun times that we had with Ross.”
Ginny Simonds still remembers the first time she heard the music of Toronto jazz pianist and composer Joe Sealy.
“I first heard him on the radio. He had just won jazz album of the year that year with Africville Suite, and Peter Gzowski was playing him on Morningside. They played the tune, “Song of Hope”, and I loved it! It was really my first introduction to jazz. I literally pulled the car over and I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget.”
Simonds has kept listening to Sealy, even as her passion for jazz has increased. And next Wednesday, March 14, her quintet will pay tribute to his music in a concert at Live! on Elgin.
Sealy is probably best known for his JUNO-winning Africville Suite, an uplifting chronicle of the legacy of the black community of Africville, outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. Africville had to overcome a multitude of challenges, but managed to survive for more than a century before it was razed in the late 1960’s as an “urban improvement” measure. It's since been partially restored.
He's also known, however, for his long-standing collaboration over many albums with Toronto bassist Paul Novotny, and as a radio broadcaster and record label president. He toured with Blood Sweat and Tears and performed with jazz musicians including Joe Williams and Milt Jackson. He has received four JUNO nominations, and, in December 2009, he was appointed to the Order of Canada. He last appeared in Ottawa with an abbreviated version of Africville Stories in 2012.
Simonds said that what speaks to her in Sealy's music is that “you can feel his heart behind his music. It's not intellectual at all. He has deeply rhythmic music first of all, but also a diversity that goes from ballads to waltzes to blues to Latin rhythms, creative arrangements, standards that I've never heard before.”
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 was 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 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 29% of the headliners announced so far are non-jazz, and 16% non-jazz overall.
Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in the comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.
Friday, March 23, 2018, 7:30 p.m.: The Sharon Minemoto Quartet at GigSpace
Vancouver jazz pianist Sharon Minemoto has a new CD out, Safe Travels. It has an overall happy and hopeful vibe, its mainstream jazz voice well interpreted by her talented quartet of experienced West Coast musicians. She's touring it in Ontario this week, with shows here in Ottawa as well as Waterloo and Toronto.
Six years ago, Minemoto lost a dear friend to cancer. Ross Taggart was her teacher, the saxophone player in her quintet, and for eight years her husband. He was also very important to the jazz scene on the west coast and across Canada - an essential voice on sax and piano in many groups and on many albums, as well as as a composer and teacher. He was only 45 when he died, and Minemoto was one of the main people who cared for him during his last months and then handled his affairs when he was gone.
In the difficult years after his death, she kept writing music. When she started reviewing the accumulated compositions, she realized the tunes were in fact a tribute to Taggart, in different ways. She'll unveil those compositions to Ontario audiences this week, including one based on a mini-theme he wrote when he was 8!
Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late / Mars People A celebration of the music of Ken Aldcroft Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais (IMOO) Black Squirrel Books, Ottawa Saturday, March 3, 2018 – 9 p.m.
The late guitarist and composer Ken Aldcroft was a linchpin in Canada's improvised jazz scene, as a performer, composer, bandleader, and organizer. And as five of his friends and fellow musicians showed on Saturday, he hasn't been forgotten, as a person and as a musical influence.
Their Ottawa concert was an exciting blend of the avant-garde with more traditional jazz and gospel. It showcased musicians using the full capabilities of their instruments to produce absorbing sounds and soundscapes. Throughout, they performed music written by or inspired by Aldcroft.
It was the second stop on an eight-concert tour of Ontario and Quebec, which began on Friday in Montreal and continues until next Saturday in Toronto. On the bill were two groups: Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late (Americans Jason Robinson on tenor sax and Eric Hofbauer on guitar), and Mars People (Canadians Joe Sorbara on drums, Daniel Kruger on guitar, and Emily Denison on trumpet).