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Since the early 20th century, Paris has been a crossroads of jazz.
Paris was where black American jazz musicians were fully appreciated for their talent. Paris was where Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli formed the Quintette of the Hot Club of France. Paris was where French composers such as Michel Legrand and musicians such as Maurice Chevalier and Charles Aznavour gave a French twist to jazz.
On Friday, Ottawa vocalist Nicole Ratté and her quartet will explore that legacy in song at GigSpace.
It's a daunting task, given the number of jazz musicians and composers who have links to France: Ratté said her biggest problem has been paring her set list down to size.
“I want to illustrate with my show a bit of the history of the development of jazz in France,” she says, “while featuring songs that are so important in the jazz repertoire today that were born in France, and linking it to the artists that performed in France – a whole pile of jazz artists and lots of jazz vocalists who went to France. And also the French artists who went into jazz or who influenced jazz. And even linking some songs to one of the first singers in the 1920, 1930s [up] to today – who's singing these songs.”
“At the same time, I want the show to be lively, good for the heart, and interesting. Also the pacing is important for me, the balance between the ballads and fast, all sorts of tempos, so I try to balance everything, to be careful about the era – I don't want to stay just in one era. I want to go through the different decades of music.”
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!
Thursday, February 21, 2019: Samuel Bonnet CD Launch: "Oriental Blue" at the Avant-Garde Bar
Montreal guitarist and composer Samuel Bonnet will launch his new album, Oriental Blue, this week in Quebec and Ontario. The album combines both North American, European, and Middle Eastern influences: "The 'Blue Notes' of Jazz flirt here with the oriental 'melisms', the memories of his native Israel mingle with the scents of Andalusia and Jewish scales combine with North African rhythms."
The tunes are "a poetic journey" inspired by different musical traditions: flamenco, klezmer, gnawa, jazz, and Latin music. They also have a visual dimension: "Oriental Blue" is Bonnet's name for "ultramarine" blue, made from lapis-lazuli, a precious stone prized by painters and jewellers for its intensity since the time of the ancient Egyptians.
The concert will feature Bonnet and French saxophonist Mathias Wallerand, whose roots in Lebanon and Armenia are also reflected in his playing. In performances "fed by jazz and contemporary music", their musical dialogue explores "all the resources and dynamics" of both their instruments. They've performed this music for several years, most recently on tour last October, including in Ottawa.
Feeling down? Feeling exhausted? Molly Johnson wants to get you back up on your feet and energized and working to make this world better. It's a theme that permeates her latest album, Meaning to Tell Ya.
“You know that you're strong enough / you don't have to wait out in the cold”, the JUNO-winning jazz vocalist sings in one of the album's tunes. In another, “Together we can turn our world around, turn it upside down.”
It's a message she'll be delivering – with a strong groove and infectiously happy melodies – in Ottawa on March 1, her first concert here in three years.
Johnson says that the “main job of an artist is to inspire, provoke, all kinds of stuff”, and it's an approach she says she's been taking since her punk days in the 1980s.
“Writers tend to to do that, I think. I think writers tend to write in themes. My lyrics have always been about hope and change.”
She doesn't pretend that changing things is an easy job – “We've got to talk about love, we've got to talk about age. That's just not easy. Have you ever talked about love with a man who really doesn't want to talk about it? Have you ever talked to a politician?”
And, although she herself has stepped up many times to make a difference, she's not writing about herself on this album. The message in her songs that people can step up and do things is “coming from the people themselves. I'm just reflecting it back at you.”
Updated February 9, 2019 With his new Canadian trio, Florian Hoefner is reaching outside of jazz and into the music he's surrounded with in Newfoundland. Ottawa audiences will get an advance peek at this new material and new trio when they make their NAC debut on February 19.
The German-born jazz pianist, who has lived in Newfoundland for the past five years after a long stint in NYC, is known for collaborations with musicians across the globe. He has repeatedly sold out shows here in Ottawa, most recently last May as part of the German jazz quintet Subtone.
For this project, he's been influenced by the musicians he's heard and played with in Newfoundland. In the past few years, Hoefner has been performing with local traditional musicians, who have taught him songs by local and North American folk musicians. For the trio, he's taken some of those songs across genre boundaries into a jazz context.
He's teamed up with two musicians from Toronto, drummer Nick Fraser and bassist Andrew Downing. Both are also known for crossing genre boundaries: Downing plays chamber music, folk, and Turkish classical music as well as jazz. Fraser is a prominent experimental and avant-garde composer and bandleader, and can also swing in mainstream jazz groups.
Before rapt listeners, Lorraine Desmarais deftly explored the legacy of Bill Evans on January 25.
The Montreal pianist, together with her long-time trio of bassist Frédéric Alarie and drummer Camile Belisle, gave an emotionally-charged performance at La Nouvelle Scène. It was her first concert in Ottawa in almost a decade, and received with distinct delight by the sold-out audience.
Evans released more than 70 albums in his 25-year career, and was known as a supremely intuitive interpreter and composer who added new concepts of harmonic language to jazz piano. He composed more than 60 tunes, many of which have become standards. His renditions of many Great American Songbook and modern pop tunes are considered classics.
Desmarais is a renowned Quebec jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, who can easily hold her own with international stars. She was fully at ease with Evans' music – and clearly enjoying herself in the concert.
Awards of possible interest to the jazz community include
The Victor Tolgesy Arts Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of residents who have contributed substantially to enriching cultural life in the city
The RBC Emerging Artist Award recognizes and encourages the achievements of Ottawa artists who are in the early stages of their career in the arts and are working towards becoming recognized professional artists, while engaging with the community.
The Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award was established to recognize and encourage the achievements of Ottawa artists of all disciplines who have evolved beyond the emerging stage in their career to become recognized professional working artists contributing to the community.
The Young Artist Award is a project-based, mentorship-driven youth arts award established for the recognition and encouragement of young Ottawa-based artists, ages 14 – 17 years old, demonstrating exceptional potential and a commitment to excellence in any art form.