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Each week, OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from our comprehensive Jazz Bulletins. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.
Sunday, October 21, 2018: Toots' Suite with Normand Glaude at the NAC Fourth Stage
About 6 years ago, we began hearing Normand Glaude play chromatic harmonica in addition to his supple double bass performances. It was an extra voice – expressive and sensitive – which added new textures and emotion to his shows with jazz vocalists and instrumentalists. Glaude often included pieces by Toots Thielemans, the Belgian jazz musician who was the acknowledged master of the jazz harmonica. If you expressed the slightest interest, he would tell you all about Toots and his compositions and why he enjoyed listening to his recordings.
It's an opinion we strongly agreed with: we'd heard Thielemans in concert several times at the Ottawa and Montreal Jazz Festivals, and each time were delighted by his performance and the joie de vivre he injected into his music.
Glaude has continued to refine his harmonica expertise and add more of Thielemans' pieces to his repertoire. Last year he took the major step of presenting a full tribute to him, first in a sold-out concert at GigSpace and then in a very well-received show at the summer Ottawa Jazz Festival. Alayne heard the festival show and was impressed by how well researched it was and how well it connected with the audience, with melodic and multi-layered jazz. It featured Thielemans' signature compositions along with other songs Thielemans regularly played that captured his unmistakable sound.
Now Glaude is taking this show to the NAC, with an expanded group of accomplished Ottawa jazz musicians – Steve Boudreau on piano, Tim Bedner on guitar, Tom Denison on bass, and Scott Latham on drums. He's also adding new tunes to reflect this bigger line-up. Expect melody, interaction, and a painless and fun introduction to jazz harmonica.
In a vivacious and entertaining trio show Friday, vocalist Diane Nalini demonstrated that jazz can originate in many lands and be communicated in many languages.
Nalini has traveled around the world, including studying in England and Australia. Well-known as the resident vocalist for the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, she's recently presented several of her own trio shows. For this concert at GigSpace, she teamed up with Ottawa jazz stalwarts John Geggie on double bass and Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone.
She described this show as “a musical journey across the Americas” but those used to just the Great American Songbook would have felt some cognitive dissonance. Up first was a song in French, then one in Portuguese, then a Spanish number, before Nalini finally sang in English. In fact, only a quarter of the songs on the set list were in English. Even the Cole Porter number was one of the few he co-wrote with French lyrics!
But at the same time, the feel and the style of the music was emphatically jazz, and definitely crowd-pleasing. It included jazz classics, jazz interpretations of pop songs, and several originals by Nalini.
The 2018 edition of Merrickville's Jazz Fest closed Sunday with a powerful performance by Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans. Supported by three Toronto musicians, Evans both exhorted and entertained her audience with personal stories and uplifting music which combined soul, pop, and jazz.
It was part dancefest, part revival meeting, and a consistently joyful and stirring show.
Nominations are now open for a two-year term on the board of directors of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The board is responsible for the festival, including decisions on the overall artistic direction such as the balance of jazz and non-jazz, overall size and budget of the festival, and the role of the festival in the community.
If you want to take an active role in directing the festival, this is your only opportunity to apply, once a year.
Nominations must be received by Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Anyone can run for the board, but you must be nominated by an active festival volunteer. A list of volunteers was printed in the summer festival program guide.
Five colourful musicians created a powerhouse of Afro-Cuban energy Saturday evening. OKAN (violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez and percussionist Magdelys Savigne) from Toronto collaborated with Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas to present new compositions and arrangements very much in the Afro-Cuban and jazz traditions, but in their own modern voices.
Violin, congas, cajon, and Batá drums combined with piano, electric bass (Roberto Riverón), and drums (Frank Martinez) in music that ranged from folkloric chants to Cuban son to Thelonious Monk to rumbas to intensely personal songs.
Every seat was taken in the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage – and there were fans perched in the window ledges as well. Each song was greeted with strong applause, and by the last song, most of the audience was up dancing, and stayed on their feet to give the group a standing ovation and to demand an encore.
The ensemble is back in the Fourth Stage Sunday evening (October 14) for a second show. Tickets are still available.
We weren't sure we were going to be able to get to the second day of IMOO Fest 2018 – and afterwards were very glad we'd dashed back to see it.
The headliner for that evening, and for the festival, was the This Is It! trio led by Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, with her long-time partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, and with percussionist Takashi Itani. They were on an extended Canadian/U.S. tour that took them from Montreal to Vancouver, and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
Starting at a relatively late time of 10 p.m., the trio nevertheless enthralled their audience with a vigorous and highly inventive set of four improvised pieces in slightly more than an hour.
From the first notes, it was obvious they were going to explore the full (and less conventional) capabilities of their instruments. Fujii opened by playing very lightly inside GigSpace's Yamaha grand piano on its strings – a tiny beautiful sprinkle of notes – while Itani bowed the edges of his cymbals, creating a swelling and moaning sound. Tamura cupped his hands around his mouth to create his own mouth trumpet noises.
Fujii used prepared piano in this concert – and one of her signal sounds, which I hadn't seen from other avant-garde pianists, was to run a string under and around piano strings. Then, holding one end of the string in each hand in a “V” above the piano, she pulled the string back and forth, rubbing it against the piano strings to create curious sounds, sometimes echoing, sometimes buzzing.
It was one of several times that she played inside the piano. Another time she began with light rustling notes, and let the vibrations swell as she plucked individual strings. The sound was notably Japanese in feel, like single raindrops falling. It developed into a pattern, and then Fujii played on the piano keyboard against this repeating pattern.