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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.
NOTE: As of December 4, OttawaJazzScene.ca has changed when it releases its pick of the week, in order to give listeners more notice of shows they might want to attend before they sell out. Instead of being released on Wednesday, our pick will now be published on Sunday, and cover the following Monday to Sunday.
Saturday, December 16, 2017: The Justin Duhaime Trio featuring Denis Chang at the Bronson Centre
Ottawa jazz guitarist Justin Duhaime loves the swing and energy of gypsy jazz. He not only regularly plays it, but he's been responsible for showcasing several of its fine performers in concerts in Ottawa over the last few years, including violinist Tcha Limberger and guitarist Stephane Wrembel.
Montreal guitarist Denis Chang is a gypsy jazz performer and enthusiast; he's actually studied with gypsy jazz masters in Europe, and learned to understand Romany culture and Romanes, the language of the Gypsies. In concerts, he sings in Romanes. Besides guitar, he also plays acoustic bass and violin.
On Saturday, these two will team up with guitarist Zak Martel (formerly from northern Ontario, now studying with Chang in Montreal) for an evening of music inspired by the legacy of legendary French gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. The show will end with a jam so bring your instruments or your voice.
In its 12-year history, the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra under the leadership of Adrian Cho has done a great deal to educate Ottawa audiences about the history of jazz, playing many large-scale and lesser-known works that otherwise wouldn't be often heard.
The orchestra opened its 2017-18 season with a tribute to a pianist, composer, and arranger who had a large influence on the sound of the Blue Note jazz record label during the 1960s, adding a grooving touch to many albums. Duke Pearson also played with the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet and regularly with Donald Byrd, and released 17 albums under his own name.
I must admit I had not heard of him before this show was announced – and was glad that Cho made the introduction. For this concert, Cho primarily selected pieces by Pearson from his mid-60s albums The Right Touch, Sweet Honey Bee, and Honeybuns.
In two one-hour sets, nine musicians from the orchestra's floating repertory played the music with verve (although in places with quite rapt attention to their charts). On horns were many long-time and highly experienced OJO musicians: saxophonists Sandy Gordon, Mike Tremblay, René Lavoie, and Dave Renaud, trumpeter Rick Rangno, and trombonist Mark Ferguson; many of them doubled on several instruments, and in particular on flute in several songs. Cho played bass and Mark Rehder drums, and Peter Hum took Duke Pearson's place on piano.
With a major excavation planned under its usual home in Confederation Park, next summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival is still in flux.
At the festival's annual general meeting on November 30, executive producer Catherine O'Grady said that she was currently in negotiations with the National Capital Commission (NCC) and the City of Ottawa about the festival's 2018 location. She said she expected to have an answer by Christmas.
Major's Hill Park is not available at the end of June, she said; it's booked for an indigenous music, theatre, and dance festival. Nor is Lansdowne Park: the Escapade Festival will be there at that time. And “we don't fit in any of the other parks. ... So we have very few options.”
In his written report to the AGM, festival president John Freamo said that the festival “will have to adapt [in 2018] as part of Confederation Park will be unavailable due to a large infrastructure project.” But when asked at the meeting what parts of Confederation Park would be available, he said they could not talk about that yet, because the NCC was still working on the details of the project.
Trumpeter Chris Botti will perform with the NAC Orchestra at next summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival, while pianist Fred Hersch, a Latin big band led by Hilario Durán, vocalist Barbra Lica, and saxophonist Chet Doxas will headline the 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.
At the festival's annual general meeting Thursday, executive producer Catherine O'Grady revealed the first few artists booked for the summer festival and announced the winter festival line-up.
The summer 2018 Ottawa Jazz Festival will run from June 21 to July 1. O'Grady said the performers will include trumpeter Chris Botti with the NAC Orchestra (June 21), bluegrass-country vocalist Alison Krauss, and improvising banjo player Béla Fleck with the original Flecktones (June 28). (The Montreal Jazz Festival also announced on the same day that Fleck would perform at that festival.)
On December 7, the Ottawa jazz festival added a further award-winning artist: jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (June 24), with her new album honouring her home town of Memphis, Alabama.
The 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival will run from February 8 to 10. It will again be located indoors at La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown, as it was in 2017 – not at the National Arts Centre, where it had been primarily located from 2012 to 2016.
So far the festival has announced nine concerts over three days for the winter festival – one day and three concerts shorter than in 2017, but keeping the same general format. However, it has not yet slotted in the winner of its special project grant, with which a local jazz musician would present a concert which also includes multimedia, spoken word, dance, or visual art. The schedule still has a slot open on February 10 which possibly might include that show.
The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) opened its 9th season on Sunday with a wide-ranging concert which showed the variety of music that can be played by a big band.
Blues, ballads, Latin, and straight-out swing were all featured in CYJO's eight-song single set. The orchestra is directed by trumpeter Nick Dyson, who has a deep love of and knowledge of big band music. He picked arrangements from famous bands led by Woody Herman, Doc Severinsen, and Stan Kenton, but also by more modern arrangers including Tommy Kubis and Michel Camilo. Canadians were included, too, with a Maynard Ferguson number, and with a Latin tune which Mark Ferguson had arranged for Ottawa's Latin big band, Los Gringos.
It was mostly upbeat music and the orchestra played it with zest. Dyson primarily featured returning orchestra members in the solos: trumpeter Eric Littlewood creating evocative melodies in “Georgia On My Mind”, Gabe Paul in a sinuous sax solo in “I Ain't Got Nobody”, Chris Wiley creating bluesy trombone lines in “One More Once”, Garrett Warner on guitar and Zachary Sedlar on alto sax in “Things Ain't What They Used To Be”, and Anthony Kubelka with a fast, percussive piano solo in “Sunny Ray”.
This is a building year for CYJO, which consists of university and advanced high-school-age students in the Ottawa area. Twelve of CYJO's 17 members are new this year, including three female musicians (Jennie Seaborn on drums, Melissa Brown on tenor sax, and Ray Sun on trombone). Dyson said he was very pleased to have more women participating in the band.
The next CYJO concert will be a “competition” between the style of two famous jazz band-leaders: Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Dyson told the audience that the Cotton Club in New York City used to hold competitions between big bands with them playing alternating sets and ending the evening with a jam. For CYJO's February 18 concert at Kailash Mital Theatre, he plans to have one set of Ellington arrangements, and one of Count Basie arrangements, and maybe even have the orchestra play one song twice – once Ellington style, once Count Basie style – so that both the students and the audience can hear the difference.
Diana Krall's latest album, Turn Up The Quiet, marks her return to classic jazz standards. So it was fitting that the first number in her Ottawa concert on Friday was a archetypal quintet rendition of “'Deed I Do”, a 1926 standard popularized by Benny Goodman – and a long-time favourite tune which she recorded in 2002.
It was a sparkling start to the concert, energetically combining all the musicians' talents, and showcasing each with nicely-timed solos. Krall's bands have all featured top-notch jazz musicians, and this time she appeared with four highly-regarded American jazz and bluegrass players, including her regular guitarist, Anthony Wilson, and bassist Robert Hurst. Drummer Karriem Riggins and fiddler Stuart Duncan also were with her in Ottawa in 2013. All but Hurst played on Turn Up The Quiet.
Krall has always been a favourite with Ottawa audiences, selling out her last few appearances at the NAC. For this show, the 2,065-seat Southam Hall was almost full, although there were some empty seats visible in the Orchestra section. Ottawa was one of the few cities on Krall's tour where she scheduled two concerts, with a second show on Saturday.
With ticket prices ranging from $70.50 – $160.50, the concert was definitely an “event”. Many of the listeners were dressed to match (although I also saw others in jeans). Before the show people were taking selfies of themselves with the stage as a backdrop. As soon as the music started, the enthusiasm was obvious, with strong applause right from the first solo. The applause gradation ranged from strong, to very strong, to extremely strong, to two standing ovations.
In under two years, pianist Emie R Roussel, bassist Nicolas Bédard, and drummer Dominic Cloutier have played shows in eleven countries across four continents: Europe, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. and Canada.
In their NAC Presents show Thursday, the Montreal jazz trio displayed the results of those recent world-wide travels: not just the tunes on their new CD, but also a flowing and strong communication, and tight and inventive playing. And they had many travellers' tales, about “all the new cultures and all the new food that we discovered. ... We love music but we also love food. We love to cook and we love to discover new tastes, new restaurants.”
Switching easily between English and French, Roussel rhapsodized about five unbelievably great pasta dinners in a row in Northern Italy, and told tales about barbecuing steaks in Australia, as she explained the background to the pieces they were playing. And you could hear that sensual appreciation transferred to their music as well – while there was clearly careful thought behind the compositions, the trio presented them with joy and verve.