Love jazz? So do we! OttawaJazzScene.ca connects you with live jazz and improvised music every day of the year. Discover the latest jazz news, learn more about upcoming shows in our musician interviews, revisit concerts in our reviews, see shows in photos and videos, and go out with our jazz club and venue listings and comprehensive jazz event listings. It's all made possible by reader donations. Jazz is something you feel - and it feels great. See you on the scene!
St. John's, Newfoundland, is the easternmost city in Canada. From Signal Hill, all you see eastward is the Atlantic Ocean, with Europe on its other side.
This makes it a uniquely suitable location for Florian Hoefner – a jazz pianist with strong connections both to Canada and to Europe. Hoefner has been living in Newfoundland for the past three years, and its sea-rimmed landscape has strongly influenced his new solo piano CD, Coldwater Stories.
Hoefner was last here in January, 2016, as part of a cross-Canada tour with his quartet. His Ottawa show was a notable jazz highlight of the year, with its expressive music and remarkable musical unity. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard from listeners months later about how glad they were to have discovered his music.
On Coldwater Stories, he continues to create impressively rich and beautiful compositions – but combining his jazz roots with the influence of modern classical composers. It's his first solo piano CD, and he's used that opportunity to explore the musical possibilities of that instrument, including learning from past masters. Each of the compositions on the album has a title linked to Newfoundland, including pieces inspired by a local puffin colony, icebergs off the coast, a hike in a Newfoundland national park, and the north Atlantic Ocean.
Hoefner was born and raised in Germany, studied jazz at the University of Arts in Berlin, and then was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to complete a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. After spending six years in New York, he moved to St. John's in 2014, after his wife was appointed as an Assistant Professor in Memorial University's music department.
Gypsy Muse East Feast Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 6:45 p.m.
A three-year-old will give you an honest response. If they're dancing or listening intently to your music – they like it!
Gypsy Muse's music was a big hit with the younger crowd (and the older, too) when they played a free concert at the East Feast festival early Saturday evening. The duo's brand of gypsy jazz immediately inspired children – from barely toddling to pre-teens – and their parents to start dancing to the music, bouncing happily to its bright rhythms. And around the impromptu dancefloor stood even more people listening.
The duo consists of two local guitarists, Justin Duhaime and Nabil Yaghi. They play gypsy jazz/jazz manouche, inspired by Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France; Yaghi's guitar, with a small, oval soundhole, is the same design as those used by Reinhardt
Duhaime said the two had been playing together for about a year, and their close, confident rapport confirmed that. Gypsy jazz – particularly when you're frequently shifting the lead as this duo does – is usually fast-paced and not forgiving of mistakes or losing one's place. The music from their guitars fit together into a clean and consistent whole, graciously melodic and infectiously rhythmic.
Their acoustic performance was engaging, with the music's intricate patterns and rapid rhythms dancing out into the street. Most of their pieces were gypsy jazz classics, often written by Reinhardt himself. However, they also gave several jazz standards a jazz manouche gloss and ornamentation – for example, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Caravan”, and Chick Corea's “Armando's Rhumba”. Near the end, they played a few quieter pieces made famous by Reinhardt, including a gentle version of his ballad, “Nuages”, and “Où es tu, mon amour?”, which Yaghi had transcribed from a recording.
Gerri Trimble, Rob Martin, Charley Gordon Ottawa Porchfest Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 4 p.m.
Jazz vocalist Gerri Trimble didn't have to go far for her latest gig – it was on her own porch!
Trimble, along with guitarist Rob Martin and trumpeter Charley Gordon, provided a jazz angle on the free Porchfest festival in Hintonburg on Saturday afternoon. The festival, now in its third year, showcases local musicians on volunteered porches and businesses; it promotes the idea that “local artists have a great silent talent”.
The trio attracted more than 30 music fans for their hour-long performance, including ward councillor Jeff Leiper (a sponsor of the festival), and several parents with small children. Even after the trio started playing, listeners continued to arrive by bike and on foot.
Some sat in the chairs that Trimble provided; others perched on the sidewalk on both sides of Armstrong Street. The residential street was still open to cars, but most motorists slowed down enough not to drown out the music, or waited until the end of a song to pass. (The event evoked images of the very first Ottawa Jazz Festivals on the summer stage outside the NAC. Motor vehicles on Freiman Lane would have to drive between the audience and the stage.)
Howard Johnson Tribute with Keith Hartshorn-Walton, Michel Delage, Petr Cancura, Dave Schroeder Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel Saturday, August 26, 2017 – 8 to 11:40 p.m.
Howard Johnson has been called the King of the Jazz Tuba. In a 50+-year career, the American jazz musician has played with everyone from Charles Mingus to Gil Evans to Hank Mobley to John Scofield to Tomasz Stanko. He was the original conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band in the late 70’s, and accompanied James Taylor in a performance of “Jelly Man Kelly” on Sesame Street in 1983. He also played on The Band's live film, The Last Waltz, and arranged two of the songs they played. Besides the tuba, he plays baritone sax, clarinet and other reed instruments, and penny whistle.
And he's still going strong. I heard him last year at the Guelph Jazz Festival, playing in a tribute with Jane Bunnett to pianist Don Pullen. Just this year, he released his most recent album with his six-tuba group, Gravity.
So this was not your typical tribute show, which are generally for musicians who are, if not dead, at least not playing regularly. Johnson is still in the scene, composing and playing.
Partway through Snaggle's first set on Saturday, I looked around the Avant-Garde Bar and noticed something out of the ordinary in the crowd: no phones and no talking. Every face was turned toward the stage and everyone was listening intently.
And that's what this Toronto-based jazz fusion band deserved. It was an attention-grabbing show, mixing high-quality musicianship with complex compositions, and enhancing it all with friendly communication with the audience.
Snaggle is led by keyboard player Nick Maclean, who grew up in Ottawa, and was a frequent face on this city's jazz scene before he moved to Toronto. The band reflects his own diverse fusion of interests: jazz, of course, but also other beats and different electronic effects. In this, he's joined by trumpeter Brownman Ali, who produced the group's latest album, and performed with them on Saturday. Ali could play straight and beautiful trumpet lines, but also several times ran his instrument through an effects generator for a punctuated, electric-guitar-like sound.
The result: music which could be raw and seriously groove out, but which could also be nuanced and lovely.