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Ottawa - São Paulo Return! Doors Open for Music at Southminster Southminster United Church Wednesday, January 31, 2018 – 12 noon
Evandro Gracelli has traded the warmth and sun of São Paulo, Brazil, for the chills and slush of a February in Ottawa – for a month of playing with his many musical friends here, including two more concerts.
The guitarist and vocalist is in Ottawa until the beginning of March, strengthening old ties and building new ones. When he lived here in 2010-11, he energized the local Latin jazz scene, and added considerable flair to many local groups. He has two more shows coming up.
One of his strongest links was with vocalist Rachel Beausoleil, with whom he formed the group Sol da Capital. Beausoleil fell in love with what we call Brazilian jazz and they call “Música Popular Brasileira” (MPB), and ended up travelling to Brazil three times to learn more about it – performing there with Gracelli and other Brazilian musicians, and learning Portuguese. She recently successfully defended her PhD thesis on MPB.
They scheduled two Sol da Capital shows for Gracelli's return – one a few weeks ago at Southminster United Church which I attended, and one coming up this Wednesday. Besides Beausoleil and Gracelli, the group also includes three musicians well-known for playing Brazilian and Panamerican jazz: Jasmin Lalande on saxophones and flute, Sílvio Módolo on electric bass, and Angel Araos on drums and percussion.
Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz by Fred Hersch Crown Archetype, 2017 ISBN: 978-11019-0434-3 reviewed by Alayne McGregor
Fred Hersch, who performed here earlier this month, is a perennially-popular artist among Ottawa jazz fans. His recent autobiography is a fascinating look at an innovative and creative composer and performer.
In this book, pianist Fred Hersch turns his life into a composition with shape, and drive, and flow, driven by absorbing and not completely expected developments. There's slow passages, and some tragic ones – and periods of great triumph and joy.
There's also times when he's clearly improvising, trying and discarding musical and career options, but always continuing to explore his own voice as a composer and a musician.
Hersch is a pianist and composer, primarily in jazz, who is known both for his interpretations of jazz standards and for his own work. He primarily plays solo or with his trio, but he's also produced larger-scale works – for example, based on the poems of Walt Whitman. These days, he's one of the most acclaimed performers in jazz, but for many years he felt as though he didn't fit anywhere.
It's a fascinating personal account, particularly of times past in the 1970s to the 1990s – both in jazz and in the gay community. Hersch talks openly and confessionally about his family, his fellow musicians, his mentors, his friends and lovers, and his work and his art – but also places them in context, so one can understand the barriers he faced and the opportunities he had.
The book opens with a young man in Cincinnati who knows he's a talented musician and knows he's gay – but doesn't yet know how to create a life for himself which will use his talents fully and make him happy. It takes Hersch through his education, his early years on the road and in New York City, his initial recordings, and finally to the acclaimed musician he is today – all the way through talking about what he learned on the way.
Ottawa jazz vocalist Kellylee Evans has received her third JUNO Award nomination, for her long-delayed album Come On.
Evans will be competing against Diana Krall, Matt Dusk, Michael Kaeshammer, and last year's winner Bria Skonberg in the Vocal Jazz Album category in the 2018 JUNO Awards. This year's nominations were released today, and the winners will be announced in Vancouver on March 24 and 25.
Two musicians appearing this week at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival – Chet Doxas and Hilario Durán – are also on the nominees' list, along with Michael Kaeshammer, who will perform at the National Arts Centre on Thursday, and Christine Jensen, who performed here last Friday and who will return in April.
Evans released Come On in Ottawa last November – two years after its original release in France, because of delays caused by her being hit by lightning and a subsequent concussion. She told OttawaJazzScene.ca that she was excited to finally release it in North America.
The album is a collection of originals she wrote with her co-producer, French jazz pianist Eric Legnini. She describes it as vibrant, and “a summer kind of album. Lots of fun. It's a more joyful album. Less introspective.”
The Vocal Jazz category also contains Krall's and Skonberg's collections of jazz standards, Matt Dusk's Christmas jazz CD, and Michael Kaeshammer's album of original jazz and pop tunes (mostly vocal with two instrumentals). Krall was also nominated in the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year category for her album Turn Up the Quiet, which she co-produced with the late Tommy Lipuma.
In the Jazz Album: Solo category, the nominees are highly diverse. Pianist Hilario Durán's album, Contumbao, is a tribute to his roots in Cuba with performances by Cuban musicians including Chucho Valdes. Saxophonist Chet Doxas took his inspiration from modern art for his compositions in Rich In Symbols. Saxophonist Ralph Bowen, who has been part of the NYC jazz scene for three decades and teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, is nominated for his straight-ahead jazz quartet album with a suite of animal-inspired titles.
As a teenager growing up in Cuba, Hilario Durán loved that island's style of big band music – a love he's continued with all his life, and will share with Ottawa audiences on Friday.
Durán will present the big band compositions which won him a JUNO Award and a Grammy nomination – performed for the first time by a group of 16 jazz musicians from Ottawa and Montreal, brought together especially for this show.
While the musicians have many years of experience playing in big bands, and some in Latin bands, Durán hasn't played with any of them before. But he's brought his music to other unfamiliar big bands and orchestras before, and he's looking forward to the challenge.
“It's going to be great! I'm very excited, and looking forward to it.”
What they'll be playing is not the classic big band swing of Glenn Miller, but rather Latin big band music. The difference, Durán says, is in the rhythms: “The rhythm section is Cuban, with congas and batas and other extra instruments from American jazz with an Latin influence.”
It's a mixture that was popularized by big bands led by Stan Kenton and Tito Puente, starting in the 1940s and 50s. Durán first heard this music growing up in Cuba.
“Many years ago, when I was a teenager in Havana, there were big bands in Havana in the nightclubs. There were club shows and there were big band often accompanying those shows with dancers and stuff. Also on the radio, there were lots of big bands. So I always had my attention on this kind of format, this kind of instrumentation.”
“I always love it, the big band sound, five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets and the rhythm section. Always it got my attention, And also because there was a very big band in Havana at the end of the 1950s, Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, and I had the privilege to get into that big band years later assuming the directorship then. So that's where I learned all the secrets of big band music, working with the street bands.”
In France, Georges Brassens' lyrics are studied in school. In 1967, he was awarded the Grand Prix de Poésie de l'Academie Française, France's highest poetry award. And for almost three decades from the 1950s until his death in 1981, he was a hugely popular chansonnier in that country.
He's also a strong inspiration for jazz musicians, including the local group Le Projet Brassens. They demonstrated how well Brassens could combine with jazz in their well-received tribute on Sunday evening.
Brassens' songs are both romantic and frequently satirical. His targets include religion, the ossified class structure, social conformity, and moral hypocrisy with a wicked gleam in his (metaphorical) eye. His debut album was entitled “Georges Brassens chante les chansons poétiques (et souvent gaillardes) de ... Georges Brassens” [“Georges Brassens sings the poetic (and often rather risqué) songs of Georges Brassens”].
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.
The festival has announced eleven concerts over three days for the winter festival – one day and one concert shorter than in 2017, but keeping the same general format. In late December, it finished the line-up by announcing 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, and in January it added another late-evening concert to Thursday.
Combining fine ensemble playing with interesting compositions and congenial introductions, Sam Kirmayer and his quartet strongly connected with their Ottawa audience Thursday.
The young Montreal guitarist is definitely attuned to the jazz tradition, but uses that tradition as a springboard for his own musical voice. The show combined original tunes from his 2017 debut CD with newer ones from his upcoming second release, as well as classic but not overplayed standards.
The result: a collection of approachable tunes which flowed easily from one to the other, in a friendly and inviting show which consistently evoked warm applause in the intimate room. It was the first show of mini-tour this weekend that also took the quartet to Quebec City and Montreal.
Kirmayer has said that one of his strongest influences is jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. His tune “Synecdoche”, for example, is based on Montgomery's classic “Four on Six”, which, in turn, was based on George Gershwin's “Summertime”. It's definitely its own tune – Kirmayer noted that he changed the key to the more-difficult E flat minor and added more chords and changed the rhythm– but you could hear a certain heritage in the music.