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Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in the comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 8 p.m.: Live @ Record Runner: The Dánae Olano Trio
Pianist Dánae Olano Garcia has an impressive background just in Cuba. Studying piano since age 7, she graduated from the Conservatory of Music Amadeo Roldán in Havana and then from the University of Arts (ISA) with Piano Cum Laude. She's performed as a soloist in important concert halls in Cuba and with the symphonic orchestra of Havana Mozart Lyceum. Since 2013, she's been a member of Jane Bunnett's JUNO-winning and Grammy-nominated Maqueque, an Afro-Cuban group which showcases the talent of female jazz musicians from Cuba.
That group has played across Canada (including Ottawa) and the U.S., in halls and clubs such as Koerner Hall, Dizzy’s Club NYC, Blue Note, Birdland, the Kennedy Centre and La Zorra y el Cuervo Club. OttawaJazzScene.ca has heard Olano twice with Maqueque, and was impressed with her skill and how she energetically contributed to the group sound, as well as with her own compositions played by the group.
Now she's spreading her wings outside Maqueque, in a trio with two musicians highly familiar with Cuban jazz. Ottawa bassist Marc Decho is a long-time collaborator with Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas, and has also played with Bunnett, Roberto Riveron, Alexis Baro, Elmer Ferrer, Amado Dedeu Garcia, Reimundo Sosa, and Yoel Diaz. He's also led many of his own groups in styles ranging from jazz/hip-hop to New Orleans dance music to jazz fusion. Ottawa drummer Frank Marinez, originally from Cuba, has a strong academic background in percussion matching Olano's. In Cuba, he played with Frank Delgado and the company “Opera de la Calle”, and since moving to Cabada has performed many groups in Ottawa and Montreal.
For their two shows in Ottawa, they promise "authentic Cuban rhythms mixed with Jazz improvisation and modern harmonies".
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.
When she steps onto the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage this Saturday, vocalist Anne Lewis will be combining two of her passions: for songwriting and for jazz.
With a landmark birthday coming up soon – she'll be 60 next July – she's releasing her third album, the first in more than two decades.
Expressions is a collection of her own original songs, in jazz arrangements by composer Mark Ferguson. She recorded them last year with four jazz musicians well-known to Ottawa audiences: Ferguson on piano and trombone, Mike Rud on guitar, John Geggie on double bass, and Jeff Asselin on drums, along with Petr Cancura on saxophone and Anthony Bacon on cello. She'll perform them with the core quintet at the Fourth Stage.
While she's always loved singing, Lewis' passion for jazz came much later, after she'd already established herself as a singer/songwriter. The reason for her conversion: long-time Ottawa jazz pianist J.P. Allain.
Although it's not obvious at first glance, Lewis is legally blind. In her early 30s, a hereditary disease robbed her of the central part of her vision. Shortly after that, she agreed to sing at a fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and hired Allain as her pianist.
He introduced her to jazz standards, and she fell in love. With some interruptions due to illness and temporarily losing her voice, she has been singing jazz ever since, and is now a regular in the Ottawa jazz scene, with a monthly gig at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed her about her Fourth Stage concert, her love for jazz, and what inspired the music on her new album.