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Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca highlights a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide. There's a great deal of interesting, new jazz to choose from every week, so it's often a difficult choice!
Saturday, May 25: VivaFest: The Florquestra Duo with Jasmin Lalande at the National Arts Centre
On May 24-26, the National Arts Centre presents VivaFest, in partnership with Lula Music and Axé Worldfest. It's a festival of world music and jazz, with an emphasis on rhythmic and accessible music. Included in that festival is Ottawa-Gatineau's Florquestra, which will play a free concert at the NAC on Saturday afternoon.
For the last decade, Florquestra has been bringing radiant melodies and rhythms to Ottawa-Gatineau. The group is centred on vocalist and percussionist Regina Gomes Teixeira and guitarist and vocalist Léonard Constant). Teixeira contributes the songs and rhythms of her native Brazil; Constant the poetry of France, in particular chanson poet Georges Brassens, as well as occasional dips into Leonard Cohen's oeuvre. Together with a varying troupe of local jazz and Brazilian musicians, they have brightened up many clubs in Ottawa-Gatineau with their brand of lyrical and highly danceable music, often including many traditional Brazilian instruments in their shows.
One of their frequent collaborators is saxophonist and flutist Jasmin Lalande, whose fluent melodies complement and soar over the group's driving rhythms.
They released their debut album, Flortografia, in 2013; our review said the music "was all served with a cabaret sensibility and with strong Brazilian rhythms underneath, for a unified and highly infectious whole."
Ottawa trombonist and composer Nick Adema is just 19 but he’s already releasing his debut EP recording, Starting Point. The four pieces on the album, all composed by him, range from quiet, thoughtful passages to more intense collaborations, but throughout carefully showcase all his musicians' voices in multi-layered patterns. The songs were all inspired by his Ottawa experiences. [listen on NickAdema.com]
At Irene’s this Friday, Ottawa listeners can hear Adema's original music arising from those experiences. He'll be joined on-stage by the fellow musicians on the recording, who are studying jazz at the University of Toronto. The experienced Ottawa jazz musicians in the Zakari Frantz Trio, with bassist Keith Hartshorn-Walton and Mike Essoudry, will open the show.
Adema considers this debut recording to be “my starting point in the professional jazz scene.”
Although he’s only completed his second year in Jazz Performance at U of T, he already has a proven track record of working hard, being accepted in and performing in award winning bands, composing his own music, and being recognized for his talent and effort. He performed in the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the Nepean All-City Jazz Band, and the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra since Grade 10, and was selected to perform in the national jazz Honour Ensemble, the Conn-Selmer Centerstage Jazz Band. As a personal music project while in Grade 12, he organized and presented his own public concert.
Three times this winter he played his tenor trombone for an evening with the Prime Rib Big Band in Ottawa, hopping in the afternoon on the bus from Toronto, and then returning overnight.
Adema’s awards and scholarships include National Arts Centre Orchestra Outstanding Brass Player Award (2015), the MusicFest Nepean All-City Jazz Band Honour Award (2017), the Albert & Wilhelmine Francis Renewable (full tuition, University of Toronto) Scholarship, and Tim O’Hara Jazz Scholarship (Nepean High School).
This is a lightly edited record of the email conversation OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage had with Nick Adema about his journey to Starting Point.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you make an EP now? What musical itch or other need did you have to make it?
Nick Adema: I have been writing a lot of music for different groups in Toronto for the two years I have been here, and I felt I had enough music to put out confidently. I only made it an EP with four tracks because I wanted something I can use to market my self as a "starting point". Although I started the process for this EP in September, it was something I just did on a whim at the beginning of the year.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you chose a quintet, and this particular instrumentation?
On Monday evening, the McGill Jazz Orchestra I, directed by JUNO-winning composer Christine Jensen, performed a packed and vibrant hour-long concert for students at the MusicFest Nationals in Ottawa. It was a show I was glad to have heard.
While ostensibly a student band, the orchestra includes many musicians who have played professionally here in Ottawa, and its standard of playing was extremely high. Montreal's jazz scene and McGill University's jazz program are strongly entwined, with many well-known jazz musicians teaching there and many of its graduates enlivening the scene.
The show opened and closed with two mid-60s tunes by Thad Jones, whose innovative compositions brought a new framework and new sounds to big band writing. The Orchestra presented a “Thad Jones Lineage” tribute concert in April, and “The Waltz You Swang for Me” was an engaging opening number. It featured Ottawa's Claire Devlin on flying soprano sax soloing over the exuberant full band.
Jazz fans have an extensive opportunity to hear performances by some of Canada’s most talented young musicians in the next six days.
Almost 100 student jazz bands from coast-to-coast, including the Charlottetown (PEI) Rural Senior Jazz Ensemble and the Wellington Secondary School in Naniamo, B.C., are coming to Ottawa from Monday May 13 to Friday May 17 to play their very best jazz in the MusicFest Nationals. Their reward is the opportunity to earn Gold, Silver, or Bronze recognition, get constructive advice from judges, learn from professional musicians and other students, and win thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Notable Canadian jazz musicians who performed at MusicFest when they were young include “Diana Krall, Christine Jensen, Ingrid Jensen, Campbell Ryga, Steve McDade, Brad Turner, Larnell Lewis, Eli Bennett, and about half the jazz faculty at Humber,” MusicFest Associate Director and Instrumental Jazz Chair Neil Yorke-Slader informed OttawaJazzScene.ca.
Adjudicated performances ranging from big bands to smaller jazz combos will be presented on MusicFest’s jazz stage at the Bronson Centre (211 Bronson Avenue). The 30-minute mini-concerts run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. All concerts are free and open to the public. Listeners are expected to remain seated during the performances and remain quiet, to allow the students to focus and the judges to hear every well-articulated note. All performances will also be live streamed - particularly helpful for friends and family of musicians who are coming from thousands of kilometres away.
Ottawa's jazz scene has often been enriched by musicians who are here for a short time – a few months or a year – and then move on after having played in local jazz jams and with local musicians.
Drummer Nicholas Bracewell has had a peripatetic career: raised in Windsor, he received his Bachelors and Masters in jazz performance from Michigan State University across the border, and has also lived in Vancouver. He's performed at festivals around the U.S. and Canada such as the Detroit Jazz Festival and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
He's currently in Ottawa, as his wife is studying here, and has been playing in jazz locations around town. In April, his quartet with three Ottawa musicians – guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist Chris Pond, and pianist Peter Hum – hosted the late-night Jazz Monday jazz jams at Le Petit Chicago.
OttawaJazzScene.ca was there for the quartet's last Monday, where they performed a mix of jazz classics by Joe Henderson, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter, as well as originals by Hum and Moxon. The vibe was electric and elastic: in Moxon's “Crab Walk”, fluid guitar and bright piano soared over responsive bass and drums in a jazz fusion feel. Bracewell's strong drumming kept the energy up throughout, and in Coltrane's "26-2", he briskly traded 4's with Moxon.
Despite the nearby Chaudière Bridge being closed because of floodwaters in the Ottawa River, the bar gradually filled during the host band's set. Listeners applauded happily after each tune.
Listening to the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO) tribute on Saturday to American bandleader and composer Benny Carter, you could hear why Carter had an eight-decade career in jazz. His music was warm, approachable, and repaid close listening.
Since 2006, the OJO has performed the music of many jazz legends from the 20th century, including Ellington, Mingus, and Miles Davis. Its concerts introduce listeners to jazz history, and give them a chance to hear large-scale works that aren't often performed live.
This was the first time that they had paid tribute to Carter, and OJO artistic director Adrian Cho decided to have Carter's music played by two different ensembles. The first set featured a saxophone quintet (effectively the sax section of a big band with two altos, two tenors, and a baritone) plus pianist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer. In the second set, these musicians were joined by one additional saxophonist, four trombonists, and four trumpeters to form an 18-piece big band – which just barely fit on the stage, even with extra sections added.
The additional musicians gave an extra richness – but not extra loudness – to the sound. Throughout, the music filled the intimate Fourth Stage but did not overwhelm it. As Cho noted, this gave listeners a chance to see a big band up “right up close”, as they did in the swing era.