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!

Thursday, February 21, 2019: Samuel Bonnet CD Launch: "Oriental Blue" at the Avant-Garde Bar

Samuel Bonnet (image provided by artist)
Samuel Bonnet (image provided by artist)

Montreal guitarist and composer Samuel Bonnet will launch his new album, Oriental Blue, this week in Quebec and Ontario. The album combines both North American, European, and Middle Eastern influences: "The 'Blue Notes' of Jazz flirt here with the oriental 'melisms', the memories of his native Israel mingle with the scents of Andalusia and Jewish scales combine with North African rhythms."

The tunes are "a poetic journey" inspired by different musical traditions: flamenco, klezmer, gnawa, jazz, and Latin music. They also have a visual dimension: "Oriental Blue" is Bonnet's name for "ultramarine" blue, made from lapis-lazuli, a precious stone prized by painters and jewellers for its intensity since the time of the ancient Egyptians.

The concert will feature Bonnet and French saxophonist Mathias Wallerand, whose roots in Lebanon and Armenia are also reflected in his playing. In performances "fed by jazz and contemporary music", their musical dialogue explores "all the resources and dynamics" of both their instruments. They've performed this music for several years, most recently on tour last October, including in Ottawa.

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!

Sunday, February 17, 2019: Karen Oxorn presents Nancy Wilson: The Great American Song Stylist at Music@Mill Road

Karen Oxorn ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Karen Oxorn's tribute to Nancy Wilson is the latest in a long series of concerts she's presented honouring her favourite jazz vocalists. ©Brett Delmage, 2016

In a 50-year career, vocalist Nancy Wilson recorded more than 70 albums. She won three GRAMMY Awards, an Emmy Award in 1968 for her NBC TV series, The Nancy Wilson Show, and was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2004. She sang pop, soul, R&B and jazz: her website says she blurred the line between jazz singer and pop singer, preferring to be called a “song stylist.”

But jazz fans remember her particularly fondly. The album she recorded in 1961 with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley has proven to be a jazz vocal classic: Adderley helped launch Wilson's career as a major jazz vocalist, and convinced her to emphasize more sophisticated jazz and ballad material. She also recorded with George Shearing, Ramsey Lewis, Toots Thielemans, Grover Washington, jr., Gerald Wilson, and Hank Jones.

In a 2007 interview with the National Endowment for the Arts, Wilson said, “I've always surrounded myself with great jazz musicians although what I was singing might not have been considered jazz. It's probably because I did not scat in the Ella or Betty Carter tradition. Because I didn't do those things, maybe some of the jazz critics did not think that I was [a jazz singer]. But it didn't bother me. I figured if I was true to myself, if I sang the things I liked, it would touch people's heart and their ears and they would hear, and they would feel. I think that that's what a master is, if you can do that.”

She died in December, and among those remembering her music with affection is Ottawa jazz vocalist Karen Oxorn. On Sunday, Oxorn, together with Tim Bedner on guitar and Ken Seeley on bass, will present a tribute concert: Nancy Wilson: The Great American Song Stylist.

Oxorn says that Wilson was "one of my favourite interpreters of the timeless standards of the Great American Songbook". She originally conceived the tribute  as a celebration of the 60th anniversary of Wilson's debut album Like In Love, but "it has become a fond and appreciative look back at her lengthy and influential career".

The show will include songs from across Wilson's career, beginning with her debut recording, Like In Love from 1959 up to her 2006 CD entitled Turned To Blue. The audience will hear well-known standards – "Almost Like Being In Love", "Fly Me To The Moon", "Teach Me Tonight", "This Time The Dream's On Me", "What A Little Moonlight Will Do" – and Oxorn will particularly feature Wilson's signature tune, "Guess Who I Saw Today", which she describes as "a beautiful testament to love with a surprising twist".

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!

Thursday, February 7 to Saturday, February 9, 2019:  The 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival at La Nouvelle Scène

Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee plays with two different groups at the 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Three good things about this year's winter jazz festival:

1) It's all jazz

2) It features an excellent mix of talented American and Canadian jazz musicians, with a wide enough range of styles to appeal to almost all jazz fans

3) It has invited three talented musicians – Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel, the JUNO-nominated Toronto guitarist Kevin Breit, and NYC saxophonist Michael Blake – as festival artists-in-residence, and will feature them in four concerts in new collaborations among themselves and with other artists.

Like vocal jazz? Go hear Nellie McKay, Megan Jerome's Together Ensemble, or vocalist Marin Patenaude with Pugs & Crows.

Piano jazz? The Joey Calderazzo Trio, and the Marianne Trudel Trio.

Something funkier? The 33Z's tribute to Aretha Franklin, or Rémi-Jean LeBlanc's quartet.

Music a bit off-the-wall? Kevin Breit’s Bona Fide Scoundrels.

Enjoy the unexpected? Try any of the four Artists-in-Residence Collaborations, or the “unscripted” and “intuitive” music of the  Michael Blake Trio with Jerry Granelli and Peggy Lee.

Interested in everything? Check out the full line-up.

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, February 2, 2019:  The Kellylee Evans Quartet at Christ Church Cathedral

Kellylee Evans ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Kellylee Evans with bassist Mark Godfrey at the 2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest ©Brett Delmage, 2018

A Kellylee Evans concert is like a soulful revival meeting – with passionate singing, expressive musicianship, and a beat that energizes the whole room. When we heard the Ottawa vocalist and her quartet perform at Merrickville's Jazz Fest last October, she had almost the entire audience dancing in front of the stage in a huge conga line by the end of the show. They demanded an encore and gave her two standing ovations.

Evans' music, almost all of which is her own compositions, is personal, hopeful, and inspiring. It walks the edge between soul and jazz with an occasional taste of hip-hop. She won a JUNO Award in 2011 for "Best Jazz Vocal Album" for Nina, her impassioned tribute to jazz vocalist Nina Simone; she was also nominated in that category last year for Come On, her latest album.

She's performing an afternoon concert this Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral, in honour of Black History Month, It will be Ottawans' first chance to hear her with her full band since Merrickville. We were very impressed with those Toronto musicians, each of whom has both strong academic and professional credentials. Pianist Michael Shand played in Archie Alleyne's Kollage, and around the world with jazz and pop artists including Molly Johnson, Matt Dusk, Divine Brown, and Jully Black. Bassist Mark Godfrey won the Grand Prix de Jazz from the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2014 with his group Pram Trio and has also played with Toronto Jazz Orchestra, Barbra Lica, and Teri Parker. Drummer Ian Wright has played with acclaimed jazz/pop musicians such as Autobahn, Rich Brown, Hawksley Workman, Phil Dwyer, Denzal Sinclaire, Nancy Walker, and Roberto Occhipinti.

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!

Friday, January 25, 2019:  The Lorraine Desmarais Trio plays Bill Evans at La Nouvelle Scène

Lorraine Desmarais ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Lorraine Desmarais at a Montreal Jazz Festival concert in Salle Gésu ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Pianist Lorraine Desmarais is renowned as an inventive and nuanced bandleader and composer – a major part of Quebec's and Canada's jazz scenes. She's led her own big band, performed with l'Orchestre National de Jazz de Montréal, and more than held her own with visiting international stars like Chick Corea or the Brubeck brothers. In her 35-year career, she's released twelve albums of original compositions plus jazz standards, three of which (Trio Lorraine Desmarais, Jazz pour Noël, and Big Band) won FÉLIX awards in Quebec. In 2012, she was named to the Order of Canada; in 2002, the Montreal Jazz Festival awarded her its highest honour, the Oscar Peterson Award.

Her most compelling music has been created with her long-time trio with double bassist Fréderic Alarie and drummer Camil Belisle. (Ottawa audiences will recognize Camil from his recent performances in Garry Elliott's and Steve Boudreau's quartet.)

We heard Desmarais' trio a few years ago at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the intimate surroundings of Salle Gésu.To hear her in a simple trio setting, with pieces which complemented but did not repeat each other, showed her continuing talent, both as a performer and as a composer. Our review described her performance as "effervescent, in her piano playing, in her extended and cheerful explanations of the music, and in her intuitive interactions with her musicians. Not giddy, but rather expressing the joy of music shared with people who appreciated it."

Friday's concert is a rare appearance for Desmarais in Ottawa/Gatineau. She brought both her trio and her big band to the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2010, and, in 2016 she accompanied vocalist Térez Montcalm at the mid-summer Parc de l'Imaginaire jazz festival in Aylmer.

For their show at La Nouvelle Scène, the trio will pay tribute to iconic jazz pianist Bill Evans, a subtle and highly influential interpreter and composer who incorporated harmonic colour from French impressionistic composers like Fauré, Debussy and Ravel in his music. Desmarais has said she was more influenced by McCoy Tyner, but in listening to her music you can hear the how both she and Evans have a deep emotional connection to what they play. The trio will recreate Evans' favourite songs in an intimate and elegant conversation.

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!

Friday, January 18, 2019:  Steve Amirault at GigSpace

Steve Amirault ©Brett Delmage, 2003
Steve Amirault (centre) with Christine Jensen and John Geggie at a jazz festival jam ©Brett Delmage, 2003

Over an 26-year and six-album career, pianist Steve Amirault has produced memorable and lyrical compositions which touched our hearts A laureate of the Montreal International Jazz Festival Competition, he's also been recognized with notable Quebec awards including a Prix OPUS and an ADISQ nomination for his CD Breath. He spent 25 years in Montreal's jazz scene, where he played on JUNO-winning albums by Christine Jensen and François Carrier and performed with legendary musicians Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Joe Chambers, Mike Clark, Tim Hagans, Sheila Jordan and Eddie Gomez. He moved to Toronto in 2015.

Starting a decade ago, he added his baritone vocals to his repertoire. His most recent album, Hold On, Let Go, released in 2017, includes both. He describes the album: "This is my first recording as a Torontonian, my first solo record, and my first album of mostly standards (with the exception of two originals). It is my second outing as both pianist and vocalist, and for this one I wanted it to be intimate and reflect what I do on my solo performances: just the piano, a microphone and some songs I like."

"I recorded tunes that I felt worked well with my style and ones that I was able to add a little something something to. I recorded the singing and playing at the same time, and we did very little editing because of bleeding between the vocal and piano mics. One, two, three....GO!"

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!

Thursday, January 10, 2019:  Jazz Fusion Night at the House of Targ

Andrew Ferderber ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Andrew Ferderber will perform with the Dandy Lions in this first Jazz Fusion night at the House of Targ ©Brett Delmage, 2016

This is the first in a new series of shows at the House of Targ, which will be curated by Canadian jazz-rock fusion guitarist and composer Wayne Eagles. "Out There Sounds" will feature jazz fusion groups: "mind-blowing musicianship that pushes the boundaries of rock, blues and funk through the power of jazz harmony, improvisation and inspiration from Out There!" Eagles has previously organized several concerts at the House of Targ, including with his own Super Awesome Group and with the Carleton University Jazz Fusion Ensemble, which he directs.

The first two groups will showcase the effort of six talented young Ottawa musicians, whom you might have heard in the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra or in the Jazz Fusion Ensemble – plus in their own groups.

The Dandy Lions are "a jazz/funk/fusion trio playing anything from originals to jazz standards to not so standard standards. Inspired by artists like Mike Stern, Tribal Tech, Allan Holdsworth, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wes Montgomery". The trio includes drummer Andrew Ferderber, guitarist Isaac Isenor, and bassist Harrison Singer.

They'll be followed by CU3B4, with pianist Anthony Kubelka, saxophonist Angelo Leo, and drummer Jennie Seaborn. They'll perform their own originals, plus tunes by Kamasi Washington, Roy Hargrove, and Tony Williams' New Lifetime, among others.

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, January 5, 2019: The Justin Duhaime Quartet with Jason Anick play music à la Django and Grappelli at Irene's

Justin Duhaime and Nabil Yaghi ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Justin Duhaime (r) and Nabil Yaghi (l) play gypsy jazz as a duo and in Duhaime's quartet
©Brett Delmage, 2017

Ottawa guitarist Justin Duhaime not only plays gypsy jazz with verve and passion. He's been a strong promoter of the genre, bringing into Ottawa acclaimed practitioners from Canada, the U.S., and Europe, including violinists Tcha Limberger and William Lamoureux, and guitarists Stephane Wrembel and Denis Chang.

On Saturday Ottawa audiences will hear Duhaime collaborate with another accomplished practitioner: American violinist Jason Anick. Anick is one of the youngest violin professors at Boston's Berklee College of Music. Downbeat has called him "a rising star in the world of jazz violin and mandolin", and named his album United one of its top releases in 2017. In his own jazz ensemble, Anick plays "contemporary jazz that is stylistically inclusive in nature, a jazz that brings whatever it can to the party, unwilling to cut something out of the mix for fear of it not fitting prescribed boundaries."

Currently, Anick's main musical focus is the Rhythm Future Quartet. He co-leads the acoustic gypsy jazz group with Finnish guitarist Olli Soikkeli. The quartet has "a straightforward agenda: to keep the spirit of Gypsy jazz alive and expanding in today’s musical universe." Their name comes from a Django Reinhardt tune, and their sound is influenced by the classic Hot Club of France, "yet wholly contemporary". The quartet plays both the standards of gypsy jazz and their own compositions, drawing upon "diverse international rhythms and musical idioms". In November, they released the EP Rhythm Future Quartet and Friends.

Anick also played gypsy jazz all over the world with Grammy-Award-winning guitarist John Jorgenson. He spent 10 years in Jorgenson's group, starting immediately after he graduated from studying jazz and classical violin at the Hartt Conservatory.

Duhaime and Anick will perform with two Ottawa musicians: guitarist Nabil Yaghi, a frequent and accomplished collaborator with Duhaime, and double bassist Normand Glaude, known for his fine tone on both bass and harmonica. The quartet will also perform in Toronto, at The Rex Hotel, on Sunday, January 6.

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, December 29, 2018: Wave at Zolas

As life slows down a bit between Christmas and New Year's, it's a chance to try out some of the mainstays of Ottawa's jazz scene. Zolas, an Italian restaurant which has anchored Bells Corners in west-end Ottawa for the last 32 years, has been scheduling weekly jazz shows for more than 8 years now. It offers dinner with jazz, generally featuring vocalists or smooth instrumentals.

One group which frequently plays there is Wave: three musicians who share a love of the complex rhythms and harmonies of the bossa nova. Wave takes its name from a composition by Antônio Carlos Jobim, and his songs are an important part of their repertoire, along with pieces by other Brazilian composers, mostly sung in the original Portuguese. The group performs both Jobim's well-known songs like "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)" or "Águas de Março (The Waters of March)" as well as gems rarely heard outside Brazil. They also play Great American Songbook standards, particularly those made famous by Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé, Latin tunes, and a few pop numbers. They've performed at local jazz festivals, and sold out concerts at GigSpace.