Every Sunday 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!

June 26 to 30: Free shows at the Ottawa Jazz Festival

Justin Duhaime ©Brett Delmage, 2019
Justin Duhaime (r) will bring his Gypsy Muse group with guests David Renaud (centre), William Lamoureux, and Edra Silva Cavada to the festival at noon on June 30 ©Brett Delmage, 2019

The Ottawa Jazz Festival is showcasing some local jazz groups performing free noon and afternoon shows. Check them out for free, then you’ll know that you’ll enjoy their evening club and concert shows throughout the year.

The festival offers free concerts from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the large tent in Confederation Park. As well, the Queen Street Fare food hall (Queen Street between Bank and O'Connor) is presenting free shows in conjunction with the festival at 4 p.m. each day. (And in case you're wondering, the musicians are paid for these shows.)

Not all of these are jazz, however. Here are several we can recommend:

Wednesday, June 26, 12 noon:  CYJO 10th Anniversary Alumni Band (Confederation Park)
For many years, concerts by Nick Dyson's Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra were the place to hear classic and modern big band music, including by Canadian composers, played with energy and attention by talented Ottawa students and informed by Dyson's encyclopedic knowledge and love of big band music. Now musicians who played in that band will return for a 10th anniversary concert, playing 100% Canadian music. Read our story about CYJO's Rob McConnell tribute.

Wednesday, June 26, 4 p.m.: Pimienta Blanca (Queen Street Fare)
Pimienta Blanca ("white pepper") perform a spicy blend of Latin jazz and music from Cuba, the Caribbean, and Brazil – including by the Buena Vista Social Club, Rubén González, Chucho Valdés, Cal Tjader, Joe Henderson, and Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Every Sunday 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, June 21, and Saturday, June 22: The Nick Maclean Quartet at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge

Nick Maclean ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Nick Maclean with his quartet in Ottawa ©Brett Delmage, 2018

In the 1960s, pianist Herbie Hancock released a series of quartet/quintet albums on the Blue Note label which continue to speak to jazz lovers today, with tunes which have become standards and a postbop ethos which is both approachable and musically invigorating. Ex-Ottawa and now Toronto jazz pianist Nick Maclean is one of those, and last year released a quartet album which he describes as a “love letter” to Hancock.

Rites of Ascension contains both his quartet's reinterpretation of classic Hancock tunes and new compositions inspired by their compelling and melodic vibe. “What we're trying to do with the quartet is to take the ethos of Herbie's 1960s Blue Note Quartet, but move it into the modern day – with modern compositions, with modern sensibility – and see where that ethos goes today,” Maclean says.

For this weekend, Maclean is bringing the acoustic quartet which actually played on the album: trumpeter Brownman Ali, bassist Jesse Dietschi and drummer Tyler Goertzen. Ali, who studied with Randy Brecker, is also a musician who encompasses both the jazz tradition and modern electric music, and has himself organized tributes, for example a recent five-week tribute to Miles Davis, each week dedicated to a different era in Davis' career.

Maclean has recently expanded the group's repertoire, with three new originals added since their last Ottawa show, and two further Herbie Hancock numbers folded in. With two nights at Brookstreet this time, they should have lots of time to explore all these numbers.

Both Maclean and Ali are powerful performers, Maclean with expressive piano lines and dense harmony, and Ali's trumpet lines ranging from floating and serene to  brash and exclamatory. Expect a crisp and clean and essentially acoustic sound in fast-moving show - with the occasional ballad like Hancock's gentle “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” or the summery “Driftin'” to leaven the more grooving numbers. And listen for impassioned pieces like Maclean's "Nation’s Unrest: A Tribal Conflict" or Ali's “The Madness of Nero” (which was a finalist in the USA Song Writing Competition).

Read OttawaJazzScene.ca's interview with Maclean about the quartet: Nick Maclean performs a love letter to Herbie Hancock

Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Mark Ferguson ©Brett Delmage, 2019 Mike Tremblay ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson and saxophonist Mike Tremblay recorded their new quartet album, Appleface, with renowned Toronto jazz musicians Dave Young and Terry Clarke © Brett Delmage, 2018, 2019

Saturday, June 8, 2019: Ferguson/Tremblay/Young/Clarke CD Release at the Unitarian Church

It's been ten years since Ottawa saxophonist Mike Tremblay and pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson released their first album together. Home has been a long-time favourite (and even an ear-wormer) for us, and we were delighted to hear they had recorded a new album, this time with the renowned and swinging rhythm section of bassist Dave Young and drummer Terry Clarke.

The combination worked, says Ferguson. “Listening to the album I marvel sometimes how Terry will... it’s almost like he has a sixth sense. He’s hearing what a soloist is doing, and really doing something complementary. And Dave’s the same way. Dave’s sense of swing is just amazing, and it makes you sound better. He’s easy to play with and they’re both so supportive, they make you sound better.”

The quartet will officially release the album, Appleface, in Ottawa on Tuesday in a concert at the Unitarian church. They'll perform the entire album, a varied collection of original tunes by Ferguson and Tremblay. They first performed them at GigSpace last September, and then recorded them in December. “For me, it was just really cool to hear my tunes come alive, with all these different perspectives that I had no real idea were there when I wrote these tunes,” Tremblay recounts.

Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Ferguson and Tremblay, in which they explain the unexpected story behind the album's title, the important role audiences played in its development, and the tribute they included in it to a late Ottawa jazz master.

Mark Ferguson, Mike Tremblay, Dave Young, and Terry Clarke will release Appleface in a concert on Tuesday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a seat (advised).

Get there! The concert is at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Avenue. The church is just off Richmond Road, east of Woodroffe Avenue and west of Broadview Avenue. The church has directions and a map. OC Transpo route 11 stops on Richmond Road close to the church, route 16 stops at Dovercourt and Sherbourne about 10 minutes walk away, and route 87 stops at Woodroffe and Richmond, about 12 minutes walk away. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to the show!

The Bytowne Big Band ©Brett Delmage, 2015
The Bytowne Big Band in its 2018 tribute to Snarky Puppy. Foreground: saxophonist Gabriel Paul; background: band director Andrew Knox and trumpeter Ajo Elias ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Every Sunday OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from the dozens of live jazz events in our comprehensive Live Jazz Guide we send to donors. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Saturday, June 8, 2019: The Bytowne Big Band plays all-time jazz favourites with CU3B4 at Queen Street Fare

On Saturday you can hear the big band tradition, in the voice of a new generation of musicians. The 17-member Bytowne Big Band is back, this time with an eclectic show of their all-time jazz favourites - but not the swing chestnuts. Instead, they promise the theme from Family Guy, music from Quincy Jones, and hits from Tower of Power, and much more.

The group debuted in 2018, and has played tribute shows to Snarky Puppy and to drummer Buddy Rich. It's directed by trumpeter Andrew Knox, assisted by saxophonist Andrew Gesing. Knox is a big band aficionado and has written many of the band's arrangements. Its members are mostly in their 20s, but with considerable jazz experience: we've heard almost all of them in large (particularly the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO)) and smaller jazz ensembles around Ottawa.

Our review of the band's Snarky Puppy tribute was impressed by how well the band expressed the more subtle intonations and expressions in Snarky Puppy's music – while also keeping the energy level high. The audience was also impressed by the show, with strong clapping throughout and very strong and extended applause at the end.

This show will be hosted at Queen Street Fare, a new downtown food hall which has been regularly offering live music on its stage since it opened last December.

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!

Florquestra Duo ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Florquestra Duo: (l-r) Regina Gomes Teixeira, Léonard Constant  ©Brett Delmage, 2013

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."

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!

Nicholas Adema ©Brett Delmage, 2019
Nick Adema
©Brett Delmage, 2019

Friday, May 17: Nick Adema Group "Starting Point" EP Release at Irene's Pub

Read our interview with Nick Adema about this show and his new EP

Ottawa trombonist Nick Adema is known for making his own opportunities. While still in high school, he was already organizing shows, including a large-scale tribute to Canadian trombonists as a graduation project. He played in both the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Nepean All-City Jazz Band, bands with high standards, gaining a strong appreciation of the jazz tradition and Canadian jazz.

For the past two years, he's been studying jazz performance at the University of Toronto; he was last seen in Ottawa in March, playing in the trombone section for the second anniversary of Ed Lister's Prime Rib Big Band.

On Friday, he's back, this time to unveil his debut EP, Starting Point. Adema describes the EP as pushing "the boundaries of straight-ahead, contemporary jazz". He recorded it in February in Toronto, with saxophonist David Hodgson, pianist Carter Brodkorb, bassist Evan Gratham, and drummer Jacob Slous, all but one  of whom will be at the Ottawa show. We listened to the EP: its four pieces, all composed by him, range from quiet, thoughtful passages to more intense collaborations, but throughout carefully showcase all the musicians' voices in multi-layered patterns.

Every Sunday 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, May 10: The Jillian McKenna Project at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge

Adrean Farrugia ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Adrean Farrugia playing the piano in the Options Jazz Lounge in a tribute to Thelonious Monk. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Up here in Ottawa, Hamilton might seems simply part of the Great Toronto jazz scene, but it in fact has its own scene, with local venues, the Steel City Jazz Fest each fall, a 35-year youth band (the Hamilton All-Star Jazz Bands), and a jazz program at Mohawk College. Three of its brightest lights are coming to Ottawa this weekend, as part of an Ontario and Quebec tour.

Young bassist Jillian McKenna will bring her Project, a modern jazz trio with pianist Adrean Farrugia and drummer Mackenzie Read to the Options Jazz Lounge on Friday. This is the second time the project has played Ottawa; they were at Live! on Elgin in 2018.

The trio has many long-time connections. All three are from Hamilton, and all but Read still live there. McKenna and Read went to high school together, and McKenna studied music with Farrugia at Mohawk College.

After two years at Mohawk, McKenna obtained a scholarship to the renowned New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, where she studied with famous bassists Reggie Workman, Ben Williams, and Peter Washington. After graduation, she returned to Hamilton and formed the Jillian McKenna Project in 2017. Although still only in her mid-20s, she has performed at the Carthage Music Festival in Tunisia and the Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland, as well as at the Toronto and Niagara Jazz Festivals.

Farrugia has been frequently heard in Ottawa in Tim Shia's jazz group, The Worst Pop Band Ever. He also plays in groups such as sax legend Ernie Watt's band, Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop, and the Matt Dusk Band, and with his wife, vocalist Sophia Pearlman. He was nominated for a jazz JUNO for the debut album from his Ricochet project. In 2018, he released a duo album with American saxophonist Joel Frahm called Blued Dharma, composed of compositions by Farrugia as well as jazz standards.

Every Sunday 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!

Tuesday, April 30: NACJB / NACLB Spring concert with guest Shirantha Beddage at Nepean High School

The Nepean All-City Jazz Band ©Brett Delmage, 2018
The Nepean All-City Jazz Band has invited baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage to perform with them on Tuesday, April 30 ©Brett Delmage, 2018

When we last heard Shirantha Beddage, it was at the JUNO Award showcases in Ottawa in 2017. His latest album had been nominated for a jazz JUNO, and he and his Toronto quartet performed a dynamic set of tunes from the album. Throughout, Beddage created a compelling and vibrant vibe on his baritone sax: from the deep growling groove on his New Orleans-inspired tune “Pork Chop” to the thoughtful intensity of “Centrifugal Force”. The set was a hit with the audience with strong interest and applause.

Beddage is back in Ottawa on Tuesday, as guest artist with two award-winning student bands: the three-decade-strong Nepean All-City Jazz Band, and its younger sister, the Nepean All-City Lab Band. Each year, the bands bring in a guest artist. This year's concert will include a number of Beddage's compositions and arrangements as well as modern big band charts.

Every Sunday 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, April 27: Jesse Stewart-Joe McPhee-Nicholas Caloia at GigSpace

American jazz saxophonist and trumpeter Joe McPhee will turn 80 this year - but you wouldn't know it from the variety and intensity of the albums he's released recently. He has 92 albums listed for sale on his Bandcamp page - and in 2018-19, he released a duo album with renowned percussionist Hamid Drake, another with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, a tribute album to late trumpeter and trombonist Clifford Thornton, a quartet album with saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, a trio album recorded in the Ukraine, and a re-release of his fiery second album, Nation Time from 1971.

Permutations CD cover
Joe McPhee, Nicolas Caloia, and Jesse Stewart released their Permutations trio CD on July 1, 2018, on Stewart's Art Stew Records.

And last July, he released an trio album with Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart and Montreal bassist Nicolas Caloia, called Permutations, shortly after the three had all performed at the Something Else Festival in Hamilton. McPhee, Stewart, and Caloia will reunite in Ottawa this Saturday for two concerts at GigSpace.

The trio first performed in Ottawa at the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival. OttawaJazzScene.ca's review of that show described it as "an evening of unexpected sounds, with a wide dynamic range", with careful listening and responsiveness throughout. "McPhee switched between [pocket] trumpet and tenor sax, with gospel (with brief quotes from “My Lord What a Morning”) and blues tinges in his sax lines. He added desperation and sadness in his playing at one point; at another it was so intense that moisture was dripping off his face; at another it was smooth and clear; at another he was producing harsh strangled sounds."

McPhee, who hails from Poughkeepsie, NY, knows the jazz tradition well, but over a 60+-year career, his heart has been primarily in the avant-garde and pushing the edges. He's performed with European and American masters including Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, and The Thing, as well as in his long-time Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. He's also a conceptual thinker in creative improvisation with his concept of “Po” (process of provocation) music. He was heavily influenced by theorist Pauline Oliveros.

In 2018, Bandcamp interviewed McPhee about his career: “I like the concept of discovery,” he told them. “I’m a romantic. I love music and I love the stories it can tell that quite often don’t get heard.”