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.

Dánae Olano ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Cuban pianist Dánae Olano has moved beyond the JUNO-winning group Maqueque into also leading her own trio. ©Brett Delmage, 2014

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".

Brownman Ali and Nick Maclean ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Brownman Ali and Nick Maclean, here seen at Snaggle's show in Ottawa last summer, reunite this Saturday in a different group whose influences come from classic jazz. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018, 8 p.m.: Nick Maclean Quartet CD Release: "Rites of Ascension" at the Avant-Garde Bar

Ottawa-raised, now Toronto-based, pianist Nick Maclean, speaks in several musical voices: the groove and electric-jazz group Snaggle, and his mainstream-jazz Nick Maclean Quartet. It's the quartet which he's bringing to Ottawa this Saturday, as part of a mini-tour that will also bring them to Montreal, Kingston, and Cobourg.

They're celebrating the release of the quartet's first CD, Rites of Ascension. It's an all-acoustic exploration of modern jazz in the vein of Blue-Note-era Herbie Hancock. The quartet also features Brownman Ali on trumpet (heard last summer in Ottawa with Snaggle), Jesse Dietschi on bass, and Tyler Goertzen on drums.

Modasaurus ©Brett Delmage, 2016
James McGowan and J.P. Lapensée of Modasaurus ©Brett Delmage, 2016

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

Saturday, February 10, 2018: Modasaurus CD Release Concert at GigSpace

Everything in Modasaurus has at least a double meaning. The Ottawa group's name refers to musical modes and also to dinosaurs – and then also to the multiple word meanings in a thesaurus. The title of their debut album, Two Intents, can be heard as a reference to double meanings and intentions – or to the intensity with which the group plays its compositions.

And each of those compositions features more than one meaning behind its name. As the group notes: "For example, Prime Time features pre-chorus and chorus sections composed with phrasing with prime numbers, while at the same time creating an "epic" sound meant to be heard in prime time; and the disco-funk Cereal and Eggs brings together a melody and chord progression based on 12-tone serial music with a repeating melodic motif of E-G-G."

So Long Seven ©Brett Delmage, 2016
William Lamoureux, Tim Postgate, and Ravi Naimpaly of So Long Seven ©Brett Delmage, 2016

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

Friday, February 2, 2018: So Long Seven at GigSpace

Toronto band So Long Seven is difficult to categorize. Its members all have strong connections to jazz (tabla player Ravi Naimpaly in his Indo-jazz group Tasa, banjo player Tim Postgate in avant-garde jazz, violinist William Lamoureux in mainstream and gypsy jazz, and guitarist Neil Hendry playing with jazz vocalists) – but all of them also play in other genres as well. Lamoureux, who grew up in Gatineau, has frequently collaborated with jazz musicians here, and also fronts the pop-oriented Billy Love Band from Ottawa.

Together, their music is a joyous merging of jazz, world music, and folk, with a good dose of improvisation. Their pieces are exemplified by strong melodies and intertwining lines on guitar, violin, and banjo, all propelled along by the insistent rhythm of the tablas. Their music is almost all original, written by different members of the band.

They've been together for five years now, and in November released their second album, Kala Kalo. Its name translates to “black” in both Hindi and Romani, respectively. The band says that the name refers to those who have been rejected – in other words, the black sheep of the family. ‘Kala Kalo’ is a dedication to anyone who has ever felt ostracized be it in a grander political framework or simply on a personal and community level. 

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018: Live @ Record Runner: The Sam Kirmayer Quartet at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios

We first heard Sam Kirmayer's debut CD, Opening Statement, last fall, and were immediately impressed by its approachable and memorable tunes, strong forward momentum, and fine ensemble performances. While clearly in the tradition – you could hear the influences of jazz guitar masters like Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall – it was also an individual statement that was worth hearing several times over, combining some fine but not over-played jazz standards with four originals.

The young Montreal jazz guitarist was definitely going places.

Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from our comprehensive Jazz Bulletins. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Saturday, January 20, 2018: The Bytowne Big Band Presents The Best of Snarky Puppy at Live! on Elgin

Please note that the location of this concert has changed to Live! on Elgin.

The acclaimed American jazz fusion orchestra Snarky Puppy has not only packed its recent concerts at the Ottawa Jazz Festival (2012, 2014, 2015) with enthusiastic listeners. It's also been a consistent inspiration for many younger jazz musicians in Ottawa and Canada, who cite the band as an important influence when we interview them.

Snarky Puppy bassist and leader Michael League describes the band as "music with a pop sensibility that had depth to it". The Grammy-winning band has also been described as encompassing "Jazz + Funk + World + Soul + Pop". Their music moves from funk to exploratory jazz to lush harmonies.

It's also large in scale, with 18 members in the basic Snarky Puppy, and up to 40 depending on the show. So it makes sense that the Ottawa group paying tribute to it is a big band as well.

Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from our comprehensive Jazz Bulletins. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Friday, January 12, 2018: The Chocolate Hot Pockets at the Orange Art Gallery

For the last few months the Orange Art Gallery has been hosting monthly Live Music Nights, several of which have featured local jazz groups. It's a great opportunity to see inventive art, sip drinks from their licenced bar, eat nibbles, and hear local bands perform live.

In January, the gallery is featuring an Ottawa jazz group which recently celebrated its sixth anniversary, but hasn't lost any of its vigour or playful interaction. The Chocolate Hot Pockets can blast with the best and lay down some serious riffs, but also perform more intimate and thoughtful pieces as well, played with skill and attention. Their music has touches or R&B and neo-soul, but primarily they're a jazz band with a strong groove emphasis.

Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from our comprehensive Jazz Bulletins. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

Thursday, January 4, 2018: Tenor Tantrum at Bar Robo

If there's one archetypal jazz instrument, it has to be the tenor sax. And not always just a single tenor, either: the duo performances of Ben Webster and Don Byas, Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, or Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane have produced great moments in jazz. But not so commonly more than two...

This Thursday, four young jazz tenor players will showcase their music together at Bar Robo, and display how their saxes can blend into fine music. Claire Devlin, Chris Maskell, and Patrick Smith all grew up here in Ottawa, making their mark in student bands like NACJB and CYJO and performing at the jazzfest and in many local venues, before moving to Montreal (Devlin and Maskell) or Toronto (Smith) for university. They've continued to develop their careers there after graduation. For this show, they're joined by Toronto tenor player Emily Steinwall, as well as a rhythm section of Hayden Farrar (Toronto) on bass, and Ottawa-raised Deniz Lim-Sersan (Toronto) on drums.

Each week OttawaJazzScene.ca recommends a live jazz or improvised music performance in Ottawa-Gatineau from our comprehensive Jazz Bulletins. There's a lot of wonderful jazz being presented, so it's often a difficult choice.

NOTE: As of December 4, OttawaJazzScene.ca has changed when it releases its pick of the week, in order to give listeners more notice of shows they might want to attend before they sell out. Instead of being released on Wednesday, our pick will now be published on Sunday, and cover the following Monday to Sunday.

Saturday, December 30, 2017: Brenda Lewis Ottawa CD Release Show at Zolas

Jazz vocalist Brenda Lewis grew up in Eastern Ontario and still has strong links here, although she's now based in Guelph and plays regularly at major Toronto and southwestern Ontario jazz venues. It's been two years, however, since she's last been here, and in that time she released a new CD, Far & Near. It includes stripped-down versions of jazz standards, blues, and gospel numbers, and a bit of torch singing. This show at Zolas Restaurant will the CD's Ottawa release show.

Guitarist Rob Martin has appeared with Lewis at most of her local shows, and they're back together again for this one. With a strong background in both jazz (Humber College) and classical guitar (with Danielle Kassner at the Guitar Society of Toronto), Martin is often heard in Ottawa, playing mainstream jazz and gypsy jazz.