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.

Maclean told OttawaJazzScene.ca that the quartet's music is inspired by Hancock's 1960s quartet with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. “We're taking a lot of influences from his albums Maiden Voyage and Empyrean Isles, but we're exploring it with original tunes, also drawing from more modern ideas, so a couple of the tunes groove a little bit more than they swing. We're dealing with odd meters a lot more, odd phrasing, so stuff you didn't quite see quite as much in those two records, though Herbie certainly did explore that kind of stuff to an enormous degree later in his career.”

The album's title refers to the process of living an examined life, what Maclean says is "a path filled with twists and turns, conflict and confusion... but also joy, meaning and purpose for those who walk well."

The album includes six originals by Maclean and one by Brownman, plus four re-imagined Herbie Hancock classics – all given a fine improvisatory shakeout. As Dave Restivo notes in the album's liner notes, this is "Hancock as inspiration/catalyst, as opposed to an imitative effort". It opens with three pieces by Hancock, including his memorable "Cantaloupe Island" and the "One Finger Snap", played even faster than the already-challenging original, and then moves into the originals, several directly inspired by Hancock, before ending with the wistful "Tell Me a Bedtime Story".

Expect hard-swinging modern jazz, leavened by ballads and blues: very much in the tradition, but with a modern twist.

Read our previous articles about Nick Maclean:

The Nick Maclean Quartet will perform at the Avant-Garde Bar in Ottawa on Saturday, February 17, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, but only $10 if you register in advance by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The bar doesn't have many seats in the prime listening area, so an early arrival is advised. The Avant-Garde Bar is at 135½ Besserer Street, one block south of Rideau Street, just east of Dalhousie Street. OC Transpo routes 7, 12, 14, and 18 all stop on Rideau Street nearby, and the bar is also walking distance from the Mackenzie-King station on the Transitway.

OttawaJazzScene.ca releases its pick of the week on Sunday, covering the following Monday to Sunday, in order to give listeners more notice of shows they might want to attend before they sell out.

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