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.
Friday, April 13, 2018, 8 p.m.: North of Mind with Don Ross at Dominion Chalmers United Church
Jazz meets dance meets fingerstyle guitar on Friday – in a meditation about Canada's North.
The “North of Mind” concert, at Dominion Chalmers United Church, is based on jazz improvisation, but not like your typical jazz show. Rather, it's an attempt by its two young creators, saxophonist Dennis Bass and dancer Jordan Samonas, to combine his improvisational ideas with her dance background.
As they note, “Even some parts that seem like they would have to be planned, like the soundscape for example, were created in the moment and solidified later from the mindset of a producer. Creation and communication through improvisation is this project's underpinning.”
For this show, they recruited master fingerstyle guitarist Don Ross, who is the current music artist-in-residence at Carleton University, where Bass is about to finish his music degree. Ross more usually displays his virtuoso technique and complex compositions at folk festivals, but has begun to collaborate with jazz musicians as well, and will debut a jazz quartet at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in June.
Ross will open the show with a solo performance, and collaborate with solo dancer Sarah Hopkin to close. In the middle will be three original pieces danced by eight dancers and choreographed by Samonas, which will be rooted in structured improvisation.
OttawaJazzScene.ca asked Samonas and Bass to tell us more about the show. This is a lightly-edited version of their emailed response:
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Where did you get the idea for this show?
We knew we wanted to collaborate on something together. We were talking about Canada, and about the North. I read a lot about Glenn Gould's Idea of North. I thought a lot about how North as a place and idea is romanticized in "Canadiana culture", and also how controversial it is in a way - our strong identity with it as Canadians but also culturally our ambivalence, ignorance and disconnect with it. What is North, where is North, who lives there, who visits? I read and thought a lot about relationship and connectedness to land, Northern communities, Indigenous connectiveness to community and land and how powerful the bond is between person/community and place. For us, North is not only place, but a state of mind.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How are the dance pieces rooted in structured improvisation?
There is a structure to each piece, but exactly how each piece happens each time it's performed is brand new, and unknown to the dancers and choreographer. Dancers attend to self, other and music for special cues that inform them what to do or where to go next. Constraints/rules are also used to determine how the dancer chooses what to do next; for example: only use your hands, move only on 90 degree angles, run across the stage. Dancers know the appropriate time for each cue and they themselves decide how and when they want to express each cue during the appropriate time.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What music will be the dancers be dancing to (other than the collaboration between Don Ross and the solo dancer at the end)? Will it be live or recorded?
Dennis, in collaboration with local pianist Clayton Connell, composed and produced a recorded 20-minute soundscape for the first dance scene. The foundation for the soundscape is celestial white noise, which, on a certain level, is the background music to the soundtrack of our lives. Upon this base, a foreboding track was born, using samples from pop culture and everyday electronic sounds to build to an intense EDM climax.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What music will Don be playing in his section of the show?
Don will be performing an opening set of his original music, drawing from his extensive discography. His rhythmic playing style borrows from blues, jazz, folk and classical music.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What are you aiming for with this collaboration?
We are aiming to collaborate! That in itself is the aim. This whole project is a collaboration between our producers, the artists, and everyone on our team including our mentors, friends, people like our graphic designer, photographer, videographer, our amazing lighting designers and technicians, our video projection artist who created original video projection art for the show, and many more individuals who have generously given us their time on stage, in rehearsals, in meetings because they want to help see this realized too.
We also wanted to create an event that is a fusion of many dance and music genres (which it is!) We have a contemporary group piece which is almost contemporary-theatre, we have tap dance like you've never seen it before, we have live and original music, as well as the tap dancers making their own music, and we are so incredibly grateful to have the musical stylings of acclaimed fingerstyle guitarist Don Ross.
North of Mind with Don Ross will be presented at Dominion Chalmers United Church on Friday, April 13, 2018, from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door (Students: $10 in advance, $15 at the door). The church is located at 355 Cooper Street (at O'Connor Street) in downtown Ottawa. OC Transpo routes 6, 7, and 11 all travel one block away on Bank Street; in addition, all downtown-bound Transitway bus routes are only 5-6 blocks away.
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