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".

A popular vocalist in the Ottawa jazz scene, Oxorn has presented several previous tribute concerts to major jazz vocalists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, Billie Holiday, and Peggy Lee, both alone and in collaboration with other singers. They were consistently notable for their deep research and careful preparation, as well as fine musicianship.

This show is the second in a new series of Sunday afternoon jazz cabaret shows in Chelsea, Quebec, organized by local jazz vocalist Katie Diamond.

The Karen Oxorn Trio will present Nancy Wilson: The Great American Song Stylist on Sunday, February 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $10, available on-line in advance or for cash at the door.

The Music @Mill Road series is held at Mill Road Community Space, 8 Mill Road, in Chelsea, Quebec. It's about 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa by automobile (no public transit) via the Portage Bridge to downtown Gatineau and then Autoroute 5. Take exit 12 off the Autoroute and continue along Chemin Old Chelsea in Chelsea to Mill Road.

Get the details of this show and dozens of more jazz events every week in our Live Jazz Guide, available exclusively to OttawaJazzScene.ca donors and subscribers.