The emotional music of the “Angry Man of Jazz” – bassist, pianist, composer, and bandleader Charles Mingus – “blew my mind,” says 26-year old Montreal bassist Stephen Menold.
For six years, he mulled over how to respond to it. Now he’s put together his septet Oh. My. Mingus. “of all jazz cats [who] have very distinct playing personalities” to deliver their personal, reverential, and improvised take on the range of emotions in Mingus' music. They have been regularly performing in Montreal for the last year and a half, and will make their first Ottawa appearance this Saturday evening.
OttawaJazzScene.ca journalist Brett Delmage interviewed Oh. My. Mingus. arranger, leader and bassist Stephen Menold by email this week. This is a lightly edited version of that conversation.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you discover Charles Mingus' music? Why does his jazz, performed and recorded 30 to 60 years ago, connect with you?
Stephen Menold: I first heard Mingus when I was first getting into jazz. One of my first records I stumbled upon was the Massey Hall record [Jazz at Massey Hall], which blew my mind. Then I think heard “Moanin’” and it hit me hard.
I’ve always been pulled towards it somehow or another. I remember when I was playing trumpet in grade school trying to solo and swing, though I’m sure it just sounded like a bunch of noise. I suppose it's the rhythm, there’s something in the swing and personalities of the musicians, you can hear it in their solos… especially Mingus.
This year's Guelph Jazz Festival features master performers on musical instruments rarely if ever seen at a jazzfest.
The Breton bagpipes (Erwan Keravec); the jaw harp (chik white); Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, Japanese biwa, and Korean soribuk drum (Jen Shyu); hurdy-gurdy (Ben Grossman); harpsichord and Casavant pipe organ (John Kameel Farah); shakuhachi (Ab Baars); and pedal-steel guitar (Susan Alcorn) will all be showcased in indoor or outdoor concerts at the festival. Even a street-sweeper bristle will be used to play off-kilter walking bass lines (Ryan Driver, of The Titillators).
The festival's associated academic colloquium is also taking up this “Improvising instruments” theme, and Ottawa's Jesse Stewart will be speaking on Thursday about the unusual instruments he's been playing. He told OttawaJazzScene.ca he'll likely demonstrate the waterphone, the palette, and the handpan at his free lecture. But he'll also debut a new instrument: the euphone, which an instrument builder in France has been building for him and will deliver to him at the festival. Its sound comes from finely-crafted glass rods, which when stroked trigger tuning rods and metal and fiberglass amplifying resonators, creating haunting, bell-like resonances.
Music ranging from mainstream jazz to crossover to highly experimental will all be included at the festival, which runs Wednesday to Sunday in locations around Guelph, Ontario. It's known for being the first – and sometimes only – Canadian jazz festival to present musicians at the forefront of new jazz trends, but it features highly accessible music as well.
Listeners can choose from ticketed indoor concerts; free outdoor concerts, including a Friday night street dance party and daytime and evening jazz shows on Saturday; and a variety of shows from vocal jazz to dance-hall music to experimental jazz at bars and restaurants around town.
This year's festival highlights also include
Cynthia Tauro is “excited and ready”, if a bit nervous, as she embarks on her first Ontario / Quebec tour this week. On Wednesday, the tour finally brings her back to Ottawa, for the local release of her new CD.
The jazz pianist and vocalist took her first steps as a professional musician here in Ottawa as part of the local scene. She graduated in 2016 with a degree in jazz piano and voice from Carleton University, and then spent two years playing regularly around town, including being the first woman to host the Jazz Monday jam sessions.
In Ottawa, she “really learned the basics of everything. I got to test out a lot of new things”, playing solo at restaurants like Das Lokal and the Options Jazz Lounge, creating her own band, and being the pianist and backup singer in the pop group The Harea Band. Jazz pianist “Mark Ferguson really helped me with getting my jazz chops down and doing the groundwork for my playing. And then just collaborating with a bunch of musicians, I did that so much.”
She returned to Toronto in July, 2018, and realized she needed to decide “what am I going to do next with my career, with my life, everything? And then just recording an album seemed like the best thing to do and way to go.”
The album, Moments, contains four of her romance-focused originals plus four standards – in “a jazz/Latin feel, I would say, half jazz, half Latin, and then infused with pop.” It was released in March; she said its first single, her original “Dancin' on My Own”, has been played frequently on JAZZ.FM91 and on iTunes Canada.
The album features well-known Toronto jazz musicians Ted Quinlan on guitar, Davide DiRenzo on drums, Perry White on tenor saxophone, Colleen Allen on soprano sax, clarinet and flute, and George Koller on bass. It was produced by Koller, whom Tauro had met when he performed in Ottawa with Laila Biali. They hit it off, and “when I moved back to Toronto, I contacted him and we're like, yes, we should do something together! And that was it.”
The Glebop Jazz Trio has found a new location in the Glebe for its monthly jazz series – just in time!
Next Sunday, September 8, will be the trio's first show at Pints and Quarts Public House, a Bank Street pub. Glebop trumpeter John Haysom said they'll open with vocalist Karen Oxorn, a frequent guest with the trio, for a show of jazz standards including a special topical version of “Our Love is Here to Stay”.
For 16 years, the trio performed at the Arrow & Loon restaurant in the Glebe. But that location is now gone, closed this summer and about to be demolished because of Minto's complete reconstruction of 99 Fifth Avenue. The trio played their final, and 16th anniversary, show there on June 2, with many of the vocalists and instrumentalists they'd shared the stage with over the years. It attracted a capacity audience.
Immediately afterwards, the trio – Haysom, pianist Bert Waslander, and bassist Howard Tweddle, plus manager Odile Waslander – started looking for a new location.
21st Century Guitar Conference
Perez Hall, University of Ottawa
Sunday, August 25, 2019 – 2 p.m.
Mike Rud has a deep and abiding interest in how the brain works – and from that has gained insights which have helped him as a musician.
The JUNO-winning composer and jazz guitarist was speaking at the 21st Century Guitar conference in Ottawa last Sunday. He told the audience that his studies on psychology at the University of Ottawa and McGill University, including with cognitive psychologist Dr. Daniel Levitin, taught him lessons “which shaped my musical practice”.
“The conceptual tools I met in studying the sciences of brain and mind helped clarify my thinking as a practicing musician and a teacher,” he said. Rud has a masters in jazz performance from McGill, and studied psychology for several years at the University of Ottawa. Starting in 2007, he worked in Levitin's Music and Cognition laboratory at McGill, researching how the brain processes music.
“The time I spent learning about the brain in the Levitin lab and studying psychology at U of O changed my perspective forever about what music is, and what we're doing when we practice it.”
Updated September 6: Nicole Rampersaud has been replaced by Linsey Wellman and David Jackson on Friday
Last year’s IMOO Fest was memorable not only for its fascinating performances, but also for reasons that had nothing to do with the music. Just before its downbeat, two tornados struck Ottawa. Friday evening was lit by battery power, and the Sunday matinee was made possible with a hastily-borrowed, battery-powered guitar amp. Power was restored at GigSpace just before the Saturday evening show. And to bottom it off, the festival's programming manager and Master of Ceremonies Brad Evans was ill for the first part of the weekend.
But the music was highly captivating and well-received [read our reviews and see photos of the unlit concerts], featuring guest musicians from Japan who said at the end they hoped to return. Because it was an improvised music festival, listeners, musicians, and organizers took the extended, city-wide power outage as another performance element to be constructively incorporated.
The unexpected didn’t discourage Brad Evans. He is again presenting the 2019 edition of this unique Ottawa festival of improvised and avant-garde jazz starting on September 6, in the Hintonburg area of central Ottawa.
IMOO Fest 2019 opens on Friday, September 6 at The Record Centre with Pay-What-You-Can performances and continues on Saturday and Sunday evenings at GigSpace. It starts with a solo show and finishes with an IMOO Fest tradition, the IMOO Orchestra, with a lot of variety in between.
The festival will be the opening event in the 2019-20 season for IMOO, the Improvising and Experimental Musicians of Ottawa and Outward. For the last 10 years, IMOO has presented biweekly concerts featuring local and visiting improvising musicians in a wide variety of combinations and sounds.
In this first-of-its-kind photojournalism fine art print exhibit in the City of Ottawa community galleries, OttawaJazzScene.ca photojournalist Brett Delmage presents 0.68 seconds that define the jazz experience in Ottawa, from bars to the NAC.
Ottawa’s Jazz Seen features fine art photographic prints made from a selection of his 9,000 published photographs of 30,000 hours of jazz performance in the past 10 years.
Which jazz performances will you see? You’ll have to see the show in-person to find out!
This special 10th anniversary project of OttawaJazzScene.ca closes on Tuesday August 27 at 9:30 p.m.
This week, you can get a glimpse into how guitar music is expanding in the 21st century.
An 48-piece orchestra of electric and classical guitars, with an improvised light show playing in sync on the ceiling above them. A free six-hour small-concert showcase of guitar music by dozens of Canadian composers, performed by many different guitarists. Feature concerts by jazz guitar masters Gord Grdina and Miles Okazaki, and lectures by composers Mike Rud, Tim Brady, and Trevor Babb. Jazz, electro-acoustic, new music, and modern classical music, and many points in between.
These are all part of the 21st century guitar conference, running from Thursday to Sunday at the University of Ottawa and the Carleton Dominion Chalmers Centre. The conference will also focus on guitar skill acquisition and guitar pedagogy, using new advances in cognitive science and neuroplasticity.
The interdisciplinary conference is the brainchild of guitarist Amy Brandon, who is currently working on her own PhD, examining “the cognitive aspects of how we navigate the guitar when we're performing”. Although she now lives in Nova Scotia, Brandon was raised here and is a long-time member of Ottawa's jazz scene.
The idea first came to her about three years ago. “I had been to a couple of guitar conferences as part of my PhD and I noticed that a lot of them were focused mostly on music from about a hundred years ago or further back. I thought that was really interesting because I know of so much incredible new music for guitar. I just wanted to have a conference that was focused exclusively on that.”
Robert Wannell is saying goodbye to Ottawa – with jazz standards.
On Thursday, August 22, the young guitarist presents a show at the Art House Cafe featuring the music he's found he loves best: classic jazz from the 1950s to 70s. He'll play with his frequent musical companions – double bassist Chris Pond, and drummer José Monchito Hernández García – plus saxophonist Sam Cousineau, who has recently returned to Ottawa.
“I wasn't planning on going out with a bang or anything. I just wanted to play one last fun show in Ottawa before I head out.”
Wannell promises a set list of lesser-known tunes. “The idea was I didn't want to play songs that have been played a thousand times before, like 'All the Things You Are'. The classic standards that get thrown around at a jazz jam, you know? Not that those are bad songs or anything, but we just wanted to pull from a different pool of music.”
They'll also include some better-known Hank Mobley tunes, but the band wanted to get “a little deeper into the music, to find songs that we all like that aren't necessarily run-of-the-mill jazz standards. Cool, harmonically-interesting songs.”
It's a choice of music which Wannell has been gradually moving towards, in his four years studying at Humber College in Toronto and this last year back in Ottawa.
Four trumpets, one rhythm section, and a lot of funky jazz fusion. That's the sound which Ottawa trumpeter Nick Dyson is aiming for in his new group, Point Blank Brass.
It will play its first – and so far only – show next Wednesday at Irene's Pub in the Glebe. Dyson promises “rock elements, and jazz elements, and funk elements, and soul music elements – and a whole lot of decibels.”
It's not a lineup you usually hear in either rock or jazz, where that size of trumpet section is reserved for a big band. Dyson is reaching back to the early 70s and a soul/jazz/rock band called Chase for his inspiration.
It was led by trumpeter Bill Chase, who had played for the previous decade in big bands led by Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Woody Herman, and combined a front line of four cascading trumpets with a driving rhythm section. The group was immediately successful, with its first single reaching #24 on Billboard, and a GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist, but ended in 1974 when Chase and several other band members died in a plane crash.
Other groups in the late 60s and 70s, such as Blood, Sweat & Tears, Tower of Power, and Chicago, also included horns, but they combined trumpets with trombone and saxophone. Chase was unique in using only trumpets, and creating fresh arrangements for them.
“If you do a little reading about Bill Chase and the Chase band, you hear about the Chase cascade, where everybody starts high and then only certain people move,” Dyson said. “It creates this really cool effect. I think the idea for a lot of it is to take a four-trumpet approach to an instrumental funk band. Bill Chase knew a lot of trumpet players, a lot of people that liked to do that kind of trumpet playing, so I think he came across a really interesting fusion at that point.”