GigSpace has just announced its spring 2019 line-up. All the groups so far booked have played in Ottawa before, and most at GigSpace.
The winter-spring season opens with Montreal's PSC Trio playing their arrangements of well-known songs from pop, rock and jazz, re-built into their own jazz voice (January 12).
For vocal jazz fans: the duo of Christine Fagan and guitarist Garry Elliott playing jazz-inspired interpretations of Joni Mitchell (April 6); and Toronto vocalist Micah Barnes (May 10).
For jazz in the tradition: Toronto bassist Dave Young and his trio of trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and guitarist Tim Bedner (April 26); Montreal guitarist Sam Kirmayer and his quartet (with piano this time instead of organ) (March 2); pianists Mark Ferguson and Steve Boudreau performing a double piano tribute to Bill Evans, similar to their show at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble (March 23); Tim Bedner and his quartet playing some of his favourite ballads, blues, and original compositions (May 11).
Unveiling personal projects: pianist/vocalist Steve Amirault playing from his recent recording, Hold On, Let Go (January 18); Montreal sax/piano duo Tevet Sela and John Roney with their 2018 album, The River (March 30); Toronto flutist Bill McBirnie with an Ottawa ensemble and new material (April 13).
So far, GigSpace has announced fewer shows for next spring than this fall (13 versus 18), but not all spring slots are yet filled. In addition, guitarist Garry Elliott and percussionist Jesse Stewart both have shows scheduled whose exact musical shape is not yet defined.
See the GigSpace website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Toronto jazz pianist Jeremy Ledbetter wants to welcome and include all listeners, whether or not they're hardcore jazz fans.
“One of the places I think a lot of jazz takes a wrong turn is it becomes very isolationist. It shuts off interaction between the players and the audience. It becomes all about interaction between the players, and all about the audience observing this interaction between the players. But then all the things that happen are like almost inside jokes that the audience isn’t a part of. And I don’t think that’s what jazz was originally supposed to be, and I don’t think it’s what it’s supposed to be now.”
He'll be putting that open philosophy into practice on Saturday, when he performs at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios with multi-talented Ottawa bassist Marc Decho and rising-star Toronto drummer Sarah Thawer.
Ledbetter is best known on the Toronto music scene for CaneFire, his seven-piece Caribbean Latin jazz group. His newest project, though, is his jazz piano trio with award-winning Toronto musicians Rich Brown and Larnell Lewis. In June, the trio released its first album, Got a Light?, and on Saturday, Ledbetter, Decho, and Thawer will showcase music from that album here in Ottawa.
Got a Light? is an indirect reference to the Twin Peaks TV show, but Ledbetter said that he had other reasons for putting a question in the title.
“So naming the album with a question, automatically it’s involving the audience, right? We’re asking you something, so it makes you a part of it already. And “Got a Light?” obliquely refers to the idea of lighting something on fire, or perhaps lighting a fuse and blowing something up. So it refers to the energy, but again including the audience in a part of that. You’re not here to watch us blow up the stage. We would like you to help us,” he said, laughing.
They have just released their second duo album together, and will showcase it to audiences in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa this week, including Saturday at GigSpace.
Hide the Moon and the Stars is a collection of their own compositions, plus one jazz standard. It was recorded in the same way that they perform, with just the sound of Roberts on grand piano and Lund on archtop guitar.
There's a richness and melodic beauty to the tunes on the album – but also unexpected textures and intriguing contrasts, in a collection with depth and substance. The music is evocative yet simple, with no unnecessary notes.
Originally from Winnipeg and with seven years of steadily increasing visibility in Montreal's jazz scene, Roberts released his debut album in 2000 to considerable acclaim and a Montreal Jazz Festival appearance. He moved to New York City in 2001 and has released two further quartet albums since, plus two duo albums with Lund. He’s recorded with Seamus Blake, Matt Penman, Jochen Rueckert, and Drew Gress, and often plays with legendary bassist Chuck Israels. He also regularly accompanies renowned singer-songwriters such as Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash.
Lage (pronounced Lah-gay) Lund became well-known after his win at the 2005 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition. Praised publicly by Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel, he's several times won the Rising Star guitar category of the DownBeat Critics Poll. He’s released four albums, the latest being the trio CD Idlewild.
Roberts spoke to OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor last week about the album and about his musical partnership with Lund. This is an edited and condensed version of our interview.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What appeals to you about the piano-guitar duo format?
Roberts: I've always been a big fan of the piano and the guitar together, even though it can be counter-intuitive because they're both chord instruments. There's the potential for harmonic clashes and things like that. But I've always just loved the colour of it, and in particular I was influenced a lot by the Bill Evans and Jim Hall recordings, which were to me some of the best music ever made.
Malcolm Goldstein is a violinist, composer, and improviser who has consistently found his own path in music, and expanded possible ways of thinking about music along the way.
Goldstein is known for extending the range of tonal and textural possibilities for the violin, for experimenting with new ways of notating music through graphic and text-based scores, and as a master improviser and a writer about improvisation. He's collaborated with Ornette Coleman and John Cage – and more recently with many musicians in Montreal, where he's lived for the last 26 years.
His last performance in Ottawa was in 2011 with percussionist Jesse Stewart. On Friday, he's back for two events. At noon, he'll present a free masterclass at Carleton University on graphic scores and on improvisation. That evening, he'll have a return engagement with Stewart: a completely-improvised concert in the intimate and very quiet environs of GigSpace. Details are at the end of this article.
Now 82, Goldstein was raised in Brooklyn and has been active in the new and improvised music scenes since the 1960s. Trained as a classical violinist and with an MA in music composition from Columbia University, he nevertheless quickly moved away from the standard classical and jazz repertoire, starting with his collaboration from 1962-4 with the Judson Dance Theatre in New York City. He has written extensively on improvisation, including his book Sounding the Full Circle: Concerning Music Improvisation and Other Related Matters .
For almost three decades, he's divided his time between Montreal and Vermont, living in a cabin in the woods in Vermont in the summer and wintering in Montreal, plus extensive touring in Europe, although he has slowed down recently and is now primarily in Montreal.
OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed Goldstein by phone on Tuesday, in a wide-ranging conversation about creating and listening to music. The following is a condensed and edited version of our discussion.
We began by talking about composition and a piece he wrote that was recently performed across Canada by Montreal improvisers Nicolas Caloia and Lori Freedman, which was written out in words instead of traditional musical notation.
The Carl Mayotte Fusion Quintette makes its Ontario debut on Friday, November 30, in the Live @ Record Runner series.The Montreal bassist and composer enthusiastically incorporates jazz, rock, funk and world beat into his original compositions. They'll perform "my compositions, and 2-3 arrangements of jazz fusion classics (Weather Report, Chick Corea), just to do a tribute to the music I like in this style," Mayotte told OttawaJazzScene.ca.
OttawaJazzScene.ca conducted a written interview with Mayotte. The interview has been edited for clarity and style.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What attracts you to jazz fusion?
Carl Mayotte: My father was listening to progressive rock so I really loved this music early on. That led me to jazz fusion when I was 13-14 years old, especially because electric bass has such a great place in this music. The virtuosity of the musicians in this style always kept my attention very high. But for now, what I like of this genre is the infinite variety of other genres that you can combine in it. There are literally no boundaries. For a musician and a composer, it's a world full of freedom. I love too that it has to groove and that can make people listening to it dance sometimes.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What are your jazz influences or other non-influences that may be known to jazz audiences?
Carl Mayotte: I have too many influences, hahaha, but for this Fusion project naturally my influences are Weather Report, UZEB, Return to Forever, and certainly all the progressive rock scene, especially King Crimson and Frank Zappa. But in general, some of my main influences for the bass are Jaco Pastorius for the spirit, Steve Swallow for the melodies, Richard Bona for the energy, and Alain Caron [UZEB’s bassist] for the sound. These day I listen a lot to some Japanese city pop music, a lot to Francis Poulenc, and a bit to 60'S Miles Davis.
Alain Caron influenced me A LOT. First, he is a Quebecer so I really loved him for that when I was a teenager. I have transcribed him a lot too, and love the fact that even if he was so good at the beginning of UZEB, he still evolved and progressed from Jaco-like to his original sound and technique. His fretless playing has had a big impact on mine. I'm working presently with Michel Cusson, the guitarist of UZEB, for my first album.
What sets EvenSong apart is the idealism, the warmth, and the spiritual dimension which its members bring to their playing.
The Ottawa jazz quintet will release its first CD on Sunday evening in a concert at MacKay United Church. It's a collection of jazz and popular tunes and one hymn – easily recognizable pieces – to which the ensemble has added its own jazz voice. The tunes have been audience-tested, not just in local clubs and festivals, but also at fundraisers and church events, to be touching and emotionally resonant.
The band's motto is “hope and affirmation”, says its saxophonist, Peter Woods.
“Especially in our current society and political climate around the globe, to be hopeful and affirming isn't just being naively optimistic. To really dig into being hopeful, in the current global climate, is to resist the trend towards divisiveness and hatred and despair and all those things. I think there's a real edge to being hopeful, and it's not just being optimistic. You are saying: we are going to affirm the good things in our community and in our world and what we find in individuals – and play to that! Play music that affirms that and hopefully feels like a soundtrack or background music for that sort of resistance work.”
EvenSong began in 2016, with Woods and pianist James McGowan. Woods is the minister at MacKay United Church in New Edinburgh, while McGowan is director of music at Trinity United Church in west Ottawa as well as a professor of music at Carleton University. Both regularly play in various jazz groups in Ottawa.
Updated December 5, 2018
Fewer concerts on fewer days at fewer venues – that will be the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The festival lost nearly $200,000 this year, primarily because of lower ticket sales. As a result, it will have a “smaller, more focused” programming budget next summer, president John Freamo told the festival's annual general meeting Tuesday.
“Programming is by far the biggest expense and biggest financial risk for the festival. We will still present some big-name concerts and many world-class jazz artists, but we'll scale back somewhat on the number of different series and venues.”
He said the festival would also “scale back a little bit on some of the series that happen simultaneously” – based on patron feedback over the past few years where some don't like not being able to attend a concert because another is happening at the same time and “they can't be at both places at once”. This year, the festival had five series which all began in the 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. timeframe.
The exact reductions are still to be determined, Freamo said, depending on previous commitments and which artists are touring.
The festival's website had shown the summer festival running from Thursday, June 20 to Monday, July 1, 2019. Festival programming manager Petr Cancura said it would now start on Friday, June 21. It may also go dark for a Monday or Tuesday in the middle of the festival, as Bluesfest does.
Cancura said the places to be cut first will be “things that cost us the most”: for example, concerts on certain days like Sundays at the National Arts Centre that require paying staff double time.
“There might not be an actual series missing, but some of them might be thinned out where we know that the production costs are just too excessive, as well as thinning out the number of days that we do.”
UPDATE November 22: This concert is now free and has been moved to the Peter Herrndorf Place (back of the Atrium) at the NAC.
In their acoustic jazz duo, guitarist François Jalbert and pianist Jérôme Beaulieu play music with no place to hide.
“There's no cheat. It's very real. There's no reverb. There's no editing. It's basically like we were playing in a living room – that's exactly how it would sound like,” Jalbert said.
The two Montreal jazz musicians released a duo album of their original compositions last fall. They'll give it its Ottawa debut in the quiet and cozy Fourth Stage – where listeners can curl up in plush barrel chairs to listen – at Canada's National Arts Centre on Thursday, as part of the NAC Presents series.
It's melodic, intimate music, with some influences from bluegrass and folk. The individual voices of piano and guitar are each clearly heard, both in solos and in playing different intertwining lines. No effects are added. It's pure acoustic sound.
“It's been actually one of the main challenges of that record is that it's just so naked,” Beaulieu told OttawaJazzScene.ca, and Jalbert agreed: “Yes. If it doesn't groove it's your problem!”
When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed the two by phone last week, the conversation was just as interactive as their playing, with each of them building on what the other said. It reflects their long musical and personal friendship – with the music evolving naturally from years of playing together.
Jalbert and Beaulieu met when studying jazz performance at l'Université de Montreal.
“We used to just go and jam together in rehearsal spaces, just for the fun of it, on our lunch breaks from school,” Beaulieu said.
“We just started playing for fun,” Jalbert explained. “We were like jamming at parties, just songs that we liked. Gypsy jazz, or bluegrass, or covers of pop songs. We played basically any style that we liked, with no restraints. So that's why there are a bunch of influences [in the music].”
“It became a sound, because we learned how to position ourselves towards one another. And then it became a thing, but it wasn't really thought up from the beginning to go in that direction,” Beaulieu said.
“We just got quickly to this point where basically we found out that we each have all of the possibilities on our respective instruments, so we figured we'd be able to do some music together, and position ourselves into those different roles that are acceptable to us by our instruments. It just got very natural very quickly and it was a lot of fun.”
Guitarist Alex Moxon has been a highly visible player in Ottawa's jazz scene for the last decade, primarily in groups where he shares the creative duties with others (the HML Trio, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, F8-BIT, and Modasaurus).
Next week, he steps into the studio to record his first CD as leader, with a quartet of sure-handed Ottawa musicians showcasing his own compositions. Some pieces, he's played before with his other groups, but others are new – and all are in a more acoustic and reflective mode. He doesn't use pedals or effects with his guitar on these tunes, unlike in the more groove-oriented CHP.
Moxon and his quartet have been preparing for the recording by playing this material in different contexts: a house concert, as host band for Jazz Mondays most of this month at Le Petit Chicago, and this Saturday evening (November 17) at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. Performing with him are Steve Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Michel Delage on drums – all musicians he's played with before, but not in his regular bands.
"...it seems the first thing people try to do is classify you. They’re all trying to figure out whether to call you a rock singer, a folk singer, or whether you have a country sound. The only sound I have is me."
That's how Anne Murray introduces CBC TV's new series ‘From the Vaults’ in an opening archival clip. It's an observation that could often be said about jazz, which is frequently evolving, embracing, extending - and hard to classify sometimes.
The series’ six weekly shows – to which OttawaJazzScene.ca was given an advance view – span 60 years of Canadian music on CBC-TV. They include segments which will be of specific interest to jazz and blues fans. Other segments have interesting angles on Canadian musical history, and on our society and the culture which helped create and shape it. The first show airs on Thursday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on CBC TV. It will also be available on the CBC TV streaming app.
Episode 1, 'Land of Opportunities' features Sammy Davis Jr performing jazz standards in his own CBC special. ‘Parade’ aired during a tumultuous time in U.S. history when it would have been impossible for him to appear on U.S. television as a black performer. Another segment shows Muddy Waters and other well-known blues musicians performing together in a pioneering CBC show whose producers improvised to create a successful and unique show.