Florian Hoefner ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Florian Hoefner releases his first solo piano CD, Coldwater Stories, in a four-city tour beginning in Ottawa on September 20 ©Brett Delmage, 2016

St. John's, Newfoundland, is the easternmost city in Canada. From Signal Hill, all you see eastward is the Atlantic Ocean, with Europe on its other side.

This makes it a uniquely suitable location for Florian Hoefner – a jazz pianist with strong connections both to Canada and to Europe. Hoefner has been living in Newfoundland for the past three years, and its sea-rimmed landscape has strongly influenced his new solo piano CD, Coldwater Stories.

He'll debut that CD in a four-city tour of Ontario and Quebec next week – beginning with a solo show in Ottawa at Southminster United Church on Wednesday, September 20.

Hoefner was last here in January, 2016, as part of a cross-Canada tour with his quartet. His Ottawa show was a notable jazz highlight of the year, with its expressive music and remarkable musical unity. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard from listeners months later about how glad they were to have discovered his music.

On Coldwater Stories, he continues to create impressively rich and beautiful compositions – but combining his jazz roots with the influence of modern classical composers. It's his first solo piano CD, and he's used that opportunity to explore the musical possibilities of that instrument, including learning from past masters. Each of the compositions on the album has a title linked to Newfoundland, including pieces inspired by a local puffin colony, icebergs off the coast, a hike in a Newfoundland national park, and the north Atlantic Ocean.

Hoefner was born and raised in Germany, studied jazz at the University of Arts in Berlin, and then was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to complete a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. After spending six years in New York, he moved to St. John's in 2014, after his wife was appointed as an Assistant Professor in Memorial University's music department.

Ottawa guitarist Sean Duhaime was inspired by a new collaboration and by the death of one of his musical heroes for the music he'll present in concert this Wednesday evening.

Sean Duhaime ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Guitarist Sean Duhaime with drummer Jansen Richard ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Duhaime's long-time jazz fusion trio, with bassist Laura Greenberg and drummer Jansen Richard, will be joined by two guests for their show at at Live! on Elgin – vocalist Doressa Dorcilhomme and keyboard player Nathaniel Clarke.

Dorcilhomme was a 2017 finalist in the Ottawa Bluesfest's “She's the One” competition for local vocalists. Duhaime said she sings neo-soul and R&B, and will sing some tunes by Robert Glasper, Sade, and Erykah Badu on Wednesday.

Clarke has had a closer connection to Duhaime – they've both been playing in the local hip-hop/funk/soul group, BlakDenim. Over the last year, they found they had a lot in common musically.

Playing with Clarke inspired Duhaime to write “nearly 15” new compositions which incorporated keyboards into his sound for the first time: “I never thought I wanted to have a keyboardist”. One of the new songs, “Opportunity” is dedicated to Clarke.

“We've been taking a lot of time to rehearse the music, and Nathaniel took a lot of time to practice. We just tried to figure it out and make a new voice, a new repertoire for this music and this band.”

He described the music they'll play on Wednesday as “a little bit more funky and rockin' – something that has a lot more energy to it”, although he also does have some pure jazz compositions. He'll also be playing music from the EP the trio released last year, although Clarke will be sitting out their best-known piece, “Bert”.

Clarke said he thought Duhaime's music was “really something to aspire to. Just by listening to it, or just from reading the music charts, you can tell that there's a story behind it, from song to song. I guess over time he got inspired and that's the whole art behind composing songs. It's like an everyday journey, an inspiration like he mentioned.”

IMOO #161: Raymond MacDonald and Guests
General Assembly, Ottawa
Sunday, August 6, 2017 - 7 to 9 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

How well does jazz improvisation cross geographical boundaries? Very well, if the latest IMOO show this month is any example.

David Jackson listens to Raymond MacDonald ©Brett Delmage, 2017
David Jackson listens to Raymond MacDonald ©Brett Delmage, 2017

This month, improvising saxophonist Raymond MacDonald visited here from Scotland – and played with Canadian improvisers in three cities: Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa.

MacDonald is a composer and improviser, with roots in jazz and pop music, who has worked with notable free jazz musicians including Evan Parker, Marilyn Crispell, and George Lewis. He is a founding member of the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and has released over 60 CDs and toured and broadcast worldwide. He describes much of his work as exploring “the boundaries and ambiguities between what is conventionally seen as improvisation and composition”. He is also Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation at Edinburgh University, and is currently involved in running Polyphony, a music project providing access to musical activities for individuals with mental health problems.

The Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) organized the Ottawa show, in their new location, General Assembly in Hintonburg. They teamed MacDonald (alto sax) with four IMOO stalwarts: David Broscoe (alto and baritone saxophones, drink cans), David Jackson (guitar, effects), Ian Birse (electronics and percussion), and Laura Kavanaugh (electronics and violin). The result: two sets of wide-ranging and engaging music made on the spot.

MacDonald opened the show alone with punctuated rhythms on his saxophone, followed by continuous vibrating tones. His tone was almost electric in feel although completely acoustic. As the other musicians joined in, they softly added to the textures filling the room: Birse ringing bells, Broscoe adding light ones on baritone, a gentle electronic buzz from Kavanaugh. Throughout the show, the music flowed in waves, sometimes barely there, sometimes intense, but always clear and full, with the musicians carefully picking their entrances for maximum impact. The show ended with a dense overlay of complex and complementary lines, and then dissolved into sparse, quiet notes on guitar trembling in the silence – followed by strong applause.

Pianist Nick Maclean sees jazz fusion as much more than a reincarnation of the 1970s.

Nick Maclean (photo by Steve York)
Jazz pianist Nick Maclean plays laptop, MIDI, breath controller, and talk box, instead of keyboards, in his jazz fusion band Snaggle. The band is showcasing their recently-released second album on a mini-tour including Ottawa this week. (photo by Steve York)

His jazz group Snaggle, which is back in Ottawa on Saturday after a two-year gap, is certainly influenced by 70s groups like Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, or Chick Corea's Return to Forever, he says – but also some of the more modern brandings of fusion.

“Fusion's become a dirty word these days because it's very iconic of the 70s-era jazz/rock collaborations. But today we're seeing other kinds of incarnations of that – like in the band Snarky Puppy. And they're very much a large influence on the band's sound and on their direction, in terms of how I wrote and how we play the tunes. And that kind of breed of music takes a lot more influences from like dance tracks, from a little bit of hip-hop. I suppose it's just a wider range of things that we're drawing from.”

That includes the highly modern method Maclean uses for performing – on what looks at first glance to be keyboards, but what is actually a conglomeration of laptop, MIDI controller, breath controller, and talk box.

Last fall, Snaggle released its second full-length studio album, The Long Slog. The tracks on that album definitely contain rock-influenced guitar solos and funkified riffs – but also finely tuned trumpet interjections and melancholy sax lines. There's a huge dynamic and rhythmic range in the album, with some songs reminiscent of Pat Metheny's “The Way Up”, or Charlie Haden's Quartet West.

Bernie Senensky and Dave Young conclude with a flourish ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Bernie Senensky and Dave Young conclude with a flourish ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Pianist Bernie Senensky and bassist Dave Young comfortably explored jazz standards from Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker this afternoon for a packed and enthusiastic audience at the National Gallery. Ottawa Chamberfest brought the jazz duo from Toronto to play with NACO bassist Joel Quarrington in a 'Two Bass Hit' concert, which featured both classical and jazz and ended with Quarrington, Young, and Senensky sharing the stage for several double-double bass pieces.

Ottawa Chamberfest continues later this evening with a 10 p.m. concert featuring an Ottawa favourite, pianist John Stetch in Off with the Cuffs.

– Alayne McGregor

Read related stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca:

William Lamoureux ©2017 Brett Delmage
William Lamoureux ©2017 Brett Delmage

When William Lamoureux starts playing his violin, there's an instant alertness in the audience, a focus on him on the stage.

Perhaps it's the fluidity and energy of his playing, or the way he can switch effortlessly between percussive bowing and bittersweet melodies, or how his violin can sing so expressively.

Lamoureux is only 21 years old. He was raised in Gatineau, where he studied classical violin for ten years at the Québec Music Conservatory. But at the end of his teens, he made an abrupt change in focus – he decided to study in Humber College in Toronto, whose well-regarded program covers jazz and popular music. He studied there with jazz musicians including violinist Drew Jurecka, guitarist Ted Quinlan, saxophonists Kirk MacDonald and Pat LaBarbera, trombonist Alastair Kay, and vocalist Denzal Sinclaire. He was awarded the college's Board of Governors’ Award in 2016. In June, he graduated with a bachelors degree in music.

In the last four years, he has spread his wings in many different projects. His solo Playground Project is a one-man-band act where he interprets well-known pop tunes arranged live on stage with vocals, violin, percussion and effects pedals. He founded the Québec rock group, the Billy Love Band, which also includes local jazz musicians J.P. Lapensée and Andrew Ferderber. In Toronto, he belongs to four bands: the 12-piece R&B/Soul/Latin band 7Sould; the gypsy jazz sextet, Hotline Swing; with vocalist Kalyna Rakel; and the improvising world music quartet So Long Seven.
[read the OttawaJazzScene.ca review of So Long Seven]

Toronto is now home to Lamoureux – but he frequently returns to Ottawa and Gatineau to perform with jazz and pop musicians here. One frequent collaborator is jazz vocalist Nicole Ratté. He'll perform as part of her quintet on Tuesday, July 25, in a free outdoor show at 7 p.m. in Le Parc des Deux-Ruisseaux in the plateau area of Gatineau.

2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival listeners could live with the rain – but not bad sound.

When OttawaJazzScene.ca surveyed listeners at the end of the 2017 festival, their most heated complaints were about too-loud (and sometimes too-soft) sound volumes in concerts, both indoor and outdoor. The consistently-wet weather certainly was mentioned – but it didn't rile listeners up in the same way.

Our final 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival poll asked about elements that detracted from hearing the music. It was a follow-up to unsolicited comments about these issues that we received in our three previous polls during the festival.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said that acoustic, visual, physical, or environmental elements detracted from their enjoying a festival show – and their major complaint was loudness. Some complained it was so loud they had to leave the show.

The final day of the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival had the weather that epitomized the entire festival this year – when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad, it was horrible.

Listeners loved the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, giving it 5 stars out of 5. Feist didn't fare as well. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Listeners loved the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, giving it 5 stars out of 5. Feist didn't fare as well. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)

It was balmy and sunny on July 2 until a few songs into Feist's closing concert – and then it absolutely soaked the park in a torrential downpour. Similarly, performances throughout the day received high praise – and then a lot less later in the evening.

The afternoon shows with local musicians were particularly well-received that day.

At noon, guitarist Wayne Eagles debuted his new trio, with drummer Jesse Stewart and bassist John Geggie, to an enthusiastic response (4.4 stars out of 5) from the listeners who responded. All three have played for years in Ottawa's jazz scene, although this was their first time together: one listener said she was a fan of all three. Denis Huppé noted they were accomplished musicians and said he liked the group's sound.

At 2 p.m., the stage in the City Hall tent was packed with the 11 musicians in Ed Lister's Prime Rib Big Band, playing Lister's original charts in the swing tradition. Those who responded loved them, with an average of 4.75 stars. Huppé described their show as “very dynamic and entertaining.”

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins in Aylmer will feature the classics with a dash of new this month.

Pianist François Bourassa will perform twice at the 2017 Festival de Jazz Desjardins: with vocalist Jeanne Rochette and in a tribute to Bill Evans ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Pianist François Bourassa will perform twice at the 2017 Festival de Jazz Desjardins: with vocalist Jeanne Rochette and in a tribute to Bill Evans ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Acclaimed Montreal pianist François Bourassa will appear on two evenings, once in a tribute to jazz icon Bill Evans, and once with vocalist Jeanne Rochette. Ottawa trumpeter Ed Lister will bring his popular Prime Rib Big Band to the park, and Montreal soundscape artist Martin Rodriguez will perform his compositions. The four consecutive evening concerts will run from July 26 to 29, 2017.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins concerts will again be held in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer, immediately across from the Aylmer Marina. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and last for at least an hour. Picnics and families are welcome. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets, because seating is not provided. And hope for clear skies, because concerts are canceled in the event of rain. Donations are welcome.

This is the 31st year of the Desjardins festival, and it opens on Wednesday, July 26 with a very different type of show: the soundscapes of Montreal composer Martin Rodriguez. He describes his work as “influenced by environmental sounds” in which “he draws a connection between the instinctive sonic communication occurring in nature and how human beings harness sound for their means of expression.” He creates “sonic environments which are living, listening, and engaging in the present.”

Mavis Staples, Hiromi, The Bad Plus, and Ryan Keberle and Catharsis were among the hits for listeners this week at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival. Overall, though, it was the talent and commitment of each artist – not their jazz content – which drew the most favourable responses in OttawaJazzScene.ca's festival listener poll.

Mavis Staples (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Mavis Staples (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
The poll, which is open to all, now continues with its final survey, covering shows on July 2 and the 2017 festival as a whole.

On Monday, June 29, Mavis Staples' sold-out show in the NAC Theatre received a very satisfied rating from OttawaJazzScene.ca listeners: an average of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Eric Sladic said that Staples “outdid her previous performance last time at Dominion Chalmers. Her rendition of 'Slippery People' which she just recently covered with Arcade Fire caught many people off guard. Her story of her family's involvement in the march from Selma to Montgomery brought the studio theatre to its feet by the end of the song. Her last official song of the night, 'I'll Take You There' brought people to their feet... then her encore (which was only the 2nd encore so far in the 2017 tour) stunned many. Mavis leveraged her involvement in the 1976 classic, The Last Waltz, and sang 'The Weight'. I left walking on clouds.”

Another listener observed that Staples “thoroughly engaged the audience. Her voice was in great shape, the band was tight, the guitar especially so. The set list was more secular than last I saw her and the crowd was with her.”

Sladic mentioned that he was lucky to get in. OttawaJazzScene.ca was informed by one listener that that “quite a few” Bronze Pass holders were turned away from this show – while there were still open seats in the Theatre balcony. We inquired of Jazz Festival executive director Catherine O'Grady whether some Bronze Pass holders were turned away from this concert, and if so, why, but received no response.

The New Orleans blues, jazz, R&B, and gospel sound of Davina and the Vagabonds also received an enthusiastic response: 4.7 stars. Pierre Hughes said the upbeat and exciting music got the crowd going, and praised lead singer Davina Sowers.

Betty Ann Bryanton agreed. “Wonderful performer and a very professional band. They dress the part (very classy), they all sang, they had cool arrangements, and Davina engages with the crowd and draws you in with her comments and her facial expressions (very expressive). Very kind of 30s fun! I didn't know what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised. (The other thing I liked is that it was not super loud like some bands in the tent.) Oh! and the swing dancers! How cool was that!"