During the past 10 years more than 120 post-secondary and advanced high school musicians developed their skills in and enthusiasm for big band performance in Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO). They presented a variety of well-rehearsed and frequently very well-received public concerts. Underlying that has been CYJO Founder and director Nick Dyson’s sharing of his encyclopedic knowledge and love of big band music with students, including arrangements by Canadian and local composers.
This spring marked the 10th Anniversary of the founding of CYJO, although it was not active this season. The CYJO 10th Anniversary Alumni Band, comprised of former CYJO players - many who are now working, professional musicians - performs a free special concert on Wednesday at noon on the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s Confederation Park Stage. The music selections will be 100% Canadian.
Two CYJO alumni told OttawaJazzScene.ca about their positive experiences in CYJO, including how it helped them develop as musicians, their favourite moments, and what they are looking forward to playing in next.
Saxophonist Brady Leafloor was a founding member of CYJO and played (as he recalls) the first four seasons. CYJO had a maximum age for members, and the most proficient members like Leafloor had to retire to make room for new members.
“It was a really great thing to be a part of building. A small group of us got together with Nick Dyson and talked it out to form the group,” he says.
Clayton Connell was CYJO’s pianist from 2011 to 2013. He received a highly-competed for-scholarship to The Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (University for Music and the Performing Arts) in 2014.
On Sunday, Ottawa audiences can hear music by one of the best-heard – but least-known – jazz composers in Canada.
Over a prolific 75-year career, Eldon Rathburn wrote more than 250 film scores, including for many well-known National Film Board (NFB) animated and short films, plus many concert works. He wrote for the first generation of IMAX films, scored one of Buster Keaton's last films, and provided the music for the Labyrinth pavilion at Expo ’67. One of the films he scored was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Short Film Palme d'Or at Cannes. His music brightened up the most mundane subjects: for example, a film on how to keep fish from spoiling!
Now several of his film scores have been expanded into a jazz album from Justin Time Records, The Romance of Improvisation in Canada. It features five of Canada's finest jazz musicians: pianist Marianne Trudel, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, saxophonist Petr Cancura, bassist Adrian Vedady, and drummer Jim Doxas.
The music is classic, appealing mid-century jazz – from lively bebop and Latin to an evocative ballad. Listeners can hear it played live at the NAC Fourth Stage on Sunday at 8 p.m. as part of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
It's also a project with many Ottawa connections. Rathburn lived in Ottawa for much of his life, and composed much of the music on which the album is based while working at the NFB's Unit B offices in Ottawa. The music was rediscovered when Dr. James Wright, a music professor at Carleton University, decided to write an in-depth biography of Rathburn, They Shot, He Scored, which was released in May.
Wright brought in Ottawa academic and jazz drummer Allyson Rogers (now completing her PhD at McGill University on the musical aesthetics and social milieu of the National Film Board) to research Rathburn's NFB career. She discovered Rathburn’s jazz-inspired animated film scores of the 1950s, for films such as The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952), Structure of Unions (1955), Fish Spoilage Control (1956), and Norman McLaren’s Short and Suite (1959).
Rogers discussed the music with fellow Ottawa jazz saxophonist Adrian Matte, and they realized that the scores could be unspooled and expanded and rearranged into longer jazz pieces. They created 12 pieces, each based and expanded upon jazz themes Rathburn wrote for film scores. Matte also ended up developing his Masters thesis on Rathburn's jazz music.
The album was recorded in February 2018 at the NFB’s historic Chester Beachell Studio in north Montreal – the same studio where Rathburn had frequently worked during his NFB career, and released last year.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor spoke to Rogers and Matte last fall, shortly after the launch of the book and the CD at Carleton University.
Christine Jensen is looking forward to working with noticeably different musical voices in the jazz orchestra she'll lead at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The saxophonist and composer has generally looked to a familiar group of Montreal musicians for her JUNO-winning jazz orchestra. But the orchestra she'll unveil next Tuesday in the NAC Studio contains musicians from Toronto and Ottawa as well, with many more women players, and will showcase the music of five women jazz composers besides herself.
It's a an 18-piece big band Jensen has brought together especially for the festival. It's billed as the “= Jazz Orchestra & Christine Jensen” – a name Jensen is not altogether happy with. The '=' refers to the festival's focus this year on women in music; the orchestra has eight female and ten male musicians, a much higher ratio than average in big bands.
“I wish I could rename it. But at the same time, it was all about trying to get an equal balance of gender diversity or gender balance between the band on the stage in a large ensemble. So that was the equal part and I’m the artistic director of it.”
Prominent in the orchestra are noted Canadian jazz musicians: pianist Marianne Trudel on piano, saxophonists Tara Davidson, Anna Webber, and Allison Au, and trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy – plus younger musicians Emily Denison on trumpet and Claire Devlin on sax. Jensen said having more women in the orchestra creates “a really strong, balanced community in the music.”
When faced with a breakup, some people cry, some vent, some drink. Montreal jazz guitarist Andy MacDonald went back to his first love, music.
Three months after losing his girlfriend, he was in the studio, recording his debut album with a seven-piece band. Influenced by both his musical loves – New Orleans traditional music and gypsy jazz – Asking For A Friend is full of hurting songs, but performed in a bright, accessible style that almost belies their lyrics. The album features two original songs by MacDonald plus ten jazz standards.
MacDonald will debut the album in Ottawa on Friday, June 21, in a house concert in Ottawa South. Also on the bill are two Ottawa musicians who often play gypsy jazz: guitarist Justin Duhaime (an old friend) and clarinetist David Renaud. Keith Hartshorn-Walton will add a New Orleans vibe on bass and tuba; he's frequently played that style with Tenth Ward Shakedown.
OttawaJazzScene.ca first heard MacDonald, who usually is billed as “Andy Mac”, in a well-received concert with Toronto vocalist Denielle Bassels, where his forceful gypsy-jazz-influenced guitar and compositions added considerably to the vibrancy of the show.
He regularly performs in his own gypsy jazz trio, Les Petits Nouveaux, as well as with Bassels, and in gypsy jazz, swing, and trad/Dixieland jazz groups in Toronto and Montreal.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed MacDonald by phone last week. This is an edited and condensed version of the interview.
Updated June 22, 2019
John Thompson is bringing the live music vibe of his record store to the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival, in a major revamp of the festival's CD and merchandise tent.
“I thought we could do something that as a shopper I would find fun,” he said. “We're doing something a little different.”
Thompson has big plans – not only selling CDs and vinyl, but also offering his own listening area. He intends to present a free set by local band each day, essentially a fourth festival stage.
His store, The Record Centre Centre in Hintonburg, regularly books live bands to play shows among the bins of collectible vinyl and vintage audio equipment. It's also twice hosted the 24-hour Jazz Ramble, a one-day mini-festival of local jazz, in partnership with the Jazz Festival.
Jazz fans will find the merch tent next to, but outside of, the festival's Main Stage area, on the walkway from Laurier Avenue West to the festival gate, and beside the festival's Souvenirs tent. It will be open to all, with no tickets or passes required to hear the shows or browse the merchandise.
It will actually be a double tent, Thompson said. One side will stock CDs and vinyl; the other side will be a listening room, “a chill area where you can listen to a good Technics system”. At about 5:30 each day (the time may vary depending on sound checks for the main stage), a band will present a half-hour+ show in the listening tent – with about 30-40 chairs in the tent, plus standing room.
The groups will be mostly jazz, he said, and so far includes groups from Ottawa, Montreal, and Waterloo:
Jazz from New Orleans, Afro-Cuban love songs, and chamber jazz will be featured in the Shenkman Arts Centre's 2019-20 season, which it announced June 6.
This is the third local venue which has recently announced its upcoming season. Gatineau city theatres revealed their 2019-20 lineup on June 4, while Centrepointe Theatre unveiled its shows in late May. The National Arts Centre revealed much of its upcoming season much earlier, in mid-March.
At the Shenkman centre in Orleans, the biggest sound will definitely be coming from The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which will touch down on February 25, 2020 as part of a cross-Ontario tour. The 20-piece orchestra won a GRAMMY in 2010, and has had a long association with vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, with whom they released an album in 2015, and who also sings on their latest album. Led by drummer Adonis Rose, the band performs music “that exemplifies the influence of Jazz as the grandfather of all modern American music”.
On the cover of Mark Ferguson and Mike Tremblay's new quartet CD is a close-up painting of a horse.
A very happy horse, in fact, looking like he's just crunched down on a big juicy apple. It fits the vibe of a CD of primarily upbeat swinging tunes, performed by the two Ottawa jazz champions, with renowned Toronto jazz musicians Dave Young and Terry Clarke.
They'll debut the album this Tuesday in a CD release concert at the Unitarian church in Ottawa, and then again on the main stage of the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 26.
Tremblay’s wife owns a horse, and he wrote the title tune, “Appleface”, inspired by the face the horse makes when he feeds it an apple. He showed a cellphone photo of that face to Ferguson – “just a big, sloppy kind of chewing face,” Ferguson said. “And coincidently my wife, Monica, had done a painting of a horse. A real closeup, almost like a fish[eye] lens closeup of a horse. And I showed it to him and he said, 'Yes, that’s the apple face!' ”
John Haysom looked over the capacity crowd in the Arrow & Loon on Sunday evening, as the Glebop Jazz Trio opened their final show in that space.
“What a thrill to see you all here tonight! Thanks to all of you for coming out to help us to, I'm not sure 'celebrate' is the right word.”
But the mood – and the music – was still upbeat as the trio commemorated their 16 years playing at the neighbourhood restaurant and pub in the Glebe. There were hugs and laughter, as long-time jazz listeners showed their appreciation. Several made photos and captured video of the band's opening set.
The Arrow & Loon's current location will be demolished in September, as part of The Minto Group's redevelopment of 99 Fifth Avenue into a seven-story condominium behind the current Bank Street store frontage. The pub is still looking for a new space, but no news about that was announced during the show.
Saxophonist Rick Moxley and drummer Lu Frattaroli (dashing in from another gig) joined the trio – Haysom on trumpet, flugelhorn, and valve trombone, Bert Waslander on keyboards, and Howard Tweddle on double bass – as they performed a vibrant opening set of classic jazz, mostly from the 1950s and 60s, plus one original.
On Thursday, Moonglow Jazz Ensemble is offering jazz listeners a virtual cruise of the Méditerranean, bringing together a variety of jazz styles from the region, and revealing unexpected musical connections and juxtapositions between composers, musicians, and song titles.
For them, developing Jazz Méditerranée has been a long journey: 18 months of teamwork researching, arranging, deciphering, rehearsing, and polishing the music.
“We’ve discovered this goldmine of incredible music that you never hear in Ottawa. So we’re so excited,” said their researcher, arranger and saxophonist Devon Woods. “We have so much fun with this. We’re thrilled to be able to share it.”
“It was really, really great to discover all those great tunes and great musicians that we never heard about,” said Hélène Knoerr, Moonglow’s bassist and vocalist.
For example, one of their Italian stops on the musical tour came out of a Renaissance style album which Moonglow's guitarist, Ed Stevens, had listened to and told the group about, Knoerr said. She was especially impressed by musicians from North Africa, from the Maghreb area: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, Lebanon.
“We found some amazing musicians who were very well known in France and Europe like this Oud player from Tunisia, Anouar Brahem. He is very well-known in France. He plays with jazz musicians and a lot of other people. A trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf from Lebanon, he plays with Sting and a lot of other well-known musicians in France including some jazz musicians.
But they also wanted to bring in as many jazz tunes as they could, as well as the compositions by Méditerranean musicians.
The Glebop Jazz Trio will celebrate its anniversary on Sunday with a special jazz jam, to say goodbye to the location in the Glebe where it's played for the last 16 years.
But as the group's trumpeter, John Haysom, emphasizes, it's not goodbye for good. Both Glebop and the Arrow and Loon, the pub/restaurant that's hosted their monthly jazz nights, are hoping to return in the fall, he says.
“The [pub's] owner is looking for another location and says that he will take us with him. It's our last performance at that location, not our last performance at the Arrow and Loon – being optimistic, as I am!”
The pub is currently located in Fifth Avenue Court, a low-scale, red-brick office and retail complex at Bank Street and Fifth Avenue, in the central Ottawa neighbourhood just south of downtown. The complex opened in 1980, and is centred around an interior public courtyard, which the Arrow and Loon opens into.
In 2017, the building's owner, the Minto Group, proposed tearing down all of Fifth Avenue Court except the original heritage buildings along Bank Street, and replacing it with a new condo building. The seven-story, 160-unit redevelopment was approved by City Council in July, 2018. The current tenants not on Bank Street – including the Arrow and Loon – must move out by August, and demolition will begin in September.