The final concert of this fall's Jazz Jazz Jazz! festival in Gatineau on Sunday afternoon attracted an enthusiastic crowd to hear the music of French composer Michel Legrand.
Legrand was a prolific composer for musicals and films, and on record; many of his songs, like “I Will Wait for You”, have become classics. He's also the favourite composer of Ottawa vocalist Nicole Ratté, who picked 17 of his songs – some ballads, some upbeat – to sing at this show.
Some she performed in French, and others with the well-known English lyrics, accompanied by her frequent collaborators J.P. Allain on piano and Normand Glaude on double bass and harmonica.
The audience at Les Brasseurs du Temps clapped warmly throughout the two-hour show and demanded an encore at the end.
“This is our ensemble's Canadian debut! It'll also be our first time to Ottawa. We love bringing our music to new audiences,” sax and clarinet players Peter and Will Anderson enthusiastically replied to OttawaJazzScene.ca, about their show in the Concerts by the Canal series next Saturday.
The Andersons are 30-year-old identical twins. Born and raised in Washington D.C., they attended Juilliard for 6 years, earning bachelors and masters degrees together. The brothers have sustained their life-long personal friendship and musical partnership after graduating, playing the classical jazz they love and their originals with each other almost all the time.
Their extensive experience playing together is evident in their videos in which they seamlessly weave their changing roles of soloist and accompaniast.
OttawaJazzScene.ca journalist Brett Delmage exchanged emails with them to learn more about them and their CBTC concert at Southminster United Church. They replied jointly.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why have you selected this repertoire?
A lot of our repertoire was pioneered by greats like Ellington, Basie, and Sinatra. But we try to play it in a unique way that suits our style. The best songs in jazz are from what we call the Great American Songbook, but many other composers have contributed to the jazz repertoire including those from New Orleans, Brazil, and us too!
Why do you like playing this music?
Trumpeter André Massicotte had a big smile on his face as he introduced the second edition of his Jazz Jazz Jazz! festival to a large audience who packed the upper room at Les Brasseurs du Temps (BDT) in Gatineau on Wednesday, November 15.
His Delphinus Quintet was performing classic jazz tunes at the free opening concert for the festival, which is running at BDT until Sunday. Massicotte said he organized the festival to promote and encourage jazz on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River: there's lots of jazz in Ottawa, he said, but not enough in Gatineau.
The twice-yearly festival is aimed at Ottawa and Gatineau audiences, said festival assistant coordinator Philippe Sigouin, but with “our own formula and our own brand”. It features performances by local musicians from both sides of the river, plus some from elsewhere in Quebec. Its first edition ran last May.
This edition's offerings include the Latin jazz duo Maya et Jonathan from Montreal (Wednesday), a poetry and jazz theatrical presentation (Friday), a musical talk about Vieux Hull's impressive jazz history (Saturday), and a jazz tribute to iconic French composer Michel Legrand (Sunday).
However, the festival has suffered several setbacks. This edition was originally supposed to be held in a 300-seat church in Aylmer, but they moved it to the smaller BDT when ticket sales were slow. And then two high-profile groups (Jean-Pierre Zanella on Thursday and Daniel Berriault on Saturday) cancelled because of illness. Massicotte said they would be bringing these groups back for the next edition of the festival.
The Sunday Sessions at Irene’s in November feature Marc Decho’s Warp'tet, performing a tribute to Jaco Pastorius. The Warp'tet’s members are Marc Decho on six-string electric bass, Ed Lister on trumpet, Vince Rimbach on soprano and tenor saxes, Richard Page on bass clarinet and electronics, Clayton Connell on keys, and Valeriy Nehovora on drums.
Our podcast features three music excerpts from the group’s first week developing this material at Irene’s. All are pieces performed by Jaco Pastorius, rearranged by Decho for this group. The first ensemble clip and the bass solo clip are from "Reza". The third music excerpt is from "Mr Gone".
OttawaJazzScene Editor Alayne McGregor talked with Marc Decho after the concert about the appeal of Jaco’s music, Marc’s six-string electric bass, and an unusual reason why the group will not play on the final Sunday of this grey month.
The group Mélanie E has found inspiration in popular song – but not the Great American Songbook.
On Saturday, the Ottawa jazz quartet will launch its second CD, a collection of songs popular in French Canada from the 50s to the 80s – in jazz versions. For francophones, it will be a trip down memory lane – but in a quite different style. For anglophones, it's jazz from a completely new angle.
The project is the brainchild of wife-and-husband musical team Mélanie and Keith Hartshorn-Walton. Mélanie is the vocalist; Keith is the arranger and tuba player; and they collaborated writing the three original songs on the CD. Both are well-known in Ottawa's jazz scene, as are the other two members of the quartet: guitarist Alex Tompkins and drummer Michel Delage, with whom Keith has played in other groups.
When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed the Hartshorn-Waltons last week, they were enthusiastic about their show this Saturday at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios, and about the music on their new CD, Chemin.
The group plays the French songs that Mélanie heard on French-language radio as she grew up: by famous Québeçois songwriters such as Félix Leclerc, Robert Charlebois, Georges Dor, and Claude Léveillée, as well as songwriters from France such as Serge Gainsbourg and Joe Dassin.
“That's why I chose them. They're just songs that spoke to me, during that time,” Mélanie says.
“I grew up living most of my impressionable life in Ontario, even though my family traditions were very much from the east coast of Quebec. And I think that made me culturally insecure. So I spent a lot of time in my youth and in high school and even in university listening and researching French music, and reading French authors, some of which cover both music and literature. And I think that's where my passions came from.”
There wasn't a big French community where she lived while in high school, she said, “and so I felt a bit of a disconnect. And through music, I was able to bring French songs to my friends who hadn't, they'd never heard of these artists before!”
Valeriy Nehovora has found Canada, and Ottawa's jazz scene in particular, to be a very welcoming place.
Fifteen months ago, the university-trained percussionist arrived in Canada from the Ukraine – and he's been busy ever since performing and making connections with local musicians.
This month, he's leading his first Ottawa-based group, as his quartet hosts Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau. He's joining up with three well-known Ottawa jazz musicians he met at jazz jams and playing in different projects: guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist J.P. Lapensée, and saxophonist Richard Page.
You can also hear Nehovora the first three Sunday evenings this month as part of Marc Decho's Warp'tet, which is performing a tribute to Jaco Pastorius in the Sunday Sessions series at Irene's Pub in the Glebe.
Canada was Nehovora's first choice as a destination after he left Ukraine, because of what he'd heard of this country's welcoming attitude. “Canada is [the] best country. That's why I came to Canada.”
He said he talked to others in similar situations to his own – who had to leave because of economic or political problems or because of war. Friends in Germany and Poland told him that they were constantly reminded in those countries that they were immigrants, even those who were second or third generation.
“In Canada, here I'm not viewed liked an immigrant. I feel like it's my country now. And also for newcomers, Canada has a lot of different programs which help.”
When he got here, Nehovora said, he made a point of meeting as many musicians as possible at local jazz jams and shows, and playing with them in different projects. He met Moxon and Lapensée through attending their HML Trio jazz jam at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, and Page when they played together in a project with organist Don Cummings.
At 61, John Merritt is one of the youngest members of the Grey Jazz Big Band, whose members' ages range from 55 to the early 90s. On Friday afternoon, he's leading the band in “A Concert to Remember” – playing tunes from eras some of those musicians lived through.
Merritt is the director of the 19-piece big band, whose repertoire is primarily vintage swing music. Their Friday concert at Centrepointe's Studio Theatre will broaden that to include tunes from 1903 to 1968 – Dixieland to the Beatles.
The Grey Jazz Big Band is Ottawa's most senior band, with “a lot of experience”. It includes many retired musicians keeping up their chops playing in it. In the last 30 years, the band (and its smaller sub-bands) has specialized in community work and fund-raising, as well as playing for seniors, particularly day-time concerts that other bands might not be able to undertake because of conflicts with day jobs.
“We've got a few people in their 90s, and they're still playing really well,” Merritt said. “They're as sharp as tacks. It's awesome to see. Of course, we have [pianist] Kay Denison, who's been around for a very long time in the jazz community here in Ottawa and elsewhere. And Bill Luxton, formerly a CJOH announcer and he did a lot of live theatre as well, he's one of the singers, Mary Frances Simpson being the other one. Bill is in his 90s. Bobby Cleall, a trumpet player, he just turned 90 last week. He does some very nice soloing.”
Updated November 18
For Kellylee Evans, swing music and swing dancing are a source of joy, as she figures out where she's going next.
On Wednesday, November 8, she's asking jazz fans to share that joy and put on their dancing shoes for her “Swing, Swing, Swing!” show at the National Arts Centre.
The Juno-winning vocalist is teaming up with saxophonist Petr Cancura and the Ottawa Swing Dance Society (OSDS) for the show, which will celebrate swing music in general and the 100th birthday of jazz great Ella Fitzgerald in particular.
The show comes at a busy time for Evans, as she gradually restarts her career after several years of recovering from two serious injuries: being hit by lightning while washing dishes in 2013, and suffering a concussion after a fainting fall in November, 2015.
On October 27, she finally released her latest album, Come On, in North America – two years after she released it in France. She's currently preparing for several CD release shows, finishing off her period as musical artist-in-residence at Carleton University, and thinking about what she'll do next.
Evans was first introduced to swing by Marc Stevens, the general manager of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. They met backstage in 2014 when Evans was preparing for a Canada Day concert with the orchestra.
Stevens is a big swing dance fan, she said, and was “selling this idea to the band and I and anyone who was coming, to go swing dancing. I had just recently started to get a little bit better after my accident, and he sent me a video of swing dancing. And I was … this video of people being thrown over heads and Lindy Hop just looked so difficult – I was like, I can't do that with a brain injury! So I told him, 'I don't think so!' ”
“I think they’re all curious at what the new, old dude might have to offer,” Peter Feldman tells me about the listeners who have bought tickets for his upcoming performance. “Better Late than Never” will be his debut as a jazz soloist at a self-proclaimed ‘shockingly advanced age’.
Listeners have reason to be curious about what Thursday’s show will bring, because Feldman is aiming for a different experience.
“I was hearing an awful lot of repertoire that was similar. And I thought, I’d like to see if I could put together a program of both standards and other tunes that not everybody in town is singing. So I’ve been very particular about the repertoire selection,” he said.
This show has been on his mind “for about a year.” Its musical inspiration arises from his love of jazz and other music and from decades of work in the theatre and music business, where he’s put other performers in front of audiences, while setting aside his own on-stage performances.
“38 years ago today, I presented Sarah Vaughan, the first show I presented in my five years of presenting concerts. I got to work with Brubeck and Dizzy and Akioshi and Lew Tabackin and Stephane Grappelli … I got to present some wonderful artists in that period of time,” he said, about his early first work as a concert promoter and presenter at the University of Alberta Students' Union (SUB) Theatre in Edmonton.
For 22 years, he continued that work as the founding Executive Director of CAPACOA, which promotes live performance and touring by Canadian artists. For his work, he received the National Arts Centre Award for Distinguished Contribution to Touring in the Performing Arts.
Music has always been part of Feldman's life. “I did a lot of theatre in high school and in college, including musical theatre. My mother was an opera singer. So there was always live music in the house. I played violin and clarinet. And I learned how to play bass and that was my experience in bands, playing electric bass.
“And then I started getting into jazz when I was in college, partially because of this close harmony group that I was singing in, but also the group of people I hung out with. A crowd of us went to hear every show that the Buddy Rich big band played in Rochester for four years when the band was in its heyday.”
Behind many successful Blue Note jazz records in the 1960s was a pianist named Duke Pearson. You could call him the man who gave that record label its groove.
In addition to being a composer and bandleader in his own right, Pearson was also an arranger and A&R man for the record label, and contributed to many albums released on that label. Allmusic says he “played a big part in shaping the Blue Note label's hard bop direction in the 1960s”.
Adrian Cho, the artistic director of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, has been researching Pearson and his music, and his reaction was, “Oh, wow! There is so much incredible stuff here. I want to play some of this.”
This Thursday, November 2, the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra will present “The Duke of Groove”, a tribute to Pearson, at the National Arts Centre (NAC). It's the first show in the orchestra's five-show season in 2017-18, whose subjects will range from iconic jazz composer Billy Strayhorn to jazz reimaginings of 60s and 70s pop songs. The shows have one thing in common, however: in each Cho and the orchestra are thinking large.
For the Duke Pearson show, nine musicians will take the stage at the NAC Fourth Stage – and that's not even the largest show. The Strayhorn tribute will feature a 15-piece big band, and the following “Wes’ Coast Vibes” an even larger group.
This is nothing new for the orchestra: its biggest show, a restaging of Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts in 2010, included almost 50 instrumentalists and vocalists, and even a tap dancer. However, last year, the orchestra had to perform in the NAC's Back Stage because the Fourth Stage was being completely rebuilt, and in the smaller room was not able to put on large-scale shows.
The orchestra's marks its 12th season this year. Unlike other big bands in town, its main audience is concert-goers, not swing dancers, and so it primarily plays more complicated and often long-form pieces by major jazz composers. Those have included Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Miles Davis, and Kenny Wheeler. OJO also features music by lesser-known composers like Johnny Richards and Terry Vosbein.
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