When Calgary jazz vocalist Ellen Doty sang before thousands of jazz fans at the Tokyo Jazz Festival she discovered that jazz could transcend language barriers.
“I learned that music is its own language, really. Even if people couldn't understand the lyrics, a lot of them still came up and waited in the line to talk to me afterwards. There was a translator there that helped with some stuff. That people feel an impact from something, even if they don't understand all the lyrics, is really cool.”
“And to feel that connection with people even though it's in another language is really cool.”
Doty is looking to make that same connection with Ontario audiences this weekend. She has a sold-out show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and will also perform at the Neat Coffee Shop in Burnstown (85 km west of downtown Ottawa), and at Burdock in Toronto. She's presenting her latest album, Come Fall, whose songs are primarily concerned with emotional relationships.
“Lyrically, I think there's quite a few different threads that go through the album, but the most important one is the idea of giving love to other people. Whether you know people or not, to treat people around you with kindness and generosity, and just to try and express what you don't always say typically to people that you love, and to not be afraid to do that.”
One of the songs commemorates a close friend who died of cancer at age 34. “She was a really brilliant woman. She was doing her PhD at Oxford in science at that time, and was a marathon runner, and so fit and healthy and just full of life. That song was certainly inspired by her, and I know she wouldn't have wanted to write a sad song about her.”
“She, I think, was someone who inspired other people to live in a good way. She was always just so kind and giving of her time with everyone. She set a really good example for how to live life. I'm trying to pass that along to other people – it was the goal of that song.”
Another tune, “Stranger”, deals with broken relationships, opening with “I used to know your naked soul. Now we barely get along.”
“It's that idea of sometimes you know someone so well, and then something could happen and you see them on the street years later and they seem like a complete stranger at that time, even though it was someone you knew so closely. It's how relationships like that can change.”
Carleton University music student James Anderson recently recorded his debut album, at the university. Out Loud is "a collection of songs of resistance, survivance, and dreaming of better days", performed in a jazz fusion vein with a strong punk influence. The CD is eminently listenable modern jazz, which a version of Chick Corea's "Spain" fits in nicely. Don't let the words "punk" or "fusion" scare you away before listening! This is the only album we've seen with "Ottawa Jazz" on the CD cover.
Anderson will release the album next Wednesday at the "OUT THERE SOUNDS" show at House of TARG. Full details and a link to a related music video are at the end of this story.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage sat down with him last week for an extensive interview, learning about how the album marks his determination to live his life "out loud" as a queer musician, and about the similarities in ethical approaches between punk and jazz.
We recommend you listen to the interview podcast recording if possible, which conveys Anderson's enthusiasm, conviction, humour, and uncertainties best
OttawaJazzScene.ca: On your Out Loud CD launch announcement, I’m interested that you identified yourself as a jazz guitarist, but you state that you approach jazz from an outside perspective with a unique and eclectic musical vocabulary.
What elements of influence: punk, blues, house and video game music do you like to draw upon as a composer or guitarist?
And to add to that, are there any elements you dislike or would like to leave behind?
James Anderson: I started out in punk music and so I really come from that, and I don’t think it’s something I can really escape. It’s something in the way I construct my melodies, in my technique, in my tone. It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere and it’s something very close to me , something very near and dear to my heart. And it’s something I’d never leave behind frankly.
You know, funny enough, even though I do identify as a jazz guitarist because that’s what I’ve been trained to do and that’s what I call this music, all my favourite guitarists, all my favourite musicians, save for a few, are punk musicians.
Highly charged music, combining the energy of horns with the power of guitar, bass, and drums, and taking elements from both jazz and rock – that's the music that Wayne Eagles is presenting in his new monthly series called “OUT THERE SOUNDS”.
The jazz guitarist began the jazz fusion series in January, and has presented three concerts so far, with a fourth scheduled for next week. They've included both younger and veteran members of Ottawa's jazz scene.
The bands perform in the House of TARG, a downstairs live music spot in Ottawa South. Jazz lovers will remember this space as the former New Bayou/Cabana Supper Club, which hosted JazzWorks jams and other local jazz shows for many years before it closed in 2009.
The music stage is surrounded by video games, with video games facing it. You might catch the smell of fresh, handmade frying perogies wafting from the kitchen at the far end of the room.
The most recent edition of this series was on Wednesday, March 27, featuring two Ottawa fusion bands: the Shane Calkins Trio (the opening act), and PreDestined. They attracted an interested crowd, which applauded regularly and was listening more than playing the games. Listeners sat in the chairs by tabletop video games, leaned up against the pinball machines, or simply stood facing the stage.
This evening marked the release of PreDestined's first album, Rising. In their hour-long set, the quintet played a dramatic and soulful selection of originals, with the front line of Brady Leafloor on tenor sax and Nick Miller on guitar strongly backed by Matt Welsh on drums, J.P. Lapensée on bass, and Miguel de Armas Jr. on keyboards. Welsh introduced the numbers, telling jokes and keeping the set moving well.
Pioneer jazz record producer Blue Note Records made its first recording on January 6, 1939, and marks its 80th anniversary this year. There will be an Ottawa celebration of that birthday: music students will present a special public concert, “Blue Note Café: 80 Years of Blue Note” on Tuesday, April 9.
“This provided us with a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the contributions this label has made to jazz,” Nepean High School music teacher and project co-organizer Stephen Szabo said.
Wikipedia lists an impressive discography (which links to many individual album articles) for Blue Note: 849 individual albums and six compilation albums.
“Many of the most significant albums ever recorded were Blue Notes. We believe that part of our responsibilities as music teachers is to educate our students and our audiences. No jazz education would be complete without an understanding of the Blue Note label and the artists who recorded for Blue Note. Unlike some labels, Blue Note had a very clear identity and sound - made possible by the work of Rudy Van Gelder. The clear identity of Blue Note made it a logical choice for this type of educational project,” Szabo said.
It’s a big evening. Szabo will conduct the 17 member Nepean High School Junior Jazz Band. The 26 members of the Nepean High School Senior Jazz Band (conducted by high school music teacher Jean-Francois Fauteux, who is also a co-organizer of the event), and the self-directed sextet, Nepean High School Jazz Combo will also perform. And even more musicians will join them: the Nepean All City Jazz Band (NACJB) directed by Neil Yorke-Slader, and the Nepean All City Lab Band (NACLB) directed by both Szabo and Fauteux.
“There will probably be in excess of 60 musicians performing at the event, which is very exciting for us!” Szabo said.
You've probably heard saxophones in a jazz quintet, or as the front line of a big band. But this Sunday afternoon, saxophones will star in their own show, without the other instruments.
Saxophone ensembles from Carleton University's music program and two local high schools will present a two-hour concert of jazz, classical, and rock music arranged for saxophone quartet and saxophone choir. A sax tentet will have a rhythm section assisting it, but other than that, it's all saxophone.
The show will include an 13-sax performance of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” – with dance moves – conducted and choreographed by Carleton student Rebecca Cowal. Other pieces will come from Piazzolla and Vivaldi on the classical side, to jazz composers Bob Mintzer of the Yellowjackets and Ed Calle of the Miami Saxophone Quartet.
Directing it all is Mike Tremblay, one of the best-known musicians and music educators in Ottawa's jazz scene. This is his 25th year teaching in Carleton's music school. He started with one student – Brian Asselin, who's now a well-known composer and bandleader in his own right. A decade later, he was able to field one sax quartet – as long as he was the fourth player. Then there were two quartets, and now the school has four quartets which rehearse every week with Tremblay.
The show is the culmination of the students' work this term. Saxophone lovers from the general public are welcome to listen to their performance.
OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed Tremblay on Monday about the concert, why it's great to listen to an all-sax show, and what saxophonists learn from playing together. This is an edited version of our interview.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Do you vary the standard saxophone quartet – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone – at all?
Mike Tremblay: In some years, we'll have alto, alto, tenor, bari. But the goal, just for repertoire, is to have soprano, alto, tenor, baritone. And this year we have all four quartets that are [those four].
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What range of sounds can you evoke with a saxophone quartet?
Tremblay: That's a great question! It's really unlimited. There's so much you can do with that voicing. And the saxophone being an instrument that they say is very close to the human voice, it's very hard to reproduce that by a computer. It's really quite a dense sound, and because of the nature of the reed and the mouthpiece, and using your oral cavity, you can produce so many different colours and sounds with it.
Percussion-lovers, take note! The National Arts Centre will showcase three acclaimed percussionists from different traditions in its upcoming concerts: Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sarah Thawer, and Magdelys Savigne.
Their concerts are among those in the next year which the NAC announced this week. Other jazz-related shows include a holiday concert by Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans, a dance program to live jazz, a French Theatre production with a live jazz/classical score, an NAC Pops show celebrating the music of the Jazz Age, and a VivaFest festival in May.
The Scottish-born Dame Evelyn Glennie will appear with the NAC Orchestra for two shows on April 8 and 9, 2020.
A solo percussionist, she performs all over the world with major orchestras and smaller ensembles. She has collaborated with noted improvisers including guitarist Fred Frith, and banjo player Béla Fleck (their album together, Perpetual Motion, won a GRAMMY). In the last year, she's been regularly playing with the Scottish Trio HLK, whose music “heavily deconstructs and reconstructs jazz standards, creating intricate new pieces with complex frameworks for improvisation”.
A concert honouring and explaining Duke Ellington. Cuban jazz in collaboration with strings. A musical meditation with improvised bass clarinet. A new, partly-improvised score to a Buster Keaton movie. Those are some of the jazz-related highlights of the 2019 Ottawa Chamberfest, primarily in its late-night Chamberfringe series.
The festival, which will run from July 25 to August 8, released the first part of its 2019 schedule Tuesday. The full lineup will be made public by May 1.
Chamberfest artistic director Roman Borys told OttawaJazzScene.ca that concerts crossing over into jazz and world music fit well into a chamber music festival. Borys performs in the JUNO-winning Gryphon Trio chamber music group, whose repertoire covers both classical composers like Beethoven, and collaborations with jazz and world musicians. He's taken the same approach to programming Chamberfest – looking for similarities and linkages in other traditions to chamber music.
“[Jazz groups] are small ensembles and they rely on each other as musicians to create amazing music that can engage audiences the way a chamber group would. So for me that's always been a very natural place for chamber musicians to turn to – a direction for them to turn to and look to, to expand their voice and their artistic experience. Because people are doing that I feel very legitimately that that kind of programming absolutely needs to be part of the Chamberfest experience.”
The jazz-related concerts at the 2019 Chamberfest range from the jazz mainstream to improvised music to crossover concerts including jazz traditions or musicians.
Pianist and composer Duke Ellington is one of the greats of the jazz canon. On Monday, July 29, American musicologist and composer Rob Kapilow will focus on Ellington in a “What Makes It Great?” talk-and-play show together with the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO), at Dominion Chalmers. It's one of his most popular presentations with big bands, which he recently presented at the University of Toronto.
When it comes to making music, Montreal jazz pianist Gentiane MG is happy to think small.
While she has enjoyed playing with larger groups, she cherishes the more intimate groups like duos and trios – for example, like her long-time trio, which she'll bring to the National Arts Centre on March 28.
In the last year, following this intimate approach has worked well for her. She was recently chosen as the prestigious Révélations jazz choice by Radio Canada for 2018-19, and she played three concerts (two with the trio, one in a star-studded tribute to Carla Bley) at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival. This spring, her trio releases its second album, and she'll record a duo record in June.
Five years ago, she formed the Gentiane MG Trio (MG stands for her surname, Michaud-Gagnon) with bassist Levi Dover and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel. It's a young group: Michaud-Gagnon is 27, Dover is 28, and Hamel 30. They released their first album of original music, Eternal Cycle, in 2017, and will release its follow-up in May.
She remains enthusiastic about the trio, both to play with and to compose for.
The 2019 JUNO Awards served up three first-time winners and one repeat in the jazz-related categories announced tonight: Toronto vocalist and CBC broadcaster Laila Biali, Vancouver improviser Gordon Grdina, improvising group Andy Milne & Dapp Theory, and Toronto pianist Robi Botos.
They beat out many previous, highly-touted JUNO winners, in albums that split between mainstream and the improvised avant-garde.
Biali won in the Vocal Jazz album of the Year category for her self-titled album, which includes primarily her own compositions plus songs by Randy Newman and David Bowie. She was also featured on vocals on another album in this JUNO category, by Vancouver bassist Jodi Proznick, and called out to Proznick in her acceptance speech: "I share this award with you. You are my soul sister!".
Biali additionally beat out albums by previous JUNO-winners Diana Krall, Holly Cole, and Diana Panton. This was Biali's first win, although she was previously nominated in 2011. In her speech, Biali recounted how, when she first started playing jazz in high school, she covered Diana Krall's music in a talent competition: "I can't tell you what it means to be nominated in the same category as Diana Krall, who really introduced me to jazz, and Holly Cole, I fell in love with your music when I was 15!"
Gord Grdina is well known as an important part of Vancouver's avant-garde/free jazz/world-music scene, playing guitar and oud in many different groups. But he won in the Instrumental Album of the Year category for his first solo album, China Cloud. It was recorded during a number of intimate and completely-improvised solo performances at the Vancouver underground art space China Cloud. It features him playing both acoustic and electric guitar and oud, as well as improvising with tape loops, effects, and percussion, and even singing on one number.
The Beeched Wailers celebrated their 5th anniversary, as a group and of presenting open jazz jams, at Irene's Pub on March 5.
They presented their first show at the Rochester Pub in 2014, moved to the Wellington Eatery in 2015 when the Rochester closed, then went to Bar Robo – and finally ended up at Irene's Pub almost two years ago, where they've been happily playing ever since. As saxophonist Tyler Harris says in our podcast interview, "it's been a bit of a travelling circus".
The Wailers released their first album, The Johnson Lake Sessions, in 2015. They also regularly perform music by other local jazz composers.
Listen to the interview with Nicholas Dyson (Beeched Wailers leader / founder / trumpeter) and founding member / saxophonist Tyler Harris about their experiences in the past five years. Thgere may be a delay while the audio loads. Download
The Beeched Wailers open jazz jams continue every Tuesday at Irene's Pub from 9 p.m. to midnight. The band plays one opening set then opens the floor to jammers. All are welcome. Donations are appreciated.