Updated February 19, 2015

See this week's jazz highlights

In Ottawa, February is the coldest month, but it's got plenty of hot music scheduled! Here are a few jazz highlights in the next month from OttawaJazzScene.ca's more extensive listings.

Vocalist Denzal Sinclaire will perform in Ottawa on February 20 in honour of Black History Month. ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Vocalist Denzal Sinclaire will perform in Ottawa on February 20 in honour of Black History Month. ©Brett Delmage, 2014
On Thursday, Florquestra is back, adding its Brazilian rhythms to la Chasse-Galerie's celebration of francophone music in the Market. And it's the second week of Zakari Frantz' new Jazz Thursdays downtown, which will feature some of Ottawa-Gatineau's brightest jazz musicians and highlight new projects each week.

On Friday evening, put on your dancing shoes and swing to two local bands who only occasionally play around town. At the Unitarian Church, Mango Upstart brings its Latin rhythms to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, while in Sandy Hill, Sonic Blue performs for swing dancers.

This Saturday (February 7), three well-known local jazz pianists – Steve Boudreau, Mark Ferguson, and Clayton Connell – are teaming up to help GigSpace buy its own piano. Expect a mix of their own compositions and standards, playing with lots of verve.

If you love organ music, you might want to attend the Saturday afternoon symposium sponsored by the Royal Canadian College of Organists on the history and technology of electronic organs. The talks at Christ Church Cathedral will be divided into “The Profane: Tonewheel (Hammond) & Transistor Organs” (with local Hammond enthusiast and jazz/R&B musician Don Cummings), and “The Sacred: Modern Digital Organs”.

Or, if your tastes run more to the avant-garde, trumpeter Peter Evans is guaranteed to stretch your ears on Saturday evening. Evans plays everything from Baroque music to the freeest of free jazz, and is a prominent member of the New York City scene. He was featured on trumpet in Blue, the controversial note-for-note reproduction of a Miles Davis recording by the avant-bebop group, Mostly Other People Do The Killing (he was a founding member of that group and left them just recently). Evans' solo set will be preceded by solo sets by two prominent Ottawa jazz musicians: Adam Saikaley on Rhodes and Linsey Wellman on alto sax.

It's also the first weekend of the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, featuring two local groups who cross the boundaries of jazz (but in very different ways), a Toronto pianist who's been a popular regular at jazzfest jams, and several American, French, and Zimbabwean jazz and world music groups. You can read the full line-up here. Friday and Saturday have three concerts a night at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage; you must buy separate tickets for each show.

On Sunday afternoon, it's the second set for the new format for the JazzWorks Sunday jams, with coaching this month from saxophonist Mike Tremblay. That evening, the Montreal-based group Siach Hasadeh brings their improvisational music, based on off-the-beaten-track Jewish melodies, to IMOO.

Bassist Marc Decho opened a lot of eyes and ears last year with his trio 2React, which showed how much of hip-hop was based in jazz beats. On Wednesday, February 11 at noon, he, drummer Mike Essoudry, and pianist Clayton Connell will present an acoustic jazz tribute concert to iconic hip-hop producer J Dilla. Southminster United Church will never be the same.

On February 12 and 13, JazzWorks is bringing American improvisational vocalist Vinx, whose repertoire ranges from jazz to funk and bossa nova to blues, and who teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, to Ottawa. On Thursday evening, you can hear him in concert. On Friday, he'll present a “Vocalists’ Critical Listening Workshop” in the afternoon, and a “Vocalists’ Open Mic and Master Class” in the evening, with accompaniment by pianists Elise Letourneau and Roland Racz.

Pianist Mark Ferguson and vocalist Karen Oxorn perform at Gigspace this month, each in a very different concert ©2014 Brett Delmage
Pianist Mark Ferguson and vocalist Karen Oxorn perform at Gigspace this month, each in a very different concert ©2014 Brett Delmage
The Valentine's Day weekend has a definite jazz flavour this year, starting with loving treatments of jazz standards from the duo of Steve Berndt and Brian Browne at La Grange in Gatineau on Friday, February 13. On February 14 itself, you can hear Karen Oxorn's lively tribute to love songs from the Roaring Twenties and Dirty Thirties. Along with standards by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Fats Waller, she and her Jazz Age Trio will even play a few numbers by her great-uncle, who enjoyed a successful Tin Pan Alley/Hollywood career as a lyricist and sometime composer. Or you can enjoy classic dinner jazz (vocals and guitar) with a romantic twist at different locations around town from Peter Liu and Garry Elliott, from Pierre Monfils and Anouk-Michelle Grégoire, or from Elise Letourneau and Tim Bedner.

On February 15, IMOO, which has had a musically intriguing season already, will present Halifax pianist Tim Crofts, whose musical style combines elements of 20th century classical music with free jazz improvisation and world music aesthetics. Crofts recently released an album with his trio and renowned free jazz percussionist Gerry Hemingway, and has also performed with Jerry Granelli, Evan Parker, and Dave Douglas.

Peggy Lee at the Guelph Jazz Festival ©2012 Brett Delmage
Peggy Lee at the Guelph Jazz Festival ©2012 Brett Delmage
February 13 to 15 is the second weekend of the Winter Jazz Festival. Friday features a series of overlapping concerts in different rooms in Dominion Chalmers United Church, including a tribute to Kenny Wheeler with many of the same musicians who successfully raised funds for Wheeler in Ottawa last fall, and three Canadian jazz artists whose music ranges from nu-jazz with hip-hop and soul influences, to chamber jazz, to jazz manouche. Saturday features an overlapping series of indie-folk music shows, culminating in a tribute to Leonard Cohen. On Sunday, you can hear improvising cellist Peggy Lee with her long-time collaborator, vocalist Mary Margaret O'Hara. You can read the full line-up here.

Vocalist Peter Liu has formed a new vocal jazz quartet called Jazz Lines, along with Stefano Urro, Amy Desrosiers, and Jenna Peacock. They'll be making their first public appearance guesting at Peter's Vineyards gig on Tuesday, February 17.

On Friday, February 20, Toronto vocalist Denzal Sinclaire is back in Ottawa after his well-received Nat King Cole tribute with the NAC Orchestra last year. Together with pianist Mark Ferguson and double bassist John Geggie, he'll be performing a “Jazz on Sparks” concert in honour of Black History Month.

On Saturday, February 21, JazzN's popular house concerts in the rural west end will feature the soaring clarinet and swinging rhythms of Ottawa jazzers Scott Poll and the Pollcats. In central Ottawa, Montreal drummer Mark Nelson brings his Sympathetic Frequencies quartet, with members from across the continent creating melodic and inventive sound sculptures.

On Sunday, February 22, two big bands are performing. In the afternoon, you can dance to Standing Room Only at their regular tea dance in Almonte (this time with Liu as guest vocalist). In the evening, the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra is scheduled for its first spring concert (theme not yet announced).

Guitarist Alex Moxon is starting a new monthly series at Das Lokal in the Market. The first concert, on February 22, will be a tribute to iconic jazz guitarist Grant Green. It will be performed by the same quintet who paid tribute to Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro last spring, to excellent audience response. They'll put their own spin on two of Green's classic albums, Alive! and Live at the Lighthouse.

On Monday, February 23, Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans celebrates her continuing love of iconic jazz singer Nina Simone. Together with two other black vocalists from Toronto, Jackie Richardson and Shakura S’Aida, she'll be presenting The Nina Project at the NAC Fourth Stage. The show will go to Toronto next month.

On Tuesday, February 24, local guitarist Sean Duhaime will celebrate his birthday in a rare show with his jazz fusion trio.

On Thursday, February 26 at 6 p.m., the National Arts Centre will hold its Annual General Meeting, which is free and open to the public, and will feature an extensive presentation on how the NAC will be rebuilt over the next two years. Have any questions about the new shape of the Fourth Stage? This is the time to ask.

Alex Moxon starts a new monthly series on February 22 ©2014 Brett Delmage
Alex Moxon starts a new monthly series on February 22 ©2014 Brett Delmage
Later that evening, you can hear the large-form Impressions Jazz Group play originals in Centretown. In Ottawa South, the highly original American guitar player Joe Morris will team up with Montreal trumpeter Craig Pedersen and Ottawa cellist Mark Molnar for an improvised concert that will include “their collective take on tradition and innovation to places of joy, inquiry and contemplation in an effort to share the music they love”.

On February 27, the jazz vocal quartet Cuppa Joe brings its swinging harmonies to Stittsville. The same evening, vocalist/pianist/accordionist Megan Jerome gives a solo house concert, featuring her original songs.

And the David Rubel Quintet will be at GigSpace that night: Toronto saxophonist Rubel is accompanied by Nat Steele on vibraphone, plus piano, bass, and drums. Their repertoire draws equally from the Great American Songbook and bebop, and they're about to record a live album of classic jazz inspired by Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus.

On February 27 and 28, Montreal jazz/blues guitarist Jordan Officer will perform in Aylmer, while Toronto saxophonist Bobby Hsu will play with a mixed group of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa musicians in Kanata.

February ends with a local “super-group” − on the 28th, the nine-member Rake-star Arkestra will fill Mugshots with saxes, Hammond organ, and percussion to celebrate the memory and tradition of the iconoclastic Sun Ra. Expect many layers of sound and some great hats!

February is the shortest month, but it won't be short of music!

    – Alayne McGregor

For full details on all of these shows and many more helpful weekly reminders, and to be eligible to win free tickets to one of these concerts, be sure to subscribe to JazzScene, OttawaJazzScene.ca's weekly news and events newsletter.

February 19: Added The Nina Project (February 23).