Updated April 14: CHP CD release delayed
April is the month when the world celebrates jazz. And in Ottawa, there is lots of jazz to celebrate, in many different styles. Complementing the strong vocal performances we heard in March, April brings much more instrumental music.
Big bands, tributes to Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk, Latin American jazz, and free improv are all on the menu. Local musicians will present new and updated projects; musicians from Quebec and Ontario will bring their own voices.
April will close with International Jazz Day on the 30th, and a star-studded concert videocast from Paris, France. But it's JazzApril all month, and a chance to explore many different types of jazz here, including right down the centre, on every day of the week and from noon-hour concerts to midnight jams.
The 4th month of the year brings 4 CD releases
Four groups will release CDs with a broad range of sound in April.
Friday, April 17: One of the highlights of 2014 was renowned improviser and NYC bassist William Parker's visit to Ottawa, during which he played two sold-out concerts at GigSpace with Toronto baritone saxophonist David Mott and Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart. For the following two days, the trio hunkered down at the studios of Bova Sound, and recorded an album of melodic and grooving improvisations – heavily influenced by their years of experience playing both mainstream and free jazz. They'll be back at GigSpace to release Telling Stories – but knowing how inventive each of them is, don't expect a reprise of either last year's shows or the CD, or either of their two shows to be the same! Read our interview with Mott and Stewart about the CD and the concert.
Thursday, April 23: The Chocolate Hot Pockets (CHP) unveil their second CD, Chocolate Dreams, which reinterprets fatback funk, jazz, and neo-soul, in the hot and sweaty environs of the Mercury Lounge – nicely fitting their original music written by guitarist Alex Moxon and trumpeter Ed Lister. The CD release show has been postponed to May 23.
Friday, April 24: The Craig Pedersen Quartet, which includes Ottawa saxophonist Linsey Wellman and ex-Ottawa trumpeter Pedersen, is touring Ontario and Quebec this month with its second album, Ghosts. CP4 plays everything from long grooving builds to bebop to free-jazz; expect their sound to fill Black Squirrel Books with a wide variety of listenable original music, and a soupçon of surprises.
April 24: The Lucas Haneman Express includes guitarist Lucas Haneman, drummer Jeff Asselin, and bassist Martin Newman – all stalwarts of the local jazz scene. But they say their first CD, Welcome Aboard, is more on the funk, blues, reggae, and rock side. You can hear whether their jazz instincts come through when they release it at Irene's Pub. The Sun Crescent BBQ Stompers will open, playing their popular New Orleans-style jazz.
Jazz that's a labour of love
At OttawaJazzScene.ca, we're particularly excited by several concerts that are clearly labours of love by local musicians.
Wednesday, April 8: At noon, Jesse Stewart will perform interactive percussion in the middle of Ottawa City Hall – inside a portable geodesic dome. The event is sponsored by Chamberfest and is called "D.O.M.E.: Dynamics of Musical Exploration".
April 8: Los Gringos will bring its crisp, complex percussion and driving horn sections to the Market, performing original material based on Afro-Cuban rhythms with their own twist. This will be the first time fine trumpeter Fred Paci is a permanent member of the group. Los Gringos only performs in Ottawa every few months, so you may have to wait until the jazz festival to hear them again.
April 9: Ottawa composer Rick Rangno will present his original music inspired by the art, inventions, and life of Leonardo da Vinci at the NAC Fourth Stage. Toronto trumpeter Tara Kannangara (last seen here in February with Elizabeth Shepherd) and Montreal saxophonist Christine Jensen will special guest, along with Ottawa violinist Laura Nerenberg. “Invention” is the last show in the 2014-15 Ottawa Jazz Orchestra season, and OJO leader Adrian Cho will contribute several compositions as well.
Friday, April 10: Cool jazz and beat poetry epitomized the 1950's coffee house scene in New York City. In their Lords of Lao Tzu show at GigSpace, four Ottawa jazz musicians will attempt to follow in the tradition of Jack Kerouac, in a five-part narrative capturing the language rhythms of urban youths living in the projects and straining it through the philosophy of Lao Tzu.
Wednesday, April 15: Mark Ferguson and Roddy Ellias will present their original music for piano, guitar and Scott Latham's vibraphone at a noon-hour concert at Southminster United Church.
Thursday, April 16, 23, 30: Drummer Mike Essoudry's monthly Thursday-night duos at Mugshots with Don Cummings have been highly popular. Now he's trying new duo combinations on three consecutive Thursdays there, with (in order) Adam Saikaley on electronics, Zakari Frantz on saxophone, and Michel Delage on drums.
April 23: Visual artist and vocalist Claudia Salguero has a winning formula: excellent local Latin jazz musicians playing boleros and poetic love songs, with exuberant harmonies. She's attracted sold-out crowds to the NAC Fourth Stage for the past four years, tweaking the set list each year. This year, she'll also celebrate the folk origins of Latin American music, including traditional instruments and compositions, in her show “Origenes”.
April 23: The award-winning Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) holds its annual showcase concert, this year with fluid and inventive guitarist Ted Quinlan. The student big band will also perform with an even bigger band on April 29, in student matinées with the NAC Orchestra.
April 23: Vocalist Michael Pytura presents his fifth annual Annual World Wish Day Concert, paying tribute to the era of the crooners and big bands, at Sala San Marco.
April 24-25: The last weekend of each month, Ottawa drummer Michel Delage and his trio are presenting tributes to famous jazz musicians at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge, starting last month with Wayne Shorter. For April, Delage has invited Toronto pianist Adrean Farrugia for a tribute to iconic pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. They will perform some of Monk's well-known tunes and some of his more challenging compositions. Farrugia has been seen in Ottawa with NYC vocalist Amy Cervini, in the Ernesto Cervini Quartet, and in Tim Shia's The Worst Pop Band Ever.
April 25: John Geggie is back for his annual Invitational concert, this time with two fine Canadian saxophonists – Kelly Jefferson from Toronto, and Frank Lozano from Montreal – and one of his favourite drummers, Jim Doxas from Montreal. Both Jefferson and Lozano have released several CDs as leaders, while Doxas is just about to release his first CD. All three have played with major jazz names including Emile-Claire Barlow, the Shuffle Demons, Oliver Jones, Dave Douglas, Michel Donato, and Donny McCaslin. Geggie's Fourth Stage concerts have always been cooperative efforts among the musicians: each contributes compositions and suggestions and the four then produce new and interesting versions of the music.
April 25: Rob Frayne has a new edition of his DreamBand, with Montrealers Bill Mahar (trumpet) and Joel Miller (sax) joining many well-known Ottawa jazz musicians. Expect favourites from his last DreamBand CD and concert, but also modern jazz versions of an English folk song, and a Dixieland number, and an evangelical tune from the turn of the last century. Several contemporary dancers will interpret the tunes in movement, Megan Jerome will emcee, and the concert will be recorded for a future CD.
Sunday, April 26: The Nachtmusik series continues at Das Lokal with Bosveld: improvisers Jeremy Mulder on alto sax and Théan Slabbert on guitar. They cross folk music with free improv, and include electronics, super-personal lyrics, and interesting use of looping pedals and different technological tricks.
Dave Brubeck to piano trio to electronics: a bit of everything from elsewhere
Friday, April 3: Habana Café will fill Cabaret La Basoche in Aylmer with infectious Latin sounds and salsa rhythms. Don't expect to sit down while the nine-piece band, led by pianist/vocalist Julián Gutiérrez, is playing.
April 3: The Ken McDonald Quartet from Toronto is on tour to promote their new CD, Sitting, Waiting, Wasting Time. Expect hard-hitting bass lines and groove from McDonald, who also plays in heavy metal groups.
April 4: Tertio's music is an “eclectic mixture of Jazz, Rock, with elements of electronic music ... reminiscent of the new wave in modern jazz”, led by guitarist Vincent Duhaime Perreault. Their appearance at the Avant-Garde Bar is their first in Ottawa, but they include several Montreal musicians known here: drummer Eric Thibodeau, bassist Alex Lefaivre, and pianist Paul Shrofel.
Friday, April 10: Quebec pianist Emie R. Roussel studied with Lorraine Desmarais, and has performed with many of the best-known names on the Quebec jazz scene. Her trio received a special mention from the jury of the 2013 TD Grand Jazz Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, while winning the People’s Choice award at the 28th annual Festi Jazz International de Rimouski. In 2014, she was named one of Radio-Canada’s “Discoveries of the Year”. She's bringing her trio, which has released three CDs, to the NAC to play contemporary jazz: rhythm-based, and infused with straightforward rock and pop harmonies. Read our feature interview with Roussel.
April 14: The Red Hot Club is inspired by Gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt, but also mixes in the rhythms of chanson française, manouche, swing, bossa nova, and rumba. Expect a dancing time at Les Brasseurs du Temps.
Wednesday, April 15: Montreal saxophonist Rémi Bolduc will pay homage to the Dave Brubeck Quartet in a concert at Salle Odyssée in Gatineau, featuring some of Quebec's best jazz talent. Bolduc will perform Paul Desmond's alto sax sections, while pianist François Bourassa will interpret Brubeck. They'll be accompanied by Fraser Hollins on bass and Dave Laing on drums. Bolduc previously put out a tribute CD to Charlie Parker; his recently-released tribute CD to Brubeck concentrates on the iconic albums Time Out and Time Further Out. Read our interview with Bolduc about why Brubeck's music speaks to him.
April 17: The Frédéric Pauze Quartet includes two Montreal musicians who have played often in Ottawa: saxophonist Samuel Blais and drummer Mark Nelson (Parc-X). Together with Pauze on bass and Gregory Burton on piano, they'll play original compositions which cross between traditional and modern jazz, seasoned with ingredients of free and classical music. The quartet’s music “ranges from introspective and intriguing, to moments of sheer energy and surprise”.
April 17-18: Drums and Organ (¡DO!) is the Toronto duo of Chris Cawthry and Simeon Abbott. They'll be grooving at Brookstreet, delivering an “organ”ic mix of surf, reggae, roots music, and jazz improvisation. If you like Medeski, Martin & Wood or The Meters, you might enjoy ¡DO!'s expressive improvisation and irreverent humour.
April 24: Bassist Andrew Downing, trumpeter Jim Lewis, and guitarist David Occhipinti will present their new CD, Bristles, at GigSpace. It's a collection of six jazz standards and six collaborative improvisations dedicated to painters such as Emily Carr and Cy Twombly.
Two series present music weekly on the quieter nights of the week throughout April
Every Sunday: Megan Jerome's Together Ensemble will fill Irene's with a jazzy cabaret with a lush instrumentation of guitar, organ, and drums, and Megan's memorable lyrics.
Every Monday: Richard Page is leading Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago, and promises a collection of originals and some standards that he's arranged and reharmonized, performed with series curator and bassist Alex Bilodeau, guitarist Terence Wright, and mainstay drummer Michel Delage.
Spring is here! And April is a great month to get out and discover something new and interesting, and catch up with the latest music from your favourite musicians in the jazz scene.
Starting at the end of April, the NAC's Ontario Scene will be a big part of the scene into May. Some shows are highly popular and are already selling out. So now might be a good time to read our story Ontario Scene blurs the boundaries in wide-ranging jazzy shows while you can still get tickets.
For full descriptions and timely reminders of these concerts, links to our interviews with the musicians, concert reviews, and any new events not listed here - plus wonderful opportunities to win tickets to some of these exciting upcoming performances - be sure to sign up for our weekly jazz events newsletter.
– Alayne McGregor