The Festival de Jazz Desjardins in Aylmer will feature the younger generation of Quebec and Ontario jazz artists in its free outdoor concerts this July and August. The line-up was announced this week.

Jérôme Beaulieu will be back in Ottawa-Gatineau for a free outdoor concert in Aylmer on July 31. ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Jérôme Beaulieu will be back in Ottawa-Gatineau for a free outdoor concert in Aylmer on July 31. ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Pianists Emie R. Roussel and Jérôme Beaulieu – who both played well-received concerts recently at the National Arts Centre – will bring their trios to Aylmer, along with the Jazz Street Boyz from Montreal and the Chocolate Hot Pockets from Ottawa. The four consecutive evening concerts will run from July 29 to August 1, 2015.

On Wednesdays in July, the City of Gatineau will also feature Ontario and Quebec world music artists, several of which also have a jazz flavour: Patricia Cano, Elage Mbaye, and Vox Sambou.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins concerts will be held in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer, immediately across from the Aylmer Marina. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and last for at least an hour. Picnics and families are welcome. Listeners should bring their own lawn chairs or blankets, because seating is not provided. And they should hope for clear skies, because concerts are canceled in the event of rain. Donations are welcome.

This is the 29th year of the Desjardins festival, and in a change from previous years, all the musicians featured are in their 20s and in the earlier stages of their careers. Both Beaulieu and Roussel were named as Radio-Canada’s jazz “Discoveries of the Year” in its Révélations program, in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The Jazz Street Boyz will open the festival on Wednesday, July 29. They began playing old-style, celebratory New Orleans jazz in the streets of Montreal in 2010, and have been featured for three years at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The group is led by Jerôme Dupuis-Cloutier on trumpet and Dominic Desjardins on banjo and vocals, and released their first album, Invités, in 2014. Think dirty blues, muted trumpet, lots of spontaneous solos, and lots of swing.

On Thursday, July 30, pianist Emie R. Roussel brings her award-winning trio, with bassist Nicolas Bédard and drummer Dominic Cloutier, to the park. They released their third album, Quantum, this spring; it adds groove and R&B colours to classic piano jazz, while retaining melody and intimacy. It's a strong contrast from their second album, Transit, which put the trio in dramatic conversation with a string quartet.

Roussel wrote all the pieces on the trio's three albums – and has gained considerable acclaim for that music at home in Quebec. She first played the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2012, and was a nominee for the Grand Prix de Jazz TD Jazz Fest and Galaxie Rising Star Award in 2013; her trio received a special mention from the Grand Prix jury. The trio also won the People’s Choice award at the 28th annual Festi Jazz International de Rimouski, and the Opus Jazz Disc of the Year in 2014, for Transit.

At their NAC Presents concert in April, the trio performed an energetic set, keeping the audience's attention with intricate rhythms and strong melodies. It was obvious that the three musicians, who have performed together since 2010, were very comfortable together, each adding to the sweep of the music and its groove.

The Trio Jérôme Beaulieu will appear on Friday, July 31. The trio appeared twice in Ottawa in 2014: as part of the NAC Presents series in March, and then at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in June. Their NAC concert was their first show outside Quebec, and was rapturously received, with three standing ovations and two encores. Their jazzfest show only got one standing ovation – but there wasn't time for more.

The trio, with Beaulieu on piano, Philippe Leduc on bass, and William Côté on drums, has won both Montreal's Jazz en Rafale award and the Festi-Jazz de Rimouski's Grand Prize, and performed for three years at the Montreal Jazz Festival. They deliberately take a melodic approach to their music, playing primarily Beaulieu's originals but also the occasional cover of songs by pop groups like Radiohead as well as Quebeçois songs.

In his compositions, Beaulieu combines a strong feel for the jazz piano trio tradition – particularly modern masters like Brad Mehldau and Aaron Parks – with a populist approach and a willingness to experiment. The trio's latest album, Chercher l'Equilibre [Effendi, 2013], includes sounds from a hockey rattle, a toy piano – and a manual typewriter. One song is introduced by a poem read by a Montreal spoken-word artist. The result (both live and on the album) is, however, unquestionably jazz, with a strongly modern feel.

For the final festival show on August 1, Ottawa's Chocolate Hot Pockets will bring their patented mix of jazz and neo-soul – with a touch of funk – to the park. They recently released their second album, Chocolate Dreamz, featuring originals by guitarist Alex Moxon and trumpeter Ed Lister. All four members (also including drummer Jamie Holmes and bassist J.P. Lapensée) have strong jazz backgrounds and regularly play jazz gigs around town, but they also play in local rock and R&B groups. The combination produces an eclectic sound, but with lots of improvisation and freshness.

World music throughout July

If you missed Sudbury vocalist Patricia Cano at Ontario Scene, you can hear her in Aylmer on Wednesday, July 8. Her music blends jazz, blues, South American folk, samba, Afro-Peruvian rhythms, and more. With a background in theatre, Spanish literature, Korean singing, and Brazil’s Carioca music scene, Cano sings in English, French, and Spanish.

The following week (Wednesday, July 15), percussionist Elage Mbaye will fill the park with West African rhythms. Originally from Senegal, Mbaye arrived in Canada with his family in 1986. A descendant of a large griot family, he started to play traditional Senegalese percussion instruments and rhythms at eight years of age. He has performed with Les Frères Diouf and the Mighty Popo. In 2010, he released his first solo album, Askane, in collaboration with Abdou Sy, and followed that with Diame in 2014. He performed in Ottawa earlier this year with the Impressions Jazz Group.

Vox Sambou, from Limbe in northern Haiti, will appear on Wednesday, July 22. He's a founding member of the hip-hop collective Nomadic Massive, and, in that group, sings in Haitian Creole about the injustices of Haiti and the world. He released his second solo album, Dyasporafriken, in 2013.

How to get to the shows

The Parc de L'Imaginaire is beside Le Centre d'expostion L'Imagier at 9 Front Street, about 15 km from downtown Ottawa. It's accessible by bike: you can cross the river by the Champlain or Chaudière Bridges (Champlain is more comfortable), and take the multi-use paths westward along Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It's an enjoyable ride along the river, about an hour long - but remember to bring lights for the trip home.

You can also reach the park by automobile and by the Outaouais public transit service, STO (info: 819-770-3242). STO route 51 takes you into and out of Aylmer, but you will likely have to transfer from/to an Ottawa-bound bus at Rivermead Station. You can get directions via the STO Planibus.

You could even try boating to the park, if you can tie up at the nearby Aylmer marina.

For more information: .

    – Alayne McGregor

Read's stories about and reviews of these artists:

Read about previous editions of the Festival de Jazz Desjardins: