Updated October 5, 2015
Read OttawaJazzScene.ca's story about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in November, 2015
It's a mixed bag of jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in October – some big band, some Latin, some vocalists, some avant-garde, and some mainstream jazz.
Visiting artists from across Canada and the U.S., including Jill Barber, Sophie Milman, and Steve Grossman, will add some glamour, while local musicians will show off their chops – including one CD release. And the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra will even get into jazz, with a concert series celebrating Jazz-Age music, including by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, and Charlie Chaplin.
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And there's a jazz festival mid-month. Merrickville's Jazz Fest (October 15-18) will showcase a wide variety of accessible jazz, with four Toronto groups (vocalist Alex Pangman, saxophonist Allison Au, vocalist and pianist Fern Lindzon, and the brash jazz fusion of Snaggle) – and many Ottawa-area musicians presenting recent projects.
Local highlights at Merrickville will include vocalists Diane White, Steve Berndt featuring Brian Browne, and Dominique Forest; Latin from the Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Trio and the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet; and mainstream jazz from groups like The Jazz CO-OP and The Horizon Quintet. The final night will feature Richard Page’s Night On The Town Band with their infectiously fun, propulsive music. Read about the full line-up in our story.
The month opened with a fanfare by the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, and its “Works of Art” tribute to Art Blakey and Art Pepper. If you're looking for more big band music, the Stan Clark Orchestra will be playing at Harvest Noir's dance on October 3, and at Maxwell's on October 5. On October 18, the Standing Room Only big band opens its season of Sunday afternoon tea dances at the Old Town Hall in Almonte.
On Saturday, October 3, Beckta Dining and Wine Bar will add a new item to its menu: jazz. Located in the former Friday's Roast Beef House on Elgin, Beckta is well-known as a place for fine dining, but the Rob Frayne Quartet will be its first jazz show. Frayne says to expect tenor sax standards, swinging and bluesy, plus Martine Courage's arrangements of Shirley-Horn-type tunes, and more. This is an experiment, but owner Stephen Beckta said that if the evening feels right and sounds right, we might see more jazz there.
Also that Saturday evening, Montreal pianist Guillaume Martineau, and his wife, vocalist Janna Kate will present an evening of jazz standards at Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge. Martineau will be back later in the month for a higher-profile NAC Presents concert with his quintet.
On Sunday, October 4, you can spend your afternoon jamming at Bluesfest House under the gentle tutelage of guitarist Garry Elliott, at the first JazzWorks Sunday jam of the season. Or you could indulge your vinyl/CD addiction at the Ottawa Community Record Show at St. Anthony's Hall off Preston Street. And you could say thanks for your finds at a Jazz Vespers service later that afternoon at All Saints Anglican Westboro, with pianist James McGowan and saxophonist/United Church minister Peter Woods.
On Tuesday, October 6, guitarist and vocalist Léonard Constant is at Les Brasseurs du Temps for a concert of words and music. Backed by his Florquestra compatriots Regina Gomes Teixeira and Silvio Modolo, he'll combine Brazilian music with songs and poetry by George Brassens and Jacques Prévert.
On Wednesday, October 7, Toronto pianist Ali Berkok will be in Ottawa for two different solo shows. At noon, he'll play in the beautiful and resonant Southminster United Church in Ottawa South, with a program including his own music plus standards by Cole Porter, Sylvan Esso, and Irving Berlin. In the evening, he'll be at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata.
Berkok plays everything from heavily scored chamber jazz, to free-form, non-idiomatic improvisation, to modern jazz. In 2012, he composed a chamber score to the film Battleship Potemkin. He is a founding member of the improvising trio Aurochs, who released its debut album Rational Animals in 2014, and whose follow-up is in the works for this fall. He also founded Arkana, a five-piece modern jazz outfit whose albums Hyprovisation (2007) and Kaleidoscope (2009) received critical praise.
On Thursday, October 8, the NAC will present a conversation between the New Yorker's music critic, Alex Ross, and journalist Paul Wells in the Studio. Admission is free. It's part of the NAC Orchestra's season, but given that Wells is a jazz fan and Ross' musical interests are wide-ranging, some jazz might slip in as well.
Latin vocalist Claudia Salguero loves the boleros and other romantic music from Colombia and Mexico, mixing poetry with exuberant harmonies. Her shows at the NAC Fourth Stage regularly sell out. On October 10 and 11, listeners can hear her in a more intimate space, in her artist's studio with Silvio Modolo on piano. There's only 30 seats per show and the Saturday show has reportedly already sold out.
On Saturday, October 10, a French musical drama at la Maison de la Culture in Gatineau will revisit the legend of actress and jazz vocalist Judy Garland. Judy Garland, la fin d'une étoile is set in London in 1968, as she is about to take the stage for a final series of shows.
American saxophonist Steve Grossman played in Miles Davis' fusion quartet in the early 1970s, followed by a two-year stint in drummer Elvin Jones' group with Dave Liebman. His albums as leader include a who's-who of jazz: Billy Higgins, Cedar Walton, Barry Harris, McCoy Tyner, Tom Harrell, Elvin Jones, Cecil McBee, Jimmy Cobb, Michel Petrucciani, and Johnny Griffin.
According to Dave Liebman, Grossman “definitely had a way of playing that was unique. He was the best of all of us. We, the tenor players of that time from our generation all acknowledged that. Those of us still alive from then would still say that Steve was the one that had the most going on.”
On Monday, October 12¸ Grossman will bring his quartet – a notable group of Montreal musicians – for a show at Les Brasseurs du Temps. They have a long connection: Grossman first toured with pianist Fred Henke, drummer André White, and bassist Ron Séguin in Italy for three months in 1988. This concert will allow them to again reunite.
The National Arts Centre Orchestra is celebrating the Roaring Twenties and jazz-age music in five concerts this month. While several are more classically-based, “Lights, Camera, Action!” on October 14 includes pieces by Kurt Weill and Charlie Chaplin's score to his film City Lights; “The Search for Identity” on October 15 includes songs by Cole Porter; and “What is Classical?” on October 17 includes George Gershwin numbers. The October 15 show will also feature jazz singers Sophie Milman and Micah Barnes and double bassist John Geggie.
There always seems to be one weekend in a month that's especially busy for jazz, and this month the pile-up occurs October 16 to 18. The biggie is Merrickville's Jazz Fest, but if you're not going out of town, there's lots of other choices that weekend.
On Friday, October 16, the Juliet Singers, a new vocal harmony trio formed by jazz vocalists Elise Letourneau, Rachel Beausoleil, and Kathy Eagan, will present a recreation of Carole King's iconic Tapestry album at GigSpace. Almost every song on that album was a memorable hit, and they'll perform all of them, plus “a few more gems”. The trio will be accompanied by Mark Ferguson on piano, as well as singing a cappella.
On Saturday, October 17, Rob Frayne will play his favourite tenor sax tunes, “mostly standards that utilize the swing and groove” of his Saxomatic Quartet. Think “Satin Doll”, “When Lights are Low”, or “Doxy”. He'll be at GigSpace with three other strong local jazz musicians: pianist Steve Boudreau, bassist Martin Newman, and drummer Mike Essoudry, and he says he'll try to “find a way to fit and hit with the cats”.
That same evening, Ottawa vocalist Anne Lewis will celebrate the first year of her return to music with a quintet show at the NAC Fourth Stage. Supported by Juno-Award winning jazz guitarist Mike Rud, pianist Peter Hum, double bassist John Geggie, and drummer Michel Delage, she'll sing jazz classics and original songs with “passion, poise and power”. The set list includes pieces ranging from “sassy up-tempo swing, to sultry blues, to smooth and mellow”, many made famous by jazz masters.
At Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau, you have a Latin alternative. Florquestra will present its “Soirée forró” on October 17, focusing on that type of music. Forró is the music of northeastern Brazil, a musical confluence of Amerindian, African, and European cultural elements – played on the accordion, the triangle, and the zabumba (a large drum), and sometimes the pandeiro, the guitar, the bass, and the cavaco.
On Sunday, October 18, saxophonist Mike Tremblay will release his new trio CD, which was recorded live to the floor at GigSpace in June. Tremblay notes that this is a truly live CD: “no solos were redone or improved in the studio, we only mixed what was played that night.”
This time he's playing the music in a larger, more resonant venue – Trinity United Church – but the musicians are the same: Tim Bedner on guitar, and Ben Heard on double bass. They will play music from the CD, including some originals by Tremblay, and standards by Dexter Gordon, Michel Legrand, Steve Swallow, Sam Rivers, and Charlie Haden.
Do you like jazz which crosses over into other genres? Then Toronto bassist Artie Roth and his quartet may be for you. On Friday, October 23, they'll be at GigSpace, seamlessly blending “Rock, Funk, and Avant-Garde harmonic and melodic languages with Jazz forms and the Jazz 'swing' rhythmic feeling. Dangerous and modern, this is jazz infused with catchy melodic hooks and Bass lines.” Influenced by the performance aesthetic of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, John Coltrane, and John Scofield, the quartet's compositions also reflect alternative groups like Radiohead, U2, and Pearl Jam, as well as blues and folk musicians. They've just released a second album, Discern.
On October 23 and 24, the Trio Jonathan Turgeon from Montreal will be at Brookstreet, playing high-intensity post-bop modern jazz. They say it shows the influence of rock, classical music, and pop – but is primarily characterized by interaction among the musicians and by improvisation. The trio, which came together in 2012, released an album, Au fil des feuilles qui craquent, in January.
On Saturday, October 24, Montreal pianist Guillaume Martineau and his quintet will play piano jazz with an electric edge at the NAC Fourth Stage. Martineau's background is in classical music, but he moved to jazz when he realized he was more interested in improvisation and creating his own compositions than just the nuances of performance – and he then went to study at Berklee. He was chosen as this year's Révélations jazz artist by Radio Canada (a signal honour). He'll be playing music from both his 2013 debut album and the new album he's about to record; expect his classical background to show through in extended compositions with a large dynamic range and lots of space for sax and electric guitar and bass and drums as well as piano.
Also on October 24, Peter Turner and Mark Ferguson present their sixth Trombone Summit at GigSpace. They'll be playing their favourite jazz standards with plenty of harmonizing and spontaneous counterpoint between the two trombones. Their aim: to showcase the unique possibilities of the two-trombone combo, with extra texture and rhythm and melody provided by Tim Bedner on guitar.
Also on Saturday, you can hear drummer Robert Fontaine combine his two passions – jazz and film – in a house concert in the Mississippi Mills area. The JazzN.ca show will feature Fontaine's quartet playing originals and classic jazz, all linked by a movie theme.
On Sunday, October 25, the Rake-Star Arkestra will fill the Raw Sugar Café with layers of intense sound, cool experimentation, and jaw-droppingly-inventive hats. Rake-star is an Ottawa collective of nine adventuresome musicians who gather periodically to plumb the songbook of the great Sun Ra – and substantially improvise on Ra's material, which is why the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) is presenting this show.
Vocalist Jill Barber will share songs of love and heartache at Jean-Despréz Hall in downtown Gatineau on Tuesday, October 27 (for those who already bought tickets, note that the date was moved). She'll be showcasing her 2014 album, Fool's Gold, whose sounds range from jazz to country to a driving Motown groove.
If you enjoyed September's Afro Cuban celebration at the Shenkman Arts Centre, you can hear pianist Miguel de Armas and his Latin Jazz Quartet again at the same location on Thursday, October 29 (but minus the dancers). The occasion: the ARTinis Annual Benefit for the AOE Arts Council. If you'd prefer to hear the quartet in a club without the hoopla, they're at Brookstreet on the first Friday of each month (this month, October 2).
On Friday, October 30, Michel Delage will present his monthly jazz tribute show at Brookstreet. This time, the visiting musician is renowned Montreal drummer and pianist André White. The subject of their tribute has not yet been announced.
Saturday, October 31, is the Ottawa debut of Winnipeg jazz guitarist Keith Price (we can't find any evidence of him ever performing here before), who has studied at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and with master guitarists Larry Roy and Mick Goodrick. His trio will be at Brookstreet, playing standards, originals (“melodic, introspective, and ... spiritual”) – and their covers of rock/indie artists like Nirvana, St. Vincent, and Sufjan Stevens. Price says that covering those artists is “an intentional decision designed to bridge the gap between the every-day music lover and the sometimes hard-to-understand world of jazz.” Listening to Price's video of a Kurt Cobain song on his website, you can hear how he's added a jazz sensibility to the music.
In on-going series, guitarist Garry Elliott will feature three more vocalists, and vocal duo, in weekly Wednesday dinner-hour shows with him at Santé in the Market. Tim Bedner is moving his weekly guitar duo series at La Roma in Little Italy back to Thursdays, rather than Fridays. This month, he's playing with one trombonist and four saxophonists. Peter Brown's monthly jazz quartet show in Carleton Place is back on again: after its last location closed, it's moved to the Queen's Hotel on the first Thursday of the month.
And bassist Marc Decho again takes the prize for most unusual local group name with his new “Hellonious Fonq” group; it will play its jazz/funk tunes on Sunday evenings in October (except for October 11) at Irene's Pub in the Glebe.
– Alayne McGregor
October 5: Added more details to the NAC Orchestra's Roaring Twenties series, including appearances by Sophie Milman, Micah Barnes, and John Geggie.