Think "September Song", and you'll have a good idea of what's happening in jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau. It's a month to hear jazz vocals – and the start of a new jazz season in which you can hear award-winning vocalists.
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Of course, there's still lots of opportunities to hear mainstream jazz and the avant-garde. But this fall, the big names will include Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Bet.e and Stef, Tanya Tagaq, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.
In September, you can hear the human voice celebrated in jazz in many different forms, from ballads to blues to Latin, with shows by the Nylons, Bet.e and Stef, The Juliet Singers, Diane Nalini, Kimberley Beyea, Nicole Ratté, Betty Ann Bryanton, Rachel Beausoleil, Megan Jerome, Anne Lewis, Peter Liu, Steve Berndt with the Jivewires, Hélène Knoerr, Rachelle Behrens, and Caroline Cook.
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New places and series in September
This year jazz shows are easing in rather than starting abruptly in September, with primarily local jazz artists welcoming you back.
The National Arts Centre (NAC), which traditionally hosts many local and visiting jazz artists, is undergoing its major renovation and won't even be open again until October. The Fourth Stage has been torn down and is being completely rebuilt; for this year, it will be replaced by the smaller Back Stage. Interested in seeing what's happening? The NAC is posting drone videos of the construction on its website.
That's meant that the NAC's calendar still has lots of holes. Of local groups, only the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra has announced its series of shows at the NAC. NAC Presents has released the names of some jazz-related shows, including the return of Petr Cancura's jazz-folk Crossroads series in November. The remainder of the NAC Presents season will be unveiled in October.
But new series and new locations are popping up too! They include a just-revealed Saturday evening series at Southminster United Church in Ottawa South whose eight shows will include three jazz groups: the Ken Harper Trio, ERU-ERA, and the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet.
The Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East has also announced a new jazz series featuring five local groups whose music ranges from ballads to Balkan-influenced free jazz. Restaurants like Bar Robo and Das Lokal are increasing their jazz content, and the JazzN.ca house concerts have expanded to two series, in Almonte and in Manotick.
Ottawa jazz groups have been busy recording albums this year. One album release party is scheduled in the next month, with more later this fall. Favourite shows are returning – often with new material – and there will be new ventures as well, including the musical unveiling of a new sound sculpture in an Ottawa park. OttawaJazzScene.ca has been canvassing local jazz musicians about their plans. We're impressed by the wide range of shows in the works.
Starting off on a high note
The Gatineau Balloon Festival is on the Labour Day long weekend, and if you get up early enough each morning on September 3 to 5, you can hear the Sax Appeal Quartet perform as the balloons are lifting off from Parc de la Baie (from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.). For those who like to sleep in a bit more, vocalist Nicole Ratté will perform with her quintet at noon on Saturday, September 3 for a 90-minute show. Festival admission prices apply.
IMOO (the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) is coming right back to play free jazz after a summer break. Saxophonists Linsey Wellman and David Broscoe, percussionist Rory Magill, pianist Jennifer Giles, and guitarist David Jackson – and possibly a few more musicians – will talk musically about “What I did last summer!” at a relatively new location for them, House of Common in Hintonburg (just a few blocks east of The Record Centre) on Sunday, September 4.
Also on September 4, the Ottawa Jazz Collective performs at Pressed in Centretown West. The collective comprises five well-known local jazz musicians – Vince Rimbach, Tim Bedner, Mike Essoudry, Alex Bilodeau, and Peter Hum – who collaborate in presenting compositions by each of them. For this show, Alec Walkington will sit in for Alex Bilodeau. Expect melodic and approachable mainstream jazz.
Bar Robo in Chinatown (which replaced the Raw Sugar Cafe) is now hosting monthly jazz shows on the first and last Wednesdays of the month. On September 7, the Treasure Dub Quartet performs reggae in a jazz mode, while on September 28, the Adam Saikaley Trio plays live instrumental R&B, hip-hop, and jazz.
On Thursday, September 8, jazz and blues vocalist Rachelle Behrens brings her combo to Pressed to play Latin music from across Latin America, along with guitarist Greg Stone's pop/jazz group, Stone Age Man.
On Saturday, September 10, you can hear swinging Dixieland in the early afternoon from Cuppa Soup, as they play for your donations to the Shepherds of Good Hope at the Loblaws Grocery on Isabella Street (at the north end of the Glebe).
That evening, two shows which completely sold out the first time are returning. At GigSpace, the vocal harmony group The Juliet Singers reprise their tribute to Burt Bacharach, along with Mark Ferguson on piano. Bacharach co-wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century, many of which have become jazz standards – think of “Walk on By”, or “What the World Needs Now”, or “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”. In addition to those tunes, the group will also preview their upcoming "String Fling" season, with a song from each of the three concerts.
At Les Brasseurs du Temps in downtown Gatineau, vocalist Betty Ann Bryanton brings back her Sideways Bend band. It's her special project to explore and present beautiful but rare jazz tunes – a year in the making, with four months of rehearsals before the original May show. Bryanton tells us that “85% of the songs were brand new — not just 'brand new' as in we never played them before, but 'brand new' as in NO ONE in the band had heard about these songs before. We all loved the material and put a lot of love into it, thus, our desire to present the material again.”
Wanna dance? The Jivewires will tear up Irene's Pub with their patented brand of dancing jive on September 10, performing their own high-energy music including songs from their recent CD Drive Me Sane and the songs placed in the movie Prisoners Of Time. They promise to end the night with “a Vegas style 'blue set' by playing our more risqué tunes!”
Not tired yet? The Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra from Montreal are at the Mercury Lounge on September 10 – and will do its best to get everyone up on their feet. The orchestra, which was nominated for a Juno this year, fuses Colombian percussion with the music of gypsy brass bands from Eastern Europe.
The Glebop Jazz Trio plays mellow and accessible jazz and showcases local vocalists monthly at the Arrow and Loon Pub in the Glebe. They're celebrating their 12th anniversary on Sunday, September 11 with a jam session that will start at 6 and go until there aren't any more musicians standing.
Also that evening, you can hear young guitar virtuoso Gareth Pearson at GigSpace. Pearson, who was raised in Wales and has recently settled in Ottawa, plays fingerstyle guitar. Because of his double-quick style, he has been nicknamed "The Welsh Tornado" by guitar great Tommy Emmanuel. After appearing at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008, Pearson has toured across Europe and North America. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard him sit in with Mike Rud in July for several duets and solo pieces – some jazz, some more on the roots side – and was impressed with his fluid guitar playing.
In Gatineau, 45North will appear at Les Brasseurs du Temps on September 11. The six-piece Ottawa jazz group, led by saxophonist Ralph Hopper, plays strictly Canadian music, but not just by jazz musicians. On the jazz side, its sources range from Oscar Peterson to David Braid to Snaggle to Manteca to Lighthouse to Jeff Healey, but it also plays music by the Powder Blues Band, Joni Mitchell, and the Guess Who.
Thursday, September 15: The Montreal bossa nova group Bet.e and Stef (singer Elizabeth Provencher and guitarist Stéphane Carreau) will brighten up La Scène des Galeries in Aylmer, along with Australian multi-instrumentalist Jay Atwill. The Juno-nominated vocal duo, with Carreau on guitar, combines timeless jazz vocals with the punctuated rhythms of samba. Their most recent album, Seeds , was produced after a 10-year hiatus in which they released solo albums. It contains all-original music, blending jazz, world-beat rhythms and vocal harmonies sprinkled with electro-folk touches.
Fast, energetic, and multi-layered, the Bank Street Bonbons combine leader Mike Essoudry's drumset with saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a sousaphone. Following their well-received debut in May, they'll be at the Rainbow Bistro on Friday, September 16 playing Essoudry's compositions and covers of pop songs. Essoudry promises at least five new tunes for this show, plus one or two more covers. Opening will be The Takeover, a new Experimental Hip-Hop collective of four local jazz musicians.
On Friday and Saturday. September 16 and 17, locations all up and down Bank Street in the Glebe will showcase Ottawa-Gatineau music as part of Marvest, the local side of the CityFolk Festival. This year, the line-up of 45-minute sets includes jazz violinist William Lamoureux on September 16 and the jazz-funk of ERU-ERA on September 17.
Montreal vocalist and flutist Kimberley Beyea and her trio return to Brookstreet on September 16 and 17, performing standards including from her most recent album, a tribute to Sarah Vaughan.
Saturday, September 17: pianist/trombonist Mark Ferguson teams up with vocalist Diana Nalini and double bassist John Geggie at GigSpace for a show called “Old Standards/New Standards”. They'll combine the music of contemporary songwriters like James Taylor, Annie Lennox and Joe Bocan, with some older standards associated with the Great American Songbook, as well as original music by both Nalini and Ferguson. Ferguson says, “I’ve worked with Diane a couple of times with Adrian Cho’s Ottawa Jazz Orchestra. I love her voice and her musicianship.”
Sunday, September 18: In the last year, saxophonist Petr Cancura has frequently brought in American musicians to play with him in Ottawa. This time, he's reaching to the other side of Canada, for Vancouver clarinetist François Houle. In this double bill at Bar Robo in Chinatown, Cancura will play with his trio, and Houle will perform with two other Vancouver musicians: Gord Grdina on guitar and Kenton Loewen on drums.
Houle is an exceptional innovator on the clarinet, taking it to places ranging from free improvisation to classical to world music to melodic jazz. He has been listed several times by Downbeat magazine's Critics' Poll and Reader’s Poll as a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” and “Rising Star”. His more than 20 recordings have earned multiple Juno Award and West Coast Music Award nominations. His duo performances with Benoit Delbecq were a highlight of the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
Knox Presbyterian Church's monthly Jazz Vespers series opens with a highly accomplished and long-time duo on Wednesday, September 21: Brian Browne on piano and Peter Woods on saxophone. Woods is a United Church minister, and he and Browne often slip in gospel numbers and hymns in with their favourite jazz standards. You can also hear them on Tuesday, September 27, performing together at the Brookstreet Hotel's Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata.
In his 40-year career, Joe Henderson was known as a powerful and influential tenor saxophonist. Starting out by playing with Kenny Dorham, Horace Silver, and Herbie Hancock, he developed his own sound in many different styles, from hard bop to ballads to jazz fusion to more exploratory jazz. His compositions, including “Recorda-Me”, “Black Narcissus”, “Punjab”, and “Inner Urge”, have become jazz classics.
On Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, drummer Michel Delage will pay tribute to Henderson's hard-swinging music at Brookstreet, along with Richard Page on many saxophones, Alex Bilodeau on bass, and Steve Boudreau on piano. Can't make it out to Kanata? The quartet will play a shorter version of the tribute on Sunday, September 25 at The Record Centre in Hintonburg.
For the last year, composer, percussionist, and visual artist Jesse Stewart has been collaborating with architect and pianist Matt Edwards to create a sound sculpture in a downtown Ottawa park. “The Listening Tree”, a 14-foot-high creation of stainless steel pipes, was lifted into place in St. Luke's Park (near the corner of Elgin and Gladstone) on August 23. The sculpture visually complements the park's trees, and its pipes can channel the wind, creating a series of shifting tones.
On Saturday, September 24 at 1 p.m., Stewart and Edwards will officially launch the sculpture with a free concert in the park. Since they can't control the wind, they're not depending on the sculpture for the music, but are instead playing other instruments.
That evening, you can hear the authentic sounds of Brazil at GigSpace, in Música Popular Brasileira with vocalist Rachel Beausoleil and Sol da Capital. Beausoleil is currently researching Brazilian popular music, which includes genres like bossa nova and samba, for her PhD. She has traveled to Brazil three times since 2012, learning songs that Brazilians adore, and receiving coaching from several top musicians in São Paulo and Rio.
The original Sol da Capital was a collaboration between Beausoleil and guitarist Evandro Gracelli, when he was temporarily living in Ottawa. He's now back in Brazil, but has continued to work with and compose with Beausoleil during her visits there. For this concert, she's performing with four well-known local Latin musicians: Sylvio Módolo on guitar, cavaquinho, and backing vocals, Angel Araos on percussion, Marc Decho on bass guitar, and Jasmin Lalande on woodwinds.
September 24: Local vocalist Anne Lewis and her quartet of jazz veterans (pianist J.P. Allain, double bassist John Geggie, and saxophonist René Lavoie) open JazzNhouse's house concert series in Almonte, with “songs that will inspire love, laughter and reflections of life. From sassy up-tempo swing, to sultry blues, to smooth and mellow, the evening will feature original songs and renditions of jazz standards.”
Also that evening, Peter Liu and the Pollcats will play at a Swinging '40s Purple Gala at the Centurion Centre in Nepean, to raise money for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation's fund to fight young adult blood cancer. Expect happy swinging music, just right for 40's-style dance steps.
It will be “Soulful Expressions” time on Sunday, September 25 at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau, as vocalist Caroline Cook performs soul, blues and gospel with Mark Ferguson on piano and Norman Glaude on bass. It's an updated version of the show she debuted at GigSpace in 2014, and includes well-known classics by jazz and soul artists like Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith.
The new Ascension Jazz Series starts up on Sunday, September 25 with a new group: The Canto Trio with Peter Woods on saxophone, Devon Woods on sax, flute, and clarinet, and Hélène Knoerr on double bass and vocals. You may have heard this same group in July when they played in the noon-hour series Woods organized. The concert will be held at the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East, and the proceeds from the shows support the music program at the church, including helping parish youth who have musical goals.
Friday, September 30: The Canadian a cappella vocal group The Nylons are on their farewell tour, and will perform at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. Since forming in 1978, this group has released 22 albums, and had a string of hits (including “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) and several Juno nominations. They won the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year Juno in 2012 for Skin Tight.
Want something funkier that evening? ERU-ERA and Sound Proof are playing a double bill at Live On Elgin downtown. Sound Proof's musical palette covers everything from jazz to R&B to blues to gospel, while the seven-piece ERU-ERA describes its music as “heavy doses of tribal funk and groove”.
Nature Nocturne is the Canadian Museum of Nature's monthly music and dance event. On Friday, September 30, percussionist Jesse Stewart returns to perform on stone instruments inside the manufactured cave in the museum's Earth Sciences wing, as one of the Nocturne's attractions. Stewart has previously performed solo waterphone music inside a whale skeleton, and electronic music on his Reactable, at Nocturne events.
Steve Boudreau and Mark Ferguson are both first-call jazz pianists for local vocalists and groups in Ottawa, as well as accomplished composers. On September 30, they'll play a concert together of two-piano jazz in the showroom of Ottawa Pianos, on Bank Street South near Kilborn Avenue
It's been more than four years now since the long-time Ottawa jazz club Café Paradiso closed its doors. The duo of guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/pianist Elise Letourneau played every week there for almost five years, and are revisiting some of the music from those shows in a concert at GigSpace on Saturday, October 1. Expect classic standards, new standards, and originals, too!
Guitarist Sean Duhaime's trio, with Laura Greenberg on electric bass and Jansen Richard on drums, has been playing together for seven years – and now they're releasing their first EP. It's no surprise that it's called Finally. The four songs on it are all Duhaime compositions, played with a jazz fusion edge, including some like “Bert” which he's been playing for years.
The trio will release the EP in a late afternoon show at the Black Sheep Inn on Sunday, October 2, adding other originals and arrangements, all with a “fusion jazzy, funky, mo-town-ish and bluesy” feel. They'll cover a few rock and pop songs with a Duhaime twist as well.
A wide range of music at local jam sessions
One of the best places to hear a wide range of standards and modern jazz is at the local jazz jams – and if you want to play, there's that opportunity too. In September, bassist Alex Bilodeau, together with saxophonist Richard Page and drummer Michel Delage, will host Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau, along with a rota of guests.
The Beeched Wailers hold down Tuesdays at the Wellington Eatery in Hintonburg: on September 6, they'll bring in guest Petr Cancura for their Composers' series, playing both their and his music with him from 10 to 11 p.m. The Wailers will also celebrate the first anniversary of their jam in this location on September 13.
On Thursdays, the HML Trio hosts its jam, now in its fourth year, at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. On Friday, September 9, vocalist Jacquie Dixon runs her monthly jam at the Georgtown Pub in Ottawa South with host band The Free Associations; on Friday, September 16, it's the turn of JazzWorks at the Georgetown, with host band Dave Devisscher and Friends.
Of course, that's not all that's happening in the local jazz scene in the next month. Many local restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses across the city showcase jazz every week (or more often), with a rotating list of performers. Read our up-to-date listings of clubs and restaurants which offer jazz to know where, and subscribe to our carefully edited weekly newsletter to discover who will be playing when.
We'll keep you up to date with all the great jazz – and especially vocal jazz – that's happening this fall. See you on the scene!
– Alayne McGregor
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