Updated October 27, 2016
From swing to the avant-garde, with vocal jazz and Latin in between, October is shaping up as a dynamic month for jazz and improvised music in Ottawa-Gatineau.
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Famed drummer Gerry Hemingway, vocalists Diana Krall, Emilie-Claire Barlow, and Sienna Dahlen, the Afro-Cuban vocals of Augusto Enríquez and of Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, and pianist Bryn Roberts are among the headliners this month. The Chocolate Hot Pockets, the Sean Duhaime Trio, and the Lucas Haneman Express are releasing new albums, and you can revisit the classic jazz of Duke Ellington and of Billie Holiday.
The month opens on a Brazilian note with Samba Agoniza mas não Morre at Le Petit Chicago on Saturday, October 1: “a farewell party for some of our members in great style and with a lot of Samba, joy and jamming”. If you enjoyed Rachel Beausoleil's Brazilian vocal numbers last week, you should enjoy the bright rhythms of this regular Roda de Samba gathering, billed as the only one above the 45th parallel! Expect to see the musicians – guitarists, vocalists, percussionists and more – gathered around a large table and the crowd dancing and clapping all around them.
There will be another type of reminiscence at GigSpace on Saturday, as guitarist Tim Bedner and vocalist/pianist/flutist Elise Letourneau revisit the standards, old and new, which they performed every week at Café Paradiso for many years. [Read our story about this show.]
Guitarist Sean Duhaime has played jazz fusion with his trio for the last seven years. His group is finally releasing a four-song EP on Sunday afternoon at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. On October 2, you can hear them perform Sean's originals from the EP as well as his jazz fusion arrangements of rock songs. Expect lots of energy and a touch of funk and blues, all tightly played. [This show was the OttawaJazzScene.ca pick of the week.]
If you love Afro-Cuban or big band music, you won't want to miss vocalist Augusto Enríquez from Cuba and the Back Alley Big Band from Nova Scotia, as they present “Sinatra meets Moré” on Sunday, October 2 at the Centrepointe Theatre. They'll perform music sung by Frank Sinatra and his Cuban contemporary Benny Moré, contrasting swing with Son Cubano and ballads with Bolero. Moré led the Banda Gigante, one of the leading Cuban big bands of the 1950s, until his death in 1963. The band toured through Central and South America and the U.S., even playing as part of the Academy Awards ceremonies.
Augusto Enríquez will sing the music of both Sinatra and Moré. He is one of Cuba’s most famous singers and has traveled the world for three decades as a rock star, classical tenor and salsa band leader. He'll be joined by the 20-piece Back Alley Big Band, directed by Paul Barrett, and special guest Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas. The group has also been invited to perform the next evening for the Senate and House of Commons.
Also on Sunday, October 2, the Evensong Ensemble (saxophonist Peter Woods, pianist James McGowan, vocalist Leah Cogan, and drummer Jamie Holmes) present “Open Heart, Open Mind” at MacKay United Church in New Edinburgh. Their music is “rooted in the traditions of jazz, folk, and gospel”, and includes both secular and sacred music, all with a jazz spirit and spontaneity.
Also that evening, Brazilian-Canadian guitarist and vocalist Rômmel Ribeiro performs with his trio at Pressed Café, combining Brazilian music, Afrobeat, reggae, funk, and jazz. This is one of his first appearances back in Ottawa after studying for a year in Liverpool, England.
At IMOO (the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) on October 2, guitarists Alex Pelchat from Montreal and David Jackson from Ottawa will look for links between “harsh noise and overwhelming silence” (or maybe the other way around), with a guest appearance from improvising saxophonist Linsey Wellman. Expect avant-garde dissonance and consonance.
And lastly, The Super Awesome Club (Steve Boudreau, Wayne Eagles, Matt Ouimet, Jake von Wurden) will be playing all the Sundays in October at Irene's, providing a light-hearted but musically sophisticated end to the evening, with jazzy and funky originals.
On Monday, October 3, the HML Trio (Jamie Holmes, Alex Moxon, J.P. Lapensée) opens a month-long residency as host band for the late-night Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago. They'll play “Songs of the 21st Century” (jazz arrangements of music written after the year 2000) for the first set, and open up for jamming afterwards.
There's a cornucopia of big band and swing shows this month. It starts with the Stan Clark Orchestra on October 3, who are back at the Metropolitan Brasserie with guest vocalist Johnny Vegas. On Monday, October 10, Peter Liu and the Pollcats present “Bytown Swing Live” at Live on Elgin. It's a vintage swing dance, with authentic vocal swing music in the style of the Golden Age of jazz of the 1930s and 1940’s. On Thursday, October 13, the City of Ottawa presents its quarterly big band dance at the Ron Kolbus Centre in Britannia, on an Autumn Harvest theme with The Monterey Swing Band. On Friday, October 14, the Almonte-based big band Standing Room Only plays for Swing Ottawa's monthly Live Band Fridays in Sandy Hill. And on Sunday, October 23, Standing Room Only presents an afternoon tea dance at the Glebe Community Centre. Its first foray into Ottawa tea dances was quite successful.
On Wednesday, October 5, you can hear the Montreal jazz/hip-hop collective Busty and the Bass at Salle Jean-Despréz in Gatineau City Hall for free – but tickets are only available to Gatineau residents.
This fall, Korean percussionist and improvising musician Dong-Won Kim is the Music artist-in-residence at Carleton University. He has studied various forms of traditional Korean percussion music for three decades, including farmer’s drumming and dance, shamanic music, and Pansori accompaniment, and has performed throughout Europe, the U.S.A., Canada, Japan, and many other countries.
Dong-Won Kim is a member of “The Silk Road Ensemble,” led by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and was recently improviser-in-residence through the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation in Guelph. He has performed several times at the Guelph Jazz Festival, where OttawaJazzScene.ca editors saw him play on percussion instruments including Korean drums and gongs, and were very impressed at his inventiveness and musical agility. On Friday, October 7, at 3 p.m., he will give a free masterclass at Kailash Mital Theatre at the university.
On Friday, October 7, the Montreal jazz sextet Nomad will perform at the Avant-Garde Bar. The group's collaborative live shows consist of “cinematic original compositions linked together with exploratory group improvisations”. This month, they will release a new album, As We Are.
The Back-Talk Organ Trio has expanded to a sextet for its October 7 show at Irene's. To Don Cummings' Hammond organ, Mike Essoudry's drums, and Chris Swain's guitar have been added Ed Lister's trumpet, and Zakari Frantz's and Petr Cancura's saxophones – a notable line-up of Ottawa jazz musicians. They promise new tunes and up-tempo material along with their regular mix of R&B, soul, and jazz. [Watch our video story of one of Cummings' early performances with Swain]
On October 7 and 8, Ottawa musicians Mark Ferguson on trombone and Peter Hum on piano are joined by Montrealers Alec Walkington on bass and André White on drums for mainstream jazz that swings fast and furiously at the Options Jazz Lounge in the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. Both Ferguson and White are multi-talented multi-instrumentalists: expect originals from them and Hum, as well as standards.
Juno-winning vocalist Sienna Dahlen has just released a ambitious, large-scale CD called Ice Age Paradise, a suite of songs which “chart the trajectory of human and celestial bodies hurtling toward and away from each other in an age-old dance, governed by different laws of attraction, but repeating the same inevitable collisions, births and deaths”. On Saturday, October 8, she'll perform at La Nouvelle Scène together with guitarist François Jalbert – as part of a multi-media production, an original concept by the theatre's Marcel Aymar. The theatre will show National Film Board short films, with Dahlen and Jalbert performing between the films in a cabaret atmosphere. [Read our review of the show]
Also on October 8, you can hear Biodad, the Toronto-based duo of vocalist Felicity Williams and guitarist/keyboardist Justin Haynes, at GigSpace. Both are notable improvisers: they describe their duo as “two musicians in dialogue; two musicians engaged more than anything, in listening.” They'll be performing Williams' compositions, re-imagined pop songs, jazz standards, and free improvisation – in arrangements which are never the same twice.
Ottawa listeners recently heard Haynes' idiosyncratic music without him being present; instead drummer Nick Fraser played Haynes' graphic scores. He has an individual “approach to sound, harmony and form and bent for the abstract”, while Williams' “approach to singing can be understated, elastic and ethereal ... Her lyrics are derived from poetry – both her own and others.”
Ihtimanska is a Montreal based duo of saxophone (Ariane Morin) and accordion (Yoni Kaston). They perform their own improvised takes on traditional and classical Turkish and Bulgarian music, including “complex Bulgarian choral arrangements and funky-metered dance tunes, music from Ottoman courts and Sufi ceremonies, and centuries old protest songs from repressed villages, with a complicity and sweetness”. They perform on Sunday, October 9, at Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa South.
On Thanksgiving Monday, October 10, IMOO presents world-famous drummer and composer Gerry Hemingway with trombonist Samuel Blaser at House of Common. Expect some serious playing and world-class improvisation from musicians who have rarely visited Ottawa – music to be thankful to be able to hear, if in a quite austere space.
Hemingway has been “at the forefront of creative music for four decades” and is a Guggenheim fellow. He spent eleven years in the Anthony Braxton Quartet, and has collaborated with some of the world’s most outstanding improvisers and composers including Reggie Workman, Ernst Reijseger, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor, Mark Dresser, Anthony Davis, George Lewis, Derek Bailey, and Kenny Wheeler. Raised in the U.S., he now lives in Switzerland. Blaser is an innovative free player and ever-searching composer and bandleader from Switzerland who now lives in Berlin. Winner of the JJ Johnson Award for his trombone playing at the 2006 Fribourg Jazz Festival, he has toured with François Houle and Benoit Delbecq as well as Berlin-based Canadian saxophonist Peter van Huffel. He currently plays with Heminway in a trio with Delbecq, and has played with him in the past in his Consort in Motion quartet. [Read our review of the show]
On Wednesday, October 12, trumpeter Ed Lister will pay tribute to the classic trumpet hard bop of Freddie Hubbard in “Hubbard's Cupboard”, a noon-hour concert at Southminster United Church, together with bassist Marc Decho, pianist Clayton Connell, and drummer Stephen Adubofuor. Admission is by freewill donation.
That evening, get a gypsy jazz fix at Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau with the UltraFaux Trio from Baltimore. The trio – two guitars and one bass – performs original acoustic music with Romani, manouche, swing, funk, blues, and musette influences. They are also the core trio of Hot Club of Baltimore, a larger ensemble specializing in the music of Django Reinhardt and 30's - 40's Jazz.
From Thursday, October 13, to Sunday, October 16, you can hear jazz all over the town of Merrickville, an hour from Ottawa, in the sixth Merrickville's Jazz Fest. Highlights include Michael Occhipinti presenting his “Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon” jazz project; the funk of ERU-ERA; the Toronto-based Red Hot Ramble playing New Orleans jazz; the modern jazz of the St-Roch Quartet from Montreal; the Mark Ferguson Quartet and the Carlos Alberto Santana Jazz Quintet playing the music from their recent CDs; and The Pharoahs Go to Soul Sckool. You can discover the details in our story about the festival.
Friday and Saturday, October 14 and 15: jazz pianist and vocalist Steve Holt returns to Brookstreet with the same high-powered quartet he had here in April: Montreal saxophonist Dave Turner and Ottawans John Geggie and Tom Denison. The long-time GTA-area musician has performed with Archie Shepp, Larry Coryell, Eddie Henderson, Pat LaBarbera, and James Moody.
Saturday, October 15: Ottawa drummer Ken Harper brings back two Toronto friends with fine jazz pedigrees: bassist Artie Roth and tenor saxophonist Bob Brough. They'll play a trio show as part of Southminster United Church's new Saturday evening concert series, exploring the boundaries of jazz with original compositions, as well as classic jazz and free improv. Southminster has excellent acoustics, and this type of music has done well there – probably better than at the cafes they've previously played in Ottawa. [Read our review of the show]
Jazz tuba players are still not that common. If you have heard them, you know that they add an expressive deep foundation to a band. On Saturday, October 15, German tuba player Carl Ludwig Hübsch teams up with Austrian pianist Philip Zoubek and Montreal improviser Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba and harmonica. The GigSpace piano may not know what hit it: Zoubek specializes in prepared piano, in which objects may be added to the piano or the strings inside clipped or played upon to produce unusual sounds.
In fact the entire trio has a rich vocabulary of extended techniques on their instruments, producing music “that transports the listener to wondrous landscapes of secrecy and transparency”. Their wield their unusual combination of instruments in a “quiet and pointillistic communication”.
Also on October 15, the Souljazz Orchestra plays one of its regular groove-based outings at the Babylon Nightclub, the first in Ottawa after an extended tour in Africa and then Europe this summer. Expect to dance all night to a mix of soul, jazz, funk, and Afrobeat.
On Saturday, October 15, The Chocolate Hot Pockets (Ed Lister, Alex Moxon, Jamie Holmes, and J.P. Lapensée) release their third album, The Feast, in a show at the Mercury Lounge. CHP specializes in groove and pulse, but features complex original compositions by Lister and Moxon and a considerable dynamic range. It also reinterprets fatback funk, jazz, and neo-soul classics. The quartet is releasing this album non-traditionally as high-quality downloads from their website, and as a series of freely accessible music videos on YouTube. [Read our review of CHP at the 2016 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.]
On Sunday, October 16, hear jazz that manages to be both free and melodically compelling as the Rake-star Arkestra channels the soul and music of the legendary Sun Ra. Featuring some of the best jazz improvisers in town, the members of Rake-star always put on a fascinating show – and in the spirit of Sun Ra's band, wear amazing, original hats and costumes! They're at at Bar Robo (previously the Raw Sugar Cafe) in Chinatown for this show.
Tuesday, October 18: Francophone jazz vocalist Claude Brazeau presents an intimate show with singer friends Martine Grenier, Caroline Cook, and Jerry Sociedade at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau, accompanied by guitarist Tim Bedner and bassist Normand Glaude. He'll include songs from his recent CD, Portrait intime.
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque won a Juno for their first album, which teamed the veteran Canadian band-leader, flutist, and saxophonist with six young women jazz musicians from Cuba, performing bright, approachable Cuban music with soaring vocals, whirling sax and flute solos, and insistent percussion. Their second album, Oddara (which means "forever strong and happy"), will be released this month. They'll showcase it at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans on Wednesday, October 19, as part of a cross-border tour. [Read our review of their first Ottawa show.]
The Ottawa Jazz Orchestra opens its new season on Thursday, October 20, with Intimate Ellington in the intimate (140-seat) NAC Back Stage. In the past, the orchestra has played Duke Ellington's lesser-known and extended suites for full jazz orchestra. This time, leader Adrian Cho says, it's reversing itself. Instead of going large, it's performing Ellington's music using several smaller groups and featuring some of his more widely known, popular tunes. The set list will still be a diverse collection of Ellington material, he assured OttawaJazzScene.ca – including some tunes the orchestra has never played before from the Cotton Club era.
Also on October 20, ever-popular jazz vocalist Emilie Claire Barlow will perform in Gatineau at la Maison de la Culture. Winner of a Juno this year for her orchestral album, Clear Day, she and her band will perform a mix of jazz standards, bossa novas, playful, seductive ballads, and reinvented contemporary songs.
The Jessica Stuart Few is touring through Ontario and Quebec to launch Stuart's third album, The Passage, which features tight three-piece vocal harmonies, groove-oriented soul, and Stuart on guitar and Japanese koto (13-stringed harp). One of the new songs on the album is a "bike anthem" that was part of a reciprocal inspiration art project with the album's visual artist: "How to Ride a Bicycle". They'll perform at the Rainbow on October 20.
Friday, October 21: vocalist Nicole Ratté will bring her quintet with up-and-coming young violinist William Lamoureux for a concert in the country at La Grange in Cantley, Quebec. Expect some beautiful fall colours, and a mixture of jazz standards and well known French songs: a warm mixture to beat off the autumn chills.
Vocalist Diana Krall regularly sells out Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre (mostly recently in May, 2015), so it's no surprise that the NAC has brought her back for its annual fund-raising gala on Saturday, October 22. Tickets start at $114, but you do get nibblies and wine, and a chance to star-watch the Trudeaus (Sophie is honorary chair of the gala), the GG, and other political celebrities. Krall will perform with the NAC Orchestra – expect sweeping versions of jazz numbers from across her albums.
Want a more intimate show that evening? The Montreal vocalist Bïa will perform music from her native Brazil, France and Quebec, at the NAC Back Stage on October 22. She often translates lyrics by leading artists into her various languages: Québeçois folksinger Félix Leclerc into Portuguese, Brazilian jazz composer Chico Buarque into French, French jazz/cabaret composer Georges Brassens into Spanish. She lends her voice and warm rhythms to her own songs, and released a new album, Navegar, last March, described as “a smooth and languorous heat wave that heralds the coming of summer”.
After his National Arts Centre trio show last fall, master pianist Brian Browne announced he would be only play solo at his formal concerts going forward. And that's exactly what he's doing at GigSpace on October 21 and 22, with his trademark mixture of standards, old and new, delivered with great joy and vigor on GigSpace's grand piano. But if you don't have tickets already, you're out of luck: both shows are sold out. However, you can hear Brian this month at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge, on Tuesday, October 18, in a duo with trumpeter Kelly Craig, and at the Record Centre for an afternoon show with vocalist Steve Berndt on Saturday, October 29.
Southminster United Church is best known for concerts by choral and classical ensembles – plus jazz vocalists and swing. When ERU-ERA hits the stage there on Saturday, October 22, as part of the church's Saturday evening series, you'll get a harder-hitting sound. The seven-piece group specializes in groove, fusing Neo-Soul, Hip-Hop and Tribal Funk. Trumpeter Ed Lister contributes his compositions, and is aided by his long-time musical friend Richard Page on baritone sax, Brady Leafloor on tenor sax, Clayton Connell on keyboards, Ben Di Millo on guitar, Marc Decho on electric bass, and Stephen Adubofuor on drums. Expect the floors to shake.
Also on October 22, pianist Patrick Hewan performs a concert in Appleton in the Ottawa Valley, together with well-known bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Morgan Childs. Hewan is a rising young star on the Toronto jazz scene who has studied with masters like Mark Eisenman, Brian Dickinson, Richard Whiteman, Robi Botos, and Hilario Duran. He received the Berklee World Tour Scholarship for both sax and piano, and in 2014 was rated one of BlogTo’s top 5 upcoming jazz artists in Toronto.
Also on October 22, Ottawa vocalist Megan Jerome will perform at the South Branch Bistro (formerly The Branch Restaurant and Texas Grill) in Kemptville, with her Together Ensemble, performing both new songs and those from her 2015 album with this group. Expect insightful cabaret-style tunes sung over jazz instrumentals, with a deep Hammond organ/drums/guitar groove.
From October 20 to 23, the Folk Music Ontario conference will take place in downtown Ottawa. Amongst all the folkies, there are also several jazz-related acts performing showcases as part of the conference: Christine Tassan et les Imposteures playing jazz manouche (October 20) and Tio Chorinho playing Brazilian choro music (October 22).
Listeners will have a difficult jazz choice to make on the last weekend in October. On both Friday and Saturday, October 28-29, Michel Delage brings Juno-winning saxophonist Allison Au up from Toronto to play the enduringly-beautiful songs of Cole Porter in the Options Jazz Lounge at Brookstreet [Read our description of their previous collaboration at Options.]
Friday, October 28, is the Ottawa stop for ex-Canadian, now-NYC, jazz pianist Bryn Roberts' cross-border tour celebrating his new album, Nightsong. It's a duo recording with Norwegian-NYC guitarist Lage Lund, who won first place at the 2005 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. He and Lund will perform at Ottawa Pianos on Bank Street South. Roberts' last appearance in Ottawa was a highlight of 2013: beautiful, lyrical compositions with a strong emotional and musical connection.
The same evening, two Ottawa jazz masters – guitarist Roddy Ellias and saxophonist Petr Cancura – continue their many years of collaboration with a show at GigSpace, with “some original music, a few standards and lots of adventurous improvising”. Both are notable composers with a long background in the jazz mainstream, but Ellias also brings a chamber jazz perspective, while Cancura adds his love of roots and folk music. They're also two-thirds of the group Trekan, which released an album on vinyl and digital this fall: you might hear a few pieces from that album, too.
On Saturday, October 29, you can hear a revival of the crowd-pleasing tribute to Billie Holiday produced by Ottawa vocalists Karen Oxorn, Dominique Forest, and Nicole Ratté, together with pianist Mark Ferguson and bassist Normand Glaude. The three singers accumulated huge binders of research and many hours of rehearsals to perfect their renditions of Lady Day's songs, performed separately and together; their show at GigSpace last year sold out. For the first time, they're presenting this show in Quebec, at the Café des Artistes de la Lièvre, to launch the Buckingham Buzz Jazz festival.
The same evening, Toronto vocalist Maureen Kennedy performs at GigSpace with well-known Ottawa saxophonist Rob Frayne and two Montrealers: pianist Jeff Johnston and bassist Alec Walkington. She promises “new songs to sing from her ever-expanding repertoire of standards and hidden gems” – following on from her first show of lesser-known standards at GigSpace a year ago.
Kennedy has been on the Toronto scene since the 1980s, with a break to raise her family, and her albums have included major Toronto jazz players like Nancy Walker, Kieran Overs, Reg Schwager, Steve Wallace, and Mike Murley. In 2017, she's planning to record an album with Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds and New York pianist Tardo Hammer for Weeds’ label “Cellar Live.”
Also on October 29, the Lucas Haneman Express was supposed to release its second album in a show at Irene's (the release has been delayed until December 2, and the show is now a Hallowe'en show). Although all the Express members are well-known local jazz musicians, the band's music tends to more hard-edged blues and rock; they reached the semi-finals in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, last January.
The Express will also perform at a fundraiser for Citizen Advocacy on October 20 at the Shenkman Arts Centre. “In The Spotlight” showcases the artistic talents and inspirational stories of people with disabilities (Lucas Haneman is visually impaired).
Peeking into November, you won't want to miss a duo show by local vocalists Martine Grenier and Caroline Cook (November 1); the Ottawa Swing Dance Society Battle of the Bands between current champion Peter Liu and the Pollcats, versus challenger Sonic Blue (November 4); the melodic modern jazz of MISC (formerly Trio Jerome Beaulieu) (November 4); and the Juliet Singers paying tribute to the songs of Henry Mancini (November 5).
Of course, all this is only part of what's happening in the local jazz scene in October. More than 35 local restaurants, bars, and coffeehouses across the city showcase jazz throughout the week, with a rotating list of performers. There's also regular weekly and monthly jazz jams.
Visit OttawaJazzScene.ca regularly to keep up to date with all the great jazz that's happening this fall. And don't forget to subscribe to our jam-packed and jazzy weekly newsletter. See you on the scene!
– Alayne McGregor
October 3: Added the Swing Ottawa dance with Standing Room Only on October 14.
October 10: Added the Jessica Stuart Few CD release on October 20. Added the Steve Berndt / Brian Browne show on October 29. Corrected the name of La Nouvelle Scène's musical programmer.
October 17: Updated the musicians playing with Maureen Kennedy. Added links to OttawaJazzScene.ca reviews of several of these shows.
October 27: Noted that the Lucas Haneman Express has delayed its lbum release until December 2.