For jazz fans, April in Ottawa is bookended by two notable events – the 2017 Juno Awards at the beginning of the month, and the first GigSpace Jazz MicroFest (and International Jazz Day) at the end. But you'll have plenty to hear in the middle as well.
Modern jazz. Bossa. Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. Avant-garde. Tributes to jazz giants of the past. Big bands. Jazz fusion. Most any jazz style you like you're bound to find someone performing it this month.
On Saturday, April 1, the jazz-related Juno Awards will be handed out in the early evening at a gala dinner at the convention centre. Nearby, at Live! on Elgin downtown, jazz fans will be able to hear three of the jazz nominees starting at 9 p.m., in the second JUNOfest jazz showcase. We asked the nominees what they'd be playing at the showcase, and you can read all the details in our Juno Awards overview article.
The non-jazz awards will be handed out on Sunday, April 2, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, in a televised show.
OttawaJazzScene.ca is made possible by reader donations. We'd like to thank Riek van den Berg and Mike Steinberg for their donations which enabled us to research and report these April highlights.
But there are alternatives to the Juno excitement and crowds. Toronto guitarist James Brown has been playing with bassist Jim Vivian for two decades now, and you can hear their intimate and intricate musical conversation at GigSpace on April 1. It's a rare chance to hear either Brown or Vivian, who is one of the finest jazz bassists in Canada. No line-ups, no fuss, just Brown's creative originals plus some new and classic standards. Read our interview with Brown to learn more.
Also on April 1, the Ottawa group 45north tips its hat to the Junos with its jazz take on Canadian music – some jazz, some popular – at Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse in the Market.
Irene's Pub in the Glebe mostly devotes its Sundays to jazz, with one group playing all the Sundays in a given month. In April it's the turn of the Chocolate Hot Pockets, a group which can groove on a Bill Withers or Tina Turner number at one moment, and then go quiet and introspective the next. The group, which includes trumpeter Ed Lister, guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist JP Lapensée, and drummer Jamie Holmes, has released three albums so far; the most recent is The Feast . Their first late-evening show this month is on April 2.
On Sunday, April 2, the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) plays Latin-style big band music at Kailash Mital Theatre in Carleton University. Unlike the Junos, it will be all jazz, and an upbeat way to wrap up the weekend. The ensemble of university and high school students in the orchestra is particularly experienced this year and CYJO director Nick Dyson enjoys this style, so you can expect an entertaining show. Watch OttawaJazzScene.ca's video of a former year's CYJO Latin jazz concert.
Looking for more big band music? On Monday, April 3, the Stan Clark Orchestra is back at the Metropolitain Brasserie downtown, playing favorites from the swing band era including standards from Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Crooner Johnny Vegas will add numbers made famous by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. There's room to listen or dance to the 17-piece big band, which has been performing in Ottawa for more than a decade.
Also on April 3, the Carleton University Guitar Ensemble, directed by Tim Bedner, presents its end-of-term concert, with three groups playing everything from jazz to classical to rock. The Studio A Group (four electric guitars) will play Bach's Inventions #1 and #4 plus a medley of three Pink Floyd songs and a few other contemporary pieces.
The Studio B group (five electric guitars plus bass and drums) will play jazz pieces by John Scofield, Eddie Harris, and Bedner, plus an arrangement of “Light My Fire” by the Doors in 7/4 time. The Studio C Group (singer/songwriter majors) will perform mostly original tunes arranged for five guitars and bass with vocal harmonies. Admission is free; the show will be held in the Patrick Cardy Studio on the ninth floor of Tower A of the Loeb Building at the university.
The Jazz Monday late-night gathering at Le Petit Chicago in downtown Gatineau changes house bands each month. For April, pianist Cynthia Tauro has gathered together three well-known local jazz musicians for her band: guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist Alex Bilodeau, and drummer Michel Delage. On the set list: Tauro's original tunes plus jazz standards, Latin standards, and various pop covers. As always, musicians are welcome to sit in and jam in the second set.
On Thursday, April 6, Django Libre will fill Bar Robo in Chinatown with its energetic and fast-swinging gypsy jazz
Expect an upbeat and fun show from the Montreal trio led by multi-instrumentalist Benoit Paradis at Cabaret La Basoche in Aylmer on Friday, April 7. And when we say multi-instrumentalist, we mean it: trumpet, trombone, guitar, and percussion. His bandmates each stick to one instrument, though – Chantale Morin on piano and Benoit Coulombe on double bass. They'll perform Paradis' originals, from their most recent album “T'as-tu toute?” (Have you got everything?), plus jazz standards
On Friday, April 7, the high-energy Carleton University jazz fusion ensemble struts its stuff. Twelve students, directed by guitarist Wayne Eagles, will perform pieces by The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Leon Russell, Bill Connors, Miles Davis, Bruce Cockburn, and Terje Rypdal – and their own compositions. They'll demonstrate how jazz with rock grooves (or rock with a jazz edge) can work very well together.
Also on April 7, impressionist Rick Michel plays not only Frank Sinatra but also many of Sinatra's close musical friends, in the variety show “A Night with Sinatra and Friends” at the Centrepointe Theatre. Michel will sing hits like “Come Fly with Me”, “My Way”, “Strangers in the Night” and “New York, New York” while telling stories and providing impressions of Sinatra, Robert De Niro, Neil Diamond, Dean Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, Sammy Davis jr, Bob Hope, Flip Wilson, and Red Skelton.
Cuppa Joe consists of four Ottawa singers (tenor, soprano, alto, and baritone) who sing together a cappella, inspired by tunes like “Java Jive”. Their jazz-based repertoire includes songs made famous by The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices and other close harmony groups, and is augmented by songs of popular artists like James Taylor and The Beatles. Their show on Saturday, April 8 at Pressed is now sold out, but they've added a followup afternoon show at Pressed on Sunday, April 23.
On Saturday, April 8, two Montrealers – saxophonist Tevet Sela and pianist John Roney – give Ottawa audiences a first look at their new duo album, due out shortly, at GigSpace. Originally from Israel, Sela plays post-bop “drenched in heavy blues and the Middle-Eastern inflections”. OttawaJazzScene.ca was impressed by his playing in the Guillaume Martineau Quartet at the NAC. Roney has collaborated with a wide range of players on the Montreal, Toronto, and NYC jazz scenes, but also worked with string quartet and with a classical soprano vocalist. He's won awards for both his classical and jazz performances, including a Juno nomination in 2010 for “Silverbirch”, his jazz album with string quartet.
Safe Low Limit makes a return appearance at the Record Centre on Sunday afternoon, April 9 – but this time with a new instrument. The Ottawa group's sound will remain in the bass clef, but David Renaud on bass clarinet will sit in for Ken Kanwisher on cello for this show. Renaud will join Steve Berndt on trombone and vocals, Keith Hartshorn-Walton on tuba, and Michel Delage on drums in playing “somewhat obscure standards, funk hits and original compositions” – all with a deep, rich sound.
Sunday, April 9: The fourth concert in the Concerts Intimes series at La Nouvelle Scène features Les Dames Tabouret (The Bossa Ladies). They're three local francophone singers – Valérie Poulin, Annie Bayeur, and Sylvie Lavallée – who bring their voices together in harmony for French chanson, jazz standards, and songs with a bossa nova flavour. In particular, they love the music of Trio Esperança from Brazil, Trio Serafine from Slovenia, and Serge Gainsbourg, Edith Piaf, Georges Brassens, and Michel Legrand from France. Singing in trios, duos, and solos, they will be accompanied by local jazz musicians: guitarist Pierre Monfils, bassist Hélène Knoerr, and percussionist Bernard Roy.
Want to brave something new? Try American improvisers Bonnie Kane and Walter Wright, in an IMOO (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais) show at House of Common in Hintonburg on April 9. IMOO says that Kane's bands have been “scalp shearing shows”, and “feats of bravery”, with music that is “the algebra of heart, brain, and soul. Her music is not for the timid.” Kane is a dedicated improviser, “integrating saxophone, flute, feedback and electronics [into] her work as avant-core, an extreme energy mix of psychedelic rock, hard core, and avant garde jazz.”
Walter Wright incorporates computer programming, electro-acoustic music, and video into his performances and views “improvisation as a way of being present in the world.” He plays a Bugbrand Board Weevil, contact mics by Crank Sturgeon, drums and percussion. Kane and Wright will be joined on Sunday by Emilie Mouchous on electronics, vocalist Grace Brooks, and trumpeter Craig Pedersen.
Vocalist Caridad Cruz has a passionate voice and an impressive presence on the bandstand. She's back at Les Brasseurs du Temps on Tuesday, April 11, singing her favourite salsa, Latin jazz, and traditional Cuban songs together with guitarist César Ricardo. Cruz may be singing primarily in Spanish, but we've seen that audiences have no problem understanding and enjoying her music!
On Wednesday, April 12, you can hear a modern jazz master pay tribute to a jazz giant. Saxophonist Rémi Bolduc is well-known as a modern jazz composer, but recently he's released several well-received tribute albums to artists like Charlie Parker and Dave Brubeck. He doesn't just recreate their music, though, he rearranges it and gives it his own interpretation – and often finds he learns from that process and appreciates the music even more.
His latest tribute album is Swingin' avec Oscar, an album of Oscar Peterson's own compositions, plus two standards that were particular Peterson favourites. With Taurey Butler taking Peterson's place on piano, Bolduc is bringing this music to Gatineau on Thursday, April 12, at La Maison de la Culture. Bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing complete the group. Read our interview with Bolduc to learn more about the album and this tour, and what appeals to Bolduc about this music.
Also on April 12, Ed Lister's Prime Rib Big Band has its second outing at Irene's Pub in the Glebe. With some of the best horn players in the city and a dynamic rhythm section, this 11-piece big band will play Lister's compositions with a few covers thrown in. While Lister is better known for the funkier music of ERU-ERA or the Chocolate Hot Pockets, he's also a big fan of the swing classics (read our story about his Ellington tribute concert). He says that the style of this new band is “very much rooted in big band swing in the style of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk”.
In one month, almost 20,000 copies were sold of Florence K's confessional memoir, Buena Vida. The Quebec vocalist and multi-instrumentalist has been best known for singing jazz standards and bossa nova, including a recent best-selling duo album with Matt Dusk. But now she's turned the experiences in her autobiography into song. On Thursday, April 13, she'll recount her life in her music in a concert in Salle Odyssée at La Maison de la Culture in Gatineau.
Clarinetist Dave Renaud and pianist Brian Browne, both mainstays of Ottawa's jazz scene, released their second CD together, Encore, in March. They'll play selections from the album in a concert at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios on Friday, April 14. It's a very quiet, intimate room – perfect for the gospel numbers and beloved jazz standards on the duo's two albums, and for hearing every nuance of Renaud's playing on clarinet and bass clarinet. These two musicians bring extremely high standards and impeccable craftsmanship to their music and decades of maturity in interpretation.
On April 14 and 15, the Trio de Janeiro will appear at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, as part of a tour through Ontario and New York State. The NYC trio consists of Matt Marantz on saxophones and EWI, Sean Wayland on keyboards, and Adam Arruda on drums. The group plays compositions by both Marantz and Wayland.
Marantz describes the group as “a progressive jazz-based trio which sort of blends the worlds of fusion and electronics with past-inspired classic bebop jazz. We don't just play grooves, many of the songs are flexible and many are pretty open and swinging. Our music is far from being "out", it's very melodic and Sean's compositions can be especially beautiful.”
Their sound includes both classic sax/organs/drums instrumentals and more 80s “synth tones and Allan Holdsworth-style chorus effects”, he said, “but always with a sense of melody and respect for the tradition of jazz music in America.”
– Alayne McGregor