April culminates in International Jazz Day on the 30th – and there's many opportunities to hear local, Canadian, and American jazz artists in the last two weeks of the month, leading up to that day.

Chris Maskell  ©2015 Brett Delmage
Chris Maskell ©2015 Brett Delmage
If you're a lark instead of an owl, you have an alternate location and time to hear the Cynthia Tauro Quartet this month. Besides being the host band at Le Petit Chicago, they're also presenting a show at Pressed in Centretown on Thursday, April 20. The quartet will again be performing Tauro's original tunes as well as jazz standarWildCds, Latin standards, and various pop covers.

Also on the bill at Pressed is Fox Club, a new Montreal trio with Ottawa ex-pat saxophonist Chris Maskell along with bassist Jonny Chapman and drummer Aaron Dolman. Fox Club is a chordless trio which explores “creative original music and covers that make use of electronic instruments, improvisation and feel-good grooves”.

The JazzWorks monthly jam will shortly be on the move again. JazzWorks says that Thursday, April 20 will be its last time at the Georgetown Pub, because the location is being taken over by new owners. The host band for the final Georgetown evening will be fronted by vocalist Patricia Balfour – her first time leading a JazzWorks host band. Balfour says they'll be presenting “an eclectic mix of bright and cheery and slow and torchy, including a groovy bass-and-voice-only version of 'Feelin' Groovy', fast-paced scat tunes by Billy Eckstine and Thelonious Monk, and Mark Ferguson and Renée Yoxon's lively 'There's Only You' ”.

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. Read the first part of this April highlights story here.

An Ottawa home-town folk favourite will have his songs shaken out and given a jazz gloss on Friday, April 21. Singer-songwriter Jim Bryson will perform with saxophonist Petr Cancura as part of Cancura's jazz-roots Crossroads series – along with the house band of Roddy Ellias, John Geggie, and Greg Ritchie. Cancura has been working with Bryson to select and rearrange his or her material to work with the jazz quartet for the concert.

The first time Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas performed with Colombian vocalist Claudia Salguero, they got the audience at the Marshes Golf Club in Kanata on their feet and clapping. His fierce musical energy met her passionate singing, backed by the expressive rhythm section of bassist Sylvio Modolo and percussionist Luis Vasquez. The same four musicians are back at the Marshes in de Armas's weekly series on Friday, April 21 – for a show combining Latin and jazz standards, Afro-Cuban music, and Salguero's favourite boleros.

On April 28, de Armas will perform for the first time with another well-known Ottawa vocalist – Dominique Forest – at the Marshes.

Rommel Teixeira Ribeiro ©Aline Demarche
Rommel Teixeira Ribeiro ©Aline Demarche

Rômmel Ribeiro moved to Canada from Brazil in 2006. Since then, he has won considerable acclaim in Montreal and Ottawa for his jazz and world music, including a being named as a Révélation artist (for world music) by Radio-Canada in 2012-13, and receiving Montreal's Prix de la diversité in 2010-2011. His music has been described as an eclectic and energetic mix of popular Brazilian music, Afrobeat, reggae, funk, and jazz.

The guitarist and vocalist is about to graduate from the Bachelor of Music program at Carleton University, and is marking that achievement with a large-scale graduation recital in the university's Kailash Mital Theatre on Friday, April 21. His seven-piece band, plus four special guests, will showcase some of Ribeiro's newest material: his original songs and three songs written by his friends and musical collaborators. It's a percussion-heavy band, but also includes flute, viola, tenor sax – and spoken poetry, for a different view on jazz.

If you've attended many jazz jam sessions in Ottawa-Gatineau, you've probably seen an enthusiastic young man with a big grin and an unruly mop of curly black hair – and a fine tone on tenor sax and flute. Since last fall, Tariq Amery has been working on compositions for his first CD, Indefinity, and is officially releasing it on April 21 in a later-evening show at the Avant-Garde Bar downtown.

The CD showcases many spiraling and evocative flute solos by Amery – but equally compelling horn lines from Daniel Ko on sax and Ed Lister on trumpet, strongly underpinned by Clayton Connell on piano, Vovo Saramanda on percussion, J.P. Lapensée on bass, and Michel Delage on drums. This same group (with Harrison Singer replacing J.P. on bass) will support Amery at the CD release show. Expect modern mainstream and Latin jazz and dancing rhythms, thoughtfully performed.

On Saturday, April 22, Festival Japan hosts a JazzWorks fundraiser with American saxophonist Don Braden. He's playing at with three frequent JazzWorks faculty members from Toronto – vocalist Julie Michels, pianist Dave Restivo, and trombonist William Carn – along with the experienced Ottawa rhythm section of bassist J.P. Lapensée and drummer Jamie Holmes. Braden will introduce his recent modern jazz arrangements of songs by R&B icons Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire. JazzWorks says the show is sold out, but they're taking names for a waiting list.

Also on April 22, vocalist Renée Landry joins up with two of her favourite jazz musicians – saxophonist Richard Page and guitarist Terence Wright – in a new trio, Renée Landry & The Cool, at The British Pub in Aylmer, Quebec. They'll mix soul, pop, jazz, and Motown in both originals and covers.

On Sunday, April 23, the vocal a cappella quartet Cuppa Joe plays their second show at Pressed this month, after the first one sold out. This time, it's an afternoon show starting at 3 p.m., but they'll be singing the same jazz vocal repertoire: songs made famous by The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices and other close harmony groups, augmented by songs of popular artists like James Taylor and The Beatles.

Florquestra combines authentic and lively Brazilian rhythms (samba, forró, axé, and more) with the romantic music and poetic style of French songwriter Georges Brassens. On Wednesday, April 26, they will appear in the weekly concert series at the AllSaints Event Space in Sandy Hill.

On Friday, April 28, the Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) celebrates its 30th anniversary with a giant concert at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School in Barrhaven. The NACJB is a big band of 17 students from across Ottawa aged 15 to 19 which maintains an extremely high standard in its performances, earning Musicfest National Gold Awards in each of the past 29 years. The band has nurtured the careers of many jazz musicians who have gone on to professional careers: for example, Lucas Haneman, Matt Newton, Petr Cancura, Steve Boudreau, and Brian and Jeff Asselin.

You'll be able to hear some of those musicians at this concert, as it will also include a performance by the NACJB Alumni Band, made up of former members going right back to the band's very first year (1987), and brought together from “all over the world” for this concert. Listeners will also be able to see displays of memorabilia from the NACJB's three decades, including uniforms, photos, press clippings, and awards.

GigSpace Jazz MicroFest
GigSpace Jazz MicroFest

April 30 is International Jazz Day, and this year GigSpace Performance Studio decided to mark the occasion by showing the strength of Ottawa's jazz scene. From April 28 to 30, GigSpace is running a Jazz MicroFest celebrating Ottawa musicians. The MicroFest will feature four to six groups each evening, each playing a 45-minute set. Read all about the wide range of music and musicians in the OttawaJazzScene.ca article.

Love jazz guitar? You have far too many choices on Friday, April 28. At GigSpace, the Garry Elliott & Rachel Beausoleil Quartet will pay tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim at MicroFest.

At La Grange de la Gatineau, in rural Quebec near Cantley, two jazz guitar masters will perform a rare duo performance on April 28. Roddy Ellias from Ottawa and Lorne Lofsky from Toronto will bring “their renowned creativity and subtle bold style, and decades of experience playing and recording with legendary jazz greats around the world.” Both are fine interpreters of jazz standards and noted improvisers. La Grange is a two-story log building, offering beautiful verdant views and excellent acoustics in a cozy space.

At the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, you can hear young Montreal guitarist Sam Kirmayer. Kirmayer releases his debut CD, Opening Statement, this month and is on tour with his quartet, with Andres Vial on piano, Mike De Masi on bass, and Dave Laing on drums. They will play Kirmayer's own bright, fluid compositions as well as selections from the Great American Songbook and jazz classics – including the CD's title track by Booker Little. Kirmayer has played Ottawa before with saxophonist Chris Maskell.

And at Pressed Cafe in Centretown, Django Fet will play gypsy jazz and finger-style guitar. The five-piece jazz ensemble plays standards and mixes new and old tunes. Their name is a play on words from the Star Wars character Jango Fett and the famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

On the last two days of April, think big, with a wide variety of large jazz ensembles. At the National Arts Centre on Saturday, April 29, the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra will present 14 musicians on the tiny Back Stage for “Canadiana”, its final concert of this season. Trumpeter Rick Rangno and bassist Adrian Cho have arranged music by Canadian jazz composers and musicians for the show, including Rangno's arrangement of Oscar Peterson’s Canadiana Suite.

On International Jazz Day, (April 30), the Standing Room Only big band visits Ottawa for an afternoon tea dance at the Glebe Community Centre [Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca story about how they packed the floor at their first dance at the Glebe CC]. Tea dances are daytime dances that were popular in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, when big bands were king. SRO will play swing music from that era, with Pauline Proulx on vocals. Tea and other light refreshments will be available.

The Grey Jazz Big Band is undoubtedly the most experienced big band in Ottawa, with members whose ages are up into their 80s. As they say, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." The band is now in its 30th year of capturing and preserving the music of the Golden Age of song. On Sunday, April 30, they'll play popular swing hits of the big band era for dancers and listeners in the early evening at the Dovercourt Community Centre.

Also on April 30, the 17-piece Wild Cards Big Band will celebrate its second anniversary with a “Swings into Spring” afternoon concert at Knox Presbyterian Church downtown, with guest vocalist Rory McGlynn. The show will feature the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and the Dorsey brothers, among others. All proceeds will support Out of the Cold, a program that provides over hot meals for the disadvantaged.

At the Church of the Ascension in Ottawa East, the Evensong Ensemble will appear on April 30 in the monthly Ascension jazz series. The ensemble, led by saxophonist/minister Peter Woods and pianist James McGowan, performs jazz and gospel numbers with a touch of blues and pop. For this concert, their pieces will be variations on the theme of “Open Hearts/Open Minds”, including some hymns.

Looking forward into May, you can hear Ed Lister's Prime Rib Big Band at Irene's Pub on May 3, and celebrate Afro-Cuban music with Miguel de Armas, Caridad Cruz, and Sabor de Cuba at the Mercury Lounge on May 4.

Of course, there's lots more jazz happening in Ottawa-Gatineau, with weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly jazz jams in locations from Kanata to Vanier, regular big band and swing dances, and many restaurants and bars which offer jazz weekly or even daily. See OttawaJazzScene.ca’s weekly jazz bulletins for all the details including musician lineups, show times, and venue addresses.

    – Alayne McGregor