Ellwood Epps and Craig Pederson ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Leading Montreal improvisors and Ottawa favourites Ellwood Epps and Craig Pederson will each present new and very different shows for festival listeners  ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Updated September 6: Nicole Rampersaud has been replaced by Linsey Wellman and David Jackson on Friday
Last year’s IMOO Fest was memorable not only for its fascinating performances, but also for reasons that had nothing to do with the music. Just before its downbeat, two tornados struck Ottawa. Friday evening was lit by battery power, and the Sunday matinee was made possible with a hastily-borrowed, battery-powered guitar amp. Power was restored at GigSpace just before the Saturday evening show. And to bottom it off, the festival's programming manager and Master of Ceremonies Brad Evans was ill for the first part of the weekend.

But the music was highly captivating and well-received [read our reviews and see photos of the unlit concerts], featuring guest musicians from Japan who said at the end they hoped to return. Because it was an improvised music festival, listeners, musicians, and organizers took the extended, city-wide power outage as another performance element to be constructively incorporated.

The unexpected didn’t discourage Brad Evans. He is again presenting the 2019 edition of this unique Ottawa festival of improvised and avant-garde jazz starting on September 6, in the Hintonburg area of central Ottawa.

IMOO Fest 2019 opens on Friday, September 6 at The Record Centre with Pay-What-You-Can performances and continues on Saturday and Sunday evenings at GigSpace. It starts with a solo show and finishes with an IMOO Fest tradition, the IMOO Orchestra, with a lot of variety in between.

The festival will be the opening event in the 2019-20 season for IMOO, the Improvising and Experimental Musicians of Ottawa and Outward. For the last 10 years, IMOO has presented biweekly concerts featuring local and visiting improvising musicians in a wide variety of combinations and sounds.

“Brad did all the work of putting the lineup together [for the 2019 IMOO Fest] and he did a great job,” said Richard Blute, a decades-long improvised music fan and an regular IMOO listener.

“I wouldn’t have invited anyone I wasn’t looking forward to seeing,” Evans said. “Last year I knew from the beginning I wanted to bring Satoko [Fujii, a world-renowned, touring Japanese improvising pianist] to Ottawa. Everything was built around that. This year I didn’t have any one person in mind like that. I went with a list of seven or eight people I thought would be fun to bring to Ottawa.”

This year’s IMOO Fest includes improvising musicians from Brooklyn, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. There are “a lot more of out-of-town people coming this year than last year because I tried to minimize duplication with last year’s lineup,” Evans said about his programming choices. “I think there’s enough variety there that there’s something that everyone would enjoy. We’ve got some very jazz bands and very not-at-all jazz bands.”

“I’m really excited about ‘Togetherness’... They’re one of my favourite bands.” (GigSpace, 8 p.m., Saturday September 7)

Togetherness! is a Montreal quintet who “speaks to fans of swinging jazz, danceable grooves, and the avant-garde, all essential elements within the tradition of South African jazz music.” It includes well-known Canadian jazz improvisers Scott Thomson on trombone and Ellwood Epps on trumpet, who have regularly brought different groups to IMOO.

Tom Rainey and Ingrid_Laubrock - photo by Caroline Mardok
Tom Rainey and Ingrid_Laubrock - photo by Caroline Mardok

Brooklyn musicians Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey are this year’s featured artists-in-residence. Ottawa listeners may have heard them individually in Ottawa Jazz Festival performances. At IMOO Fest they will perform on all three nights: as a duo, then in a quartet with IMOO regulars Linsey Wellman and David Jackson on Saturday, leading up to, and leading the biggest sound of the weekend, the IMOO Orchestra, on Sunday evening at GigSpace.

“Tom Rainey has been drumming for 30-40 years. He’s worked with Tim Berne, people like that. His discography is massive. Ingrid, I’ve only known her music for a couple of years. I first heard her with the trio with Tom, and [avant-garde guitarist] Mary Halvorson. And Ingrid’s got some larger ensembles she plays with, up to orchestras.”

Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba), Ben Grossman (hurdy-gurdy), and Patrick Graham (percussion) will play as a trio for the first time. Grossman and Martel both play uncommon instruments which were more popular hundreds of years ago – the hurdy-gurdy in medieval and Renaissance music and the viola da gamba in baroque music – while Graham plays an extremely wide variety of percussion instruments. They have played occasionally here in Ottawa: Graham in Trifolia and with Jesse Stewart, and Grossman and Martel in an acoustic Ottawa New Music Creators concert here in 2016. (GigSpace, 7 p.m. Saturday, September 7)

The trio says they are inspired by their experience in the practices of contemporary and ancient music, creating “new approaches to improvisation, which they explore with precision, curiosity and humour to bring out new musical universes.” OttawaJazzScene.ca has reviewed Martel in the Montreal group HMMH, and with John Geggie, plus Grossman's performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival, and Graham's performances in Trifolia, Bomata, and with Jesse Stewart.

©Brett Delmage, 2016
Pierre-Yves Martel(viola da gamba) and Ben Grossman (hurdy-gurdy) ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Toronto trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud will open the festival with a solo set on Friday at The Record Centre, Toronto trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud has had to cancel because she needs to help relatives hurt by Hurricane Dorian. The opening set on Friday at the Record Centre will now be by Ottawa improvisers Linsey Wellman and David Jackson. Montreal trumpeter Craig Pedersen returns with a new hard-driving group, the PCP Trio, on Sunday at GigSpace.

On Sunday, two well-known Montreal jazz musicians – saxophonist Jason Sharp and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli – present their duo. Sharp uses extended techniques and customized electronics to extend the sounds of his bass and baritone saxes, creating electroacoustic music which can reflect the sounds of his own heartbeat and breathing. Ceccarelli composes for a wide range of large and small ensembles. His recent works include a piece in honour of St. Edward the Confessor for voice, flute, violin, and five percussionists, another for solo voice self-accompanied by chromatic metallophone, and others for string quartet.

IMOO Fest 2019 is happening because passionate fans of the music made a financial investment and took a risk on ticket sales, to create an event which would make more top-drawer improvised music accessible to local listeners.There are no Big Banks or government grants funding this festival (although Evans’ employer matched his personal charitable donation.) Blute joined Evans in making a personal financial contribution to help make IMOO Fest happen this year.

“I love improvised music,” Blute said. He started listening to it in his 20s like Evans. “I’ve been listening to it for a few decades and it was great moving to a city that has a really active scene, the regular IMOO concerts.”

“Having a festival where we can get some big names in for a short period of time was a great idea. I’m glad Brad revived it. It needed a leader and Brad took over, which was great.

“When I was a college student I was very into punk rock. The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, all that kind of stuff. And by the time I finished graduate school I was bored with punk rock. I was living in Montreal, and at the Montreal Jazz Festival I heard a concert I really liked. I went to the HMV which still existed at the time and asked ‘What are some good, far-out jazz albums?’ They hooked me up to Peter Brötzmann and Anthony Braxton and I’ve been doing it ever-since.”

“I hope to see a lot of people there.”

IMOO Fest 2019 will take place at The Record Centre on Friday, September 6 and at GigSpace on Saturday and Sunday, September 7 and 8, from 7 to 10 p.m. each evening. The Friday show is a pay-what-you-can event. The Saturday and Sunday shows are $40 each or $75 for both. Tickets are available online or at the door.

The Record Centre is located at 1099 Wellington Street West (at Sherbrooke), three blocks east of Parkdale. OC Transpo route 11 stops on Wellington Street West nearby. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to the show!

GigSpace is located within in Alcorn Music Studios at 953 Gladstone Avenue, one long block west of Preston Avenue. OC Transpo route 14 stops on Gladstone at Loretta near GigSpace; route 85 runs down Preston Avenue nearby. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to the show!

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