|2010||There were an amazing number of great shows this year. Some of them OttawaJazzScene.ca couldn't attend because of conflicts, or lack of time, or lack of money, or illness. But even with the ones we did attend, it was very difficult to cut them down to a top ten.|
Photo: Mike Essoudry and Matt Ouimet figure out where to go at the Mash Potato Mashers' gig at the Elmdale Tavern on May 1, 2010 ©Brett Delmage, 2010.
In no particular order, editor Alayne McGregor's choices:
- Paolo Fresu and Ralph Towner (Jazz Festival): very quiet and totally beautiful
- the Michelle Gregoire Quintet (Ottawa Jazz Festival): combining some innovative and melodic compositions by this Winnipeg composer with the cream of Toronto jazz musicians. And you can hear this one again because it was taped by CBC: www.cbc.ca/radio2/cod/concerts/20100625mgreg
- Matt Wilson & Ron Miles (Jazz Festival): I've rarely had so much fun, and had my ears stretched so much, at the same time.
- Fred Hersch (Jazz Festival): Hersch walks that fine line between emotion and analysis, and never wavers.
- Gil Scott-Heron (Jazz Festival): I knew he'd be political, but I didn't realize Gil Scott-Heron was also such a charmer and so fixed in the roots of jazz. His performance was worth waiting in the rain for hours when his flight was delayed.
- the Andy Milne Quartet (Jazz Festival showcase): I never would have thought of using a tap dancer as a percussionist – and not only to provide sound but also to add a visual mark on stage. The combination of Heather Cornell's dancing and Milne's innovative piano was extraordinary, and I hope the festival brings this quartet back for more.
- Roddy Ellias Organ Quartet with Kirk MacDonald, Daniel Thouin, and John Fraboni (Café Paradiso): Yes, Roddy can bop, and held his own and more against Kirk's strong blowing and Thouin's driving organ beat. I could have equally well picked two of Roddy's other appearances at Paradiso: his fluid duet with Vic Juris, and his new trio's first appearance in November with all-original material that played to the strengths of all three musicians.
- the Mash Potato Mashers debut (Le Petit Chicago): No doubt about it: these musicians knew their stuff (no scores allowed). Everyone had a great time as they marched in front of, through, and around the audience. The music ranged from world-beat to jazz to klezmer, but it was all danceable.
- Renée Yoxon's CD release (Unitarian Church): the combination of René Gely and Mike Rud on guitar was magical and they perfectly underscored Renée's voice as she understatedly delivered the lyrics. Her two originals complemented the other standards.
- the CD release concert for the Geggie Trio's Across the Sky (NAC Fourth Stage): By the time Donny McCaslin delivered a controlled and beautiful version of Body and Soul as an encore, I was swooning. I could have equally mentioned the John Taylor/John Geggie concert later that year where the two musicians, who had barely met, showed amazing musical telepathy.
Not concerts but also memorable were three workshops Alayne attended:
- the mentorship evening with John Geggie at Café Paradiso in September, where he dissected the students and put them back together in better shape.
- the masterclass with Cuban percussion master Changuito at the Carleton University Jazz Camp, where language barriers proved no barrier at all, but even the most experienced percussionists were still challenged
- the Manhattan on the Rideau masterclass with Stefon Harris, where you could see the instrument and the musician becoming one.
Publisher Brett Delmage's choices in no specific ranking include:
- Richard Page Trio's series of Tuesday nights at Avant-Garde Bar: Richard played many original tunes with an ever-evolving sound and texture on a record-number of new saxophones this year. Together with Matt Aston on drums and Phil Charbonneau on bass, they made a solid hard bop trio. Tuesday nights were great, too, because they were almost-always conflict free.
- Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, part of the Ottawa Jazz Festival's OLG late night series: Christine's original compositions have movement and melody that I enjoy in a big band. And you can't go wrong when Christine's sister, Ingrid, joins in to express herself on the trumpet.
- IMOO at Umi (Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais at Umi Café): I'm always excited when local musicians establish a new series. Linsey Wellman and Craig Pedersen developed a series that became a Sunday night favorite for me, because of both the music and the small club atmosphere, including the great food, drink and service. IMOO stretched my ears and kept them from becoming lazy – and flushed the standards out from the previous week.
- Mike Essoudry Octet at the NAC Fourth Stage: music from Mike's his new suite, Thus Far, and his debut CD, Passage. A great set of Ottawa and Montreal musicians, moving through a range of emotions in Mike's layered and complex compositions. And it had a Fender-Rhodes.
- Michael Snow and Jesse Stewart at the National Gallery: It was a very rare opportunity to hear renowned Canadian artist Michael Snow on piano freely improvise with Jesse Stewart on drums. Both had surprises to share, but it was their sensitive interactions and improvisations that made the show. CBC taped this concert, and you can hear it at www.cbc.ca/radio2/cod/concerts/20100318msnow
- Spring "blossoms", a tribute to Blossom Dearie at the Fourth Stage: Karen Oxorn, Caroline Gibson and Marcie Campbell delivered two sets of polished standards with feeling, that encompassed ballads to the whimsical. Backed up by a band of solid Ottawa jazz musicians, their singing was still in my head long after the show.
- Carleton University Contemporary Music Ensemble's performance of Cornelius Cardew's mammoth graphic score, Treatise: Again, a very rare performance of definitely not jazz, but much improvisation. Treatise demanded not only aural attention from the audience, but also visual. Sitting in front of the Ensemble, we followed the projected graphic score in real time, attempting to decode their interpretation as it was played. Treatise was 'full-immersion' music! At the end of it I felt like I had worked almost as hard as the musicians, and discovered much too.
- The Jazz Festival's Workshop Series on the OLG Stage: Controlled feedback. Balloons. Paper instruments. And saxophones. No trad-jazz here! Again, more improvisational content than standard jazz forms, but performed by many of our talented local jazz musicians. I enjoy a show where I don't know what to expect and am surprised. The OLG offered much of that, with enough melodic and harmonically-familiar content to let the ears take an occasional break. Too bad most of this was staged on weekday afternoons when many people would miss it.
- Craig Pedersen's Master Recital: While just the word 'recital' might put some to sleep, Craig's recital was not soporific . He presented classical trumpet pieces, music for trumpet and electronics, and the Mini Mash Potato Mashers surprised the audience by marching up the middle aisle to the stage, to play a rousing burst. This event showed that there is great music (where someone is really putting their performance on the line) to be heard in places other than at the NAC, and at a no-risk cost: $0.
- The Albert Ayler Christmas Carols Mix at the Mercury Lounge: technically, this occurred one week before 2010. But because this is our first year's retrospective, I'm going to include it anyway. One of my favourite approaches to Christmas tunes, played by people who were really into it. And now it's available on CD so you can listen to Christmas tunes even after the stores stop playing them.
I attended two masterclasses/workshops in which I discovered that the artists teaching to be both clear and engaging instructors and also warm and interesting people with a sense of humour.
- the Manhattan on the Rideau masterclass with Theo Bleckmann – from which I produced a podcast of Renee Yoxon's experience.
- Tim Bedner continued hosting his exceptional "Inside the Music" workshops at Alcorn Music Studios. In November, guest instructor Vic Juris held the attention of the packed studio with a mix of theory, personal anecdotes, and talented young Ottawa musicians playing together for the first time.
There will be more masterclasses in all these series this year.
What's your memorable event of 2010 ?