See our story about the 2013 Chamberfest.

The Ottawa Chamberfest may be best known for Beethoven, Bartók, and Bach – but as far as festival artistic director Roman Borys is concerned, jazz belongs there too.

And that's what he's programmed again for the 2012 festival, primarily in the late-night ChamberFringe series. It features major Canadian jazz musicians, and international stars like Steve Swallow and Dave Douglas.

“A lot of this has to do with my own personal passion for the expressive power of jazz and I just believe that it belongs. It's perfectly positioned at the end of a wonderful listening day.”

Scott Thomson and Christine Duncan will animate the National Gallery with Chamber Elements ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Scott Thomson and Christine Duncan will animate the National Gallery with Chamber Elements ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Although best known as a classical cellist and as a member of the chamber ensemble The Gryphon Trio, Borys himself has played with jazz musicians. In fact, the first jazz-related concert, Cuban Connection (Saturday, July 28), features well-known Toronto Latin jazz musicians Hilario Duran and Roberto Occhipinti and Vancouver saxophonist Phil Dwyer, along with the Gryphon Trio.

Other jazz-related concerts include:

The festival's Waterway Soundfaire, free outdoor concerts on the afternoon of Saturday, August 4 in conjunction with the Rideau Canal Authority, will also feature jazz-related groups like Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers.

Cuban Connection (Saturday, July 28)

While the Gryphon Trio has played regular concerts at the Lula Lounge in Toronto with the Hilario Durán Trio over the last decade, this Chamberfest concert will be one of the rare occasions they've appeared together outside Toronto, because of their very diverse schedules.

The Cuban in the title comes from pianist Durán, originally from Cuba and well-known for his Cuban-influenced playing and composition. Most of the pieces in the concert will be written by him or by bassist Roberto Occhipinti, with the possible inclusion of a few standard Cuban pieces arranged by Durán. Borys said it was a “very well-developed collaboration”, and Durán's and Occhipinti's material was written specifically with the intention of having the classical musicians participate in it.

“So it basically takes the kind of training that we've had to play this stuff, in addition to all the work that we've done with them, and their coaching. They've certainly taken us through all sorts of jazz. ... It's been a very instructive thing [for us] as artists: just the different approach to rhythm between classical and jazz artists. We're all striving for the same things, but we get there very differently, and that's always fascinating.”

The concert will also feature two tunes by American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny (“Minuano” and “Are You Going with Me?”), and two by Canadian jazz saxophonist Phil Dwyer. “Phil has been a part of this whole coming together a number of times already over the years, so we're pulling out a couple of tunes that he wrote for a Lula Lounge show.” And Dwyer will also be soloing on “Are You Going with Me?”: Borys said “he just takes the audience right over Mount Everest on this [piece].”

And the classical composers won't be forgotten: “we're doing three or four pieces that take their inspiration from famous classical works. You might know that we're doing the complete Beethoven string quartets [at the 2012 Chamberfest] and the Opus 132 String Quartet has a slow movement that's just one of the most astounding and glorious things, so Roberto actually some time ago wrote a piece that starts with this whole Beethoven quote and it evolves into this cool jazz exploration of that material. And there are two other pieces also that are variations of the Schubert Trout Quintet, which is another famous classical piece. So we're doing one of Phil's on that theme, and one of Hilario's.”

Mark Fewer (photo courtesy Ottawa Chamberfest)
Mark Fewer (photo courtesy Ottawa Chamberfest)

Mark Fewer@40
(Monday, July 30)

Violinist Mark Fewer is well-known in the jazz world for his collaboration with Dwyer, culminating in Dwyer's CD Changing Seasons, which won the 2012 Juno award for best Contemporary Jazz Album. But he also has a major reputation as an Early Music and a classical musician, and this concert will highlight all three aspects.

In the last 15 years, Borys said, Fewer has really expanded his area of interest and expertise. “He's always had a very broad palette but, I'd say about 15 years ago, he really started just started exploring, started taking some risks, started improvising.”

The concert will present “all the music that's close to [Fewer's] heart. The day isn't his 40th birthday, but it's all in honour of his turning 40.” It will start with “early music, the Baroque music which he's recorded”, then some core classical repertoire, and then end with a Hot Club mini-set, with three or four guitarists, and violinist Drew Jurecka [of the Hogtown Syncopators].

It will also include a piece that Dwyer wrote for Fewer, that will include the two plus John Novacek on piano, and James Campbell on clarinet (whom Borys noted was another primarily classical musician who has also explored jazz: for example, with David Braid and Phil Nimmons at the 2011 Chamberfest).

“Mark's concert, in a sense, is an encapsulation of the ultimate kind of daily range of music, starting from beautiful, transparent Early Music, and as the day goes on it gets thicker and thicker and thicker and then at the end of the day you've got this wonderful opportunity for reflection and improvisation and lots of free speech. So that's Mark's concert: it's a fantastic opportunity to see one artist's incredible range.”

Chamber Elements (Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5)

If you're at the National Gallery in the early afternoon of Saturday and Sunday, August 4 and 5, you can hear this unconventional concert at no extra charge. It will be a mixture of brass instruments (trombones and trumpet) and a choir which sings wordless music, both of whom will be improvising in harmony with the Gallery space and art. The musicians will move through the Gallery, and listeners can follow them and listen while also looking at the paintings and sculptures. The National Gallery programmed local jazz musicians to play responsively to the art in 2011 (see Where there's no smoke there's Fire) but this Chamberfest project is much more dynamic for both the musicians and gallery attendees.

The project is the brainchild of trombonist Scott Thomson, with the collaboration of vocalist and choir leader Christine Duncan.

“Christine has reached out to the improv community in Ottawa and created a choir, an Element Choir. I think there might be a few of her Toronto Element Choir [members], but this is effectively an Ottawa one, which she has been building... And they'll have rehearsals and training in the days prior to the project. “

“And Scott's piece is very much an experiential thing where people will encounter instrumentalists, brass players floating around in the Gallery. And they'll be going, they'll be moving slowly according to a plan, a master plan which Scott has created and which he shares with the audience. They get a programme and they see what the movements of the musicians are. And the Choir will be in the water court and also moving around and essentially what happens is the audience continues to move around the Gallery spaces to enjoy the paintings but the musicians' movements cause the audience, the public to move around in ways that they don't expect.”

Last November, Borys said he “witnessed and participated in a sense as an audience member in one of these pieces that Scott created. It was interesting. I go to the Gallery often and I tend to want to visit certain rooms when I get there, and this caused me to go to all sorts of other rooms and move in ways that, left to my own determination, I wouldn't have moved in that direction. But I was enticed by the sound. The brass players are very close, you can see and hear their sounds approaching one another and intersecting. You're led to that, and finally you discover that you're in another part of the place. You've been completely led by your senses, as opposed to other choices you might make. And you find yourself in the presence of these paintings that you weren't expecting. It completely changes the experience. It's a very exciting piece.”

The National Gallery piece, however, will not be the same as the AGO piece, he said. “Each one of these is an original thing. Scott's been to the [National] Gallery four or five times scoping all this out. Determining the way in which the musicians all move through the gallery space is a huge component of all of this. He takes everything into consideration: the works of art, the acoustic spaces.

Quatuor Ebène (Wednesday, August 8)

This French string quartet “made a name for themselves as an ensemble that excels in both” classical and jazz music, Borys said.

“They came out of the gate as an ensemble that was immediately presenting both the core classical repertoire, the string quartet repertoire, the traditional repertoire, at the highest level, while also really taking jazz on completely, a full and entire commitment. They've recorded both now, they have an incredible style, they're phenomenal improvisers, and they just bring a very, very refined approach. They really bring the audience to them. It's going to be tremendous.”

Chet Doxas will invite Steve Swallow and Dave Douglas to celebrate jazz great Jimmy Guiffre. ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Chet Doxas will invite Steve Swallow and Dave Douglas to celebrate jazz great Jimmy Guiffre. ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Riverside (Chet Doxas, Steve Swallow, Dave Douglas, and Jim Doxas) (Wednesday, August 8)

Quatuor Ebène will be followed the same night by a new quartet initiated by Montreal saxophonist Chet Doxas, who is presenting compositions inspired by a jazz legend, saxophonist and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre. Giuffre is best known for his jazz standard, “Four Brothers”, written for the Woody Herman big band, and for the avant-garde trio CDs he released in the early 60s and in the early 90s with bassist Steve Swallow and pianist Paul Bley.

This new quartet will include Swallow as well as trumpeter Dave Douglas, both of whom are also writing pieces for the group, and drummer Jim Doxas.

Borys said that Chet Doxas had come to him with the idea, after they previously worked together on other projects in the past. “He knew the kind of thing I was looking for, for our late-night nights and this all just fitted together.”

“That whole night really defines those outer edges of chamber music that are completely blurred. We're well into jazz with that and yet somehow we haven't lost sight of all of this other incredible music, so that's very much in line with my vision through the range of this festival.”

The Lemon Bucket Orchestra (Thursday, August 9)

The Lemon Bucket Orchestra will close the festival: “a busker, klezmer, party, street, Balkan, band of musicians that really gets it up and puts it on. It's just going to be great. They're a bunch of amazing characters.”

Borys said the orchestra will also be doing some impromptu outdoor concerts on Wednesday, August 8, and Thursday, August 9, probably in the Byward Market area. “People will have chance encounters with these folks,” similar to the Asphalt Orchestra last year.

“A real fascination with jazz”

Borys said the ChamberFringe program, in particular, reflected how many classical musicians have reached out to jazz.

“I've found that there's an increasing number of classically-trained instrumentalists, as they develop as musicians take a real fascination with jazz – and as artists they blur the lines there.”

And, as this year's Chamberfest program shows, it allows collaborations both ways. For example, he said, jazz pianist Gene diNovi recently created an arrangement of Porgy and Bess for The Gryphon Trio, which they premiered this month.

    – Alayne McGregor

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