2012 was eventful for jazz and improvised music listeners in Ottawa-Gatineau. Here are some of the stories that caught the attention of Ottawa-Gatineau and Canadian jazz fans throughout the year:
- We turned on Tonic on CBC Radio 2 on January 9, 2012, and were surprised to hear that host Katie Malloch was retiring at the end of March. Katie was one of the most consistent supporters of Canadian jazz around, as well as a wonderful guide to the history of jazz and the best in jazz music, past and present. Alayne wrote a tribute to Katie. CBC organized three free jazz concerts celebrating Katie's career. We attended the February 8 concert in Montreal, with other Ottawa jazz fans. It was a wonderful evening. See our review and photos.
- The Ottawa Jazz Festival held its first Winter Jazzfest in early February. We previewed and reviewed the first festival's concerts.
- The Juno Awards were held in Ottawa this year. The Stretch Orchestra, which includes Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart, received the 2012 award for Best Instrumental Album. Unfortunately their tour to promote the album was delayed because guitarist Kevin Breit was so busy touring with blues singer/pianist (and TV star) Hugh Laurie.
- The government of France recognized former Ottawa Jazz Festival programming manager Jacques Émond's many years of contributions to jazz, by appointing him a Chevalier in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in February.
- The Manhattan on the Rideau video-conferenced masterclasses run by the National Arts Centre (NAC) ended their 2011-12 series with a particularly interesting session in April where three local Ottawa vocalists (Peter Liu, Floyd Hutchinson, and Renée Yoxon) were critiqued by renowned jazz vocalist Peter Eldridge. It followed classes with Donny McCaslin and Dave Liebman earlier in 2012, and with Vijay Iyer and John Riley the previous fall. Very regrettably, the NAC announced this fall that the series was being suspended due to funding cuts, although they would continue to look for outside sponsors and donors to restart it next year.
- The “NAC Presents” series, which presents Canadian musicians, returned this fall. Surprisingly, all the jazz artists performing in the current series are vocalists. The lineup included some bigger names like Diana Krall and Holly Cole, and some newer artists like Elizabeth Shepherd and Laila Biali.
- The John Geggie Invitational series at the NAC had five successful (artistically and with full houses) concerts in spring, with mostly Canadian artists. Then the official announcement of the 2012-13 season was delayed, repeatedly, until the end of December. Due to funding cuts, there will only be three concerts this season, and all the musicians will be from central Canada.
- The Walrus Quartet composed of four fine Canadian jazz guitarists, played their premiere public performance in GigSpace in March. OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed David Occhipinti and Roddy Ellias about the group.
- This fall, the Rideau Canal Festival announced it was suspended indefinitely because of cuts in government grants and lack of private sector sponsors. For the past several years, the festival had collaborated with Ottawa Chamberfest to produce free outdoor concerts along the canal: for example, under Sappers' Bridge near the NAC this year, where audiences could hear the Mash Potato Mashers and Christine Duncan's Element Choir. The concerts were well-attended and livened up a quiet long weekend in August.
- The Chinatown BIA sponsored its first FestivAsia festival this summer, which brought local jazz musicians to play outdoors in Chinatown on weekends. This follows the lead of BIAs in Wellington West and the Glebe, which have also sponsored free jazz events, including, again, during the Taste of Wellington this September.
- Peter Liu retired in June as the volunteer coordinator of the long-time JazzWorks monthly jam sessions at the Carleton Tavern, after two successful years. Alf Warnock, who had been working with Peter for several years, replaced him. OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed Peter about the jams and his future plans just before his last session as coordinator.
- In January, Tim Bedner started his monthly blues and jazz jams at GigSpace. In May, Renée Yoxon and Craig Pedersen created a new biweekly series of Saturday afternoon jazz jams at Pressed. Both attracted an increasing number of listeners and players over 2012. Pianist Karen Rauh takes over as coordinator of the Pressed jams in January, 2013. Friday night jams also ran at Burgers on Main, with a regularly-changing house band.
- The Nepean All-City Jazz Band, which allows many of the best Ottawa-area jazz players aged 15-20 to develop and share their musical talent. celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012 with a gala concert in May featuring many band alumni. Revisit our interview with band director Neil Yorke-Slader at their first concert of their new season.
- The Ottawa Junior Jazz Band, which creates opportunities for younger teens to develop their big band skill, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012. Watch our video of the OJJB's anniversary concert, along with interviews with band members and director/founder Mandar Gumaste.
- The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra produced its largest concert ever on April 1, in combination with the La Garza, the 26-piece Crane Latin Ensemble from Potsdam, New York. The two bands played together both in Potsdam and Ottawa. It was a fine night of hot music, which showed both bands rising to the challenge of playing together.
- In September, Mooney's Bay Bistro started a regular Thursday night show featuring Carleton music students and alumni, mostly playing jazz.
- In July, JazzNHouse started to offer regular house concerts in Almonte featuring local jazz artists. They are continuing monthly in 2013.
- Adventurous local singers had two unprecedented opportunities this year to take part in one-time improvising choirs – just for the time needed for a few rehearsals and performances. In May, British singer and improviser Phil Minton created his first-ever Feral Choir in Ottawa (in fact, the first he had created in Canada east of Vancouver). Minton has been creating Feral Choirs around the world for 20 years to produce “sounds that give a positive aesthetic contribution to the human condition”. In August, Toronto singer Christine Duncan brought her Element Choir soundscape concept to Ottawa, for several outdoor performances in the Rideau Canal Festival, and for two indoor shows as part of Chamber Elements at the National Gallery of Canada.
- The Capital Vox Jazz Choir celebrated its 5th anniversary this year, and released its first CD in November.
- The Ottawa jazz community lost three veteran musicians this year: trombonist Jerry Heath, bassist Bob Langley, and saxophonist Edward Sullivan. We also lost two pianists who had played Ottawa in 2011: Dave Brubeck and Austin Peralta.
- “Curiosity Killed the Quartet”, led by saxophonist Zakari Frantz, officially took over in January as house band for the longstanding Monday-night late shows at Le Petit Chicago.
- The Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais celebrated their second anniversary this October with a second compilation CD (this time of solos by local improvisers), and their first IMOOfest: two packed evenings featuring short concerts and headlined by clarinetist Lori Freedman. Their biweekly series of Sunday evening concerts at the Umi Café presented a wide range of sounds from local and touring artists from as far away as Norway.
See our video interview with IMOO founders Craig Pedersen and Linsey Wellman.
- For those interested in the academic aspects of improvisation and jazz, there were two student-organized symposia this spring: Sound Changes: Music and Social Justice Symposium at Carleton University in late February (Alayne enjoyed listening to Ajay Heble from Guelph talk about his work on the uses of improvisation), and the Democratic Dialogue Via the Arts Symposium in early June at the University of Ottawa, which included an uplifting performance by Rita di Ghent with members of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra.
- The Ottawa Jazz Orchestra restarted after a year-long hiatus. In November, it offered a concert tribute to two Jewish clarinetists, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, featuring two local clarinetists: Scott Poll and Dave Renaud, in a lively and informative show.
- Souper Jazz, which has raised more than $500,000 for local charities and soup kitchens from donations solicited at its public Dixieland jazz concerts, held a 25th anniversary reunion party on September 14. It was a fun evening full of music and attracted many of the founders and musicians who had played with the band over the years, including a number from out of town.
- Ottawa composer Rob Frayne celebrated his victory over the health and other problems which had been bedevilling him for a number of years, with a two-night concert run at the NAC 4th Stage on October 31 and November 1. The 15-member Rob Frayne Dream Band, which included jazz musicians from Toronto, Montreal, Brooklyn, and Ottawa, played recent compositions by Frayne. The first night completely sold out and so a second overflow night was added. Watch our video interview.
- Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas married and moved to Ottawa, and started making a splash on the local jazz scene in 2012. We first saw him with Glebop in early May, and were immediately impressed with his musicianship. Since then he has been working with many other musicians, formed his own trio and continues to attract fans of Cuban and Latin jazz.
- Two holiday charity fundraisers in December at GigSpace benefited from the generosity of local jazz listeners and musicians: The bake sale before A Concert of Celebration and Hope raised $603 for Harmony House, and the Jazzin' the Holidays concert raised $940 for the Sexual Assault Support Centre.
– Alayne McGregor
At venues where jazz was being performed some doors closed in 2012 forever, while new ones opened. See Where's that sound (not) coming from?
There is a lot of exciting jazz news in one year! With your help, we'll try to do it again in 2013. Please make a donation to help support our ongoing reporting about one of Canada's most vibrant jazz scenes. You can easily donate in 3 minutes or less using our secure website form at https://OttawaJazzScene.ca/donate Thanks.