Monday night jazz is returning to Le Petit Chicago. The Sean Duhaime Trio plays at the Gatineau club on March 11 and 18, and then the regular house band led by Zakari Frantz will be back weekly as of March 25.

Zakari Frantz is returning to Le Petit Chicago on Monday nights   ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Zakari Frantz is returning to Le Petit Chicago on Monday nights ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Frantz said the club had missed the jazz nights – attendance had dropped to almost zero on some Mondays – and the band had really missed playing there, so they reached an agreement to restore Jazz Mondays.

But there will be changes, including a new suggested donation of $5 that will go to pay the band. This, plus a possible share of bar proceeds, will replace the band's previous guaranteed fee. Other jazz jams, such as JazzWorks, GigSpace, and Pressed, also request a $5 cover, but the new jam at Brookstreet, the invitational jam at Levante Bistro, and the monthly jam at the Rainbow do not.

“The club has been really kind. They're trying to keep afloat just as much as we're trying to keep afloat. So we're going to try to pass the hat a little bit more to help support the project.”

Music will start slightly earlier, as well: at 10 p.m. instead of the previous 10:30. And Frantz has decided to drop the “Curiosity Killed the Quartet” band name, if only because the house band is sometimes a trio and sometimes a quintet.

The format – where the house band plays standards and its own music in the first set, and local musicians are invited up to jam in the second set – will remain the same. But Frantz said he would also be learning from the success of local music series like the Up&Up Concert Series on how to promote the nights better and get more listeners and musicians interested.

He also wanted to have a special guest once a month, “be it a singer or another horn player”, to play with himself on alto sax, Steve Bilodeau on guitar, Joe Hincke on bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums.

Touring jazz musicians may be featured for occasional special concert nights. “There were a lot of people calling me from say Montreal or Toronto, looking for where we can play in town on our way through, or we have a CD release tour we're booking and we want to play Ottawa. I'd like to get them involved in coming through for a 'Jazz Monday' special presentation where we would charge official cover at the door.”

The special presentations could include both visiting musicians and local musicians doing CD releases: “if they can schedule it for a Monday, we can give them a free space to play on.”

The jazz nights were abruptly canceled in early January because of financial issues at the club, after being an important part of the local scene for more than eight years. The final show on January 14 attracted a packed house, and the club said at the time it hoped to bring the band back in a few months.

While Jazz Mondays weren't running, Frantz said, band members continued weekly rehearsals, and “worked on a bunch of new tunes and a lot of arrangements, some originals. We'll be bringing those in when we come back.”

“But we really missed playing. It was good to rehearse, but having that Monday night thing just meant so much.”

The club had wanted to restart the jazz nights as soon as possible, Frantz said, but he was not available for two weeks. It had scheduled Duhaime in on March 11 to replace a previous date that got snowed out, and Frantz said he asked that that be extended to March 18 as well because “Sean's been so supportive and out to a lot of jams.”

The Jazz Mondays will be facing increasing competition. Since they ended, the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata started jazz jams every Thursday night hosted by the HML Trio, and the Rainbow started a blues and jazz jam on the third Monday of each month hosted by guitarist Justin Duhaime.

    – Alayne McGregor

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