See the OttawaJazzScene.ca video of the Roddy Ellias Trio from the November concert.
“I realized that October 31st marked my 51st anniversary from my first gig and I have three records out on my own name,” guitarist, composer, and improviser Roddy Ellias told OttawaJazzScene.ca recently. But now he's working hard to change that as he gets ready to record two albums of his own and appear on a third this year.
As part of that process, his jazz trio, with Thom Gossage on drums and Adrian Vedady on double bass, is performing at GigSpace on Saturday, The concert will preview his album of all-original tunes which they will record in early December. Listeners can expect melodic music influenced by Ellias' years of playing both jazz standards and chamber music, and "the wide spectrum of moods, rhythms, expression and colours that happen with Gossage and Vedady".
“I just find that I don't really want to record something until I have something good to offer. I don't like to just make records because I like making records. When I've compiled enough good tunes and I've worked at them enough then... it's time.”
Ellias would have been pressed to find time earlier to record in the manner he prefers. In this year alone, he was named as Canada's only Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association in April, organized the inaugural Guitar Now! Festival (which included renowned guitarists from around the world) at Carleton University in May, and wrote two commissioned pieces this summer, including one for the German Meininger Trio. All that on top of his 2012-13 GigSpace concert series and teaching at Carleton University and in martial arts.
And for the past two decades, Ellias taught music full-time at Concordia University – and commuted 12 hours a week to and from Montreal as part of that.
“I'm going to sort of make up for years of teaching. When I was teaching at Concordia University that was my job and I had to work hard at it. It took a lot of energy and time. I just didn't have time until retirement,” Ellias said.
Of course, the influence of his mentor, guitarist Nelson Symonds, might also be a factor. Ellias once asked Symonds why he didn't record much, and Symonds reportedly replied “It takes away time from my music.”
It was in Montreal that Ellias first met the musicians in his trio.
Ellias was first introduced to Adrian Vedady when teaching a jazz improvisation class during his first year at Concordia. Vedady sat in, although he had already taken the course. They started playing together a year after that, and “reconnected four or five years ago.”
Then Thom Gossage and Ellias met about ten years ago, also in Montreal.
“I was looking around for the right percussionist and someone recommended Thom. He did a phenomenal job. One things I like about Thom is he's like a musician first and also a drummer / percussionist. That's just his tool. He really thinks compositionally and colours. He's a very musical guy, way more than a drummer. I like that approach. We really connected on the bandstand with Adrian.” Ellias said.
And what about Ellias' own role in the trio, in addition to composing original music?
“I'm comfortable with my playing. I've been practicing and so that's good.”
Practicing. And fidgeting.
“I'm one of these people who fidgets and fidgets with the tune forever so it's always changing.
"I like that. I don't just write a tune and that's it. I do fidget. Constantly. Tweaking. Rewriting the tune. As soon as I hang up I'm even going to be rewriting 'Evening Sky Dance', which I actually recorded a few times. This is actually a totally different arrangement.”
It's behaviour that might be expected by someone who is both an accomplished improviser and composer. But the time for fidgeting will soon end – at least for this version – as the trio hits the GigSpace stage on Saturday, and then the recording studio.
“It's a nice group. We connect well. I really like playing with them and we have a good connection, and it's time to put some of these tunes on record and move on.”
– Brett Delmage
The Roddy Ellias Trio plays GigSpace
on Saturday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m. The CD will be available for advance order.
- The community celebrates Ottawa Jazz Hero Roddy Ellias (video)
- Roddy Ellias: "I'm going to continue playing music"
- Roddy Ellias can fill an entire room with the music from just his guitar (video)
- Guitar Now! Festival to present workshops, concerts and jams in May
- Marc Copland and Roddy Ellias: finding connections