Hugh O'Connor (sax) with John Geggie (bass) and Mark Ferguson (keyboard) perform at the 2007 Ottawa Jazz Festival. photo ©Brett Delmage, 2007
Hugh O'Connor (sax) with John Geggie (bass) and Mark Ferguson (keyboard) perform at the 2007 Ottawa Jazz Festival. photo ©Brett Delmage, 2007

After more than 60 years of steadily playing for live audiences, Ottawa alto saxophonist Hugh O'Connor is releasing his first CD, “For the First Time” (True North records). The CD will be available starting April 27 at Compact Music and other local stores.

The CD launch concert will take place at the NAC Fourth Stage at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 3. O'Connor will be joined by Mark Ferguson, who has played piano with him for many, many shows, John Geggie on double bass, Don Johnson on drums, and maybe a surprise guest or two.

This Sunday afternoon, there will also be a mini CD release party at Chez Lucien, where O'Connor has duoed with pianists, including Ferguson, every Sunday afternoon for the last five years.

O'Connor has been playing jazz in Ottawa since the late 1940s, and has been a fixture at many venues and playing with many visiting jazz legends. Three years ago, the Ottawa Jazz Festival honoured his "enormous" contribution to jazz in Ottawa with a Community Recognition Award.

His CD was recorded in March, 2009 at the historic Almonte Town Hall, which has excellent acoustics. Ottawa Citizen's Peter Hum  wrote extensively about the recording of the CD and Hugh O'Connor's musical journey over the decades. It's a great story and well worth a read.

Longtime music developer, broadcaster, and supporter Harvey Glatt, who was inducted into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2007, and recognized as “Philanthropist of the Year” at the 2008 Golden Cherry Awards, came up with the idea of making the CD, and then financed the up-front production costs.

 “When I was in my teens, Hugh was one of my first exposures to live jazz. I've heard him play over the years. I went to Chez Lucien a year or two ago, and I said 'this guy's playing as well as ever.' He'd recorded for CBC but he'd never put out a record.  Many well-known musicians [who] have come to town and heard Hugh have said 'who is this guy? He's as good as anybody',” said Glatt.

Glatt invited audio recording engineer Ken Friesen, who has a recording studio outside Almonte and has worked with Tragically Hip, Holly Cole, Great Big Sea and others, to listen to O'Connor and see if he felt the same about his playing. Friesen concurred.

“And so it happened,” said Glatt.

    – Brett Delmage