Updated December 5, 2018
Latest news: 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival creates never-heard-before collaborations
Fewer concerts on fewer days at fewer venues – that will be the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The festival lost nearly $200,000 this year, primarily because of lower ticket sales. As a result, it will have a “smaller, more focused” programming budget next summer, president John Freamo told the festival's annual general meeting Tuesday.
“Programming is by far the biggest expense and biggest financial risk for the festival. We will still present some big-name concerts and many world-class jazz artists, but we'll scale back somewhat on the number of different series and venues.”
He said the festival would also “scale back a little bit on some of the series that happen simultaneously” – based on patron feedback over the past few years where some don't like not being able to attend a concert because another is happening at the same time and “they can't be at both places at once”. This year, the festival had five series which all began in the 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. timeframe.
The exact reductions are still to be determined, Freamo said, depending on previous commitments and which artists are touring.
The festival's website had shown the summer festival running from Thursday, June 20 to Monday, July 1, 2019. Festival programming manager Petr Cancura said it would now start on Friday, June 21. It may also go dark for a Monday or Tuesday in the middle of the festival, as Bluesfest does.
Cancura said the places to be cut first will be “things that cost us the most”: for example, concerts on certain days like Sundays at the National Arts Centre that require paying staff double time.
“There might not be an actual series missing, but some of them might be thinned out where we know that the production costs are just too excessive, as well as thinning out the number of days that we do.”
UPDATE November 22: This concert is now free and has been moved to the Peter Herrndorf Place (back of the Atrium) at the NAC.
In their acoustic jazz duo, guitarist François Jalbert and pianist Jérôme Beaulieu play music with no place to hide.
“There's no cheat. It's very real. There's no reverb. There's no editing. It's basically like we were playing in a living room – that's exactly how it would sound like,” Jalbert said.
The two Montreal jazz musicians released a duo album of their original compositions last fall. They'll give it its Ottawa debut in the quiet and cozy Fourth Stage – where listeners can curl up in plush barrel chairs to listen – at Canada's National Arts Centre on Thursday, as part of the NAC Presents series.
It's melodic, intimate music, with some influences from bluegrass and folk. The individual voices of piano and guitar are each clearly heard, both in solos and in playing different intertwining lines. No effects are added. It's pure acoustic sound.
“It's been actually one of the main challenges of that record is that it's just so naked,” Beaulieu told OttawaJazzScene.ca, and Jalbert agreed: “Yes. If it doesn't groove it's your problem!”
When OttawaJazzScene.ca interviewed the two by phone last week, the conversation was just as interactive as their playing, with each of them building on what the other said. It reflects their long musical and personal friendship – with the music evolving naturally from years of playing together.
Jalbert and Beaulieu met when studying jazz performance at l'Université de Montreal.
“We used to just go and jam together in rehearsal spaces, just for the fun of it, on our lunch breaks from school,” Beaulieu said.
“We just started playing for fun,” Jalbert explained. “We were like jamming at parties, just songs that we liked. Gypsy jazz, or bluegrass, or covers of pop songs. We played basically any style that we liked, with no restraints. So that's why there are a bunch of influences [in the music].”
“It became a sound, because we learned how to position ourselves towards one another. And then it became a thing, but it wasn't really thought up from the beginning to go in that direction,” Beaulieu said.
“We just got quickly to this point where basically we found out that we each have all of the possibilities on our respective instruments, so we figured we'd be able to do some music together, and position ourselves into those different roles that are acceptable to us by our instruments. It just got very natural very quickly and it was a lot of fun.”
Guitarist Alex Moxon has been a highly visible player in Ottawa's jazz scene for the last decade, primarily in groups where he shares the creative duties with others (the HML Trio, the Chocolate Hot Pockets, F8-BIT, and Modasaurus).
Next week, he steps into the studio to record his first CD as leader, with a quartet of sure-handed Ottawa musicians showcasing his own compositions. Some pieces, he's played before with his other groups, but others are new – and all are in a more acoustic and reflective mode. He doesn't use pedals or effects with his guitar on these tunes, unlike in the more groove-oriented CHP.
Moxon and his quartet have been preparing for the recording by playing this material in different contexts: a house concert, as host band for Jazz Mondays most of this month at Le Petit Chicago, and this Saturday evening (November 17) at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. Performing with him are Steve Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Michel Delage on drums – all musicians he's played with before, but not in his regular bands.
"...it seems the first thing people try to do is classify you. They’re all trying to figure out whether to call you a rock singer, a folk singer, or whether you have a country sound. The only sound I have is me."
That's how Anne Murray introduces CBC TV's new series ‘From the Vaults’ in an opening archival clip. It's an observation that could often be said about jazz, which is frequently evolving, embracing, extending - and hard to classify sometimes.
The series’ six weekly shows – to which OttawaJazzScene.ca was given an advance view – span 60 years of Canadian music on CBC-TV. They include segments which will be of specific interest to jazz and blues fans. Other segments have interesting angles on Canadian musical history, and on our society and the culture which helped create and shape it. The first show airs on Thursday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on CBC TV. It will also be available on the CBC TV streaming app.
Episode 1, 'Land of Opportunities' features Sammy Davis Jr performing jazz standards in his own CBC special. ‘Parade’ aired during a tumultuous time in U.S. history when it would have been impossible for him to appear on U.S. television as a black performer. Another segment shows Muddy Waters and other well-known blues musicians performing together in a pioneering CBC show whose producers improvised to create a successful and unique show.
The jazz band Way North crosses borders – in several senses.
Its four members – saxophonist Petr Cancura, trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy, bassist Michael Herring, and drummer Richie Barshay – live in three cities in two countries. And its music defies simple categorization: “when I have to describe it, I cannot be more specific than saying 'folk-world-roots-music-inspired' ”, Cancura says.
When the band plays at Canada's National Arts Centre Fourth Stage on Wednesday, the audience will hear touches of blues, a strong whiff of traditional New Orleans music, hints of African and Brazilian world rhythms – and most importantly, an approach that combines jazz's improvisation and the story-telling aspects of folk music.
All four musicians have strong jazz creds: Cancura in a wide range of his own projects ranging from roots-jazz to chamber jazz to mainstream, as well as Ed Lister's Prime Rib Big Band; Hennessy with her FOG brass band, the groove-based Drumhand, and the chamber jazz group Hobson’s Choice; Herring with the JUNO-nominated jazz group Peripheral Vision; and Barshay who has played with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea as well as in his own bands.
Cancura lives in Ottawa, Hennessy and Herring (who are married) in Toronto, and Barshay in Brooklyn, NY. It's a wide triangle to traverse – more than 800km on a side – which, along with everyone's busy schedules, explains why this is the first time they've performed together in 21 months.
The Ottawa show is part of an Ontario/Quebec tour this week to promote the release of the band's second album, Fearless and Kind.
The four musicians first started playing together in 2014 when they were (briefly) all living in the same city – Brooklyn. “Rebecca and Michael were on a study residency down in Brooklyn for about 6 months. We played a few times and then we did the first record. Then Michael and Rebecca had to go back home. I think we recorded the record the day before they went back up to Toronto,” Cancura said.
That return to Canada inspired the group's name, he said. “We were all talking about that idea that we recorded it down south but they're going back up north. Then I decided to move back up. We started playing around with the idea of north versus south, and we came up with 'Way North'.”
Two pianists, Gentiane MG and Florian Hoefner, and two vocalists, Ellen Doty and Amanda Martinez, will headline the jazz concerts to be presented next spring at the National Arts Centre.
Their concerts were announced Tuesday as part of 30 new shows in the centre's NAC Presents series. Also included in the series is a tribute to calypso singer Harry Belafonte on February 22 including Canadian jazz singers Florence K and Alex Cuba.
Florian Hoefner is an accomplished composer and pianist, whose fluent and interlaced music has consistently evoked standing ovations and sold-out shows in his Ottawa concerts. He was born and educated in Germany, and worked for years in NYC, where he collaborated with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.
In 2014, he moved to St. John's, Newfoundland when his wife was appointed a professor at Memorial University. He has made many connections here and toured several times across Canada. In 2015, he was awarded the Stingray Rising Star Award by the Montreal Jazz Festival for his compositions.
In Ottawa, he's played solo, with his international quintet, and with the German jazz group Subtone. For his NAC Fourth Stage show on February 19, he's bringing his new Canadian trio, with drummer Nick Fraser and bassist Andrew Downing.
Both Fraser and Downing are major figures in Toronto's jazz scene: highly versatile musicians who have often played together. Fraser's music ranges from free jazz to mainstream, including playing with pianists David Braid and Nancy Walker, while Downing has played everything from creative music to chamber music to mainstream jazz to world music.
Councillor Jeff Leiper (Kitchisssippi, ward 15), the leading live music industry advocate on Ottawa City Council, wasn’t the only one in the room receiving applause at his successful re-election victory party on Monday night.
At the Carleton Tavern in Hintonburg, the Nepean High School Jazz Combo – Patrick Vafaie on sax, Sam Alexander on drums, Kenny Hammond on bass, and Thom Simons on guitar – performed jazz standards for campaign volunteers and other residents to enthusiastic applause. Vafaie had performed with Leiper’s saxophonist son Nicholas in the Nepean All-City Lab Band. Nicholas Leiper is now in his first year of jazz studies at the University of Toronto, and his trio performed at the launch of his father’s campaign.
Ottawa jazz musician Keith Hartshorn-Walton can play the bass, piano, and organ, but his musical true love is the tuba. He has a Doctorate in Music (D. Mus) in jazz tuba from McGill University (yes, that is as rare as it seems) and he's brought his tuba to many different musical pairings in the last decade, including deep sounds with Safe Low Limit, French jazz and chanson with Mélanie E., and even Dixieland jazz.
Last year, he organized a tribute show to his tuba mentor, Howard Johnson, playing many of Johnson's compositions and music Johnson made famous on tuba. This Saturday, he's back with a second tribute, this time to what was likely the first jazz album to feature the tuba as a melodic, soloing voice in the front line alongside the trumpet.
In 1959, renowned jazz trumpeter Clark Terry recorded the album Top And Bottom Brass with tuba player Don Butterfield [listen on YouTube]. Butterfield was the go-to session tuba player in jazz at that time, appearing on releases by Charles Mingus, Roland Kirk, and Dizzy Gillespie. As Hartshorn-Walton describes it, “the session had a decidedly bop and west coast feel, with innovative combinations of the two instruments.”
At Record Runner Rehearsal Studios this Saturday, Walton's quintet, with Montrealer Bill Mahar on trumpet and flugelhorn, Peter Hum on piano, Dave Schroeder on bass, and Michel Delage on drums, will play Hartshorn-Walton's recreation of the entire album, plus other jazz pieces from that period with a similar sound.
OttawaJazzScene.ca editor OttawaJazzScene.ca McGregor interviewed Hartshorn-Walton this week about the concert and his love of this album.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: What inspired you to do a tribute to this specific album?
Keith Hartshorn-Walton: Well, it goes back to the Doctorate. I was just digging for any hidden treasures of when the tuba turned up, in anything other than doing bass lines. And I came across this album. I read about it a few times and managed to get hold of it. Although this was in 2010, so it wasn't on YouTube. I had to go on a McGill University online service to hear it.
The 2018 edition of Merrickville's Jazz Fest closed Sunday with a powerful performance by Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans. Supported by three Toronto musicians, Evans both exhorted and entertained her audience with personal stories and uplifting music which combined soul, pop, and jazz.
It was part dancefest, part revival meeting, and a consistently joyful and stirring show.
Five colourful musicians created a powerhouse of Afro-Cuban energy Saturday evening. OKAN (violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez and percussionist Magdelys Savigne) from Toronto collaborated with Ottawa pianist Miguel de Armas to present new compositions and arrangements very much in the Afro-Cuban and jazz traditions, but in their own modern voices.
Violin, congas, cajon, and Batá drums combined with piano, electric bass (Roberto Riverón), and drums (Frank Martinez) in music that ranged from folkloric chants to Cuban son to Thelonious Monk to rumbas to intensely personal songs.
Every seat was taken in the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage – and there were fans perched in the window ledges as well. Each song was greeted with strong applause, and by the last song, most of the audience was up dancing, and stayed on their feet to give the group a standing ovation and to demand an encore.
The ensemble is back in the Fourth Stage Sunday evening (October 14) for a second show. Tickets are still available.