On Thursday, Moonglow Jazz Ensemble is offering jazz listeners a virtual cruise of the Méditerranean, bringing together a variety of jazz styles from the region, and revealing unexpected musical connections and juxtapositions between composers, musicians, and song titles.
For them, developing Jazz Méditerranée has been a long journey: 18 months of teamwork researching, arranging, deciphering, rehearsing, and polishing the music.
“We’ve discovered this goldmine of incredible music that you never hear in Ottawa. So we’re so excited,” said their researcher, arranger and saxophonist Devon Woods. “We have so much fun with this. We’re thrilled to be able to share it.”
“It was really, really great to discover all those great tunes and great musicians that we never heard about,” said Hélène Knoerr, Moonglow’s bassist and vocalist.
For example, one of their Italian stops on the musical tour came out of a Renaissance style album which Moonglow's guitarist, Ed Stevens, had listened to and told the group about, Knoerr said. She was especially impressed by musicians from North Africa, from the Maghreb area: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, Lebanon.
“We found some amazing musicians who were very well known in France and Europe like this Oud player from Tunisia, Anouar Brahem. He is very well-known in France. He plays with jazz musicians and a lot of other people. A trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf from Lebanon, he plays with Sting and a lot of other well-known musicians in France including some jazz musicians.
But they also wanted to bring in as many jazz tunes as they could, as well as the compositions by Méditerranean musicians.
The Glebop Jazz Trio will celebrate its anniversary on Sunday with a special jazz jam, to say goodbye to the location in the Glebe where it's played for the last 16 years.
But as the group's trumpeter, John Haysom, emphasizes, it's not goodbye for good. Both Glebop and the Arrow and Loon, the pub/restaurant that's hosted their monthly jazz nights, are hoping to return in the fall, he says.
“The [pub's] owner is looking for another location and says that he will take us with him. It's our last performance at that location, not our last performance at the Arrow and Loon – being optimistic, as I am!”
The pub is currently located in Fifth Avenue Court, a low-scale, red-brick office and retail complex at Bank Street and Fifth Avenue, in the central Ottawa neighbourhood just south of downtown. The complex opened in 1980, and is centred around an interior public courtyard, which the Arrow and Loon opens into.
In 2017, the building's owner, the Minto Group, proposed tearing down all of Fifth Avenue Court except the original heritage buildings along Bank Street, and replacing it with a new condo building. The seven-story, 160-unit redevelopment was approved by City Council in July, 2018. The current tenants not on Bank Street – including the Arrow and Loon – must move out by August, and demolition will begin in September.
Updated May 29 to include further information
In Nanaimo, B.C. there is a long lineage of jazz, and specifically women jazz musicians. Last week, 25 students from a Nanaimo school worked to live up to that example in their performances at MusicFest Canada Nationals in Ottawa.
In the 1980s, pianist Diana Krall, saxophonist Christine Jensen, and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen took their first steps in jazz as high school students in the Vancouver Island city, participating in earlier MusicFests, before going on to global stardom for Krall, and highly-respected and award-winning international careers as composers and bandleaders for the Jensen sisters.
This year, the Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo was one of the most active at MusicFest Canada, with nine ensembles ranging from trios to jazz bands. Women were prominent in many of these groups, more than in many other groups OttawaJazzScene.ca heard performing at MusicFest.
Wellington band director Carmella Luvisotto said women became interested in participating because of Nanaimo's legacy of female jazz musicians.
The jazz started at 7 a.m. and lasted until the late afternoon – and rarely took a break longer than the time it took for one band to leave the stage and the next one to walk on and tune up. Every 30 minutes, another student band played its heart out in Ottawa, at the MusicFest Canada Nationals from May 13 to 17.
It was an important rite of passage for student musicians, giving those who wanted to continue professionally an early step up. Ottawa ensembles and musicians did well, with four young musicians receiving notable awards and scholarships, and seven of the thirteen Ottawa ensembles earning top Gold status.
Outside the Bronson Centre, a large grey-stone converted school on a busy street in central Ottawa, tour buses pulled up, delivering eager groups of students clutching instrument cases. Students milled about outside and inside the foyer, some nervously talking, some quiet and concentrating, some looking relieved and relaxed.
Jazz bands came from from elementary, middle, and high schools; from public schools and private academies; and from almost every province in Canada, from PEI to Vancouver Island, though the majority were from Ontario and B.C., including a large Ottawa contingent. Each had received an formal invitation to attend, from having already performed well in their regional music festivals.
They had been playing in their high school jazz bands since September, and had been invited to compete nationally. But when these talented students from across Canada joined this year's Conn-Selmer Centerstage Jazz Band, they had no time to rest on their laurels.
“We've been doing hard, long practices, 6 hours each day,” said Ottawa trumpeter Matt Roberts, shortly before the band's concert last Friday at MusicFest Nationals in Ottawa. This was his third and final year in the band, and he was featured in several of the band's numbers.
The 18 students in this national honour band were chosen through a rigorous on-line audition. They included five members of Ottawa's Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB): Matt Roberts, saxophonists Noah Carisse and Patrick Vafaie, bass trombonist Ben Glauser, and drummer Sam Alexander. There were no women in the band.
Playing in the band gave the students a comprehensive introduction to classic big band jazz, from the 1930s to the 2000s, selected by band director and University of Toronto jazz studies professor Gordon Foote. Their work culminated in a full-scale, hour-long concert before a packed house on the last day of MusicFest Canada's national conference, with guest artist trombonist Kelsley Grant.
“It was intense. It was a lot of fun, very gratifying.” That's how renowned guitarist Lorne Lofsky described the week he spent with six young musicians from across Canada, as they worked together to form this year's Humber National Youth Jazz Combo.
The combo performed before and after the awards ceremony at MusicFest Canada on May 17 in Ottawa, and received a standing ovation at the end of their hour-long concert.
They will be together again in Toronto at the end of June for the Toronto Jazz Festival. Humber College has offered the program to “Canada’s most outstanding young jazz musicians” since 2012, in order to “move their playing to a new level through rehearsal, performance and study”.
Ottawa trombonist and composer Nick Adema is just 19 but he’s already releasing his debut EP recording, Starting Point. The four pieces on the album, all composed by him, range from quiet, thoughtful passages to more intense collaborations, but throughout carefully showcase all his musicians' voices in multi-layered patterns. The songs were all inspired by his Ottawa experiences. [listen on NickAdema.com]
At Irene’s this Friday, Ottawa listeners can hear Adema's original music arising from those experiences. He'll be joined on-stage by the fellow musicians on the recording, who are studying jazz at the University of Toronto. The experienced Ottawa jazz musicians in the Zakari Frantz Trio, with bassist Keith Hartshorn-Walton and Mike Essoudry, will open the show.
Adema considers this debut recording to be “my starting point in the professional jazz scene.”
Although he’s only completed his second year in Jazz Performance at U of T, he already has a proven track record of working hard, being accepted in and performing in award winning bands, composing his own music, and being recognized for his talent and effort. He performed in the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the Nepean All-City Jazz Band, and the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra since Grade 10, and was selected to perform in the national jazz Honour Ensemble, the Conn-Selmer Centerstage Jazz Band. As a personal music project while in Grade 12, he organized and presented his own public concert.
Three times this winter he played his tenor trombone for an evening with the Prime Rib Big Band in Ottawa, hopping in the afternoon on the bus from Toronto, and then returning overnight.
Adema’s awards and scholarships include National Arts Centre Orchestra Outstanding Brass Player Award (2015), the MusicFest Nepean All-City Jazz Band Honour Award (2017), the Albert & Wilhelmine Francis Renewable (full tuition, University of Toronto) Scholarship, and Tim O’Hara Jazz Scholarship (Nepean High School).
This is a lightly edited record of the email conversation OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage had with Nick Adema about his journey to Starting Point.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you make an EP now? What musical itch or other need did you have to make it?
Nick Adema: I have been writing a lot of music for different groups in Toronto for the two years I have been here, and I felt I had enough music to put out confidently. I only made it an EP with four tracks because I wanted something I can use to market my self as a "starting point". Although I started the process for this EP in September, it was something I just did on a whim at the beginning of the year.
OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why did you chose a quintet, and this particular instrumentation?
Ottawa's jazz scene has often been enriched by musicians who are here for a short time – a few months or a year – and then move on after having played in local jazz jams and with local musicians.
Drummer Nicholas Bracewell has had a peripatetic career: raised in Windsor, he received his Bachelors and Masters in jazz performance from Michigan State University across the border, and has also lived in Vancouver. He's performed at festivals around the U.S. and Canada such as the Detroit Jazz Festival and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
He's currently in Ottawa, as his wife is studying here, and has been playing in jazz locations around town. In April, his quartet with three Ottawa musicians – guitarist Alex Moxon, bassist Chris Pond, and pianist Peter Hum – hosted the late-night Jazz Monday jazz jams at Le Petit Chicago.
OttawaJazzScene.ca was there for the quartet's last Monday, where they performed a mix of jazz classics by Joe Henderson, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter, as well as originals by Hum and Moxon. The vibe was electric and elastic: in Moxon's “Crab Walk”, fluid guitar and bright piano soared over responsive bass and drums in a jazz fusion feel. Bracewell's strong drumming kept the energy up throughout, and in Coltrane's "26-2", he briskly traded 4's with Moxon.
Despite the nearby Chaudière Bridge being closed because of floodwaters in the Ottawa River, the bar gradually filled during the host band's set. Listeners applauded happily after each tune.
Jazz fans have an extensive opportunity to hear performances by some of Canada’s most talented young musicians in the next six days.
Almost 100 student jazz bands from coast-to-coast, including the Charlottetown (PEI) Rural Senior Jazz Ensemble and the Wellington Secondary School in Naniamo, B.C., are coming to Ottawa from Monday May 13 to Friday May 17 to play their very best jazz in the MusicFest Nationals. Their reward is the opportunity to earn Gold, Silver, or Bronze recognition, get constructive advice from judges, learn from professional musicians and other students, and win thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Notable Canadian jazz musicians who performed at MusicFest when they were young include “Diana Krall, Christine Jensen, Ingrid Jensen, Campbell Ryga, Steve McDade, Brad Turner, Larnell Lewis, Eli Bennett, and about half the jazz faculty at Humber,” MusicFest Associate Director and Instrumental Jazz Chair Neil Yorke-Slader informed OttawaJazzScene.ca.
Adjudicated performances ranging from big bands to smaller jazz combos will be presented on MusicFest’s jazz stage at the Bronson Centre (211 Bronson Avenue). The 30-minute mini-concerts run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. All concerts are free and open to the public. Listeners are expected to remain seated during the performances and remain quiet, to allow the students to focus and the judges to hear every well-articulated note. All performances will also be live streamed - particularly helpful for friends and family of musicians who are coming from thousands of kilometres away.
Updated May 5, 2019
American jazz composer and bandleader Benny Carter had many firsts. He was one of the first great lead alto sax players in big bands, one of the principal architects of the big band swing style, and the first black composer to write film and TV soundtracks in Hollywood. His career lasted more than 70 years. When he was in his late 80s, he was still releasing records, and performed a brand-new composition with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra in 1996..
As Duke Ellington once wrote, "the problem of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous, it completely fazes me."
Carter is “really a huge, huge giant in the jazz world that not enough people know about and appreciate,” says Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO) director Adrian Cho. On Saturday, the OJO will bring an 18-piece big band at the National Arts Centre to pay tribute to Carter's music.
The music will range from swing compositions to more modern pieces. Most of the pieces will be by Carter, although they will also include his arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.
“Carter’s music is always groovy with so much for the listener and musicians to grab on to and enjoy. His compositions and arrangements were always very innovative and he was able to cover a very wide range,” Cho said. “In his music, including some of what we’ll play at the concert, you can hear that evolution from the sounds of the 40s all the way through to the more modern sounds of 1990s.”
From 1920s to 1940s, Carter played in big bands – and led them, starting at only 21 years old. He was a “big innovator” as an alto saxophonist: “He and Johnny Hodges [from Duke Ellington's band] were arguably the greatest alto players or at least certainly had the most distinctive and beautiful ways of playing the instrument,” Cho said. As an arranger with Fletcher Henderson and Chick Webb early in his career, Carter helped define the big band swing style; he also wrote for Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Count Basie.
In 1946, he settled in Los Angeles, becoming the first black jazz composer for films and TV, as well as a valued arranger for vocalists including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, and Louis Armstrong. He reemerged into the public eye as a full-time jazz musician in the 1970s, with new compositions and albums, and toured the U.S., Europe, and Japan through the 1990s.
But those decades behind the scenes meant that Carter's music is better known than Carter himself, Sandy Gordon, who will play first alto saxophone in most of Saturday's concert, said that when he first played through the set list, he recognized pieces he hadn't realized were by Carter.