Friday, March 8 is International Women's Day, and a group of local musicians will be remembering it in jazz.

“Elles Jazzent” is what they've called their concert. It's five women presenting songs by, about, and influenced by women, in a show produced by a woman, and presented in a restaurant co-owned by a woman.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Caroline Cook is one of three vocalists presenting Elles Jazzent ©Brett Delmage, 2017

 It's a project that jazz vocalists Caroline Cook, Brigitte Lapointe, and Michèle Tremblay have been working on for more than five months, and they're excited about the songs they've discovered. Some are standards, some are originals, some were especially arranged for this show, but all honour women.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor interviewed them on Sunday, just before their second rehearsal of the weekend.

“We've known each other probably now for at least 10 or 15 years,” Cook said. “We used to sing musical theatre. I jumped into the jazz stream a while ago, but they jumped into the pool about maybe two, three years ago. They were taking [jazz vocal] workshops with Nicole Ratté, but Nicole took a sabbatical this year.”

They wanted to continue singing jazz, “So we got together and said, hey, maybe we could put on a show.”

On September 21, 2018, they were in a studio doing some vocal backup tracks for a friend, when the tornadoes hit Ottawa. “We emerged after the tornado, and we didn't know what went on because we were in the studio, and we went to a restaurant to talk about the show. When we were at St. Hubert's (that's where we were because we all love chicken!), we were just starting to crystallize the idea.”

They had already decided to approach pianist Ginny Simonds for the show. “I looked at them, and I said, you know we're all women! And we want to do this in March. And you know that March 8 is a Friday which is a good show date – and that's International Women's Day! And then the little light bulb went off.”

Finding material wasn't a problem, Cook said; many of the tunes they had wanted to sing naturally fit into this theme. “Every single one of them is a song that we enjoy singing.”

They decided to have the first set be songs written by women: for example, “Hymne à l'amour” by Edith Piaf. The second set will include “songs that were made famous by women, or songs that were influenced by women, that were either written about a woman or something about it showed an influence from women.”

Updated May 13, 2019. We update this article as we acquire additional information.

OttawaJazzScene.ca presents your independent guide to the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup and tickets, with everything in one place.

Read our in-depth analysis of the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival, with its slimmed-down schedule and more concerts featuring women and jazz.

Read our list of Ten shows at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival worth hearing.

For an explanation of the smaller lineup and no programming on Monday, June 24 this year, read OttawaJazzScene.ca's story about the festival's large 2018 financial loss.

Friday, June 21 to Monday, July 1, 2019
Pass prices: Gold: $364.47 (early-bird), Bronze: $228.87 (early-bird), Youth: $101.70. Day passes and Platinum (reserved seating close to the Main Stage) tickets are also available. All passes are transferable.

Historically, the order of admittance to Ottawa Jazz Festival to inside shows has been individual ticket holders, then Gold pass holders, then Bronze pass holders, then youth pass holders, then volunteers. We have been informed that Bronze pass holders have been denied access to particularly popular indoor shows, despite seats being available.

Tickets for individual indoor shows, or outdoor shows in one day are also available. There is a $3 extra charge for tickets purchased the day of the show.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Nicole Ratté in her tribute to Michel Legrand at Les Brasseurs du Temps. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Since the early 20th century, Paris has been a crossroads of jazz.

Paris was where black American jazz musicians were fully appreciated for their talent. Paris was where Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli formed the Quintette of the Hot Club of France. Paris was where French composers such as Michel Legrand and musicians such as Maurice Chevalier and Charles Aznavour gave a French twist to jazz.

On Friday, Ottawa vocalist Nicole Ratté and her quartet will explore that legacy in song at GigSpace.

It's a daunting task, given the number of jazz musicians and composers who have links to France: Ratté said her biggest problem has been paring her set list down to size.

“I want to illustrate with my show a bit of the history of the development of jazz in France,” she says, “while featuring songs that are so important in the jazz repertoire today that were born in France, and linking it to the artists that performed in France – a whole pile of jazz artists and lots of jazz vocalists who went to France. And also the French artists who went into jazz or who influenced jazz. And even linking some songs to one of the first singers in the 1920, 1930s [up] to today – who's singing these songs.”

“At the same time, I want the show to be lively, good for the heart, and interesting. Also the pacing is important for me, the balance between the ballads and fast, all sorts of tempos, so I try to balance everything, to be careful about the era – I don't want to stay just in one era. I want to go through the different decades of music.”

©Brett Delmage, 2015
Molly Johnson ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Feeling down? Feeling exhausted? Molly Johnson wants to get you back up on your feet and energized and working to make this world better. It's a theme that permeates her latest album, Meaning to Tell Ya.

“You know that you're strong enough / you don't have to wait out in the cold”, the JUNO-winning jazz vocalist sings in one of the album's tunes. In another, “Together we can turn our world around, turn it upside down.”

It's a message she'll be delivering – with a strong groove and infectiously happy melodies – in Ottawa on March 1, her first concert here in three years.

Johnson says that the “main job of an artist is to inspire, provoke, all kinds of stuff”, and it's an approach she says she's been taking since her punk days in the 1980s.

“Writers tend to to do that, I think. I think writers tend to write in themes. My lyrics have always been about hope and change.”

She doesn't pretend that changing things is an easy job – “We've got to talk about love, we've got to talk about age. That's just not easy. Have you ever talked about love with a man who really doesn't want to talk about it? Have you ever talked to a politician?”

And, although she herself has stepped up many times to make a difference, she's not writing about herself on this album. The message in her songs that people can step up and do things is “coming from the people themselves. I'm just reflecting it back at you.”

Updated: The nomination deadline has been extended to February 24, 2019.

The Ottawa Arts Council is now accepting nominations for its annual awards, until February 24.

Guitarist Justin Duhaime received the RBC Emerging Artist Award last year. Listen to our interview Justin Duhaime: an award recipient explains how he moved from metal to jazz manouche

Awards of possible interest to the jazz community include

  • The Victor Tolgesy Arts Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of residents who have contributed substantially to enriching cultural life in the city
  • The RBC Emerging Artist Award recognizes and encourages the achievements of Ottawa artists who are in the early stages of their career in the arts and are working towards becoming recognized professional artists, while engaging with the community.
  • The Ottawa Arts Council Mid-Career Artist Award was established to recognize and encourage the achievements of Ottawa artists of all disciplines who have evolved beyond the emerging stage in their career to become recognized professional working artists contributing to the community.
  • The Business and the Arts Recognition Award was initiated in 1994 to recognize and encourage support from Ottawa’s business community to the local arts sector.
  • The Young Artist Award is a project-based, mentorship-driven youth arts award established for the recognition and encouragement of young Ottawa-based artists, ages 14 – 17 years old, demonstrating exceptional potential and a commitment to excellence in any art form.

The Florian Hoefner Trio (photo by Bo Huang)
The Florian Hoefner Trio (l-r: Hoefner, Andrew Downing, Nick Fraser) will perform music from their yet-to-be-released debut album at their NAC concert February 19. (photo by Bo Huang)

Updated February 9, 2019
With his new Canadian trio, Florian Hoefner is reaching outside of jazz and into the music he's surrounded with in Newfoundland. Ottawa audiences will get an advance peek at this new material and new trio when they make their NAC debut on February 19.

The German-born jazz pianist, who has lived in Newfoundland for the past five years after a long stint in NYC, is known for collaborations with musicians across the globe. He has repeatedly sold out shows here in Ottawa, most recently last May as part of the German jazz quintet Subtone.

But his own music has begun to become molded by his new home in St. John's. His 2017 solo piano CD, Coldwater Stories, was influenced both by classical composers and by the province's sea-rimmed landscape, with compositions inspired by a local puffin colony, icebergs off the coast, and the north Atlantic Ocean.

For this project, he's been influenced by the musicians he's heard and played with in Newfoundland. In the past few years, Hoefner has been performing with local traditional musicians, who have taught him songs by local and North American folk musicians. For the trio, he's taken some of those songs across genre boundaries into a jazz context.

He's teamed up with two musicians from Toronto, drummer Nick Fraser and bassist Andrew Downing. Both are also known for crossing genre boundaries: Downing plays chamber music, folk, and Turkish classical music as well as jazz. Fraser is a prominent experimental and avant-garde composer and bandleader, and can also swing in mainstream jazz groups.

Molly Johnson and Larnell Lewis ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Vocalist Molly Johnson and drummer Larnell Lewis are separately nominated for JUNO Awards in 2019 ©Brett Delmage, 2013

March 16, 2019: Read the list of the 2019 JUNO Awards winners, in jazz-related categories.

Jazz fans will recognize many of the names in the 2019 JUNO Award nominees – but also see more than a few surprises.

What you might not have expected: vocalist and CBC broadcaster Laila Biali is featured on two albums nominated in the same category. Jazz pianist David Braid is recognized for a classical choral piece. Vocalist Molly Johnson is deemed Adult Contemporary rather than jazz. Andrew Rathbun's large-scale celebration of Margaret Atwood's poetry gets a nod. A viola d'amore/baritone sax female duo from Montreal is selected for their avant-garde CD.

Less surprising: crooner Michael Bublé is up for Artist of the Year, among other nominations.

In the Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, all the nominees have previously won multiple JUNOs. Diana Krall's collaboration with Tony Bennett will compete against Holly Cole's first studio album in five years, and Diana Panton's celebration of the changing seasons. Each of those albums features primarily jazz standards.

The category wraps up with two albums featuring Laila Biali and original music. The first is Biali's self-titled album of her own material with a jazz edge. The second is an album by Vancouver bassist Jodi Proznick, in which Proznick examines the polarities of life from birth to death in her compositions; the tunes are performed by an accomplished Vancouver quartet with Biali on vocals.

Diane Nalini ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Diane Nalini will sing the string arrangements which Nelson Riddle created for Ella Fitzgerald  ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Mike Tremblay ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Mike Tremblay will improvise on his saxophone over a chamber orchestra as he recreates Stan Getz's album Focus  ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Strings will hold sway as the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO) recreates classic jazz albums this week.

Instead of its usual big band or jazz ensemble lineup, OJO's “Strings in Focus” concert on Saturday will feature a chamber orchestra: six violinists, three viola players, two cellists, one bassist, and one harpist, plus piano and drums, under the baton of Angus Armstrong.

In the first set, they'll recreate Nelson Riddle's lush arrangements for Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook albums, supporting vocalist Diane Nalini. In the second set, they'll perform all of Stan Getz's 1961 album, Focus, with Ottawa saxophonist Mike Tremblay soloing against the strings.

For both Nalini and Tremblay, this is music close to their hearts. For Nalini, Ella Fitzgerald was a singer whom she grew up listening to and her “first jazz crush”. For Tremblay, it's an album which he was immediately amazed by when he first heard it at age 18.

It's a project which OJO artistic director Adrian Cho had been hoping to bring to the stage for several years.

Updated December 21, 2018
You can choose jazz from big glitzy dances to small sit-down dinners, to close out 2018 and welcome in 2019 in Ottawa.

Big Band Ottawa ©Brett Delmage, 2015
Big Band Ottawa director Robert Vogelsang (foreground) will also be a featured vocalist at this year's big band New Year's Eve event at the National Arts Centre ©Brett Delmage, 2015

If you enjoy celebrating with up to 600 fellow big band enthusiasts, the National Arts Centre would be your destination. The NAC is again teaming up with Big Band Ottawa for a large-scale party in its lobby. The eight-piece group Tuxedo Junction will play during dinner, and then the 18-member Big Band Ottawa will take over for dancing past midnight. After the champagne toast for the new year, they're planning for the longest conga line in Ottawa.

Vocalists Doreen Smith and Robert Vogelsang will perform with both bands. They promise many new charts for this year's show, for an evening of classic big band jazz spiced with Latin and rock and blues, and featuring popular hits starting at the 1930s right through to modern arrangements. This year's NAC event also offers an 1980s music party upstairs: be sure to specify that you want the Big Band party when you register.

At the Ottawa Conference Centre on Coventry Road in Ottawa's east end, the Steve Berndt Quartet will perform for dinner at the Ottawa Charity Ball. Dancing to a DJ and a live auction will follow. The ball will raise funds for two local charities which help children with developmental difficulties and their families.

Berndt's quartet will have just finished recording his upcoming solo jazz album that week. They will perform his original songs from the album plus jazz standards. At the request of the organizers, they'll also include a few of Michael Bublé's hits. Berndt previously recorded two well-received duo albums with the late jazz master pianist Brian Browne, plus many albums with his jump-swing band The Jivewires.

Queen Street Fare, a food hall which also bills itself as a live music venue, opened in downtown Ottawa this month. It's located on Queen Street near Bank Street, across from CBC and right beside the soon-to-open Parliament LRT station. It has been consistently programming jazz since its opening show December 7 by local jazz groove group Thrust.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
The live music stage at Queen Street Fare has a good sound and light system but is distant from much of the seating in this new food hall ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Coming up this week is a jazz brunch on Saturday and Sunday with the Jamie Holmes Trio, and a Saturday evening salsa concert with Miguel de Armas' Fiesta Cubana. Almost all the events have no cover charge, but the Fiesta Cubana show will be ticketed ($10 in advance, more at the door).

In the last 18 months, Fiesta Cubana has drawn large crowds to its outdoor shows at Westboro Beach and indoor shows at the Mercury Lounge; the nine-piece ensemble combines Latin hits with their Afro Cuban roots.

The hall replaces the former Hy's Steakhouse, but with a much more open and less formal vibe. The food is more varied as well, from burgers to Vietnamese to Buddha bowls, with all-local vendors offering a higher-end menu than the average food court.

The hall extends most of the width of the block from Queen to Albert, with food vendors interspersed with tables and chairs, and padded booths. At the east end of its space, it has a raised stage with lights and a sound system. An oval-shaped bar surrounded by seats is located at one side of the stage. A large open space in front of the stage would be suitable for dancing, although it seemed to be unnecessarily empty and kept listeners away from the band.