Evelyn Glennie (photo by Peter Brenkus)
Dame Evelyn Glennie will perform a percussion concerto she commissioned from Ottawa composer Vincent Ho, when she plays with the NAC Orchestra next April (photo by Peter Brenkus)

Percussion-lovers, take note! The National Arts Centre will showcase three acclaimed percussionists from different traditions in its upcoming concerts: Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sarah Thawer, and Magdelys Savigne.

Their concerts are among those in the next year which the NAC announced this week. Other jazz-related shows include a holiday concert by Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans, a dance program to live jazz, a French Theatre production with a live jazz/classical score, an NAC Pops show celebrating the music of the Jazz Age, and a VivaFest festival in May.

The Scottish-born Dame Evelyn Glennie will appear with the NAC Orchestra for two shows on April 8 and 9, 2020.

A solo percussionist, she performs all over the world with major orchestras and smaller ensembles. She has collaborated with noted improvisers including guitarist Fred Frith, and banjo player Béla Fleck (their album together, Perpetual Motion, won a GRAMMY). In the last year, she's been regularly playing with the Scottish Trio HLK, whose music “heavily deconstructs and reconstructs jazz standards, creating intricate new pieces with complex frameworks for improvisation”.

A concert honouring and explaining Duke Ellington. Cuban jazz in collaboration with strings. A musical meditation with improvised bass clarinet. A new, partly-improvised score to a Buster Keaton movie. Those are some of the jazz-related highlights of the 2019 Ottawa Chamberfest, primarily in its late-night Chamberfringe series.

Hilario Durán (photo provided by Ottawa Chamberfest)
Hilario Durán will perform with his jazz trio and with Roman Borys and Annalee Patipatanakoon of the Gryphon Trio on August 2 at Chamberfest (photo provided by Ottawa Chamberfest)

The festival, which will run from July 25 to August 8, released the first part of its 2019 schedule Tuesday. The full lineup will be made public by May 1.

Chamberfest artistic director Roman Borys told OttawaJazzScene.ca that concerts crossing over into jazz and world music fit well into a chamber music festival. Borys performs in the JUNO-winning Gryphon Trio chamber music group, whose repertoire covers both classical composers like Beethoven, and collaborations with jazz and world musicians. He's taken the same approach to programming Chamberfest – looking for similarities and linkages in other traditions to chamber music.

“[Jazz groups] are small ensembles and they rely on each other as musicians to create amazing music that can engage audiences the way a chamber group would. So for me that's always been a very natural place for chamber musicians to turn to – a direction for them to turn to and look to, to expand their voice and their artistic experience. Because people are doing that I feel very legitimately that that kind of programming absolutely needs to be part of the Chamberfest experience.”

The jazz-related concerts at the 2019 Chamberfest range from the jazz mainstream to improvised music to crossover concerts including jazz traditions or musicians.

Pianist and composer Duke Ellington is one of the greats of the jazz canon. On Monday, July 29, American musicologist and composer Rob Kapilow will focus on Ellington in a “What Makes It Great?” talk-and-play show together with the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO), at Dominion Chalmers. It's one of his most popular presentations with big bands, which he recently presented at the University of Toronto.

The Gentiane MG Trio (photo by Randy Cole)
The Gentiane MG Trio (l-r: Louis-Vincent Hamel, Gentiane MG, Levi Dover) will make their National Arts Centre debut on Thursday, March 28 with a concert showcasing Gentiane's original jazz compositions from their previous and about-to-be-released albums (photo by Randy Cole)

When it comes to making music, Montreal jazz pianist Gentiane MG is happy to think small.

While she has enjoyed playing with larger groups, she cherishes the more intimate groups like duos and trios – for example, like her long-time trio, which she'll bring to the National Arts Centre on March 28.

In the last year, following this intimate approach has worked well for her. She was recently chosen as the prestigious Révélations jazz choice by Radio Canada for 2018-19, and she played three concerts (two with the trio, one in a star-studded tribute to Carla Bley) at last year's Montreal Jazz Festival. This spring, her trio releases its second album, and she'll record a duo record in June.

Five years ago, she formed the Gentiane MG Trio (MG stands for her surname, Michaud-Gagnon) with bassist Levi Dover and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel. It's a young group: Michaud-Gagnon is 27, Dover is 28, and Hamel 30. They released their first album of original music, Eternal Cycle, in 2017, and will release its follow-up in May.

She remains enthusiastic about the trio, both to play with and to compose for.

Robi Botos ©Brett Delmage, 2019
Robi Botos won in the Jazz Album of the Year: Solo category of the 2019 JUNO Awards for his album Old Soul. He performed his song "Budapest" from that album when he played with Molly Johnson recently in Ottawa © Brett Delmage, 2019

The 2019 JUNO Awards served up three first-time winners and one repeat in the jazz-related categories announced tonight: Toronto vocalist and CBC broadcaster Laila Biali, Vancouver improviser Gordon Grdina, improvising group Andy Milne & Dapp Theory, and Toronto pianist Robi Botos.

They beat out many previous, highly-touted JUNO winners, in albums  that split between mainstream and the improvised avant-garde.

Biali won in the Vocal Jazz album of the Year category for her self-titled album, which includes primarily her own compositions plus songs by Randy Newman and David Bowie. She was also featured on vocals on another album in this JUNO category, by Vancouver bassist Jodi Proznick, and called out to Proznick in her acceptance speech: "I share this award with you. You are my soul sister!".

Biali additionally beat out albums by previous JUNO-winners Diana Krall, Holly Cole, and Diana Panton. This was Biali's first win, although she was previously nominated in 2011. In her speech, Biali recounted how, when she first started playing jazz in high school, she covered Diana Krall's music in a talent competition: "I can't tell you what it means to be nominated in the same category as Diana Krall, who really introduced me to jazz, and Holly Cole, I fell in love with your music when I was 15!"

Gord Grdina is well known as an important part of Vancouver's avant-garde/free jazz/world-music scene, playing guitar and oud in many different groups. But he won in the Instrumental Album of the Year category for his first solo album, China Cloud. It was recorded during a number of intimate and completely-improvised solo performances at the Vancouver underground art space China Cloud. It features him playing both acoustic and electric guitar and oud, as well as improvising with tape loops, effects, and percussion, and even singing on one number.

The Beeched Wailer perform in their opening set at their 5th anniversary jam. ©Brett Delmage, 2019
The Beeched Wailers performtheir opening set at their 5th anniversary jam. l-r: Michel Delage, Nick Dyson, Keith Hartshorn-Walton, Tyler Harris, Alex Tompkins
© Brett Delmage, 2019

View photos by Brett Delmage of this event

The Beeched Wailers celebrated their 5th anniversary, as a group and of presenting open jazz jams, at Irene's Pub on March 5.

They presented their first show at the Rochester Pub in 2014, moved to the Wellington Eatery in 2015 when the Rochester closed, then went to Bar Robo – and finally ended up at Irene's Pub almost two years ago, where they've been happily playing ever since. As saxophonist Tyler Harris says in our podcast interview, "it's been a bit of a travelling circus".

The Wailers released their first album, The Johnson Lake Sessions, in 2015. They also regularly perform music by other local jazz composers.


Listen to the interview with Nicholas Dyson (Beeched Wailers leader / founder / trumpeter) and founding member / saxophonist Tyler Harris about their experiences in the past five years. Thgere may be a delay while the audio loads. Download

The Beeched Wailers open jazz jams continue every Tuesday at Irene's Pub from 9  p.m. to midnight. The band plays one opening set then opens the floor to jammers. All are welcome. Donations are appreciated.

Christine Jensen ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Christine Jensen (centre) with several of her favourite jazz collaborators, male and female. Jensen will lead an '=' jazz orchestra at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival, performing the works of both female and male Canadian jazz composers ©Brett Delmage, 2013

Updated June 10 to include the cancellation of Cécile McLorin Salvant’s concerts
The Ottawa Jazz Festival announced Friday that it will focus more on women artists and on jazz in 2019 – but is presenting them in noticeably fewer total concerts.

The festival will showcase women jazz stars including Norah Jones, Omara Portuondo, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Patricia Barber, Ranee Lee, Terri Lyne Carrington, Melissa Aldana, and Christine Jensen – as well as perennial festival favourites Brad Mehldau, Donny McCaslin, Gilad Hekselman, Joey Baron, and The Shuffle Demons.


See the full 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup and our list of ten shows worth hearing at the festival


In a press release, the festival said it was “making deliberate curatorial choices that focus and highlight the contributions of women in music. You will find them on every stage, playing every instrument, as leaders, composers, arrangers, improvisers, collaborators and more.” Of the ticketed concerts so far announced, one-half (26 of 51) present groups that are led or co-led by women. In 2018, by comparison, one-third (22 of the 67) were led or co-led by women.

This year's festival will run for nine days from June 21 to July 1 – but with a substantially slimmer schedule. It will present only 55 (51 confirmed, 4 to be announced) ticketed shows, a reduction of almost one in five concerts compared to last year. In 2018, it scheduled 67 ticketed shows; 72 in 2017; 63 in 2016; 82 in 2015; and 86 in 2014.

For the first time, the festival will have no programming on one day (Monday, June 24). It will program fewer indoor shows: 14 in seven days in the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, and six during five days in the NAC Studio. On the festival's final weekend, there will only be two indoor concerts.

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 June 28, 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 (sold out), Bronze: $228.87, Youth: $105.70. 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 an 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.”