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.

Kevin Breit ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Guitarist Kevin Breit will be one of three Artists-in-Residence at the 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Updated February 6, 2019
Never-before-heard collaborations will enliven the stages of the 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

The festival, which announced the winter line-up today, will highlight three Canadian jazz musicians as its Artists-in-Residence. Half of its 14 winter festival concerts will showcase them in their own groups and in new combinations.

Running from Thursday, February 7 until Saturday, February 9, the winter festival will also feature two American jazz stars – pianist Joey Calderazzo and vocalist Nellie McKay – as well as other Canadian and local jazz groups.

The Artists-in-Residence are Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel, Toronto guitarist Kevin Breit, and NYC saxophonist Michael Blake. They'll play with musicians drawn from across Canada and the U.S.:

  • Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura,
  • Halifax drummer Jerry Granelli,
  • Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee,
  • Toronto bassist Michael Herring,
  • Montreal bassist Étienne Lafrance,
  • Toronto drummer Dave Clark,
  • New Orleans accordionist Michael Jude Ward-Bergeman, and
  • NYC saxophonist Tony Malaby.

Almost all of these musicians have been presented at previous Ottawa jazz festivals. Ward-Bergeman appeared at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest.

They will play both in their own groups and in four Artists-in-Residence Collaboration concerts, created just for this festival. OttawaJazzScene.ca reported last month that Cancura, who is also the festival's programming manager, would be trying a new approach for this festival: “a lot more workshopping and combining players together” in shows.

Dave Young ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Toronto bassist Dave Young performs in GigSpace's winter / spring lineup, in a trio with Tim Bedner and Kevin Turcotte, on April 26 ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Updated March 22, 2019

GigSpace has just announced its spring 2019 line-up. All the groups so far booked have played in Ottawa before, and most at GigSpace.

The winter-spring season opens with Montreal's PSC Trio playing their arrangements of well-known songs from pop, rock and jazz, re-built into their own jazz voice (January 12).

For vocal jazz fans: the duo of Christine Fagan and guitarist Garry Elliott playing jazz-inspired interpretations of Joni Mitchell (April 6); Toronto vocalist Micah Barnes (May 10); 16-year-old Vancouver vocalist Maya Rae and her quartet with noted west coast pianist Miles Black singing tunes from and inspired by the Great American Songbook (February 9); and the quartet of Ottawa vocalist Nicole Ratté with violinist William Lamoureux paying tribute to jazz and Paris (February 22).

For jazz in the tradition: Toronto bassist Dave Young and his trio of trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and guitarist Tim Bedner (April 26); Montreal guitarist Sam Kirmayer and his quartet (with piano this time instead of organ) (March 2); pianists Mark Ferguson and Steve Boudreau performing a double piano tribute to Bill Evans, similar to their show at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble (March 22 and 23); Tim Bedner and his quartet playing some of his favourite ballads, blues, and original compositions (May 11). Guitarist Garry Elliott will reprise his collaboration with Bumpin' Binary (Don Cummings on Hammond organ and Mike Essoudry on drums) in "an evening of groove featuring music from the canon of great guitar - organ trios" (May 4).

Unveiling personal projects: pianist/vocalist Steve Amirault playing from his recent recording, Hold On, Let Go (January 18); Montreal sax/piano duo Tevet Sela and John Roney with their 2018 album, The River (March 30); Toronto flutist Bill McBirnie with an Ottawa ensemble and new material (April 13).

For music not heard before: Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart is bringing in Montreal bassist Nicolas Caloia and legendary American improviser  Joe McPhee for two back-to-back concerts on Saturday, April 27. The same trio played to at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2015 in a highly inventive and upbeat concert.

McPhee (from Poughkeepsie, NY) has performed with European and American masters including Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, and The Thing, as well as in his long-time Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. He's also a conceptual thinker in creative improvisation with his concept of “Po” (process of provocation) music. Caloia is a bandleader and bassist who isn't afraid of either melody or disharmony; we profiled his Mercury collaboration with Lori Freedman last year. Stewart is a JUNO-winning drummer/percussionist who can coax out music from stone or ice or fire or balloons or waterphones or a multitude of different drums, and who has collaborated with many of the greats in jazz and improvised music.

So far, GigSpace has announced fewer shows for next spring than this fall (14 versus 18), but not all spring slots are yet filled.

Toronto jazz pianist Jeremy Ledbetter wants to welcome and include all listeners, whether or not they're hardcore jazz fans.

Jeremy Ledbetter (photo by Denise Grant)
Jeremy Ledbetter: "in the world of jazz, we need to expand our audience. And the way we do that is by playing music that draws people in and welcomes them in and includes them. So I was trying to write music that would be enjoyable to listen to on more than just an intellectual level." (photo by Denise Grant)

“One of the places I think a lot of jazz takes a wrong turn is it becomes very isolationist. It shuts off interaction between the players and the audience. It becomes all about interaction between the players, and all about the audience observing this interaction between the players. But then all the things that happen are like almost inside jokes that the audience isn’t a part of. And I don’t think that’s what jazz was originally supposed to be, and I don’t think it’s what it’s supposed to be now.”

He'll be putting that open philosophy into practice on Saturday, when he performs at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios with multi-talented Ottawa bassist Marc Decho and rising-star Toronto drummer Sarah Thawer.

Ledbetter is best known on the Toronto music scene for CaneFire, his seven-piece Caribbean Latin jazz group. His newest project, though, is his jazz piano trio with award-winning Toronto musicians Rich Brown and Larnell Lewis. In June, the trio released its first album, Got a Light?, and on Saturday, Ledbetter, Decho, and Thawer will showcase music from that album here in Ottawa.

Got a Light? is an indirect reference to the Twin Peaks TV show, but Ledbetter said that he had other reasons for putting a question in the title.

“So naming the album with a question, automatically it’s involving the audience, right? We’re asking you something, so it makes you a part of it already. And “Got a Light?” obliquely refers to the idea of lighting something on fire, or perhaps lighting a fuse and blowing something up. So it refers to the energy, but again including the audience in a part of that. You’re not here to watch us blow up the stage. We would like you to help us,” he said, laughing.

Listening to Canadian pianist Bryn Roberts and Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund, you can hear the musical rapport they've built up from playing together for more than a dozen years.

Lage Lund and Bryn Roberts (photo by James Bizon)
Lage Lund and Bryn Roberts (photo by James Bizon)

They have just released their second duo album together, and will showcase it to audiences in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa this week, including Saturday at GigSpace.

Hide the Moon and the Stars is a collection of their own compositions, plus one jazz standard. It was recorded in the same way that they perform, with just the sound of Roberts on grand piano and Lund on archtop guitar.

There's a richness and melodic beauty to the tunes on the album – but also unexpected textures and intriguing contrasts, in a collection with depth and substance. The music is evocative yet simple, with no unnecessary notes.

Originally from Winnipeg and with seven years of steadily increasing visibility in Montreal's jazz scene, Roberts released his debut album in 2000 to considerable acclaim and a Montreal Jazz Festival appearance. He moved to New York City in 2001 and has released two further quartet albums since, plus two duo albums with Lund. He’s recorded with Seamus Blake, Matt Penman, Jochen Rueckert, and Drew Gress, and often plays with legendary bassist Chuck Israels. He also regularly accompanies renowned singer-songwriters such as Shawn Colvin and Rosanne Cash.

Lage (pronounced Lah-gay) Lund became well-known after his win at the 2005 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition. Praised publicly by Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel, he's several times won the Rising Star guitar category of the DownBeat Critics Poll. He’s released four albums, the latest being the trio CD Idlewild.

Roberts spoke to OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor last week about the album and about his musical partnership with Lund. This is an edited and condensed version of our interview.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: What appeals to you about the piano-guitar duo format?

Roberts: I've always been a big fan of the piano and the guitar together, even though it can be counter-intuitive because they're both chord instruments. There's the potential for harmonic clashes and things like that. But I've always just loved the colour of it, and in particular I was influenced a lot by the Bill Evans and Jim Hall recordings, which were to me some of the best music ever made.