For fans, it won't be quite the same Ottawa Jazz Festival this year. Some series will move, some will be replaced, some will be added, and the ticket prices will increase, as much as 22% for Gold passes.

The biggest change will be the move of late-night jazz from the National Arts Centre Studio into the OLG tent in Confederation Park, next to Elgin Street  

The OLG tent will be expanded to 325 seats, said Festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady, equivalent to the Studio's capacity. It will be set up cabaret-style, with a larger stage and better sound and lighting than before. Beer will be sold (later than ever before in the park), and listeners will be fully protected from any rain. OLG acts will start about 15 minutes after the main stage ends (around 10:30 p.m.).

Renée Yoxon at the NAC's Fourth Stage converses with Theo Bleckmann at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC via video conferencing. Photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Renée Yoxon at the NAC's Fourth Stage converses with Theo Bleckmann at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC via video conferencing. Photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Theo Bleckmann is a jazz vocalist and composer from New York. He's renowned for forging his own sound, incorporating jazz, ambient and electronic music as well as performance art. In February 2010, he conducted a masterclass at the National Arts Centre, over videoconference. The masterclass was part of the NAC's Manhattan on the Rideau Series. It links leading jazz faculty members of Manhattan School of Music with accomplished music students and musicians, at the NAC.

Three vocalists participated, including Renée Yoxon from Ottawa. They were accompanied by J.P. Allain on piano, Tom Denison on bass, and Don Johnson on drums.

Ottawa Jazz Scene's Brett Delmage interviewed Renée Yoxon and prepared this story about the class.

You can listen to our podcast here (34 MB)


An audience observes the NAC's Manhattan on the Rideau Series masterclass at the NAC's Fourth Stage . Photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010
An audience observes the NAC's Manhattan on the Rideau Series masterclass at the NAC's Fourth Stage . Photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Tim Bedner's mentoring series at Café Paradiso will return for a new season next September.

Bedner was all smiles as he watched the final session of this season wind down last Monday, and highly satisfied with the series' first year.

"All the expectations were met, and probably beyond. I'm really happy with the turnout and the enthusiasm." He said that both the mentors and the students told him they thought this was a great project to do in the community, and that they would be glad to participate again.

He said the series would follow the same schedule next year: the last Monday of the month, September to November and January to March.

Bedner started the series in order to give aspiring Ottawa musicians the same opportunity he had had as a student – to learn from local jazz masters about performing and musicianship.

Carleton University music student Aydin Suatac was one of the students who was mentored: "What other chance would a guy like me, who's just starting out and doesn't know anybody in the scene, what other chance would I have to play with a musician of the calibre of John Geggie or Garry Elliott or Mike Tremblay or Mark Ferguson? I find that the best way to learn something is by performing with somebody. It's a hundred times better. The fact that he's so much better than you forces you to live up to him."

"You have to fight every step of the way to keep up with these guys and I find when you're doing that, your best stuff comes out. You're inspired and you're in to it, and you're thinking of nothing else. Nothing else matters except what you're doing with a musician that you revere and respect. And then, afterwards, he critiques what you're doing, which is great. He would say 'OK, that was good, that wasn't good, work on this.' And that's all I want to hear."

The mentors included guitarists, a pianist/trombonist, a saxophonist, a bass player, and a vocalist. Bedner said "the varied instruments of the mentors certainly helped create a different learning opportunity and experience for the students."

Most of the students were at university, he said, partially because of his connections to Carleton University. But several mentors were able to send him some high school students – and even one vocalist only 12 years old! Bedner said he hoped he could get more high and middle school students interested in jazz to attend – either to be mentored or just to listen. "As long as they can actually play through a standard tune and play a melody, improvise, and accompany in some context: that's really the only prerequisite."

He said he also hoped this would encourage younger listeners to come to hear and enjoy the great jazz performances in Ottawa, including at Paradiso.

One of the important benefits of the mentoring program, he said, was that it let students listen to the other students being mentored. "They get a chance to learn from that student's response with the mentor, so it's really four lessons wrapped in one. Each student has specific deficiencies: they can pick up on that and learn just as much from observing the other participants. As a lifelong student of jazz and music, I learn just as much by listening to what the mentors have to say and how they interact, their teaching methods with each student, so I'm taking notes all the time."

    – Alayne McGregor

"A Composer who hears sounds will try to find a notation for sounds. One who has ideas will find one that expresses his ideas, leaving their interpretation free, in confidence that his ideas have been accurately and concisely notated."

    Treatise Handbook: Working Notes — Cornelius Cardew

Ottawa music listeners who took a chance were treated to a unique performance on Sunday March 28, when members of the Carleton University Contemporary Music Ensemble performed Cornelius Cardew`s mammoth graphic score Treatise at Carleton University.

Carleton University Contemporary Music Ensemble director Professor Jesse Stewart stands in front of the projection of page 130 of the Treatise  graphic score. Photo ©2010 Brett Delmage

Carleton University Contemporary Music Ensemble director Professor Jesse Stewart stands in front of the projection of page 130 of the Treatise graphic score.  photo ©2010 Brett Delmage

It may very well be the biggest single jazz project ever staged in Ottawa.

When the Impressions in Jazz Orchestra (IJO) gets on stage Saturday night, along with the Capital Vox jazz choir, several soloists, and a tap dancer, there will be almost 50 artists performing Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts.

Impressions In Jazz Orchestra
Impressions In Jazz Orchestra

It's not something you throw together in a few weeks. IJO artistic director Adrian Cho said he's been thinking about this concert for probably five years - even before IJO existed. And it's been about a year since he contacted Capital Vox's director, Elise Letourneau.

So what makes this music worth that effort? "Ellington judged the music of his sacred concerts to be the most important thing he ever did.  He poured his heart and soul into it and it really shows," Cho says.

Jacques Emond, the consummate "ears" of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, is retiring. In his honour, the festival will be holding a retirement party tonight (Monday, March 22) at the NAC Fourth Stage.

The party will run from 7 to 11 p.m., with tributes to Jacques likely starting about 8 p.m. Snacks and a cash bar will be available. The festival said local musicians will be jamming during the evening, and a slide show will display highlights of Jacques' years at the festival.

The event is open to the public. Come down and thank Jacques for his many years of programming fine music for the festival.

You may have noticed a new button on which links to the Jazz Awards website.

Nominator for the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards
Nominator for the 2010 JJA Jazz Awards

Fifty-eight professional Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) members recently filed nominations for the 40-plus categories of excellence in music-making and music documentation that the JJA's Jazz Awards honor.  Ottawa Jazz Scene publisher Brett Delmage is a JJA member, and he submitted nominations with valuable input from the Ottawa Jazz Scene team. A special effort was made to review the past year's achievments of Ottawa-Gatineau and Canadian jazz musicians, organizers, and journalists so they would not be overlooked for nominations.  Ottawa-Gatineau and Canada have world-class jazz and improvising musicians that we can be proud of, and the Ottawa Jazz Festival is top-drawer. Yet, in the past, Canada's capital jazz talent has been nominated very infrequently for even the Canadian National Jazz Awards. We wanted to make sure that this talent was considered. After all, it's unlikely that someone in that other jazz capital, NYC, would do this!

You can follow the JJA Jazz Awards as they progress by clicking on the button in the left panel or visiting the Jazz Awards website.

No doubt there will be many exceptional and internationally-known artists showing up on the nominees list – and perhaps even some you know as neighbours.

The attentive and uncommonly quiet audience at Café Paradiso Saturday night was having such a hoppin' good time that they demanded an encore – and what they got was a beautiful tune and a story.

It turns out that Ottawa multi-instrumentalist René Gely saw Egberto Gismonti in Paris in 1994, and was haunted afterwards by the unnamed piano piece Gismonti played as his encore. Gely could never find the piece again -- until he asked Brazilian guitar player (and temporary Ottawa resident) Evandro Gracelli for some lesser-known Brazilian music.

One of the pieces Gracelli lent him was the Gismonti piece – except played on harmonica. Gely used that to recreate it on piano, and the trio played it on piano, guitar, and percussion as their encore Saturday. Their rendition was beautiful, graceful, and haunting, and the audience loved it.
– Alayne McGregor

photos © 2010 Brett Delmage
Rene Gely, Evandro Gracelli, and the members of Florquestra Brasil play at Cafe Paradiso March 20, 2010. © 2010 Brett Delmage
René Gely on the melodeon is joined by Evandro Gracelli and members of Florquestra Brasil

Rene Gely, Evandro Gracelli, and Rob Graves play at Cafe Paradiso March 20, 2010. © 2010 Brett Delmage
René Gely, Evandro Gracelli, Rob Graves played to the totally quiet attention of a nearly full stage-side of Café Paradiso
Caroline Gibson ©2010 Brett Delmage
Caroline Gibson

No one else could sound like Blossom Dearie, and the three vocalists who graced the NAC Fourth Stage on Saturday March 20 wisely didn't try. Instead, Karen Oxorn, Caroline Gibson, and Marcie Campbell celebrated Blossom's style and her material, singing together and individually. The songs, ranging from standards to Dave Frishberg satires, were well-received by the almost-full house. The last song featured a surprise: Brian Browne sitting in on piano, as Gibson gave a bravura performance of the risque lyrics in Blossom's Blues.

The singers were supported by a tight rhythm section: musical director Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone, Tim Bedner on guitar, Martin Newman on bass, and Don Johnson on drums.
     – Alayne McGregor

Marcie Campbell ©2010 Brett DelmageMarcie Campbell

Karen Oxorn ©2010 Brett Delmage
Karen Oxorn

photos ©2010 Brett Delmage

Ottawa Jazz Scene editor Alayne McGregor talks to singer Nicole Ratté about her musical path to the release of her first album.

You can hear the excitement and anticipation in Nicole Ratté's voice, right down the telephone wire.

Nicole Ratte CD: When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful (courtesy of Nicole Ratte)
Nicole Ratte CD: When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful (courtesy of Nicole Ratte)
The Ottawa jazz singer will launch her first CD on March 19, at a concert at the NAC Fourth Stage. It's the culmination of two years of planning and work, and close collaboration with several local musicians – and she's proud of it.

But she's come to this milestone by a path particularly her own. A francophone vocalist in a primarily English-speaking genre, a musician who didn't discover jazz until well into adulthood, and an entrepreneur who has opened up new venues to jazz, Ratté hasn't followed the standard jazz career.