Hugh O'Connor (sax) with John Geggie (bass) and Mark Ferguson (keyboard) perform at the 2007 Ottawa Jazz Festival. photo ©Brett Delmage, 2007
Hugh O'Connor (sax) with John Geggie (bass) and Mark Ferguson (keyboard) perform at the 2007 Ottawa Jazz Festival. photo ©Brett Delmage, 2007

After more than 60 years of steadily playing for live audiences, Ottawa alto saxophonist Hugh O'Connor is releasing his first CD, “For the First Time” (True North records). The CD will be available starting April 27 at Compact Music and other local stores.

The CD launch concert will take place at the NAC Fourth Stage at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 3. O'Connor will be joined by Mark Ferguson, who has played piano with him for many, many shows, John Geggie on double bass, Don Johnson on drums, and maybe a surprise guest or two.

This Sunday afternoon, there will also be a mini CD release party at Chez Lucien, where O'Connor has duoed with pianists, including Ferguson, every Sunday afternoon for the last five years.

O'Connor has been playing jazz in Ottawa since the late 1940s, and has been a fixture at many venues and playing with many visiting jazz legends. Three years ago, the Ottawa Jazz Festival honoured his "enormous" contribution to jazz in Ottawa with a Community Recognition Award.

We stayed up late to check the Ottawa Bluesfest listings (which were released at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday). So far, there's no jazz headliners at Bluesfest.

The artists we did see who might be of interest to jazz fans include:

  • Santana (Latin/rock fusion)
  • Grupo Fantasma (Latin)
  • The Lost Fingers (gypsy jazz)
    and, last but not least,
  • The Mayfair Theatre Orchestra reprises its live soundtrack to Night of the Living Dead at the Barney Danson Theatre in the Canadian War Museum (unclassifiable, but includes lots of Ottawa jazz musicians).

If you see any jazz-related artists we missed in the Bluesfest listings, please let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

- Alayne McGregor

Renée Yoxon at The Rainbow - photo ©2010 Brett Delmage
Renée Yoxon at The Rainbow - photo ©2010 Brett Delmage

Renée Yoxon graduated with a physics degree and a minor in math and music from Carleton University In January 2010. While she was studying, music was another way to apply her creativity, and an escape from academic demands and drudgery.

Now that she is setting her own schedule, Renée is pursuing her career as a vocalist with a determined passion. She has been singing at as many as six gigs a week recently in  a variety of different styles. On top of that, she sits in on other events, and has started a new "StreetJazz" series on YouTube. It's no surprise that Renée's confident and expressive singing has come to the attention of a growing number of listeners, fans, and other jazz musicians.

I recently interviewed Renée about how her music has developed. She shared some interesting personal thoughts on jazz and music, and what music has inspired her.

"I think everyone should be out supporting the [local jazz] scene – so developing it or not, get out!"

"A Jazz aesthetic is what you make of it. [...] I plan to continue to add stuff from modern repertoire in a style that suits us, because we just want to play good music, whether that's standards or whether that's modern tunes.

"Good music for me is a combination of two things: song-writing, so if it's a song that has been written honestly, and then performance. So you could take a great song and play it like garbage, and it's not good music. Or you could take a crappy song and then play it really well and it's not really good music. But if you have a really good song played honestly and truly, then it's good music."

On picking songs for StreetJazz: "Usually the song that will work is the song that's been in my head: the one that's going to work by myself. It's just the song I've been singing all day. So that's why it works, cos it's been in my head all day long. We might have to have a bit more forethought when we start collaborating with more musicians, but the whole point is that it's off-the-cuff and sort of natural, and not too much pre-planning goes into it. So you see a lot of me forgetting the words and us bumping into things as we walk on the streets and it's kind of funny and cute and a really good time."

Listen to the podcast    [mp3, 25 minutes, 12 MB]

    – Brett Delmage

You can hear Renée Yoxon each Monday evening at Bar 56 in the Byward Market.

Mike Tremblay  - photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Mike Tremblay - photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Mike Tremblay's eyes light up as he describes his unexpected dream come true.

The Ottawa saxophone player and teacher is launching a new week-long jazz camp in Ottawa this August, sponsored by Carleton University. It's a project he's been thinking about for many years, but hadn't been expecting to start this soon.

But a breakfast meeting in February made it possible. He and Carleton University music professor James Wright had been discussing the Music Department's direction for the next academic year. At the end of the meeting, Tremblay said "there's something I've always really wanted to do is set up a jazz camp in Ottawa, right in the city, and get people here from Ottawa  involved." But what he needed was a sponsor, and a location to hold the camp. Would the university be interested, maybe for  2011?

Wright was intrigued, and challenged Tremblay to put his ideas in writing. A week later, Tremblay had analyzed all the other  jazz camps in Ontario, and produced a detailed 12-page proposal, together with a budget and a tentative list of instructors. Wright went through it in detail, asked questions, and then told Tremblay to go ahead – for 2010.

But that left him only a week before MusicFest, where he needed to advertise the camp. A friend he played hockey with pointed out the university's printing department could help with the brochure. With that and some "express" meetings to get approvals,  the camp was announced in time for the MusicFest weekend at the beginning of March.

Richard Page  with trio bassist Philippe Charbonneau play at the Avant-Garde Bar, 2010  March 23 photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Richard Page with trio bassist Philippe Charbonneau play at the Avant-Garde Bar, 2010 March 23 photo ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Reedman, flautist and composer Richard Page came to Ottawa in 2008 with the Youth Summit at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Since then he's made Ottawa his home and his presence known. In the past year he's done a lot of playing, and an increasing amount of composing.

Page has taken risks and worked hard to create his own opportunities: he introduced a weekly jazz series to the home of blues and funk, The Rainbow (on Saturday afternoons, yet!) and presented chamber jazz at the Unitarian Church with his A Large View from a Small Window sixteen-piece string ensemble.

He is currently developing an audience at Avant-Garde on his regular Tuesday night shows with his experienced and tight trio, including Matt Aston on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on bass. This month they are also performing on Wednesday nights at Café Nostalgica. publisher Brett Delmage interviewed Richard Page at Avant-Garde about his music.

Listen to the interview [mp3, 12 minutes, 6  MB].

Listeners at Avant-Garde on Friday April 9 were treated to Richard Page and Linsey Wellman playing Richard's original, hard-bop tunes with a variety of textures. With Richard playing tenor and soprano saxes, clarinet and flute, and Linsey playing soprano and alto saxes and flute, a paper spreadsheet had to be created to keep track of all the combinations. The Trio's regular drummer, Matt Aston, and bass player Philippe Charbonneau accompanied the two horn players. The music had the blend of rigour and spontaneity that only comes from group of people who enjoy playing with each other and have been doing so long enough to fit well together. Linsey Wellman' reliable exuberance and intense voice on his own instruments complemented Page's more restrained playing that evening.

Ottawa Jazz Scene photographer Brett Delmage caught all the combinations of instruments - or at least all the ones we think were played :-)

If you missed this show, there's lot's more opportunity  to catch the Richard Page Trio. They are now welcoming listeners and musical guests Tuesday nights at Avant-Garde. In April, they are also taking the spring chill away at Café Nostalgica on Wednesday nights.

Click a thumbnail for a larger view. All photos ©2010 Brett Delmage.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival announced its lineup for 2010 on Thursday April 8, with nods to its past, a good chunk of Canadian and local content, and groups that will be new to almost everyone's ears.

However, there's more news to come. If you look at the programming grid, several main-stage slots remain unfilled. As well, the closing night was thrown into confusion only hours before the launch, when expected acts Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson abruptly cancelled.

The festival will commemorate its 30th anniversary this year. Festival executive director Catherine O'Grady said the programming team had gone through old festival programs, and looked for acts who had produced memorable concerts. The results include:

The 2010 Ottawa Jazz Festival is giving a prominent place to a number of local jazz groups.

"We're bringing in a lot of local musicians who deserve to be heard," said Ottawa Jazz Festival programming manager Jacques Emond, "because, in my opinion, some of the local musicians are as good as any. Los Gringos, for example, came back this year after many years of being inactive, and the band sounds better than ever." Emond said it was a difficult choice among local groups.

The Soujazz Orchestra at le petit Chicago in March 2010.  photo ©2010 Brett Delmage
The Soujazz Orchestra at le petit Chicago in March 2010. photo ©2010 Brett Delmage

The Soujazz Orchestra: They're packing local clubs, attracting worldwide fans, and performing on the Ottawa Jazz Festival's main stage on July 2. Expect a very big party.  photo ©2010 Brett Delmage

By tradition, a local group is the opening act on the festival's opening and closing nights: "we can't put everyone on the main stage," Emond said, "but we do the best we can." This year, the Mike Essoudry Octet is opening for Herbie Hancock, and singer Kellylee Evans is opening for whatever act is chosen for the final night. Both have performed at the festival before.

Two enthusiastic festival fans enjoy the vocalist workshop and cabaret seats in the OLG stage in 2009. Photo ©2009 Brett Delmage
Two enthusiastic festival fans enjoy the vocalist workshop and cabaret seats in the OLG stage in 2009. Photo ©2009 Brett Delmage
The Workshop Series returns to the OLG covered stage next to Elgin street for its second year of interesting and sometimes quirky musical themes. It will be brought to life by some of Ottawa's best jazz musicians. The series is free, but listeners wishing to attend could be challenged by its recurring workday timeslot of Friday – Wednesday – Friday. For listeners who don't want to miss the series, the scheduling does have the benefit of not competing with other (main stage) programming. A noontime concert will precede each day's workshop. With the covered, cabaret style seating (with tables), expanded to 325 seats this year, listeners can come with their lunch at noon and comfortably enjoy four hours of free music, even if it rains.

The editorial team attended this series in its entirety last year and greatly enjoyed it.

The series will again be curated by composer and multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura (NYC – Ottawa), who has been a regular participant in the Ottawa Jazz Festival and its winter series in recent years.

"He started that last year, and he's doing a tremendous job of bringing in some young musicians, and of course Peter is known in New York and he's very talented. He does a very very good job," said festival programmer Jacques Emond.

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.).