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: 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.
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 OttawaJazzScene.ca 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.).
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)
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
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|
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.
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 OttawaJazzScene.ca which links to the Jazz Awards website.
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
René Gely on the melodeon is joined by Evandro Gracelli and members of Florquestra Brasil
René Gely, Evandro Gracelli, Rob Graves played to the totally quiet attention of a nearly full stage-side of Café Paradiso