Mavis Staples, Hiromi, The Bad Plus, and Ryan Keberle and Catharsis were among the hits for listeners this week at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival. Overall, though, it was the talent and commitment of each artist – not their jazz content – which drew the most favourable responses in OttawaJazzScene.ca's festival listener poll.

Mavis Staples (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Mavis Staples (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
The poll, which is open to all, now continues with its final survey, covering shows on July 2 and the 2017 festival as a whole.

On Monday, June 29, Mavis Staples' sold-out show in the NAC Theatre received a very satisfied rating from OttawaJazzScene.ca listeners: an average of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Eric Sladic said that Staples “outdid her previous performance last time at Dominion Chalmers. Her rendition of 'Slippery People' which she just recently covered with Arcade Fire caught many people off guard. Her story of her family's involvement in the march from Selma to Montgomery brought the studio theatre to its feet by the end of the song. Her last official song of the night, 'I'll Take You There' brought people to their feet... then her encore (which was only the 2nd encore so far in the 2017 tour) stunned many. Mavis leveraged her involvement in the 1976 classic, The Last Waltz, and sang 'The Weight'. I left walking on clouds.”

Another listener observed that Staples “thoroughly engaged the audience. Her voice was in great shape, the band was tight, the guitar especially so. The set list was more secular than last I saw her and the crowd was with her.”

Sladic mentioned that he was lucky to get in. OttawaJazzScene.ca was informed by one listener that that “quite a few” Bronze Pass holders were turned away from this show – while there were still open seats in the Theatre balcony. We inquired of Jazz Festival executive director Catherine O'Grady whether some Bronze Pass holders were turned away from this concert, and if so, why, but received no response.

The New Orleans blues, jazz, R&B, and gospel sound of Davina and the Vagabonds also received an enthusiastic response: 4.7 stars. Pierre Hughes said the upbeat and exciting music got the crowd going, and praised lead singer Davina Sowers.

Betty Ann Bryanton agreed. “Wonderful performer and a very professional band. They dress the part (very classy), they all sang, they had cool arrangements, and Davina engages with the crowd and draws you in with her comments and her facial expressions (very expressive). Very kind of 30s fun! I didn't know what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised. (The other thing I liked is that it was not super loud like some bands in the tent.) Oh! and the swing dancers! How cool was that!"

Kenny Barron, Hudson, Ellias / Copland / Vedady, and Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra were the clear audience favourites this weekend at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, from those who responded to OttawaJazzScene.ca's ongoing festival reader poll.

Kenny Barron (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Kenny Barron (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)


Join our daily jazz listener surveys now! Register for the Ottawa Jazz Festival Favs Poll here - and have your say.


On Saturday, the two shows at the National Arts Centre Theatre were the popular choices. We didn't get enough responses to count for Kenny Roger's country show on Confederation Park main stage. Perhaps that’s not surprising after listeners panned Roger’s placement in the 2017 festival.

But another Kenny, pianist Kenny Barron's 7 p.m. solo piano concert garnered strong positive reactions, with an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. John Fysh gave Barron high praise: “While he limited his choice of material mostly to standards, Kenny Barron has the ability to transform each of them into mini masterpieces. His shading of the nuances of each piece of music was exceptional. I particularly enjoyed the Monk standard, Rhythm-A-Ning.”

Two nights – two very different results in OttawaJazzScene.ca's reader poll for the 2017 Ottawa Jazz festival. While outdoor shows predominated on the festival's opening night, it was an indoor show that got the raves on Friday. And listeners’ impressions of the first two days of the festival was all over the map.

Now This (Gary Peacock, Joey Baron, Marc Copland) received the most enthusiastic response so far in OttawaJazzScene.ca's reader poll of 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival concerts. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Now This (Gary Peacock, Joey Baron, Marc Copland) received the most enthusiastic response so far in OttawaJazzScene.ca's reader poll of 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival concerts. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)


Join our daily jazz listener surveys now! Register for the Ottawa Jazz Festival Favs Poll here - and have your say.


On Friday, June 23, the show of the night was definitely The Now This trio, with Gary Peacock, Marc Copland, and Joey Baron in the NAC Theatre. It received an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 and no negative votes for a show which mixed originals with standards and jazz classics.

Betty Ann Bryanton's response was typical of the comments. “SO amazing - each of them individually & together as a group. Sublime piano, such interesting percussion, and very cool bass (too bad the cable kept cutting in and out, though). My favourite song was I Loves You, Porgy. The opening was so haunting. At the end of the show, I couldn't believe it was already the end! Time had passed so quickly and effortlessly - a sign of a great show. And when Gary kissed Joey on the head and then they left the stage all arm in arm, that was pretty great.”

Several responses did note that Peacock had problems, particularly at the beginning of the show, with his bass amplification, and suggested that he should have stopped and corrected the problem instead of soldiering on.

“This trio was also fairly laid back and Gary Peacock had some trouble with the amplification of his bass that seemed to put him off for the first couple of songs. After they were were resolved, the trio settled down and gave a very enjoyable concert. I was pleasantly surprised by the touch of Marc Copland on piano. Joey Baron is one of the more underrated drummers I have seen. Not a beat out of place. His solo during Footprints was a highlight,” said John Fysh.

Jazz supergroup Hudson, pianist Marc Copland, Bill Frisell, The Bad Plus, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley, Maceo Parker's tribute to Ray Charles, Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms, Nick Fraser / Tony Malaby / Kris Davis, Wayne Eagles with John Geggie and Jesse Stewart, and Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra.

Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley is one of the highly-anticipated groups at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival, in OttawaJazzScene.ca's listener poll. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)
Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley is one of the highly-anticipated groups at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival, in OttawaJazzScene.ca's listener poll. (photo provided by the Ottawa Jazz Festival)

These are among the jazz groups highlighted by those who have so far responded to OttawaJazzScene.ca's poll of jazz festival attendees about the music at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival – with many enthusiastic comments.


Join our daily jazz listener surveys now! Register for the Ottawa Jazz Festival Favs Poll here - and have your say.

Read what listeners said about the first two days of the festival


But not Kenny Rogers. The results were almost unanimous: the veteran country/pop star was considered the most inappropriate artist at this year's festival.

“While I respect Kenny Rogers I do not think he comes close to what Jazz is,” said Ted Duncan. “Kenny Rogers is a good Singer, but I don't think his kind of Music fits in well in Ottawa JazzFest,” was another response. “A country artist at Jazzfest...really?” said Pierre Hughes. “I don't care whether Kenny once played bass in a jazz group, his genre is as far from jazz as you can get,” said David Miller. “Poor choice and dull musician,” said Richard Gauthier.

Another was concerned how including Rogers affected the overall festival line-up. “World famous legends like Kenny Rogers presumably cost a lot of money. I would prefer more jazz musicians at the jazz festival.”

They've developed new projects and combined with new musical partners, and many are showcasing recent or upcoming CDs. They're playing music ranging from jazz classics to Latin to big band to modern mainstream. Get acquainted with the wide variety of Ottawa-area jazz groups performing in the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival local line-up.

Guitarist Wayne Eagles deliberately started his jazz trio with  John Geggie on double bass, and Jesse Stewart on percussion 'to make better use of the remarkable players here in town'.    ©2016 Brett Delmage
Guitarist Wayne Eagles deliberately started his jazz trio with John Geggie on double bass, and Jesse Stewart on percussion 'to make better use of the remarkable players here in town'. ©2016 Brett Delmage
For decades, Ottawa-area jazz groups have presented a variety of free shows at the daytime stages of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. This year, though, you'll need to see them at different times.

With the Rideau Centre no longer sponsoring a stage, local performances will primarily be held at the festival's stage at Ottawa City Hall. And that's meant a change in times. From Monday to Friday, shows will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day, instead of noon. Consider taking an early – or late – lunch in order to hear them (you can eat your sandwiches while you listen). Weekend shows will be at 12 and 2 p.m., as they have been in past years.


Read what your fellow jazz fans are saying about the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival in the OttawaJazzScene.ca reader poll.


There's are many interesting musical projects being showcased from Ottawa-Gatineau jazz groups which you won’t want to overlook in the line-up

Steve Boudreau Trio (Friday, June 23, 11 a.m.)

The trio (Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on double bass, and Michel Delage on drums) will play pieces from several of their recent projects, including their celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. But the major focus will be a preview of their new album, Preludes, a creative re-imagining of music written and inspired by George Gershwin. The album is a mixture of well-known and lesser-known Gershwin compositions, plus two pieces by Boudreau, and one by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Boudreau has been studying Gershwin's music for several years. One nudge was the release of a Gershwin tribute album a few years ago by Wilson, since Wilson has been a strong influence on his music; another was his teacher Ran Blake having him learn Gershwin's “Where's My Bess” when he was studying at the New England Conservatory. But “it was really reading a biography of George Gershwin and discovering his early recordings of his piano Preludes that pushed me towards having a full album plus worth of material by him under my fingers.”

For her first CD, Rachelle Behrens is reaching back to the classic Latin American music which surrounded her as she was growing up.

Rachelle Behrens' Nostalgia CD cover
Rachelle Behrens' Nostalgia CD cover
Evoking passion and deep emotion, these songs have been a mainstay of Latin jazz for decades. The Ottawa jazz/soul vocalist has recorded seven of her favourites, from across South and Central America. She'll showcase them at a CD release concert on Sunday, along with an ensemble of notable local jazz and Latin jazz musicians.

But not as you might be used to hearing them. While Behrens usually sings in English, for this project, all the lyrics are in Spanish, her first language.

“Well, it's a Latin CD, so I figured just do it legit – do it in Spanish! Don't muddy the waters with English or an Anglicized version of something. It's a traditional Spanish album that's in Spanish.”

The album is called Nostalgia – a word that's the same in both Spanish and English. The tunes are ones that Behrens plays regularly with her combo, music which she says crosses the language barrier.

“There's so much emotion in the music. I think that's what reaches people who don't speak Spanish. You can tell when a song... these melodies are so big and so passionate I think that's what reaches the people. They're good songs, well-written songs, and as long as I portray the song properly, people will feel what it's about.”

Juno-winning guitarist Mike Rud is back in Ottawa this weekend – for his second tribute to an iconic jazz guitarist.

Mike Rud pays tribute to one of his first influences, Wes Montgomery, this weekend ©Brett Delmage 2012
Mike Rud pays tribute to one of his first influences, Wes Montgomery, this weekend ©Brett Delmage 2012
Last summer, Rud collaborated with Ottawa drummer Michel Delage to celebrate George Benson, and ended up taking that show to Montreal as well. This time, he and Delage are going back another step – to a guitarist who was a major influence not only on George Benson, but on Rud himself.

Wes Montgomery introduced an entirely new approach to playing guitar in the 1960s – including his octave technique (playing the same note on two strings usually one octave apart) and his use of chords in solos. He won the Down Beat Critic's Poll award for best Jazz guitarist in 1960–63, 1966, and 1967. He was nominated for six Grammy Awards, and won two: for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance in 1966 and in 1969.

Guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Russell Malone, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, and Lee Ritenour all credited Montgomery as a major influence. His most celebrated records among his peers were the hard bop records he recorded in the early 60s, but he achieved great commercial success with more melodic records (including jazz versions of Beatles songs) in the late 60s, before his sudden death of a heart attack in 1968.

Rud and Delage, along with Alex Bilodeau on bass and Peter Hum on piano, will perform Montgomery's music at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata on Friday and Saturday evening, and at the Record Centre in Hintonburg on Sunday afternoon. The trio (minus Hum) will also perform at Upstairs in Montreal on the following Tuesday.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor spoke with Mike Rud last week about the shows, his regard for Montgomery and how he was influenced by him, and his plans to record some of these songs this summer. This is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Updated June 27
Jazz is in the air in June. Downtown streets are lined with bannerGenerals for the jazz festival; there are advertisements everywhere for concerts. And there's no reason to wait: Ottawa-Gatineau is jumping with jazz all over every week in June. You could miss the festival completely and still get a great dose of enjoyable jazz.

So Long Seven, with violinist William Lamoureux, performs their complex mix of jazz and world music in Gatineau on June 10 ©Brett Delmage, 2016
So Long Seven, with violinist William Lamoureux, performs their complex mix of jazz and world music in Gatineau on June 10 ©Brett Delmage, 2016
From out of town, you can hear American pianist Don Washington, Montreal guitarist Mike Rud, Vancouver pianist Matt Choboter, Toronto vocalist Alex Samaras, NYC guitarist Pravin Thompson and drummer Jarrett Walser, Toronto world-jazz group So Long Seven, Toronto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet, Montreal improvisers Sound of the Mountain, and Vancouver crooner Michael Bublé.

There are two shows celebrating Canada's 150th birthday, two CD release shows, and music ranging from deep organ/drum grooves to vocal jazz to a Cuban fiesta.


OttawaJazzScene.ca's jazz highlights and all  other reporting is made possible by reader donations. Thanks to these June highlights sponsors: Barry Cooper, Gregory Klowak, Jonathan Langsner, Barry Paulson, Geoffrey Zeiss

 

Your reader donation is essential so that OttawaJazzScene.ca's can promote jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau with our unique and in-depth reporting

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This month McKay United Church presents lunch-time jazz every Wednesday at noon. It's the second year for the free series, with McKay's minister and saxophonist Peter Woods playing with a different guest each week – mostly musicians he frequently collaborates with. The series opens with pianist James McGowan (June 1), and continues with trumpeter Charley Gordon, guitarist Rob Martin, and vocalist Gerri Trimble (June 8), McGowan and vocalist Leah Cogan from the Evensong Ensemble (June 15), a Country Jazz Revue with guitarist Campbell Woods and guitarist/bassist Tim Jackson (June 22), and not least of all, master pianist Brian Browne (June 29).

On Saturday, June 3, vocalist Karen Oxorn and her quartet celebrate Canada's 150th in song at the Baldachin Inn in Merrickville. Oxorn has listened to many albums by Canadian jazz vocalists, and picked jazz standards which they recorded – as well as a few songs composed by Canadians. Her selections include songs made famous by Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Susie Arioli, Bria Skonberg, Diana Panton, Denzal Sinclaire, Carol Welsman, Leonard Cohen, and k.d.lang.

Safe Low Limit members prepare for their first pool concert   ©2017 Brett Delmage
Safe Low Limit members prepare for their first pool concert ©2017 Brett Delmage

How do you perform a concert in a swimming pool?

Take one empty swimming pool. (OK, almost empty, but everyone avoided getting wet feet.) Carefully fit in wood risers into the deep end to cover up the remaining ponds of water in there. Add amps, mic stands and mics, cables, music stands, and chairs.

Lift down and assemble the sections of the drum set. Then gingerly carry down (being careful not to slip on the slippery steep slope between the shallow and deep ends) a trombone, a cello, and a tuba.

Smile and chat with your audience, seated 12 feet above you. And perform, letting the low sounds resonate around you and rise up.

Safe Low Limit, Ottawa's bass clef jazz quartet, picked a highly unusual location for their latest show – an empty outdoor swimming pool behind a house in Vanier. (The homeowners were friends of Steve Berndt, the band's leader, trombonist and vocalist, and let him borrow the pool, currently being renovated, for the show.)

With sunny skies and pleasant temperatures which did not require a swimming pool filled with water on Saturday afternoon, it turned out to be the perfect location for a friendly outdoor concert. About three dozen listeners attended the pay-what-you-can house concert and warmly applauded throughout.

OttawaJazzScene.ca was there to share the experience. Watch our video, with interviews with Steve Berndt and Keith Hartshorn-Walton along with an excerpt from the show.

    – Alayne McGregor

Related:

This week will be a homecoming for Juno-winning pianist D.D. Jackson – back to the Ottawa student music festivals where he made his first public performances, and back to playing with a long-time musical friend.

D.D. Jackson's two concerts in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday are a homecoming for him after almost 10 years photo by Dave Kaufman
D.D. Jackson's two concerts in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday are a homecoming for him after almost 10 years photo by Dave Kaufman
And back to jazz. Jackson recently returned to jazz performance, after several years concentrating on TV and film scores (for which he's won an Emmy) and on raising his son and daughter. He'll be unveiling brand-new compositions at his concerts here on Thursday and Friday, which he hopes to include in a new album – his 13th.

On Thursday, Jackson is the featured artist at the Highlights Concert for the Kiwanis Music Festival at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. His solo piano performances will be a concert highlight, together with top Ottawa student performances at the show. On Friday, he'll give a closed masterclass to Canterbury High School students in the morning. In the evening, he has a sold-out show at GigSpace with Ottawa double bassist John Geggie, with whom he's performed and recorded for 22 years. The concert will include solo piano pieces as well as piano/bass duos.

Jackson grew up in Ottawa, attending W. Erskine Johnston Public School and the Earl of March High School in Kanata. His piano talent was obvious from an early age – but at that time, strictly channeled into classical music. It wasn't until after he attended Indiana University for a degree in classical piano, that he began looking at jazz. When he moved to New York City to take his masters at the Manhattan School of Music, it was in jazz performance, and he has remained in the NYC area and in jazz ever since.