In recent years Ottawa jazz guitarist Justin Duhaime has been specializing in performing – and promoting – what's called jazz manouche or gypsy jazz.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Two young listeners at East Feast check out the awesomeness of Django Reinhardt's music being performed by Justin Duhaime (r) and Nabil Yaghi (l) ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Jazz manouche was first popularized by guitarist Django Reinhardt in the 1930s, in his Quintet of the Hot Club of France, in conjunction with violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Duhaime has been regularly performing this music in duos with fellow guitarist Nabil Yaghi, and in larger groups like Django Libre and his own groups with violinist William Lamoureux, as well as bringing masters of this style to perform in Ottawa concerts.

On May 29, Duhaime was recognized as the 2018 RBC Emerging Artist by the Ottawa Arts Council, the first musician to receive this award. It 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.

After Duhaime received the award, he talked with about

  • how he became interested in jazz manouche and why it’s awesome
  • his broad musical interests
  • what he’s noticed about listeners hearing music
  • his award (of course), and
  • an unexpected issue he's had to deal with in naming his group

Listen to the complete interview with Justin Duhaime

Ottawa vocalist Antoine Collins sang of love, in the most inclusive way, as he presented his tribute to Nat King Cole in a noon-hour concert at the 2018 Ottawa Jazz Festival. He released a CD of these songs, Nature Boy, in March.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Antoine Collins talked about the universality of Nat King Cole's lyrics and the beauty of his melodies in his Ottawa Jazz Festival show ©Brett Delmage, 2018


Collins had invited members of the city's LGBTQ community to hear the show, and not only they but a considerable number of other jazz lovers came out to fill every chair (and stand at the back) in the festival's large Ontario Stage in Confederation Park.

Collins sang his favourite Nat King Cole classics, and talked about how those songs spoke to him and to the world. He was well supported by Mark Ferguson on keyboards, Brian Tansley on saxophone/flute, Phil Victor Bova on electric bass, Mike Essoudry on drums, and Marianne Dumas on percussion, with a guest appearance by Petr Cancura.

Our video story includes excerpts from several of the numbers in the show, plus an interview with Collins and representatives of Capital Rainbow Refuge, the refugee assistance group to which he was donating part of the proceeds of his album.

Extravagant costumes. Acrobatic dancing. Strong rhythms. Music ranging from tender ballads to all-out ensemble performances.  Tropicana Night gave Ottawa listeners a taste of Cuban music and dance in its many forms.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
The Los Cubanitos dancers in full flight behind singers Rusdell Nuñez, Cristina Sayén, and Sheyla Fernandez, with the dancing beat of Fiesta Cubana led by pianist Miguel De Armas (left) ©Brett Delmage, 2018

It was the biggest production ever undertaken by artistic director Miguel De Armas and producer Yasmina Proveyer, with the Los Cubanitos dancers, the Fiesta Cubana band led by De Armas, the rumba percussion group Clave y Guaguancó, and four vocalists: Rusdell Nuñez, Caridad Cruz, Cristina Sayén, and Sheyla Fernandez. They performed classic Cuban tunes by composers from across the 20th century, with the dancers adding glamorous interpretations.

The 500-seat Harold Shenkman Hall was mostly full. By the end of the first set everyone was up and dancing to the infectious rhythms. The second set ended with more dancing and a full-out standing ovation.

Our video contains excerpts from several of the numbers in the show, plus an interview with Yasmina Proveyer.

Updated July 31, 2018
The 2018 Festival de Jazz du Parc de L'Imaginaire in Aylmer will feature two tributes to important milestones in jazz and two individual jazz voices this month.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Parc de l'Imaginaire: a cool place to listen to jazz under the trees, close to the river ©Brett Delmage, 2011

A recreation of the best-selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue; a tribute to Ry Cooder's ground-breaking collaboration with Cuban musicians, The Buena Vista Social Club; a trio show by Ottawa guitar master Roddy Ellias; and a quadrilingual show by jazz vocalist Diane Nalini and her trio – you can hear all these in the four nights of the outdoor festival, from July 25 to 28.

This is the 32nd year of the festival (renamed this year from the Festival de Jazz Desjardins to the Festival de Jazz du Parc de L'Imaginaire) and it is again free to all. Its concerts are held in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer, immediately across from the Aylmer Marina. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and finish between 9 and 10 p.m. Picnics and families are welcome. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets because seating is not provided. Donations are welcomed.

In the event of rain, the concerts will move to the British Hotel, 71 rue Principale, Gatineau (Aylmer sector). The Centre d'exposition l'Imagier will announce by 2 p.m. each day whether that day's show will be held indoors or outdoors. Watch's twitter feed for the announcement.

The festival is run by la Ville de Gatineau, which will also offer world music concerts (shading into jazz) in the park on the first three Wednesdays of July, with Boogát, Laetitia Zonzambé, and Mamselle Ruiz.

Wednesday, July 25: Montreal trumpeter Ron Di Lauro opens this year's festival with his sextet of accomplished Montreal musicians: Jean-Pierre Zanella on alto sax, André Leroux on tenor sax, Geoff Lapp on piano, Michel Donato on bass, and Dave Laing on drums. Di Lauro was awarded the prestigious Oscar Peterson Prize in 2014 by the Montreal Jazz Festival, and his sextet has toured across Canada.

Last December, Montreal jazz pianist Rafael Zaldivar was initiated into the Yoruba tradition in Cuba. It was part of his recent exploration of his own Cuban roots, at the same time as he's become firmly ensconced in Quebec's jazz scene.

Rafael Zaldivar ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Rafael Zaldivar ©Brett Delmage, 2012

It was a spiritual experience for him: he went through a ceremony “to resolve personal incidents that I had about my past”. And not only did he learn more about this major Cuban belief system, its link to nature and the universe and to the divine, but also about the rhythms, dances, and songs which are a central part of its practices.

He's put those rhythms and that music into his Afro-Cuban Revival project, which he brings to the Ottawa Jazz Festival tonight, and then to the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 3. It's a show which he hopes will connect the audience to the energy of the music, the spirituality of the traditions, and “the vibration that music brings to them”.

“This is a live performance. This is an animated performance. There will be a lot of exchange between the musicians in terms of accentuations, syncopations, visual exchange between views, the dancing, the physicality of the performance – people will appreciate that.”

Zaldivar, 35, was educated in Cuba's rigorous musical system, graduating from the Higher Institute of Arts in Havana. He emigrated to Canada in 2005, and quickly found a place in Montreal's jazz scene. He has released three albums of mostly original compositions with Canadian and American musicians, one of which was nominated for a JUNO Award. At the same time, he continued his university education, and was awarded a Doctorate in Music from McGill University in 2016. He's currently a professor of music at Laval University.

His Afro-Cuban Revival Project includes rhythms traced from the four major Afro-Cuban cultures: the Yoruba (or Lucumí), the Congo (or Bantu), the Arará, and the Abakuá. These are all rhythms which he studied for his doctoral thesis, on Afro-Cuban integration in jazz composition and improvisation.

Updated June 28
Looking for fewer crowds or jazz in your neighbourhood? Downtown not convenient? There are many fine opportunities to hear live jazz around the city even while the Ottawa Jazz Festival is running.

Nicholas Adema ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Young trombonist Nicholas Adema brings a new sextet to town Saturday at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios playing modern, straight-ahead jazz ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Thursday, June 21: Fiesta Cubana helps open Westboro Beach for the season with an outdoor concert of lively Cuban music. With seven musicians and dancers, the spirited rhythms of the cha cha cha and other classic Cuban music will be pulling you to get up and dance. If you miss them tonight, they'll be performing frequently on sunny evenings at the beach this summer.

Prefer gypsy jazz? The long-standing Django Libre group will be at Bar Robo. Or, for Brazilian rhythms, Jerusa Leão, originally from Brazil and living in Toronto, will evoke a Samba party in Bahia, Brazil, at the Mercury Lounge.

Friday, June 22: Pianist James McGowan and saxophonist Peter Woods will play an acoustic duo concert in the beautiful surroundings of Dominion Chalmers United Church at noon. In the evening singer Douglas Moyle and his trio will celebrate Frank Sinatra and his fellow crooners at the Options Jazz Lounge in the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata.

Saturday, June 23: From 11 a.m. to noon, pianist Steve Boudreau will play an uninterrupted set of Thelonious Monk's inimitable compositions in among the bins of vinyl at the Record Centre in Hintonburg. And the Cuppa Soup combo performs Dixieland with verve from 11:30 to 2:30 at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, as part of their charity work for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

That evening, two emerging jazz musicians, trombonist Nicholas Adema and saxophonist Austin Bassarath, bring their sextet to the intimate listening room at the Record Runner Rehearsal Studios on Colonnade Road. Adema and Bassarath met at the University of Toronto, where they're both studying, and found they had a similar passion for composers and players in the Modern-Straight ahead Jazz genre (Walter Smith III, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Michael Dease). We've been impressed with Adema's attention to detail and musicianship in earlier shows.

I checked out the new Ottawa Jazz Festival set-up Tuesday night. It's definitely going to be more crowded for some outdoor shows!

©Alayne McGregor, 2018
The Main Stage, in front of City Hall, faces east instead of west this year. Listeners will face the early evening sun, but musicians will finally get a break. ©Alayne McGregor, 2018

Because of the construction in the Canal side of Confederation Park, most of the action has moved to around Ottawa City Hall, where the secondary stage was last year. From Laurier Avenue West, the walkway will lead you beside the Box Office and the Souvenirs tent, and then you enter on your left into the stage area.

Watch out for cyclists on the elevated cycle track along Laurier Avenue West, which looks just like a sidewalk, as you cross into City Hall.

The seating area in front of the Main Stage appears to be much smaller than in the park. It will be L-shaped, with the Gold Tent and the sound tech booth to the right, and the regular seating in front of and then extending back on stage left towards City Hall.

If you want to also see and not just hear the performers on the Main Stage, you may need to arrive earlier in order to get a spot with a good view.

Updated June 7 to include details of Browne's memorial service on June 15.

One of Ottawa's most distinctive jazz voices, pianist Brian Browne, died Tuesday afternoon. He was 81 years old.

©Brett Delmage, 2010
Brian Browne ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Browne's greatest joy was in playing jazz standards, songs he considered “basically masterpieces that have survived the test of time, and that's why they're still around. They'll be around forever.”. He would perform them both with sensitivity and with considerable relish and élan – and never the same way twice.

“I could play 'Autumn Leaves' every night of my life and it would be different every night. The only thing that's the same is the title and the framework, the actual skeleton of the actual piece of music. I could play it in different keys, for a different feeling once in a while,” he told in 2014.

“And that's the beauty of playing the standards because even if the title is the same and the framework is the same, it's like building a house. The frame is the same but every time you play you have different rooms, different walls, different pictures on the wall, different colour rugs. It's always different. And that's what's fresh about playing jazz!”

His definition of a standard, though, was wider than just the Great American Songbook. It reached from the 1920s into the 1970s and 80s, with songs by the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, and Billy Joel.

Browne had an bluesy piano style that swung strongly but could also slow down, for example in his rendition of Cohen's “Hallelujah”, to become powerfully emotional. His playing was in the tradition of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson (with whom he studied), Errol Garner and Bill Evans, but was immediately identifiable as his own.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Even the large stage at Kailash Mital Theatre started to look crowded when musicians from three big bands temporarily merged Sunday to play two Duke Ellington compositions. ©Brett Delmage, 2018

The Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) put the “big” into big band Sunday, with three generations of jazz musicians performing 20 numbers in the final concert of its 9th season.

The Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (Grade 9 and 10 students) opened the show with a highly polished presentation, followed by CYJO (university and high school students) celebrating Duke Ellington, and the Prime Rib Big Band (professional musicians) playing engaging originals written in the big band tradition by leader Ed Lister. Individually and collectively, they performed a mixture of classic and modern big band tunes, with many pieces by local composers.

At the climax of the three-hour series of concerts, about 40 musicians from all three bands crowded on the stage at the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University, double and triple-filling the stage risers.

From ballads to blues, from standards to free improv, from emerging jazz musicians to veterans – listeners heard it all at the second Jazz Ramble on May 25 and 26 at the Record Centre.

Mark Ferguson and Steve Boudreau at the 2018 Jazz Ramble ©Brett Delmage, 2018 ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Mark Ferguson and Steve Boudreau's four-handed tribute to Bill Evans was an audience favourite at the 2018 Jazz Ramble ©Brett Delmage, 2018

And when the Ramble ended on Saturday just before 10 a.m., four of those listeners were still awake, having made it through the entire 24 hours.

This was the second edition of the Ramble (the first was in 2016). From 10 a.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Saturday, it featured 25 local groups, one per hour, plus a drum circle which played between sets on the sidewalk.

The groups were mostly different from two years before, with only three repeating. In addition, more than 25 of the musicians performing this year were not at the previous Ramble.

The event was designed to promote Ottawa's jazz scene and the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The festival awarded a Bronze Pass to each of three fans who stayed to listen to every single act: Tariq Amery, Rob Leger, and Marcia Rodriguez. The fourth was's Brett Delmage, who not only listened throughout but made photos of every group which performed and tweeted every hour.