Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Quintet
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Thursday, June 11, 2016 - 3:30 p.m.

This year, the Carleton University Jazz Camp has moved its faculty concerts to the late afternoons from the evenings to make it easier for the camp's students to attend. This made for a more informal vibe but still much skilled playing at the final faculty concert, which featured a classic jazz quintet.

It was a fine 50 minutes of mainstream jazz, played with enjoyment and a sense of fun, which easily communicated itself to the audience. The set-list mixed originals with classic 60s bop tunes and one ballad.

Five camp instructors, all well-known and experienced Ottawa jazz musicians, shared the stage – Mike Tremblay on tenor sax, Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone, Nick Dyson on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Geggie on double bass, and Mike Essoudry on drums. They've played together in many different arrangements before, and were clearly comfortable together – which was good, because they were just receiving the sheet music for one of the numbers as they started.

They opened with Horace Silver's “The Jody Grind”, a fast, grooving tune with the trumpet and sax pumping out the beat over a strong bass line, and then moved to a more thoughtful mood with “Falling Grace” by Steve Swallow, with flowing sax lines over multi-faceted piano lines. The originals included Dyson's “April Fools”, a bright, brassy tune which was given a more punctuated feel here than in the Beeched Wailers' version, followed by Ferguson's “Is That All?”, a strongly appealing tune with anthemic trombone, assured saxophone, and sweet and full trumpet solos.

I particularly enjoyed “Lover Man”, in which Dyson played the melody of the Billie Holiday number with deep feeling and care, followed by Ferguson's inflected variations on piano and Geggie's harmonically-interesting bowed bass explorations. It ended with further lovely nuanced flugelhorn lines, before the ensemble gave it a last quiet breath of melody.

Ferguson's percussive Latin number, “You are the one”, then upped the energy level, and the quintet closed with Dexter Gordon's early 60s number, “Cheese Cake” – which Ferguson noted was a song that Tremblay “loved to play”. With lots of swing, it did indeed have many opportunities for Tremblay to explore the tune's variation on his tenor – without repeating himself – but also included high-velocity piano and and a bass solo which drilled down into the roots of the chords, before ending with a powerful flourish, and strong applause.

You can regularly see all five of these musicians playing around Ottawa-Gatineau, in jam sessions, concerts, and smaller gigs, but it may be a while until this particular combination shows up again. I was glad not to miss it.

– Alayne McGregor

Set list

  • The Jody Grind (Horace Silver)
  • Falling Grace (Steve Swallow)
  • April Fools (Nicholas Dyson)
  • Is That All? (Mark Ferguson)
  • Lover Man (Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez, James Sherman)
  • You Are the One (Mark Ferguson)
  • Cheese Cake (Dexter Gordon)