©Brett Delmage, 2018
Pianist Jenny Xu introduced her original composition, as did other members of the group throughout the performance ©Brett Delmage, 2018

2018 Jazz Youth Summit
Ottawa Jazz Festival, Main Stage
Sunday, July 1 – 2 to 3 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Each year, the Ottawa Jazz Festival brings in an all-star group of young Canadian jazz musicians to play in its Jazz Youth Summit. Under the direction of trumpeter and university educator Jim Lewis, they rehearse together, take masterclasses, perform in the evening jam sessions, and immerse themselves in jazz during the festival. Then they play two public concerts on the festival's main stage on the final days of the festival.

This year's crop of nine musicians came from across Canada: from Antigonish, Nova Scotia to Montreal to Owen Sound to Winnipeg to Edmonton to Prince George, BC. Trumpeter Evan Dalling was the Ottawa representative.

On the festival's last full day, June 30, the youth summit ensemble opened for jazz superstar Herbie Hancock – and Hancock sat by the side of the stage listening to them. OttawaJazzScene.ca heard a bit of that concert, and all of their well-received second show on Canada Day.

For their July 1 concert, all of the pieces were composed or arranged by the summit members themselves. Some had been performed in their June 30 show and some were added for this show. Each musician introduced his or her own piece, which they had arranged for the ensemble: the arrangements included less-common instruments like sousaphone and flute as well as standard horn and rhythm sections.

Listening to this year's youth summit members play, I couldn't help thinking that the festival's founding programming director, Jacques Émond, would have been proud of them. And he would have particularly enjoyed their music, all swinging and much of it reminiscent of his favourite West Coast cool sound.

They opened with a relaxed Tadd Dameron number, “Flossie Lou”, arranged by guitarist David Rourke, who also contributed a smooth solo. “Crossroads”, by saxophonist Zach Griffin, had a contemplative opening which built to high, soaring long lines from Griffin on alto sax, following by a quiet piano solo from Jenny Xu, and then built up again to a gentle conclusion.

“Horizon”, by drummer KeAloha Noelani, was a Latin number featuring Griffin's soaring flute, Dalling's taut trumpet lines, and a trombone duo from Nathaniel Jenkins and Nolan Murphy – and reminding me of the gentle breezes which were mostly missing on this very hot, very humid Canada Day. Tristan Martinuson's “Monise” was a more strongly swinging number, with the bass and trombones anchoring the low end and a sleek guitar solo and glossy alto and tenor sax solos above.

The 2018 Ottawa jazz festival has been a particular joy for hearing musicians on tuba and sousaphone – including this ensemble's Nolan Murphy. He contributed “City of Lost Souls”, which he told the audience was his reflections on living in Toronto. It was a complex piece, whose patterns gently built up, creating a steady forward beat that nevertheless stayed muted and subdued. Murphy (switching between tuba and sousaphone) and Griffin on alto sax deepened the melody before all the horns intertwined in the finale.

The ensemble's beat became harder-edged with pianist Jenny Xu's “Annihilation”, with with pointed and circling horns over ominous electric bass lines. And they closed with “It's Only Me” by trombonist Nathaniel Jenkins, a flowing and approachable number featuring a lively trombone solo, sparkling piano, and the horns trading 4's with the drums. After the ensemble's bright closing fanfare, the audience responded with extended applause.

Looking back at previous Jazz Youth Summit line-ups, I can see many musicians who are now well-known in the jazz scenes in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal – and further afield. This ensemble sounded equally talented, and I'm looking forward to their next steps. One hopes that they will have enough happy memories of Ottawa to consider settling here.

2018 Jazz Youth Summit

  • Zach Griffin - alto sax, flute, clarinet
  • Evan Dalling - trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Tristan Martinuson - tenor sax, flute, clarinet
  • Nathaniel Jenkins - trombone
  • Nolan Murphy - sousaphone, tuba, bass trombone
  • David Rourke - guitar
  • Jenny Xu - piano
  • Colin Campbell - bass
  • KeAloha Noelani - drums

Set List

  1. Flossie Lou - composed by Tadd Dameron - arranged by David Rourke
  2. Crossroads - composed and arranged by Zach Griffin
  3. Horizon - composed and arranged by KeAloha Noelani
  4. Monise - composed and arranged by Tristan Martinuson
  5. City of Lost Souls - composed and arranged by Nolan Murphy
  6. Annihilation - composed and arranged by Jenny Xu
  7. It's Only Me - composed and arranged by Nathaniel Jenkins

Awards announced for Jazz Youth Summit members at the end of the concert

  • Doug McNab Volunteer Award: Nolan Murphy
  • Jacques Emond Memorial Scholarship: Colin Campbell
  • "Take Five Plus Five" Harvey and Louise Glatt Scholarship: Zach Griffin
  • "Take Five Plus Five" Harvey and Louise Glatt Scholarship: Evan Dalling
  • Ottawa Jazz Festival Award: KeAloha Noelani
  • Ottawa Jazz Festival Award: Nathaniel Jenkins
  • Stingray Rising Stars Award of $1000: David Rourke
  • Stingray Rising Stars Award of $1000: Jenny Xu
  • Stingray Rising Stars Award of $3000: Tristan Martinuson