Alex Moxon and Ed Lister ©Brett Delmage, 2019
Alex Moxon and Ed Lister played subtle versions of favourite tunes at MacKay United Church, in the second concert of the church's Jazz in June series this year ©Brett Delmage, 2019

Alex Moxon and Ed Lister
Jazz in June at MacKay United Church
Thursday, June 13, 2019 – 12 noon

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Guitarist Alex Moxon and trumpeter Ed Lister displayed the subtler aspects of their music in a noon-hour concert last Thursday. Playing jazz standards and a few originals, the duo filled MacKay United Church with nuanced and intimate music.

This is the fourth year that the New Edinburgh-area church has presented its weekly “Jazz in June” noon-hour series. The sanctuary was comfortably full of attentive listeners: quiet babes in arms and toddlers with their parents, teenagers, and 20-somethings up to seniors.

The duo used the church's clear, slightly reverberant acoustics to their advantage, allowing lots of space in the music and letting notes ring out. Lister played unamplified, and Moxon had only his electric guitar amp.

“Cop a Feel” was Moxon's contrafact based on the 70s pop tune “Feel Like Making Love”, made famous by Roberta Flack. With an initial wave to the original melody, Lister and Moxon used it as the jumping-off point for exploration: trumpet lines that were first reflective and melancholy, then more acerbic, and extended rhythmic guitar variations – but all of which fit together well and within the tune's envelope.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard Freddie Hubbard's “Little Sunflower”, played by organ trios, big bands, and in jam sessions, but the duo's version was something new. Instead of the usual deep groove, they created a quietly pensive interpretation, opening with stately and muted trumpet lines, and creating an outline of the melody through faraway trumpet and a delicate tracery of notes on guitar.

Lister's ballad “Cherry Blossoms” contrasted a full and expressive trumpet melody with a sparse outline of that melody on guitar. Moxon created shining high harmonics and deeper inflected notes which descended and drifted through the church, and then were echoed by Lister's accented closing trumpet trills.

“Sunny” received a bright performance, with high trumpet notes and flurries of guitar notes ornamenting the catchy melody. “All of Me” had its melody played through brash trumpet and scintillating guitar, and ended in a trumpet flourish a la Louis Armstrong.

Moxon and Lister have played together for many years in their four-piece funk, jazz, and neo-soul band, the Chocolate Hot Pockets.Both of the originals they played at this concert were written for that band. “Use Me”, an R&B tune by Bill Withers, is a CHP favourite, and I've heard the band create a body-humping groove that vibrates an entire hall as they played it.

This time, it opened much more quietly, with inflected guitar riffs leading to R&B-style trumpet. The groove remained, but it framed more abstract and diffracted explorations, with refined guitar harmonics and rapid streams of trumpet notes. When Lister ended the song with a last long held note, the audience responded with very strong applause.

The duo closed the hour-long concert with the bebop classic “Ornithology” to “hopefully to send you off in a good jazz way”, Moxon said. The duo played it fast and abrupt – as written – giving the concert an energetic finish. The audience, which had been appreciative throughout, rose for a standing ovation.

The series continues this Thursday with the dynamic trio of young bassist and vocalist Angelique Francis performing jazz and R&B. On June 27, the final show in this year's series will feature the Speakeasy Band, with guitarist/vocalist Peter Newsom, bassist Chris Breitner, drummer Jamie Holmes, and saxophonist Pete Woods, who is also the church's minister. They'll play “jazz tunes rooted in Americana”.

In addition, the church will offer a free jazz masterclass on Wednesday, June 26, at 10:30 a.m. The Kindness of Jazz will feature Danish guitarist Jakob Bro in conversation with Pete Woods. Donations to the church's music program are appreciated.for all events.

Set List

  1. Cop a Feel [Alex Moxon]
  2. Little Sunflower [Freddie Hubbard]
  3. Sunny [Bobby Hebb]
  4. Cherry Blossoms [Ed Lister]
  5. All of Me [Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons]
  6. Use Me [Bill Withers]
  7. Ornithology [Charlie Parker]

The Jazz in June series is held from 12 noon to 1 p.m. on Thursdays in June at MacKay United Church. Admission is by donation.

Get there! MacKay United Church is located at 39 Dufferin Road (at MacKay Street) in the New Edinburgh neighbourhood of Ottawa. OC Transpo routes 7 and 9 stop within a few blocks of the church. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to the show!

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