©Brett Delmage, 2011
©Brett Delmage, 2011
The Roddy Ellias Trio with Wayne Eagles
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University

Roddy Ellias doesn't waste notes. He doesn't toss them around, or let them crash into each other in a careless heap. Instead, each note has its exact place, its moment of reverberation that adds to the overall effect.

The veteran Ottawa guitarist uses the space between the notes as much as the notes themselves, and you could hear that clearly in his Thursday evening concert at the Carleton University Jazz Camp.

The concert slowly accreted musicians. Ellias first appeared alone, playing a deceptively simple, unnamed guitar piece which was difficult to classify: the beginning was more classical, but as it picked up speed it became more rhythmic. For the next song, he was joined by bassist Kieran Overs, and they traded elongated blues licks: the maximum effect for the minimum number of notes. As each brought the melody more to the fore, the bass matched the guitar in a syncopated swing.

Drummer Bruce Wittet then entered, and the trio moved into "The Days of Wine and Roses", with the melody initially only hinted at but then becoming more distinct. It was a fast rendition, however, with all three players exchanging the lead.

"Emily" by Johnny Mandel was a highlight of the concert. Slow and full of feeling, it allowed both Ellias and Overs to simply immerse themselves in the melody. It again showed how both the bass and guitar could convey maximum emotion with minimal notes.

Finally, guitarist Wayne Eagles joined the trio for three more rhythmic numbers. The most interesting was the first, Ellias' composition "Bone Dance", which Eagles in particular turned into a very fluid, fast, and almost catchy number. In a guitar-only rendition, its formal structure is apparent; with four musicians, it developed more of a world music vibe, as the underlying pattern went through a whole series of variations.

The audience called for an encore, and I was delighted that it was again a duet between Overs and Ellias. It was a piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim, a simple melody with repeating motifs that allowed the two to trade off the melody and the ornamentation over and around it. But the ultimate impression was the sadness and sweetness of the song, enhanced by their work together.

   – Alayne McGregor

Other coverage of the 2011 Carleton University Jazz Camp: