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©Brett Delmage, 2018
Miguel de Armas and Elizabeth Rodriguez ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Afro-Cuban Meets Jazz featuring Miguel de Armas and OKAN
NAC Fourth Stage
Saturday, October 13, 2018 – 8:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

I have rarely felt that much energy and joie de vivre pouring out of a group as in the collaboration between Miguel de Armas and OKAN this month.

For two successive evenings, they took over the NAC Fourth Stage and turned it into a Cuban fiesta, combining their own compositions, jazz standards, and Afro-Cuban songs into a joyous rush of music.

On the first (Saturday) evening, every seat was taken in the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage – and there were fans perched in the window ledges. Each song was greeted with strong applause, and by the last song most of the audience was up dancing, and stayed on their feet to give the group a standing ovation and to demand an encore.

There was a strong simpatico and easy communication among all five musicians on-stage – not surprising given their similar roots in Cuba and their performances together here. This was the third time that de Armas and OKAN had performed together (the first was last New Year's Eve in Ottawa).

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Tenth Ward Shakedown (l-r: Keith Hartshorn-Walton, Sean Duhaime, Andrew Ferderber, Tariq Amery) brought the feel-good energy of New Orleans to Ottawa in their show at the Art House Café. ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Tenth Ward Shakedown
The Art House Café
Friday, October 26, 2018 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The Tenth Ward is a wedge-shaped section of central New Orleans. In jazz terms, it's best known as the home of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, a charismatic and powerful cornetist who, at the turn of the 20th century, became the father of New Orleans jazz.

New Orleans has been called “the birthplace of jazz” – in its most approachable way. Its jazz has a swinging, stomping, syncopated beat that makes people want to dance. From Bolden through Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton to modern masters like Trombone Shorty and Kermit Ruffins, the city's jazz is noted for its feel-good energy, freedom of expression through improvisation, spontaneity, and fun.

And that's the vibe a crowded room heard at The Art House Café on Friday evening.

The Ottawa jazz group Tenth Ward Shakedown – Tariq Amery on saxophone, Sean Duhaime on electric guitar, and Keith Hartshorn-Walton on double bass – has been presenting this material at the Café in monthly shows since last April. In August, they added a drummer to the line-up, contributing even more energy to the mix; for this evening, it was Andrew Ferderber.

In two sets, they played a mix of music by New Orleans musicians – Sidney Bechet, the Meters, and the archetypal Big Easy trad tune, “When the Saints Come Marching In” – plus jazz standards given a New Orleans kick.

Their energy never flagged over more than two hours of music. Amery in particular is a dynamo in concert, swirling his soprano sax around and about and constantly moving with the music. The others mostly stood still, but their fingers didn't – Duhaime produced fast flurries of notes on his guitar and high harmonics, Hartshorn-Walton deep, velvety bass lines, and Ferderber strongly propulsive drumming that drove all the tunes. Their wide range of dynamics in “Tenor Madness” was typical: from swinging, to in the groove, to super-fast, to stately and deep, to thumping drums, to swinging again.

Keith Hartshorn-Walton and Bill Mahar recreating <i>Top and Bottom Brass</i> ©Brett Delmage, 2018
Keith Hartshorn-Walton and Bill Mahar recreating Top and Bottom Brass ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Tuba players have learned to value every jazz recording that features their instrument in a leading role – and one of the first was the 1959 collaboration between famed trumpeter Clark Terry and tuba player Don Butterfield, called Top and Bottom Brass.

Ottawa's jazz tuba player, Keith Hartshorn-Walton, teamed up with Montreal trumpeter Bill Mahar to recreate that album last Saturday at Record Runner Rehearsal Studios – and maybe increase the tuba a bit in the mix, too!

The show was warmly received by the near-capacity audience, with Hartshorn-Walton's rounded tuba lines nicely melding and contrasting with Mahar on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Besides Hartshorn-Walton's arrangements of all the pieces from Top and Bottom Brass, they performed two of Mahar's arrangements from the 1957 Miles Davis/Gil Evans Birth of the Cool album which also prominently feature tuba together with trumpet or flugelhorn. Also included were three modern numbers by Ottawa and Montreal jazz composers, where the tuba smoothly slid into the saxophone or trombone parts. Filling in the music were Peter Hum on piano, Dave Schroeder on double bass, and Michel Delage on drums.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Kellylee Evans' show was at the end of an 11-hour day of jazz that started at 10:30 a.m. and closed a four-day festival but that didn't stop the audience from getting up and dancing throughout her show   ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Kellylee Evans
2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville United Arts Centre
Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

It was such a relief to see Kellylee Evans dancing again.

Evans has always been such a physical performer, singing not only with her full, clear, powerful voice, but with her whole body. For the past five years, the Ottawa vocalist has been completely or partially sidelined by the aftereffects of being struck by lightning while washing dishes, followed by a concussion two years later. But judging from her performance at the 2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest, she is fully back on her feet.

Or, more specifically, two-inch stilettos, in which she swayed to the music, danced, and even jumped in the air repeatedly in her high-energy show which closed the festival. Backed by a crackerjack group of Toronto musicians (Michael Shand on keyboards and guitar, Mark Godfrey on bass, and Ian Wright on drums), Evans delivered a carefully-organized and finely-tuned performance that was rapturously received by the capacity audience in the Merrickville United Arts Centre.

She opened with “My Name Is” from her I Remember When album, followed it with the title track from that album, and continued in her first set with some of her best-known songs from three previous albums.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Landen Vieira celebrates the jazz tradition in his own compositions
©Brett Delmage, 2018

The Landen Vieira Quartet
2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 3 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Toronto saxophonist Landen Vieira is only 26 years old but a strong promoter of the jazz tradition, judging from his afternoon concert at the 2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest.

He celebrates the tradition in his own jazz compositions, and those were what he primarily presented in his afternoon concert with a high-powered jazz quartet. It was an accomplished show, with consistently interesting performances from Vieira on tenor sax, Dave Restivo on keyboards, Morgan Childs on drums, and Malcolm Connor on double bass.

Almost all the set list came from Vieira's latest album, Dream. The tunes drew primarily on bebop and modal jazz, and, listening to them, you could imagine yourself back in the 1950s or 60s. Vieira's song, “Do It” was reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, with a deep and growling bass riff opener and a swinging tenor melody, while “Double Vision” was a double-time bebop number with with pointing and questioning tenor lines.

The quartet opened with the Coltranesque “Light Piece”, an attention-drawing opener showing off their tight ensemble playing. The commanding sax line was easily matched by the fast and exact piano solo, the constructive bass solo, and the propulsive and cymbal-heavy drumming.

But the ensemble could also go more deeply and intently in the ballads, for example, the wistful and contemplative “Dove”. The quartet particularly let themselves dig in on the two standards, “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” and “Body and Soul”. Vieira told the audience that “Softly” was one of his favourite tunes, and you could hear that in the devotion and warmth with which he played the melody before taking it out with fast, vibrating lines.

The show was full of fine musical moments from the individual musicians. Listening to Restivo's reflective piano solo on “Do It” was like sinking into a pool of sound. He opened “Body and Soul” with a lovely quiet piano solo with a hint of underlying sadness, the melody just barely perceptible.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
l-r: Garry Elliott, Camil Belisle, Adrian Vedady, Steve Boudreau
©Brett Delmage, 2018

The Elliott / Boudreau Quartet
2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Merrickville United Arts Centre
Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 1 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ottawa guitarist Garry Elliott and pianist Steve Boudreau are long-time – and highly compatible – musical collaborators. They've been playing together for 15 years now and known each other for even longer; Elliott even taught Boudreau guitar as a teenager. You could hear the depth of their communication and interaction in their quartet show in Merrickville.

After releasing a duo CD (Pre-Dawn Skies) in 2013, they formed a quartet with Montreal musicians Adrian Vedady (double bass) and Camil Belisle (drums) two years ago. They have a new CD as a quartet, Opus 2, just out.

Their 75-minute show at MJF was primarily an introduction to the new CD, with one song from their first CD and a few standards.

Their opening number, Elliott's “Happy Returns”, was from Opus 2. Electric guitar, then keyboards, then double bass each contributed sections to the soundscape, all supported by light textures on cymbals and drums. It was a meditative piece, with touches of Pat Metheny in the guitar, organ voicings in the keyboards, and blues in the double bass – but consistently touching the heart with its melody.

l-r: Howard Tweddle, Bettyann Bryanton, Pierre Monfils©Brett Delmage, 2018
Sunday morning was full of joyous sounds, as Ripple Effect provided the musical soundtrack to the worship service at Merrickville's Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
(l-r: Howard Tweddle, Bettyann Bryanton, Pierre Monfils) ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Ripple Effect
2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 10:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this service

The final day of the 2018 Merrickville's Jazz Fest began with a jazzy worship service and ended with a concert reminiscent of a revival meeting, in a jam-packed day of mainstream jazz.

Because a donor offered us a ride to the festival, OttawaJazzScene.ca was able to review and photograph almost all the Sunday concerts, with the exception of the dinner shows which had sold out. We heard Ripple Effect, the Elliott/Boudreau Quartet, the Landen Vieira Quartet, a few minutes of The Nick Maclean Quartet, and Kellylee Evans.

Sunday morning was full of joyous sounds, as Ripple Effect provided the musical soundtrack to the worship service at Merrickville's Holy Trinity Anglican Church. The quintet, led by pianist Ginny Simonds, opened and closed the service with pieces by Canadian jazz composer Joe Sealy, whom they had played tribute to in several concerts earlier this year.

They also included several other Sealy compositions in sets during the service, as well as sunny numbers from Stevie Wonder, Pete Seeger, Harold Arlen, and Dino Valenti – and even a regular hymn. But regardless of the source, the music had a strong jazz vibe from the combination of keyboards (Simonds), tenor and soprano sax (Peter Woods), double bass (Howard Tweddle), and drums and cajon (Lu Frattaroli).

©Brett Delmage, 2018
In her GigSpace show, Diane Nalini expressively sang favourite jazz and jazzified tunes in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and English, along some of her own compositions in those languages. ©Brett Delmage, 2018

Diane Nalini
Friday, October 12, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

In a vivacious and entertaining trio show Friday, vocalist Diane Nalini demonstrated that jazz can originate in many lands and be communicated in many languages.

Nalini has traveled around the world, including studying in England and Australia. Well-known as the resident vocalist for the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, she's recently presented several of her own trio shows. For this concert at GigSpace, she teamed up with Ottawa jazz stalwarts John Geggie on double bass and Mark Ferguson on piano and trombone.

She described this show as “a musical journey across the Americas” but those used to just the Great American Songbook would have felt some cognitive dissonance. Up first was a song in French, then one in Portuguese, then a Spanish number, before Nalini finally sang in English. In fact, only a quarter of the songs on the set list were in English. Even the Cole Porter number was one of the few he co-wrote with French lyrics!

But at the same time, the feel and the style of the music was emphatically jazz, and definitely crowd-pleasing. It included jazz classics, jazz interpretations of pop songs, and several originals by Nalini.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Takashi Itani made music with aluminum trays ©Brett Delmage, 2018

IMOO Fest 2018, Day 2:
The Nick Fraser New Quartet – 9 p.m.
This Is It! (Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, Takashi Itani) – 10 p.m.
Saturday, September 22, 2018

View photos by Brett Delmage of the performance by This is It!

We weren't sure we were going to be able to get to the second day of IMOO Fest 2018 – and afterwards were very glad we'd dashed back to see it.

The headliner for that evening, and for the festival, was the This Is It! trio led by Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, with her long-time partner, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, and with percussionist Takashi Itani. They were on an extended Canadian/U.S. tour that took them from Montreal to Vancouver, and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Starting at a relatively late time of 10 p.m., the trio nevertheless enthralled their audience with a vigorous and highly inventive set of four improvised pieces in slightly more than an hour.

From the first notes, it was obvious they were going to explore the full (and less conventional) capabilities of their instruments. Fujii opened by playing very lightly inside GigSpace's Yamaha grand piano on its strings – a tiny beautiful sprinkle of notes – while Itani bowed the edges of his cymbals, creating a swelling and moaning sound. Tamura cupped his hands around his mouth to create his own mouth trumpet noises.

Fujii used prepared piano in this concert – and one of her signal sounds, which I hadn't seen from other avant-garde pianists, was to run a string under and around piano strings. Then, holding one end of the string in each hand in a “V” above the piano, she pulled the string back and forth, rubbing it against the piano strings to create curious sounds, sometimes echoing, sometimes buzzing.

It was one of several times that she played inside the piano. Another time she began with light rustling notes, and let the vibrations swell as she plucked individual strings. The sound was notably Japanese in feel, like single raindrops falling. It developed into a pattern, and then Fujii played on the piano keyboard against this repeating pattern.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
The post-tornado power-outage didn't stop Nomad from delivering a spellbinding battery-powered and acoustic performance at The Record Centre ©Brett Delmage, 2018

IMOO Fest 2018, Day 3:
The Record Centre
Sunday, September 23, 2018 – 2 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

If a power outage could be considered to be an opportunity, Nomad undoubtedly made full use of that possibility to create spellbinding music at The Record Centre on the final day of IMOO Fest 2018.

Playing acoustically and without drums, they created billowing and beautiful soundscapes which filled the store and kept almost everyone there intently listening.

The blackout had still not lifted in Hintonburg, but the record store had opened briefly on Saturday and then all day Sunday, hosting two jazz shows of which Nomad was the second. Ottawa musician Keith Hartshorn-Walton was able to lend the band not only his double bass, but even more importantly a battery-powered amp for the band's guitarist. And music lovers came out – both to hear the bands, and to flip through record bins and buy LPs.