Looking for previews of upcoming shows you might want to see? Read our reviews! Our reviews give listeners a view of a project, musician, or group they may not have seen before. Discover what goes into making one
Steve Boudreau Trio CD Release - “Preludes”
with Steve Boudreau, John Geggie, and Michel Delage
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage
Sunday, October 22, 2017 – 8:30 p.m.
Research, listening, playing – and repeated performances. All of that went into Preludes, Steve Boudreau's tribute CD to George Gershwin, and was reflected into the CD's release show on Sunday.
The result was a show that evoked the spirit of the Jazz Age composer while making it sound fresh and personal.
It's been more than a year since the Ottawa pianist recorded Preludes with double bassist John Geggie and drummer Michel Delage. The album is centered around three Gershwin compositions, the Preludes, and also includes songs from the opera Porgy and Bess and Broadway shows for which Gershwin composed the score. Boudreau added two of his own pieces to the mix, as well as a song by pop composer Brian Wilson.
At the concert, the trio performed all the pieces from the CD, but in a different order, and added a few more. Boudreau used the Preludes to frame the show: opening with “Prelude I”, including “Prelude II” midway, and closing with “Prelude III”. All three, while short, are memorable pieces and memorably Gershwin. Their brilliant and quickly-changing rhythms hearken back to the days of the player piano, but are also a precursor to Thelonious Monk's jazz innovations, decades later. “Preludes I” acted as a perfect introduction to the concert, polished and inviting.
Teri Parker Quartet
CD Release Tour for In the Past
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, October 21, 2017 – 8 p.m.
Toronto jazz pianist and composer Teri Parker writes complex, multi-layered jazz pieces, which draw their passionate energy from many musical sources. Her quartet also can swing with the best, as they proved in their Ottawa debut on Saturday.
Parker has just released her first CD with this group, which includes Juno-winning alto saxophonist Allison Au, bassist Mark Godfrey, and drummer Mackenzie Longpre. In the Past is a project she's been working on and refining for several years, and this show was one of four stops on a short Ontario CD release tour which continues this week. The quartet played almost all the tracks from the album over four hours at the Options Jazz Lounge.
They opened the night, however, with a nimble and highly enjoyable version of the jazz standard “All the Things You Are”, putting the audience in the mood for jazz – and demonstrating their individual talents and strong group communication.
The Anne Lewis Trio, with J.P. Allain and Normand Glaude
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, September 23, 2017 – 8 p.m.
This article is part of a continuing OttawaJazzScene.ca series showcasing jazz musicians regularly playing in Ottawa-Gatineau.
Ottawa vocalist Anne Lewis knows her jazz standards – and not just the common ones. During a full evening of song, she combined the classic sounds of George Gershwin and Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers with the less-well-known Carl Sigman, Luiz Bonfá, and Bernice Petkere – and many more.
Long-time favourites like “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “All of Me” were given their upbeat due, but also intimate songs like “I've Never Been in Love Before” and Broadway numbers like “Almost Like Being in Love”. She gave particular pride of place to songs popularized by 50s/60s vocalist Julie London, including the dramatic “Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast” and the torch song “Cry Me a River”.
Since she returned to Ottawa's jazz scene in 2014, Lewis has been a regular at local jazz venues, and particularly at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata. On the evening we heard her there, she attracted a noticeable crowd of vocal jazz fans seated at tables and bar seats near the stage – including several other Ottawa jazz vocalists. They listened intently and applauded each number.
Count on Lindy
Peter Liu and the Pollcats
As Duke Ellington said, “It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)”. And swing is what Peter Liu and the Pollcats have in abundance in their debut album.
The group is an Ottawa favourite at swing dances, where their enthusiasm and tight playing keep the energy going for hours of dancing. One song follows the next and the neither the dancers nor the musicians seem to flag. For this CD, they've chosen 14 of their favourite pieces, honed by many hours of playing, into compact and emphatic renditions.
The songs on the album are tried and true: “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Steppin' Out with My Baby”, “For All We Know”, “Lover Come Back To Me”. They have a definite Swing Era vibe, but listening to them, they feel fresh. They're songs that have lasted because they're fun to listen to, with danceable rhythms and sophisticated lyrics. Although there are a few slower ballads, most of the tunes are upbeat. I particularly appreciated hearing “Wham Rebop Boom Bam” on the CD, because it's often hard to understand all its super-speed lyrics at a dance.
The Pollcats are fronted by Peter Liu, whose enthusiasm for this upbeat strain of jazz comes through in person and on the album. His smooth tenor voice easily projects the lyrics, and he's got a real smile in his voice. I particularly enjoyed reed player Scott Poll, whose clarinet often acts as a second voice, and which comes to the fore in the sweet and mellow “Jersey Bounce”. Peter Turner's trombone adds sassy interjections (for example in “Frim Fram Sauce”), and Magnus Paulson on guitar, Yves Laroche on piano, Alex Mastronardi on bass, and Steve Gallant on drums keep the essential swing rhythms strong.
Tribute to John Coltrane's 91st birthday
Marc Decho and the Warp'tet
The Record Centre
Saturday, September 23, 2017 – 4 to 5 p.m.
Saxophonist John Coltrane played music which ranged from sweet and tender ballads, to fiery and visceral ensemble pieces. And it was this second, intense side to his musical personality which Marc Decho and the Warp'tet emphasized in their hour-long tribute show Saturday, to attentive listeners at the Record Centre.
It's been 50 years since Coltrane died, at the peak of his powers and far too young. Saturday would have been his 91st birthday. He was a pioneer in developing modal jazz and near the end of his life was stretching the boundaries with free jazz – and yet was also well-known for creating jazz standards out of unexpected material, like "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.
Tariq Amery, after a summer away from Ottawa, is back in town and bringing back most of the musicians who played on his debut CD, Indefinity, for another show on Thursday, September 28 at the Mercury Lounge. OttawaJazzScene.ca was there for his CD release concert this spring. Read our review and see the photos of that show to learn why the packed house left the bar with smiles.
Tariq Amery Group CD Release Show
Avant-Garde Bar, Ottawa
Friday, April 21, 2017 – 9:45 p.m.
Tariq Amery looked looked alternatively bemused and delighted at the crowd which packed the Avant-Garde Bar for the show that officially released his debut CD, Indefinity.
“Thanks, everyone, for coming. I couldn't have imagined a turnout like this!”
The jazz flutist and saxophonist has been a frequent presence on jazz stages across Ottawa-Gatineau for the past few years, adding joy and his particular touches to many shows and jams. And when it came to launching his own compositions, both musicians and listeners showed up, for a standing-room only show. The crowd ranged from 20-somethings to retirees, though with an emphasis on younger age groups, such as fellow members of the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra.
And they stayed, and applauded – for a show featuring large shifts in dynamics, bravura performances, and an overall powerful sound.
For this show, Amery brought together almost the same group who played on his album: Daniel Ko on tenor sax (on a brief visit to Ottawa), Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, Clayton Connell on keyboards, and Michel Delage on drums, with Harrison Singer sitting in on bass.
They performed the music from Indefinity – but not like a standard release show. You see, Amery isn't all that enamoured of calling out specific pieces, or even giving his songs titles, so one song transitioned into the next and no names were ever announced from the stage. That made it more difficult to anchor the sounds into different tunes, creating more of an overall soundscape rather than a collection of tunes.
Nor did the sextet precisely announce the beginning of the show. They simply congregated on stage and started playing – just improvising, not even playing anything from the CD. It was like an overture, with tenor sax and trumpet creating anthemic melodies over which Amery's flutes soared and fluttered.
The crowd quietened down almost instantly. Throughout the next hour, as improvisation flowed into the first composition and then more, they concentrated on the music coming from the small stage up front, hardly talking at all.
Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 6:45 p.m.
A three-year-old will give you an honest response. If they're dancing or listening intently to your music – they like it!
Gypsy Muse's music was a big hit with the younger crowd (and the older, too) when they played a free concert at the East Feast festival early Saturday evening. The duo's brand of gypsy jazz immediately inspired children – from barely toddling to pre-teens – and their parents to start dancing to the music, bouncing happily to its bright rhythms. And around the impromptu dancefloor stood even more people listening.
The duo consists of two local guitarists, Justin Duhaime and Nabil Yaghi. They play gypsy jazz/jazz manouche, inspired by Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France; Yaghi's guitar, with a small, oval soundhole, is the same design as those used by Reinhardt
Duhaime said the two had been playing together for about a year, and their close, confident rapport confirmed that. Gypsy jazz – particularly when you're frequently shifting the lead as this duo does – is usually fast-paced and not forgiving of mistakes or losing one's place. The music from their guitars fit together into a clean and consistent whole, graciously melodic and infectiously rhythmic.
Their acoustic performance was engaging, with the music's intricate patterns and rapid rhythms dancing out into the street. Most of their pieces were gypsy jazz classics, often written by Reinhardt himself. However, they also gave several jazz standards a jazz manouche gloss and ornamentation – for example, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Caravan”, and Chick Corea's “Armando's Rhumba”. Near the end, they played a few quieter pieces made famous by Reinhardt, including a gentle version of his ballad, “Nuages”, and “Où es tu, mon amour?”, which Yaghi had transcribed from a recording.
Gerri Trimble, Rob Martin, Charley Gordon
Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 4 p.m.
Jazz vocalist Gerri Trimble didn't have to go far for her latest gig – it was on her own porch!
Trimble, along with guitarist Rob Martin and trumpeter Charley Gordon, provided a jazz angle on the free Porchfest festival in Hintonburg on Saturday afternoon. The festival, now in its third year, showcases local musicians on volunteered porches and businesses; it promotes the idea that “local artists have a great silent talent”.
The trio attracted more than 30 music fans for their hour-long performance, including ward councillor Jeff Leiper (a sponsor of the festival), and several parents with small children. Even after the trio started playing, listeners continued to arrive by bike and on foot.
Some sat in the chairs that Trimble provided; others perched on the sidewalk on both sides of Armstrong Street. The residential street was still open to cars, but most motorists slowed down enough not to drown out the music, or waited until the end of a song to pass. (The event evoked images of the very first Ottawa Jazz Festivals on the summer stage outside the NAC. Motor vehicles on Freiman Lane would have to drive between the audience and the stage.)
Howard Johnson Tribute
with Keith Hartshorn-Walton, Michel Delage, Petr Cancura, Dave Schroeder
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, August 26, 2017 – 8 to 11:40 p.m.
Howard Johnson has been called the King of the Jazz Tuba. In a 50+-year career, the American jazz musician has played with everyone from Charles Mingus to Gil Evans to Hank Mobley to John Scofield to Tomasz Stanko. He was the original conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band in the late 70’s, and accompanied James Taylor in a performance of “Jelly Man Kelly” on Sesame Street in 1983. He also played on The Band's live film, The Last Waltz, and arranged two of the songs they played. Besides the tuba, he plays baritone sax, clarinet and other reed instruments, and penny whistle.
And he's still going strong. I heard him last year at the Guelph Jazz Festival, playing in a tribute with Jane Bunnett to pianist Don Pullen. Just this year, he released his most recent album with his six-tuba group, Gravity.
So this was not your typical tribute show, which are generally for musicians who are, if not dead, at least not playing regularly. Johnson is still in the scene, composing and playing.
The Avant-Garde Bar, Ottawa
Saturday, August 19, 2017 – 8 to 11:30 p.m.
Partway through Snaggle's first set on Saturday, I looked around the Avant-Garde Bar and noticed something out of the ordinary in the crowd: no phones and no talking. Every face was turned toward the stage and everyone was listening intently.
And that's what this Toronto-based jazz fusion band deserved. It was an attention-grabbing show, mixing high-quality musicianship with complex compositions, and enhancing it all with friendly communication with the audience.
Snaggle is led by keyboard player Nick Maclean, who grew up in Ottawa, and was a frequent face on this city's jazz scene before he moved to Toronto. The band reflects his own diverse fusion of interests: jazz, of course, but also other beats and different electronic effects. In this, he's joined by trumpeter Brownman Ali, who produced the group's latest album, and performed with them on Saturday. Ali could play straight and beautiful trumpet lines, but also several times ran his instrument through an effects generator for a punctuated, electric-guitar-like sound.
The result: music which could be raw and seriously groove out, but which could also be nuanced and lovely.