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©Brett Delmage, 2017
Teri Parker (piano) and Allison Au (sax) were well-attuned to each others' style of playing in the quartet's CD release show ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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.

Anne Lewis ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Anne Lewis delivered standards with aplomb and understanding at the Options Jazz Lounge at the Brookstreet Hotel in September. She returns there on October 20
©Brett Delmage, 2017

The Anne Lewis Trio, with J.P. Allain and Normand Glaude
Options Jazz Lounge, Brookstreet Hotel
Saturday, September 23, 2017 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

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
Independent, 2017

Count on Lindy by Peter Liu and the Pollcats
Count on Lindy CD cover, with Scott Poll and Peter Liu of the Pollcats. Photo by Vintage Photography Emporium

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.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
(l-r) Valeriy Nehovora, Marc Decho, and Michel Delage ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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 ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Tariq Amery ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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.

Gypsy Muse
East Feast
Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 6:45 p.m.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
The joy of Gypsy Muse's music (on stage: Nabil Yaghi (l) and Justin Duhaime (r)) ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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.

Listeners made themselves comfortable to enjoy the hour-long Porchfest concert by vocalist and host Gerri Trimble, guitarist Rob Martin, and trumpeter Charley Gordon ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Listeners made themselves comfortable to enjoy the hour-long Ottawa Porchfest concert by vocalist and host Gerri Trimble, guitarist Rob Martin, and trumpeter Charley Gordon ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Gerri Trimble, Rob Martin, Charley Gordon
Ottawa Porchfest
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.)

Keith Walton-Hartshorn (tuba), Petr Cancura (sax), and Mike Fahie (trombone) ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Keith Hartshorn-Walton, who studied with jazz tuba master Howard Johnson, played tunes which Johnson made famous in a tribute August 25-26 at Brooktreet's Options Jazz Lounge. The tribute also featured saxophonist Petr Cancura and guest trombonist Mike Fahie (shown), plus drummer Michel Delage and bassist Dave Schroeder. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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.

Snaggle's Ottawa performance with Brownman Ali had everyone's attention ©Brett Delmage, 2017
The Avant-Garde Bar was packed with intent listeners for Snaggle's show on Saturday ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The Avant-Garde Bar, Ottawa
Saturday, August 19, 2017 – 8 to 11:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

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.

Django [2017]
directed by Étienne Comar
ByTowne Cinema (August 4-10, 2017)

To modern ears, gypsy jazz (aka jazz manouche) sounds as fresh as when guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt first invented it. Rooted in the exotic music he learned growing up in gypsy caravans, and then reinvented through the American jazz of Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, his music was, by the late 1930s, hugely popular in France and England.

And no wonder! The combination of Reinhardt on guitar and Stéphane Grappelli on violin was intense and compelling, and Reinhardt's compositions like “Minor Swing” became immediate and memorable classics. Whether live or on recordings, the music of their Quintette du Hot Club de France grabbed their audiences with its all-encompassing swing and drive. You can see and hear that energy at the beginning of this film, with an extended recreation of a Paris concert by the quintet.

That's a real strength of this film: it never loses sight of the fact that music was the essence of Django Reinhardt and the core of his life. At one point, he's asked, “Do you know music?”, and replies, “No, but music knows me!”

To Django, music and his family and friends were what mattered – certainly not outside politics. As far as he was concerned, World War II was a gjado war – not a concern of himself or his fellow Roma (gypsies). Perhaps he was unwilling to recognize the evil, perhaps he was naïve, or perhaps he felt he had more important things to think about.