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©Brett Delmage, 2017
Diana Krall and her band, including Robert Hurst on bass and Karriem Riggins on drums, gave a tight and dramatic performance in their first of two nights at Canada's National Arts Centre on December 1. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Diana Krall: Turn Up The Quiet Tour (night 1)
NAC Presents
Southam Hall, National Arts Centre
Friday, December 1, 2017 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Diana Krall's latest album, Turn Up The Quiet, marks her return to classic jazz standards. So it was fitting that the first number in her Ottawa concert on Friday was a archetypal quintet rendition of “'Deed I Do”, a 1926 standard popularized by Benny Goodman – and a long-time favourite tune which she recorded in 2002.

It was a sparkling start to the concert, energetically combining all the musicians' talents, and showcasing each with nicely-timed solos. Krall's bands have all featured top-notch jazz musicians, and this time she appeared with four highly-regarded American jazz and bluegrass players, including her regular guitarist, Anthony Wilson, and bassist Robert Hurst. Drummer Karriem Riggins and fiddler Stuart Duncan also were with her in Ottawa in 2013. All but Hurst played on Turn Up The Quiet.

Krall has always been a favourite with Ottawa audiences, selling out her last few appearances at the NAC. For this show, the 2,065-seat Southam Hall was almost full, although there were some empty seats visible in the Orchestra section. Ottawa was one of the few cities on Krall's tour where she scheduled two concerts, with a second show on Saturday.

With ticket prices ranging from $70.50 – $160.50, the concert was definitely an “event”. Many of the listeners were dressed to match (although I also saw others in jeans). Before the show people were taking selfies of themselves with the stage as a backdrop. As soon as the music started, the enthusiasm was obvious, with strong applause right from the first solo. The applause gradation ranged from strong, to very strong, to extremely strong, to two standing ovations.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Linsey Wellman and David Parker used the resonance of the hard-edged space to add definition to what they played ©Brett Delmage, 2017

IMOO #166: David Parker and Linsey Wellman
General Assembly, Ottawa
Sunday, November 19, 2017 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The double bass and the baritone saxophone are best known as deep-pitched instruments. But at the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais show on November 19, David Parker and Linsey Wellman made them sing right across the musical spectrum – and together, in a completely-improvised show.

This was Wellman's public debut on baritone. His usual instruments, until now, have been the alto sax and bass clarinet. He's a strong performer on both, using circular breathing to create long passages which can rapidly move between quiet and loud, calm and intense, low and high pitched.

A month ago, he bought a baritone sax and he's been playing with it ever since. The first set of this show showed how much he'd accomplished already: he had the same intense approach to baritone as the alto, but the resulting sound was fuller and broader. While his alto playing is very pointed and keen-edged, cutting through any other sounds in the room, his baritone sound was wider and extended more deeply. At the same time, he was also able to take it right up and down the scale, with bird tweets dropping down to foghorn growls.

As he has previously played alto, Wellman used multiphonics to create multiple strands of sound in a wide-ranging display. His 30-minute performance which opened this show was effectively continuous – with only a few stops for breath. He moved from barely breathing into the instrument to playing frantically and full-out, creating dramatic passages.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Mike Filice (sax) and Artie Roth (bass) showed how attuned they were together in their concert at Southminster ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The Artie Roth Trio
Concerts by the Canal
Southminster United Church
Saturday, October 28, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

On a cold, wet, late October evening, the Artie Roth Trio provided a warm and welcoming offering of intricate and original jazz.

The Toronto-based trio – Roth on double bass, Mike Filice on tenor and soprano saxophone, and Alexei Orechin on guitar – played Roth's tunes, all but one of which were from his most recent two albums. It was a varied lot, from bluesy with strong riffs, to classically-influenced, to a tender elegy, but all very much in his own voice. Roth introduced each of the pieces to the audience, telling stories about them and explaining their influences. He made the whole concert feel like a musical conversation among friends.

The music was overall on the quiet, more ambient side. Roth specifically chose this repertoire to fit the reverberant quality of the church's interior. In that space, his bowed bass lines swelled and ebbed, and his pizzicato notes sang and sometimes felt almost physically present. Orechin's guitar was silvery and fluid, while Filice's saxophones sounded insinuatingly melodic with a very full tone.

Roth had told OttawaJazzScene.ca that one of his aims as a composer was to create singable tunes, and you could hear that in several of the pieces. “Heron Aria” was a graceful, classically-influenced tribute to the Great Blue Heron he and his wife saw flying only 6 or 7 feet above them on a lake near Parry Sound. “Memories Remaining” was inspired by his late grandmother-in-law, who used to ask him “wickedly difficult” musical questions; it had a memorably nostalgic melody. In “Fathom”, the melody was neatly tossed from musician to musician, each playing with it but retaining its essential character. “A Transient Space” was a particularly lovely ambient tune, with soprano sax, bass, and guitar all being given the space to sound and fade and meld in a quiet and expressive piece.

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.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

©Brett Delmage, 2017
The Steve Boudreau Trio was the first jazz group to play in the newly-rebuilt Fourth Stage at the National Arts Centre ©Brett Delmage, 2017

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.

©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.