The JazzWorks Sunday jam sessions have developed a personality all their own. As opposed to the regular third-Thursday jams, which are crowded, busy and full of musical friends eager to play and chat, the Sunday ones are quieter, less populated and more relaxed. With fewer musicians on hand, those who are there get a chance to play more often and for a longer time.
The June 9 jam, the last Sunday one until September, had the same easy vibe to it, right from the beginning. The host band, Hélène Knoerr (vocals, bass), Devon Woods (saxes, clarinet, flute), Chris Smith (drums) and John Wiseman (guitar), had a laid-back feeling, typified by Hélène’s singing, which has a kind of Bebel Gilberto quality to it. I know that’s an oversimplification but it gives you a general idea.
An impressive thing about this group, as with some other recent jam session host bands, is the amount of attention paid to repertoire. It used to be that bands would come in, play Summertime, Route 66, Blue Bossa and all the other greatest hits. But lately I’ve noticed a real attempt to come up with lesser-heard material. The band Sunday played something by Henri Salvador, the name of which escapes me, but was gorgeous, also one of the more difficult standards, You Go to My Head, sung by John Wiseman, in one of the afternoon’s pleasant surprises.
The jamming part of the afternoon featured, among other things, the return of bassist Bohne Forsberg, always a driving force on the bandstand and great cheerleader off it. Right at the end of the afternoon, pianist Al Short called trumpeter Tom Harrell’s beautiful Sail Away, which is way too complex to play at a jam session, but what the heck. Because I’m a big Tom Harrell fan, I’ve played it a lot, but Bohne and Al and Chris Smith hadn’t, yet they sailed through it without a hitch. That sort of thing can happen at a jam session — as well as the other kind of thing.
(And here’s my Ottawa Jazz Festival plug: Tom Harrell will be playing with his long-time quintet on Friday, June 21 at the Studio in the National Arts Centre at 7 p.m. Over the years, he has done some really interesting writing for strings and on this occasion, the quintet will be augmented by a string quartet.)
This week, the last Thursday jam session until September, features drummer Tim Leah, with Pat Kelly, guitar, Rob Ward, guitar, Brian Kirk, saxophones, Craig Reid, trumpet and Lance Schwerdfager, electric bass. It’s at the Carleton Tavern, beside the Parkdale Market. The host band plays a set at 8:30 and the open jamming begins after that.
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About this blog
Tune Up won't be a calendar of events — Ottawa Jazz Happenings takes care of that. But it will discuss events and issues of interest to the JazzWorks community. Journalist, author, trumpet player and a jazz camper since 1999, Charley Gordon is a former vice-president of JazzWorks.