At his highly successful CD launch on May 21, Gaby Warren gave a shout-out to JazzWorks, thanking Judy Humenick, John Geggie and the jazz camp for helping him in his musical development. Fittingly, three members of the jazz camp faculty were in his band — pianist Nancy Walker, drummer Nick Fraser and Geggie on bass.
This is not the only bit of JazzWorks-related CD news. Another faculty member, Garry Elliott, has just released a beautiful CD, entitled Pre-Dawn Skies. It features Garry on guitar along with Steve Boudreau on piano. All the songs on the CD are originals by Garry and Steve.
Two summers ago, Steve too was at camp, as part of the faculty.
Those who were at camp last summer will remember a gorgeous composition played by three guitarists (Garry, Kim Ratcliffe and Kevin Barrett) as part of the faculty concert. That tune, called Folk Like, is on the CD. (For further information, contact Garry as email@example.com.)
One further bit of exciting CD news concerns the live recording by the Rob Frayne Dream Band of its Fourth Stage Concert last November. The CD is in the editing stage. I have heard a rough version of it and it is terrific. Too often after you have enjoyed a live performance, the recording of that performance is disappointing. This one is not.
For those who were not there, the 15 piece band is an all-star organization from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, including current JazzWorks faculty members Jim Lewis on trumpet, Frank Lozano on saxophones and Rob Frayne on keyboards, along with guitarist Roddy Ellias, who was front and centre at this year’s JazzWorks winter workshop. Former campers include vocalist Megan Jerome, drummer Mike Essoudry and trumpeter Meiko Taylor. Others include trombonists Mark Ferguson and Ryan Purchase, saxophonists Petr Cancura and Mike Murley, bassist Jim Vivian, flutist Janet Geiger, percussionist Alvaro de Minaya and vocalist Megan Jerome. Most of the compositions and all of the arrangements are Rob Frayne’s.
The band will be performing June 30 during the Ottawa International Jazz Festival on the on the main stage at 8 p.m. Don’t miss it. The finished CDs should be available by then.
By the way, I’m happy to pass on news of other CDs by members of the JazzWorks community. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Leah (photo by Nathan McTague at the May jam)
Alrick Huebener’s nephew, Nathan McTague, brought his camera to the May 16 jam session at the Carleton Tavern and took some artful shots. While he was there he got to hear Alrick’s group, named after the mysterious Ralph Mercredi, play a really nice set.
The set was all the more impressive given that the group’s regular guitarist, Louis Allard, had to miss the session. So Alrick, on bass, along with David Fraser on tenor, Derek Smith on trumpet and Dave Finlayson, on drums played with no chord instrument. They brought it off and took on an edgier kind of sound in such modern classics as Ornette Coleman’s Blues Connotation.
Among the assembled jammers were Karen Oxorn, who made an infrequent but welcome visit and sang beautifully as always, Lee Anne Frederickson who made an impressive JazzWorks debut singing Girl From Ipanema and tenor saxophonist Dimitry Egunov who turned heads with his playing on There Will Never Be Another You.
A reminder that next month’s regular jam will be held on Wednesday, June 19, instead of the Thursday. This is due to the opening of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival. Host band will be a group that has played together for many years, both at jazz camp and around town. It features Pat Kelly, guitar, Rob Ward, guitar, Brian Kirk, saxophones, Craig Reid, trumpet, Lance Schwerdfager, electric bass, and Tim Leah, drums.
Sunday jams will continue
Here’s news. The monthly Sunday jam sessions that begin in March as a pilot project will continue, after a decision by the JazzWorks board of directors.
While less well-attended than their Thursday counterparts, the Sunday jams have attracted a steady following, including many who come just to listen. The atmosphere is quieter, more relaxed and there is more opportunity for the musicians in attendance to play. As their reputation gets around, the Sunday jams will certainly grow.
The May 12 jam featured a well-rehearsed performance by Swing Time, with Janet Hofstetter on vocals, Paul Bourdeau and Rob Martin on guitar, Ann Downey on bass and Joseph Zulak on violin, with several invited guests, including Betty Ann Bryanton for a tongue-in-cheek vocal duet on My Baby Just Cares for Me.
The next Sunday jam, June 9, features Hélène Knoerr (vocals, double bass) Devon Woods (saxes, clarinet, flute), Chris Smith (drums) and John Wiseman (guitar). That’s 2 p.m. at the friendly Carleton Tavern, beside the Parkdale Market.
SwingTime, the original group in concert
Sunday’s jam session, May 12 at 2 p.m. at the Carleton Tavern, will be led by Swing Time, a group with a unique sound and approach, as well as some very capable musicians. The personel is as follows:
Janet Hofstetter, vocals and snare
Paul Bourdeau, guitar
Rob Martin, guitar
Ann Downey, bass
Joseph Zulak, violin
Here’s vocalist and occasional snare drummer, Janet Hofstetter, describing the group’s origins and philosophy.
“Swing Time was an idea long before it was a reality. When I met Paul Bourdeau nine years ago, we quickly discovered our mutual love of Fred Astaire and we just starting doing tunes together because ... well, that's what we do.Paul is a very versatile guitarist, with many years playing standard jazz, fusion, original compositions and Django-style hot jazz. But when we starting doing the tunes that we both knew, the repertoire lent itself to a swing style. We liked the sound of Susie Arioli's Swing Band (as it was called then), and it was nice to add the snare to our duo. We always wanted to expand to a nice little unit, but it wasn't until one of Paul's students asked him to perform at a fundraising benefit that we had a push to do it.
“We had met fiddler Peter Dawson at ‘swing night’ which was a regular thing at Rasputin's and later at the Carleton Tavern. Paul and Peter had an instant musical chemistry. We met bassist Jonathan Ferrabee at an event at the Rainbow. He wanted more jazz experience and recognized playing with us as an opportunity to get it.
“Paul's very gifted guitar student, Joseph MacDonald, a musical sponge for all kinds of jazz, had no trouble picking up the very demanding chug-chug rhythm duties in Swing Time, as well as contributing beautiful melodic solos. We were all set.
“That was 2009, and we've been swinging ever since!
"We've had some personnel changes since then. Joseph has moved away to Toronto to develop his talents in a bigger space, and Jonathan has had to reduce his involvement. Peter is still a full member of the band, but because he has a very full dance card we needed to find another violinist to step in when needed.
“This is where JazzWorks comes in. When you need people to be in your band, a JazzWorks jam session is a great place to find them. I loved Joseph Zulak's violin contributions the first time I heard him, and made a mental note to call him. Bassist Ann Downey has all the chops you could ever want and is great singer, too. Plus, she's got an encyclopedic knowledge of many repertoires! And when Rob Martin heard Paul play on a rare occasion when I could get Paul to come to a jam session, they began talking about their mutual love of Django Reinhardt and started to perform together as a hot jazz guitar duo. So, Rob, of course, was the natural choice for Swing Time when the other guitar chair came open.
“Our repertoire includes a lot of happy tunes at a good dance tempo (Aren't You Glad You're You?, Cheek to Cheek), with a few forays into what Paul and I like to call "the mysterious" (Dancing in the Dark). It's a little off the beaten track, but there is something at least vaguely familiar to most people in the audience. Lots of playful improvisation, plenty of fun arrangement ideas. With the depth of talent in this band, we can do a lot with a tune.”
Ralph Mercredi leads the Thursday jam
The regular Thursday jam session, May 15 at 8:30 p.m, will be led by The Ralph Mercredi Quintet
Louis Allard, guitar
Alrick Huebener, upright electric bass
Dave Finlayson, drums
Derek Smith, trumpet
David Fraser, tenor sax
As a public service, I can reveal that there is no such person as Ralph Mercredi — at least, I’ve never seen him at a jam session. What I do know is that the five musicians you will hear at next Wednesday’s jam session regular rehearse on Wednesdays at a house on Ralph Street.
For further information, I quote the group’s spokesperson and bassist, Alrick Huebener:
“The Ralph Mercredi Quintet (RMQ) is a jazz collective that has been blowing, strumming and thumping out jazz for about nine years. Their repertoire is an ever-changing mix of jazz standards, modern and original tunes which members bring to the band because they simply like them or see them as vehicles for creative expression or musical exploration. Occasionally, this includes jazzifying tunes by Johnny Cash or others outside the jazz canon.”
Composers at work in the woods.
This summer marks the second edition of the latest JazzWorks innovation, the two-day Composers’ Symposium and Independent Practice extension that precedes the regular camp. For those of you who are wondering whether to take part, what follows is a description of how the extension, as we call it, works. Helping the description are thoughts gleaned from email interviews with some of last year’s participants.
Last summer, four faculty members — John Geggie (bass), Jim Lewis (trumpet), Frank Lozano (saxophone) and Dave Restivo (piano) — were on hand to assist JazzWorks participants with their original compositions, many of which would be played a few days later in the camp’s closing concert. There were 11 participants in the Composers’ Extension.
The same faculty members were available to assist those campers who took advantage of the Independent Practice option, which went on at the same time. There were 10 of these, bringing their instruments to CAMMAC for a couple of quiet days of practice before the bulk of the campers arrived. The faculty offered tips and guidance on practising.
Both composers and practisers (as they came to be known) enjoyed certain common elements. One was a series of general discussions on jazz and playing it in which faculty folks offered useful, and always entertaining ideas based on their experience as professional musicians. Another was the peaceful environment at a relatively unpopulated camp — 25 or so people, instead of 90 or so — one that seemed conducive to practising or composing, or both.
Pianist Ginny Simonds attended the Independent Practice camp with other members of her group, Wave. “Although I had intended to spend time in individual practice, it turned out to be a great opportunity to play with others, share ideas and resources, have one-on-one time with faculty members, and generally let things happen a little more organically,” she noted.
The advantages of a less populated environment were not lost on her either. “Without schedules to follow, the quiet evenings provided time to take advantage of the beauty of the area,” she said. “We explored the lake by canoe both evenings, watched the sunset with wine in hand, and of course couldn't resist a little more jamming.”
Drummer Dave Finlayson, another practiser, had a similar reaction: “The prospect of dedicated practice sessions away from home, free access to faculty and fellow JazzWorks campers for an extra two days was too good to turn down,” he said. “The symposium exceeded my expectations. Faculty-led sessions on ear training, concepts of practicing, rhythm section wisdom and other topics turned out to be an added value I hadn’t anticipated. At least twice a day we students gathered with faculty for broad-ranging and informal discussions on everything jazz. It was instructive and comforting to hear that we all face many of the same challenges, and to pick up tips for managing them. The spontaneous jam sessions were particularly rewarding as I was able to depart from playing the standards to work on some specific rhythmic concepts with fellow musicians. All this in the gorgeous setting of CAMMAC. How could you go wrong?”
As for the composers, here’s how pianist and composer Gretchen Schwarz remembers the two days: “As I recall, on Tuesday evening everyone got together in a large group and brainstormed some topics we wanted to explore with faculty members the following day. Rooms were assigned for these discussions, so — for example (and I am totally making this up) — if you wanted to talk about scales to use while soloing over chord structures, you would go to Lucy where John and Jim were presenting. At the same time, Frank and Dave were going to be discussing modes in Verdi. After these post-breakfast lectures and discussions on both Wednesday and Thursday mornings, we broke off into private practice rooms — the composition people having worked out loose agreements to book time with various faculty members who were very generous in giving their help and support (and actually seemed to enjoy doing it!). Meals were served at the usual times. On Wednesday evening, we again got together as a large group and assessed how the day had gone. Similar plans were made for the next day ….”
I was one of the so-called composers and, like others, was taken with the informality of the proceedings. There was ample time to try to apply what we were learning to what we were writing and get the reaction of faculty to what we had put on paper.
On the first night, I handed Jim Lewis a piece I was working on. He took a quick look and made some suggestions, including some stuff about notation that I didn’t know. The next day, with lots of free time available, I took the piece to one of the cabins. (For those who have not been to CAMMAC, it is full of music rooms and cabins with pianos.) While I was hacking away at the piece, who should emerge from the woods but Jim and Frank Lozano, tenor saxophone in hand. They looked at the piece and played it through, made some suggestions about chords and structure.
This was typical of faculty behaviour. They actively sought out both practicers and composers and offered to help. Later I asked Dave Restivo to look at another tune. He played it through (making it sound wonderful, of course) and showed how changing a chord would make a melody note sound better.
The final afternoon, the faculty set up in one of the larger music rooms and played through some of the tunes that the composers had brought. What a rewarding experience that was (hope the faculty enjoyed it too)!
As far as I can tell, my experience was shared by others, especially those who had arrived with a composition in hand. “It was the first time that I heard the tune played live when it was played by the pros at the end of the symposium,” said pianist Gerald Lemay. “This was way cool!”
Gerald added that “leading up to this interpretation of the piece were countless edits and revisions based on the suggestions from the pros. I had several one-on-one insightful conversations with each of these amazing musicians who write, arrange, teach and perform for a living. These folks were accessible and fun to interact with.”
Gretchen had a similar experience: “I showed up on Tuesday afternoon with a partially-written tune that consisted of several contrasting sections and Dave Restivo helped me transform it into two entire complete songs, one of which was performed at the concert on Sunday!”
Helping all this to happen was a pilot project grant from the Ontario Arts Council. This year, the grant was not available but, because it proved to be a valuable addition to the program, the JazzWorks board decided to go ahead with Composers Extension and Independent Practice again this summer, albeit with fees increased to reflect the true costs. Co-ordinated by John Geggie, this year’s faculty, familiar faces all, consists of saxophonist Rémi Bolduc, pianist Nancy Walker and drummer Nick Fraser, all noted composers as well as instrumentalists.
After last year’s camp, JazzWorks sent out a questionnaire on participant reaction to the camp. Of those who attended the two days of the Composers’ Symposium and Independent Practice, 100 per cent said they would recommend them to others. Not to rush you, but registrations for this year are already starting to come in.
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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.