CBC’s All in a Day served yesterday as a springboard for the exciting announcement of the 2016 Ottawa Jazz Festival lineup. A long list of international and Canadian musicians will come down on the capital like a hammer this summer, and this year’s Jazz Fest won’t overlap with Ottawa Explosion Weekend and only a little with the Fringe Festival. That means listeners with the most eclectic taste (and bottomless budget) won’t miss a single thing.
The selection of talent is, as usual, much broader than just jazz. Folk, pop, Americana and even some noise will be heard throughout Confederation Park and beyond from June 22 to July 3.
Right off the bat there are some names that will turn boomers into zoomers as they go for early bird passes (available until March 31). Sarah McLachlan and Buffy Sainte-Marie, as well as Brian Wilson on a 50th anniversary tour of The Beach Boys’s studio album Pet Sounds.
Jazz fusion wouldn’t be what it is today without Chick Corea. He’ll also be popping in with his veteran trio members Christian McBride and Brian Blade. Mr. Blade was at the Winter Jazz Fest, so he must have really missed Ottawa.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are always a good time, not to mention The Boxcar Boys and Ben Caplan. Seeing Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire play together will be a special treat, especially since Neufeld recently released a new solo album late February and both here and Stetson are long-time collaborators.
Kamasi Washington. His name deserves its own sentence. This saxophonist band leader is best known for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly but also for his collaboration with incredible bassist Thundercat and his three-hour 2015 LP The Epic.
Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, The Boxcar Boys, Miguel de Armas Quartet, Ben Caplan, Dan Brubeck Quartet, jeez… And there’s Banda de los Muertos, a Mexican brass band from Brooklyn. Need we say more?
Honestly, a winter’s concert at Pressed Café is as cozy as it gets.
On the first Saturday of March, it was quite warm in there and not everyone had room to sit down, many stood hugging walls and counters. Toronto’s Charlotte Cornfield and her band headlined a set of her newest songs from her upcoming album to be released this Friday via Consonant Records. She played “Big Volcano, Small Town” and “Aslan”, the earliest singles from Future Snowbird as well as the recently released “Mercury”, a song that features Ought’s Tim Darcy.
Her debut LP Two Horses dropped in 2011 after she put out two six-pack EPs in 2008 (It’s Like That Here) and 2009 (Collage Light). Since then, she’s been touring, writing songs, collaborating, and even being mentored by members of Broken Social Scene at the Banff Centre for the Arts last fall.
Wax copies of Future Snowbird were available and they quickly disappeared into fans’ arms. The bespectacled Canadian troubadour’s folk rock is framed in matter-of-fact lyrics about home, the road, and her sadness of being landlocked—all of which are a great backdrop to many a morning’s coffee or seeding party.
And somehow she manages to sing about serious, often upsetting moments while still laughing on stage, which is funny in itself.
Someone who also howls with pain on stage and looks like he’s having a blast is Ottawa’s Isaac Vallentin. Themes of self-deprecation and dark times don’t seem to match Vallentin’s grin in between his songs—he is a jolly performer. He was also grateful to play his final show in Ottawa hosted by the Arboretum Festival, and he sincerely thanked Rolf Klausener who worked the door that night.
Perhaps his gratitude was best summed up with, “I smoked pot with Chad VanGaalen because of Rolf!”
Isaac Vallentin playing Pressed Café, March 5, 2016. Shitty photos: Joseph Mathieu
Yes, Isaac Vallentin is leaving Ottawa—though not forever? Hard to say, since he’s been offered a one-year scholarship at the peculiar Fabrica Research Centre in the Italian wilderness. A multimedia designer by trade, Isaac will not only be learning to create better, faster and stronger designs, he’ll also learn to speak much more with his hands, as is common in Italia.
If he loves us, he will follow up last summer’s debut release of Hedera with his second LP before he flees for the Old Country. His set showcased many new songs, the only recognizable one of which was “Walk Out Together” off his Love & Devotion 7″ from November, so the chances are good that another album is currently being populated.
No pressure, IV.
The evening hosted by Arboretum started off with a gritty, psychedelic solo set by Trails. A young woman named Allie and her loop pedal welcomed the winter travellers into the café with simple riffs and a striking voice as she doled out a mix of experimental dream noise. Tracks from a bedroom floor, very personal sounds, are recent additions to her Bandcamp page (and one solitary track on this one). These have been adding a smattering of shoegaze and dream pop to the city’s underbelly at a pace that suggests there is more to come.
And I think it’s safe to saw that that would be lovely.
It’s uncertain that we’ll see anything so glacial as last year’s February, but Ottawa will prepare nonetheless! Canadian curators continue to conspire to warm the most frozen part of the year with animation, music and activities around the capital. While the week is completely stacked with intimate indie shows and huge outdoor concerts, there will be another low-key bass line humming in the back: the TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest!
A full festival pass costs less than $80, and most shows are $22. The full listing is available here, and below are a few fine things jazz fest have cooked up this winter that we like.
The jazz festival’s programming manager Petr Cancura will open the fest on Thursday Feb. 7 with his second instalment of a trilogy. Although not part of the three-day festival proper, Cancura and Ottawa singer-songwriter Lynn Miles will team up for a “Crossroads” performance that will infuse her music with a jazz sensibility. The multi-instrumental organizer did much of the same with Ian Tamblyn last year and will again with Jeremy Fisher this spring.
Besides that, he and his team have managed to put together a world class team of jazz musicians to take over the NAC Fourth Stage for the whole weekend.
The Fraser Hollins Quartet
Friday is the day of the Sax. Mike Murley, many times over National Jazz Award’s Saxophonist of the Year recipient, will play with his trio at 7 p.m. If you don’t have enough sax in your life then you can cozy up to Fraser Hollins as he leads a quartet comprising world-renowned drummer Brian Blade (also from the 613), epic pianist John Cowherd, and 2013 Juno-winning saxophonist Joel Miller at 9 p.m.
It’s pretty much a long weekend of a jazz club opening at the NAC Fourth Stage. Friday will also feature a free performance by Ottawa’s The Chocolate Hot Pockets. Jazzy soul, funky groove, instrumental melted over R&B and hip-hop. Dope.
David Virelles & Román Díaz on Sunday: Afro-cuban jazz pianist and composer meets a moody rumba percussionist in a bar. Have you heard this one? If you go, don’t bring a coat—it’ll be very warm in there.
Mouse on the Keys
On Saturday, Mouse on the Keys is best described as an art project: two pianists and a drummer frame their musical dexterity with stunning visuals. The instrumental trio from Japan are a Showbox pick!
The virtuosos of Montréal Guitare Trio will close out the three-day blitz of warming jazz with technical and intricate guitar playing. If anyone is wondering why they won a “best concert of the year” Opus Award in 2011, then they didn’t play the video of their cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” linked above!
Frédéric Levac chante et joue le clavier dans le band franco-ontarien Pandaléon, un trio electro, rock alternatif basé à Saint-Bernardin. Ce vendredi, le 29 janvier, ils lançeront leur deuxième album Atone, un LP enregistré dans une école abandonnée où Frédéric et son frère, le batteur Jean-Philippe, ont été comme ti-culs.
La semaine d’avant, Pandaléon à remporter trois prix au Contact Ontarois, un événement vitrine de musique francophone. En discutant le Prix du Festival international de la chanson de Granby, le Prix Festival Franco-ontarien, et le Prix Festival de l’Outaouais Émergent Prix ROSEQ, Frédéric a dit: « Honnêtement on le fais pas pour gagner des prix, on le fais pour que le monde trippe sur notre musique pis qu’ils aiment le show. »
Dit comme un vrai fan de la musique. Les deux frères et le guitariste Marc-André Labelle vous invitent au lancement d’album gratuit dans le théâtre de la Court des Arts le 4 février.
Il y a beaucoup de référence à la bouche, aux lèvres, à la langue sur Atone. Pourquoi?
Pour moi personnellement, ces sujets—de bouche, de lèvre, de gencives—ils m’allument beaucoup. C’est une bonne remarque parce qu’il sont partout mais c’est quand même subtile. Peut-être que c’est arrivé par hasard…
Que veulent dire les paroles de la chanson « Banny »?
Dans cette chanson, c’est à propos de la langue qu’on parle, le langage. Ça parle de relations humaines de partout dans le monde, et d’un voyage en Australie. Nous nous sommes retrouvés là, des gens de l’Indonésie, de l’Israël, des États, de l’Allemagne, et on ne se parlait pas vraiment. Mais on se comprenait en regardant le ciel—le ciel le plus éclatant que j’ai jamais vu de ma vie. Ça nous disais beaucoup de choses.
Que veulent dire les parole de la dernière chanson, « Atone »?
Le vide engourdit mieux
Que la distance
Tu n’es revenue que pour repartir
Simplement, des fois avoir rien c’est mieux que d’avoir quelque chose mais au loin. De toutes les 10 chansons, c’est la seule pièce qui prend place au présent, puisque que c’est vraiment un album qui parle du passé. Mais le thème de non seulement quelqu’un qui part, mais aussi qu’il y a quelqu’un qui reste là, ce thème est là.
Qui a eu l’idée d’enregistrer votre album dans la vieille petite école?
Mon frère Jean-Philippe, le drummer, et moi on y est aller a cette école. Ça été abandonner et on passait souvent par là, parce que c’est proche de chez nous et on y est allez à cette école. On disait qu’on devrait enregistrer là, y’a plein de places à capter des sons avec des micros. Parce qu’on trippe vraiment là dessus! Alors on attendait juste le bon moment.
Pendant un an et demi on écrivait des chansons qui avait de plus en plus à faire avec la petite école. Alors on a pris des démarches pour avoir accès pour un mois, au mois d’août. On s’est enfermé là pendant cinq semaines. C’était un peu comme du camping. Nous trois avec notre enregistreur Nicolas Séguin.
Est-ce que les chansons instrumentale « Lecture » et « Pythagore » ont été enregistrées dans les salles de lecture et des maths?
Oui et non. « Lecture » c’est une pièce en qui recrée l’effet de marcher dans les couloirs de l’école et d’entendre les profs à travers les portes, tu les entends mais pas clairement. C’est l’expérience de prendre une marche dans le couloir de l’école, créé par une tonne de bruits bizarres.
Pour « Pythagore » on a enregistré une centaine de portes qui ferme, au moins. Oui, on adore ça le son. Vraiment, on est sorti de là non seulement avec l’album mais aussi en ayant eu le temps d’essayer plein de choses. On a fais plein d’expériences qui sont pas sur l’album parce qu’ils marchaient pas, mais au moins on a pu les essayer.
Ça été une expérience très enrichissante.
Avez-vous eu des rêves bizarres?
Même pas malheureusement! Bein j’veux dire oui, parce qu’on a tous des rêves bizarres tout le temps. Mais la première nuit, c’était bizarre, on se demandait si l’école était peut-être hantée. Finalement rien ne s’est passé d’anormale. Ça a été un feeling très spécial d’y retourner, et en plus de ça faire ce qu’on aime le plus dans la vie dans cet endroit la. On était vraiment excité d’y avoir accès et on a revécu plein de vieux souvenir.
Est-ce que la photo de la pochette vient d’un des murs des couloirs?
Plus précisément dans la salle de bain des filles! J’ai remarqué le croquis et notre photographe aussi mais on s’est rien dit que dans la dernière semaine là. Il y avait un genre de croquis en arrière de la peinture. On sait pas c’est quoi… mais c’est un petit dessin super intriguant. Finalement c’est devenu la pochette.
Already the city is observing a sort of berserk album release onslaught dubbed a musical harvest. But for months (almost years), The Visit has been working on their debut album to come out before the end of 2015. Tonight they celebrate the Oct. 9 release at the Mercury Lounge with Esmerine and Musk Ox.
Through Darkness Into Light is an album that folk lovers and experimental metalheads will love. It’s dizzying and even exhilarating in most of its sound. Although it sports a glacial album cover, it only offers only a warm journey through dark chambers. There is nothing still or dead about these five songs, despite there being themes of decay and death all through them.
Is there a feeling of madness to it too? Oh yes, in spades. But brought forth not in haunting vocals or aggressive instrumentation, simply precise music. As recommended to me, this is a really well appreciated album on your best headphones or sound system. It’s a methodical release, as comparable as any work that the cellist has completed in recent months. but there’s an overwhelming feeling of new life and catharsis throughout.
The Visit is still the voice of Heather Sita Black matched to Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s powerful cellist. After releasing videos and singles, and travelling far for their music last year, they still took their time coming out with a debut LP.
Just a minute and a half into “Through Darkness”, the realization hits home that Black’s voice is no longer simply an instrument. Her lyrics really tell a story that continues even after the final track, “Into Light”. Although “Offering” still chants us down a violent path that hints of bloody sacrifice and there are still plenty of harmonic howls on “Into Light”, but now there are sharper meanings connected to words we do understand. This is an epic tale woven into practiced string arrangements. “Without This Flesh” does not compromise or make a concession to invite a new listener in as the first track. It’s 14:19 long and make a point of how beautiful this duo’s music can be.
Tonight isn’t the only Ottawa album release party this week but it’s the only Ottawa New Music Creators concert of September and the first as part of the 2015-16 series. This year’s run of ONMC events is curated by none other than Raphael himself, he who walks many paths with the help of his close collaborators. Tonight, at the Mercuriy Lounge, more than a few will intersect.
On August 2, a two-year marathon of songs by a young Ottawa artist was released as a debut album titled Stills. The only thing you have to know about Megan Landry is that she’s a truly self-propelled artist with no small amount of talent. Just start with the song “Fork”:
Or perhaps the startling video for her song “Wallpaper”, which she directed and shot. Hey, all her videos—not to mention her album cover art—are self-made.
There is the recurring theme in Miss Landry’s dreamy indie pop of the latest of nights, particularly the earliest hours of the morning. She subscribes to the philosophy that the best ideas are up for grabs when everyone else is asleep. This seems to be working: she’s an adventurous multimedia artist and an accomplished singer-songwriter who’s already a professional photographer and videographer at the age of 18.
Having to point out her age seems like a bit of a defeat for this writer. I don’t think that the age, sex, creed or colour of an artist should have anything to do with the appreciation of her or his art. Adding information to an article is always helpful, but sometimes what makes an artist stand apart is the last thing that should actually be taken into account. Miss Landry finds herself at the junctions in life that are incredibly important to many of us at that age. What her art says is there’s a lot that came before that was just as important, if not more. We tend to pay attention to the big dates, the coming of age, the impatient rush to get to “adulthood.” Miss Landry has needed none of these landmarks to create her mature, weird, fun, and heartfelt music up until now. All she’s needed are her earnest voice, and her mature and poetic take on life in the 21st century.
She was lauded three years ago for a violent song about the effects of bullying titled “Stronger“. Last year she signed a publishing deal with Streets Music UK and now graces their homepage, and she’s been recently working with Grammy-award winning Serge Coté. These are not seeds being sown, they are sprouts already growing into healthy saplings.
I highly recommend Stills to anyone who likes indie pop, thought-provoking lyrics, and seeing an artist be as brazen as they should be. Stills is available on iTunes & CDbaby.
I listened to the entirety of Tölt, the long-awaited debut LP by Ottawa’s Flying Hórses, approximately six times before finally understanding that I would hear a different narrative on each pass. First I walked through Gormenghast, then through Cirith Ungol, but also through large meadows that could have been Hyrule. The music called “post-chamber” by two of the city’s most interesting musicians have created a bestiary of dark and beautiful creatures, deadset on being released August 15.
Cellist and composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne is part of several prolific bands that play a range of neo folk, classical and experimental chamber music. He said that Tölt would surprise most people who were familiar with Jáde Bergeron’s original compositions that she’s often played live over the past few years. I have to concede he wasn’t just hyping me up—this isn’t the same trip to the “Dollhouse” or ride around the “Carousel” that we’ve heard before.
And it’s not just the preeminent production by Birgir “Biggi” Jón Birgisson of the Icelandic Sundlaugin Studio that has brought on this change. The idea of the album still hinges a collage of childlike wonder that Bergeron has been exploring through music boxes and devotional bells, but it goes further now.
There are sonatas for cello accompanied by Bergeron’s piano, and what sound like piano/celesta duets. Sometimes the pairing of cello to piano is replaced with bells or chimes that Bergeron plays in what she credits as “sacred places” in Montreal and Reykjavík.
Flying Hórses release the debut LP Tölt on Aug. 15, 2015. Photo credit: J. Lorange
A song named “Spiladósir” begins much in the same way as some of the vignettes in this 14-track album but, unlike its shorter cousins, it fires off a dark and ambient rush of energy. It grabs you with a dissonance of music boxes, some even lending their mechanical crank to the metal storm.
On one listen, these shadowy songs reminded me of the score to 2014’s RPG Child of Light, composed by Béatrice Martin a.k.a. Coeur de Pirate. The orchestral arrangements by Gémeaux-nominated composer Anthony Rozankovic give the role-playing fairy tale story of that game a beautiful depth. However, listening to that music alone feels as though something is missing (a palette of pixels?) whereas an amble down Flying Hórses, with no supporting images or words, fills the listener with northern histories, nostalgia, and creatures far stranger and dazzling than pegasi.
The title track “Tölt” does not exactly trot, the most precise translation would be an ambling gait that is instinctive in Icelandic horses. It’s different than a gait though, and as a movement for horses it’s known to vary quite quickly.
I enjoy ambient background music as much as the next writer, but I’m also a sucker for liner notes and lyrics. Here, the song titles create a 14-word story that spans three languages: English, French & Icelandic. I’ll add a fourth, the German, since Tölt is a Bildungsroman—a coming-of-age story. It’s also a dream-like ride into dark places that are lit up by Bergeron’s vision of innocence and memory.
“Oubliette” is a dirge, maybe even a requiem. It’s the longest track of the 14 and does not conclude the album with a ribbon nicely tied at the end—it ends the album more than the final track “107” because it builds into an ellipsis, followed by a question mark that seems to say, “and the light shone so brightly that it blinded, covered everything, and suddenly there was—”
Recently So Sorry Records launched with a free sampler of the label’s three initial artists: Owen Davies, Pony Girl & Bosveld. As an imprint of Pop Drone, SoSo will focus on an Ottawa scene of the art-rock and ambient persuasion while its sister label continues its collaboration between musicians in Ottawa, Rotterdam & New York City with futurebeat & jazzy hip-hop.
There’s really no need to be so apologetic, you guys. Three full-length albums released from August to November? Yeah, okay. Owen Davies‘s Mystic—Aug. 1, Bosveld‘s Veldbrand—Oct. 18, and Pony Girl‘s Foreign Life—Nov. 7. That’s only 110 days away! On top of these dates, the sampler offers first looks at what one can assume is the cover art to the anticipated albums.
Foreign Life by Pony Girl
Mystic by Owen Davies
Veldbrand by Bosveld
Whatever Pony Girl is concocting might cause aneurysms. Foreign Life has been almost 10 years in the making, what could be said to be the original reason for the band’s creation. The glimpse into new Bosveld indicates a maturation of their sound since the group has grown into a quintet. Expect some sweet sounds to be played live in Wakefield as part of Owen Davies own new exploration of “new folk” for his Mystic release partyon Aug. 1.
Their fourth release has no release date yet but should be a live recording of Owen Davies and The Evangelists.
Although just in its infancy, SoSo isn’t against the idea of growing its catalog of artists. However, the boutique label wants to nurture opportunities more than put out album after album. It offers concert & tour promo, shipping online orders, and distributing to online and offline music stores.
The name So Sorry has nothing to do with regret. As Pony Girl’s bassist Greggory Clark explained: “We figured So Sorry can be the shorthand symbol for a genre of music it’d take too many hyphens to string together. And then it’d still be a pretty ambiguous term.”
The little family of music does have a comparable body of sound that is hard to pin down. If you can think of any descriptors with as little hyphens as possible, please send them along to So Sorry Records.
Heavy Traffic, a garage rock duo from Ottawa, released their first taste of music on their EP1 on June 17. Cam Steacy & Josh Scammell play with many groups in the psych & alternative rock genres. Scammell played drums on the Song of the Neverending Ugly Lizard LP by Pith & the Parenchymas and Steacy recorded and produced that record. The Yips, Organ Eyes & Patterson Hall also received recording, mixing & mastering work done by Steacy, who also plays with Sam Pippa & Jon Bennett in Organ Eyes.
The opening track is a noisy introduction to Heavy Traffic’s leanings. It takes the listener as far as his or her ear can appreciate effects and twists. The blaring cacophony was too much for me but a fast-forward to “Stingray” reminded me that garage rock was going to be more than just a quick descriptor. Heavy riffing, fast-paced percussion, and buzzed vocals on the second track and “Dead and Wonderful” came with basic but enjoyable hooks. “Sparkle Rock” is anything but. It’s a blast that launches you through the remainder of the album best described as lethargic & energetic.
Favourite track: “Depends on How you Look at it.” This is garage rock bliss, alternative but consistent pop melody. I’ve always found the term “garage” doesn’t really do the genre justice, but calling it “cellar”, “latrine” or “cubicle” music doesn’t quite work either. What’s stopping me from calling this chamber music? Not a fucking thing. This is alternative chamber music… recorded in a garage?
Heavy Traffic will not help with road rage but it will get you through a long day.
On June 9, a full-length album called The Vanity of Reason was released by Estan Beedell. Originally from Ottawa, he’s just moved back to the 613 from Montreal for an indefinite amount of time, see “for life.” Released simply under his first name, A Vanity of Reason is the symphonic exploration of his tastes in electro rock-pop complimented by a vibraphone, marimba, alto, tenor & baritone sax. As a consistent contributor to a variety of other bands, he seems to have had no trouble finding his own collaborators including Harley Alexander of Sheepman & Emperor Bulash, Chester Hansen of BADBADNOTGOOD, saxophone player Julian Selody, and drummer Luke Graves, among many others.
This is a concept album. The liner notes in the vinyl start with a quote by J. Castell Hopkins from his 1898 Life and Work of Mr. Gladstone that lists many human intellectuals controlling and domineering their fields or professions. Estan also manipulated the instrument that drew the cover art to his album, which depicts little people chipping away at the foundation of their civilization to build it higher and higher. The quote sums this and the concept of the LP with its climax: “…the whole human race seems to be moved by a supernatural impulse to assert its dominion over every force […] which might impede its progress.”
I’m feeling the influences of Manhattan Transfer, chamber music and barbershop harmonies here. The peppy tracks don’t last in their pop, they soon dip into contemplative and pleasant experimentation. The fact is Estan’s voice sounds like a kind of key-operated instrument on its own. There are traces of gospel mixed in with an overabundance of jazz. The whole album would be a wonder to see performed live, and there are potential July or August concerts to come. It remains, for now, a perfect background LP on the first few plays until you really hear “Common Sense Revolution“. Then you can’t really help but listen to it from start to finish. On top of being a masterful display of many instruments—of which Estan plays thirteen!—the subject matter and range of his vocals are very enjoyable. If the call-to-arms of the fourth track don’t grab you, then “House Torn Down” or “Lodyzhensky” might.
This one-man project will surely last longer than the time it took to put together. I don’t doubt it had a lengthy gestation period and my expectations for it will be surpassed. Cop a feel below: