Early next month, Montrealers will have the opportunity to hear some of the best in jazz, both new and from the repertoire, when the Off Festival de Jazz returns with 22 concerts and related cultural activities.
The Off was launched in 1999 by local musicians seeking broader opportunities to display their creative work than offered by the bigger and brassier Montreal
International Jazz Festival.
The festival kicks off Thursday, October 6, when saxophonist/composer and band leader Christine Jensen reconnects with Swedish pianist/composer Maggi Olin to perform original music from their Transatlantic Conversations suite.
It is a sure highlight, a major outing for Jensen, who has won the DownBeat Critics poll as a rising star as both arranger and big band leader. Their music is “all alive and breathing, full of spirit and energy and first-rate compositions and mid-sized ensemble arrangements,” one critic wrote.
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Stellar musicians include her sister, Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Swedish vocalist Sofie Norling and saxophonists Joel Miller and Samuel Blais.
It’s on at 8 pm, Lion d’Or, and tickets cost $30.
In other highlights, Friday Oct. 7 opens with a free 5pm show by saxophonist Tevet Sela and his quartet at Café Resonance, with pianist John Roney, followed by a double header at the Lion d’Or showcasing New Yorkers Aaron Shragge (trumpet) and the fabulous Ben Monder on guitar, followed by the Voodoo Jazz Trio, led by tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, who fuses modern jazz and Haitian ritual music. Concerts at 8 and 9:30 pm, with a total $30 charge for the two concerts.
Saturday, Oct. 8, American guitarist Peter Bernstein joins a local trio to play originals and obscure tunes by Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell at Dièse Onze jazz club, 11:30pm. $15.
Sunday, Oct. 9, at 5pm, vocalist Sienna Dahlen previews her new recording at Café Resonance, with guitarist François Jalbert. Freewill offering.
For more adventure, check out the double header at La Sala Rossa, starting at 8pm with the local trio Still, led by saxophonist Yves Charuest, with bassist Nicolas Caloia and German pianist George Graewe. At 9:30, trail blazing drummer Nick Fraser takes the stage with his improvising partners — Tony Malaby (saxophones), Andrew Downing (cello), and Rob Clutton (bass).
Tuesday, Oct. 11, alto saxophonist Jean-Pierre Zanella launches his new CD Quattro Venti, Dièse Onze, 6 to 9pm.
Wednesday, Oct. 12, two great groups offer back-to-back shows at the Lion d’Or: Percussionist/composer Thom Gossage opens with Other Voices at 8pm, featuring saxophonists Rémi Bolduc and Frank Lozano.
It’s followed at 9:30 by the New York based Claudia Quintet and its first Montreal gig, featuring drummer/composer John Hollenbeck, Chris Speed (clarinet, saxophone), Red Wierenga (accordion, piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Matt Moran (vibraphone).
Thursday, Oct. 13, another impressive double-header features the powerful tenor sax of Al McLean and his Chasin’ the Trane tribute to John Coltrane, Erik Hove (alto sax) and a trio, featuring Jim Doxas on drums. At 9:30, tenor saxophonist Jonathan Lindhorst launches a first quartet album. Both are at Sala Rossa, $25 for the two-show combo.
At 10:30pm, check out the CD launch of newly-formed 3RIO, the baseless group with Alex Côté (saxophones), Gary Schwartz (guitar), and Jim Doxas (drums).
At Dièse Onze, $10.
Friday, Oct. 14, the popular Dawn Tyler Watson sings at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, $15. First set at 8:30pm. Saturday, Oct. 15 do not miss the 21-member Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra led by Roscoe Mitchell, one of the leading figures in the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians,
at the Gesù, 8pm, $30.