Monday, April 1, 2013

Congratulations Roddy Ellias

I first encountered guitarist Roddy Ellias playing duets with pianist Dave Hildinger at Ottawa's Wildflower Café in the mid-'70s.

Ottawa didn't have much of a jazz scene at the time, and Roddy was the first real jazz musician that I'd seen live. It tells you all you need to know about his sly sense of humour that when I told him that recently, he replied: "I think I was the first jazz musician I saw, too."
Photo by Brett Delmage

Like a lot of young men his age who played guitar, rock was the first attraction in the early '60s, and Roddy turned pro at 16 in 1965, and chased his pop music dream out to California. After a decade, he made a left turn into improvised music, and while I assumed he was a seasoned jazzer when I caught him at the Wildflower, he was just beginning the almost-four decades run that brings him to the point where he has earned the title of Ottawa Jazz Hero for 2013. There are few musicians or fans in the city that he hasn't touched with his music – both his jazz playing and his compositional forays into contemporary classical music.

– James Hale

Here's the official news release announcing Roddy's award:

Born in Val d’Or, Quebec, in 1949, Ellias moved to Ottawa as a child and began playing guitar at age 12. He turned professional in 1965, and began playing jazz a decade later, becoming a fixture at clubs like the Wildflower Café and the Cock and Lion. His recordings include A Night For Stars (1979), Whale Spirit Rising (1994) and Oasis (1999). His current projects include recordings and performances with Marc Copland and Adrian Vedady, The Roddy Ellias Trio and The Walrus Quartet, as well as solo works. He’s also busy at work writing commissioned music for Germany’s Meininger Trio and Montreal’s Duo Beija-Flor.

Since 1991, Ellias has taught jazz improvisation, composition, ear training and guitar at several Canadian universities, including the University of Ottawa, St. Francis Xavier University and McGill University. He currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, and teaches on contract at Carleton University, where he just introduced the university’s first jazz improvisation course.

The Jazz Hero Award will be presented to Roddy Ellias at a ceremony on April 30 at Carleton University, which is a Community Partner of the 2013 Jazz Hero Awards program.

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