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Merrickville's 2015 Jazz Fest embraces jazz with Juno nominees, jam-packed program

Updated October 20, 2015 to include links to reviews of the 2015 shows

Read OttawaJazzScene.ca's reviews and photographs of the concerts in 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest, and interviews of musicians appearing at the festival.

Merrickville's Jazz Fest returns for its fifth year this fall with an all-Canadian lineup of popular jazz musicians. From October 15 to 19, listeners can hear 17 jazz concerts in churches, restaurants, and a ballroom in the small Ontario town, a one-hour drive from Ottawa.

MJF Director Peggy Holloway: 'When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can'  ©2014 Brett DelmageAll locations are within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Merrickville. But, as we found ourselves doing last year, you may have to run between venues to be able to hear every group in the three days and four evenings packed with music.

“When you have so many good acts applying, you want to put in as many as you can,” festival co-founder and Director Peggy Holloway told OttawaJazzScene.ca, laughing.

Word is getting out about this festival. It  received even more applications this year from musicians from Quebec City to Toronto than last year's record number, according to Holloway.

In contrast to that other large regional jazz festival, the musicians at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest have solid connections to jazz and they are not embarrassed to mention that association. From a 2013 Juno Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year nominee to the young musicians who “feel most at home performing at the jazz venues of Toronto”, MJF 2015 is presenting musicians who can satisfy a jazz-hungry audience.

Listeners' hunger will be satisfied with MJF's big buffet of jazz flavours, which include:

  • Snaggle's “own brash statement for the jazz fusion legacy”
  • toe-tapping Dixieland by the New Orleans Express
  • powerful, original Afro-Cuban rhythms from the Miguel de Armas Quartet
  • classic jazz and modern melodies and harmonies in the warm, inviting tones of vocalist Diane White
  • Sax Appeal's saxophone-only ensemble, with a full range from baritone to soprano sax
  • ... and a dozen other flavourful choices.

Notable groups which will be featured this year at Merrickville's Jazz Fest include:

Oct 18: Fern Lindzon (photo:Peter Bregg)

  • The Allison Au Quartet – this modern, instrumental jazz ensemble from Toronto received a Juno nomination in 2013 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Performing at the Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge in July, Au on alto sax connected well with her audience. She commanded the quiet attention of a venue that can be quite noisy.
  • Alex Pangman & Her Alleycats – modelled on the small group swing bands of the 1930s, Pangman's vocals and swinging (Alley)cats have engaged and enlivened audiences from coast to coast.
  • Woodwind artist Richard Page’s Night On The Town Band explores Richard’s original blues and world music-inspired compositions, with lots of horns: bass clarinet and clarinet, baritone sax, other saxes, and trumpet modulated by many mutes.
  • Fern Lindzon is as much a pianist as a vocalist. Juno-nominated in 2012, her latest album, Like a Circle in a Spiral, is inspired by Michel Legrand, Egberto Gismonti, Cole Porter, and world music.
  • Ottawa vocalist Steve Berndt and pianist Brian Browne collaborated on two albums celebrating jazz standards in 2012 and 2014. Berndt's mellow voice and Browne's inventive playing will let you hear the Great American Songbook in a new light.

Oct 16: Brian Browne and Steve BerndtOne element missing from the festival's buffet is an artist-in-residence. Last year, MJF welcomed Brian Browne as their first artist-in-residence. His Sunday morning workshop with three student musicians generated a lots of interest and a highly attentive audience.

“We wanted to do it this year. Definitely,” said Holloway. “But we just couldn't fit it in. We wanted it to be an experience for people in the audience, as well as those who participate. It needed its own time slot.”

The festival's largest venues seat up to 200 listeners and were well-attended last year. To accommodate the growing audiences, this year the festival has added another church and regained the community centre. It is not returning to the smallest restaurant; even the larger restaurants' performances have sold out in the past.

Oct 18: Allison Au Quartet ©2015 Brett DelmageListeners wishing to ensure they have seats should not leave their purchase of festival passes/tickets or making venue reservations too close to the festival. Otherwise they may be watching a sold-out show through the window from the sidewalk, as we found ourselves doing last year for Caridad Cruz and Miguel de Armas.

Merrickville's Jazz Fest presents musicians who aren't allergic to the word “jazz”, in a variety of venues - some with food and drink to accompany the music and to sustain the listener in a jam-packed schedule. It also has friendly volunteers (the festival is completely run by volunteers), and a historic, small town ambiance.

MJF's 2015 lineup again celebrates Canadians: popular Ottawa-Gatineau groups, and musicians who aren't heard as frequently heard in eastern Ontario. Like the bright and varied colours of autumn leaves, Merrickville's Jazz Fest is another October presentation deserving of jazz fans' attentions.

For full details visit www.merrickvillesjazzfest.com

    – Brett Delmage

Read OttawaJazzScene.ca's reviews of concerts at the 2015 Merrickville's Jazz Fest, and interviews with musicians appearing at the festival:

Reviews and photos:

Interviews:

And you can read about last year's (2014) Merrickville's Jazz Fest in OttawaJazzScene.ca's stories , starting at  Merrickville's Jazz Fest Day 1: full houses and happy listeners and dancers (with links in the story to further coverage)

Full disclosure: Merrickville's Jazz Fest arranged a billet for Alayne McGregor and Brett Delmage to make it possible for us to report more from the festival during the festival.