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One fewer stage at the 2011 Ottawa Jazz Festival

The World Exchange Plaza stage brought jazz right downtown but shows were cancelled when it rained. ©Brett Delmage, 2008There will be one fewer stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year – meaning less exposure for local musicians and less free noon-hour jazz for fans.

Festival programming manager Petr Cancura said the World Exchange Plaza decided a few months ago not to continue supporting its outside stage at Metcalfe and Albert, and the Festival was not able to find a replacement for 2011.

"They're cutting a lot of their programming, so we lost that one. We'll work on that for next year."

The decision will mean fewer spaces for local musicians – not necessarily one-third less, but "a chunk" – and was "a blow to us", Cancura said.

The Ottawa-Gatineau local of the Musicians Association partially funds payments to the local groups playing at free stages at the jazz festival through its trust fund. Association representative Glenn Robb said they learned about the closure of the World Exchange Stage a couple months ago. He was surprised at the closure: "we weren't expecting it."

He said they would still be willing to fund replacement concerts in the future if they could find a suitable area and co-sponsor. However, he said he couldn't see any immediate replacement for World Exchange: "Not in the near future that I can see. I've checked quite a few of them and there's nothing available right now."

He noted that the World Exchange stage had the disadvantage of being completely outdoor, while the other stages were covered. In wet weather, the concerts were cancelled because it would be dangerous to run the sound system in the rain.

The remaining two free stages featuring local talent, in the OLG tent in Confederation and at the Rideau Centre, remain . The local artists playing there are all familiar and frequent names on the Ottawa jazz scene; several, like Renée Yoxon and René Gely, Steve Groves and Daniel Ko, Craig Pedersen, Christine Fagan, Megan Jerome, Nicole Ratté, Robert Fontaine, and Lucas Haneman have recently or are just about to release CDs.

Capital Vox choir at the NAC Fourth Stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2009One larger ensemble will appear at noon on July 2: Elise Letourneau will bring the 30+ members of the Capital Vox Jazz Choir to the OLG Stage for their first Festival appeance.

Evening stages, on the other hand, are featuring more local artists. Don Cummings' Back-Talk Organ Trio (with the addition of local young alto sax player Daniel Ko) will be opening for Daniel Lanois on the final Sunday. "He's got a great group. I saw him a few months ago at Le Petit Chicago and they just sounded killer," Cancura said.

Veteran Ottawa pianist Brian Browne will showcase his trio, with Jeff Asselin on drums and Vitas Paukstaitis on bass, on the first Saturday, before K.D. Lang. Cancura said Browne "is going to be really great too".

The Mash Potato Mashers marching band will return, opening for Pink Martini. "What we decided to do is not give them a stage, but have them roam around the whole festival, which is what they're good at." The Mashers' music draws on traditions from around the world, including jazz, Balkan, Klezmer, Brazilian, and New Orleans Funk.

And local pop/alternative group The PepTides play the OLG late-night stage on opening night.

    – Alayne McGregor

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