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Jazzfest 2012: For the Listener

©Brett Delmage, 2006For the jazz fan, the operative word for the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2012 is again "choice".

Or should that also be "frustration"?

The indoor Improv and Studio series (at the National Arts Centre) are being held at approximately the same time as the outdoor concerts in Confederation Park. That means that, on the first Friday, listeners will have to choose between (outdoors) fine Canadian saxophonist Joel Miller, the Latin-tinged Ninety Miles with Stefon Harris, Christian Scott, and David Sanchez, followed by Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, or (indoors) the duet between Kenny Barron and Dave Holland. An energetic fan might get to hear two or three of the four – but not all four.

Even the late-night shows at the OLG Stage starting at 10:30 p.m. will compete with the Mercury Lounge, which will also be running jazz shows at the same time, and with the jam sessions at ARC The Hotel.

And then when you add in a concert at First Baptist Church and weekend evening shows at Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata North – and the fact that one needs to line up at least half an hour ahead for indoor shows in order to get the best seat – it will be more important than ever this year to schedule oneself in advance. Perhaps that's just a sign that this is a world-class – and world-size – festival.

Other things you should know about the festival in 2012:

The 2012 festival is one day shorter this year (10 days) than in 2010 or 2011. Canada Day follows those ten days but the Confederation Park jazz offerings that that day are very few, especially compared to some other years.

2012 pass prices have increased more than 5% over 2011, with the largest increase being for the Bronze (general) pass. Improv Invitational tickets are up more than 35% (from $18 to $25). Individual day ticket prices have marginally decreased, however, as have OLG late-night tickets.
[For details see 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival: pass prices increase]

The priority for getting a seat for an indoor concert remains unchanged: Single Ticket, Gold Pass, Bronze Pass , Youth Pass holders, and then festival volunteers. But with two Studio Series shows being presented for each artist/group this year, some of last year's problems with listeners not getting into popular shows should be reduced. That opportunity is a tradeoff, however, against fewer different concert offerings.

The OLG tent and stage is moving next to City Hall this year  ©Brett Delmage, 2010The OLG tent – used for free noon-hour and paid late-night concerts – has been relocated from Confederation Park to Marion Dewar Plaza, in front of City Hall and across Laurier Avenue West from the Park. This puts it slightly farther from the Festival food court and closer to the City Hall washrooms. Festival spokespeople did not give a reason for this change. Last year, with all the concurrent programming and sound checks, there was some sound interference between stages in the later evening. It remains to be seen if the relocated stage will solve that or be even more of a challenge.

The Festival has added opening acts for seven of the ten nights of the OLG late night series. The opening act will go on at 10:15 p.m., and the main act will follow at 11:15. Festival programming director Petr Cancura said this gave the festival a chance to present local or up-and-coming artists "to a large audience, guaranteeing new levels of exposure to these emerging groups." Not all of the opening acts have yet been announced, but they do include three local groups, plus one from Montreal.

The Delta City Centre Hotel (101 Lyon Street North at Albert) – a former location of the Festival jams – will be holding a Commuter Jazz series with live music, in the late afternoon on weekdays during the festival. The Festival did not give any details of format or artists at the launch, and refused any comment when asked. We will update our listings as we learn more.

The Brookstreet Options Jazz Lounge in the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata North will host jazz shows in partnership with the Festival on the two Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays during the festival. Five of the six shows will be local groups (more information in our Local story), plus guitarist Roy Patterson from Toronto. The Brookstreet Series will bring a bit of festival jazz to listeners in the far west end of the city, who might not otherwise get to Confederation Park, 20 km away. And, with the loss of the World Exchange stage last year, it will give valuable additional festival performance opportunity to some top area jazz talent. Brookstreet has presented an increasing amount of jazz in its renovated Options Jazz Lounge throughout the year. This festival series could make more listeners aware of their offerings.

The Mercury Lounge will bring jazz back to the ByWard Market during the festival, hosting late-night jazz shows on the Saturdays during the Festival. No artists have been announced. Like Brookstreet, Mercury Lounge presents jazz on a regular basis throughout the year, including jazz every Monday night in its basement bar.

The late-night jams will again be held at ARC The Hotel, less than two blocks west of Confederation Park. Bassist John Geggie will again host, along with pianist Nancy Walker. Ethan Ardelli will handle the drumming duties, except on the last night when Nick Fraser will return.

The reserved Platinum seating, the first four rows before the Main Stage in Confederation Park, will return this year. It has been welcomed by those willing and able to pay the premium single ticket price to get a seat close to the stage without having to bring their own chair well before the first show. But it has been less popular with some Gold and Bronze pass pass holders who cannot be as close to the stage without buying an expensive additional ticket for each concert.

OttawaJazzScene.ca will keep you informed about any other news that will affect your festival experience.

    – Alayne McGregor      full disclosure

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