Saturday, July 22, 2017
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AlphaSoul jazzfest jams get jammed

Players and listeners wait to be admitted into the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam at AlphaSoul Cafe. The Cafe was already jammed to capacity of 60 people. ©Brett Delmage, 2013Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions continued their popularity throughout the festival this year, despite the change in location to the AlphaSoul Cafe in Hintonburg, 3.5 km west of downtown and the festival's stages.

The "small but vocal group of Jazz Festival audience members" whom festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady said earlier were "disappointed by the prospect of a jam-less festival" have supported the new venue evening after evening. They have overflowed its maximum capacity of 60 people most evenings from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The number of headline musicians showing up to jam has been somewhat less that previous years, but world-class players, including saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, guitarist Gilad Hekselman (playing drums!), and cellist Matt Brubeck have continued to show up to jams, to the delight of listeners. The participation of excellent local musicians is up this year, introducing jam-goers to people they can listen to throughout the year. Pianist Miguel de Armas was a particular hit.

Many listeners returned night after night. One even reserved a spot for the entire week.

Student musicians, both local and in the TD Jazz Youth Summit and Galaxie Rising Stars, contributed some lovely moments, playing at a high level. Talented high-schoolers, in the festival's Jazz-Ed program, also added to the jams.

The presence of new jam host band players this year, including Montreal's Josh Rager, Rich Irwin, Jim Doxas and Fraser Hollins, and Ottawa's Roddy Ellias and Jeff Asselin, have brought new sounds to the jams and kept the evenings fresh.  Double bassist John Geggie, host of the jam sessions for thirteen festivals, has provided some familiarity for the final eight evenings, together with Nick Fraser, who has warmed the festival drummer's throne for years.

For the most part, audiences were quiet and listening, with the exception of the second Friday, where the transition from a restaurant with regular patrons to a once-a-year, and first-time jazz jam was more difficult.

    – Brett Delmage

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