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OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll: Big bands

Jazz fans have decided what they liked most about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2013, in The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll. These poll results are part of the complete report that OttawaJazzScene.ca is publishing this week.
Find out more about this poll and view all the results.

Favourite Big Band: Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB)

Runner-up: Los Gringos

How the poll defined this category: “Nominees include bands based within 100 km of Ottawa, with at least nine members and something close to standard big band instrumentation.”

The Nepean All-City Jazz Band has been playing big band jazz, with strong tip of the hat to Canadians as well as the standard repertoire, for more than 25 years now. A labour of love for its high school musicians and director Neil Yorke-Slader, it has won many MusicFest awards, and a number of its alumni are now professional jazz musicians.

Neil Yorke-Slader inspires the Nepean All-City Jazz Band in concert ©Brett Delmage, 2012

The comments praised its “long history of developing fine young performers who are going places”, and the “talented young rising jazz musicians” in the band.

And, of course, its sound: “Mature playing, great ensemble sound, super tight.” One respondent said “They just play great music”. Another praised their “Fantastic energy. Fantastic sound. Fantastic Director. Passionate and excellent delivery.”

“They have as always, a stacked line up of the best young jazz musicians in the city and it shows.”

“The conductor has a passion for jazz that is unmatched. You can tell he is committed to helping students learn the art of jazz. The program promotes board-wide musicianship and social development in today's youth. Lastly, and most importantly, the music produced is top notch and supports local musicianship in the Ottawa area.”

The band is remembered fondly by a former member: “I played with the NACJB for two years, and the music I played and things I learned in this ensemble were substantial and memorable. I will always try to make it out to All-City concerts in the future.”

Los Gringos: amazing musicality and energy

Los Gringos plays Latin-influenced jazz, mostly original compositions. Led by trombonist Mark Ferguson and drummer Peter Beaudoin, the long-running Ottawa band combines sinewy percussion with a vibrant horn section. In 2013, it was one of the bands featured in the Ottawa Jazz Festival's closing-night tribute to Jacques Émond.

Listeners loved its Latin vibe and its “amazing musicality and energy”. They praised its “fantastic musicianship and great arrangements” and “tight sound”.

It's a “very exciting group to listen to,” said one. “It is an awesome band that I go to hear whenever I can,” said another, although he/she noted that he/she found the band too loud in the confined space of Maxwell's Bistro.

The importance of big bands to the scene

This category got a lower response rate than some (although still respectable), which was reflected in many comments saying they had not heard any of the bands. But there was still lots of enthusiasm: as one respondent noted, all the bands were “very talented”.

The Ottawa Jazz Orchestra and the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra each also received a strong contingent of votes, and praise for their musicianship and programming. Standing Room Only, which runs monthly tea dances in Almonte during the winter, was particularly beloved by dancers.

It was pointed out that we had left out the Grey Jazz Big Band, the big band composed of still-swinging elders of the scene. We humbly apologize for the oversight and will include them in future polls.  Until then, we encourage you to check them out so you'll be armed with a smile next time we invite you to vote.

Others suggested including the bands which play at the Lakeside Gardens dances, and other bands which we weren't familiar with. We'd love to learn more about these bands and where they're playing: email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If you want a group to be considered in the future, you can start by making sure they are included in our 2300 event listings throughout the year. Please email us anytime about upcoming performances that you think should be listed.

The student big bands have also succeeded in another role: introducing young people to jazz, as one respondent noted. “I have always been very happy and proud that Ottawa has such a good big band scene for young musicians. The Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (OJJB), and later Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) and NACJB are how I got into playing jazz in the first place, and are what set me on this path (being that I now study jazz performance at the University of Toronto). Bands like these are a fantastic outlet for students to develop as musicians, as well as people.”

“Were it not for these ensembles, I wonder if any youth from Ottawa would pursue jazz at the post-secondary level. I think almost every Ottawa-raised musician I know who is studying or has recently studied or studied jazz at the post-secondary level passed through one or more of these ensembles. They are a vehicle for growth and exposure. I hope they continue to always offer these wonderful opportunities to young, curious and eager musicians.”

The Favourite Big Band nominees

  • Standing Room Only (SRO) [info]
  • Stan Clark Orchestra [info]
  • Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (OJJB) [info]
  • Los Gringos [info]
  • Ottawa Jazz Orchestra (OJO) [info]
  • Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (CYJO) [info]
  • Nepean All-City Jazz Band (NACJB) [info]

Visit OttawaJazzScene.ca each day this week to see that day's favourites!

   – Alayne McGregor and Brett Delmage

Do you have any comments about this poll or the favourites ? We invite you to share them in our Facebook group, or email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Please refer to “The OttawaJazzScene.ca's Jazz Favourites Poll” when citing or linking to results. On twitter please use the #OttJazzFavs tag. Thank you.

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