OttawaJazzScene.ca published 50 reviews of shows last season. We didn’t put a great deal of effort into those to only document what has been.
OttawaJazzScene.ca's reviews give listeners a view of a project, musician, or group they may not have seen before. Most musicians don’t just do one public performance and call it quits. Most venues don’t just present a jazz show then close their doors, either.
Our reviews can help inform you about the next performance by a group or reprise of a specific show that you missed but might like to see. Our photos of performances and venues give you a sense of the vibe and listening experience you can expect.
In short, our reviews are as much about what you could experience in the future as what you may have just heard – or missed.
Prior to publishing a review, we will have researched the show, including the music expected and musicians making it. We’ll try to have an idea about how to photograph it, including looking for prior photos at the venue or musicians. We confirm the photography protocol for the show and venue. During a performance we are busy listening, writing, photographing - and being discreet. Quiet handwriting instead of laptop keyboard clicks. No flashlight to see notes in the pitch-black. No camera shutter clicks during the quiet parts of a ballad.
Behind The Scene, after the last note of a performance has been played, our beat has barely started.
The music ends but our work continues: Getting a set list, if the titles were not announced or audible, and asking questions if the musicians are available.
Downloading raw photos, backing them up, then selecting, keeping and discarding, adjusting, and tagging with keywords that include musician names, descriptions, and an accurate location. Next, photos are exported to 4 different sizes and file formats, and uploaded to our gallery, which then receives a description and link to the written review.
There are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, more mouse clicks after a performance than camera shutter clicks during a performance.
Sentences congregate into paragraphs, starting with deciphering handwritten notes whose legibility can be on the edge. Writing the review itself takes a couple of hours including research (song titles, odd instruments), starting with reviewing the notes to see what was most important and most interesting about a show. Writing down the set list also necessitates checking the spelling and composers and lyricists of each tune. Composing the review to reflect the individuality of each artist and each show, followed by editing, and refinement.
Then – typically 2 to 3 hours of often challenging work later – we press the ‘publish’ buttons on the website and the photo gallery and our (p)review goes public for all to see. At this point no further changes can be made, except to correct infrequent errors and other inaccuracies. These are always accompanied by a change note as all our published work requires.
Ironically, one reader criticized us in our recent survey about the “free tickets" we receive to performances. And some musicians have referred (in a positive manner) to providing “comps” (complimentary tickets”) to a show we were going to review, which we’ve gently pointed out, although casual/common word usage, simply isn’t accurate!
When we review a show we need “access”, just as the sound and lighting crew need access to do their work during the performance. It would be difficult for any of us to work from outside the room! And we don’t accept “comps” to a show we are not reviewing. That would be when we get to kick back, sip alcoholic beverages, listen but maybe not even pay close attention, without working or obligation. If you see us at a show, we are working at and after it or else we bought tickets like you did. As professional journalists, it is essential that we work like this.
We don’t receive an hourly wage to create reviews. However, OttawaJazzScene.ca has received as much as $23 per day from readers’ donations, which pays for costs that include bus fare to the performance, disk storage for the stories and photos and pens and notebooks – all which are filled up and emptied surprisingly quickly.
We publish reviews because readers want them. Our reviews shine a light on the jazz scene and the new music being made – music that you’ll likely be able to enjoy yourself, in a venue that you can see before going there. And after being filed with National Library and Archives, perhaps we’ll help inform future music fans and historians about Canada’s and Ottawa-Gatineau’s cultural history long after all of us are gone.
Musicians, projects, and venues aren’t gone when we publish a review. So check out a review and then check out the show yourself, next time around. And let us know what you thought of the performance. See you on the scene!
Brett Delmage, photojournalist
Alayne McGregor, reviewer and Editor