Updated February 6, 2019
Never-before-heard collaborations will enliven the stages of the 2019 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.
The festival, which announced the winter line-up today, will highlight three Canadian jazz musicians as its Artists-in-Residence. Half of its 14 winter festival concerts will showcase them in their own groups and in new combinations.
Running from Thursday, February 7 until Saturday, February 9, the winter festival will also feature two American jazz stars – pianist Joey Calderazzo and vocalist Nellie McKay – as well as other Canadian and local jazz groups.
The Artists-in-Residence are Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel, Toronto guitarist Kevin Breit, and NYC saxophonist Michael Blake. They'll play with musicians drawn from across Canada and the U.S.:
- Ottawa saxophonist Petr Cancura,
- Halifax drummer Jerry Granelli,
- Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee,
- Toronto bassist Michael Herring,
- Montreal bassist Étienne Lafrance,
- Toronto drummer Dave Clark,
- New Orleans accordionist Michael Jude Ward-Bergeman, and
- NYC saxophonist Tony Malaby.
Almost all of these musicians have been presented at previous Ottawa jazz festivals. Ward-Bergeman appeared at the 2016 Ottawa Chamberfest.
They will play both in their own groups and in four Artists-in-Residence Collaboration concerts, created just for this festival. OttawaJazzScene.ca reported last month that Cancura, who is also the festival's programming manager, would be trying a new approach for this festival: “a lot more workshopping and combining players together” in shows.
The festival's website description states that the four Collaboration concerts will feature the “unique creative strengths” of each group of musicians. It said this could be instantaneous improvisations or prepared compositions. One musician could lead, or there could be no leader. “Collaborations are most of all the purest culminations of training, virtuosity, and that ultimate faith in being creatively vulnerable and knowing you will be supported no matter what.”
The first Collaboration concert, on the festival's opening night, will include the three artists-in-residence together with Malaby. It will be the first time they will have performed together.
Just before that show Trudel's trio will also perform with Malaby. On the Friday, Breit will play with his cross-border Bona Fide Scoundrels group, with Michael Jude Ward-Bergeman in accordion.
On the Saturday, Blake will join up with Lee and Granelli in an rare sax-cello-drums trio, playing “unscripted” and “intuitive” music. The three have been teaching together for the last three years at Granelli's Creative Music Workshop in Halifax, whose curriculum includes “innovative techniques that open up the performers’ creative process”.
The other Collaborations concerts will feature Peggy Lee, Marianne Trudel, Étienne Lafrance, and Michael Jude Ward-Bergeman (Friday); Michael Blake, Kevin Breit, Michael Herring, and Dave Clark (Saturday, 5 p.m.); and Jerry Granelli, Petr Cancura, Michael Herring (Saturday, 10 p.m.)
The festival opens on Thursday, February 7 with British-American singer-songwriter Nellie McKay. McKay studied jazz voice at the Manhattan School of Music, and her cabaret show, A Girl Named Bill, was inspired by the life of transgender jazz musician Billy Tipton. Her latest album, Sister Orchid , is an understated collection of Great American Songbook jazz standards. She's also released a tribute album to Doris Day, as well as recording 1960s and more modern pop tunes and has acted in films and in Broadway and off-Broadway musicals.
On Saturday, February 9, acclaimed American pianist Joey Calderazzo will perform with his longtime trio of bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Donald Edwards. Calderazzo is best known for his many years in the bands of first Michael Brecker and then Branford Marsalis, but his own trios also highlight his propulsive, full-bodied, and very approachable jazz style. On his website, Calderazzo says he uses the trio “as a means to strengthen his craft by working on material and musical concepts that he would not ordinarily work on” in other groups. His most recent release is Live From The Cotton Club, Tokyo Vol 1, recorded there with this same trio in February, 2017.
Two other Canadian groups, Pugs & Crows from Vancouver, and Rémi-Jean LeBlanc's quartet from Montreal, will also be showcased. LeBlanc, a well-known jazz bassist who has played with everyone from Ari Hoenig and Gilad Hekselman to Yannick Rieu and Jean-Michel Pilc, released his album Déductions last summer. On it, he plays with acclaimed NYC guitarist Nir Felder, Afro-Cuban pianist Rafael Zaldivar, and Quebec drummer Samuel Joly. He's bringing the same “rock-infused jazz” quartet to the festival.
Pugs & Crows' new album, UNCLE!, came out in September. Vancouver folk/jazz vocalist Marin Patenaude guests on the album, which the group describes as a “journey of love and loss”. She will join the group for this concert as well.
Two Ottawa groups will also perform: Megan Jerome's Together Ensemble, and The 33Z. Jerome's ensemble features her original and highly-observant lyrics and cabaret-style melodies over a dense jazz bed of organ, guitar, and drums. She released her most recent album of original tunes, ooh aah!, a year ago.
The 33Z, co-led by Cancura and trumpeter Ed Lister, will play Cancura and Lister's arrangements of music made famous by legendary soul vocalist Aretha Franklin. The group includes local jazz musicians with a strong groove focus plus seven vocalists: Kellylee Evans, Rebecca Noelle, Jeff Rogers, Doressa Dorcilhomme, Anna Campbell, Deedee Butters, and Michael Curtis Hanna. 33Z has previously paid tribute to Michael Jackson , and Prince .
The winter jazz festival will again be held at La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown, on King Edward Avenue just north of Rideau Street. The location, just east of downtown, is served by many nearby OC Transpo and STO bus routes and is walking distance from the Mackenzie King Transitway station.
Ticket prices are either $25 or $30, slightly down from 2018 when all tickets were $30. Daily passes are also available: $68.93 for the Thursday or Friday, and $74.58 for the Saturday. Prices do not include taxes or fees.
As in previous years, late-night jams will be held in the main-floor Bistro (immediately inside the front door) at La Nouvelle Scène, going from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. They will only be held on the Thursday and Friday evenings (February 7 and 8) because Saturday includes a late-night Collaboration concert. The jams do not require a ticket, and any jazz musician is welcome to join in. The host band is the experienced trio of double bassist John Geggie, pianist Steve Boudreau, and drummer Michel Delage.
Read related stories on OttawaJazzScene.ca:
- Fewer shows, fewer days at the 2019 Ottawa Jazz Festival
- 2016 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival returns to the festival's jazz and Canadian roots
December 17, 2018: Updated to include the day pass information finally available on the festival website.
January 18: Added the host band for the jazz jams.
February 6: Updated the jam session host band members.