Along with other listeners, including our subscribers, we were fortunate to be able to hear the Jazz Pick of the Week we announced in our two recent Jazz Bulletins. It got us thinking about why those shows, and our process of picking them, worked.

We can't always get out to hear our own picks every time, though. We miss shows because we're busy reporting on jazz. Researching, compiling events, transcribing an interview, writing, editing photos and video takes a lot of time every week.

One consideration in choosing our Jazz Pick of the Week is that we've heard a previous performance at the venue, and it supported the listening experience. Another consideration is that we've personally heard the musicians deliver a performance in a professional manner: starting on time, engaging the audience; and their performance made us feel something.

Of course these aren't the only two factors. Although we tend to not recommend a show at a venue we haven't been to, we haven't been to every one (yet). And touring musicians may perform here for the first or only time whom we have never heard live; they may be the best pick that week because you won't get another opportunity.

While our experience and careful thought goes into every weekly pick, we don't yet have a supercomputer and artificial intelligence software to assist us.

Snaggle's Ottawa performance with Brownman Ali had everyone's attention ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Engaged listeners at Snaggle's Avant-Garde Bar show improved the experience  ©Brett Delmage, 2017

So we were delighted that both performances we picked in the past two weeks: Snaggle, and Michel Delage's tribute series (to Howard Johnson this past weekend) left us saying "Wow" and exceeded our expectations. We had heard and reported about the music-making and performances of the musicians involved several times previously, although not playing the music that was to be presented.

It's notable that both shows were very different. One was original music written and performed by young musicians; the other was the music of a jazz veteran of five decades performed by mid-career musicians.

In common, both shows were by Canadian musicians, from Ottawa or Toronto (plus a guest musician raised in Ottawa who now lives in NYC) - who might be overlooked by some as having nothing special to offer.

Also in common, the two very different rooms were filled with engaged listeners, attuned to the music, responsively applauding throughout, and not chatting constantly or glued to cellphones. The venues may have been bars but they operated much of the evening more like listening halls, because keen jazz fans filled them. (It was nice to say hello to some of you at both shows)

Some listeners only look to the stage as the reason for an evening of enjoyable live jazz. But as some musicians will tell you, the responsiveness of the audience affects their work on stage. It's a partnership. Even if you're not on stage playing, or don't play at all, you have an influential role in making a great scene happen.

The new season of jazz starts this Friday, September 1. OttawaJazzScene.ca will be on the scene, to inform you about what we expect will be more than 1800 individual live jazz and improvised music performances in Ottawa-Gatineau in our Jazz Bulletins. (Our internal events compilation already extends well into spring, 2018.)

Discover it with us!