Updated April 29, 2015
Molly Johnson, the Mike Murley Septet, Kellylee Evans, Jesse Cook, and Jesse Stewart with and without the Stretch Orchestra will bring a jazzy and improvised edge to the National Arts Centre's Ontario Scene festival this spring.

Molly Johnson and pianist Robi Botos at Johnson's sold-out NAC show in 2013, where both Johnson and her band got separate ovations. Johnson and Botos return to the NAC on May 1 as part of Ontario Scene. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Molly Johnson and pianist Robi Botos at Johnson's sold-out NAC show in 2013, where both Johnson and her band got separate ovations. Johnson and Botos return to the NAC on May 1 as part of Ontario Scene. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
The festival's lineup was announced today, and will also include many musical genres from classical to indie, as well as books, food, dance, film, and theatre. It will run for two weeks, from April 29 to May 10, at locations across Ottawa including the NAC.

At Ontario Scene's launch event, producer Heather Moore emphasized that “Ontario is where artists blur artistic boundaries”. That's also true in several jazz-related events, including a blues revue featuring many jazz vocalists and instrumentalists, and a jazz artist providing music for a dance presentation.

Ottawa's own composer, percussionist, and visual artist Jesse Stewart will be heard around the scene in a week-long residency from April 30 to May 9. He'll put percussion into a variety of artistic and multi-disciplinary performances, including the tallest trio, disabled dance, and a BOOMy bass drum shelter solo.

Highlights include:

April 30, May 2: Jesse Stewart opens his residency as part of dance performances. He'll play live music in “The Eventual De-Expression of Rgs2,” a performance that takes its cue from American photographer Diane Arbus.

May 1: Toronto vocalist and broadcaster Molly Johnson easily filled the NAC Studio in her last NAC show with a highly enthusiastic audience. This time, she's been given the larger Theatre for Because of Billie, her tribute to jazz icon Billie Holiday and Holiday’s heartbreaking childhood. The CD has been nominated for Best Vocal Jazz Album in this year's Junos, and a portion of its revenues will go to benefit Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada. She'll be backed by two of Toronto's most propulsive jazz musicians: Robi Botos on piano and Terry Clarke on drums (last seen in Ottawa last November at Brian Browne's annual NAC concert). Watch our video interview with Molly Johnson.

Jesse Stewart © Brett Delmage
Jesse Stewart © Brett Delmage
May 3: Shaking things up on the first Sunday of the month, Jesse Stewart will perform in the far suburbs of Ottawa in a highly unusual venue: the Diefenbunker, where he is their 2015 artist-in-residence. His acoustic partner will be the blast tunnel entrance. Using his bass drum and suitcase of surprises, he'll open people's ears to the tunnel in a way they haven't heard it before.

May 6: Sudbury vocalist Patricia Cano blends jazz, blues, South American folk, samba, Afro-Peruvian rhythms, and more. With a background in theatre, Spanish literature, Korean singing, and Brazil’s Carioca music scene, she sings in English, French, and Spanish. Also on the same bill: Luanda Jones, originally from Rio de Janeiro, whose jazzy vocals cover both Brazilian classics and her original songs.

May 7: The 2012 Juno-winning Stretch Orchestra (Jesse Stewart - drums, Kevin Breit - guitar, Matt Brubeck - cello) returns to the Fourth Stage. Their previous Fourth Stage show at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival was packed with enthusiastic listeners. They'll return with some past favs and new material.

May 7: Jaron Freeman-Fox & The Opposite of Everything (in the same show as the Stretch Orchestra). Jaron Freeman-Fox was a student and protégé of the late violin master Oliver Schroer and has carried on Schroer's tradition of violin improvisation. Together with his band The Opposite of Everything, he combines fiddling with Indian classical music and jazz, and redefines what the violin can do.

May 8: Toronto saxophonist Mike Murley has been attracting attention, praise, and awards for more than three decades, playing in everything from a simple guitar-sax duo to electric fusion to big bands. He has played on eleven Juno Award-winning recordings, the most recent in 2013. His septet includes major Toronto jazz talents: saxophonist Tara Davidson, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, trombonist Terry Promane, pianist David Braid, bassist Jim Vivian, and drummer Ted Warren. The septet's latest CD, the buoyant Still Rollin', was also nominated for a Juno.

Mike Murley © Brett Delmage
Mike Murley © Brett Delmage
May 8: The Women's Blues Revue features Ottawa hometown jazz singer Kellylee Evans along with five Ontario vocalists coming from the blues and R&B traditions: Divine Brown, Roxanne Potvin, Juno winner Rita Chiarelli, Samantha Martin (who adds roots/Americana to her influences), and Diana Braithwaite (who is influenced by both Nina Simone and Esther Phillips). They will be supported by an all-female band with notable jazz roots, led by trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy and featuring saxophonist Colleen Allen (who has played with both Holly Cole and Molly Johnson). This show is an annual event put on by the Toronto Blues Society; this edition celebrates its 30th anniversary.

May 8-9: Jesse Stewart will join Mark Rehder (Ottawa Jazz Orchestra's longtime percussionist), Mike Essoudry, and Dominique Saint-Pierre to play original, live music for FLESH AND SPOKES. The dance performance will be by Propeller Dance, Ontario’s only integrated contemporary dance company.

May 9: Kevin Breit (of The Stretch Orchestra and many other improvising groups) will be one of five guitarists featured in the Guitar Heroes show. They'll perform “blues, jazz, fusion, and everything in between”.

May 9: the Carleton University Art Gallery is sponsoring “Good Afternoon”, an free art event including site-specific art, food, and music, starting at noon. At 2 p.m., the show moves to the university's Architecture Building, where four Ontario experimental musicians will perform. One of them is Ottawa jazz/electronics musician Adam Saikaley, who will be improvising with electronics.

May 10: flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook is a Juno award winner, and three-time recipient of the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year. He'll present his new album, One World, in which his guitar is married with programmed beats and dusty electronic textures, syncopated handclaps, deep dubby basslines and popping percussion, as well as sitars and violin.

The National Arts Centre has been running “Scene” festivals every second year since 2003, celebrating different parts of Canada. The series will conclude in 2017 with the Canada Scene celebrating the country's 150th anniversary.

An NAC press release noted that the Scene festivals have not only presented artists to audiences, but also to presenters and talent scouts from across Canada and from 27 countries around the world. This exposure has led to more than 495 performance bookings at major festivals and performance venues.

    – Alayne McGregor and Brett Delmage

Updated April 29 to add "Good Afternoon" on May 9.

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