The Ottawa Jazz Festival opened with a slighted muted fanfare Thursday, with a late-afternoon concert featuring six horns celebrating its 35th anniversary.
It was a low-key affair, with the musicians simply standing or sitting in the shade of trees surrounding Confederation Park's fountain, and listeners pulling up plastic chairs nearby. But on the other hand, it was real jazz, not Bollywood or rock, and the audience sounded consistently appreciative.
Festival programming manager Petr Cancura brought together six well-known Ottawa musicians – Tyler Harris (alto sax), Ed Lister (trumpet), Mike Shultz (sousaphone), Ryan Purchase (trombone), Roddy Ellias (guitar), and Mike Essoudry (drums) – along with trumpeter Lina Allemano from Toronto, and himself on clarinet and tenor sax. They played a mixture of standards, rearrangements of pop tunes, and New Orleans and Balkan-style jazz.
Five years ago, the 30th edition of the festival opened with a procession down Elgin Street and through the park – led by Essoudry's marching band, The Mash Potato Mashers. While the Mashers ended their run last year, the set list for this show included several songs which were originally written or arranged for that group.
That included “Fly Like An Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band, who will be playing at this year's festival. However, when Cancura asked the audience if anyone liked Steve Miller, he received only a tepid response.
I was most impressed with the group's jazz adaptation of the traditional spiritual, “Down to the River to Pray”, which was introduced by deep, echoing notes on the sousaphone and featured considerable interesting interplay and soloing – echoing and embellishing the original vocal melody.
It was a blazingly hot and bright day under blue skies, matched by the generally upbeat music. The show attracted about 60 sitting listeners, plus some standing, and lots of people passing through, and consistently enthusiastic applause.
Rain is always a concern at the festival's outdoor concerts – and this one just avoided it. An hour after the scheduled finish time, a massive thunderstorm dumped sheets of rain on downtown. However forecasts for tonight and Saturday show no rain at all.
– Alayne McGregor
Note: The Ottawa Jazz Festival provided review access to OttawaJazzScene.ca to the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival but for the fifth year denied access to our photojournalist and publisher, Brett Delmage. Therefore, we are unable to publish photos with our coverage.
Read related stories: