Updated March 29, 2017
At the end of March, musicians of every genre will gather in Canada's capital for the 2017 Juno Awards ceremonies. And they won't just be accepting awards – they'll be showing off the diversity and new frontiers in Canadian music, including jazz.
The main attraction will be the JUNOfest concerts on Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1, at 15 locations across Ottawa, featuring nominated and local artists in many genres. Individual tickets and all-location wristbands are available for the shows, giving fans a chance to hear musicians from across the country. However, many of the locations are not large, and may fill up quickly.
Bassists Dave Young and Brandi Disterheft, pianists Amanda Tosoff and David Braid, vocalists Heather Bambrick and Felicity Williams, saxophonists Quinsin Nachoff, Shirantha Beddage, and Perry White, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, guitarists Reg Schwager and Alex Goodman, and drummer Terry Clarke will be among the jazz musicians performing at JUNOfest. [See the list of 2017 Juno Award nominees in the jazz and related categories]
The Juno Awards are also sponsoring exhibits of art, photography, and memorabilia associated with Juno-winning musicians, and several panel discussions about the music industry.
For jazz fans, the focus will be on Live! On Elgin downtown where four jazz groups – almost all Juno nominees – will perform each evening between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Jazz musicians nominated in the Children's and Instrumental categories will also perform in other JUNOfest venues.
On Friday, March 31, the jazz showcase at Live! On Elgin will open at 9 p.m. with Toronto vocalist Heather Bambrick accompanied by pianist David Braid. Bambrick is nominated in the Jazz Vocal category for You’ll Never Know, a collection of classic standards, originals, and even a Bruce Cockburn song, backed by a Toronto jazz septet.
Braid, on the other hand, has moved outside of his normal jazz sphere lately for collaborations with chamber ensembles. He was nominated for Flow, his album with the Epoque String Quartet, which includes several chamber jazz pieces which he performed at the National Arts Centre and Chamberfest in the last two years, including one inspired by a Werner Herzog documentary.
Braid played on Bambrick's first two solo CDs, but this will the first time they've performed together in many years. It will be a piano-voice duo, which Bambrick says is a way “that we’ve always loved performing, as we have tremendous trust in one another, and so the musical 'journeys' we take together are always exciting, fresh, and interesting for us … and hopefully for the audiences, as well.”
They'll include some songs from You’ll Never Know, as well as from the recordings they’ve done together in the past, and some other favourites.
At 10 p.m., Toronto baritone saxophonist Shirantha Beddage takes the stage. He's nominated for Momentum, a high-energy jazz sextet album which “explores the tension between oppositional forces in music and the world around us”. It's his third album, and draws influences from “New Orleans jazz, R&B, film music and folk songs”. Beddage also played on another Juno-nominated jazz album this year: the Order of Canada band album, Sweet Canadiana.
For this show he's bringing a new configuration of his group: pianist and fellow nominee Amanda Tosoff, bassist Jon Maharaj, and drummer Morgan Childs. They'll perform four pieces from Momentum, including his commanding baritone showcase, “Pork Chop”, which opens the album, and possibly another from his 2012 album, Identity.
Beddage had an emphatic presence on bass clarinet, clarinet, alto sax, and baritone sax.when he performed with the Nancy Walker Quintet in 2015 at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.
Amanda Tosoff started with lyrics, not music, for her nominated jazz vocal album, Words. She chose poems and lyrics that possessed a personal resonance for her – some classics, some Canadian poetry, some songs. Then she she gave them evocative musical settings, with piano, guitar, bass and drums, and accents by violin and cello.
For her 11 p.m. show at JUNOfest, Tosoff will be joined by the musicians who played on Words: Felicity Williams on vocals, Alex Goodman on guitar, Jon Maharaj on bass, and Morgan Childs on drums. From the album, she'll perform pieces based on poems by Canadian poets and by William Wordsworth, as well as some with lyrics by family members. The quintet will also perform several new pieces planned for her next CD, based on poems by Pablo Neruda, Edgar Allan Poe, or Walt Whitman – and possibly even a cover or two by Joni Mitchell or Yo Yo Ma.
Canadian audiences will most likely have heard Tosoff in Emilie-Claire Barlow's sextet, where she is the regular pianist.
Friday closes off at midnight with another nominated vocalist from Toronto, Barbra Lica. In her album, I'm Still Learning, Lica combines standards and Jobim with pop-influenced originals. It's a light-hearted and upbeat compilation, sung in a child-like soprano.
Saturday, April 1, at Live! On Elgin starts at 9 p.m. with the Adam Saikaley Trio. The Ottawa pianist is playing his original compositions in his trio with two other well-known local jazz musicians – Alex Bilodeau on double bass and Michel Delage on drums. Read our review of one of Saikaley's previous jazz projects.
At 10 p.m., open your ears for something new. Toronto/NYC saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff will present music you won't have heard this way before – even if you've listened to his Juno-nominated album, Flux. While Flux was performed in a quartet of two saxes, piano, and drums, for this show Nachoff will perform with a brass quintet and drums, and in a sax-tuba-drums chordless trio.
For the trio, he'll be joined by renowned Toronto jazz drummer Terry Clarke and by Ottawa tuba player Keith Hartshorn-Walton. They'll reinterpret compositions from his upcoming album, Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio, which will be released in mid-May. It emphasizes a “searching and otherworldly” vibe, and blends through-composition and improvisation.
The trio will join up with the Ottawa-based Sussex Brass Quintet – Nicholas Dyson and Ed Lister on trumpets, Nigel Bell on French horn, Mark Ferguson on trombone, and Hartshorn-Walton on tuba – to play two, more complex, pieces which cross between classical and jazz. “Complimentary Opposites” was on Flux, and and was originally commissioned by Peter Knight's 5+2 Brass Ensemble and premiered in Melbourne. The septet will follow it with the second part of the same suite, which was not on the album.
At 11 p.m., you can hear ex-Vancouver, now NYC-based bassist Brandi Disterheft. She collaborated with two acclaimed jazz veterans – pianist Harold Mabern and drummer Joe Farnsworth – for her nominated album, Blue Canvas. It's an album very much in the tradition, with lots of swing and a touch of hard bop. Disterheft wrote three originals for the album, and combined them with jazz classics like Bobby Timmons' “Dis Here”, Tadd Dameron's “Our Delight”, and Clifford Brown’s “George's Dilemma”.
In Ottawa, she'll play with Schwager and Childs, along with Tosoff as a special guest. Disterheft says she'll perform pieces from Blue Canvas "along with some standards I love to sing. Uplifting and swinging jazz that makes you want to tap your feet and dance is what I live to perform." Disterheft performed just up the street in 2012, in her concert at the National Arts Centre.
12 Midnight: Toronto bassist Dave Young is nominated for One Way Up, a CD featuring jazz favourites from his five-decade-long career, which he learned when touring with legends including Cedar Walton and Joe Henderson. On the CD, his quintet digs into hard bop and post-bop pieces by Walton, Henderson, and Freddie Hubbard as well as three of his own new compositions. Young will perform music from this album at JUNOfest with four fine Toronto musicians, three of whom – Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Perry White on tenor saxophone, and Terry Clarke on drums – appeared on the album. Guitarist Reg Schwager will replace the album's pianist, Renee Rosnes.
The Juno awards themselves will be distributed on two evenings: Saturday, April 1 at a private dinner, at which all the jazz-related awards are expected to be announced, and Sunday, April 2 in a 2½-hour concert/event at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata starting at 6:30 p.m. No jazz artists are scheduled to perform on Sunday. The Sunday event will be broadcast on CTV. You can buy tickets to attend in person through Ticketmaster ($39 and up).
Other jazz-related Juno shows
JUNOfest is also sponsoring other shows featuring local and nominated jazz musicians in the week leading up to the award ceremonies.
March 26: Petr Cancura and the Rambles will perform at Dominion City Brewing, on Canotek Road in Ottawa's far east end, in a filmed JUNOfest show where the audience is integrated into the event.
March 31, 11 p.m.: Ottawa jazz/R&B vocalist Rebecca Noelle will perform at Irene's Pub, as part of JUNOfest. Noelle Noelle recently released a new album, Soulstice: "derived from jazz, but given a neo-soul, funk treatment with the brass and vocal harmonies".
April 1, 10 a.m.: The Ottawa Kidsfest at the EY Centre near the airport is featuring a two-hour Junior JUNOS concert. Four of the Juno nominees for Children's Album of the Year, including jazz vocalist Diana Panton (I Believe in Little Things), will perform.
April 1, 10 p.m.: Ottawa vocalist and bassist Angelique Francis will perform at the Rainbow Bistro as part of JUNOfest.
April 1, 12 midnight: The Vancouver jazz/pop ensemble Pugs and Crows have had a long and fruitful collaboration with guitarist Tony Wilson (who performed with his own group at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival in February). They were nominated for their joint album, Everyone Knows Everyone, in the Instrumental (aka catch-all) Juno category, and will perform at St. Alban's Church in Sandy Hill as part of JUNOfest. Read our review of their appearance with Wilson at the Guelph Jazz Festival.
Other Juno events of interest to jazz fans and musicians
You can hear more about the Canadian music industry at Juno panels.
March 30: Ottawa Music Summit at the Junos (Canada Council offices, 150 Elgin Street): an all-day music conference for local and visiting artists and industry, focusing on the topics of selling music to Film and TV, and developing export music markets. Tickets and schedule
March 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Music City Panel (The Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards, 7 Bayview Road). A free event, at which panel of experts will discuss how to develop a local “music economy”, and the industry’s ability to significantly impact the economic, social and cultural vibrancy of a city. The assumption: that “strong, healthy music strategies can contribute to city-building, helping to attract and retain talent across industries, increase tourism and contribute to the quality of life of the people who live, visit and come to work in the Nation’s capital.” This is a special project of Ottawa city councillor Jeff Leiper. You can pre-register here.
April 1, 2 to 3:30 p.m.: Broadcaster and record label owner Holger Peterson will sit down at the Record Centre with music critic Roch Parisien to discuss Peterson's new book, Talking Music 2: Blues & Roots Music Mavericks. The interview will be followed by a book signing and special musical performance. Peterson has hosted CBC Radio’s “Saturday Night Blues” for 30-odd years, and also heads up Stony Plain Records, Canada’s longest-running independent record label. Admission is free.
Ottawa City Hall is hosting two Juno-related art exhibits now until April 16, at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex on the main floor. Art is Art showcases the visual art produced by prominent Canadian recording artists, which demonstrates the “creative connection between these two disciplinary fields”. This is the first time that these works, by musicians such as Jann Arden, Leonard Cohen, Marc Jordan, Sarah McLachlan, Serena Ryder, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Wilson, and Royal Wood, has been displayed. They will be added to the JUNO Awards’ permanent art collection.
The JUNO Photography Exhibition is a retrospective showcasing the past 40+ years of Canadian music and the JUNO Awards. It includes selected photos from the JUNO Awards’ 40th anniversary book, Music from Far and Wide, as well as never-before-seen photos taken by Canada’s music photographers including Barry Roden, Bruce Cole, Grant Martin, George Pimental, and Alex Urosevic, along with photographers from iPhoto Inc.
The gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free. The opening reception for both shows will take place on Friday, March 31 at 5 p.m. in the gallery.
JUNO House: R·Evolutions: In the lobby of the Canada Council for the Arts building at 150 Elgin Street (just south of Laurier Avenue), there is a free exhibit of objects which provided musical inspiration to Canadian musicians. Curated by journalist and musicologist Allan Wigney, the exhibit in the Âjagemô exhibition space will include Joni Mitchell’s artwork, k.d. lang’s “wedding dress”, Drake’s running shoes, and more. Also on display will be artwork from the Canada Council’s Art Bank, pieces from the National Music Centre, and JUNO Awards memorabilia. The exhibit continues until August 31, and is open when the building is open. Admission is free.
– Alayne McGregor
Wristbands for all JUNOfest shows on both March 31 and April 1 ($30) are available at junoawards.ca/event/junofest/.
Tickets for the March 31 JUNOfest jazz shows at Live! On Elgin are available at www.spectrasonic.com/event/144108-barbra-lica-amanda-tosoff-ottawa/.
Tickets for the April 1 JUNOfest jazz shows at Live! On Elgin are available at www.spectrasonic.com/event/1441087-dave-young-quintet-brandi-ottawa/ .
March 20: Updated to include more information about the Heather Bambrick-David Braid JUNOfest duo on March 31.
March 27: Added a pre-registration link for the Music City Panel.
March 29: Added information from Brandi Disterheft about her JUNOfest performance.