NAC Presents has again gone for the tried and true, with Diana Krall headlining a sparse selection of jazz artists in its fall line-up.

Diana Krall returns to jazz in two shows at the NAC Southam Hall December 1 and 2. ©2013 Brett Delmage
Diana Krall returns to jazz in two shows at the NAC Southam Hall December 1 and 2. ©2013 Brett Delmage
This edition of the popular music series at the National Arts Centre was fully curated by its new producer, former Halifax Jazz Festival executive director Heather Gibson. 6 of the 52 concerts announced today are jazz-related, including Krall, Toronto guitarist Jesse Cook, Montreal pianist Emie R Roussel, Toronto vocalist Shakura S'Aida, and Ottawa Afro-Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas.

Most of the series concerts will be in the newly-renovated Fourth Stage, which reopens at the beginning of October. NAC Presents is also unveiling a new “Fridays at the Fourth” sub-series featuring many “emerging” artists, including Ottawa soul-jazz vocalist Rebecca Noelle. The Fourth Stage will now open early on Fridays “so people can drop in for a drink after work or come early for the show, with the performance starting at 8:30 p.m.” The shows will be priced at $15, or $10 for students.

In previous years, the only inclusion of Ottawa jazz artists in NAC Presents was in Petr Cancura's Crossroads jazz/roots series. That series was not included in this announcement.

With 52 shows announced for just September to December, NAC Presents has substantially increased the number of Canadian musicians it's showcasing. It had consistently presented about 60 artists total in the fall and spring in previous seasons. However, there's little increase in jazz. Last fall, it presented four jazz artists, plus Diana Krall performing at the NAC Gala. In 2015, there were five jazz shows in the fall, and in the fall of 2014, three.

Vocalist and pianist Diana Krall will unveil her new jazz album, Turn Up the Quiet, in two shows in the 2,065-seat Southam Hall on December 1 and 2. Krall is spending most of this year touring throughout the U.S., Europe, and Canada to promote this album, which sees her return to jazz standards after a strictly pop outing with Wallflower in 2015.

On the CD, Krall sings classics that include “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, "Isn't It Romantic?" by Rodgers and Hart, the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E”, the Latin “Sway”, Johnny Mercer's “Dream”, and Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies”. There's a definite retro feel to the selections, with many of the songs originally written in the 1920s and 1930s, and the overall vibe of the choices is intimate and soft. The album was produced by the late Tommy LiPuma, who had produced several of Krall’s best-known albums, including All For You, The Look Of Love, and Live In Paris.

Krall has been steadily popular with NAC audiences. Her 2015 NAC show sold out earlier than almost any other on that tour. The only other North American cities where she's playing two nights in a row are Hollywood and Toronto.

Jazz/blues vocalist Shakura S'Aida last appeared at the NAC in 2015, in a joint tribute with Kellylee Evans and Jackie Richardson to jazz icon Nina Simone. This month, S'Aida sang selections from Oscar Peterson's Canadiana Suite in four performances with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. She'll appear in the Studio on Friday, November 10.

Jazz/flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook releases his new album, Beyond Borders, in August, and brings it to Southam Hall on November 14. Cook has won the Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Guitarist of the Year three times, and the Juno Award once, with many Juno nominations. He plays rumba flamenco combined with jazz and many forms of world music, and has appeared regularly at the NAC.

Pianist Emie R Roussel first brought her trio to the Fourth Stage in 2015, as one of the new francophone artists promoted by the Radio-Canada Révélations series. Her contemporary brand of harmonic, intricate, and accessible jazz was a hit with NAC audiences. She and her trio are back on Thursday, November 30 in the Fourth Stage with their new project, Intersections – after having toured to eleven countries across four continents in less than two years.

Pianist Miguel de Armas has developed a steadily-increasing following and profile in Ottawa over the last five years, with his propulsive Afro-Cuban jazz performed solo, with his quartet, and in several larger ensembles like Sabor de Cuba. His recent collaboration with saxophonist/flutist Jane Bunnett at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival was both intensely energetic and (as Bunnett put it) "lickety-split", but also nuanced, and brought the over-packed audience to its feet several times. On Wednesday, December 6, he brings his long-standing quartet to the Fourth Stage.

Last December, Ottawa vocalist Rebecca Noelle released a new album, Soulstice – "derived from jazz, but given a neo-soul, funk treatment with the brass and vocal harmonies" – backed by six strong local jazz musicians. It featured her original songs, drawn from her personal experiences: "Lessons learned, love lost, speaking with your inner voice and gaining the confidence to put yourself out there". On Friday, December 8, Rebecca Noelle will appear at the Fourth Stage.

Tickets for all concerts go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 15. NAC Presents will announce additional concerts for the 2018 winter-spring season later this fall.

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