Jazz supergroup Hudson, pianist Marc Copland, Bill Frisell, The Bad Plus, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra with Carla Bley, Maceo Parker's tribute to Ray Charles, Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms, Nick Fraser / Tony Malaby / Kris Davis, Wayne Eagles with John Geggie and Jesse Stewart, and Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra.
These are among the jazz groups highlighted by those who have so far responded to OttawaJazzScene.ca's poll of jazz festival attendees about the music at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival – with many enthusiastic comments.
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But not Kenny Rogers. The results were almost unanimous: the veteran country/pop star was considered the most inappropriate artist at this year's festival.
“While I respect Kenny Rogers I do not think he comes close to what Jazz is,” said Ted Duncan. “Kenny Rogers is a good Singer, but I don't think his kind of Music fits in well in Ottawa JazzFest,” was another response. “A country artist at Jazzfest...really?” said Pierre Hughes. “I don't care whether Kenny once played bass in a jazz group, his genre is as far from jazz as you can get,” said David Miller. “Poor choice and dull musician,” said Richard Gauthier.
Another was concerned how including Rogers affected the overall festival line-up. “World famous legends like Kenny Rogers presumably cost a lot of money. I would prefer more jazz musicians at the jazz festival.”
Feist, Serena Ryder, and Joss Stone were also selected by respondents as inappropriate for a jazz festival.
But several others defended these artists, not on artistic grounds, but for their ability to sell tickets.
“I don't think that it's inappropriate for any of the above musicians to play at the jazzfest. I appreciate that those names draw crowds that pay for jazz artists playing jazz that would not otherwise be booked, in particular the lesser known names,” said Michael Lechasseur.
“I am less concerned about the phenomenon of non-jazz acts at jazz festivals in general as I've come to appreciate the need to attract audiences and generate much needed revenue. And of these non-jazz acts in your list, I am looking forward to most of them as I am a fan, especially when it comes to Joss Stone (SO happy she is playing Ottawa), Feist, Rory Block and Serena Ryder. I guess I picked on poor Kenny Rogers cause I am least interested in hearing country music at this festival although I do like Linda Davis. And that video from years ago showing Kenny Rogers jazz-jamming on the bass that's been making the rounds on Youtube may mean that Kenny will play some jazz!” said Karen Oxorn.
“I think that many music festivals have diversified in recent years to stay afloat. It makes names like jazz festival or blues festival sound a little ridiculous. They could call themselves general music festivals with specialties. On the other hand, the non-jazz headliners draw larger crowds and help pay for the more interesting jazz performances that otherwise lose money. […] I wouldn't go to Kenny Rogers if someone invited me,” was another response.
Anticipated groups in each series
The more enthusiastic responses were reserved for the jazz and improvised music groups.
On the main stage in Confederation Park, the results showed a tie between two tributes: Maceo Parker & The Ray Charles Orchestra's “To Ray, With Love”, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra with pianist Carla Bley. In Orbit with Michael Occhipinti, Gypsophilia, and Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires were also selected.
“Ray Charles was a great jazz artist and Maceo Parker played with James Brown so it should great to hear Ray's tunes again arranged by Maceo,” was one enthusiastic response. “A legend. All of his shows I seen have entertained,” said another. “This way, RAY CHARLES is Still Alive!” said a third.
A Liberation Music Orchestra fan said that this show was “probably one of the last chances to listen to amazing and often political music in our dangerous times.” Another said, “Another tough choice. But the opportunity to witness Carla Bley work her magic is priceless.”
But a significant number of responses also indicated they weren't attending any main-stage shows. “Bad selection of musicians” was one explanation. “There are very few Main Stage concerts of interest to me this year. And those all conflicted with something else. So, I have a gold pass and am missing the Main Stage due to its music quality,” said longtime Jazzfest attendee John Wilson.
In the high-profile Jazz Warrior series at the National Arts Centre, respondents indicated it was much harder to chose only one group, and the results were more diverse.
But HUDSON, the supergroup with drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Larry Grenadier, pianist John Medeski, and guitarist John Scofield, was the clear winner. “Tough decision. Could have said Kenny Barron or the Copland Trio. But Hudson is composed of 4 outstanding musicians in their own right. Very eager to hear this collaboration live,” was one response. “Really want to see Larry Grenadier play. I'm also seeing Gary Peacock's show, a must see”, said Michaël Gazier. Others were looking forward to seeing DeJohnette (“Jazz legend”) and John Scofield (“a pioneer in modern jazz”).
Bill Frisell (“an extraordinary Guitarist and Musician”), Mavis Staples (“She's amazing, I haven't heard her in a long time and who knows how much longer she'll be on the road.”), Donny McCaslin, Now This (Gary Peacock / Marc Copland / Joey Baron), and Hiromi's duo with Edmar Castañeda (“the most unique duo”) were also picked.
Fans of The Bad Plus noted that it was “Last chance to see one of the best innovative trios working today” and praised their “Great compositions. Fun watching the drummer”. Several piano jazz fans picked Kenny Barron: “Ken has played with everyone” commented one, while another said, “Love his style. And you can't get better than solo piano. (I'm a minimalist, at heart.)”
In the joint concerts with Canada Scene in the NAC Back Stage, every show was picked by some respondents, with many also saying they hadn't chosen yet or weren't attending that series.
Gord Grdina's Haram (“I love cross-cultural genre-busting music”) and Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms received the most enthusiastic comments. Pierre Chene described Derome's group as “de grands créateurs et innovateurs musicaux. La musique qu'ils font et malaxent ensemble s'avère des plus inouïes !!”
The results for the Discovery (formerly Improv Invitational) series at La Nouvelle Scène were also diverse, but the most votes went to three groups with local connections: guitarist Roddy Ellias' trio with pianist Marc Copland and bassist Adrian Vedady, drummer Nick Fraser's group with saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Kris Davis, and the Sonoluminescence Trio with drummer Jesse Stewart, saxophonist David Mott, and bassist William Parker.
“Nick Fraser has played with many groups in Ontario over the years and am interested in hearing him 'on his own',” said one respondent.
On local stages, listeners picked almost every Ottawa-area group in the series. “Amazing local musicians”. “A ton of talent in so many of these shows!”
The most popular choice was Wayne Eagles' new trio with Jesse Stewart and John Geggie. Other popular choices were the Rakestar Arkestra, The Bank Street Bonbons, Michael Hanna and Friends (“Ottawa is lucky to have Michael Hanna among us. Definitely worth checking out that voice!”), and Steve Boudreau Trio plays George Gershwin (“I've seen Steve perform at GigSpace a few times and he is amazing.”)
Most respondents didn't have a choice for the late-night shows on the City Hall stage, but of those who did, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Pierre Kwenders, and Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra were the most popular.
The Moscow Jazz Orchestra received the most enthusiastic comments: “These guys killed it as guests on the main stage last year. Very talented, ”said one. “Igor blew me away last year. Great performance,” said another.
For the first time this year, the summer festival has moved its Discovery series further away, to La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown, a 17-minute walk from Confederation Park. In order to make the commute easier, it's running buses between the park and La Nouvelle Scène, leaving the park at 5:15 and 5:30 p.m. and at 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor took the bus there and back Thursday. It was convenient, and easy to use. The 7:15 p.m. bus was almost empty (2 people), but the return bus was more full.
– Alayne McGregor
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