The Festival de Jazz Desjardins in Aylmer will feature the classics with a dash of new this month.

Pianist François Bourassa will perform twice at the 2017 Festival de Jazz Desjardins: with vocalist Jeanne Rochette and in a tribute to Bill Evans ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Pianist François Bourassa will perform twice at the 2017 Festival de Jazz Desjardins: with vocalist Jeanne Rochette and in a tribute to Bill Evans ©Brett Delmage, 2012

Acclaimed Montreal pianist François Bourassa will appear on two evenings, once in a tribute to jazz icon Bill Evans, and once with vocalist Jeanne Rochette. Ottawa trumpeter Ed Lister will bring his popular Prime Rib Big Band to the park, and Montreal soundscape artist Martin Rodriguez will perform his compositions. The four consecutive evening concerts will run from July 26 to 29, 2017.

The Festival de Jazz Desjardins concerts will again be held in Parc de l'Imaginaire in Aylmer, immediately across from the Aylmer Marina. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and last for at least an hour. Picnics and families are welcome. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets, because seating is not provided. And hope for clear skies, because concerts are canceled in the event of rain. Donations are welcome.

This is the 31st year of the Desjardins festival, and it opens on Wednesday, July 26 with a very different type of show: the soundscapes of Montreal composer Martin Rodriguez. He describes his work as “influenced by environmental sounds” in which “he draws a connection between the instinctive sonic communication occurring in nature and how human beings harness sound for their means of expression.” He creates “sonic environments which are living, listening, and engaging in the present.”

Rodriguez's work is influenced by his Polish-Mexican-American upbringing. His 2012 project, “Open La Puerta”, dealt with fragmented perceptions of his cultural heritage, and was recognized by AUX.TV as one of “11 Canadian crossover bands that are innovating with jazz”. In 2014, his interest in interactive installations and a brain tumor diagnosis lead to, “Cabezón” an immersive interactive performance environment exploring how we, as individuals and/or as a community, react when confronted with unexpected life-changing experiences that cross our path.

Trumpeter Ed Lister, on the other hand, draws his inspiration from the jazz tradition and particularly Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, for his Prime Rib Big Band. Since its debut in March, the band has been playing monthly at Irene's, as well as at the jazz festival, and we've heard good reviews of their music from listeners. On Thursday, July 27, you can hear eleven fine Ottawa jazz musicians play Lister's compositions and a few jazz classics – all rooted in big band swing. Their sound should nicely fill the park.

Vocalist Jeanne Rochette and pianist François Bourassa will appear on Friday, July 28. Rochette is from France, but has lived in Montreal for 13 years. She has both a theatrical and musical background, and writes original songs tinged with jazz and world music. Her latest album is Cachée [2016], recorded with a jazz quartet including Bourassa.

For the final festival show on July 29, four well-known Montreal jazz musicians – Bourassa, saxophonist Frank Lozano, bassist Michel Donato, and drummer Pierre Tanguay – will evoke the magic of the late jazz icon Bill Evans. In 2011, the quartet released a tribute album, Autour de Bill Evans: reminding audiences how much Evans' music still lives today, and how he has influenced generations of musicians “with his profoundly revolutionary approach to piano and trio jazz”.'s editors heard the quartet when they performed this music – a cross-section of Evans' repertoire – in Gatineau in 2011. We were delighted with the interpretations – as was the late Ottawa Jazz Festival programming manager Jacques Émond, who also attended the concert.

How to get to the free shows

The Parc de L'Imaginaire is beside Le Centre d'expostion L'Imagier at 9 Front Street, about 15 km from downtown Ottawa. It's accessible by bike: you can cross the river by the Champlain or Chaudière Bridges (Champlain is more comfortable), and take the multi-use paths westward along the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It's an enjoyable ride along the river, about an hour long - but remember to bring lights for the trip home. We usually return on the Upper Aylmer Road because it's better lit (avoid the Lower Aylmer Road/Chemin Lucerne at all costs because of its numerous potholes!)

You can also reach the park by automobile and by the Outaouais public transit service, STO (info: 819-770-3242). STO routes 55 and 59 take you into and out of Aylmer, but you may have to transfer from/to an Ottawa-bound bus. You can get directions via the STO Planibus.

You could even try boating to the park, if you can tie up at the adjacent Aylmer marina.

For more information:

– Alayne McGregor

Read about previous editions of the Festival de Jazz Desjardins: