Diana Panton ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Jazz vocalist Diana Panton will make her NAC debut next March with a new album ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Juno-winning jazz vocalist Diana Panton will make her National Arts Centre debut next March, in one of the few high-profile jazz concerts announced by NAC Presents this week.

The NAC popular music series announced 30 additional shows in its 2017-18 season on Wednesday. Of those, five were jazz shows, including Panton, pianist Michael Kaeshammer, saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps, and Quebec jazz/pop group Bellflower. Notably, Ottawa multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura will return with a new all-star instrumental Canadian group: Generation NOW.

Diana Panton (March 3, NAC Studio) has won two Juno Awards: one for Red, a collection of love songs for grown-ups about serious love relationships, and more recently for I Believe in Little Things, her album of jazz songs for children. In November, the Hamilton-based vocalist releases her eighth album, solstice/equinox, whose theme is the changing seasons and how they relate to the cycles of love and life. The album features an all-star Canadian musical cast: arrangements by Don Thompson, who also performs on bass, piano, and vibraphone; Guido Basso on cornet, flugelhorn, and trumpet; Phil Dwyer on saxophones; and Reg Schwager on guitar.

For his show in the NAC Theatre on February 8, Vancouver Island-based Michael Kaeshammer will have two recent albums to present. No Filter, a collection of original songs and piano instrumentals, with special guests Randy Bachman, Denzal Sinclaire and Joel Parisien, was released in 2016. This fall, Kaeshammer will record his new CD in New Orleans, to be released in January. At his last NAC show in 2016, Kaeshammer made a real effort to connect with his audience, playing a lively and varied set with a top-notch band, and chatting with the crowd.

Generation NOW with Petr Cancura (March 13, NAC Studio) is a new group of “today’s most important Canadian jazz musicians”, assembled by Cancura. He's picked musicians skilled in both composing and playing: Michael Blake (Vancouver, NYC) on woodwinds, Rebecca Hennessy (Toronto) on trumpet, Marianne Trudel (Montreal) on piano, Rémi-Jean Leblanc (Montreal) on bass. and Greg Ritchie (Montreal) on drums. The result: a band with “great time feel”, filled with “original Canadian musical personalities”.

Marianne Trudel ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Marianne Trudel is one of the original Canadian musical personalities featured in Petr Cancura's new Generation NOW ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Blake, Hennessy, and Trudel have all led ambitious instrumental groups featured at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, where Cancura is programming director; Leblanc is a stalwart of the Montreal jazz scene, performing in everything from trios to big bands. Ritchie, with an excellent rep honed in both Montreal and NYC, performed in Cancura's Crossroads quartet in NAC Presents for the last two years.

Saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps and his quintet garnered a standing ovation for their show last week in Ottawa, part of a release tour for Deschamps' second CD, Demi-Nuit. Deschamps is Radio-Canada's 2017-18 Révélations jazz artist; NAC Presents has consistently showcased Révélations artists, and will present Deschamps and his quintet performing Deschamps' multi-layered compositions on March 15 in the Fourth Stage.

Bellflower (May 11, Fourth Stage) is an nine-member Quebec jazz/pop group, which includes jazz musicians Jérôme Beaulieu, William Côté, Alex Dodier, Nicolas Boulay, Marie-Noelle Bois, and Félix Petit. Its music blends hybrid jazz, orchestral pop, and soaring harmonies, and it was featured in this summer's Canada Scene festival at the NAC.

NAC Presents had announced its fall concerts in May and in July. The highest profile is a perennial Ottawa favourite, vocalist Diana Krall (December 1 and 2). Also to be presented this fall are:

  • jazz/blues vocalist Shakura S'Aida (November 10),
  • jazz/flamenco guitarist Jesse Cook (November 14),
  • the trio of jazz pianist Emie R Roussel, a previous Révélations winner and NAC Presents performer (November 30), and
  • the propulsive quartet of Ottawa's Afro-Cuban pianist, Miguel de Armas (December 6).
  • Petr Cancura and Juno-winning Ottawa vocalist Kellylee Evans will collaborate on Swing Swing Swing! on November 8: a tribute to swing music and swing dancing, with a nod to to the “great jazz diva” Ella Fitzgerald.

However, if you want to hear jazz in the NAC’s new Fourth Stage a bit earlier, your first chance this fall will be in shows by local musicians.

  • Steve Boudreau officially releases his George Gershwin trio album on October 22 [review]
  • the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra performs The Duke of Groove, a celebration of hard bop/soul jazz pianist Duke Pearson, on November 2 [interview]; and
  • vocalist Karen Oxorn pays a heartfelt tribute to Ella Fitzgerald's centennial on November 29, with a show focusing on Fitzgerald's superb Songbook recordings of the 1950s and 60s.

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