Barbra Lica ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Toronto vocalist Barbra Lica will return to Ottawa for the 2018 Winter Jazz Festival, after a glamorous and well-crafted set at last April's JUNOfest ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Updated December 7, 2017

Trumpeter Chris Botti will perform with the NAC Orchestra at next summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival, while pianist Fred Hersch, a Latin big band led by Hilario Durán, vocalist Barbra Lica, and saxophonist Chet Doxas will headline the 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

At the festival's annual general meeting Thursday, executive producer Catherine O'Grady revealed the first few artists booked for the summer festival and announced the winter festival line-up.

The summer 2018 Ottawa Jazz Festival will run from June 21 to July 1. O'Grady said the performers will include trumpeter Chris Botti with the NAC Orchestra (June 21), bluegrass-country vocalist Alison Krauss, and improvising banjo player Béla Fleck with the original Flecktones (June 28). (The Montreal Jazz Festival also announced on the same day that Fleck would perform at that festival.)

On December 7, the Ottawa jazz festival added a further award-winning artist: jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (June 24), with her new album honouring her home town of Memphis, Alabama.

The 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival will run from February 8 to 10. It will again be located indoors at La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown, as it was in 2017 – not at the National Arts Centre, where it had been primarily located from 2012 to 2016.

More Ottawa Jazz Festival news: Location worries in 2018, after a "scary" 2017

So far the festival has announced nine concerts over three days for the winter festival – one day and three concerts shorter than in 2017, but keeping the same general format. However, it has not yet slotted in the winner of its special project grant, with which a local jazz musician would present a concert which also includes multimedia, spoken word, dance, or visual art. The schedule still has a slot open on February 10 which possibly might include that show.

There will be at least three concerts each night, held alternately in Studio A and the smaller Studio B with their times almost overlapping. A free jazz jam session will be held on the Friday and Saturday evenings in the front entrance area of La Nouvelle Scène, starting at 10:30 p.m. The host band for the jams has not been announced.

Single ticket prices are up from 2017, at $30 instead of $26.50. However, the cost of a full festival pass has been reduced to $150 (from $189 in 2017), and a day pass to $60 (from $70). At the 2017 festival, was told by attendees that some shows were very well attended and others only about one-third full; having essentially a “3 for 2” sale with a day pass may increase attendance for some shows.

Tickets and passes for the Winter Jazz Festival are now on sale. O'Grady told the AGM that passes for the summer festival would go on sale on December 6 at the same price as last year, for a limited time and in limited quantities.

All things jazz at the winter festival, from the avant-garde to vocal jazz to big bands to solo piano

Thursday, February 8, 6 p.m.:The Winter festival opens with composer Pierre-Yves Martel's long-standing chamber jazz group, Quartetski. This group of well-known Montreal avant-garde musicians will provide an improvised interpretation of Mikrokosmos by classical composer Béla Bartók. The Quartetski lineup isn't a typical chamber group, though; it includes electric guitar and bass, synthesizer, violin synthesizer, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone – and turntables!

Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: The European jazz piano trio, Dock in Absolute, released their first self-titled album this May. Their music “pushes boundaries” and combines “different styles of progressive Jazz, classical and rock,” including compositions by pianist Jean Philippe Koch. This Ottawa show is their single North American date, sandwiched among shows across Europe.

Thursday, 9 p.m.: Toronto jazz vocalist Barbra Lica made a considerable splash at JUNOfest this spring showcasing her JUNO-nominated album, I’m Still Learning. At the winter jazzfest, she's returning with the same quintet and playing songs from that album. was impressed with how well Lica connected with the audience at JUNOfest, and with her assured stage presence, her well-crafted original songs, and her perceptive readings of several jazz standards. We'd be surprised if Matt Dusk shows up for this show, though!

Friday, February 9, 6 p.m.: Hilario Durán's 16-piece Ottawa Latin Jazz Big Band is stuffed full of accomplished local big band musicians, plus a few from Montreal and Toronto – including young Ottawa-born trumpeter Emily Denison making a rare return to her hometown.

Durán is a Cuban-born pianist and composer who has been at the centre of Toronto's jazz and Latin jazz community for decades, after moving here from Cuba. He formed his Toronto-based Big Band Orchestra in 2005; his album From The Heart, featuring that band with saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, won a Contemporary Jazz JUNO in 2007, and was nominated for a Grammy. He began writing for and playing with major big bands in Cuba in the 1970s, and was Chucho Valdes' chosen successor in Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna.

Friday, 7:30 p.m.: Montreal jazz vocalist Emma Frank combines the shifting tempos of jazz with confessional, intimate songs. She's releasing a new album, Ocean Av, in February; it features American jazz musicians Aaron Parks, Jim Black, Rick Rosato, and Franky Rousseau. Frank has previously appeared at the Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals; she'll follow her Ottawa show with CD release shows in NYC, Boston, and Burlington, Vermont.

Friday, 9 p.m.: Montreal saxophonist and composer Chet Doxas and his cross-border quintet will present his “Rich in Symbols” project. This music is inspired by the art movement of New York City’s Lower East Side between the years 1975-85, including Robert Mapplethorpe and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Doxas composed the pieces by ear while standing in front of his favorite paintings in various NYC museums. During the show, the paintings which inspired the music will be projected behind the ensemble “as the band performs the corresponding 'soundtrack.' ”

Red Hersch ©Brett Delmage, 2010
Fred Hersch will headline the 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival with a show on Saturday, February 10. He dazzled the Festival audience at his 2010 performance ©Brett Delmage, 2010

Saturday, February 10, 5 p.m.: An intimate concert of piano trio music from three fine Ottawa musicians: pianist Steve Boudreau, double bassist John Geggie, and drummer Michel Delage. The Steve Boudreau Trio recently released its first album, Preludes: The Music of George Gershwin, in a memorable and personal concert at the NAC Fourth Stage. Earlier in the year, they performed several jazz concerts of Canadian music in honour of Canada's 150th.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: The 33z – a group of local jazz musicians with a strong groove focus – return after their 2017 winter jazzfest tribute to Prince. This time they'll play the music of another pop icon, Michael Jackson, in jazz arrangements by Ed Lister and festival programming director Petr Cancura. But the instrumentalists (6) will actually be outnumbered by the vocalists (7) – Kellylee Evans, Rebecca Noelle, Jeff Rogers, Angelique Francis, Lisa Pryce, Debbie Braham, and Lucia Iacovitti-Villeneuve – giving this tribute a very different sound.

Saturday, 9 p.m.: Pianist Fred Hersch will close the festival with a solo show. He was last in Ottawa at the 2013 winter jazzfest, playing with his trio;'s review described that show as “a wonderful 90 minutes of fluid, melodic music which grabbed your heart and engaged your mind.” Hersch is a prolific and inventive jazz composer and interpreter, particularly noted for his intimate, beautiful, and individual renderings of jazz standards. Among many awards, he was named in 2016 both the Doris Duke Artist and the Jazz Journalists Association's Jazz Pianist of the Year.

Read stories by about previous Ottawa winter jazz festival concerts:

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