Updated February 1, 2018
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|
The festival has announced eleven concerts over three days for the winter festival – one day and one concert shorter than in 2017, but keeping the same general format. In late December, it finished the line-up by announcing 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, and in January it added another late-evening concert to Thursday.
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, OttawaJazzScene.ca 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. OttawaJazzScene.ca 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!
Thursday, 10 p.m.: Paolo Angeli's Talea. Angeli is an Italian improvising guitarist, whose music is heavily influenced by the canto a chitarra gallurese e logudorese, old songs in the Sardinian dialects of Gallurese and Logudorese, traditionally accompanied by guitar. He creates a new playlist for each show, based on the circumstances and experiences of that day, from more than four hours of repertoire than can be edited and combined into new pieces.
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.' ”
Friday, February 9, 10 p.m.: New York City drummer Jim Black will perform from his latest album, The Constant. His piano trio includes bassist Thomas Morgan, and the young Austrian pianist Elias Stemeseder. Morgan received praise from OttawaJazzScene.ca listeners at last summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival for his duo show with guitarist Bill Frisell. Black appeared at the 2016 summer festival in Banda de Los Muertos and Endangered Blood.
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, 7:30 p.m.: Taps and traps: Heather Cornell and Jesse Stewart: Back in 2010, the Ottawa Jazz Festival brought in a quartet led by Toronto musician Andy Milne as one of the acts in a jazz showcase. The highlight of the entire show was tap dancer Heather Cornell, who not only provided the percussion for Milne's quartet, but also added a visual mark on stage. OttawaJazzScene.ca said then: "The combination of Heather Cornell's dancing and Milne's innovative piano was extraordinary, and I hope the festival brings this quartet back for more." They've finally brought back Cornell, in a duo show with boundary-challenging Ottawa percussionist Jesse Stewart, as the winner of this festival's special project grant. The Canadian-born Cornell is now based in NYC, and is a creator of concert tap, and a leader in collaborating with world music and jazz.
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; OttawaJazzScene.ca'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.
Updated December 25 to add the Taps and Traps special project grant show with Heather Cornell and Jesse Stewart.
Updated January 5 to add Paolo Angeli's show on February 8, which was announced that day.
Updated January 25 to include the Jim Black Trio on February 9, which was announced this week.
Read stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca about previous Ottawa winter jazz festival concerts:
- "Let's play!" Jane Bunnett and Miguel de Armas combine their jazz and Afro-Cuban energy 
- Fraser Hollins picks long-time musical friends for his Jazzfest show: Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, and Joel Miller 
- 2016 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival returns to the festival's jazz and Canadian roots 
- Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival Day 2: having fun with jazz 
- Jazz Festival Winter series: a February weekend of Canadian jazz (+1)