This is last year's list. Check out the 2018 New Year's choices
Updated December 29, 2017
Want to ring in the new year with jazz? There's more than a dozen choices this year in Ottawa – from big bands to intimate duos, from swing to Latin to standards, and at all price points.
The biggest and most glamorous jazz show for New Year's 2017 will be at the National Arts Centre, where Big Band Ottawa will headline the “Light the Lantern” gala dinner/dance. In 2014, the band performed to a sell-out crowd of more than 800 at the NAC. This year, with the centre's renovations complete, leader Robert Vogelsang says they're back with many new charts.
With experienced vocalist Doreen Smith giving her personal zing to the songs, they'll perform music spanning the last 90 years, from Count Basie to Bruno Mars. The event will again take over the NAC lobby outside Southam Hall. It will begin with a four-course dinner inspired by sustainable and Canadian ingredients, followed by dancing, and including a sparkling toast at midnight – all for $199 per couple.
Looking for a more family-oriented evening? The NAC is offering free early evening events, culminating at 8:45 p.m. in the unveiling of its new glass tower over its Elgin Street entrance, with huge LED screens displaying constantly-changing images of artists and productions at the NAC and across Canada. The free activities starting at 5 p.m. will include performances by the local large jazz ensemble Stevens & Kennedy, and lots of hot chocolate.
Across town at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, Cuban pianist Miguel de Armas is back, playing with new musical compatriots. On New Year's Eve in 2016, his sextet had everyone up on their feet at Options Jazz Lounge, dancing to the irresistible Latin rhythms and upbeat vocals of his band. And when your feet got tired, the music was well worth hearing on its own, particularly with the subtle stylings of Cuban bassist Roberto Riveron.
This year, de Armas has brought back Riveron and drummer Michel Medrano from his quartet. Joining them is OKAN – two female Cuban musicians now living in Toronto and best known for their work with Jane Bunnett's Juno-winning and Grammy-nominated group Maqueque: violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez and percussionist Magdelys Savigne. There's no cover charge or reservations, but the room filled up quickly last year, so an early arrival is advisable.
At Grill 41 in the Lord Elgin Hotel, guitarist Roddy Ellias and vocalist Kellylee Evans, last heard together in the Swing Swing Swing! show at the NAC, team up again. Their dinner show will revisit her JUNO-award winning album, Nina, a tribute to iconoclastic jazz vocalist Nina Simone. Later that evening, Ellias will perform with Ottawa saxophonist Mike Tremblay – two masters of their craft exploring the jazz canon. The restaurant is offering a six-course dinner with matching wines for $149 per person.
At Wilfred's in the Chateau Laurier, the Tom McMahon Trio, with vocalist Paula McGowan, will be playing jazz and pop favourites for the “Celebration” NYE seating starting at 8 p.m. The evening, which also includes a five-course dinner, costs $189 per person.
At the Britannia Yacht Club, the jazz trio of Peter Beaudoin on drums, Ed Bimm on keyboards and bass, and Sherri Harding on vocals will perform at the club's New Year's Eve Gala, with a Casino Royale theme. Tickets for the four-course dinner, music, and champagne are $75/person.
At the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre (on Coventry Road beside the baseball stadium), the Steve Berndt Quartet will perform for the Ottawa New Year's Eve Charity Ball. The ball begins with a four-course meal and includes champagne at midnight, a silent auction, and on-site childcare. Tickets are $169.
At Madisons Restaurant downtown, bassist Adrian Cho, vocalist Diane Nalini, and guitarist Magnus Paulson – all from the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra – will perform jazz classics and standards. You may even be able to ask Nalini to reprise some of her French jazz songs from the orchestra's most recent concert.
At Festival Japan downtown, pianist/vocalist Noel Dimar, a fixture for many year's at Friday's Roast Beef House, will sing standards and show-tunes. The restaurant is offering a five-course Japanese dinner and a glass of champagne for $35 per person.
At the One Up Cocktail Pub in New Edinburgh, there's a duo of jazz saxophonist Peter Woods and guitarist/vocalist Peter Newsom. On the menu is a three-course dinner and a champagne toast at midnight for $45 per person.
At Zolas Restaurant in Bell's Corners, jazz vocalist Diane Ross will explore the music of the 30’s and 40’s with young pianist/flutist Brittany Clayton, combining up-tempo tunes and ballads about friendship, romance and love from that era.
At Graffiti's Restaurant in Kanata (near the Centrum Mall), the accomplished duo of vocalist Peter Liu and pianist Yves Laroche will play elegant and warm jazz standards in a variety of styles.
Looking for something a bit more upbeat? The Be Bop Duo with saxophonist Bernard Stepien and guitarist Pierre Monfils specializes in jazz classics with a hard bop edge, by greats like Sidney Bechet, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk. They'll play an early evening show at Vineyards in the ByWard Market.
There's far more ways to celebrate the new year in 2017-18 than in 2016-17. And that's only the start, with many jazz shows coming in just the first two weeks of 2018. It looks like the New Year is indeed beginning on a jazzy note.
Updated December 29: Added the Steve Berndt Quartet at the Ottawa New Year's Eve Charity Ball
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