IMOOfest 2013 ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Brad Evans (lower right) in the audience at IMOOfest 2013. This weekend he's organizing IMOO Fest 2018. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

“Doing something like this is something I daydreamed about for a few years”, says Brad Evans, the driving force, financial backer, and very much hands-on organizer of IMOO Fest 2018. The festival, which runs from this Friday through Sunday, features top jazz and improving musicians from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Japan performing original music that won’t be heard the same way again.

Evans is a software developer by day, and a very enthusiastic live music fan during the evenings and weekends. We’ve seen him at many, many live performances over the years, and he's a regular at the biweekly Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais (IMOO) shows. It isn’t surprising that he is’s first Listener of the Month this month. He’s had a fascinating journey into jazz and improvised music.

Improvisation is normally thought of as happening on the stage, as it will happen on the stages this weekend at IMOO Fest. But Evans has also invoked his own improvisational magic – and determination – in the past year to bring together his dream festival, which other listeners can enjoy with him this weekend.

He shared with me how IMOO Fest 2018 came to be, from daydream to tickets you can buy. This is an edited transcript of our conversation. How did you get involved in IMOO Fest 2018?

Brad Evans: It was June of last year, 15 months ago, I was looking ahead to this year. I knew that at some point this year my house would be paid off, so I could do something stupid with my money after that [he laughs].

So it was in Hamilton at the Something Else Festival last year. Kaze [Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura's quartet with Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins] were playing there, so I went up to Satoko and Natsuki and asked them if they would be interested in coming to Ottawa next year, and spending a weekend here.

If they had said no, I might not have done this. But they said yes! Once we confirmed plans with them, I started figuring out who else I would want to invite to build up a little festival around it. I talked to [IMOO founder] Linsey [Wellman] and [organizer] David [Jackson] about billing it as an IMOO Fest to give it a little more credibility than if it was just my name on it.

After Satoko, the next person I asked was [Toronto drummer and composer] Nick Fraser. That was about October of last year. The lineup was finished about March, maybe April. Everybody I invited accepted except one. Where had you heard Satoko Fujii before?

Brad Evans: Kaze played in Ottawa in 2015 at the Mercury Lounge, and [Satoko Fujii] didn’t know until she got there that she would be playing an electric piano. Which I never thought about but if I had thought about it, clearly they’re not going to get a grand piano into Mercury Lounge. Still, it was an enjoyable show. It was the only performance of electric Kaze.

I’ve seen her at Guelph, Victoriaville, Chicago, once at [William Parker and Patricia Nicholson Parker's] Vision Festival in Brooklyn. What was your role in this project?

Brad Evans: Unofficially, I booked all the bands, wrote the website, designed the posters and flyers, booked GigSpace, am selling tickets, and ultimately I’ll have to pay for it. First time for everything. Why the different venues for the festival?

Brad Evans: GigSpace was my preferred venue. We needed a grand piano so that limits where the festival can be. You either book a venue with a piano or go through the hassle of renting a piano and cart it around, which I didn’t want to do.

I wanted to do something at General Assembly because it’s the regular IMOO venue, so I wanted them to be part of it. I asked John at The Record Centre to host something because John is one of the biggest supporters of live music in this city, and I’m very happy to have him involved. What were the biggest challenges for you so far in this major project? Or what came easier?

Brad Evans: Booking the bands was really easy. Selling tickets has been really difficult. You'd attended the previous IMOO Fests?

Evans: Yes, 2012,13,14. Two of them at Club SAW and one at GigSpace. What did you learn from the past few IMOO Fests that you brought into this one?

Evans: Not really. I was just making it up as I went.

There were parts of it that I didn’t initially expect that I would be the one to do, like the website and the posters. I ended up doing it because it looked like it wouldn't get done otherwise. The programming has a nice mixture of different-sized groups and different arrangements.

Brad Evans: I was trying to get a mix of acoustic bands and electronic bands, as well as large groups and small or solo groups. Some of them I didn't have any input on what the group was. When I asked Petr [Cancura] to play, it was up to him what he was going to do, and he ended up doing a duo with Jesse Stewart.

The IMOO Orchestra show has two rehearsals planned. The rest of it will be set-up and go based on the time available. Let’s talk about your remarkable price: $75 for a pass.

Brad Evans: I didn’t want ticket prices to be a reason someone decided not to go. We also have day passes if someone wants a taste of it. Craig Pederson was really happy with the acoustics of GigSpace and talked about it after the last IMOO Fest.

Brad Evans: I’ve always enjoyed it anytime I’ve been there as a listener. What do you think would be the most interesting show at IMOO Fest 2018 for hard-core improvised music fans?

Brad Evans: Maybe the Orchestra show. It’s certainly an unknown to me. We’ve got all the guys from Ottawa playing, with our trio from Japan, music they’ve never heard or seen before. So we’ll see how that goes. I’m looking forward to it. For the non-hard-core improvised music fan?

Brad Evans: Nick Fraser’s Quarter should be really good. And This Is It!, Satoko Fujii's trio.

Read's Jazz Pick of the Week to learn more about IMOO Fest 2018

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