Updated July 19
This July in the Parc de L'Imaginaire in Aylmer, world music will overlap with jazz and jazz with world-spanning music.

©Brett Delmage, 2018
Parc de l'Imaginaire: a cool place to listen to jazz under the trees, close to the river ©Brett Delmage, 2011

The Festival de Jazz du Parc de L'Imaginaire officially announced its 2019 lineup today. The artists for its 33rd year include Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra and well-known Quebec jazz artists Jordan Officer and Gentiane MG – plus two jazz groups new here: Sussex and the Huu Bac Quintet.

Music will be presented in the park, located just inland from the Aylmer Marina, on the first three Wednesdays in July and then every day from July 24 to 27. The concerts are again free to all. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and finish between 9 and 10 p.m. Picnics and families are welcome. Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets because seating is not provided. Donations are welcomed.

The concerts are offered by the Centre l'Imagier gallery, in conjunction with the City of Gatineau and the Conseil des Artes et des lettres du Québec. The rain location will be Christ Church Aylmer at 101, rue Symmes in Aylmer. It's at Avenue Frank Robinson, about 10 blocks from the park.

The series begins with three “Musique du Monde” show on Wednesdays:

Wednesday, July 3: Briga (a.k.a. Brigitte Dajczer) is a violinist and vocalist from Montreal whose music combines jazz, gypsy jazz, folk, pop, punk, and hip-hop. The JUNO nominee sings in both French and English, and plays her violin in styles “firmly rooted in eastern European and Romani folk sounds learned from the days her father played the piano to put the children to sleep.”

Wednesday, July 10: The Souljazz Orchestra defines its sound as an “explosive clash of soul, jazz and tropical styles, unleashed by blaring majestic horns, dusty vintage keyboards, and an arsenal of earthquaking percussion.” Over almost two decades, the Ottawa group has toured Europe and the Americas, as well as regularly selling out shows at home. Its most recent CD is Under Burning Skies [2017], which added lo-fi disco and electro touches to its three-sax, keyboards, and percussion groove. Expect the crowd to get up and dance.

Wednesday, July 17: Grooz is led by vocalist Abdelhak Benmedjebari. The Montreal group performs Algerian groove music in the tradition of the Gnawa people, but adding Western jazz and rock sounds as well. Benmedjebari “has performed on stage since age 8 alongside his father, the famous Maâlem Mejbar, with whom he recorded an initial album at age 12. His uncles, members of the Gaâda Diwane Béchar group, are known worldwide.” He also plays guitar and Gnawa traditional instruments including the guembri, a four-string bass plucked lute, and karkabou (metal rattles), creating electrifying and hypnotic music.

The jazz festival proper showcases groups ranging from a classic piano trio to old-time vocal jazz to jazz influenced by Chinese, Vienamese, and Andean traditions:

Wednesday, July 24: The Gentiane MG Trio: Gentiane MG (Michaud-Gagnon) is a young Montreal jazz pianist, who studied with Jean-Michel Pilc at McGill University, and was named the Révélations jazz choice by Radio Canada for 2018-19 (a signal honour). Since 2014, she's played in her trio with Levi Dover on bass, and Louis-Vincent Hamel on drums. They released their first album of her original jazz compositions in 2017, and their second in May, and performed in Ottawa in March at the National Arts Centre.

Michaud-Gagnon said that her trio will play similar material to what they played at the NAC: "mostly original music from Wonderland and also Eternal Cycle. I will be using a keyboard, so a bit more electronic sounding :)". Expect highly intelligent jazz compositions in which improvisation and tight group communication is an essential part.

Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Gentiane MG.

Thursday, July 25: Jordan Officer is a Montreal jazz guitarist best known for his long association with vocalist Susie Arioli. He's added more blues-oriented material recently, and his latest album, Three Rivers, offers new songs inspired by a road trip in the southern United States.

Officer says the audience will hear "songs from Three Rivers as well as a few from previous albums and also some fun covers thrown in.  It's a mix of Jazz Blues and Country, even a little Gospel." He'll be playing with his regular trio: jazz bassist Sage Reynolds and drummer Alain Bergé.

Friday, July 26: Sussex is led by jazz percussionist Michael Emenau and guitarist/vocalist Rob Lutes. Their album Parade Day [2015] enlists four noted Montreal jazz musicians: Benoit Charest (guitar), Josh Zubot (violin), Sage Reynolds (bass), and Ivanhoé Jolicoeur (trumpet/flugelhorn). With 11 originals and one song by Randy Newman, “the album represents a modern day love letter to the early jazz, blues and folk music that were their primary musical influences.”

Saturday, July 27: Huu Bac Quintet: Huu Bac Quach arrived in Montreal from Vietnam at age 2, and studied jazz guitar at McGill. But he looked further out, first studying the Dan Bau, a Vietnamese single-string zither, and traditional repertoire with a master player, and then attending the Shanghai Conservatory of Music to learn the Erhu, a Chinese fiddle. Then he hooked up with Peruvian composer Lucho Quequezana, performing Afro-Peruvian music and learned the Andean bamboo flute, the Quena.

Since 2013, he's been combining North American jazz with Vietnamese and Chinese musical sounds and Peruvian influences in his Montreal-based quintet – which includes him on dan bau, erhu, quena, and jazz guitar, Guillaume Martineau on piano, Marie-Neige Lavigne on violin, Jean-Félix Mailloux on double bass, and Etienne Mason on drums.

His compositions are inspired by his many travels in Asia, Europe and South America. He released his first album, On the Steps of St-Paul’s, in 2017.

How to get to the free shows

The Parc de L'Imaginaire is beside Le Centre d'exposition L'Imagier at 9 Front Street in Gatineau, about 15 km from downtown Ottawa, at the western limit of Aylmer, by the Ottawa River. Head west on Rue Principale until you get to the end; the park is on your right. 

It's an enjoyable one-hour summer bike ride. Cross the Ottawa river by the Champlain or Portage Bridges; the Champlain Bridge is more comfortable and well-connected to Ottawa paths. It directly connects to the Ottawa River NCC path / Route Verte. On the Québec side of the Champlain Bridge, turn right at the end of the bridge onto the path that loops back under it, which will eventually take you directly into the park.

It's a pleasant mid-summer ride along the river path, about an hour long from the Westboro area. Remember to bring lights for the trip home. We usually return on Rue Prinicipale because it's lit. (Chemin Lucerne -the "lower Aylmer road"- has been heavily potholed in past years.)

You can also reach the park by automobile, and by the Outaouais public transit service, STO (info: 819-770-3242). You'll need to transfer to STO routes into Aylmer in downtown Ottawa: it's best to get directions via the STO Planibus webpage.

You could even try boating to the park if you can tie up at the Aylmer marina across the street.

For more information (en français): www.limagier.qc.ca

Read about past editions of the Festival de Jazz du Parc de L'Imaginaire, with photos of past shows

Updated June 28 with information from Gentiane MG about her show.
Updated July 2 with rain location information.
Updated July 19 with information from Jordan Officer about his show,