The popular Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions, which  will run nightly from 10:30 p.m. until about 2 a.m. will return to ARC The Hotel this year. Visiting musicians and talented local musicians who show up to the jams and wish to play will be carefully matched up by host John Geggie to play together for a song or three.

John Geggie will again host the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams. ©Brett Delmage, 2012
John Geggie will again host the 2012 Ottawa Jazz Festival jams. ©Brett Delmage, 2012
But not even Geggie knows who will be on the stage for each song, until it actually happens.

Last year “a nice group of people came and played. A variety of people from various places, some local people, some international musicians, of course a lot of Americans played,” Geggie said of the 2011 experience. The jam session participation reflected the makeup of musicians in the concerts, and he is expecting the same this year.

“We just try to do our best to make it fun for them.”

Double bassist John Geggie is now in his twelfth year of hosting the jams. Geggie's house band will again include Nancy Walker on piano, and Ethan Ardelli on drums for all but the final night when Nick Fraser will take the throne.

Last year's move of the jam sessions to ARC The Hotel at 140 Slater Street, only two blocks from Confederation Park instead of most of the way across downtown, was welcomed by many listeners.'s 2011 survey of festival-goers found that 90 per cent of the respondents who attended the jam sessions rated the new location as 'good' or 'very good'. Listeners also gave very high marks to Geggie's house band, and the stage's overall sound quality – but a somewhat lower rating for being able to hear it.

“People are excited. They've gone to see a nice concert, they are talking about it. It depends on the particular moment,” said Geggie about the jam's audience noise level. He's occasionally had to remind listeners, or perhaps more appropriately, non-listeners, to be quieter, so the musicians on stage could even hear themselves. That wasn't just at the current venue, but happened at previous locations too.

The jazz festival jam sessions allow listeners to sit close up and enjoy hearing some of the best jazz musicians in the world  play in combinations that may only ever happen for one song. The best way to get the most out of them at the 2012 jazz festival, as it has been in the past, will be to come with open expectations and ears – and a mostly closed mouth.

    – Brett Delmage

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