You can enjoy jazz at the Ottawa Jazz Festival without paying a nickel. Or even one cent, if you have one.

On weekdays at noon, and on weekends at noon and at 2 p.m., groups from Ottawa and Gatineau will play jazz in a wide variety of styles and combinations. You can hear everything from smooth vocals to strong grooves, from gypsy jazz to Dixieland, from Brazilian rhythms to free improv.

Just head downtown to the Rideau Centre (Eaton Court) and to the OLG tent in front of Ottawa City Hall for some great hour-long concerts. You'll hear groups which play regularly at clubs and in concerts around the region. Some are presenting material from their new CDs at the festival, or making their first Jazzfest appearance. Why not check them out this week? Read more about them in our story, Finding the music you like, by local musicians .

On opening weekend (June 22 and 23), young musicians will also present two whole days of (mostly) big band music, played at a high level. Our local student big bands have won national recognition (including this year), and are consistently crowd-pleasing.

On Saturday, June 22, we can recommend the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band (at noon), the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra (2 p.m.), and the festival's own all-star Jazz-Ed Youth Band (3 p.m.). On Sunday, the Nepean All-City Jazz Band, which played with Alex Dean at the Rex in Toronto this May, will appear at 3 p.m.

On Canada Day, the free concerts in Confederation Park will include the TD Jazz Youth Summit and Galaxie Rising Stars youth band, playing on the Main Stage.

The full schedule - just search for “(Free)” in the list to find the free concerts.

    – Alayne McGregor

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