For fans, it won't be quite the same Ottawa Jazz Festival this year. Some series will move, some will be replaced, some will be added, and the ticket prices will increase, as much as 22% for Gold passes.
The biggest change will be the move of late-night jazz from the National Arts Centre Studio into the OLG tent in Confederation Park, next to Elgin Street
The OLG tent will be expanded to 325 seats, said Festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady, equivalent to the Studio's capacity. It will be set up cabaret-style, with a larger stage and better sound and lighting than before. Beer will be sold (later than ever before in the park), and listeners will be fully protected from any rain. OLG acts will start about 15 minutes after the main stage ends (around 10:30 p.m.).
The Studio will still be used: a new "Friends" series is scheduled in the evenings during the first week of the festival. Three major jazz artists – Bill Frisell, Robert Glasper, and Matt Wilson – have each been given two nights, and asked to invite the musicians they'd like to play with, in whatever combination they prefer. Lorraine Desmarais will also bring her trio to the Studio as part of the series.
The Connoisseur series has been replaced by an Anniversary series, still at the National Library auditorium, but starting earlier, at 4 p.m., to allow listeners to get to the park in time for evening shows. The new series will run mostly on weekends: the first Thursday to Sunday, and then the second Saturday and Sunday.
Another new initiative pushes the festival into local clubs. O'Grady said the festival is currently working out arrangements with two venues – the Avant-Garde Bar on Besserer and the Manx Pub on Elgin – to present midnight shows. The festival will book and pay for the groups, and the venues will host them.
The noon-hour "Jazz Matters" panels won't be continuing this year. In the past two years, Ottawa and Canadian jazz journalists and experts, including Ron Sweetman (longtime host of CKCU's In a Mellow Tone) and Mark Miller (Toronto jazz critic and writer) debated topics such as "1959: The Wonder year". Festival media advisor James Hale, who previously organized the panels, said that he was working with U.S.-based Michael Ricci of the AllAboutJazz.com and Jazz Journalists Association to develop an online discussion linked to the festival, with emphasis on digital marketing and projects.
What won't change is the late-night jam sessions. They'll still be at the Crown Plaza Hotel, and bassist John Geggie will again host, along with his long-time partners: pianist Nancy Walker and drummer Nick Fraser.
The mainstage series' formats also remain essentially unchanged, with the "Great Canadian Jazz" at 6 p.m. followed by one or two "Concerts Under the Stars" acts.
The National Capital Commission will also continue to co-sponsor at least five free jazz concerts with Canadian musicians in Confederation Park during the day on Canada Day, ranging from solo acts to big bands.
The Jazz Youth Summit – which has often included young Ottawa musicians – will return for its fourth year, again organized by trumpeter and Humber College professor Jim Lewis. They will show off the results of their work on the festival main stage on July 1 and again opening the evening show July 3.
The Improv series at the NAC Fourth Stage will continue, with avant-garde and improvising artists from around the world and from right here in Ottawa. On the last night, it will again feature the Composers Collective, which in previous years has allowed local and imported artists to work together over the festival to create and present new musical pieces.
O'Grady said the festival would have the same ticket and pass structure as before, but prices will increase. One new pressure the festival faces is the new Harmonized Sales tax (HST). The festival has been exempt from charging PST, but will have to charge HST as of May 1. This will be included in the prices.
Gold passes are now on sale to Festival members. Tickets and passes will go on sale to the general public on April 19. Not all prices have been finalized, O'Grady said, because some main-stage acts have yet to be confirmed.
Festival members are being charged $250 for gold passes – which provides covered seating in the park and access to all series – up from $205 last year. This is an increase of 22%.
While O'Grady spoke to the media, it was pouring rain outside. With a nod to last year's bad weather, she promised everyone that that April 8 would be the last day of rain until after the festival. That's a factor whose status we won't know until late June.
– Alayne McGregor