Jazz fans have decided what they liked most about jazz in Ottawa-Gatineau in 2013, in The OttawaJazzScene.ca Jazz Favourites Poll. These poll results are part of the complete report that OttawaJazzScene.ca is publishing this week.
Find out more about this poll and view all the results.

Favourite Jazz Jam: 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival Jams at the AlphaSoul Café

Runners-up: Jazz Jam with the HML Trio at Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge;
GigSpace Blues and Jazz Jam

Keen listeners often overlfowed the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions at AlphaSoul Café. The café was frequently jammed to its capacity of 60 people. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Keen listeners often overlfowed the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions at AlphaSoul Café. The café was frequently jammed to its capacity of 60 people. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Jam sessions are a tradition in jazz: a chance to learn, develop material, meet new musicians and listeners, scope out the scene – and simply to have fun! They can be high-profile, like the late-night sessions at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, or informal and low-stress, like JazzWorks' Sunday afternoon jams. And one of their main attractions is their unexpectedness: you never know when there's going to be a magic moment when everything clicks.

In addition to the long-running JazzWorks, Le Petit Chicago, and jazz festival jams, new sessions have opened in the last few years at GigSpace and at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge. There was also a popular jam at Pressed Café, but it ended last spring.

The 2013 favourite was both something old and something new: the 34-year-old tradition of jams at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, but in a new location: the AlphaSoul Café in Hintonburg. This was the first time the festival jams had been held outside downtown, and almost didn't happen.

Respondents loved the “electric” atmosphere and the music. “These jams had a very fun vibe, and the pros that showed up to them were outstanding. It was great to watch and play alongside them in a close setting like that.”

“For a week or so it seemed like there was a vibrant international calibre jazz scene in an intimate venue that was respectful of the artists.”

“Great surprises in a great space,” said one. “Highest caliber of music, a good hang for visiting musicians,” said another.

“I was torn on this one but picked it because it was the icing on the cake which is the Jazz Festival. It's a great opportunity, after the crowd experience that is the Festival to go to a more intimate venue but continue the high-calibre music.”

The café, its intimate size, and its food were also praised: “heard really good playing while feasting on goodies.”

And one respondent noted the importance of the jams to the festival: “Sans les sessions d'improvisation, le festival n'est pas un festival de JAZZ.”

The runners-up: Brookstreet and GigSpace

Two year-round jams tied for runners-up: the weekly jams at the Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge in Kanata North, and the monthly blues and jazz jams at GigSpace Performance Studio in Hintonburg.

The Brookstreet jams are hosted by the HML Trio, who received repeated praise for being “so welcoming and supportive”. “I think Alex Moxon and his band are terrific up and coming artists and they are very very encouraging to everyone. They know a lot of tunes!”

The 7 p.m. start time was also appreciated by several respondents: “the jam starts nice and early!!!!”. The west-end location was also convenient for some.

And people liked the atmosphere: “Cosy place with relaxed music performance.” “Never too crowded, crowd is attentive.” “Such a pleasant venue, and the respect shown to the musicians.”

The GigSpace monthly jams are run by guitarist Tim Bedner, who also leads the regular house band. Respondents repeatedly praised Bedner's organization: “this is a carefully engineered jam session with a professional band. Tim Bedner does a fantastic match making act with musicians of all kinds of level, thus maintaining interest of both audience and players.”

Participants liked the warm, friendly atmosphere and the “small intimate space” which gave more opportunity to play. “An opportunity for musicians to improve their chops by working with other musicians in a non-judgmental atmosphere.”

“An excellent opportunity to play and learn. A more structured environment. Tim changes the lineup after 2 songs and teaches at the same time.”

The Favourite Jazz Jam nominees

  • Ottawa Jazz Festival late-night jams at Alphasoul Cafe [info]
  • Jazz Jam with the HML Trio at Brookstreet Hotel Options Jazz Lounge [lists]
  • GigSpace Blues and Jazz Jam [lists]
  • JazzWorks (Thursday and Sunday jams at Carleton Tavern) [lists]
  • Jazz Monday at Le Petit Chicago [info]

Visit OttawaJazzScene.ca each day this week to see that day's favourites!

   – Alayne McGregor and Brett Delmage

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