The Ottawa Fringe Festival, best known for its theatre shows, will present jazz for the first time in the next week. Three local jazz groups will play free shows, starting with 2React tonight.

Django Libre will play at The Fringe Festival on Monday, June 23 ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Django Libre will play at The Fringe Festival on Monday, June 23 ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Why jazz? “They're great bands with their music. First and foremost, it's just awesome musicians,” says festival music programmer Greggory Clark.

“For me it's important that we put on the sort of music that just about anyone could show up at Waller Park and have a smile put on their face by whatever's playing. So funk music, hip-hop music like 2React plays, the sort of gypsy hot jazz that Django Libre plays. It can be appreciated as musicians' music on that level, but in another sense for someone who's coming down to the park to enjoy the party, it adds something wonderfully positive to the atmosphere.”

The bands will play on an outdoor stage in Waller Park, to the east of Arts Court, just off Nicholas Street at Daly Avenue. The schedule includes:

Wednesday, June 18: 2React, which takes hip-hop back to its roots in jazz.

Monday, June 23: Django Libre, which evokes the 1930's world of hot jazz and flapper girls with the music and styles of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.

Wednesday, June 25: The Adam Saikaley Quintet, which will present its interpretation of the landmark Miles Davis album, Filles de Kilimanjaro.

The festival will also present local indie and folk groups on other evenings.

Why these groups? In the case of 2React, it was love at first listen for Clark. “I caught them a while ago when they were at Café Nostalgica. I really went out of my way to hear these guys. You've probably heard Marc Decho, and Mike Essoudry and Alex Moxon, and when I heard they were doing improvised hip-hop, I had to get there. When I heard it, my jaw was dropping the entire time. I came into the office the next day, telling my teammates, 'Alright guys, these musicians don't have any recordings. You're just going to have to trust me. But they are fantastic, and I would love to have them play.' ”

Similarly, Django Libre was a band which he had heard “so much about for years, almost as long as I've lived in Ottawa, and I finally had the chance to hear them this last year. It was just 'Wow! That's it.'”

Clark said the Fringe Festival started programming free concerts two years ago, in order to attract a new audience who aren't regular theatre-goers. “We find often that a lot of these new audiences then do go on to buy tickets to Fringe theatre performances.” In previous years, the acts were pop music, singer-songwriters, and folk music, but not jazz.

The concerts won't be in competition with the jazz festival a few blocks away, he said: “We wouldn't necessarily expect to bring in jazz fans as you and I know them ... but I know there certainly are appreciative listeners who will be coming down.”

But primarily, he said, he booked the three groups because he wanted to hear them again. “I have to be honest: I'm booking these jazz acts just because I'm a fan.”

    – Alayne McGregor

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