Bria Skonberg on the 2017 Juno red capet. She won the Vocal Jazz Juno for her album Bria. ©2017 Brett Delmage
Bria Skonberg on the 2017 Juno red capet. She won the Vocal Jazz Juno for her album Bria. ©2017 Brett Delmage
The Cellar Live record label in Vancouver released Metalwood's Juno-winning album because of its ties to this country.

“Metalwood is Canadian, like really Canadian, and they come from across Canada, and so it was totally a natural fit,” said record owner Cory Weeds.

It was an illuminating comment in a year when most of the winners in the Juno jazz categories live in New York City.

The 2017 jazz-related Junos were awarded on Saturday to:

  • Metalwood: Twenty (Jazz Album of the Year: Group)
  • Renee Rosnes: Written in the Rocks (Jazz Album of the Year: Solo)
  • Bria Skonberg: Bria (Vocal Jazz Album of the Year)
  • Diana Panton: I Believe in Little Things (Children's Album of the Year)

Rosnes, Skonberg, and two of Metalwood's four members are Canadian ex-pats who now live in New York City.

When asked to comment on this, Rosnes said, “Well, it's the mecca of our music. New York has a fantastic jazz scene as you know. It's very vibrant, and a lot of Canadian musicians go there to play and learn and a lot of us end up staying.”

She noted that the Canadian musicians in New York are “all friendly with one another, and we have a great love for Canada and we come back very often to perform and to see family of course as well.”

In her acceptance speech, Skonberg said, “I'm proud to be Canadian.” She thanked the New York City community, “for lifting me up”, and her home town of Chilliwack, BC, “for keeping me grounded”.

View photos by Brett Delmage of JUNO jazz award nominees and winners on the red carpet

Updated April 5, 2017

Update May 4: The five Canada Scene jazz concerts being co-sponsored by the Ottawa Jazz Festival were finally officially announced this morning: David Occhipinti's Camera Ensemble (June 22); Erin Costelo (June 23); Gord Grdina's Haram (June 24); Al Muirhead Trio featuring Guido Basso (June 25); and Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms (June 26). All are Canadians, and all will be performing in the NAC Back Stage at 6 p.m.

The National Arts Centre announced today some of the Canadian jazz musicians it will present as part of its Canada Scene festival to celebrate Canada's 150th.

The festival, which will run from June 15 to July 23, will present 1000 Canadian artists in more than 100 events in the National Capital Region, including music, theatre, circus, dance, visual arts, film, and culinary arts. It announced its full line-up this morning.

Six jazz groups will be presented at the NAC in joint concerts with the Ottawa Jazz Festival between June 22 and 26. They include:

  • Toronto guitarist David Occhipinti’s Camera
  • Vancouver guitarist/oud player Gord Grdina with his Haram project
  • Calgary trumpeter Al Muirhead and his straight-ahead quartet, with Alberta bassist Kodi Hutchinson, Toronto flugelhornist Guido Basso, and Ottawa pianist Brian Browne. Hutchinson told OttawaJazzScene.ca that Browne has replaced the originally-announced Don Thompson.
  • Montrealer improviser, saxophonist and objects player Jean Derome
  • and two more concerts, which have not yet been confirmed.

The highest-profile Canada Scene jazz concert was announced last fall: the July 10 “Oscar, with Love” tribute in Southam Hall – with six renowned jazz pianists, but ironically not all Canadian, playing on Peterson's own beloved Bösendorfer Imperial grand piano, which will travel to Ottawa for this occasion. The evening will be hosted by Peterson's daughter, Céline. [See the OttawaJazzScene.ca video interview with Robi Botos about that show]

For jazz fans, April in Ottawa is bookended by two notable events – the 2017 Juno Awards at the beginning of the month, and the first GigSpace Jazz MicroFest (and International Jazz Day) at the end. But you'll have plenty to hear in the middle as well.

Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up. He performs at Junofest on Saturday night  ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up. He performs at Junofest on Saturday night ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Modern jazz. Bossa. Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. Avant-garde. Tributes to jazz giants of the past. Big bands. Jazz fusion. Most any jazz style you like you're bound to find someone performing it this month.

On Saturday, April 1, the jazz-related Juno Awards will be handed out in the early evening at a gala dinner at the convention centre. Nearby, at Live! on Elgin downtown, jazz fans will be able to hear three of the jazz nominees starting at 9 p.m., in the second JUNOfest jazz showcase. We asked the nominees what they'd be playing at the showcase, and you can read all the details in our Juno Awards overview article.

The non-jazz awards will be handed out on Sunday, April 2, at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, in a televised show.


OttawaJazzScene.ca is made possible by reader donations. We'd like to thank Riek van den Berg and Mike Steinberg for their donations which enabled us to research and report these April highlights.


But there are alternatives to the Juno excitement and crowds. Toronto guitarist James Brown has been playing with bassist Jim Vivian for two decades now, and you can hear their intimate and intricate musical conversation at GigSpace on April 1. It's a rare chance to hear either Brown or Vivian, who is one of the finest jazz bassists in Canada. No line-ups, no fuss, just Brown's creative originals plus some new and classic standards. Read our interview with Brown to learn more.

Also on April 1, the Ottawa group 45north tips its hat to the Junos with its jazz take on Canadian music – some jazz, some popular – at Fatboy's Southern Smokehouse in the Market.

The City of Ottawa will develop its first music strategy for Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson announced Friday morning at a city-sponsored “Ottawa as a Music City” panel. But not everyone there was convinced that developing a strategy was the best use for the money.

Mayor Watson: We're very excited and bullish about the possibility of the [music] industry here in Ottawa growing even faster and bigger. ©2017 Brett Delmage
Mayor Watson: We're very excited and bullish about the possibility of the [music] industry here in Ottawa growing even faster and bigger. ©2017 Brett Delmage
The city and the non-profit Ottawa Music Industry Coalition (OMIC) will “strike a task force of music industry stakeholders and business leaders from connected sectors, such as the festival network and Ottawa Tourism, to develop something we need to chart our future, the very first Ottawa Music Strategy in our city's history,” Watson said. The city is allocating $30,000 to fund the necessary research and consultation work, and assigning city staff to work with the task force. No specific timeline was given for creating the strategy.

Watson said the strategy would identify ways to grow Ottawa's musical talent base and music industry. “We're very excited and bullish about the possibility of the industry here in Ottawa growing even faster and bigger. But in order to do that we need a little bit of coordination and we need a little bit of direction and people to step up and help us.”

But panelist Kathleen Edwards was more skeptical. Edwards is an Ottawa singer-songwriter, and also the owner of the Quitters coffee shop in Stittsville. Last November, she sold out the 900-seat NAC Theatre for a Crossroads concert with a jazz ensemble led by Petr Cancura.

“Sometimes I hear 'advisory committee' and I think, 'Why don't you spend that money on a venue that has a long-term plan, that's going to be lasting?' ” she said. “Rather than let's talk how to make that, let's just make that.”

What Ottawa really needs is more venues which that local musicians can book, Edwards said. “We definitely don't have enough venues. There are some really great venues in this city, [but] they're of a size that are pretty inaccessible and unaffordable for certain-tier artists to go into.”

Jazz musician James Brown is a composer, first and foremost. His instrument is the guitar – but his multi-layered musical vision extends well beyond that.

James Brown composes for both jazz and classical ensembles - sometimes with the same pieces in different incarnations (photo by Stewart Lowe)
James Brown composes for both jazz and classical ensembles - sometimes with the same pieces in different incarnations (photo by Stewart Lowe)

He'll play his compositions – some of which were originally written for classical ensembles and some for jazz quintet – when he makes his GigSpace debut on April 1.

It’s a smaller group, however – a duo concert with well-known Toronto bassist Jim Vivian, where they'll also play some standards and music by the Beatles and Joni Mitchell. Brown and Vivian have been performing together regularly for two decades – “It's one of the duos that I keep coming back to,” Brown says.

Brown has played jazz in Toronto for more than 20 years, with a who's-who of musicians in Toronto's jazz scene. His recent performance list includes shows with Andrew Downing, Artie Roth, Ernie Tollar, Ted Quinlan, Vivian, and Yvette Tollar, as well as Latin jazz with flutists Bill McBirnie, Christopher Lee, and Christine Beard. He's released four jazz CDs, one collaboration, and three as a leader; the most recent as leader, Sevendaze [2009], featured Don Thompson on piano, Quinsin Nachoff on sax, Vivian on bass, and Anthony Michelli on drums. Brown is on faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he teaches guitar and jazz improvisation.

As a composer, he's written for everything from solo guitar to symphony orchestra. His pieces have been performed and recorded by ensembles including Orchestra Toronto, the Trinity Chamber Ensemble, and The Montreal Guitar Trio.

This dual perspective on music is not completely surprising given how late Brown came to jazz.

“Like most kids, I got into rock & roll, and that's what hooked me into the guitar initially when I was about 13 years old. My Grade 7 teacher was a guitarist, and he had a lunch-time guitar club. I joined that, and it just led me down the path of playing the guitar."

He played in a few high school bands, but then a friend began taking lessons at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. “He was doing classical guitar and when I heard and witnessed what he was doing, it really grabbed my attention. So I ended up signing up myself at the Conservatory in Toronto.”

There will be no RendezVous Rideau Jazz series at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival. 2016 may have been the final year of the long-running local stage at the Rideau Centre since it started in 1990 – 27 years ago.

There will be no Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year, and maybe forever ©Brett Delmage, 2014
There will be no Rideau Centre stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this year, and maybe forever ©Brett Delmage, 2014

“Unfortunately, we will not be staging the RendezVous Rideau Jazz series this year. We have had some changes to our marketing strategy following the completion of our redevelopment and are taking time this year to assess several long-standing partnerships,” Rideau Centre General Manager Cindy VanBuskirk told OttawaJazzScene.ca yesterday by email.

The festival was notified of the cancellation by the Rideau Centre on March 10, less than two weeks before the Festival’s official launch on March 22. The Rideau Centre was one of two local stages offering free shows showcasing local musicians during the day throughout the festival. A third local stage was cancelled in 2011 and not replaced.

Ottawa Jazz Festival Executive Director Catherine O’Grady told OttawaJazzScene.ca today that there were no plans yet for a replacement local performance series.

“I can’t talk about it yet, but we’re working on things. We haven’t got that far yet. We just got the news,” O’Grady said when asked about plans to replace the local performances.

Updated March 23, 2017
The Ottawa Jazz Festival announced its 2017 lineup today with some spectacular international jazz choices. But the festival is still emphasizing the singer-songwriters and baby boom hitmakers, and is offering far fewer opportunities for Canadian jazz musicians.


Check out our easy-to-read, plain-text guide to the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival


The Sonoluminescence Trio is one of the relatively rare Canadian jazz groups at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2016
The Sonoluminescence Trio is one of the relatively rare Canadian jazz groups at the 2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival ©Brett Delmage, 2016
The official announcement on CBC Ottawa's afternoon radio show emphasized the non-jazz: singer-songwriters Feist and Serena Ryder, soul/R&B singer Joss Stone, the Downchild Blues Band, R&B vocalist Mavis Staples, and country star Kenny Rogers. When asked if Rogers would be playing jazz, Festival programming manager Petr Cancura replied that they would be “taking Kenny the way he is”.

In fact, only three of the 10 headliners in the park are bona fide jazz acts. Since 2011, the festival has consistently programmed a large percentage of musicians with no relation to jazz, but this is the lowest number ever.

The Confederation Park jazz headliners are Charlie Haden's Liberation Jazz Orchestra, led by Carla Bley; Maceo Parker and the Ray Charles Orchestra; and Caravan Swing. Other notable jazz names at the festival include The Robert Glasper Experiment; Kenny Barron; Hudson, with Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, and John Scofield; Donny McCaslin; Hiromi; the Sammy Miller Congregation; and the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet.

Cancura has also brought back popular jazz choices from recent years: Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra; guitarist Bill Frisell with bassist Thomas Morgan; and The Bad Plus.

©Brett Delmage, 2010
©Brett Delmage, 2010

You wouldn’t want to go outside in just a t-shirt and shorts or recline in a lawn chair yet, but local festivals are already looking for volunteers for this summer. Whether you want to sell tickets, usher at concerts, work on stages, or pick up garbage (surprisingly, it can be fun), there’s a volunteer task that you could enjoy doing.

The Ottawa Jazz Festival opened its applications for new volunteers as of March 15. Applications are often only open for a few weeks, so you might want to check out ottawajazzfestival.com/volunteer/ soon.

Opportunities range from selling tickets to driving musicians to stage crew to selling beer to access control at the different venues. By volunteering, you also become a voting member of the festival, and can move motions and vote on its board of directors at its yearly AGM.

You can also volunteer now for the Ottawa Chamberfest in late July/early August. That festival needs people for ushering, stage crew, box office, driving, and distributing publicity material. More information and the application form is at www.chamberfest.com/support/volunteer/ .

Bluesfest, in early July, will be asking for volunteers starting May 24. They're accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can only pick one volunteer task. See https://volunteers.ottawabluesfest.ca/volunteer/ for more information and a list of the possible tasks, ranging from fundraising to selling beer to parking bikes.

Updated March 29, 2017

Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up ©Brett Delmage, 2016
Dave Young is nominated for his quintet album of hard bop jazz favourites and originals, One Way Up ©Brett Delmage, 2016

At the end of March, musicians of every genre will gather in Canada's capital for the 2017 Juno Awards ceremonies. And they won't just be accepting awards – they'll be showing off the diversity and new frontiers in Canadian music, including jazz.

The main attraction will be the JUNOfest concerts on Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1, at 15 locations across Ottawa, featuring nominated and local artists in many genres. Individual tickets and all-location wristbands are available for the shows, giving fans a chance to hear musicians from across the country. However, many of the locations are not large, and may fill up quickly.

Bassists Dave Young and Brandi Disterheft, pianists Amanda Tosoff and David Braid, vocalists Heather Bambrick and Felicity Williams, saxophonists Quinsin Nachoff, Shirantha Beddage, and Perry White, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, guitarists Reg Schwager and Alex Goodman, and drummer Terry Clarke will be among the jazz musicians performing at JUNOfest. [See the list of 2017 Juno Award nominees in the jazz and related categories]

The Juno Awards are also sponsoring exhibits of art, photography, and memorabilia associated with Juno-winning musicians, and several panel discussions about the music industry.

For jazz fans, the focus will be on Live! On Elgin downtown where four jazz groups – almost all Juno nominees – will perform each evening between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Jazz musicians nominated in the Children's and Instrumental categories will also perform in other JUNOfest venues.

On Friday, March 31, the jazz showcase at Live! On Elgin will open at 9 p.m. with Toronto vocalist Heather Bambrick accompanied by pianist David Braid. Bambrick is nominated in the Jazz Vocal category for You’ll Never Know, a collection of classic standards, originals, and even a Bruce Cockburn song, backed by a Toronto jazz septet.

Jazz pianist John Stetch will continue his rethinking of classical concertos and sonatas in a concert at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (Chamberfest) this summer.

John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016
John Stetch kept the audience at the Steinway Piano Gallery engrossed while playing an unsual combination of repertoire -- and not a standard in sight ©Brett Delmage, 2016
The festival today unveiled 15 of the shows which it will present from July 22 to August 4 – primarily from the core classical repertoire, but also including crossover concerts with jazz, the Beatles, contemporary pop, and film music, as well as interpretations of Canada's Arctic and unexpected takes on musicals and audiovisual performance. The remainder of the line-up will be revealed in April.

OttawaJazzScene.ca learned after the announcement that Toronto jazz pianist David Braid will also appear at the festival.

On July 26, Stetch will perform at La Nouvelle Scène in a show entitled “Classical Meets Jazz”. The festival says he will blend “dashes of classical” along with his “percussive and improvisational brand of piano playing”.

Stetch, who began his jazz career in Alberta but has lived and worked in or near NYC for decades, is a prolific original composer. His most recent CD is Improvisations [2015], an album of “unedited and un-premeditated solo improvisations”.