F8-BIT (l-r: Alex Moxon, Michel Delage, Jake von Wurden, Steve Boudreau) perform jazz inspired by the music in 8-bit video games they've enjoyed playing

The musicians in F8-BIT loved playing classic 8-bit video games, and the games' music was a very important part of the experience. OttawaJazzScene.ca's Inside the scene attended their first jazz performance, which was inspired by the games' music. Discover what it sounded like and learn about the unusual venue that was a perfect win for their music.

Barbra Lica ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Toronto vocalist Barbra Lica will return to Ottawa for the 2018 Winter Jazz Festival, after a glamorous and well-crafted set at last April's JUNOfest ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Updated February 1, 2018

See the full 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival line-up

Trumpeter Chris Botti will perform with the NAC Orchestra at next summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival, while pianist Fred Hersch, a Latin big band led by Hilario Durán, vocalist Barbra Lica, and saxophonist Chet Doxas will headline the 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival.

At the festival's annual general meeting Thursday, executive producer Catherine O'Grady revealed the first few artists booked for the summer festival and announced the winter festival line-up.

The summer 2018 Ottawa Jazz Festival will run from June 21 to July 1. O'Grady said the performers will include trumpeter Chris Botti with the NAC Orchestra (June 21), bluegrass-country vocalist Alison Krauss, and improvising banjo player Béla Fleck with the original Flecktones (June 28). (The Montreal Jazz Festival also announced on the same day that Fleck would perform at that festival.)

On December 7, the Ottawa jazz festival added a further award-winning artist: jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater (June 24), with her new album honouring her home town of Memphis, Alabama.

The 2018 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival will run from February 8 to 10. It will again be located indoors at La Nouvelle Scène in Lowertown, as it was in 2017 – not at the National Arts Centre, where it had been primarily located from 2012 to 2016.

More Ottawa Jazz Festival news: Location worries in 2018, after a "scary" 2017

The festival has announced eleven concerts over three days for the winter festival – one day and one concert shorter than in 2017, but keeping the same general format. In late December, it finished the line-up by announcing the winner of its special project grant, with which a local jazz musician would present a concert which also includes multimedia, spoken word, dance, or visual art, and in January it added another late-evening concert to Thursday.

©Brett Delmage, 2010
The Ottawa Jazz Festival may only be able to use part of Confederation Park in 2018, or none of the park at all. ©Brett Delmage, 2010

With a major excavation planned under its usual home in Confederation Park, next summer's Ottawa Jazz Festival is still in flux.

At the festival's annual general meeting on November 30, executive producer Catherine O'Grady said that she was currently in negotiations with the National Capital Commission (NCC) and the City of Ottawa about the festival's 2018 location. She said she expected to have an answer by Christmas.

Major's Hill Park is not available at the end of June, she said; it's booked for an indigenous music, theatre, and dance festival. Nor is Lansdowne Park: the Escapade Festival will be there at that time. And “we don't fit in any of the other parks. ... So we have very few options.”

In his written report to the AGM, festival president John Freamo said that the festival “will have to adapt [in 2018] as part of Confederation Park will be unavailable due to a large infrastructure project.” But when asked at the meeting what parts of Confederation Park would be available, he said they could not talk about that yet, because the NCC was still working on the details of the project.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Miguel de Armas and Marc Decho celebrate the performance of an energetic song at Merrickville's Jazz Fest ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Marc Decho has been the bassist with the Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet / Miguel de Armas Trio for five years, since it started in 2012. He talked enthusiastically with OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage about the music the group will perform at this Wednesday's NAC Presents concert, the guest musicians who will join them, and the surprising way that Decho came to meet de Armas and be a part of the group.

©Brett Delmage, 2012
Michael Snow: "Free improvisation is really the purity, the essence of what jazz was looking for." ©Brett Delmage, 2012

When you talk to Michael Snow about improvised music, the word he mentions most frequently is “surprise”. It's a musical quality he values highly.

The world-renowned Canadian artist has certainly surprised enough art critics and viewers in his career, with ground-breaking innovations in painting, sculpture, photography, film, multimedia, and conceptual art. He's less well-known as a jazz and improvising musician, but it's a calling he's followed throughout his life.

On Saturday, Snow and Jesse Stewart will perform a duo show at GigSpace, with him on piano and Stewart on percussion. It will be their third concert together in Ottawa. They'll also release a recording on vinyl this weekend, with an appearance at The Record Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Their music together is completely improvised. Both said they had no preconceptions or plans of where they would start or what they would play at GigSpace – other than it wouldn't duplicate what they'd played together before.

“I'm very much looking forward to it – because I will be surprised!” Snow said.

“We just start and then the structure of the music is co-created in real-time,” Stewart said. However, “it sometimes feels like the musical conversation has a tendency to pick up where we last left off. It's an ongoing dialogue that he and I have been having musically for the past 15 years or however long we've been playing together.”

The first time Snow and Stewart performed together in Ottawa was at the National Gallery in 2010. OttawaJazzScene.ca was at that show. It was a packed house, and at the end of their improvised show, the audience immediately rose to its feet for a standing ovation.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
The music for Karen Oxorn's Ella Celebration will remain secret until the moment the audience hears it. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

On Wednesday, November 29, Ottawa vocalist Karen Oxorn will step into the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage, and pay tribute to her favourite jazz vocalist of all time, Ella Fitzgerald.

Her 'An Ella Celebration! The Classic Songbook Recordings' concert is the latest in a series of large-scale tribute concerts which she's organized over the last decade, at the NAC, GigSpace, and local festivals. She's been thinking about this show for three years, and preparing for it for the past two years. 

She talked with OttawaJazzScene.ca's Brett Delmage about some of the ideas behind it and the extensive work required to bring it to the stage.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Nicole Ratté listens to Normand Glaude interpret Michel Legrand at her tribute to Legrand at Les Brasseurs du Temps on Sunday afternoon. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

The final concert of this fall's Jazz Jazz Jazz! festival in Gatineau on Sunday afternoon attracted an enthusiastic crowd to hear the music of French composer Michel Legrand.

Legrand was a prolific composer for musicals and films, and on record; many of his songs, like “I Will Wait for You”, have become classics. He's also the favourite composer of Ottawa vocalist Nicole Ratté, who picked 17 of his songs – some ballads, some upbeat – to sing at this show.

Some she performed in French, and others with the well-known English lyrics, accompanied by her frequent collaborators J.P. Allain on piano and Normand Glaude on double bass and harmonica.

The audience at Les Brasseurs du Temps clapped warmly throughout the two-hour show and demanded an encore at the end.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance


“This is our ensemble's Canadian debut! It'll also be our first time to Ottawa. We love bringing our music to new audiences,” sax and clarinet players Peter and Will Anderson enthusiastically replied to OttawaJazzScene.ca, about their show in the Concerts by the Canal series next Saturday.

©Brett Delmage, 2016
The Andersons ©Lynn Redmile, 2016

The Andersons are 30-year-old identical twins. Born and raised in Washington D.C., they attended Juilliard for 6 years, earning bachelors and masters degrees together. The brothers have sustained their life-long personal friendship and musical partnership after graduating, playing the classical jazz they love and their originals with each other almost all the time.

Their extensive experience playing together is evident in their videos in which they seamlessly weave their changing roles of soloist and accompaniast.

 OttawaJazzScene.ca journalist Brett Delmage exchanged emails with them to learn more about them and their CBTC concert at Southminster United Church. They replied jointly.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Why have you selected this repertoire?

A lot of our repertoire was pioneered by greats like Ellington, Basie, and Sinatra. But we try to play it in a unique way that suits our style. The best songs in jazz are from what we call the Great American Songbook, but many other composers have contributed to the jazz repertoire including those from New Orleans, Brazil, and us too!

Why do you like playing this music?

©Alayne McGregor, 2017
The Delphinus Quintet (André Massicotte on trumpet, Greg Stone on guitar, Raymond Doré on bass, Rod Fotheringham on piano, and Michel Delage on drums) opened the second edition of the Jazz Jazz Jazz festival with an hour of energetic jazz classics by Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Oliver Nelson - and Frank Zappa. ©Alayne McGregor, 2017

Trumpeter André Massicotte had a big smile on his face as he introduced the second edition of his Jazz Jazz Jazz! festival to a large audience who packed the upper room at Les Brasseurs du Temps (BDT) in Gatineau on Wednesday, November 15.

His Delphinus Quintet was performing classic jazz tunes at the free opening concert for the festival, which is running at BDT until Sunday. Massicotte said he organized the festival to promote and encourage jazz on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River: there's lots of jazz in Ottawa, he said, but not enough in Gatineau.

The twice-yearly festival is aimed at Ottawa and Gatineau audiences, said festival assistant coordinator Philippe Sigouin, but with “our own formula and our own brand”. It features performances by local musicians from both sides of the river, plus some from elsewhere in Quebec. Its first edition ran last May.

This edition's offerings include the Latin jazz duo Maya et Jonathan from Montreal (Wednesday), a poetry and jazz theatrical presentation (Friday), a musical talk about Vieux Hull's impressive jazz history (Saturday), and a jazz tribute to iconic French composer Michel Legrand (Sunday).

However, the festival has suffered several setbacks. This edition was originally supposed to be held in a 300-seat church in Aylmer, but they moved it to the smaller BDT when ticket sales were slow. And then two high-profile groups (Jean-Pierre Zanella on Thursday and Daniel Berriault on Saturday) cancelled because of illness. Massicotte said they would be bringing these groups back for the next edition of the festival.

©Brett Delmage, 2017
Warp'tet leader Marc Decho is excited about the 'mind blowing' compositions of Jaco Pastorius ©Brett Delmage, 2017

View photos by Brett Delmage of the Warp'tet

The Sunday Sessions at Irene’s in November feature Marc Decho’s Warp'tet, performing a tribute to Jaco Pastorius. The Warp'tet’s members are Marc Decho on six-string electric bass, Ed Lister on trumpet, Vince Rimbach on soprano and tenor saxes, Richard Page on bass clarinet and electronics, Clayton Connell on keys, and Valeriy Nehovora on drums.

Our podcast features three music excerpts from the group’s first week developing this material at Irene’s. All are pieces performed by Jaco Pastorius, rearranged by Decho for this group. The first ensemble clip and the bass solo clip are from "Reza". The third music excerpt is from "Mr Gone".

OttawaJazzScene Editor Alayne McGregor talked with Marc Decho after the concert about the appeal of Jaco’s music, Marc’s six-string electric bass, and an unusual reason why the group will not play on the final Sunday of this grey month.