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No one can deny Julian Lage's facility on the guitar. He can make that instrument laugh or weep or call out stridently -- or bop along. But what really made his short appearance Monday night in Confederation Park special was the originality of his group's instruments and material.

Montreal pianist Josh Rager, who brought his trio to Cafe Paradiso in November, appeared at a much larger venue and with three more musicians as the first main stage act Monday at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival.

While his piano still drove the action on-stage, he was well-matched by Frank Lozano on tenor sax, Al McLean on alto, Jean-Nicolas Trottier on trombone, Dave Laing on drums, and Dave Watts on bass. They added the extra bounce and brilliance needed to push the music across the park. In originals like "Indian Summer", Watt's bass added an extra level of urgency; in the standard "I'm old-fashioned", Lozano's tenor was smooth and assured after a bouncier solo by McLean.