From the world’s greatest jazz improvisers, jazz piano trios, to big band extravaganzas and a remarkable assemblage of the finest female vocalists in the world today, this year’s 37th edition of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival from June 22 – July 2 has it all! Programming Manager Petr Cancura guides us through a remarkable gathering of jazz genres and musicians.
This year’s Discovery Series presented both at the National Arts Centre Backstage and La Nouvelle Scène’s ‘Studio A’ features several envelope pushing avant-garde jazz improvisation shows with a pronounced international flair. South Korea’s virtuosic vocalist Youn Sun Nah (June 27) “has a remarkably mesmerizing range that is incredible to watch. This is a unique opportunity to catch her performance since she doesn’t often travel,” explains Cancura.
Drummer Mark Guiliana (Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet on July 2) plays with the who’s who of Jazz. “When you close your eyes he sounds like an electronic drum machine, except he’s doing it live, it’s incredibly impressive,” says Cancura. Guiliana is also the drummer in Donny McCaslin’s Group (part of the Jazz Warriors Series at the National Arts Centre on June 29 in two back-to-back performances). The Donny McCaslin Group is the band that performed on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar. The Blackstar group accepted the 2017 Rock Performance of the year award at the GRAMMY’s (view video) posthumously on behalf of David Bowie.
Several piano trios (made up of piano, double bass and drums) are performing at this year’s Festival. grünen (June 22) is an ‘out there’ improv piano trio from Germany that will leave the audience breathless. The Neil Cowley Trio (June 29) is an improv piano trio ‘that performs with a minimalist modern repetitive approach that builds its themes with a lot of energy.’
The Bad Plus (June 28) is one of the world’s most famous piano trios ‘performing thought provoking themed interpretations of famous classical pieces.’ Britain’s Phronesis (June 30) is one of Europe’s busiest and most inspiring bands playing non-stop.’ Pianist, record producer and arranger from Houston Texas, Robert Glasper has worked with many of the greats in the neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop world including Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Maxwell, Jay-Z, Bilal, Common, Mos Def, J Dilla and many others. Robert Glasper and his bandmates were personally invited to perform at the White House by President Barak Obama. The multiple GRAMMY award-winner is bringing his project the Robert Glasper Experiment to the OLG After Dark Series on June 26.
The Jazz Warriors Series (at the NAC Studio and Theatre) features such luminaries as Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan, Kenny Barron, Hudson: Jack DeJohnette / Larry Grenadier / John Medeski / John Scofield, and the Donny McCaslin Group.
Honoured by The National Endowment for the Arts as a 2010 Jazz Master, Kenny Barron has played with jazz heavies like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins to name just a few. Barron has an unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant playing, sensitive melodies and infectious rhythms. The great Jazz Master will be playing a solo piano performance on June 24.
Hudson: Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, John Scofield (June 24) are an all-star Jazz group. John Scofield just won a GRAMMY. John Medeski is part of Medeski Martin and Wood who play very funky and groovy jazz. Larry Grenadier is the bassist in Brad Mehldau’s Trio. Jack DeJohnette has played with everyone significant in the jazz world including Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and others.
Long active in the civil rights movement, Mavis Staples (June 26) began her career performing traditional spiritual gospel work with her family as part of the legendary Staples Singers. She progressed into an R&B solo career in 1969, while continuing her work with the Staples Singers. The legendary vocalist was recently recognized, this past December, by the Kennedy Centre Honors for her lifetime achievement in the performing arts and for her contributions to American culture.
An homage to the big band genre makes a giant appearance this year! To Ray, With Love; Maceo Parker & The Ray Charles Orchestra featuring the Raelettes (June 26) is a big band experience performed on the Tek Savvy Main Stage Concerts Under the Stars Series led by alto saxophone player Maceo Parker. Parker was part of the James Brown band and collaborated with Prince on many records. Known for being one of the funkiest saxophone players in the world, he is on tour with The Ray Charles Orchestra, including original members of the Ray Charles Orchestra and featuring the original Raelettes (Ray Charles’ famous backup singers). “This is a pretty stacked band and a must see act if you enjoy Motown, Funk and Jazz,” muses Cancura.
Charlie Haden was the legendary jazz bassist who’s played with Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and anyone and everyone throughout the 60’s and 70’s. After passing away in 2014, Haden’s collaborator, Carla Bley, a renowned jazz pianist/arranger took up Charlie’s work in his honour in Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, featuring Carla Bley (June 28).
Igor Butman and The Moscow Jazz Orchestra (part of the OLG After Dark Series on June 25) are known as some of the best musicians from Russia. Known as Russia’s Number One Jazz Personality, Igor Butman was invited by Wynton Marsalis, a close friend, on stage last summer at the Festival to play with the Lincoln Jazz Orchestra to great acclaim.
Also performing on the TekSavvy Main Stage Concerts Under the Stars Series are a remarkable array of headlining women including Canada’s Serena Ryder (June 23), Feist (July 2) – whose music was featured in an Apple commercial, and British R&B vocalist Joss Stone (June25).
The country legend Kenny Rogers, includes the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival as a stop on his final world tour on June 24, Kenny Rogers’ Final World Tour: The Gambler’s Last Deal with Special Guest Linda Davis.
Festival Passes and tickets are now on sale at ottawajazzfestival.com/tickets, by phone at 613-241-2633 and in person at the Festival Box Office at 602-294 Albert St.