The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival is always in my summer calendar. That’s partly because I’m a jazz fan, but also because the mood is friendly and laid back, the venues are beautiful and the music is eclectic. The fact they serve Beau’s is just icing on the cake—or should I say froth on the beer?
If you’re a young music fan, there’s even more reason to attend. This year the Festival is offering a special $99 youth pass for ages 25 or under, which gets you in to almost every concert at the 11-day festival (or you can get a $37 day pass which includes entry to the TekSavvy Main Stage at Confederation Park as well as the sensational OLG After Dark Series).
Jazzfest always offers a wonderful combination of emerging artists, avant-garde musicians, jazz stalwarts and familiar names from popular music. However, it can be overwhelming to wade through the long list of talent, so I’ve selected a few who are creating buzz this year—and are good value to boot.
Thursday June 22, 7:30pm @ TekSavvy Main Stage (Confederation Park)
What a great way to kick off the Festival! Tanika Charles is a force and her soulful sound is effortless. A regular on the Toronto music scene, her debut album Soul Run has set her on course for much wider recognition.
Gordon Grdina’s Haram
Saturday June 24, 6pm @ National Arts Centre Back Stage (1 Elgin St)
This remarkable 10-piece Arab-improv “big band” pays tribute to Canadian diversity with its musical cross-pollination. Vancouver-based Grdina, whose day job is playing with Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Mangan’s band, has studied Middle Eastern music for years and had the fortunate opportunity of being mentored by oud musician Serwan Yamolky, an Iraqi exile also living in Vancouver. Grdina has taken that training and his passion for the music of the Middle East and partnered it with jazz improvisation and experimentation, taking it to new, unexplored territory.
If you like Gordon Grdina’s Haram, you might also enjoy Pierre Kwenders.
Shai Maestro Trio
Monday June 26, 8pm @ La Nouvelle Scène (333 King Edward Ave)
You don’t have to love jazz to go to the Ottawa Jazz Festival, but if you do, you need to see this concert. Shai Maestro is cool, creative and his trio is top-notch. Sit back and be transported.
If you like what you hear, you might also enjoy Hudson: Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, John Scofield.
Robert Glasper Experiment
Monday June 26, 10:30pm @ Tartan Homes Stage (Marion Dewar Plaza)
Winner of two Grammy’s for Best R&B Album, Robert Glasper Experiment combines jazz with electro, hip-hop, neo-soul and rock. Expect the feel of a DJ set meets jazz gig, with reinterpreted fragments of familiar songs from the likes of Nirvana, Radiohead and David Bowie woven throughout.
If you like Robert Glasper, you might also enjoy The Bad Plus.
Thursday June 29, 10:30 pm @ Tartan Homes Stage (Marion Dewar Plaza)
Prince was a fan and invited her to perform with him at the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain. That pretty well says it all, but I’ll carry on anyway. Like Diana Krall, Kandace Springs started as a pianist and has the chops to prove it. She also sings lusciously and is stunningly beautiful. She’s been compared to Norah Jones and Roberta Flack—I can’t help but think of Sade, with her goddess-like presence.
If you like Kandace Springs, you might also enjoy Joss Stone.
Friday June 30, 10:30pm @ Tartan Homes Stage (Marion Dewar Plaza)
If you can, check out wunderkind Jacob Collier. He started out as a YouTube sensation and has since won two Grammy Awards and has been produced by the legendary Quincy Jones. Collier writes, arranges, produces and sings a capella. He plays drums, bass, keyboards and so much more. Oh, and he’s also a working actor. Did I mention he’s just 22 years old?
If you like Jacob Collier, you might also enjoy Tropikombo.
The 37th annual TD Ottawa Jazz Festival runs from June 22 to July 2 at Confederation Park and several nearby venues. Passes cost $99–327 and single tickets cost $27–67. Ticket prices increase by $3 on the day of the show. Visit www.ottawajazzfestival.com for the full lineup and box office information.