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Photo: Ed Lister Music (YouTube)

Future of Ottawa: Jazz with Ed Lister

By Apartment613 on April 27, 2021

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into four of Ottawa’s most unique music communities—what they’re like now and where things are heading. Read on for a guest post from Ed Lister on the future of jazz music in Ottawa, or read Kevin Bourne on hip hop, Carissa Klopoushak on classical music, or Adriana Ciccone on experimental music.

Edward Lister is a U.K. born musician and composer who has been playing professionally since the age of 15. Lister has been based out of Ottawa, Canada since 2011 and currently runs seven of his own ensembles as well as performing in a further 15 or so groups. To date, he has recorded over three dozen albums in and around Ottawa. Lister also owns and operates an entertainment agency called London Gentleman Records which represents and works with local Ottawa talent. Lister has toured the globe and shared the stage with some of the best.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of jazz music in Ottawa?

Ed Lister: Ottawa jazz music has adapted as best as it can with the situation it has been dealt. There are a lot of fantastic opportunities to stay at home and be entertained over the internet via live streams and video release concerts. I’m a very creative musician in terms of writing a lot of material and putting together new shows and groups but I’ve found it much tougher to muster up the enthusiasm to continue this work ethic given COVID-19 restrictions. I can only imagine that many of my fellow musicians feel the same way. Nonetheless, we’re still here and still making great music to bring to our audiences wherever they may be.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is jazz going in Ottawa in 2021?

It’s hard to know for sure where jazz will be in 2021 given the unprecedented situation we are in. I’m guessing that there will be a lot more outdoor performances and clever uses of spaces to avoid overcrowding, etc. I’m guessing that the big festivals in town will be operating at very low numbers or not at all.

As for venues… I can only imagine how tough this has been but it’s so amazing to see how well they have all weathered the storm. I would like to think that musicians can charge higher ticket prices given the impending low capacities that will probably face the smaller clubs and bars upon re-opening. I’m also assuming we will be seeing a lot more online events through 2021 too.

Where in your wildest dreams could local jazz go in your lifetime?

In my wildest dreams, I see Ottawa having as many live music venues as places like New York, New Orleans, Paris, and Tokyo. I envision Elgin Street turning into the next Bourbon street. Five-night residencies for hard-hitting jazz quintets similar to the scenario in the film ‘Mo Betta Blues’. More funding to be made widely available for all of these undertakings!

What is the best innovation to take place in jazz since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Apart from all the great live stream concerts and music videos that have been produced by the musicians in Ottawa, I’d say that the greatest innovation has been that of Adrian Cho who has managed to build an online streaming platform using a series of private servers and has managed to bring latency down to an extreme low, so as to allow for real-time shows to happen. All of the band members can perform together from their own houses. This is a total game changer! I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the process from its early stages and it works incredibly well. It’s called Syncspace and I’m currently programming shows in this series and it is proving to be highly popular and will be the new standard moving forward.

Who is the future of jazz in Ottawa?

This is a tough question to answer. I’m not going to name any single person or group as no one person can change a scene that radically. I personally believe the future of jazz in Ottawa is in the hands of the fans and audience who come and see it, support it and love it. Without them, it really doesn’t work.

Tell us something you wish somebody told you when you started your career in music.

Be ready to hustle!


Back in 2015, Apartment613 took a look at the future of Ottawa across several different sectors. In 2021, we’re bringing the series back, asking experts, artists, and community leaders to shed some light on their local field or industry, as it stands now and where they think—or dream—it will go over the next few years. Every week we’ll profile a different cultural sector in Ottawa, leaving no niche unexplored—from social justice to theatre, bars to sports, to the future of the municipality and its natural environs. Keep an eye out for a new batch of posts every Tuesday on Apt613.ca.

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