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Photo: Rebecca Noelle via YouTube

Jazzfest lineup: Rebecca Noelle, Laila Biali, Judith Hill, and Helena Deland part of the 50 concerts announced

By Greggory Clark on March 13, 2019

They join headliners Norah Jones and The Roots, who were announced earlier this year.

In what’s becoming a tradition in recent years, Jazzfest curator Petr Cancura went on CBC Radio last Friday afternoon, March 8, to announce the summer festival lineup. In an interview with All in a Day host Alan Neal, Canacura revealed highlights of the 50 or so concerts which are slated for June 21 to July 1, 2019.

It’s guaranteed that more acts will be announced in the coming weeks, as the schedule made available leaves space for at least one more headliner TBA for opening weekend; and not all side stage programming (mostly local acts) is a part of this initial lineup. Something like a dozen or more shows—and possibly club venues—could be announced before the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival opens on Friday, June 21.

Besides Norah Jones (June 25) and The Roots (June 29), who were announced last month, the 2019 lineup is topped by Grammy Award-winner Judith Hill (June 21). Hill was a producer for Prince and a standout vocalist in both Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson’s backing bands.

“We had Judith three years ago at our late-night stage. For everyone who saw it… It was the highlight of the festival. She tore the roof off,” says Cancura. “We had to put her on the main stage. When we found out she was touring we had to have her.”

After Judith Hill opens the 2019 fest, headliners to look forward to include Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, Chicago (June 23), heavyweight jazz pianist Brad Mehldau (June 26), alt-jazz drummer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington (June 27)—she’s a powerful figure in jazz who has played with Dizzy, Herbie, and more big names—as well as Lee Fields & The Expressions (June 30) and Omara Portuondo of Buena Vista Social Club fame (June 28).

If you haven’t clued in yet, most of the artists named above are women, and that trend follows through the entire Jazzfest lineup. Cancura says the team made a deliberate choice to highlight women in music this year. If not as a headliner or bandleader, you’ll see women on every stage, playing every instrument; as soloists, composers, side players, arrangers and in other roles.

“We’re up against jazz history, and jazz history is just men, men, men…”

In his CBC Radio interview, which you can stream here, Cancura says he, Jacqie MacKay and Catherine O’Grady (his colleagues on the programming team) wanted to meet gender parity. “Every year we talk about trying to be equal,” says Cancura, “and trying to promote women as much as we can, because that’s been hard—especially in jazz.”

“We’re up against jazz history, and jazz history is just men, men, men…”

It’s not necessarily a numbers thing. “It’s really hard to do that,” says Cancura. “[One] of the obstacles that came up right away… you ask a great artist to come, and of course you respect the project that she happens to be working with right now, and it might be full of men… so it’s hard to look at direct numbers.”

However, the = Jazz Orchestra, led by Canadian saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen, is an 18-person gender-equal big band. A handful of shows will feature women only or majority-women projects.

More highlights include:

  • Angelique Francis (June 22)
  • Jane Siberry (June 22)
  • Emie R. Roussel Trio (June 23)
  • Hayden Chisholm with Strings (June 26)
  • Hayden Chisholm Trio (June 27)
  • Donny McCaslin (June 28)
  • Cha Wa (June 28)
  • DJ Questlove (June 29)
  • Lemon Bucket Orkestra (June 30)
  • Dirty Catfish Brass Band (July 1)

For a full list of the artists, visit www.ottawajazzfestival.com.


The 39th Ottawa International Jazz Festival happens from June 21 to July 1 at Marion Dewar Plaza, Confederation Park, the National Arts Centre, and more venues. Passes cost $99–319 available online at www.ottawajazzfestival.com, by phone at 613-241-2633, and at the festival box office (602-294 Albert St).