It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three years since the last outdoor Ottawa Jazz Festival. Do you remember grooving to Norah Jones, jumping to The Roots, or swaying to the sweet sounds of Brad Mehldau?
How exciting, then, that Jazzfest is finally back in full force, live and in-person! As before, the festival will take place at some of Ottawa’s nicest indoor and outdoor venues, including Confederation Park, the National Arts Centre, and Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall.
And as usual, this year’s festival boasts an impressive roster of big-name headliners, plus a long list of lesser-known musicians to explore. In fact, what makes the Ottawa Jazz Festival so exciting are those musical discoveries—artists you’re seeing for the first time, that surprise and stick with you and make the festival so memorable.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of five artists worth checking out, either because they are so reliably great that they’re guaranteed to put on a good show, or they’re so new and intriguing that they just might become your next favourite artist.
Busty and the Bass
After two years of shutdown, I am so ready to dance with a big outdoor crowd. My guess is that the Busty and the Bass concert will provide the perfect opportunity to bust some moves, with their funk-filled, brass-infused sounds reminiscent of Parliament and Earth, Wind and Fire.
The Montreal-based electro-soul and hip hop band had a modest start—a group of first-year McGill music students jamming at house parties. Their sound resonated with crowds, and by 2014 they had won Canada’s Top University Band. Busty and the Bass went on to tour across Canada, the United States, and Europe and performed at festivals such as Osheaga and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. They’ve more recently collaborated with funk and soul royalty George Clinton and Macy Gray.
Catch Busty and the Bass Friday, June 24, at 10:30pm on the OLG Stage, Marion Dewar Plaza at Ottawa City Hall. Tickets for the single event are $21. Day passes are $53 and include entrance to The Once, Jocelyn Gould, and the Punch Brothers.
Winner of the Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year in 2020, Montreal singer-songwriter Dominique Fils-Aimé is a rising star. A review in the New Yorker describes her voice as a “defined, sinewy muscle” and her albums as “a constellation of genres and eras in a robust trilogy dedicated to the history of Black music.” Suffice it to say that she is a jazz singer in complete control of her instrument, delivering layered harmonies and lush vocals.
Dominique Fils-Aimé plays the OLG Stage on Monday, June 27, at 7:30pm. This is a free event. In fact, all concerts at Confederation Park and the OLG stage are free on June 27, including Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Cha Wa.
Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
How lucky we are that Ottawa is a favourite stomping ground for jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and his top-notch orchestra. A nine-time Grammy winner, Marsalis is not only a superlative musician and entertainer, but has probably done more to advance traditional jazz than anyone else in the world. As Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, he leads an expansive jazz education program focused on the genre’s distinctly American heritage.
For his Ottawa performance, expect a gorgeous evening of jazz classics by composers such as Sonny Rollins and Duke Ellington as well as himself. Let’s hope for a clear, starry night to go with.
See Wynton Marsalis on Wednesday, June 29 at 9pm on the TD Main Stage at Confederation Park. Day passes are $53 and include entrance to see Cory Wong, Les Filles de Illaghadad, and the Louis Cole Big Band.
Les Filles de Illaghadad
It’s a fair assumption that this will be your only opportunity to see Les Filles de Illaghadad, a group from Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa located approximately 8,000km from Ottawa. Led by its pioneering female guitarist, Fatou Seidi Ghali, the group formed in Illighadad, a small village made up of the nomadic Tuareg people.
The New York Times raved about their 2021 concert in the city’s Brooklyn borough, calling their sound “mesmerizing…[with] a sense of joy and playfulness that goes back to the music’s roots in village life.”
See them on Wednesday, June 29 at 7:30pm on the OLG Stage. Day passes are $53 and include entrance to see Cory Wong, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and the Louis Cole Big Band.
“Spectacular, stunning and unlike anything else,” is how one music journalist described Lido Pimienta’s performance at the 63rd Grammy Awards. Nominated in 2020 and 2021 for a Grammy and winner of Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize, Lido Pimienta manages to create music that is incredibly beautiful to listen to, all while pushing artistic boundaries.
Born in Colombia and now based in Toronto, Pimienta is a fierce advocate for her Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Mayuu roots. She draws heavily on her heritage, combining strikingly colourful, evocative costumes and sets with contemporary electro-synth riffs and twists.
Lido Pimenta plays the OLG Stage on Thursday, June 30 at 10:30pm. Tickets for the single event are $21. Day passes are $53 and include entrance to see Cory Henry, JW-Jones Big Band, and Buddy Guy.
Get more information about the 2022 Ottawa Jazz Festival’s complete lineup here.