The jazz festival is one of my very favourite things about this city. It’s the kind of festival you can entrust your ears to, entrust your nights to, and know that you will be impressed and surprised and introduced to a whole lot of new music. We’re lucky it comes around twice a year. The Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival features 17 shows over two weekends (Feb.6-8 and Feb. 13-15).
The program showcases an eclectic array of music from jazz drummers to singer-songwriters, world music troubadours to chamber ensembles. You can expect a solid lineup of high-calibre jazz artists (Nancy Walker, Roddy Elias, Matt Wilson, Jean-Michel Pilc) alongside groups that stretch our notions of the genre’s borders like the super funky guitar of Charlie Hunter, Elizabeth Shepherd’s ultra-fresh pop-jazz and the Lost Fingers’ gypsy jazz covers of radio hits. Perhaps what the fest does best though is staging concerts that feel small and intimate even in a larger space, making each show feel more like a once-only experience.
Festival highlights include:
Megan Jerome and the Together Ensemble
Listening to Ottawa’s own Megan Jerome, it’s clear that this is an artist carving her own path, drawing from a broad palette of influences while bravely averting imitation. Her delivery is much like her lyrics, disarmingly honest and inevitably charming and her joy in performing is infectious. It’ll be a treat to hear Jerome’s songs in a new light with a band featuring some of the city’s best musicians, Mike Essoudry (drums), Fred Guignon (guitar) and Don Cummings (B3 organ) who, as their bio says, “envelop each song like a glowing, malleable cloud.” It actually sounds like that. Here they are performing, “Moon”.
Friday, February 6 at the NAC’s Fourth Stage, 5 pm, tickets are $18.
A Juno award winning “modern chamber” group who weave beguiling sonic dreamscapes built on a core of cello, marimba and percussion. Here is a live performance of “Sprouts”.
Friday, February 13 at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 8:30 pm, tickets are $30.
Jay Malinowski (formerly of Bedouin Soundclash) is on the road with a new project, touring an epic song cycle based on the story of his Huguenot ancestor Charles Martel who narrowly escaped persecution in France before setting sail for Canada. Malinowski’s band, a chamber trio dubbed The Deadcoast envelop the songs in luscious string arrangements that lend the historically-based story songs a kind of antique finish. Here’s the official video for “The Tall Shadow from Saint Malo”.
Saturday February 14 at Dominion Chalmers United Church, 6:30 pm, tickets are $35
Few things are as sexy as a Leonard Cohen song so it’s kind of exciting to be able to hear a whole bunch of Cohen in one night and on Valentine’s Day, no less. Following their own sets earlier in the evening, Jay Malinowski and the Deadcoast, Reuben and the Dark, Scott Helman and Martha Wainwright, all sensuous singer-songwriters in their own right, come together to celebrate the work of one of the best singer-songwriters ever.
Rueben and the Dark perform Leonard Cohen’s “There is a War”.
Saturday February 14, Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 9:30 pm, tickets are $50.
Wonderfully mysterious Canadian cult legend Mary Margaret O’Hara will close out the festival performing in a new collaborative trio with cellist Peggy Lee and Aidan Closs on guitar, drums and piano. This is a rare chance to witness the entirely incomparable vocal artistry of O’Hara who has collaborated with everyone from Tom Waits and Morrissey to Bruce Cockburn and Neko Case and earned the admiration of Radiohead and Michael Stipe among many others. Here is Mary Margaret O’Hara’s video for “Bodies in Trouble”.
Sunday February 15, Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 7 pm, tickets are $25.
The Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival is happening February 6-8, 13 and 14th. Check out the full lineup here. Tickets range from $18 – $50 for single shows, day passes are available for the 13th and 14th performances, click here for more info.