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Top picks at the 2018 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival—opens 06.21.18

By Leah Geller on June 18, 2018





The 2018 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival opens June 21, 2018. Apt613 contributor Leah Geller shares her picks for the festival.

Ron Artis II & The Truth

Each year, there is an artist performing at the Ottawa Jazz Festival who I’ve never heard of, but who I just know I need to go see. One year, it was Brooklyn-based vintage chanteuse Kat Edmonson; another time it was Brazil’s Joyce Moreno and last year it was Robert Glasper. So far, my instinct’s been right on.

This year, I’m drawn to Ron Artis – a kind of Jack Johnson meets Leon Bridges singer-songwriter from Hawaii. If it’s not great (which I’m quite sure it will be), it will at least be interesting. Your ticket to Ron Artis also includes entry to see the high-energy Dee Dee Bridgewater with the Memphis Soulphony, which I know will be a blast.

Ron Artis II & The Truth perform on June 24 at 7:30pm on the Tartan Homes Stage, Lisgar Field. Tickets are $40 and include performances by Duchess, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Greilsammer.

Terence Blanchard

Spike Lee is having a moment right now, with the release of his Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, based on his 1986 movie of the same name. If you’ve seen any of Spike Lee’s movies — Malcolm X, Mo’ Better Blues or Do The Right Thing, to name just a few — you’ll probably recognize the music of Terence Blanchard. He has performed on or composed the score for every Spike Lee movie made.

I fell in love with Blanchard years ago because of his serious trumpet skills. Considered one of the top jazz trumpeters in the world, Blanchard began his career with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and then Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He now leads a young, talented electric ensemble, the E-Collective, with music that addresses, head on, the issues of gun violence, police brutality and racism in America today.

Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective performs as part of the Masters Series on June 26 at 7pm at the First Baptist Church (Laurier Avenue at Elgin St.). Tickets are $40.00.

Tanya Tagaq featuring Mari Boine

There is no one like Tanya Tagaq and I think everyone needs to see her at least once. To call her an Inuk throat-singer belies the incredibly imaginative, wild and wonderful ride Tanya takes her audience on. Seeing her perform is more than watching a concert — it is an experience.

So I can’t wait to see what she does with her circumpolar sister, Mari Boine, a Norwegian Sami singer who combines jazz and rock with the traditional joik form of song of the Sami people.

Tanya Tagaq featuring Mari Boine performs as part of the OLG Play North Series presented by Air North on June 27 at 7:30pm on the Tartan Homes Stage, Lisgar Field. Tickets are $50 and include performances by The Heavyweights Brass Band, St. Germain, and Banda Magda.

Tanya Tagaq also performs solo on June 28 at 10:30 pm on the Tartan Homes Stage. Tickets are $28. Marie Boine performs solo on June 28 at 7pm at the First Baptist Church. Tickets are $40.

Kellylee Evans

Kellylee Evans’s latest release, Come On, is on heavy rotation at my house. It’s soulful, sexy and socially conscious. So I’m pretty excited the Juno award-winning singer will be performing twice at this year’s Jazzfest.

On opening night, she’ll collaborate with Petr Cancura and the city’s swing dance community to create a lively evening of dance and song. Later on in the festival, she’ll perform selections from that wonderful Come On album, along with other originals and covers from her diverse soul, jazz and pop repertoire.

Kellylee Evans performs with Petr Cancura in Swing Swing Swing! on Thursday June 21 at 10:30pm on Tartan Homes Stage on Lisgar Field. Tickets are $28.

She also performs on June 30 at 7:30pm on the Tartan Homes Stage on Lisgar Field. Tickets are $65 and include performances by Herbie Hancock, and Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles.

The OLG Ontario Series

I suppose I’m cheating by including an additional six shows all under one heading, but I couldn’t resist. I just love this series, as it offers such a variety of great performances — all for free!

There’s Peter Liu and the Pollcats, a favourite among the city’s swing dancers, as well as tap sensations the Ottawa Rhythm Initiative, who are really quite amazing.

There’s also Brazilian musician Rommel Ribeiro, who opened for Gilberto Gil at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival and Nova Scotian Anna Ludlow, lead fiddle from the Broadway hit “Come From Away.”

Closer to home, there’s Ottawa’s own blues singer and upright bass player, Angelique Francis, and the Megan Jerome Together Ensemble — both great local talents to watch.

The OLG Ontario Series takes place at noon, 5pm and 7:30pm most days of the festival. The stage is located near the fountain near Elgin Street in Confederation Park. You can find the complete schedule here.