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2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Ottawa, Canada, June 21-26, 2013

2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Ottawa, Canada, June 21-26, 2013
John Kelman By

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TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
Ottawa, Canada
June 20-July 1, 2013
Having made the decision, in 2012, to broaden its stylistic purview to include not only music on the periphery of jazz, but artists with no real connection to the founding raison d'être of the festival, the 2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival continued to bring extracurricular music to its main stage in Confederation Park, looking to both bolster its bottom line and bring a younger demographic to an event now in its 33rd year. While controversy continues to exist about whether or not a jazz festival can be called a jazz festival if it's anything but pure—a subject covered in the 2012 AAJ article, When is a Jazz Festival (not) a Jazz Festival?—there's still no doubt that the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival is a jazz festival. There may be acts like ex-Talking Heads singer David Byrne and his project with St. Vincent and even (gulp!) the Doobie Brothers (more about that in a moment), but during each and every day of the festival's 12-day run, there's so much jazz going on at venues like the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage and Studio, Dominion-Chalmers Church and the OLG stage—a party tent located across the street from Confederation Park at Festival Plaza, which hosts late evening shows largely aimed at a younger demographic—that the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival remains an event still easily and justifiably jazz, keeping its name and continuing to be true to it.

One of the most notable achievements that the OJF has successfully accomplished in its extracurricular programming is to bring prestige artists to Confederation park, whether it's Robert Plant or Elvis Costello, who put on terrific shows last year, or this year's opening night with Willie Nelson, which was a smashing success, according to Director of Marketing, Sponsorship and Media, Suzan Zilahi, a woman who wears many hats but, amongst them all—and despite being seen in almost constant motion during the festival—always manages to take care of accredited journalists and photographers as if they were the only ones covering the festival, thanks to her own work and that of her efficient and friendly staff. Perhaps the only bump in the prestige road was the festival's booking of the Doobie Brothers—nothing but a nostalgia act at this point—but when the festival's original show with the legendary Aretha Franklin was pulled due to serious health problems, OJF, like all the other festivals now stuck with a gaping hole in their program, had to find, at the relatively last minute, something to fill that gap, and finding a group that's on tour, is in the general vicinity and has an opening on that particular night (June 26) is no small challenge.

And so, with the Doobie Brothers matching all three criteria, it may not be the most prestigious find for the festival, but it did bring a large crowd to Confederation Park and so, if nothing else, when it comes to finding acts to bolster the bottom line and fund the smaller shows at the Fourth Stage's Improv Series and Studio series—including the spectacular Dutch group Boi Akih, Norway's stellar Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, ex-Ottawan, now Euro- resident saxophonist Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask group, British saxophonist Courtney Pine's House of Legends, American pianist Steve Kuhn's trio with bassist Steve Swallow and Joey Baron, and so much more—well, all can very easily be forgiven.

With the addition of Dominion-Chalmers this year—a venue the festival has often used for its off-season programming, so using it makes good sense, even though it's a little farther away from the ground zero of Confederation Park (which abuts the National Arts Centre) and still within walking distance—there was a new and ideal home for acts ranging from gospel maven Mavis Staples, Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes and the Fats Waller Dance Party, featuring pianist Jason Moran and bassist/singer Meshell Ndegeocello, to African a cappella singing stars Ladysmith Black Mambazo and, closing out the series, the greatly anticipated Wayne Shorter Quintet, whose pianist, Danilo Pérez, opened the series on June 20 with a trio show that, by all accounts, was absolutely transcendent.

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