2018 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
June 21-June 26, 2018
For its 2018 edition, the 39th annual TD Ottawa Jazz Festival faced a number of significant logistical challenges.
First, Confederation Park, which has traditionally been the location of its large, outdoor venue, a food court and number of shops where attendees can pick up CDs of the artist they just saw, T-Shirts and more, is currently under renovation and, therefore, was unavailable to the festival. The good news was that Marion Dewar Plaza, located literally across the street from Confederation Park and part of the City Hall complex, was available. Having been used by the Ottawa Blues Fest for quite a few years before relocating means that there was a different park configuration, but one that definitely worked.
Despite currently being torn up, the west end of Confederation Park is still available and so, the late night OLG Stage that was originally across from Confederation Park in Marion Dewar Plaza, has been relocated there, while The Tartan Homes stage (originally in the west end of Confederation Park) has been moved to Lisgar Field, just a short walk from Marian Dewar Plaza, for late night programming.
After major external renovations made accessing the National Arts Centre, where the festival has used often used the 1,100 seat Theatre, 350-seat Studio and 180-seat, club-like Fourth Stage, the arts venue is now undergoing significant internal renovations, specifically making acoustic upgrades to most venues that, after 51 years, are in serious need of modernizing. With only the Fourth Stage available, the festival relocated a number of shows to the nearby First Baptist Church, a lovely hall with warm acoustics.
Beyond logistical issues, however, the festival has put together yet another stellar lineup for its 11-day run from June 21 to July 1. Big name, big ticket (but still, compared to other festivals, very reasonably priced) performers at the main stage included a range of jazz music and beyond, from smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti
, singers Boz Scaggs, Dee Dee Bridgewater
, Alison Krauss and Chaka Khan to newgrass/jamband Bela Fleck
and the Flecktones (bringing back its original lineup with pianist/harmonicist Howard Levy
), the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, DIY jazz-meets R&B group Lake Street Dive and, making another festival appearance, the great Herbie Hancock
On the same stage, but before the 8:30 main acts, will be the festival's regular Canadian Jazz series, this year featuring artists including drummer Jim Doxas
, trumpeter Joe Sullivan
and his big band, Ernesto Cervini
, the Heavyweight Brass Band, pianist Francois Bourassa
, Ottawa-based The Commotions and, after a week of intensive workshops by many of the festival's artists, a performance by the TD Jazz Youth Summit.
The Fourth Stage, typically hosting the festival's more improv/left-of-center artists, was home to artists including the Baltic Jazz Trio, New York-based Israeli expat guitarist Rotem Sivan
, the experimental Son of Goldfinger (featuring Tim Berne
, David Torn
and Ches Smith
), Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset
, saxophonist Peter Van Huffel
, trombonist Samuel Blaser
, the outrageous French saxophonist Guillaume Peret, ECM recording artist Maciej Obara
and his stunning Polish/Norwegian quartet, drummer Dan Weiss
' Starebaby and more.
The Tartan Home Stage was the place to catch rising star trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg
, local singer Kellylee Evans
with festival Programming Manager/multi-instrumentalist Petr Cancura
, Finnish accordion master Kimmo Pohjonen
, Tanya Tagaq featuring Norwegian star, singer Mari Boine
(who will present her own show at the First Baptist Church), bluegrass dobro whiz Jerry Douglas
and his killer sepet; German National Youth Jazz Orchestra and many others, performing shows in the early evening and, with different shows on at 10:30pm, expanding the festival's reach but creating even more competition as to who to choose. Always a challenge, but an even bigger one this year.