Ottawa Jazz Festival Picks

The Jazz Festival is, I believe, one of Ottawa's greatest musical adventures of the year. I am biased of course, but very proud to be part of the team that puts this awesome festival together. The question I get asked most is "what are some of the artists that I should go see?". Great question! One of my favourite things is the way a lot of groups intersect and sometimes you have to dig beneath the surface to realize a certain group is packed with superstars in their particular genre. 

So in response, and before I give you my personal picks (which are eclectic), here is what you should not miss:

If you are into jazz, do not miss: Django Bates, Marius Neset, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop, Terence Blanchard, Hush Point, A Novel of Anomaly, Jerry Granelli, Maciej Obara. 
If you are into adventurous jazz, check out: Sun of Goldfinger, A Novel of Anomaly, Dan Weiss Starebaby, Guillaume Perret, Samuel Blaser, Kimmo P{hjonen & Mary Margaret O'Hara, Peter Van Huffle's Gorilla Mask.
If you are into fun groovy music, check out: Cory Henry, Knower, Ghost Note, Banda Magda, Gogo Penguin, Shake Stew, Anomalie
Artists that do not fit into the above categories but you should check out: Mari Boine, Jerry Douglas, Don Ross

Now for my personal picks:

Petr's Picks

1. Django Bates is the real deal! A largely self-taught multi instrumentalist with a unique imagination and a stunning sense of the musical big picture. We don’t know much about Django on this side of the pond, but Django, originally from UK now residing in Copenhagen, was an important influence on certainly the UK jazz and music scene if not all of Europe. Although my favourite Django Bates recordings from the 90’s are unavailable (stuck on the defunct JMT label) there are some great examples of Django’s work available, including several releases on ECM, most recently his Beloved Trio and a recording with Anouar Brahem, Dave Holland and Jack Dejohnette. Here are some videos to check out:



2. Marius Neset is a super-talented composer and saxophonist from Norway. He is a breath of fresh air. His sensibility as both a composer and saxophonist are orchestral, fierce and innovative. Like Django, he is largely unknown in Canada and the US, but is taking Europe by storm. I think everyone should see this show!!!

3. Anomalie 
I found out about this artist from my Carleton university students. Anomalie is Nicolas Dupuis, from Montreal. He is a classically trained pianist and a very talented producer, making some really fresh, informed electronic jazz music. 

4. Cory Henry is an organ player from Brooklyn. Coming from a church music background, Cory is a prodigy to say the least. He got his start as a featured soloist and member of Snarky Puppy, and has since played with the Roots, Jacob Collier, been on may late night shows, and whenever he touches a keyboard and there is a phone in the vicinity to video it, that video is bound to go viral. Cory has a real honest way of playing music and technique to amaze. I think this will be an incredible show!


5. Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a Cuban pianist that I first learned of when he started working with the great, late Charlie Haden. Gonzalo's touch and note choices are heart-melting. He is one of the greatest pianists, this will be unforgettable!

6. Jerry Douglas! If any of you know me you know that I play mandolin and love bluegrass. Jerry Douglas is the most in demand dobro player out there and a member of Alison Krauss's Union Station. Jerry and Allison are of course playing on the same night however Alison is not with Union Station and Jerry is doing his own Bluegrass/jazz crossover project. I love that sound, I love what Jerry Douglas does and he always brings a killer band!

7. Kimmo Phjonen & Mary Margaret O'Hara. Mary Margaret is one of Canada's greatest treasures - a true artist all the way through. The way she performs music is by letting in the entire audience into her mind process and letting you be a part of the creative experience. She is teaming up here with Kimmo Pohjonen, an extraordinary accordionist from Finland who is a very unique and innovative artist in his own right. This pairing is a one of a kind experience. 


8. Dan Weiss Starebaby. This will be pretty out but awesome!!! This is really a super band of great improvisers. Dan has a very unique voice on the drums which includes his early studies of Indian music. With Craig Taborn, Matt Mitchell, Ben Monder and Trevor Dunn, you cannot go wrong... virtuosity and imagination at its best!

9. Hush Point! Not many jazz projects are true 'bands'. Hush Point is! For years they have gotten together weekly to rehearse beautifully blurring the lines between free improv and form. From Brooklyn, these are some of my favourite and under-appreciated musicians on the scene including the great John McNeil on trumpet, Jeremy Uden on alto and C-Melody saxophones, Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass and Anthony Pinciotti on drums. 

Hushpoint Music

10. A Novel of Anomaly, another group that not many people have heard of here but in Europe they are well known. This group of incredible improvisers is simply astounding. I first heard them at Jazz Ahead, a showcase in Germany and they were the highlight of the conference for me. They will be performing twice in the same night. Once on their own and later in the evening they will add two great Canadian improvisers Lina Allemano on trumpet and Andrew Downing on cello.