NAC’s Canada Scene and Jazz Fest Team Up for Series Spotlighting Canadian Jazz

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Photos courtesy of the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival

The National Arts Centre and the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival have maintained a healthy relationship over the years. The venues proximity to a jazzed up Confederation Park each June and early July certainly helped as the Fourth Stage and new Back Stage facilities saw some of the best musicians on the scene today able to perform in what Petr Cancura spaces that were acoustically astounding.

Al Muirhead Trio
featuring Guido Basso

This year Cancura, Programming Director for the Jazz Festival, and the NAC are taking it up a notch by merging with the equally as popular Canada Scene which runs congruently with the festivals June 22-26 programming.

Heather Moore, Producer and Executive Director for Canada Scene, says while many of the city’s festival tend to overlap with one another at this time of year, to her, it seemed only natural to offer ways to collaborate as opposed to compete for audiences.  

“In the case of the Jazz Festival, it was a (perfect) fit, as the NAC is one of their venues.  We looked to Petr, their programming expert, to suggest a series of Canadian artists from across the country, and we’re thrilled with the line-up he’s come up with,” Moore says.

Cancura, always up to the challenge of putting together a diverse mix of music makers, turned to the Canada’s 150th and the transformation of the venue itself for inspiration. Wanting to showcase a blend of Canadian musicianship that showed off the entire country as opposed to one or two select areas, he came up with five concerts that represent artists from coast to coast.   

“To celebrate the new building the NAC has put together an impressive program with Canada Scene and in talks we both agreed it would be incredible to program a series that is a true partnership,” Cancura tells Ottawa Life.

“We programmed groups from Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Calgary and Montreal and chose groups that would make any of those parts of Canada proud.”

David Occhipinti

The five shows include:

1) David Occhipinti Camera Ensemble from Toronto on June 22 – Some of Canada’s most virtuosic multi-instrument artists meld improvisation with contemporary chamber music creating a unique sonic experience.

2) Erin Costelo from Halifax on June 23 – With a huge and unique voice Costelo is an artist who successfully drifts between genres. After procuring the title of R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at the 2014 East Coast Music Awards, Erin went on to share bills with Mavis Staples, Dr. John and other greats.

3) Gord Grdina’s Haram from Vancouver on June 24 Known as Dan Mangan’s anchor musician of his celebrated band, Gord’s solo career is just as illustrious as his Ottawa fans are numerous. Haram is a high-energy middle-eastern influenced show combining his usual hard rock and free improvisation with an 11-piece ensemble.

4) Al Muirhead Trio featuring Guido Basso from Calgary on June 25 – Canadian jazz legends team up to perform classic jazz! This is a rare opportunity to catch trumpet player Muirhead team up with fellow jazz giants trumpet player Guido Basso and pianist Brian Browne, in a tour de force of jazz statesmen.

5) Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms from Quebec on June 26 – Described as creative, brilliant, eclectic, balancing imagination, humour, combining complex soundscapes, improvisation and highly structured compositions into completely unclassifiable music. Derome is acknowledged around the world for his eclectic, highly personal,and wildly experimental jazz.

Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms

When asked to select a highlight, a jazz musician himself, Cancura couldn’t just touch upon one show. He says he will personally attend each performance in the series proud of the talent he was able to put together with the Canada Scene team.

“Gord Grdina’s group will be off the hook! Jean Derome is such a smart musician and it will be great to hear his group as well. David Occhipinti is a hidden treasure, a quiet, brilliant individual who writes beautiful music, this project being tilted towards a chamber music perspective. Erin Costello is a powerhouse singer from Halifax and Al Muirhead is teaming up with the legendary Guido Basso and Ottawa’s very own Brian Browne. They are all amazing shows!”

Moore is quick to add that the Gord Grdina show is also a West Coast super group in disguise which includes such jazz improvisers as François Houle, J.P. Carter, Jesse Zubot, and Tommy Babin. She’s also looking forward to Jean Derome et les Dangereux Zhoms. She promises it will be an “evening of complex soundscapes that mix both improvisation and highly structured compositions.”

The Festival’s title sponsor and Canada Scene’s presenting sponsor share a significant partner in TD.

“It truly is fitting for the Festival and the National Arts Centre to combine forces and celebrate Canada’s 150TH together,” explains the Festival’s Executive Producer Catherine O’Grady.

“These five shows exemplify all that can be achieved when arts organizations collaborate together with business. TD is at the forefront of this cooperation in supporting the arts.”

Festival Passes and tickets are on sale now with single Canada Scene tickets for the NAC Back Stage costing $27.