Taking up residence with the Ottawa Jazz festival’s winter weekend

Pianist Joey Calderazzo highlights the Ottawa Jazz Festivals Winter Weekend.

As a musician, Petr Cancura loves a chance to meet and work with other players.

The programmer of the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s Winter Weekend has turned that enjoyable collaboration into something unique.

The annual winter weekend at La Nouvelle Scene is inviting some talented players to be Artists in Residence.

“It’s something I have been thinking about for a long time,” Cancura said. “We got a Canada Council grant to do it, otherwise it wouldn’t have been feasible.”

Petr Cancura.

Essentially, he said, “my favourite festivals are those where people hang out for more than just a gig.

“Bands get hired for a weekend and play as many times as the festival asks. I love that. I have met all kinds of people (doing that). As a musician, it’s fantastic and as an audience member you get hear these unique collaborations.”

So the Jazz Fest team put their thinking caps on and came up with “something cool,” Cancura said.

He’s asked three artists to come to Ottawa on Feb. 7 and then he asked them all to bring along a band that will be play more than one show with many different players.

“Most people staying for whole weekend. That’s longer than I asked. I think it will make the atmosphere of those three days great. The jam sessions will certainly be cooking because everybody is in town.”

The three resident artists are pianist Marianne Trudel, guitarist Kevin Breit and sax man Michael Blake.

They are all bringing with them an eclectic mix of musicians.

With Blake will be Jerry Granelli and the cellist Peggy Lee. Breit, who has played with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones and Cassandra Wilson, is escorting Michael Herring, who is among many things, the bass player in the band Way North, drummer Dave Clark, who steers the Woodshed Orchestra out of Kingston and Michael Jude Ward-Bergman, a virtuosic accordion player from New Orleans.

Trudel is bringing her trio Trifolia plus saxophonist Tony Malaby.

The weekend for the artists in residence will begin with an improv show where they will be thrown together along with Malaby, Cancura said. The other collaborations will mix and match players and their bands. In addition each artist gets a show.

In the mix is an opportunity for Cancura to play with Granelli. “We have been talking for a long time about doing something together,” he said and now they are finally doing it.

There are also a slew of featured performers.

The ‘headliner’, Cancura says, is Joey Calderazzo, who works with Branford Marsalis. He has his own trio and he’s bringing them to Ottawa.

The festival is also bringing in the eclectic singer-actor Nellie McKay. Making a return visit is the popular Vancouver ensemble Pugs & Crows with singer Marin Patenaude. Ottawa’s Megan Jerome will be on hand with her Together Ensemble will be there as will Rémi-Jean LeBlanc on bass, Nir Felder on guitar, Rafael Zaldivar, piano, and drummer Samuel Joly. 

The jam-packed weekend will see another incarnation of the popular 33z (formed by Cancura and the ever-present Ed Lister), this time presenting the music of Aretha Franklin.

As for the jam sessions, they’ll be stickhandled by some familiar names and festival friends: John Geggie, Roddy Ellias and Michel Delage.

Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest
Where: La Nouvelle Scene, 333 King Edward Ave.
When: Feb. 7 to 9
Tickets and more information: ottawajazzfestival.com

Share Post
Written by

Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.