The 36th annual TD Ottawa Jazz Festival (June 23 – July 3) offers some of the world’s best jazz, including Wynton Marsalis (June 29) and Trombone Shorty (June 27), but it also hits so many other notes – from the soulful Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (June 26) to the master class Canadian songwriting combo of Buffy Sainte-Marie (June 28) and Sarah McLachlan (June 25).
We got an insider’s scoop from executive producer Catherine O’Grady:
What makes the festival special?
Our festival is special because it’s people sized, not super-sized, and it offers an experience of neighbours getting together to share the first beautiful days of summer out of doors listening to the best music we have found for them… Our festival is a jewel of curated artists and music experiences ranging from jazz to blues to hip contemporary indie music to full on big presentations of major artists… The Jazz Festival has always valued the audience experience above all else ensuring we act as the connective tissue between the audiences and the artists who absolutely need each other to make the experience complete.
What will surprise visitors about the festival?
Our brand new venue at the National Arts Centre, called “the Back Stage” which is hosting our new “discovery” series and some select performances to be presented in the theatre at the NAC; opening night music around the fountain; our new “mystery” series of free concerts on Marion Dewar Plaza!
What are you looking forward to the most about this year’s festival?
Actually, the moment I most look forward to with every festival is the night before opening. The park is quiet, we’ve done everything we can to make it look good, feel good, and the first group of artists are just arriving at the airport and it’s always a beautiful night – it’s the sense of anticipation that gives me the greatest joy in what we do. And the next thing I’m looking forward to is welcoming the wonderful and beautiful Sarah McLachlan to the Ottawa Jazz Festival main stage. She is the epitome of everything that’s musically brilliant and successful in this country. She’s a superstar and she’s done it all her own way in an incredibly competitive environment and I think she’s just extraordinary.
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Finally, true jazzophiles should embrace the more traditional programming inside the nearby National Arts Centre, including the new, intimate Back Stage. The real music treasures (often indie and roots artists) are unearthed in the OLG After Dark Series at the Laurier Avenue Music Stage.