Ottawa's Winterlude presents Jazzfest for music lovers


Known for ice sculpture and skating on the canal, Winterlude hasn’t necessarily always been a key destination for the musically oriented. The JazzFest’s Petr Cancura is hoping to change that with this year’s Winter Jazzfest. We got some answers from Petr on what you can expect at the festival and why he thought jazz might be just what the Ottawa winter needs.

Q: I understand that this Winter Jazzfest is based on a similar event that takes place in New York. What was your inspiration to try to bring an event like this to Ottawa?

The inspiration came from New York. This time of year is usually down-time for everyone… pretty much half way between Festival seasons and people are ready for music. The energy in the West Village during the NYC version of this festival is dynamite, the whole jazz crowd is out and the streets are bustling with fans and musicians alike. Everything is within walking distance and you can check out whatever you’d like. Any festival always makes musicians play great and the community aspect that is created is key. You can just feel it inside every club those three days. So the idea in Ottawa was simple… to put on three days of shows in intimate settings, involve all kinds of musicians, from local to international, and use different venues that are all within walking distance. I think people are ready to fight the cold and ready for some inspiration!

Q: Does the type of music you program for a winter festival differ from the summer festival? What type of programming do you think people are looking for at a winter jazz event?

Well, there is no outdoors to think about so the programming differs quite a bit. The advantage is that we have, for the most part, very intimate settings where we can present music that might not work as great outside during the summer. I thought about every different venue and coupled it with the different shows that will sound and feel great in that particular venue. For instance, Club Saw is so open to purely artistic driven projects… that was a perfect place to put the 21-piece IMOO Improvised Orchestra. Folks can go to Cafe Paradiso and enjoy some of the great food while enjoying the interactive singer collaboration of Renee Yoxon and Megan Jerome. The party at Mercury Lounge with the relentless Heritage Ensemble of Chicago will be a great end to the festival. I think people want to hear the perfect music in the perfect venue and that is what we are after.

Q: Who are the local acts that we should be sure not to miss over the weekend?

There are four local acts and they all have something unique about them. Rene Gely is a project I am very happy to be able to present. There are hints of Brazil and Cuba in his project and it will be very thoughtful. I can’t wait to see what Renee Yoxon and Megan Jerome will do together. The IMOO Orchestra is going to be something to experience as well. Jesse Stewart is directing that and he is always very clear in his ideas and to stand in the middle of all those improvisers will be a rush. Mike Tremblay and Mark Ferguson are two of the most in-demand musicians in Ottawa and this is one of the only projects where they really go after their own original material, so that quartet is going to be great as well – it all depends on what you are after. I for one would not miss any of them.

Q: Do you think that Winter Jazzfest is something we can look forward to annually?

Petr: The response is great and tickets are selling like hot cakes. I think it’s great for the city and everyone’s excited. If all goes well, it’ll be back.

The Winter Jazzfest starts this evening and runs until Saturday. Shows take place in venues throughout the city. For a full schedule and information on tickets, visit the Jazz Festival Website.

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