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Saxophonist Petr Cancura is the programming director of this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival
Saxophonist Petr Cancura is the programming director of this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival

Preview: Ottawa Jazz Festival

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This time of year there's no shortage of live jazz in this area. Recently, we've told you about jazz festivals in Burlington and Kingston, and another festival that continues to grow each year is the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival. This year it runs from June 21st to July 1st, and last week Joel Hurd spoke with the festival's Programming Manager, Petr Cancura.

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There will be more than 120 concerts and over 800 artists performing at this year’s TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival. Given the size of the event, the staff members responsible for organizing it have been busy at work. “We really count on the volunteers. It would not happen without them,” said the festival’s programming manager, Petr Cancura. “The whole thing is really about community, right. And if you don’t have that, if you’re not supporting that, there’s nothing.”

The festival traditionally places a heavy emphasis on highlighting Canadian musicians and, specifically, musicians from the Ottawa area. “On the local level, it’s really important that we be a part of this music community all year round, not just during the festival season, which is kind of what tends to happen in most festivals,” said Cancura.

While similar festivals don’t maintain a presence in the community while they are not in session, the Ottawa festival is unique. It includes a new late-night series in which local, up and coming groups are featured in front of large audience. Also, for the first time, the festival is producing an Ottawa Music Scene compilation CD called Valley Giants.

“It really features all the great local talent and the support for the CD has been unbelievable, and it really shows off how good Ottawa is,” said Cancura. “We’re really proud of that project and that we can put a lot of these musicians on stage.”

The Great Canadian Series features touring artists from all over Canada. This is one of 11 different series that makes up this festival.

The performances will be held in a wide variety of venues throughout the city. One of these is the First Union Church, which is a new addition to the list. Cancura said, ”It’s the first time we’re doing kind of a chamber jazz concert with an artist in residence, also another first, which is Dave Holland.”

The festival boasts a diverse array of performers that can satisfy a broad range of listeners, but the musicians do all have something in common. “That’s kind of the mantra of the program, which is to keep it real, simply put. It’s to keep it authentic. You know, everybody’s got to be a strong musician, the act’s gotta be strong,” said Cancura. “These days, there’s so much surface and fluff and fakeness that we really want to make this festival the real thing.”

The quality of music is a constant focus of the festival organizers, who also strive to keep in mind the desires of jazz fans. Concura concluded, “I think they share the love of simply good music. That’s a common thread that we try to keep throughout all the series, all the stages.”

Concura is personally looking forward to hearing many of the performers and series, including Esperanza Spalding and New Orleans Night on June 25. “That whole night is going to be amazing,” he said. The festival runs from Thursday, June 21, through Sunday, July 1.

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