OTTAWA — Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin and David Byrne are coming to Confederation Park this summer as part of the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival’s star-studded slate of headlining acts.
The event, which runs from June 20 to July 1, is front-loaded with impressive bookings with buzz-attracting, crossover heft.
Among them is New Orleans musical showman Dr. John (the artist formerly known as Mac Rebbenack), who opens the festival on June 20. Country icon Willie Nelson plays the following night, and on June 22, R ‘n’ B singer Macy Gray performs in an intriguing collaboration with maverick jazz saxophonist David Murray’s 15-piece big band.
That show is subtitled Stomping and Singin’ the Blues, and indeed, the jazz festival’s genre-hopping list of headliners will leave the Ottawa Bluesfest pressed to deliver the same kind of concentrated quality programming when it announces its lineup in early March.
One more crossover coup for the jazz festival is the June 23 show of David Byrne and St. Vincent. The two out-of-the-box art rockers last year released a collaborative CD, Love This Giant.
On June 26, soul legend Aretha Franklin, who played the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall in May 2010, is to play Confederation Park.
However, during the festival’s second half, other mainstage shows have stronger jazz ties.
The June 24 show is to feature a group of jazz-funk veterans that includes saxophonist David Sanborn, keyboardist Bob James and drummer Steve Gadd.
The following night will see the return to Confederation Park of the Cuban piano virtuoso Chucho Valdes, whose band played the Ottawa festival in 2009.
June 27’s headliner is not yet determined. However, the festival has confirmed that the bracing contemporary jazz pianist Jason Moran is booked to play either that night or the following night.
If Moran does play on June 28, his group will share the bill with The Bad Plus, the piano trio that more than a decade ago helped popularize acoustic jazz band covers of rock tunes by the likes of Nirvana and Iron Maiden. The trio’s members also compose original material that brings rock drumming into the mix without sacrificing the sophistication of jazz.
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra make another visit to the park on June 29. The celebrated jazz repertory group performed in Ottawa in 1999 and 2008.
The final night of jazz this summer in Confederation Park is to be dedicated to Jacques Emond, the festival’s longtime programming manager, who died in January at the age of 79.
The evening will feature tribute concerts by some of Emond’s favourite musicians, including the Vic Vogel Big Band from Montreal, Ottawa composer Rob Frayne’s Dream Band, and the Ottawa Latin-jazz group Los Gringos.
The festival is to announce on April 10 the lineups for its roughly 40 indoor concerts. Already announced is a June 30 concert by the Wayne Shorter Quartet at Dominion-Chalmers United Church.
Early bird passes for the festival are on sale for $165 until March 4, after which the price will be $185.
For more information: ottawajazzfestival.com