It may be the low U.S. dollar, the ever-growing hassle of air travel, or just the luck of 2008 – whatever the reason, there is a larger-than-usual number of prime jazz acts on the North American festival circuit this summer. Lucky for me and others in my region, most of them are coming to the Ottawa International Jazz Festival (June 20-July 1).
The list of headliners unveiled at this morning's media launch is impressive: Herbie Hancock's Joni Mitchell Project – with Dave Holland and Chris Potter onboard; Brad Mehldau Trio; Return To Forever; Charlie Haden's Quartet West; the LCJO with Wynton Marsalis; Salif Keita; Madeleine Peyroux; EST; and Tim Berne. There's also a wealth of European and Canadian artists, as well as a couple of headline spots to be filled.
Full disclosure: In my role as vice-president of the Jazz Journalists Association, I'm working with the festival to program three days of panel discussions featuring my fellow board members Howard Mandel and Reuben Jackson. On June 24, in conjunction with Hancock's appearance, we'll be looking at the intersection between popular music and improvisation. The next day – joined by some local experts – we'll be conducting a workshop on the state of arts criticism in the digital era. And on June 26 – the day that Return To Forever hits – a bunch of us will be marking the 40th anniversary of fusion and looking at its legacy (another fusion pioneer – bassist Miroslav Vitous – is also at the festival).
You can check it all out at the festival's site.