My view of the 2009 TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival often seemed somewhat circumscribed by my duties in the media cube adjacent to the main stage, but, on reflection, a few observations seem universal.
Foremost, is the reinforcement of the idea that jazz musicians are open, curious and relatively non-hierarchical. Bassist John Geggie frequently distributes short reviews of his experiences leading the jam session the previous night, and a common theme is the spirit of community that exists. In addition to musical highlights like Trio M, Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq, the Brian Blade Fellowship Band and the Charles Lloyd Quartet, the moments that stick in my mind are the conversations with musicians. There were remarkably few "star" attitudes exhibited offstage. Catching a few moments backstage with Pat Metheny, Gary Burton or Jimmy Cobb wasn't much different than hanging with local/regional musicians I've known for years. The odd logistical glitch or concern aside, everyone seemed happy to be on the road, making music, sharing their art with anyone who would listen.
Geggie had the same experience inside the Crowne Plaza bar, where players like Ethan Iverson and Javon Jackson were pleased to sit in with strangers after their own performances.
In this time of diminished sales, declining audiences, the death of clubs and jazz magazines, it's reassuring to know that the personalities behind the music are as strong and creative as ever.