Recently at a pre-show chat for our December concert, Bird in the Reeds, someone asked me where the ideas for OJO programming come from.

One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about is the need to present variety and to introduce music to people that they might not have previously heard.

Way back in 2005 when I first began presenting concerts in Ottawa, I was always determined to present something different and unique. There are many jazz orchestras around the world and I find that far too many of them limit themselves to a very narrow subset of the genre. Jazz is a very broad genre and while there’s the “jazz mainstream,” I’ve always been fascinated by the third stream of music that’s a hybrid of jazz and classical music as well as neoclassical music that is strongly influenced by jazz. I’m also fascinated by the huge variety of acoustic instruments and their timbres. Incorporating instruments not typically found in the jazz mainstream is always a great way to add a new element.

In January we have a fantastic concert in which the largest part of the ensemble will be strings as in violin, violas, celli, and harp. All too often, when strings are employed in jazz they are relegated to playing “pads” as in long, sustained, notes. Whenever we have strings I always want to give them interesting, groovy, swinging parts. It’s was more interesting for them and for the audience.

Generally I program each season as it comes although there have been so notable works such as Milestones and Sketches of Spain (written by Gil Evans for Miles Davis), Focus (written by Eddie Sauter for Stan Getz), that were planned for one or more seasons ahead before we actually scheduled and performed them. That’s usually because they are such large and complex works that the logistics require substantial planning. Apart from these major works, I usually don’t think about the next season much until about six months before we announce it and then it’s a matter of figuring out a cohesive set of concerts with diverse programming through the season and where each concert can both entertain and educate our audiences and our musicians can be both challenged and have a lot of fun. This last goal is so important as I feel that when the musicians are having fun on stage it is so much more enjoyable for the audience too.