Ottawa guitarist juggles multiple Jazzfest gigs: ‘You have to make hay while the sun shines’

“Even during the Before Times, this would have been a busy week. But I am looking forward to seeing a lot of friends and all the people in the audience I haven’t been able to see in a long time.”

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The Ottawa Jazz Festival presents a series of 35 free, in-person concerts around town this week, and Alex Moxon is playing in five of them, plus one of the festival’s virtual shows.


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After a year when most live shows were called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a schedule that might overwhelm a lesser musician, but the 31-year-old Ottawa guitarist is taking it all in stride as he juggles an array of musical styles. 

“You have to make hay while the sun shines,” Moxon said in an interview. “Even during the Before Times, this would have been a busy week. But I am looking forward to seeing a lot of friends and all the people in the audience I haven’t been able to see in a long time.” 

The fun starts Wednesday with an indoor gig featuring the Alex Moxon Quartet at the National Art Centre’s Fourth Stage, the same venue that was to host Moxon’s CD-release show last May. Instead, his debut release went to Spotify without fanfare. 


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“I don’t want to call this a CD release, but it is a great opportunity to play with this group that I haven’t been able to play with in 17 months,” Moxon said, listing the players in in his all-star group: Steve Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on bass and Michel Delage on drums. The same crew accompanied him on the recording, playing parts he wrote for them. His original compositions have an undeniable spirit of positivity. 

“The past number of years in my writing practice, I’ve been trying to channel sounds that have a sort of optimism to them,” Moxon said. “It’s all fairly subjective, but it’s something I think about when I’m writing, like how to make each chord more uplifting than the previous and bring it to a more optimistic place bar by bar, chord by chord, as the piece of music unfolds. You’ve gotta look on the bright side.” 


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Although the NAC gig is sold out, there are several other opportunities to see Moxon play. Note that tickets are free, but some shows require advance reservations. For complete information, go to ottawajazzfestival.com. 

Here’s a rundown of Moxon’s schedule this week: 

Aug. 19, noon, The Shed on Sparks Street

The Keith Hartshorn-Walton Lyric Trio: With Hartshorn-Walton on tuba, Steve Boudreau on keys and Moxon on guitar, it’s an unorthodox configuration that Moxon says is super fun. “Keith can switch roles on a dime. He can be in the low register supporting us, and then he can toggle to being the melodic voice, so we can channel a lot of vibes that way.”

Aug. 19, 5 p.m. Confederation Park 

Plasma Quartet: This new band formed by drummer Mike Essoudry is designed as a futuristic mashup of electric jazz and modern beats that gives Moxon the chance to blow the dust off his collection of effects pedals and “see what kind of bleeps and bloops I can coax out of it.”


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Aug. 20, 1 p.m., Confederation Park

Sweet Revival: Moxon is the new kid in this band, which he describes as a spinoff of Ottawa’s long-running Latin-jazz outfit, Los Gringos. “It’s not the same material, but they were the original Los Gringos, and they have a really good, interesting program of music,” he said. Peter Beaudoin, Mark Ferguson, Ken Seeley and Rene Lavoie round out the lineup. 

Aug. 22, 5 p.m., Confederation Park

F8-BIT: The musical themes from some of the classic console games of the ’90s come to life at the hands of this group of avid gamers as they arrange the catchy snippets into full pieces. “I don’t think you need to have played the games,” Moxon said. “The pieces are compelling in and of themselves. If you’ve never played the games, you’ll find a lot to like. But, if you have played a lot of video games, you’ll be foaming at the mouth and doing backflips.” 

Aug. 22, 9 p.m., Online. 

Swing Swing Swing! Moxon joins singer Kellylee Evans, bandleader Petr Cancura and the rest of the group in recreating the energy of the swing-dance movement. It’s the final in a series of 17 pre-recorded virtual shows also featuring performances by Kathleen Edwards, the Barr Brothers, Larnell Lewis and more. For tickets and more info, go to ottawajazzfestival.com. 




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