Tuesday night the Ottawa Jazzfest delivered the kind of satisfaction usually reserved for an All-you-can-eat Sizzler, thankfully without the inevitable heartburn and diarrhea. After leaving underwhelmed Monday, every turn taken on Tuesday brightened the spirit and entertained the soul, in a truly buzz-inducing evening. The absolutely perfect summer weather was a great place to start, (one of the two or three perfect nights we can typically expect in Ottawa) with an ethereal airy pink painted sky and a warm soothing breeze.
The Dusty Drifters kicked things off early at the OLG stage in Confederation Park with an entertaining set of favourites and surprise covers including a new arrangement of a 'Big Sugar' tune. The group's vocal harmonies and stage banter have really progressed, with local legend Pauly Roberto at the helm, so much so, that they charmed the pants off the shirtless. (If you're reading this, Ronny: Not cool!). Great to see so many smiling supporters demonstrating their pride in this talented local favourite.
Ghost Note was already underway on the Tartan Homes tent, I was thankful to catch the last 40 minutes or so of this power house funk band, featuring members of Snarky Puppy and bass Phenom MonoNeon. Masters of timing, colour and groove- the band packed their short, early slot with more action than a Burt Reynolds movie.
This band was in fact, so fun, talented and engaging- it was like high thread Egyptian cottons had been laid out artfully over the stage, after Knower's borderline bed-shitting the night previous. Total palate cleaner. It's not often I can be found literally jumping up and down in sandals, at 7:50pm on a weeknight- or buying shirts that don't fit because I want to support a band, but it all happened this fine night. SEE THIS BAND.
Alison Krauss packed Marion Dewar Plaza with the most attentive crowd I've seen in recent memory. Though a little bit quiet through the main speakers, and muddled by wine-tent yakking, the audience tried their best to catch every breath and fiddle twiddle the songstress shared.
Her band was comprised of Nashville magicians, softly singly sweet songs of love and sorrow in unmatched harmony. You know music is working when you are truly taken away- and at moments during this set I found myself exploring deep recesses of my mind, just freely wondering... Where will it all go? (I'm not sure) - Is Mr. Dress Up still alive? (no- Ernie Coombs died in 2001, I Googled it) - Should I be trying to write fiction so there is no accountability? (Probably). It was a lovely set, and definitely primed me for the jaw-dropper to come.
Tartan stage hosted The Jerry Douglas Band, in what can only be described as a close encounter of the 4th kind, the Jazz-Grassian kind. There was a power and energy on that small stage which is not often available to mankind- it was almost divine, or maybe alien. Spacey, exploratory and dense music danced into our hearts with grace and precision.
The combination of tenure, experience, confidence, and genuine delight in music-making seduced revellers to the point of ecstatic convulsion (That is just how I dance, Ronny!). Jerry looked like a mature southern ranch owner, with a twinkle in eye and a knowing flash in his toothy grin. He's the uncle we all wish we had, with his perfect leather boots and winky smarm. He could be a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie, played by Don Johnson, or Jeff Bridges. Jerry earns his reputation, and as 'the best dobro player in the world' it comes as no surprise that Jerry would have the best Nashville hot-shot soon to be elites in his band, and he gave them all an opportunity to strut their stuff.
They collectively sashayed the audience through a mesmerizing 90 minute masterclass in musicianship, style and excitement. With some of the most riveting interplay and compositional creativity I've enjoyed in a long time. All members were off the charts, but guitar player Mike Seal was a show-stopper, calmly picklessly picking his matte Ibanez like a modern Roy Buchanan with something to prove. His speed and tasteful layering often brought Jerry to smile, and their mutual grins were exceptionally cute, and kind of heartwarming.
I guess, I'll include my phone note: It was like Zappa was arranging for Garcia and Rice. Departing on my bicycle with a strong soberish music high- the world seemed just a little more beautiful.