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  1. Photos: Mike Bouchard Charles Bradley took the stage after a quick two number hype warm-up by his backing band, Extraordinaires. His music career started when he was booking gigs as an impersonator for James Brown in a band called Black Velvet. This led to his discovery by Daptone Records, which produced his album and launched his career. He's performed in Ottawa previously, at Ottawa Bluesfest, and later a club show. A performance at the Bronson Centre last year was cancelled due to illness, yet he is clearly back on his smooth feet, with all of the energy of a musical man in full health. His powerful and soulful voice engaged most of the seated crowd to their feet after he'd swapped outfits to a sequined suit that glittered of gold. A fast camera shutter unveiled the true colour of the outfit to be mostly green. Sequins flickering are quite an optical illusion that a camera cannot seem to see. Bradley is an amazingly talented man with a killer band that offered a solid hour and a half of solid soul music at another wonderful night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
  2. Photo: Mike Bouchard A conga line was formed with the encouragement from Cris Scabello. It took over the tent winding and snaking from the front to the back of the tent, and back again. But it was the tiger shirted guitarist and keyboardist Mauricio Fleury that stood out. His sun glasses and orange t shirt with a stunning black guitar and frizzed out hair had him looking like a mid 1970’s California porn star. Way too cool for school. His wiry guitar playing gave them a real authentic Nigerian feel. Near the end of the set Mauricio had a chance to shout out his appreciation for those who help bring Bixiga 70 to Ottawa, with a special nod to the Soul Jazz Orchestra. A few sobering words about the turmoil that Brazill is facing with a near coup d’etat that is taking place against the present corrupt government underlined the thought that music is still a driving social force for brining people together and creating meaningful change. The set list as taken off the stage reads Niran Lembe 100 % /3 Canjira Di Dancer Portal Especial 1000 Vidas Kalimba Primeiramente Bac Boa Morte
  3. Photo: Mike Bouchard More Photos The Ottawa Jazz Festival and City Folk Festivals bookmark the summer for me. It starts with the rush of good weather and sounds of all sorts of jazz, and then the bitter sweet wave goodbye in the fall, with a farewell to the summer festival season at City Folk. The Jazz fest is the crown jewel of Ottawa’s Festivals. It’s for people who really listen to music. Some looking for the strange, some for the traditional. It’s all here, and every year seems to have incredible depth. I’m missing most of this years shows because I travelled to another fest a scant 7 hours away. This year I have to shoot with a rifle and not with a shot gun. I can’t just see as many acts as I should, and hope for the best. This year I have just a couple targets in hand. Shabaka and the Ancestors are one of those targets. Their record, a collaboration between Shabaka Hutchings and a group of Johannesburg based South Africans, has been smouldering on the side lines. Hutchings, has floated around the London, U.K. jazz and electronic scene for a good number of years and is best remembered for his Son of Kemet band, and his work with Mthunzi Mvubu in the Hellocentrics. This outfit, Shabaka and the Ancestorsis only a couple of years old and have one record, “Wisdom of Elders”. This was only released last September. They are part of a swell of young jazz musicians tapping into the past with references to the present and then shooting it out into the either to expand and shape the future. The record has, Shabaka Hutchings (tenor saxophone), Mthunzi Mvubu (alto saxophone), Siyabonga Mthembu (vocals), Ariel Zamonsky (bass), Tumi Mogorosi (drums), Gontse Makhene (percussions), and with Mania Miangeni trumpet and Nduduzo Makhathini Both the trumpett and piano are not part of the touring band. Their absence drives the vibe away from Ibraham’s compositional style of Dollar Brand, and more towards torrents of flow and turbulence in their live sound. Wisdom of Elders consists of a psalm in nine parts and the whole piece was recorded in one day. Rooted in the traditions of Afro Caribbean rhythms and filtered through 21st century jazz composition and musical improvisation, I was expecting more like blowouts, but what i got was more Pharaoh Sanders circa 1970. And that was good. There was a real spiritual element to the band that was present not only in the music but in their presence on the stage. They were listening to each other. And we were listening closely as well.A continous refrain was repeated by the singer, Siyabonga Mthembu, throughout the show. It went something like this (it changes at each show, but more or less is this)… In the burning In the burning of the republic Of the mind and the republic of the heart Coming out to look at this world We need a new people We need new hymns Spoken with reverence and repeated without mercy, the need for new hymns was often followed by poignant epitaphs like “We need to feminize our politics”, or “ The God’s don’t hear our prayers any more”, “ The power is in the people”, “You can not possess land, land possesses you!!!””. This is a call to a greater consciousness, one of vulnerability, and within this a new strength. The idea of using kindness as a weapon. Siyabonga Mthembu singing exemplified the flow and turbulence that fuelled the performance. They were sound carriers, all of them. Standing in bare feet Shabaka would blaze a raging river of runs over a syncopated rhythm section. Other times he would lay sweet melody over the strikingly turbulent alto sax of Mthunzi Mvubu. The red sparkled shoes of Siyabonga Mthembu were traded for just his beige socks early on in the show. Wrapped in a blanket, and wearing a hat Siyabonga brought meditative vocals and raging epitaphs with equal magic. He was as deranged as Damo Susuki was when fronting Can. Possessed by the moment and the spiritual message, he was always in touch, but on the outside, at least as far as he could get away with. This was perfectly explored in “Mzwandile”, which eventually heats up to a fiery and ferocious pace, all the while harbouring the melody explored and echoed by Hutchings and the singer Siyabonga. Everyone in the band got their due. Highlights included a well worked out solo by bassist Ariel Zamonsky (who had a passing resemblance to Phish’s Mike Gordon), whose weathered, and old, beat up body of his stand up bass stood in stark contrast to the updated bridge and neck… very much like his contrasting tonal and rhythmic adventures. The percussionist played back into the groove, exemplified by his patch quilt clothing and Sherwood Forest green floppy felt hat with white feather sticking out from its band. But it is the drummer Tumi Mogorosi who held the band together and pushed it forward. Often chocking up on the drum stick, he used less of the typical soft jazz hands and more like a baseball slugger swinging for the fence. And then, effortlessly, he would tap out a series of triplets crossing his hand in an over and under pattern, making it look as easy as spreading butter on toast. All killer, no filler. The set ran long, with an extra encore added in for good measure, as Shabaka points out, they have traveled a long way so they might as well play another. A disappointingly scant 100 people or so filtered in and out of the tent. Maybe the “late“ night slot of 10:30 and the rainy weather kept fans away, but it was clear that Shabaka deserved more from Ottawa. In contrast to the Kamasi Washington show last year that reached fever pitch, and had frothing at the mouth adoring fans, this jazz performance was mostly attended by those in the know. The crowd gave the band their due, showering them with the appropriate love, but it is my guess that if Shabaka stays on the road, plays where they can, and blowthe doors off of more summer festivals, they would be fitting into the NAC stages by next year. They are set to break out. Powerful playing. Powerful message. They are part of a under current in jazz today. They are part of the new young jazz revivalists. Not so much a definable place, cultureor country, but one more of a river of young spirited sound carriers, who are equally traditionalist as they are futurist.
  4. It's interesting to see a night with a full range of musical styles offering opportunities for some to catch another style of music aside from which they initially intended seeing. This is made possible by the multiple stages, however, conflicting choices like seeing an act inside while another is on the main stage makes it difficult to really see it all.
  5. Photo: Mike Bouchard More photos Setting up soul power band St. Paul and the Broken Bones for opening night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival was a wise choice and those that attended made the correct decision. The 6-piece Alabama soul band has been playing the festival circuit for years. They appeared at the CityFolk festival in Ottawa a couple of years ago to a packed audience inside one of the buildings. It was hot and sweaty that night. This night, was probably perfect weather for an outdoor live music performance. Warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt, yet cool enough for lead man Paul Jayneway to wear a thrift store, crooner style red tuxedo. On a land filled with lawnchairs, it must be difficult to encourage people to get up and dance, but it seems that Paul Jayneway knows how to coax a crowd out of the chairs and onto their feet. For much of the first third of the hour-and-a-half set, Jayneway performed as though he had a fully immersed audience. He only needed to perform some stage antics, like hijacking one of the stage props, a huge pole covered in stretchy fabric, pulling that fabric over his head while he continued to sing while sprawled out on the floor of the stage. It was almost like slapstick humour, yet that was the final straw which pull people out of their chill zone into dance zone. Jayneway's vocal range, backed by a super tight band that includes a horn section offered the ability to build the audience into an interactive frenzy. When he had everyone hooked, he kept them there and pushed the energy higher with seemless falsetto transitions that were jaw-dropping. He introduced the band and allowed them to play a little instrumental to show off their skills. They tapped into Radiohead's 'National Anthem' as an unexpected seque. While attendance was mediocre (like way less than expected for Kenny Rogers), those that attended were sure to be talking about opening night with St. Paul and the Broken Bones. It's likely that a large percentage had never seen them until this night, aside from some who may have caught them at CityFolk festival a couple of years ago, upon which Jayneway reminisced on stage. Hopefully, they will be back, and with even more people jumping on-board.
  6. More Photos Brian Wilson's performance of the epic masterpiece Pet Sounds at Ottawa Jazz Festival didn't open with "Wouldn't it Be Nice" or close with "Good Vibrations" (a song that could have been on the album but is a literal finale to that album's period), it actually opened with "Heroes and Villains" and closed with a strong melody of Beach Boys' early stuff like "Help Me Rhonda" and "Surfin USA". Pet Sounds is an incredible album and performing it live with the true arrangement wouldn't be possible, but it would be nice. Out of the 10 backing musicians on stage, there were at least 20 or so instruments between each multi-instrumentalist that could setup an infinite amount of permutations. And they formed the perfect assignments for each track covered with players swapping from horn to guitar, or timpani to marimba depending on the essential demand. It was tight. Al Jardine's son also provided some familiarly vocal sound to the mix. Brian didn't sing lead much, but he never did on the original recordings as he wrote songs like with his brother Carl's voice in mind. But he lead that solidly, and the outcome corresponded perfectly with the song imprinted in the mind with counterpoint in other tracks, both vocal and instrumental, like being simply precise. Pet Sounds is a gorgeous composition but it doesn't inherently encourage dancing, so the centre mass of audience members in lawn chairs would not be pulled out until the encore (after a freaking killer display of ). The MC for the band introduced each member, as they returned to the stage and played a different entrance bit for each (kinda like how Paul Shcaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band would welcome a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman). Finally Brian and Al returned to sort through some Beach Boys Classics. That's the moment when the lawnchairs were dismissed. They closed out with Love & Mercy, a song Brian wrote while listening to , yet the inspiration was depicted differently in the brilliant bio-pic "Love & Mercy". Great finish.
  7. Sharon Jones came riding a wave of anticipatory excitement as she strolled on stage at the Ottawa Jazzfest, but not before her backing band The Dap Kings were first allowed to warm up with a few songs. Almost immediately the Dap Kings filled the grounds with fantastic 70's-feel soul grooves. This band can stop on a dime and appears to be led through the optics offered by their bass player, Bosco Mann and the man he most certainly was. He held that pocket much like would in his heyday. I kept watching the fingers he would count out and the signs he would flash at the guitar players or the horn section but I could never figure out what he was conveying. I suppose I should give props to whoever the Blue Jays employ as their sign stealer.By the 4th song I was completely enamoured with the Dap Kings. The 4th song brought more of that deep groove soul and becamea crowd clap along that slowly snaked it's way into something that could have been performed at a Marvin Gaye dance party. For a moment I forgot Sharon Jones was even going to come out but she eventually did to a wonderfully spoken intro from Binky Griptite during rapturous applause from a focused audience. I wouldnt be surprised if anyone told me they felt like they were in the church scene from the movie with pastor James Brown speaking to the congregation from the alter.If You Call showcased Sharon Jones legendary status while proving not even chemo treatments were going to slow her down. The energy her and the Dap Kings created just seemed to build as the set progressed and culminated in a jam that focused on her introducing each member of her band who then would be offered a short solo. She certainly seems to love performing in front of them and who could blame her? This is a total powerhouse group. Towards the call for the encore Sharon had briefly left the stage and Binky again interacted with the crowd egging everyone on to offer more love through yells and applause which was certainly palpable even though this was one of the smaller crowds I have ever been a part of at Jazzfest. "Ottawa, you just got your ass kicked by a 60 year old cancer patient. How does that make you feel?"
  8. John Scofield can be seen perform in many configurations and styles like Funk and Soul-Jazz, or joining Phil Lesh and Friends, Medeski, Martin & Wood for tours. He brings a hell of a lot of skill to those acts which comes from a place which he invited everyone to at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Saturday night. He's fundamentally a master jazz musician who happens to have figured out the guitar in ways very few have achieved. This is why he spent much of his career as a sideman for legends like Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Chet Baker. He's formed many trios and quartets as well, one in the 90's that included saxophonist Joe Lovano, who joined him in his quartet this evening along with Ben Street (bass) and Bill Stewart (drums). This was some hardcore jazz, and was nearly a masterclass of comping, arpeggios, and improvisation if one was able to pay attention and take notes, that is. Tuning in to John Scofield while Joe Lovano was working a solo was absolutely fascinating. The tremendous amounts of voicings used as he maintains or even directs the flavour of the runs by Lovano is difficult to comprehend. Scofield's Ibanez has that lovely vintage pale yellow hue applied to the white stoke around the body. It's obvious that he's been driving this thing for many years. It's hum could be akin to how car enthusiasts describe how the engine of a hot rod sounds. "Listen to that thing purr". His guitar is a hot rod indeed and he knows how to take the audience for a thrilling ride. The room was extremely appreciative of all the musicians as they took turns around the track. John might take lead, and pass off the baton to Joe, Ben and then Bill. It's a blast to watch such talented musicians having fun together, effortlessly jamming some extremely complicated measures while smiling across to each other.
  9. The Barr Brothers were in town for another sold-out show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival inside the 190 seat NAC Studio on Friday night. The anticipation was high with bronze pass holders lining up as early as 5pm to ensure entry. Single ticket holders have priority after-all. Having unfortunately missed it, news came out early on saturday morning they would be doing another set at noon in the Tartan Homes stage for the "Mystery Show" which is new to the Ottawa Jazzfest so there was some consolation to catch them before they left town.. This show was also considered free so everyone was welcome. They played a short, energetic set to the approximately 100 or so that managed to hear the news. It was pretty intimate and a great way to catch them on a saturday afternoon. Little Lover Valhallas Come in the Water Half Crazy How the heroine dies (thanks Phorbesie!) Love Ain't Enough
  10. Go here for more photos 20 minutes after the soft-opening of the 2016 edition of the Ottawa Jazz Festival kicked-off, the first song of nearly a 2 hour set by Kamasi Washington and his dynamically led band had finished their first number. Kamasi thanked and welcomed the crowd to tremendous applause, and began his evening long pattern of personal storytelling. Of how he met each of his band mates, how they affected him musically, and why they are here. “ It’s not what you have in life, it’s what you do in life that’s important ” He introduced a song that he wrote about his grandmother while also inviting his father, who "taught me everything I know" to the stage. Kamasi mentioned that his mother always said "It's not what you have in life, it's what you do in life that's important", and he followed that theme throughout the evening. What he did up until this point was to get real good at what he does. At playing the sax, at composing music, at producing albums, and on display this night, band leading while directing focus on some of the works of the masters in his ensemble. Kamasi told the story of meeting trombonist Ryan Porter back when he was in school. This story described how he heard the most emotional playing he'd ever heard in the hallway. Expecting to find an old 87 year old man who lost 3 wives and 7 grandchildren, he was surprised when he came upon Ryan. He asked "what happened to you man? where's all this coming from?". Ryan responded "This morning, I wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Turned out, I was out of bread." That's when Kamasi knew he had to play with this guy. Then he introduced a song composed by Porter and tore the place up. Miles Mosely, who balanced against his upright bass which also sported his Twitter callsign @milesmosely on the massive pick guard, was introduced as the greatest bassist on the planet, "though I've heard there is someone on Mars". Miles was then featured for one of his own songs on an upcoming album "Abraham" (due in September). He started working the bass with a bow, then added some wah pedal (that's when it was evident that he had a string of electronics to play with as well), added a bit of distortion, began shredding a bit, started singing while grooving as the band joined in to complete this powerful fucking jam. It was incredibly dynamic. It started so delicate and quiet and just exploded into fireworks. The drummers were also featured prominently, and both were stars in the stories of Kamasi. Tony Austin as the 4 year-older super cool guy, when Kamasi was only 8 (they watched ninja turtles together), and Ronald Bruner Jr. was the baby prodigy drummer when Kamasi thought his own three-year-old self was the supreme shit on drums only to be surpassed by a baby at a birthday party. "Hey, let the baby play your drums." "Ah shit! no man. He's still in diapers. What if something happens?" Both were given some time together on stage to "talk. as drummers do". Both tossed out impressive solos after passing beats back and forth. The dual drummer setup has been done many times, but these two literally made stereophonic sounds they way they countered each other. Imagine hearing one snare in your left ear, and one in your right, back and forth at differing rhythms…that's what they sounded like, except they had around 30 pieces (give or take) of drums between the two. Kamasi's father, Rickey Washington, performed between Kamasi and vocalist Patrice Quinn for most of the evening. When he wasn't playing flute or soprano sax, he was grooving and grinning to the music. Patrice spent most of the evening dancing and sometimes providing some scatted unison over some of the horn lines. She was reminiscent of a dancing Donna (grateful dead) however, this lady can SING. She performed the song written about Kamasis grandmother, and at least 2 others. One other was called " ", and it actually may have a few times throughout that song and the evening in very complicated ways. Brandon Coleman really filled in the grooves and many times sounded like a funky guitarist on that Nord keyboard or Rhodes maybe. Speaking of guitar, yes, he also picked up one of those keyboards you hold like a guitar. The left hand seemed to be controlling pitch and voicing but it looked alot like he was fingering notes on a guitar. Not sure how that thing works but it was really fascinating. Kamasi Washington's mashup of funk, soul, R&B all rooted with master-level jazz was a super treat. It didn't feel anything like any other night of standard jazz. It was pure spectacle, incomprehensible talent that made everything seem effortless. It was powerful musically and emotionally. If there were no seats, the crowd would have been bouncing all night. Chair dancing came naturally. What he did in life tonight was open the audience members attention up to his ensemble, his history, his family, and where his music comes from, where it's going, and where they are all going. It seems clear that this was a special night and the intimate vibe of a smallish venue may be difficult to experience again as this band leader continues to impress everyone that is fortunate enough to experience him perform.
  11. More photos of Snarky Puppy at Ottawa Jazzfest Written by: Jay McConnery Friday evening brought fresh temperatures and electric nerves to the Ottawa Jazz Festival at Confederation Park. The (almost) iconic Joel Plaskett took the stage with a slightly newer version of the Emergency, and wrestled with inconsistencies between his brand of punchy Can-Rock and the intangible expectations of Jazz Festival performance. It was an abnormally quiet outing. The smaller than expected turnout may have added to the feeling of deflation, but regardless, Joel treated the audience to some acoustic renditions of Thursh Hermit classics, and a cherry-picked a set of hits from his vast catalogue. More photos of Groeland at Ottawa Jazzfest Saturday brought excitement in the form of Peregrine Falls- an eclectic duo that brought comparisons to several Ottawa bands, and returning main stage heroes. Headliners Snarky Puppy offered the most impressive set I’ve seen this year, with the 8 piece collective from Brooklyn pleasantly bending minds and winning hearts un-phased. The set was playful, and masterfully programmed, bounding between complex and dynamic group movements and virtuosic solos and interplay. The set was the best sounding performance I’ve seen this year, with a crispiness usually reserved for smaller venues. More photos of Beirut at Ottawa Jazzfest The Laurier stage welcomed Groenland who offered some prototype orchestral indie folk rock, in a dimly let engaging setting. The instrumentation was an nice break from the terse intensity of the Puppy. The audience appreciated the deliberate interplay and dense vocal climaxes. More photos of The Wood Brothers at Ottawa Jazzfest The weekend concluded with the eccentric compositions of Beirut on a rainy evening, with Southern troubadours The Wood Bros. killing it on the Laurier stage.
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