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Anyone going to Souljazz tonight (Friday) in Ottawa?


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Here's a review. I bold-ed a sentence that would look pretty sweet in the press kit.

Review: Souljazz Orchestra still keeping it real

OTTAWA — In a year that witnessed the collapse of Ontario's economy, a city-crippling transit strike, ongoing political intrigue on the Hill and — worst of all — the endless freefall of the once mighty (yet still beloved) Senators, it's good to know that some things about the National Capital stayed the same.

Namely, the Souljazz Orchestra's ability to keep a club bumping to the wee hours of the morning.

The Ottawa-based Afrobeat collective returned to its old stomping grounds at Babylon on Friday night, where the musicians honed their chops every Thursday night back in 2005-06 before jet-setting around the world and garnering international acclaim for the disc Freedom No Go Die.

Their stead at the venerable club (now Bank Street's only legitimate live music venue, with the new ownership at Barrymore's next door forgoing its decades-long service to Centretown) two years ago feels like a different era, in which their bombastic, horn-driven political jams were as immediate as mounting turmoil in Iraq. But now, the leader they famously lambasted on the track Mr. President from Freedom No Go Die is packing up his effects from the Oval Office, and the violence abroad has been overshadowed by uncertainty at home.

The group, led by Pierre Chretien as organist, struck the tenor of the times once again, however, with their release of Manifesto, which was given its Ottawa debut Friday night.

As fiery as ever, the crew opened with a few selections from the new album, such as the heavy Kapital and percussive State Terrorism: combined with the album's title, it's clear these tunes have refocused the band's attention to economic woes faced at home by autoworkers, assembly-line employees and many others.

While the sound of the band — as close to the legacy of Nigeria's Fela Kuti as one can get without being one of his many sons, spliced with Caribbean and American influences — hasn't changed too much, their message has been rejigged enough to still find relevance.

But really, as important as politics are to Afrobeat and the many Latin musics from which Souljazz take their cues, this band is about finding a serious groove and piledriving it into the dancefloor. Any casualties are acceptable collateral damage.

The saxophone frontline of melodious alto Zakari Frantz, booming baritone Ray Murray, and freewheeling tenor Steve Patterson have always been the band's main attraction. The trio churned out tight harmonies on Parasite and took whirlwind solos that ranged from Patterson's Albert Ayler-esque squeals to Frantz's rapid-fire but ever-so-precise cascading lines.

Singer/percussionist Marielle Rivard, a new fulltime member,blended perfectly with group harmonies, and when she took the lead her considerable pipes allowed the band to explore the throwback funk dabbled in on previous albums.

On the furious shuffle of "People People," a standout track from the new disc, drummer Philippe Lafreniere and Chretien locked into a pulsing rhythm that likely made the godfather of soul proud from his heavenly auspices.

Mexican guitarist Gabriel Bronfman added some rhythmic and harmonic heft to the band, and although he isn't featured on any of their three albums, his presence surely wouldn't detract in the future.

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