Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Look Back: Ottawa Jazz Festival

I like to listen to all kinds of music, but jazz isn't my usual go-to type of music. Five years ago, a friend of mine asked me to volunteer for the Ottawa Jazz Festival. She wanted to volunteer but didn't want to go do by herself. I had volunteered for almost every other festival in the city so she knew that more than likely I would agree to do it. 

I really enjoyed volunteering and seeing shows that year.  When checking out shows at Jazzfest, I never know what to expect, which is a huge part of the fun. I also find that the musicians playing at the Jazzfest are always so talented. At least,

For the last three years, I haven't been going to the festival because of my work commitment with the Ottawa Fringe Festival. I did manage to catch Robert Plant & Band of Joy two years ago (which was phenomenal, by the way). 

This year, Sors-tu asked me to cover a few shows at the festival. Armed with my media pass, I couldn't wait to check out some shows.


On the first night of Jazzfest, I was excited to check out the Heavy and Dr. John & the Nite Trippers. The Heavy were fantastic! This group, from London, England, blends jazz, rock, soul, blues and funk. They are super energetic, and I don't think they were impressed with the huge crowd of lawn chairs. However, by the end of their set, the crowd was off their lawn and on their feet.

Later, Dr. John & the Nite Trippers graced the stage. I had never heard of this group, and had no idea what to expect. The group had a  cool, funky, voodoo New Orleans sound. Although the group wasn't as energetic as the Heavy, their music was still great. See my French review here.

Sunday evening, a large crowd gathered to check out David Byrne & St. Vincent. Although I had low expectations for the show, I was still a bit disappointed with the performance. Both musicians sounded great but their performance was lacking. No energy or real emotion was conveyed. Honestly, their backup musicians stole the show, in my opinion.

Later that evening, I checked out Young Galaxy, who were scheduled to play as part of the After Dark series at the OLG stage. The set started a bit late, due to the fact that thunderstorms delayed the David Byrne & St. Vincent show. However, the wait was worth it! The group played songs from their latest album "Ultramarine", which has been receiving lots of buzz in the last few months (including being shortlisted for this year's Polaris Music Prize). Their setlist included "Pretty Boy", "In Fire", "Hard to Tell", Out the Gate Backwards", "Fall for You", and my favourite song right now, "New Summer". Frontwoman Catherine McCandless was flawless and the group gave a great performance. The sound was less than perfect, but I still enjoyed every second of the show. If you were in attendance, I was the crazy one dancing in the front row, wearing a Metric t-shirt.

On Wednesday, the Doobie Brothers were headlining the festival. The group was replacing Aretha Franklin, who cancelled her appearance due to health issues. I was scheduled to write about Ms. Franklin, but I went out to Jazzfest anyways, although I had no idea who the Doobie Brothers were. At least, I thought I had no idea who they were. Truth is, I have heard lots of their material before (we all have, I bet), but I just didn't know it. They played some of their greatest hits, including "Jesus is Just Alright With Me", "World Gone Crazy" and "Listen to the Music". To be honest, I was really impressed with their performance. The band has been in existence since 1970 and they are still rocking! They sounded fantastic, and I'm thrilled I was able to catch their set. Check out my French review here.

On the last Friday, it was time to check out the Bad Plus. This is the only group that I saw during the festival that played traditional jazz music. The musicians were quite entertaining, especially the drummer, who would would take out random objects to hit his cymbals with them (like a red ball, plastic containers, etc.) Check out my French review here.

Later at the OLG stage, the Herbaliser burned down the house (or tent). I knew a bit about the group, seeing as I had the opportunity to interview bassist/producer Jake Wherry for a piece I wrote for Couch Assassin. The Herbaliser blends several genres of music, including jazz, funk, soul and hip hop. The group has  been playing together for almost 20 years! Watching them play was quite an experience... The group was explosive and the musicians' energy levels were out of this world, especially the brass section. The group had special guests, including MC Ghettosocks and MC Timbuktu, who will be playing some shows with them in other Canadian cities. The crowd went absolutely nuts and the evening soon turned into a giant dance party. It was amazing!

Overall, I am thrilled about my experience at this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival. See you there next year!

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