From Hudson to Feist to Mavis Staples, great music beckons at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival

Jean-Marc Leger June 18, 2017 0
From Hudson to Feist to Mavis Staples, great music beckons at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival

Among opinionated music critics, unanimity is rare. But the Citizen’s Peter Hum, Aedan Helmer and Lynn Saxberg agreed on one must-see show at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Hudson.

An all-star band with lots of crossover appeal, the quartet consists of guitarist John Scofield, keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jack DeJohnette. It plays the NAC Theatre Sunday, June 24, at 9 p.m. Its new, debut album ticks off many musical boxes, with the band indulging in gritty extended jamming, personalizing vintage roots-rock by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix, swinging in the time-honoured jazz fashion and even chanting for peace.

“This is a do-anything band that has incredible chemistry,” Hum says.

“The supergroup boasts a bona fide jazz legend in DeJohnette with some of the premier players who kept the funk fires burning,” Helmer says.

“If anyone can breathe new life into songs from the ’60s, it’s these guys,” says Saxberg. “I’m intrigued by the free-spirited arrangements and how they communicate so much without words.”

But the festival, which runs from June 22 to July 2, is a diverse beast, and it was natural for the Citizen’s music experts to scatter their recommendations across the musical spectrum. Here are their picks.

Peter Hum’s picks

Kenny Barron
Saturday, June 24
NAC Theatre, 7 p.m.

For those who think too many jazz festivals make short shrift of the mainstream jazz that spawned them, there’s the consolation of Kenny Barron’s elegant, erudite piano playing. All by himself, the 74-year-old master of the keys will ensure that bop-and blues-based inventiveness and the joy of swinging won’t seem like lost arts.

Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra
Wednesday, June 28
TekSavvy Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.

While the great bassist and bandleader Charlie Haden passed on to the great jam session in the sky in 2014, a vibrant version of his most socially conscious and ambitious project keeps his memory and music alive. The big band mingles vibrant young talents and two of Haden’s closest peers — pianist-arranger Carla Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, one of the few with the gravitas and groove to hold down Haden’s position in this great band.

Donny McCaslin Group
Thursday, June 29
NAC Studio, 7 and 9 p.m.

The big-hearted dynamo of a saxophonist has delighted jazz fans in Ottawa and beyond for years, whether soaring with the Maria Schneider Orchestra or sitting in at the Ottawa Jazz Festival’s jams. This year, he leads his hot, electrified quartet, playing hard-hitting music that reflects the influence of David Bowie, who thought well enough of McCaslin’s band to hire it for his swan-song record Black Star.

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis
Friday, June 30
La Nouvelle Scène, 8 p.m.

Trombonist-bandleader Ryan Keberle’s band Catharsis has some especially strong and timely sentiments to share these days. The limber and distinctive group sets the themes of progressive, post-Trump politics to music, with vocalist-guitarist Camila Meza entrancingly singing old and new songs of protest and resistance.

Jacob Collier
Friday, June 30
Tartan Homes Stage, 10:30 p.m.

Maybe you’ve seen the British wunderkind’s viral videos — the jaw-dropping ones showing the 22-year-old singing lush, gorgeous harmonies and playing all the instruments to create multi-tracked versions of tunes by Stevie Wonder, George Gershwin and others. Well, with an array of instruments and looping tech, Collier has found a way to approximate his one-man YouTube marvels in high-energy, real-time concerts. Prepare to have your minds blown.

Aedan Helmer’s picks

St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Thursday, June 22
TekSavvy Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.

When Alabama’s honest-to-goodness old school gospel/soul revue last rolled through Ottawa, St. Paul & the Broken Bones had the unenviable task of following an obvious musical hero — Van Morrison himself. They proceeded to blow the roof off the place. Now they have Main Stage duties all to themselves for the festival’s opening-night bash. Take cover.

Gypsophilia
Friday, June 23
TekSavvy Main Stage, 6:30 p.m.

Fast becoming a festival mainstay, the ladies and gentlemen of Gypsophilia have dazzled crowds with authentic period-piece get-ups and unbridled energy, as much as their instrumental prowess. The Nova Scotians’ name draws less from the Gypsophila species of flowering plant and more from an almost unhealthy obsession with the music of Django Reinhardt.

Hannah Georgas
Friday, June 23
Tartan Homes Stage, 10:30 p.m.

Her third full-length album is also Hannah Georgas’ third album to make the Polaris Prize’s long list, following her 2010 debut This is Good and her sublime, self-titled release in 2012. A recent move from Vancouver to Toronto brings her closer to home and family, and that may have had an influence.

Maceo Parker: To Ray, With Love
Monday, June 26
TekSavvy Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.

The alto saxman gained fame as a member of James Brown’s J.B.s before joining the Horny Horns behind Parliament Funkadelic, and later worked with Prince before returning to his first love in 2010 when he recorded some of his hero Ray Charles’ iconic hits. Now he’s taking his tribute on the road with a crack band including the singing Raelettes.

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
Friday, June 30
TekSavvy Main Stage, Confederation Park, 8:30 p.m.

Not even last year’s diagnosis of stomach cancer could keep Charles Bradley from fulfilling his extraordinary story. He set his mind on a musical path after seeing James Brown at the Apollo Theatre in 1962, but it would be nearly 50 years – and a lot of hard knocks along the way – before Bradley would release his debut album after being “discovered” by Daptone Records.

Lynn Saxberg’s picks

Serena Ryder
Friday, June 23
TekSavvy Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.

The powerhouse Canadian singer is in peak form on Utopia, her first full-length album in five years. With punchy new songs like Electric Love and Got Your Number, the multi-octave dynamo is on track to match the success of her best-selling Harmony album (and its massive hit, Stompa). She’s also raring to get back on stage, whether it’s the jazzfest gig or Parliament Hill, where she’ll be on Canada Day.

Kenny Rogers
Saturday, June 24
TekSavvy Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.

Forget about the incongruity of a Country Music Hall of Famer at a jazz festival. Few artists have such widespread crossover appeal as Rogers, 78, thanks to a string of hits dating back half a century, from the First Edition’s Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town to staples like Lucille and the Gambler. His first Ottawa show in seven years is also expected to be his last, part of a final, farewell tour.

Joss Stone
Sunday, June 25
TekSavvy Main Stage, Confederation Park, 8:30 p.m.

The 30-year-old British soul prodigy explores new musical territory on her latest release, Water For Your Soul, venturing into reggae, worldbeat and hiphop. It’s a journey that began a few years earlier when she was part of a supergroup called SuperHeavy with Damian Marley, Mick Jagger and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. She’s been spreading good vibes ever since.

Mavis Staples
Monday, June 26
NAC Theatre, 7 p.m.

When Mavis Staples last played the jazz festival, more than 10 years ago, she teamed up with the Blind Boys of Alabama for a hair-raising, foot-stomping gospel revival. This time, the 77-year-old, who’s hip enough to have been featured on a new tune by Arcade Fire, brings her powerful contralto to the cozy NAC Theatre.

Feist
Sunday, July 2
TekSavvy Main Stage, Confederation Park, 8:30 p.m.

Feist took six long years to follow up Metals, her 2011 album, but Pleasure is well worth the wait, already included on the Polaris long list. A stripped-back affair created with long-time friends, including former Ottawan Dominic “Mocky” Salole, it marks the end of a dark period for the Canadian songstress.

TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
When: June 22 to July 2
Where: Confederation Park, Festival Plaza, National Arts Centre, La Nouvelle Scene
Tickets, passes and info: ottawajazzfestival.com

 

Article written by Peter Hum on the Ottawa Citizen Website. Original article here.

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