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 "God Only Knows" 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 "Sloop John B" 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 "Good Vibrations"). 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.
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 Donald Duck Dunn 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 Blues Brothers 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?"
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.
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.
Come in the Water
How the heroine dies (thanks Phorbesie!)
Love Ain't Enough
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.
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 "the rhythm changes", 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.