St. Paul and the Broken Bones - A Strong Opener for Ottawa Jazzfest

St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Photo: Mike Bouchard

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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.

2017 Ottawa Jazz Festival Poster

The 2017 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival poster has appeared on the official instagram feed, and it offers a nice round-up of this year's acts.  While the image clearly shows Kenny Rogers and also Hudson (John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski), it won't warn you that both acts have conflicting times on June 24th. So you must choose to either get Kenny off of your bucket list, or have your mind blown by Hudson in the NAC theatre.  Fateful choices.  

A Head's Tale - 2002 Jamband Documentary now on Youtube

A HEAD’S TALE master has been found, digitized, and now for the first time in almost 15 years, released for your enjoyment on the interweb, tweetbooks and facetubes!
Ladies and gentlemen, my very first funded documentary ever...the film that convinced me I could make a living following bands around as long as I was slinging a camera...I hope you enjoy...and share... A Head’s Tale!
— Filmmaker Greg Hemmings

Brian Wilson covering Pet Sounds with Al Jardine - Ottawa Jazzfest

Brian Wilson - Pet Sounds 50th anniversary

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.

They closed out with Love & Mercy, a song Brian wrote while listening to "What the World Needs Now", yet the inspiration was depicted differently in the brilliant bio-pic "Love & Mercy".

Great finish.