Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires at Ottawa Jazzfest

Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires at Ottawa Jazzfest

Photos: Mike Bouchard

Charles Bradley took the stage after a quick two number hype warm-up by his backing band, Extraordinaires.  His music career started when he was booking gigs as an impersonator for James Brown in a band called Black Velvet.  This led to his discovery by Daptone Records, which produced his album and launched his career.

He's performed in Ottawa previously, at Ottawa Bluesfest, and later a club show.  A performance at the Bronson Centre last year was cancelled due to illness, yet he is clearly back on his smooth feet, with all of the energy of a musical man in full health.

His powerful and soulful voice engaged most of the seated crowd to their feet after he'd swapped outfits to a sequined suit that glittered of gold.  A fast camera shutter unveiled the true colour of the outfit to be mostly green.  Sequins flickering are quite an optical illusion that a camera cannot seem to see.

Bradley is an amazingly talented man with a killer band that offered a solid hour and a half of solid soul music at another wonderful night of the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

Bixiga 70 Incites Dance Party at Ottawa Jazzfest

Afro beat is often heard in my house. I dragged my young son to see “Fela” the musical about Fela Kuti’s life. Years earlier I gotmy son (about 8 years old then) back stage in 2008 in Toronto Harbourfront to meet Suen Kuti and Egypt 80. I even had my boy with me the last time I saw Fela’s other son, Femi. This is the legacy of Afro Beat Royalty. Today the impact of Afro Beat is every where. From Ottawa’s SoulJazz Orchestra to Tokyo's Kingdom Afrocks, these poly rhythms are no longer restricted to the Nigerian homeland.

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Shabaka and the Ancestors Cap off Ottawa Jazzfest Tuesday in the Late Night Tent

The Ottawa Jazz Festival and City Folk Festivals bookmark the summer for me. It starts with the rush of good weather and sounds of all sorts of jazz, and then the bitter sweet wave goodbye in the fall, with a farewell to the summer festival season at City Folk. The Jazz fest is the crown jewel of Ottawa’s Festivals. It’s for people who really listen to music. Some looking for the strange, some for the traditional. It’s all here, and every year seems to have incredible depth. I’m missing most of this years shows because I travelled to another fest a scant 7 hours away. This year I have to shoot with a rifle and not with a shot gun. I can’t just see as many acts as I should, and hope for the best. This year I have just a couple targets in hand. 

Shabaka and the Ancestors are one of those targets. Their record, a collaboration between Shabaka Hutchings and a group of Johannesburg based South Africans, has been smouldering on the side lines. Hutchings, has floated around the London, U.K.  jazz and electronic scene for a good number of years and is best remembered for his Son of Kemet band, and his work with Mthunzi Mvubu in the Hellocentrics.

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Hudson Brought the Jazz to Ottawa Jazzfest

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Photo: Mike Bouchard

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A diverse evening of live music was most highlighted by some serious Jazz inside the NAC theatre with Hudson. While the sky threatened to bring on a thunderstorm, the Tartan Stage tent was packed with people. Some curious, some avoiding rain, and likely some existing fans of Lindi Ortega's music. 

Her vocals seemed to draw inspiration from Dolly Parton.  Her full name inlayed within the fretboard of her gorgeous acoustic guitar is a real pro-touch and pretty much declares lifelong ownership and dedication.  It was a sweet set with plenty of country shuffles, some slide guitar leads from her guitarist, and an interesting shout-out to the Tragically Hip with a cover of Boots or Hearts from their second, and career launching album Up to Here.

The main stage was already set with a large audience waiting for Kenny Rogers.  He began slightly behind the officlal 8:30 start time, but opened with an awkward sounding "Ruby Don't Take your Love to Town".  Mostly because it sounded like the volume knob was set to 4 (out of 10), and it turned out the show would continue on low-power setting for the evening.

Kenny performed a crowd-pleasing set and closed out with The Gambler, Islands in the Stream, and Blaze of Glory over montage of images describing his career shared many music and film stars along with some recorded backing vocals of Dolly Parton.

Inside the NAC theatre, John Scofield (guitar wizard) returned with John Medeski (keys), Jack DeJohnette (percussion) and Larry Grenadier (bass) perfoming as Hudson and featuring their debut album Hudson.

This was certainly a treat for jazz fans that united inside for the jaw dropping intimate set as it showed off the multiples of talent gracing the stage.  Hudson features some originals, along with some covers like Castles Made of Sand (Jimi Hendrix), A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan), Woodstock (CSN&Y) and Up on Cripple Creek (The Band).

The late show in the Tartan Homes tent was closed out by the Lemonbucket Orkestra.  A Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk Super Band with at least 15 members on and off-stage.  Their musical party starts with the very first notes and beats and continues on through-out the night as the band joins the crowd, for complete mayhem tuba and all.

Lindi Ortega and Lemonbucket Orkestra - Ottawa Jazzfest

It's interesting to see a night with a full range of musical styles offering opportunities for some to catch another style of music aside from which they initially intended seeing.  This is made possible by the multiple stages, however, conflicting choices like seeing an act inside while another is on the main stage makes it difficult to really see it all.

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.