They are perfect book ends to the summer in Ottawa. Spring gets sprung into summer with the Ottawa Jazz Fest, and in the Autumn we fall into the season of decay with the CityFolk Fest. These are really the perfect framework in which to enjoy the offerings of Ottawa. Both festivals still keep pretty much close to their musical home, a place where jazz can be found at the Jazz Fest, and folk at the CityFolk Fest. Seems odd to even mention this, but many festivals have seemed to have lost the plot, and go head deep into whatever band are on tour, resulting in a lot of summer festivals looking and sounding the same. We are blessed by these stalwart musical festival bookends.Read More
There is a new Canadiana sound. Bands like Patrick Watson, Joe Grass, Jesse Mac Cormack and the Barr Brothers share a musical aesthetic that is coming to the forefront of contemporary Canadian songwriting. There is a new generation of alternative folk music that is at a ground swell, and is set to catch a fire in our music scene. Claude Munson fits this bill. The Forest stage was the perfect venue for experiencing him, and his on again, off again fellow band mates. Late summer sun, under a tent, in the woods and loads of fresh air, complemented this early evening serenade. Claude Munson’s travelling floating melodies, were enriched with a alto voice with a subtle trumpet quality to it.Read More
Edmonton’s Roland Pemberton III, offered up a blistering hip hop set. Never taking himself too seriously, and clearly enjoying the vibe of the forest stage, his smiles were a counter point to some of the most astute lyrics in rap today. He’s got game. Although he was personable, understated (rare in the hip hop genre), and charming, his words were full of insight and social commentary. His diction was perfect, with rapid fire vocals not getting lost in the DJ’s beats. Perhaps, hip hops urban element was a bit misplaced with the farm atmosphere, but his clear strong voice carried rhymes that were melodic and varied. He took the mick out of some of rap’s more universal cliches like call and response, and the hilarious “wave your hands in the air, so we can pretend we are at Glastonbury.” A great start to the festival, especially after the underwhelming Un Blonde set.Read More
Music and Food. I have spent my life dedicated to these two pursuits. These are the cornerstones for humanity. They distinguish us from the kingdoms of other animals. Before words, it was music and food that established the constructs of human culture. These are the parts of culture shared by all peoples, of all times. They are pre-language. The modern celebration of these noble arts is everywhere, but seldom are they the focus of a singularly well-planned event. The Arboretum Festival held on Rideau Pines Farms took it’s first steps of transforming it’s illustrious past into a forward thinking celebration.
Quietly, Arboretum has left the confines of the Ottawa cityscape to the pastoral landscapes of a well established farm and country side. Last year, Arboretum held a sprawling 68 band festival, with workshops and chef’s in tow, to a much more downsized, intimate, and joyful festival tucked just outside of Ottawa, in North Gower. Rideau Pines Farm has been a family owned and operated Fruit and Vegetable farm for over 30 years. The Vandenberg family rescued an abandoned dairy farm and turned it into a pick your own fruit and vegetable haven. Today, Rideau Pine Farms services fresh produce to the finest restaurants in Ottawa. Some of the best places to eat in Ottawa, take daily deliveries from the farm.Read More
t’s only rock and roll.
I keep saying this over and over again. I’m guilty of talking about Tom Petty these last few weeks, to the point where I know I’m annoying people. I just can’t place where Tom Petty fits in. Originally the Heartbreakers were lumped into the New Wave sound of the late 1970’s. But like the O.J.’s glove, this didn’t fit. The late 1970’s brought the introduction of a paradigm shift in music. Sure, initially there were some similarities to the brash stylings of Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. Extremely tight song writing along with the energy and anger of youth. But the Heartbreakers were no Clash, or Ramones, or Talking heads for that matter.Read More
But last night at the Festival d'ete de Quebec, Place d’ Youville stage, The Barr Brothers pulled a full Monty and laid the stage bare with raw improvisation and a jam flavoured performance. They were a different band then I have seen before. After a five hour drive from Ottawa to Quebec City I was disappointed that the collaboration with Bassekou Kouyate and Amy Sacko was cancelled. Presumably, they couldn't get in to the country (not really sure why). The collaboration has a back story with the two bands having a history of rehearsals. The stage was set for a showdown of Rhode Island come Montreal come Mali mash up. Only two opportunities to see this magic, a free performance in Quebec City and a Jazz fest show at the Theatre de Maisonneuve in Montreal.
This summer has seen slim pickings for The Barr Brothers shows, so I was fully committed to this road trip. The cancellation appeared on my phone just about an hour before we landed on the Grand Allee in Quebec. Crest fallen was my first response. Then I was determined to make the best of the situation. After all, the amazing Afro Beat band from San Paulo Brazil, Bixiga 70 was lined up for the 7:30 pm slot before the Barr Brothers 9:00 pm slot. The Barr Brothers didn't back out of the shows. Instead they soldiered on with a reworked line up and collaboration with Mamadou Koita, Sabio Sissoko and Joe Grass.Read More
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.