Bobby McFerrin - Ottawa Jazzfest

Bobby McFerrin

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The penultimate night with Bobby McFerrin may have been less attended, but much more satisfying.  Not only was the temperature slightly cooler, and more room to move around or get up close, but Bobby engaged the crowd wonderfully throughout most of the show.  He also shared the spotlight with everyone on the stage.  The show began with what appeared to be an improvisational warm-up.  Photographers were told that they would be allowed the standard three songs to shoot, but that didn't include the first.  It was understandable why after it began.  Bobby went around the stage and hyper-focused on each musician, one at a time. He would lead an improvised melody with his voice (and chest) while staring intently at the selected musician directing them to follow along and take the improve a little further.

The show continued with what was most likely an unplanned setlist as he was hitting up some of the members for song ideas, teasing Neil Young (with a crazzzy falsetto) and even Zepplin's Black Dog.  These were short spurts but the show eventually led into some really killer tunes that were mostly rooted to Jazz.  Outside of the jazzy bits, an impressive version of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and a cover of "Can't Find My Way Home" were both very well received.  Probably one of the most entertaining portions of the night came through with "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands".  Wondering why he was playing a song that seems rather simple, it became clear when he left the stage with a spare mic and teased anyone in the crowd to take it.

A very brave woman made her way to the barrier, took the mic and echoed Bobby's scatting to take her own scat lead.  This had every ingredient for a fantastic train wreck, but it actually became a fantastic performance by the unnamed lady.  A few more people followed, each doing really well.  This was one of those times where one would expect some super loaded person with epic preportions of rock star ambition to come up but everyone who took the mic avoided pretty much any bumb notes.  One guy who joined in was hit with a curveball.  Bobby directed the band to crank it up to double-speed.  He wasn't ready for it, but tried anyways. That was very ballsy, but Bobby recognized that it may have been a little much and got them to dial it back where the fella was much more comfortable.  This kind of engagement is really magical, likely because it shows how the power of improvisation in music can be found in random people, and how a perfect director can bring out the best in everyone.