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Photo courtesy of the Souljazz Orchestra.

Blogging the Bluesfest: The Souljazz Orchestra

By Chris Cline on July 12, 2012

Sample Song: “Ya Basta” written and performed by the Souljazz Orchestra.

The Souljazz Orchestra is an international success story with roots planted firmly at home in Ottawa. After spending years playing weekly gigs in various battle-worn haunts around town, the band’s work ethic finally paid off when their record Freedom No Go Die started to attract international attention. Since then, they’ve evolved into a band with a fan base around the world. As they celebrate their 10th birthday, Souljazz is getting set to release their fifth studio album, Solidarity, this September. On top of that, the band spends much of their time touring the world and collecting Juno nominations.

Despite their success, they haven’t forgotten the local fans that were there at the beginning. The band can be found playing shows regularly on the Ottawa festival circuit, and recently members of Souljazz joined local act Slim Moore and the Mar-Kays to deliver some of the best slow-burn soul music this side of the American border.

As the band prepares for their Bluesfest gig this Saturday July 14, they were kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

How would you describe your sound?
We play a mix of soul, jazz, Afro, Latin and Caribbean music. We’re inspired by the masters of these traditions, but we’re always trying to move things forward with our own innovations. We try to keep the music raw, gritty and groovin’. The lyrics are often socially conscious, but the rhythms are always danceable and phonky. (Editor’s note: funky)

How did the band start?
Back when we met up in 2002, we all hung out at the same spots in Ottawa: Babylon, Mercury Lounge and Café Nostalgica. We got to talking and found out we dug a lot of the same music. We started jammin’ just for fun and it all started from there.

What can we expect from your Bluesfest performance?
You can expect the Souljazz Orchestra to actually light the stage on fire. I’m serious. We haven’t played Bluesfest in five years, so we’re going to bring it hard. We’ll be previewing a few tracks from our new album Solidarity, which is coming out this fall. We’ll also be doing some Souljazz classics, and we’ll have a couple of surprises too!

What is the best way to cool off on a hot day?
Any ice-cold drink with a lot of rum, and maybe a lemon and an umbrella if you’re comfortable enough with your masculinity. If that doesn’t work, have another.

The Souljazz Orchestra plays the Electro Stage on Saturday July 14 at 6:30pm.