The Souljazz Orchestra has been an Ottawa dance party staple for well over a decade. If you’ve lived in town for any extended period of time, it is likely your money maker has been shaken by the band’s funky afrobeats once or twice. After a short break from a busy tour, they are back and playing your favourite venue, The Black Sheep Inn on January 26th and 27th.
The 27th sold out so quickly, the band has added the extra date for which some tickets might still be available. I spent a few minutes speaking with band leader Pierre Chrétien about their last tour, their new toys and how language influences their music.
The band released Under Burning Skies in September of 2017 and promptly toured ten European countries in under two months. Pierre enjoyed the excitement of playing to their large fanbase in cities like Paris, Athens or Stockholm. The band took the time to relax between shows while travelling by train. “We didn’t get many breaks but we take a lot of public transportation. We move between cities by train so we get to relax by visiting the restaurant car and playing board games.”
Charming sojourns aside, Souljazz was eager to represent Canada overseas. Pierre sees the band as a microcosm of Canadian society. “You got French and English people, men and women, people from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds. We travel all around the world and I think crowds appreciate us for that.”
I asked Pierre to expand on how the multilingual/multicultural nature of the band affects how they write and promote an album. “I find in Canada music is really segregated. You’re either a French or an English band and here is not a lot of crossover when it comes to radio. I think it’s something you should see more. When it comes to songwriting, we really don’t think about it too much, I just think it’s who we are and have always been.”
Under Burning Skies features Souljazz experimenting with a new era of sound. While typically echoing beats from the 60s and 70s, they decided to plug in some synths and drum machines and explore an funk 80s vibe inspired by the likes of Prince, Rick James and Michael Jackson. “It was a lot of fun to try these things out because those sounds were forbidden to us for so long.” When I asked if any band members had to learn to play with any of these new toys he simply said “well, we did go shopping.”
Make your way out to wonderful Wakefield to dance your winter blues away to the evolving sounds of The Souljazz Orchestra.
The Souljazz Orchestra play for two nights at The Black Sheep Inn (753 ch. Riverside) on Friday January 26 and Saturday January 27. Tickets cost $15 online and $20 at the door.