Skip To Content
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Photo from their website.

More Jazz Festival picks to check out this week

By Alessandro Marcon on June 22, 2016



Last week, we featured Jazz Festival picks from our writer Leah Geller.  This week, another contributor weighs in with shows he thinks are not to be missed.  It just goes to show, the Ottawa Jazz Festival has something for everyone.

The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival has once again done a commendable job putting together a lineup that features a mix of fun, crowd-pleasing, and innovative shows. Sure, at times the lineup strays pretty far from typical notions of “jazz”, but the committee’s made sure that an abundance of sonically-expansive, technically-ferocious improvisational acts appear alongside the hot-name draws that help fill in the festival.

You’ve got the iconic Brian Wilson taking Pet Sounds out for a stroll on its 50th anniversary, Canadian 90’s superstar Sarah McLachlan serenading audiences with heartfelt melodies, and acts likes Soil & “Pimp” Sessions blowing up stages with raucous jazz-infested groove parties. Ottawa’s well-represented at this fest as well with rural, folky-jazz soundscapes provided by Digging Roots, boiling and bubbling funk from Eru-Era, and sweet-mango Latin jams from the Miguel de Armas Quartet. While there’s simply tons here at the Fest for any music fan to dive into, here are 6 acts that have really caught my eye, with links to YouTube videos that show off their skills:

1. Kamasi Washington, NAC Theatre, Wednesday June 22 @ 7pm

A force on the LA scene, Kamasi Washington has been playing innovative jazz with a solid collective ever since high school. He’s collaborated with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill, Nas, and Snopp Dogg from hip-hip circles and the likes of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Handcock and Horace Tapscott in the wild realms of jazz. His nearly 3-hour 2015 release “The Epic”, put out on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder records, was an incredibly delicious and beautiful spread, rammed with arching narratives, cinematic scores, and mind-bending collaborations. It’s been nothing short of spectacular to listen to, and it’s a phenomenal treat to have him in the Nation’s capital.

2. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Main Stage Confederation Park, Sunday June 26 @ 8:30 pm

Sharon Jones plays the kind of music that straight-up makes you feel good. Touching on the melange of soul/funk/gospel genres, expect to be enchanted by banging grooves and soul-stirring vocals. Collaborations with acts like Lou Reed, Phish, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (to name just a few) should indicate the kind of talent and presence she’s going to be bringing to the stage on Sunday eve. Shows like this seem super fitting for the green, tree-canopied space of Confed Park.

3. Iva Bittová & Peggy Lee, National Arts Centre Back Stage, Sunday July 3 @ 6 pm

Ripping down one of those YouTube rabbit holes, I stumbled upon Iva Bittová. I came out the other end rattled, and better off for it. Armed with a violin and a killer voice, she cranks out hypnotic and energetic swirls of sound that are better described as adventures than concerts. Typically aligned with notions of the avant-garde thus spoken in conversations alongside names like say Fred Frith or John Zorn, Bittova’s work would probably strike one as less esoteric and easier to get into. This collaboration alongside highly-creative and experimental cellist, Peggy Lee, is beeping manically on my Jazzfest radar.

4. Chick Corea Trio: Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, Main Stage Confederation Park, Thursday June 30 @ 8:30 pm

Heavy hitters. That’s what this show is all about. Brian Blade is easily one of the best drummers, I’ve ever seen. The set by the Brian Blade Fellowship at this very festival a few years back took me on a journey through so many lands. I’ve described that show to friends as like being at a movie – with only my ears. Deadly stuff. Couple the slicing B. Blade with one of the most innovative and skilled bassists in the game, Christian McBride, and the nothing-short-oflegendary pianist, Chick Corea, and you’ve got yourself a righteous jazz show. Good on the Jazzfest committee for putting this on main stage. Take full advantage.

5. Buffy Sainte-Marie, Main Stage Confederation Park, Tuesday June 28 @ 8:30 pm

I don’t know any of the music by Buffy Sainte-Marie. So, ‘why would I be interested in her set?’ you might be asking. It’s solely on the basis of her winning last year’s Polaris Music Prize. For those not in the know, the Polaris Prize is awarded to the best album in Canada as selected by a wide-range of Canadian bloggers, DJs, journalists, and programmers. It’s an award that is not based on sales or restricted by any particular genre. Although politics are surely still at play in the selection of the winner (no avoiding that), it’s a cool award/initiative, helping to showcase the wide-range of diverse talent across this country. Sainte-Marie’s set is more than likely to showcase something unique and fresh. Sometimes it’s cool to get in the backseat and let the influence of others be the force of your actions.

6. The Thing, National Arts Centre Back Stage, Tuesday 28 @ 6 pm

In my humble mumbles, a festival works best when alongside the sure-fire well-known names, it brings in unexpected though high-quality shows that are sometimes difficult to find in our crowded information spheres. These could be up-and-comers, or perhaps acts that sit quite contentedly on the peripheries. One such act that strikes me as worth engaging at this year’s fest is The Thing, a collab of players from Sweden and Norway, based in Austin, TX, which released its 13th album, Shake in 2015. A mix of freejazz and avant-garde with touches of speed-metal? Oh, yes please.

For more on the Ottawa Jazz Festival, visit their website, or find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.