It didn’t take long for a mass of people to gather around the Rideau Centre stage to see Ottawa’s long-time performer, Victor Nesrallah and his band on Saturday afternoon. He was joined by an accomplished trio of Craig Wallace (double bass), Mike Bellavy (drums), and Keith Snider (violin), where they played an hour long set of material, plucked from Nesrallah’s past 20 year repetoire. The songs were well selected, in that they completely showcased the many flavours, sentiments, and genres of his music, which covered the gamut of roots, world, jazz, and blues.
He began with one from his most recent album, “The Hills of Liban” (Collections – 2014), a folk-flavoured song he wrote in ode of his recent trip to Lebanon. I also enjoyed the heartfelt lyrics and lovely melody of “A Little More Kindly”, as well as the strong and soft tones of “Memories of a Boy”.
Nesrallah’s warm, strong vocals shone during “The Picture”, a song that breathed in its ebb and flow of intensities that whirled into a great heated instrumental bit with solos all around. He then donned the slide to give us some foot-stomping blues with “The Blues And The Don’ts”, which had a great rocking pace. My favourite piece in the set was “Blood From The Stone”, in all its Middle Eastern glory. Snider’s exotic modes on the violin, and Bellavy’s hand drumming gave the piece a very organic feel. This song was also full of instrumental swells, which displayed their degree of musicianship as they travelled through the music together. The attentive audience, which grew as the set went on, swayed through every twist and turn of the music Nesrallah delivered.
Victor Nesrallah remains one of Ottawa’s accomplished musicians, whose passion shows in the music he has created. In his 35-year career, he has shared with us the colours of his life-long musical journey, as he continues to discover and explore the enchantment of its many tangents.