Despite the abundance of genres, the various styles and wide-ranging traditions, jazz essentially is about improvisation, collaboration, and the ongoing quest for exploration. It’s about creating musical moments bound in the precarious nature of time. Or, to say it another way, it’s about sonically interpreting the precariousness of time by collaborating in the construction of moods and themes.
For this very reason, jazz, at its best, is about creating experiences, especially novel sonic experiences shared by multiple participants – including, in live shows, the audience. First and foremost, it’s all about sounds and sound experiences, about expressing oneself and one’s relation to the world through aural tools. As such, jazz currently takes up a somewhat diminished role in our visually-obsessive culture. Because jazz focuses almost exclusively on sound, and because it reaches, at times aggressively, it can often be challenging.
Jazz often requires just a little more patience in order to engage those artists whose worldview rendered through music is one in which substantial time and effort has been exerted. Totally eschewing the idea there’s something to ‘get’, something to ‘understand’, gnarly experiences await those willing to take the plunge. The hope, therefore, for this year’s edition of the Ottawa Jazz Fest (and, in turn, for all future editions) is that the general populace strive to branch out a little from their typical tastes, wade in the waters of the strange and unknown – ultimately, to explore what some of the finest musicians in the world have to offer. Not sure where to start? Well, this might help: here are 5 picks for the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival.
** Stanley Clarke initially held a resolute spot on this list but unfortunately for those slow on the draw, it’s already sold out.
1. The Roots
The most impressive aspect of The Roots’ extensive discography is the continual explorations not only of hip-hop/rap music but of their unique and deft interpretations of the art form. Every Roots album sings of something unique and fresh. On top of that, The Roots’ live shows are famous for reinterpreting not only their tunes but those of other artists. It’s hip-hop live, hip-hop jazzified. They’re just sick musicians, monumental players in the modern age, and I can’t wait to see them.
The Roots perform on June 20 at 9 pm on the Main Stage (Confederation Park). Tickets are $52.00 and include performances by: Duchess, Bruce Cockburn, and Reuben and the Dark.
2. Tanya Tagaq
I’ve never heard anything like the music of throat-singing artist Tanya Tagaq. It’s aggressive, serene, feral and magical all at the same time. It’s totally strange, strangely familiar, and totally engaging. Her undeniable talent has not gone unnoticed here in Canada, thankfully. She won The Polaris Prize in 2014 with her record, Animsim and it’s going to be a real event to hear this disc and her other expressions brought to life live.
Tanya Tagaq performs on June 30 at 7:30 pm on the Laurier Avenue Main Stage. Tickets are $52 and include performances by Jamie Cullum, TD Jazz Youth Summit and Jaga Jazzist.
I actually don’t know a ton about this band and have only listened to a handful of their tracks. What makes a band like this intriguing to see live, however, is the genre they work in. Biggish-bang gypsy music can be a straight-up joy-riot. It’s dynamic, energizing, gets the blood a-coarsin’. I really dig down on acts such as Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra and Gogol Bordello and am intrigued to see what Halfiax’s Gypsophilia will bring to the table.
Gypsophilia perform on June 25 at 6:30 pm on the Main Stage (Confederation park). Tickets are $62 and include performances by The Steve Miller Band, Lindi Ortega and Ikebe Shakedown.
4. Afro-Cuban Jazz & Beyond
Latin percussionists rule, and drummer Ignacio Berrao is a total boss. Merging together the Afro-Cuban traditions of ‘Son’, which might be loosely thought of as jazzier, more improvisational ‘Salsa’, with that of the American jazz tradition, this concert will bounce, circulate, dip down and dive with an eruption of rhythms sure to whisk you off around the world the back. Buckle up for the ride!
Afro-Cuban Jazz and Beyond perform on June 28 at 6:30 pm on the Main Stage (Confederation Park). Tickets are $45 and include performances by BEIRUT, Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra with Ingrid Jensen and The Wood Brothers.
5. Antonio Sánchez & Migration
No top-5 list could be complete without mentioning at least one show in the NAC’s Studio. It’s an intimate space in which each and every seat not only enables unobstructed top-down views of the action but truly ensconces one in the warm milieu. While numerous noteworthy concerts are taking place in the Studio including the famous Branford Marsalis (the 7:00 show as already sold out but tickets are still available for 9:00), four-time Juno-winner Renee Rosnes, Dave Douglas & High Risk (Douglas is a magisterial trumpeter), and the South-African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s Trio, one particular show has caught my eye: Antonio Sánchez & Migration. All I know of Antonio Sánchez is the work he did for the movie Birdman, in which the raucously rolling drums played such a forceful role that the soundtrack felt like a character itself. With saxophone, electric wind instruments!, piano, Fender Rhodes, and acoustic and electric basses, this show is emitting an undeniably rousing tingle.
Antonio Sánchez & Migration perform on June 26 at 7 pm at the National Arts Centre Studio. Tickets are $40.