Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ottawa Jazz Festival: Peter Hum’s picks

Must read

If you love music that prioritizes innovation and spontaneity along with aural beauty, these are the shows to see this month in Ottawa.

Article content

The Ottawa Jazz Festival’s indoor shows are where the art is.

While the festival, which launched in 1980, used to be unadulterated when it came to presenting jazz, it has since become more like two adjacent, simultaneous festivals, one outdoors and the other indoors, with different mandates. Acts that have more mainstream appeal because they feature singers or are groovier or star jazz groups with crossover interest play in Confederation Park or on the OLG Stage in Marion Dewar Plaza. But music that hews closer to the jazz tradition, while evolving and expanding to sound distinctly like 2024, receives top billing at the NAC’s Azrieli Studio and Fourth Stage.

Advertisement 2

Article content

For fans of music that prioritizes innovation and spontaneity along with aural beauty, here are six prime examples worth grabbing seats for.

Darcy James Argue
Jazz composer and big band leader Darcy James Argue, whose large ensemble, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, plays the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Friday. Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein /Handout

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
June 21, 7:30 p.m., NAC Azrieli Studio

Since at least the mid-1990s, some of jazz’s sharpest minds have been radically re-thinking what big bands can sound like, expanding the genre in the process. An especially fertile composer and bandleader is Brooklyn-based, Vancouver-raised Darcy James Argue, whose 18-piece Secret Society ensemble has been stimulating music-lovers for almost two decades, racking up accolades and nominations all the while. The band plays its only Canadian date this summer in the Azrieli Studio on the jazz festival’s opening night and is likely to draw from its most recent and Grammy-nominated album, Dynamic Maximum Tension.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Hand To Earth
The cross-cultural group Hand to Earth will perform at the 2024 Ottawa Jazz Festival on Saturday. ott

Hand to Earth
June 22, 9 p.m., NAC Fourth Stage

It doesn’t get more cross-cultural and intriguing than this six-person project, which is an offshoot of the Australian Art Orchestra. Its frontline participants are Daniel Yipininy Wilfred, an Aboriginal Australian singer who is the keeper of songs from South East Arnhem Land in Northern Australia that date back more than 40,000 years, and Korean vocalist Sunny Kim. Their in-the-moment rapport soars over pulsating, electrifed soundscapes courtesy of trumpeter Peter Knight, clarinetist Aviva Endean, violinist Amalia Umeda and David Yipininy Wilfred, who plays the yidaki, or didgeridoo. Mysterious, cinematic and unique, Hand to Earth’s music is beautiful in a way that you didn’t know existed.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

Chris Potter
Saxophonist Chris Potter will perform at the 2024 Ottawa Jazz Festival on Tuesday. ott

Chris Potter Trio
June 25, 7 p.m., NAC Azrieli Studio

Saxophonist Chris Potter, who has previously performed in Ottawa with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Dave Holland, is unsurpassed when it comes to virtuosity and eloquence. Kicking off a short North American tour in Ottawa, the world-class hornman will be joined by bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Kendrick Scott, both scintillating musicians and members along with Potter of the all-star SFJAZZ Collective. Expect hard-hitting, interactive music that’s as articulate as it is visceral.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Marianne Trudel
Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel will perform at the 2024 Ottawa Jazz Festival with her trio, which includes drummer John Hollenbeck and bassist Remi-Jean Leblanc. Photo by Andre Chevrier /Handout

Marianne Trudel and John Hollenbeck and Remi-Jean Leblanc
June 28, 6:30 p.m., NAC Fourth Stage

For the past 20 years, Montreal pianist Marianne Trudel has been prolific, innovative and engaging, forging bonds with a host of creative collaborators to make attention-grabbing music that balances forthright lyricism with exploratory drive. Her trio with bassist Rémi-Jean Leblanc and drummer John Hollenbeck is marvelous, and the group’s 2023 album Time Poem is filled with rugged, layered music that brims with trust and adventurousness.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 6

Article content

We All Break
We All Break plays at the 2024 Vancouver International Jazz Festival earlier this year. The group plays the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 28. Photo by We All Break /Handout

Ches Smith and We All Break
June 28, 7 p.m., NAC Azrieli Studio

Over the past two decades, Ches Smith has been simultaneously a vital drummer powering jazz’s outward-bound contingent, collaborating with such artists as saxophonist Tim Berne and pianists Kris Davis and Matt Mitchell, as well as a serious student of Haitian Vodou drums. Smith’s We All Break project combines his earthy and edgy passions on a single stage, enlisting Berne, Mitchell and bassist Nick Dunston plus three male Haitian drummer/vocalists and three female Haitian vocalists to perform his original compositions. Traditional Haitian rhythms gird each piece, but the material also allows all-stars of jazz’s avant-garde to take flight.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 7

Article content

aja monet
Aja Monet, seen here speaking as V-Day Presents VOICES, A New Audio Play, at The Apollo’s Stages at The Victoria Theater at The Apollo Theater on May 31, will perform at the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 29. Photo by Shannon Finney /Getty Images for V-DAY

aja monet
June 29, 7 p.m., NAC Azrieli Studio

A poet and a performer of poetry for many years, Brooklyn-raised spoken word artist aja monet is a hyper-articulate advocate with her art for Blackness, social justice and joy. Her 2023 debut album when the poems do what they do, which melded monet’s thrilling feats of language and potent grooves, was deservedly Grammy-nominated. At the Azrieli Studio, monet will be supported by elite musicians including pianist Javier Santiago, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Justin Brown and saxophonist Logan Richardson.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 8

Article content

phum@postmedia.com

Want to stay in the know about what’s happening in Ottawa? Sign up for the Ottawa Citizen’s arts and life newsletter — Ottawa, Out of Office — our weekly guide to eating, listening, reading, watching, playing, hanging, learning and living well in the capital.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content

Latest article