My favourite jazz festival is alive and well and still situated in the heart of Ottawa. Located on the grounds of the charming Confederation Park and City Hall, this event feels so low-key and organic. Here we feel a connection to music in its purest form. The Ottawa Jazz Fest organizers, staff and volunteers, artists, and the audience are the keys to this wonderful 10-day musical daydream in the park. It just feels so awesome to be back in this familiar setting listening to live music again.
The first performer I caught up with on this sultry hot Saturday night was Holy Cole presenting her quintet to the largely beach chair seated audience. It was a nice surprise to see her with a larger band as I had expected to see Cole’s trio that I recently saw in Valleyfield, Quebec. The Holly Cole Trio was formed in 1986 with pianist Aaron Davis and bassist David Piltch. All three members of this formidable trio were present alongside a new rock steady drummer and a multi-dimensional guitarist that added several new layers to old and new songs alike.
Cole, appearing stage left, stepped directly into song and continued at a fast pace all the way into “Cry (If You Want To). Then Hole took us “Down, Down, Down” that melted into the Sarah Vaughan classic “Whatever Lola Wants.” Up next was Tony Bennett’s “Girl Talk” which then developed into the old-time classic, “Bye Bye Blackbird” reworked by Cole and bass player Piltch as a bass and vocal duet.
Classics such as “Train Song”, “Me and My Shadow”, and Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” were beautifully performed, the two new members in the band added a certain fullness and punch I never noticed in previous live incarnations of the band. Doris Day’s classical “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que sera, sera) was followed by Tom Waits’ “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard.” Midway through the song, guitar, drums, bass, and piano solos were performed.
Surprisingly, Cole did not play one of her fan favourites, Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” usually performed as one of the last songs or encores in her sets.
Next up on the main stage was one of my favourite guitarists Bill Frisell paired with legendary saxophonist extraordinaire Charles Lloyd and Rueben Rogers alongside Eric Harland. Wow, this quartet really impressed, the musical creativity and talent were in evidence from the first beat to the last. This needs to be heard to be believed.
Come visit Ottawa’s Jazz Festival, there is no better way to step into summer. The TD Jazz Festival continues until July 3rd. The many shows take place on several different stages which are close to one another.
-TD Main Stage is located in Confederation Park
-OLG Stage is at Marion Dewar Plaza located in front of Ottawa City Hall
-Fourth Stage and the Azrieli Studio are at the National Arts Centre (NAC).
-Grill 41 is located at the Lord Elgin Hotel. The site of the Late Night Jamming Series.
-Club shows will take place at Gigspace, Irene’s Pub, Live on Elgin and Minotaure