The 2014 Ottawa International Jazz Festival got underway this Friday, June 20 with a taste of Bollywood and world music that got festival-goers out of their chairs and onto their feet dancing throughout the night.
Earlier on in the evening, Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys, a remarkable band of talented musicians hailing from New York City, kicked off the Improv Invitational Series beautifully with a true modern jazz set performed on the NAC’s intimate 4th Stage. Featuring lead composer Mike Pride on drums, Alexis Marcelo on keys, Peter Bitenc on stand-up bass and Jon Irabagon on alto and tenor saxophone, the group presented pieces from their last 2 records “Betweenwhile” and “Birthing Days” including 79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, Lullaby for Charlie, Birthing Days, Brestwerp, and Motion which features a moving piano solo. It was quite spectacular to see and hear these gifted musicians produce such a creative variation in sound compositions and to transition from smooth pieces to contrastingly upbeat ones effortlessly.
Meanwhile on the Main Stage, 2-time Juno Award nominees Jaffa Road were performing live to a small but receptive audience. The Toronto-based world music group, which merges Jewish music, Arabic and Indian music into modern jazz, electronica, rock, pop, and dub, sounded great and performed a variety of songs off of their albums “Sun Place” and “Where the Light Gets In” including L.Y.G. and Avre Los Ojos, a Turkish protest song about children going off to war.
Right after Jaffa Road, Autorickshaw, a Juno-nominated world music ensemble from Toronto, hit the Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage for a 60-minute set featuring singer Suba Sankaran, tabla player Ed Hanley, bassist/keyboardist Dylan Bell, guitarist Justin Abedin and drummer Ben Riley. Sankaran, who’s lyrics switch back and forth between English and Tamil, has a lovely presence on stage and often highlighted the contribution of her musicians, giving them space to shine throughout the set. The set list included songs from the albums “So The Journey Goes” and “The Humours of Autorickshaw” namely The Humours of Autorickshaw, The Trouble with Hari, Manju Nihar, So The Journey Goes, Kapi-Wallah and Snake Charmer.
Next up, headliner Richa Sharma took the stage at Confederation Park wearing a dazzling red dress. Things got underway after a few technical difficulties with sound that seemed to go unnoticed. The famed Bollywood singer, who’s behind many of India’s most successful leading ladies in film, attracted a mix of South-Asian and Canadian fans alike for her first performance in Canada. Evidently pleased to be in Ottawa, the adorable Sharm interacted with her audience from start to finish and involved festival-goers by getting them to participate in dance and song. She took requests from the audience and performed crowd favourites including Maahi Ve, Chali Chaliga, Jogee and fittingly even sang a rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Sharma and her 8-piece band turned the Concert Under The Stars into a Bollywood extravaganza to her fans delight, signalling the promise of another rich and vibrant Jazz Fest.
Day 2 continues today with performances by Sun Rooms, Lorraine Klassen, The Bad Plus, and Austra among others. The Ottawa Jazz Festival runs until July 1 at various locations.