It was a beautiful and sunny second day for the Ottawa Jazz Festival this Friday, June 21 thanks to Mother Nature and festival-goers certainly turned up in large numbers for the occasion.
Ottawa’s own Kellylee Evans started off the evening in music at Confederation Park with her group of musicians. The Canadian jazz and soul music vocalist, who recently got struck by lightning while cleaning her kitchen counter, performed seated as she’s still recovering from the accident. Regardless, she gave a solid performance in front of a sizable crowd with the musicians offering her great support. Kellylee Evans appealed to festival-goers with her charming personality and smooth soulful voice often referred to as a national treasure. She performed songs from her latest album I Remember When which, as she explained, is inspired by and tinted with hip-hop music. The local singer-songwriter opened her set with the song Built to Fly, and she continued with My Name Is, and the title track I Remember When. She also presented refreshing jazz covers of John Legend’s Ordinary People, Kanye West’s Amazing, and Eminem’s Lose Yourself along with offering the public 2 French songs namely her bilingual remake of Alors on Danse. Kellylee Evans ended her 90-minute set by thanking the crowd for their support to which the audience responsed with applause and cheers.
At 8pm, Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things took the stage at the NAC’s Fourth Stage as part of the festival’s Jazz Improv Series. The Chicago-based jazz quartet, composed of Mike Reed on drums, Tim Haldeman on tenor saxophone, Greg Ward on alto saxophone and Jason Roebke on bass, played in Ottawa for the first time in front of an intimate crowd of jazz aficionados. Recognized for their exploration of the material coming from the Wind City’s jazz and improvised music scene between 1954 and 1960, Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things, performed compositions from their own trilogy along with songs from Clean on the Corner, the quartet’s fourth album. True to the spontaneity of an improv session, the group invited talented Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos, whom they’ve worked with in the past, on stage for the songs Shotgun Wedding and What Happened At Conway Hall. The talented musicians shared great on-stage synergy and their one-hour set, which they concluded with their take on little-known alto player John Jenkins’ Sharon, was clearly enjoyed by the audience.
Meanwhile at Confederation Park, legendary country singer-songwriter Willie Nelson was rocking the stage as the headliner of the night. The acclaimed 80-year old artist performed in front of an impressive crowd of festival-goers proudly wearing red bandanas and cowboy boots. The crowd went wild for willie as he sang the popular hits, Whiskey River, Georgia, Still is Still to Me, You Were Always on My Mind concluding the 90-minute set with I Saw The Light.
The second night of the festival didn’t end with Willie Nelson as festival-goers had the choice to opt between seeing Aoife O’Donovan at the After Dark Series or head over to the Mercury Lounge in the By Ward Market to catch LAL.
Eventful Capital chose the latter more obscure show and was pleasantly impressed by the Toronto-based group’s live performance mixing electronica music and down-tempo beats with captivating and soothing soul vocals. LAL, who’s existed for over 15 years and who’s performed several times at the Mercury Lounge, attracted a decent crowd of music lovers open to discovering new sounds. LAL presented two audio-visual sets: the first being more electro and down-tempo and the second more techno and dance. As a gesture of generosity, lead singer Rosina Kazi shared strawberries with the audience in celebration of the summer solstice. Merging eastern and western influences in their futuristic sounds, LAL offers a unique style and all-around good vibes that blend genres and speak of unity, understanding, escapism and journey.
This last underground performance concluded the second day of the festival in a true celebration of jazz music and its sub-genres showcased in Canada’s National Capital.
Eventful Capital will be back on Day 4 of the Ottawa Jazz Festival to catch David Byrne & St. Vincent and Young Galaxy. Stay tuned for more coverage!