World music took center stage at the 33rd annual Ottawa International Jazz Festival this past Tuesday, June 25 as Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Carmen Souza peformed live at various locations.
The Spanish Harlem Orchestra heated up the Main Stage of the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival on Tuesday, June 25 thanks to their contagious classic latin rhythms infused with Cuban jazz and tropical sounds. Hailing from the United States, the 13-piece collective founded by Aaron Levinson and Oscar Hernandez was backed-up by a solid horn section comprised of two trombonists, two trumpetists, and a saxophone player.
The talented group of singers and musicians projected great vibes all around and although they tried to get the crowd to dance early on in the show, this proved to be a challenge as no one seemed to want to get out of their lawn chairs with the exception of a few who clearly had dancing in their blood. This quickly changed however as the group performed their hit singles Pa’Gozar from the first album Un Gran Dia En El Barrio and the Celia Cruz-inspired Ahora Si. Half-way through the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s performance, it had essentially become impossible to sit still as everyone was dancing to the lively salsa, cha-cha and rumba sounds.
The group took the time to thank festival-goers for their presence and support and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to perform at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
The musicians presented a song from their jazz repertoire, the beautiful Rumba Urbana found on their latest album Viva La Tradicion and a piece that they’d never performed live before from Amercican Songbook titled You and the Night. The Spanish Harlem Orchestra concluded their 90-minute set with the popular old classic Ariñañara to the delight of many who chanted ‘Otra!’ in the hopes of getting an encore. This certainly worked as the group performed a final song to the crowd’s delight.
Following the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s lively performance, it was Carmen Souza’s turn to hit the stage for the After Dark Series. The charming Cape Verdean singer-songwriter with a musical style that can be described as Cape Verde meets world and jazz, attracted a rather big crowd under the OLG Stage tent. Singing in Creole and Portugese but addressing the crowd in English, Souza was joined on stage by her musicians bassist Theo Pas’cal, pianist Matt King, and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli.
Souza gave a lovely light-hearted performance and presented a melodically vibrant repertoire of songs from her latest album Protegid and from previous releases. She got the crowd to sing-along to Afrika despite the language barrier and visibily enjoyed the audience’s presence and participation.
Hearing Souza’s voice live was a real pleasure as her unique vocals ranging from soprano to alto demonstrate an impressive flexibility that switches back and forth between half-scat and half glissando. A true class act, Carmen Souza brought her African-Portuguese diaspora heritage to Ottawa and made the sun shine a little brighter around the OLG Stage.
The Ottawa Jazz Festival continues until July 1, 2013 at various locations. Be sure to check back on Eventful Capital in the coming days for more coverage and reviews.