On June 30th, 2015 I spent my evening downtown, abreast of the Rideau Canal at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. The main stage headliner was a fellow named Jamie Cullum, a very popular British jazz pianist (or so the program told me) that I had never heard of, and frankly, if he was the UK’s only platinum-selling jazz artist (again, info gleaned from the program) then I doubted that I’d be that interested.
And I was fairly correct. I mean, the guy’s young, talented, he’s a great singer and a pretty good looking kid taboot. What would a guy like me want with a guy like that? He’s a jazz populist, a pop star who uses stylistic clichés to turn the genre
against us to his advantage. Though it was a rather nice evening weather-wise, and it felt good to be outdoors in the centre of Canada’s capital city just beyond the shadow of the Parliament Buildings on the eve of the country’s 148th birthday, and in Confederation Park no less.
And to be honest, when dude was playing the piano he was actually pretty damn good.
Now, why would I consciously expose myself to an unknown commodity such as Jamie Cullum in the first place? Well, because of the band I saw after Jamie’s set, a wonderful Norwegian fluxtet called Jaga Jazzist who played on the late nite stage.
Y’see, I just happened to happen upon Jaga Jazzist one afternoon at the Ottawa Bluesfest a decade earlier – a band that was certainly an unknown commodity to me at the time – and I had my mind blown out of the murky waters by their set. Admittedly, had I read their bio (and I just may have) I would likely have approached their Bluesfest appearance with curiosity, perhaps even interest, and not with the pre-instated negative bias that I arrived at Cullum’s set with.
Why? Because Jaga Jazzist was a multi-instrumental contemporary improvising acoustic-electric soundscape collective that approached their lulling noiserock with conviction, confidence, and ferocity, and that’s the kind of bio that my aesthetics can work with (no wonder – I wrote it). And while the group didn’t jar my skandas to the core on this night like they did the first time (what does?) they provided a great nightcap of Scandinavian grindpop that made me quite happy to be there.
Overall, Jaga Jazzist is one of the examples my mind harkens to when it considers whether to stay home and sit it’s butt down on something comfortable or to get out of the house and expose itself to something new.
Plus I had a full-festival pass anyways.
Happy Canada Day’s Eve everybody!