Summer nights aren’t quite so long as winter’s, but one walk down Elgin St. on a Saturday evening is proof an hour of June darkness is worth eight of December’s. From June 22 – July 3 the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival’s OLG After Dark series takes over the downtown night-life calendar with a set of$20 shows, headlined by beloved songsmith Jim Bryson; recent Prince-protégé and Grammy-winner Judith Hill; Balkan brass legends Fanfare Ciocărlia with Toronto gypsy guitar wiz Adrian Raso as Devil’s Tale; and Japanese “death jazz” thrillers Soil & “Pimp” Sessions.
Every night at 10:30pm, following the conclusion of the day’s headline set in Confederation Park, crowds converge on the Tartan Homes Stage at Marion Dewar Plaza to keep the party going. Catering to a younger audience than the main stage, the series hops genres like a stream on shuffle, from high energy ‘40s style hot jazz to bleeding edge glitch-hop and back.
From being chosen as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for a historic series of UK concerts precluded by the icon’s death (documented in the smash film This is It) to receiving her Grammy Award in the mail while filling out bankruptcy paperwork, Judith Hill’s path to fame has already seen enough highs and lows to fill a documentary of her own. Now, after a stopover on The Voice and a superb 2015 debut LP produced by the late Prince himself, Hill and her ace FAM Band (featuring her mother and father) are poised to take their place among today’s most popular funk/R&B groups. (June 29)
Fanfare Ciocărlia are arguably the best-known Romani brass band in the world, noted for their wild live performances, featuring a dozen players wailing at speeds sometimes exceeding 200bpm. Discovered in 1996 in a northern Romanian town literally “not on any map,” the band was an instant worldwide success, selling 150,000 copies of its debut Radio Paşcani, supplying countless samples to the Balkan beat phenomenon and contributing to numerous film soundtracks. Approached in 2014 by Canadian Adrian Raso, a guitarist specializing in Django Reinhardt-esque gypsy jazz and hard rock, their Devil’s Tale collaboration blends Fanfare’s otherworldly talents with a whiff of spaghetti western brimstone. (June 28)
Alongside his friend Kathleen Edwards, Jim Bryson is Ottawa’s most respected singer-songwriter since Bruce Cockburn, having assembled a rich discography of thoughtful, wry tunes worthy of comparison to predecessors and peers like The Weakerthans, Skydiggers and The Wooden Sky. A hometown hero who has made good nationally, Bryson’s songs are part of the contemporary fabric of the city, a relationship he continues with his new LP Somewhere We Will Find Our Place. (June 30)
Japan’s Soil & “Pimp” Sessions have been a sensation in the Tokyo night life scene for over 15 years, veering wildly from glitzy lounge jazz to tumbling metal-influenced blast beats and instrumental shred. Guided by megaphone-slinging frontman Shacho, credited on their records as “agitator / spirit,” S&P are topflight musicians who are utterly committed to driving dancefloors into fits of hysteria. Almost without question the most stylish act at this year’s Fest, devotees of the party life are already gearing up for an unforgettable night. (July 2)
Other OLG After Dark artists appearing on the Tartan Homes Stage stage include The Flat Earth Society, an experimental big band performing a live score to the classic Ernst Lubitsch silent comedy The Oyster Princess(June 23); rising Toronto alt-pop wonders HIGHS (June 24); irresistible indie-electronic brother-sister duoTennyson (June 25); retro-rocking, floor-filling cannonballs The 24th Street Wailers (June 26); French DJCloZee’s cool, whipcrack-rhythms and cinematic textures (June 27); and swinging hot jazz ensemble The Hot Sardines, who close the Festival with a party for the ages (July 3).
All OLG After Dark shows are just $20 individually, and are also included with a day or Festival pass.Tickets are available at OttawaJazzFestival.com, by phone at 613-241-2633 and in person at the Festival Box Office at 602-294 Albert St., as well as at Compact Music’s two locations on Bank St.