Monday, July 04, 2011

2011 TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival #7

Daniel Lanois always brings his best home.

Last time he visited the city of his birth it was with a crack quartet that cooked at a slow boil while he charmed the crowd at a soft-seat suburban theatre. That was before the motorcycle accident that put a crimp in his plans to launch a new project, Black Dub, on last summer's festival circuit.

Now in the midst of an extensive tour that started in May and ends in August, Black Dub closed out the mainstage concerts in spectacular form. With Lanois paying homage to the beauty of the Chateau Laurier Hotel—and hoping thieves don't steal the copper from its roof—and reminding the audience that he was born in Ottawa, even though he grew up in Gatineau and launched his career in Hamilton, the band illustrated that good music trumps the notion that only jazz belongs in the headline position. I wouldn't have passed up this show to see anyone I can think of in what purists consider the jazz universe.

Front and centre, of course, were the astounding vocals of Trixie Whitley. Prior to seeing the band, I couldn't decide what was more impressive: that this huge, multi-layered voice comes from a lithe Belgian woman, or the fact that she sounds this seasoned and soulful at just 22. Now, I'm just as impressed that she has what it takes to sit down next to Brian Blade—one of the best drummers in jazz—and thicken the beat behind Lanois and bassist Jim Wilson.

For all his sonic genius, which he manages to translate to the live setting in large measure, Lanois always impresses most with his ability to connect to his audience in a low-key, workmanlike manner. He's never too far removed from the kid who created atmospheric sounds in the basement of his mother's house and found himself swept up in the wake of people like Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. With his jean jacket, grizzled beard, glasses and toque (an odd look on a hot day) he still seems like a guy you might have caught playing in one of the old taverns that used to grace the streets of Gatineau.

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