Tonight at 7PM, the Ottawa Fringe Festival is lauching its free music series, starting with the hip hop jazz trio 2React, started by local bass boss Marc Decho. If you haven’t heard of Marc before you might not be familiar with some Ottawa bands such as The Four Heavies, Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet, Mike Essoudry’s Septet, Phil Motion & The Easy Lo-Fi, Slim Moore and the Mark-Kays, 2React, & the Adam Saikaley 5tet. Marc is many things but foremost he is generously creative in his music styles. I wanted to learn more about his perception of the Ottawa music scene and his weaving path throughout, and so got to ask him a couple questions yesterday.
Marc will be shredding bass with 2React tonight, June 18, in the Fringe Courtyard at 7PM & on Saturday, June 21, at the Kronenbourg 1664 Live Music Stage at the Glowfair at 5PM, & next week with the Adam Saikaley 5tet on Wednesday, June 25, in the Fringe Courtyard at 9PM, & every Monday at the Manx with the Adam Saikaley Trio… Yeah, he’s everywhere.
It seems that you are a full-time bassist from the amount of groups with which you play. Are you strictly a musician in your professional life?
I wish I still was. I had to get a day gig to eat and live. I still do music full-time as much you can get. Nothing much happens during the day anyway, except for the odd rehearsal. Still, for the most part, I consider myself a full-time musician. I’m one of the few who doesn’t teach — I just play.
How long have you been playing?
Maybe about seven years. Before I picked up the bass, I started with a guitar as a kid. I got into samping and I really started getting into hip hop, house, and drum & bass. I spent a few years just putting together music via samples but it sort of missed human interaction, and I found in my sampling I was looking more and more for acoustic bass, double bass, Cuban music or African music. It was getting hard to find them, so I finally said “fuck it” and I bought an acoustic bass for $700. And then the sampling just dropped to the side. It took me on a whole other path, backing up all these new people I met and that was a real trip.
It was only recently this year that I had the urge to sample and to mix with the stuff I’m doing now. I created 2React from my love of hiphop and jazz. I’ve hit something that strikes a cord with a lot of people. I didn’t even submit anything to festivals or gigs but they found us through word of mouth. We’ve done maybe five gigs, the reaction has been very good so far.
You’ve been in the Marc Decho Nu-Trio, The Four Heavies, Miguel de Armas Latin Jazz Quartet, Mike Essoudry’s Septet, Phil Motion & The Easy Lo-Fi, Slim Moore and the Mark-Kays, and most recently 2React & the Adam Saikaley 5tet. Am I missing any?
I tend to create a lot of groups, drop them or do something with them down the line. I never quit anything I just keep adding on. There’s always an idea behind each group and if it strikes me at some point in time I just pick it up again. Right now between 2React, The Four Heavies, Miguel de Armas, there’s a New Orleans group I just started this year, an old-fashioned acoustic gospel music rehash. That’s super fun! That’s completely different, not a ton of effects, it just swings — it swings like a motherfucker.
I’m doing lots of stuff with Adam [Saikaley] this year. During the Fringe, we’re interpreting a Miles Davis album. We play every Monday at the Manx with Mike Essoudry as well. The Trio is doing an acoustic version of the Beastie Boys’s Ill Communication at Arboretum. There’s a lot going on this summer. You know, there are certain bands I only see in July and then I see them next July.
I’m also into Brazilian, Cuban, flaminco, funk, soul, and modern soul bands too. I’ve started dabbling in folk music with Trevor Alguire. I’m playing kind of anything right now — It’s good to explore!
How often do you tour with any of these groups?
When money allows it. With Phil Motion we’ve done the Toronto tour, with Slim Moore I’ve been to France. It’s tough these days, I’ve had many tours with bands that we pay our own way and it’s most acceptable but tour grants help cover expenses. I’ve had to say no to some things so I don’t come home in the negative. It’s kinda tough but if the money is decent…
You’re in The Four Heavies, dubbed a unique tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder. What makes it unique?
Alex [Moxon] and I met on a gig. We talked afterwards and said we should do some Stevie Wonder. He started to write and make arrangements, and charted out where we were going. That’s going well too. The uniqueness comes from Alex’s arrangements. Some of the stuff is as Stevie played did, but we’re playing it with a different feel, a different sound and tempo. There’s a lot of hip hop in that band as well, it’s pretty free too. The absence of piano makes it very different. The harmony is handled by Alex on guitar and Vince Rimbach on the saxophone. It comes off sounding very, very swing.
So 2React is Alex Moxon on guitar, Mike Essoudry on drums & yourself on bass and a sampler. You play the original samples from early jazz artists used by hip-hop groups & producers of the late 80’s & early 90’s in a live setting with some embellishment. What more can you say about this kind of performance?
It’s got a heavy jazz component, fleshing it out is pretty improvised. I’m taking the main hook of a song, the guitar will play that hook for the most part and improvise on it. At any point in time, when someone walks in on the show, they would recognize what that song is. Usually people re-harmonize or render a sample to hide the old melody, but I want to keep it where you can recognize it. The drums are freer and I’m handling sampler & bass, separate or together, and it’s fun as a trio. We hit these pressure points and we can build on it a lot. It’s a dub thing too, there are delays and whatnot. It’s a live dub remix but it’s hard to call it one thing: it’s a hip hop dub jazz thing.
I’ve played lots of hip hop in a live band but this is a more, “Hey, let’s play this jazz tune in a hip hop way.” And we have fun with that. But taking hip hop jams from the 90’s and actually playing it — I’ve honestly ever heard anyone do it before. That’s more incentive for me to try it.
We had one rehearsal before our first gig. It’s fun to not rehearse stuff, you know? We’ll have to rehearse again eventually to add more tunes but the jazz gig is like you never know what’s coming, and you never know when it’s going to kick you on your ass.
What do you look for in your samples of certain jazz guitarists for the loops you’ll play live?
I’ll look for the a capellas. If I’m doing a Tribe Called Quest I’ll look for a Q-Tip sample. I’ve pulled a bunch of those. Random a capellas from poetry slams are good too. We go for a common lyric or common subject. There’s a piece we do called the Love Suite, it’s Slum Village’s “The Look of Love” and “Fall in Love.” Then I added a sample of Malcolm Jamal Warner taking about love. It’s all in the theme, I bring it out with the effects. Anything to make the song interesting. And then just random stuff — street noises, snippets from docs, police sirens. It just kind of takes off on its own after that.
So what concerts & performances are you looking forward to as we go into festival season in Ottawa? Particularly during Jazzfest or Music & Beyond.
If I’m able to make any shows! It’s always the pet peeve of those who perform a lot in the summer is that we miss everything. All my buddies are saying I hope I can see this or that. I would really like to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (I’ve never seen them), Earth Wind & Fire, Snarky Puppy, and Trombone Shorty. I’m playing at the Bluesfest on Friday, July 4, and so I hope to see Sly & Robbie (they are totally insane). There’s a whole bunch, it’s always jammed into those two busiest weeks of the year!