I finally got off my lazy tukhus and took in Ottawa Fringe Festival‘s music series on Wednesday, June 25. Last night it was Adam Saikaley’s his quintet interpreting Miles Davis to celebrate the Ottawa Fringe’s 17th year of performing artists.”Get ready,” bassist Marc Decho told me. “We’re about to do some crazy stuff.” They played the five tracks from Filles du Kilimanjaro by replacing the trumpet with Alex Moxon’s guitar and the tenor saxophone with Linsey Wellman’s alto. The powerhouse five are Adam Saikaley on keys, Linsey Wellman on sax, Mike Essoudry drumming, Alex Moxon on guitar & Marc Decho on bass. From start to finish, I thought this is the reason we like live music — jazz music. The jazz method is the best way to enjoy a small group of people using the most beautiful tools humanity has ever created: musical instruments.

For a moment, Decho left this reality with a low-fret solo and almost put Essoudry to sleep as his lids slowly closed, continuing to drum. Saikaley worked his back into the keyboard and brought the arranged song back to a jam, that strayed from Miles Davis into a Sound Providers or J-88 kind of sound. Beautiful sessions, right up until “Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)” at the end. I can’t wait to see them again or any other of Saikaley’s projects. Our Kid Whiz Sacha confided that he’d seen Gary Franks of Roberta Bondar & Saikaley jam for about 25 minutes once, and they sounded like a thunderstorm.

The Adam Saikaley Quintet playing at Ottawa Fringe Festival's free programming in the Fringe Courtyard on June 25, 2014. Photo: Joseph Mathieu
The Adam Saikaley Quintet playing sick jazz at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in the Fringe Courtyard on June 25, 2014. Photo: Joseph Mathieu

We jumped the fence and walked a jaunt over to City Hall, Marion Dewar Plaza to be exact, to watch another jazz group celebrate performance art.

Bill Frisell has always been known for his dope projects and this evening’s Go West was no different. He led his four-man jazz ensemble below a giant screen on which the 1925 silent film Go West played as they added music to the story. Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr & Kenny Wollesen all played with Frisell on June 24th for his GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! at the NAC Studio. Having been on-and-off bandmates all through each of their impressive musical careers they’re synergy was palpable. They orchestrated Buster Keaton’s character into new a light for a packed tent of jazz lovers as the OLG After Dark Series promised they would.

The movie is classic and it made me want to cheer for the main character Friendless as he exploded out of a barrel that rolled off a moving train, and bemoan his bad luck in NYC where he couldn’t even deal with foot traffic. The story of this drifter making his way through the USA and inevitably befriending a cow named Brown Eyes on a ranch was beautifully complimented by the four jazzmen, from the dinner bell going on Wollesen’s cymbal, to the bulls chasing Friendless through a climactic crescendo, and finally to the uplifting denouement of an 89-year-old story brought back to life. It was an ultimate remix that earned them a standing ovation.

Bill Frisell & co.
Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr & Kenny Wollesen playing Go West at TD Ottawa Jazz Festival for the OLG After Dark Series on June 25, 2014. Photo: Joseph Mathieu

Both festivals are still going to put on some amazing plays & performances by the time Canada Day Weekend rears its head, so here are some more great shows to consider:

Ottawa Fringe Festival

Free MusicCrissi Cochrane Thursday 21h, Three Little Birds Thursday 22h, HIGHS Friday 22h, Silkken LaumannSaturday 22h, Jeff Kingsbury Trio Thursday, Friday & Saturday midnight

Plays: (Anything by Martin Dockery is a gem of the first water.) The Surprise @ ODD Box — Thursday 19h, Friday 22h & Saturday 21h, Paco P. Put to Sleep @ Arts Court Theatre — Friday 21h & Sunday 16h & Moonlight after Midnight @ BYOV C – The Courtroom — Thursday 22h, Friday 20h30, Saturday 18h & Sunday 18h

Chase & Stacey Present: Joyride @ the Arts Court Theatre — Friday 22h30 & Saturday 17h30

Grain of Salt @ St. Alban’s — Thursday 19h, Friday 19h & Saturday 13h & 17h

Dicky Dicky @ The Courtroom — Thursday 17h30, Friday 22h, Saturday 19h30 & Sunday 16h30

Kitt & Jane: An Interactive Survival Guide to the Near Post-Apocalyptic Future @ Academic Hall — Thursday 17h30, Saturday 15h30 & Sunday 19h30

TD Ottawa Jazz Festival

Earth, Wind & Fire @ Confederation Park Main Stage — Thursday 20h30

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band @ OLG After Dark Series — Thursday 22h30

Lake Street Dive @ OLG After Dark Series — Friday 22h30

Cold Specks @ Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage — Saturday 19h30

Aretha Franklin @ Confederation Park Main Stage — Saturday 20h30

Pony Girl @ Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage — Sunday noon

Bobby McFerrin spirityouall @ Confederation Park Main Stage — Sunday 20h30

Michael Greilsammer @ OLG After Dark Series — Sunday 22h30

Whitehorse @ Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage — Sunday 19h30

The Mahones @ OLG After Dark Series — Monday 22h30

TD Jazz Youth Summit & Galaxie Rising Stars @ Confederation Park Main Stage — Canada Day 14h

Thus Owls @ Laurier Avenue Canadian Music Stage — Canada Day 17h