The Souljazz Orchestra at the Empty Bottle | Concert preview
Globe-trotting party jams fit for a protest.
Striking a balance is the Souljazz Orchestra’s métier. By seamlessly blending musical styles from across the globe with politically charged lyrics, the Ottawa sextet has forged the ideal fusion of party and protest. No small praise considering how easy it is to slide off the slippery slope of world music into pastiche, but the group, led by multi-instrumentalist Pierre Chrétien, instead builds upon its soul-jazz foundation to create something it can call its own.
A new album for Strut, Solidarity, features an array of guest vocalists and finds the band moving away from the loving homages of Pharoah Sanders’s spiritual jazz and Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat that filled its back catalog. There’s a new emphasis on Latin and Caribbean styles that translates nicely to the dance floor, and the band’s choice to record in mono on analog equipment palpably captures the infectious low-end rumble of the rhythm section, not to mention the brassy purr of the horns. Combined with lyrics that emphasize social progress, the positively funky result makes the convincing argument that dancing is a potent form of activism.
Having already amassed a devoted following in Europe, the band is already making waves stateside with its first world tour. The Orchestra’s stop at the Bottle may lead to a dance party or a joyous riot; either way it’ll raise your blood pressure.