Montreal pianist Josh Rager, who brought his trio to Cafe Paradiso in November, appeared at a much larger venue and with three more musicians as the first main stage act Monday at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival.
While his piano still drove the action on-stage, he was well-matched by Frank Lozano on tenor sax, Al McLean on alto, Jean-Nicolas Trottier on trombone, Dave Laing on drums, and Dave Watts on bass. They added the extra bounce and brilliance needed to push the music across the park. In originals like "Indian Summer", Watt's bass added an extra level of urgency; in the standard "I'm old-fashioned", Lozano's tenor was smooth and assured after a bouncier solo by McLean.
Most of the numbers were from Rager's recent CD, "Time and Again", which he had also featured in November — but this time in a less quiet and less introspective mode.
Unfortunately, the concert was marred by (another) heavy downpour -- but at least the closing number, "Cornered Coach", a tribute to hockey with a New Orleans vibe, allowed the crowd to warm up bopping to the music.
— Alayne McGregor