Jane Bunnett and Daymé Arceno ©Brett Delmage, 2014
Jane Bunnett and Daymé Arceno ©Brett Delmage, 2014
View photos of the group's first GigSpace performance

The bright sounds and beats of summer heated up GigSpace Thursday night, as Jane Bunnett and her new AfroCuban band, Maqueque, played their first two of four Ottawa shows. They return for 7 and 9 p.m. shows tonight.

The Toronto saxophonist/flutist has teamed up with five young women musicians from Cuba for this new band. Their music combines AfroCuban rhythms with four soaring voices, for a dynamic and melodic show.

Bunnett and vocalist Daymé Arceno each contributed several songs for the shows. They even included a soulful version of Bill Withers' “Ain't no sunshine when she's gone”, reimagined with a Latin beat, for this performance. Bunnett told the audience that she heard the tune on Holger Petersen's blues show on CBC as she was preparing to record the group's album, and realized how perfectly it would fit the group.

Each song gave lots of room for all the musicians: Yissy García with impressively intense and exact drumming, Yusa providing melodic bass solos that crossed into guitar territory, Danae playing rippling and beautiful piano solos, Magdelys switching effortlessly among the percussion instruments surrounding her to give the music its AfroCuban edge, Daymé's show-stopping vocals bouncing the energy level of the room up by several notches, and Bunnett's soprano sax and flute adding both sweetness and sharpness to the music.

Maqueque has just returned from the jazz festival circuit in Western Canada, where Bunnett said they had generally-packed houses, and several sold-out concerts. In the next month, they'll be playing in festivals and clubs around Ontario, and then will head off for a U.S. tour in August and early September.

At least one happy listener bought tickets for both concerts Thursday night, which had different enough set-lists and performances to make that a worthwhile experience. A few tickets are still available for both Friday night performances. Dress cool; it's going to be hot!

     – Alayne McGregor, with files from Brett Delmage

See the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Jane Bunnett about this new group:

All photos ©2014 Brett Delmage