The Chocolate Hot Pockets
2016 Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival
NAC Fourth Stage
Friday, February 5, 2016 – 5 p.m.

The Chocolate Hot Pockets had a huge dynamic range during their late afternoon show at the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, both stylistically and in absolute sound levels. They could go from soft ballads to bluesy grooves to room-thumping funk, in a tight and powerful show.

The NAC Fourth Stage was stuffed. And while part of that might be due to the fact that admission to this show was free, I noticed that the diverse audience seemed to be really into the music throughout. Through the first part of the 75-minute show, people continued to file in, ending up standing near the door – and more importantly, no one left. Seniors, 20-somethings, and even youngsters were all intent on the stage.

The Ottawa jazz/funk/soul quartet played mostly numbers from their second CD, Chocolate Dreamz [2015], plus a brand-new composition and a few covers by their favourite soul musicians. The Tina Turner number “What's Love Got to Do With It” sounded surprisingly fresh with Ed Lister's snarling trumpet and and J.P. Lapensée's inflected bass solo, while the band created a body-humping groove on “Use Me” by Bill Withers, featuring Jamie Holmes' sharp, hard drumming and Lister adding vibrating lines on both synthesizer and trumpet.

The originals were by the band's two writers, Lister and guitarist Alex Moxon, and were consistently dynamic and interesting. I particularly liked the more classic 60s sound of Moxon's “Pretty Bird”, which contrasted softer passages on both guitar and trumpet with occasional attention-getting static or vibrating notes.

While I enjoy the Chocolate Hot Pockets' music, I enjoy it more when they're quieter, and my ears aren't complaining. I found the show at least 10% too loud for the Fourth Stage, which made it difficult to appreciate the music. Perhaps I'll have to remember to bring earplugs for their next indoor gig.

But it was an exciting concert, demonstrating the talent of all four musicians and the quality of their compositions. The Chocolate Hot Pockets have a consistently interesting live show, a propulsive blend of funk and jazz that fun for both listeners and dancers.

    – Alayne McGregor

Note: received review access to the Ottawa Jazz Festival but was denied access for our photojournalist, Brett Delmage. Therefore we are unable to publish photos with this review.

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