Tariq Amery, after a summer away from Ottawa, is back in town and bringing back most of the musicians who played on his debut CD, Indefinity, for another show on Thursday, September 28 at the Mercury Lounge. OttawaJazzScene.ca was there for his CD release concert this spring. Read our review and see the photos of that show to learn why the packed house left the bar with smiles.

Tariq Amery Group CD Release Show
Avant-Garde Bar, Ottawa
Friday, April 21, 2017 – 9:45 p.m.

Tariq Amery ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Tariq Amery ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Tariq Amery looked looked alternatively bemused and delighted at the crowd which packed the Avant-Garde Bar for the show that officially released his debut CD, Indefinity.

“Thanks, everyone, for coming. I couldn't have imagined a turnout like this!”

The jazz flutist and saxophonist has been a frequent presence on jazz stages across Ottawa-Gatineau for the past few years, adding joy and his particular touches to many shows and jams. And when it came to launching his own compositions, both musicians and listeners showed up, for a standing-room only show. The crowd ranged from 20-somethings to retirees, though with an emphasis on younger age groups, such as fellow members of the Capital Youth Jazz Orchestra.

And they stayed, and applauded – for a show featuring large shifts in dynamics, bravura performances, and an overall powerful sound.

For this show, Amery brought together almost the same group who played on his album: Daniel Ko on tenor sax (on a brief visit to Ottawa), Ed Lister on trumpet and flugelhorn, Clayton Connell on keyboards, and Michel Delage on drums, with Harrison Singer sitting in on bass.

They performed the music from Indefinity – but not like a standard release show. You see, Amery isn't all that enamoured of calling out specific pieces, or even giving his songs titles, so one song transitioned into the next and no names were ever announced from the stage. That made it more difficult to anchor the sounds into different tunes, creating more of an overall soundscape rather than a collection of tunes.

Nor did the sextet precisely announce the beginning of the show. They simply congregated on stage and started playing – just improvising, not even playing anything from the CD. It was like an overture, with tenor sax and trumpet creating anthemic melodies over which Amery's flutes soared and fluttered.

The crowd quietened down almost instantly. Throughout the next hour, as improvisation flowed into the first composition and then more, they concentrated on the music coming from the small stage up front, hardly talking at all.

It was all about the sound and the flow – though not the fury. The music modulated and evolved, with the lead switching smoothly among the musicians – rippling piano and tambourine, then mellow trumpet becoming more hard-edged and percussive, then a tenor sax and flute duet gradually developing into a circling upward push. The overall effect was of a lush tapestry of melody.

Amery's warm tones on the flute and bass flute combined well with Ko's edgier sax lines, and his more brilliant and piercing flute lines counterpointed Lister's fluent and vibrating trumpet. Delage and Singer provided a strong underlying groove, with Delage also creating wind-like textures on cymbals and snare drum which complemented the melodies from the horns. Throughout the first set, the music gradually built up, ending in a breakneck-speed forward push. When it ended, the crowd erupted in loud cheers. Amery came back with just the rhythm section, and played a short, conversational piece with expressive solos and bright overtones.

After a half-hour break, the band played a shorter second set, ending just before midnight. It began with a strong Coltrane-like groove, and was both funkier and more dissonant (in different places) than the first set, although again featuring finely-attuned ensemble playing (and what sounded like a quote from Deep Purple). The sextet then closed with another short piece with more of a Latin beat, with extended spinning flute solos.

It was a fiercely energetic show with musicians who worked to enhance each others' performances into a highly-listenable whole. I didn't wanted to just dip my toes into this music – it was worth a full-body immersion, and left me exhilarated and impressed.

The Tariq Amery Group plays the Mercury Lounge (56 Byward in the market) on Thursday, September 28, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, and more at the door.

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