The city of Ottawa blesses her citizens with festivals all year-round. Of course, she is notorious for her two-week-long summer extravaganza, Bluesfest, and anyone else who has visited the city is sure to have heard tales of summer’s Tulip and Dragon Boat festivals, and our beloved Folk Fest, aptly renamed CityFolk after a change of scenery. But even in the darkest, dreariest evenings of frigid winter the city finds a way to warm souls, fighting fire with fire, music keeps the winter blues at bay at Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest.
As I’ve written before, often the most rewarding part of the Capital festival experience is showing up. On my way to the National Arts Centre, I leisurely stroll through Ottawa City Hall, lit up with people skating on the front yard rink. Then I cross Laurier Street and am treated with a walk through the “Crystal Garden”—Winterlude’s ice sculpture showcase.
I enter a darkened room, quietly illuminated by candlelit tables and two projection screens on either side of the stage, flashing black and white designs. The projections continue for the entire set, changing designs and interesting patterns with one projector angled down, over top the band, the blue light from the projector reflected in shimmering diamonds off the drum chrome.
I chose to go to the concert purely because of the band’s name: Mouse On The Keys. They are a three-piece experimental hardcore jazz band from Tokyo and I could not be more stoked on experiencing the performance. Akira Kawasaki wails on the drums and occasionally makes some electronic melodies, while Atsushi Kiyota and Daisuke Niitome each play a double-decker piano keyboard combo.
The music is captivating.
The performance is physically impressive on all accounts and roots itself in themes that contrast complete control and chaos…
I was surprised to see that the audience was mostly older but the music doesn’t feel as experimental as it is. After a few, fast-paced, impressive songs to prove their worth, the band introduces themselves to the crowd through broken English.
“Ohhtawa, Ohtowah?” the audience chuckles with them as they stumble over pronunciation.
The group’s playing gives a whole new meaning to the term “musical phrases;” the individual work is so personal and independent, yet essential cogs to the whole soundscape. The performance is physically impressive on all accounts and roots itself in themes that contrast complete control and chaos, with some soaring epic parts to interlude.
Kawasaki announces they will be playing their last song and once again the room giggles politely at the broken English. After the standing ovation the band is quickly called back for an encore. The final song is a perfect conclusion. The band goes full-throttle one last time, boiling the sing down to a whisper then picking right back up again in perfect time to end the show with a real bang! They earn themselves one more standing ovation and I’m sure a vivid place in the memory banks of every audience member. It was the first time for Mouse on the Keys in Canada’s capital and I don’t think anyone who witnessed their performance in that N.A.C. theatre would hesitate to spend money on seeing them again.