Published Jun 28, 2016Inside the hexagonal back stage of the NAC Studio, Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson kicked off the festival's first Monday (June 27) with a sound that at once entranced and unsettled. The duo showcased their collaborative Never were the way she was, an emotive and noisy blend of violin and brass, in nearly pitch black, rendering photography impossible.
"Thank you for coming, we haven't had the chance to perform this material in Ottawa yet," said Neufeld.
"Yeah, we have," said Stetson. "Haven't we?"
From the back, Ottawa Jazz Festival executive producer Catherine O'Grady chimed in proudly: "No you haven't!"
Stetson, a talented multi-reedist, played three instruments, including a silver contrabass clarinet that resembled a glittering Möbius strip. Beyond the experimental drone that marks his solo work, Stetson created a plethora of sounds, including that of a robot sentry and a 64k modem. When a rollicking beat began, it took some deduction work to discover he creates percussion using microphones attached to the keys and tone holes of his bass saxophone.
Tracks like "The Rest of Us" and "In the Vespers" were characterized by an impending doom that showcased Stetson's breathing abilities as he inhaled through his instruments. Neufeld demonstrated her own lung skills with "From Our Animal," off her 2016 album The Ridge, where her croon came out unhindered by the quick movements of her bow.
They ended a quick, hour-long set on the title track of the 2015 album, a menacing undertow that swept the Ottawa Jazz Festival into its week's programming.