Terri Lyne Carrington and Social ScienceTD Ottawa Jazz FestivalTD Main StageReviewed ThursdayResistance music collided with the rain Thursday night when Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science played the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival.The American drummer and her potent, uncompromising band played gritty, politically charged songs that combined rap, rock and jazz to combat racial injustice, intolerance and other ills.The protest music, however, met with few ears. Thursday was the first rainy night at the jazz festival, and the sparse crowd had arrived to take in Carrington’s band only thinned out further once the lightning flashed and the rain came down.A potent force in jazz since her days as a teenaged prodigy in the early 1980s, Carrington, who has shared bandstands with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Geri Allen. Most recently, she been a crusader on and off the bandstand for a more just society, with her Social Science project responding vocally and fiercely to the fraying of America in the time of Trump.
Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science at the 2019 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
Dan Nawrocki /
TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
But in Ottawa Thursday night, the response to her music was subdued. Maybe a more woke audience on a less inclement evening would have sent the band the kind of energy that would have confirmed that its music was getting over.“I know that some of this music is a little heavy, some of the messages. But I hope it’s OK,” Carrington said at one point, sounding just a wee bit Canadian.This was a concert that began with a steely lament. “This is for Donald,” Debo Ray announced, before singing lyrics to a piece of elegiac but unbowed proportions that could only be aimed at her president.“How much can we endure? Time will tell,” Ray sang. “We’ll suffer through then rise again.”
Vocalist Debo Ray of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s project Social Science at the 2019 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival
Dan Nawrocki /
This song and many that followed presented a new kind of blues for 2019. Ray, always compelling, and Kassa Overall, the band’s DJ and rapper, seemed to target one burning issue after another.Bells, a slow, hypnotic and ultimately tragic piece by Carrington’s keyboardist Aaron Parks, was the underpinning for what seemed to be Ray’s response to the killings of black men by police.“You took my love away from me,” she sang. “Tell me what give you the right to kill so senselessly?” If the song’s words were open to interpretation, the closing sound of a siren helped to frame them.Another piece allowed the band’s voices to juxtapose two seemingly contradictory slogans — “pray the hate away” and “pray the gay away.”In the middle of its set, Carrington’s band covered two love songs.First came a tune that Carrington referred to as “something that you might actually recognize.” Perhaps her read of the crowds was that they were jazz fans first and social justice warriors second. What followed was a rendition of the jazz standard What’s New, ushered in gorgeously by Parks before it became the backdrop for Overall’s spoken-word artistry. His commitment to his poetic rapping was clear, even if his voice could have been higher in the mix.Then came the group’s version of the Joni Mitchell tune Love, on which Ray rose to the challenge. Carrington said that earlier in the day, she received clearance to put the Mitchell tune on her band’s forthcoming record, which is to be released in November. In concert, the tune allowed instrumentalists Parks and Stevens to stretch out.Closing the concert of 70 or so minutes was a collaboration by Parks and Overall called Trapped in the American Dream, which offered a moody meditation on “black and white” and “right and wrong.”Kudos to the jazz festival for programming Carrington, a booking utterly in sync with the event’s aspirations to be more gender-balanced. It was frustrating, though, that a small and rain-battered crowd was one factor that helped rob the night of the dynamism and urgency that it firstname.lastname@example.org/peterhum