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The Ottawa Jazz Festival

by Rick Overall, The Ottawa Sun

Greatness is a rare commodity. Only achieved by that rare few with the ability to take their talent and bring it into a realm that others can only dream about. 

Jessica Williams possesses such greatness.

The crowd at Ottawa Jazz Festival

In front of a huge Confederation Park crowd she upped the performance ante for all who follow this week. On the heels of last year's dynamic Pianissimo Plus appearance, Williams brought her electric stage to the main stage last night, and rose to the occasion with a breathtaking slice of jazz brilliance.

And, as always, Mel Brown assisted on drums and Dave Captein on bass, adding subtle layers to every song. Williams challenges the listener to join her on a musical rollercoaster ride.

Take her approach to Laura. The song began the show, and instead of the haunting, misty sensuality of the familiar movie hit, Williams introed by turning the established melody into alternates of mellow and barrelhouse.

She then gave it the kind of upscale soul personality you'd expect from Nancy Wilson attacking a lyric line vocally. She would follow that with the soft and subtle Summer Night, approaching it with the delicacy of cat's paws on a shag rug.

Then turning the crowd on its collective ear with a rousing Latin-bottomed intro for Mack The Knife, which was also given a much harder edge than the happy-go-lucky style we're used to.

Williams' near two hours on stage was a celebration of what's possible in jazz.

Williams showed why we'd be happy to see her every year.