Festival shining Breit-ly

The future’s looking Breit for the Kingston Jazz Festival.
The future’s looking Breit for the Kingston Jazz Festival.
Lindsay Thompson

The raucous sounds of the blues saturated the airspace of the Baby Grand Wednesday night. The fourth annual Kingston Jazz Fest was in full swing. As noted by the festival’s coordinator Dave Coon, blues will be the focus of this year’s Jazz Fest, which made Kevin Breit and the Sisters Euclid an excellent choice as the festival’s first act after Sunday’s gala opening.

Breit and the Sisters—who aren’t really sisters at all, but actually three unrelated men—dished out their gritty form of blues that had the audience grooving all night long. This year’s Festival has promised to be “bigger, better and wilder” than ever before, and Wednesday night certainly measured up to that claim.

Some people may have heard of Kevin Breit as being part of Norah Jones’ band, but if you hadn’t heard that by Wednesday, you sure wouldn’t have guessed it by the type of performance he laid out. Joined by John Dickie on lead vocals, the Sisters Euclid offered the crowd something quite different from some honey-dipped Norah Jones set.

The first two numbers were purely instrumental: the first a sprawling, spacious piece—unlike anything I had expected. The second got a little more down and dirty, but when John Dickie joined the band on vocals, I understood what I was there for.

Dickie lent a voice you could sand down your furniture with. He wrenched out the lyrics with soul and grit while Breit seemed to produce the music with the jerks and gyrations of his body, only then to discharge it through his guitar.

The first song accompanied by Dickie’s vocals was called “L.A.”—which was said not to be written about Los Angeles, but actually about the real L.A.—Lethbridge, Alberta. This was a heavy tune with strong gospel undertones. It strongly resonated blues roots in African Spirituals, with an intense down beat and shouting echoes of the band members to John Dickie’s calls.

The band got a bit funkier later on, but not before first paying homage to one of Breit’s influences and a renowned master of the craft, Miles Davis with “Blue in Green.” It was a chilled out break from the vigorous blues they had been offering up. But, immediately following this The Sisters pumped it right back up again and then some with a funk number commencing with Dickie shouting at some illusory dog on an imaginary couch. What would a funk tune be without a prelude of nonsensical shouting? The intermission was book-ended by two quirky, bordering corny numbers, which were thankfully on the shorter side. Then, the band got back into that blues sound that they do best by covering Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” My favourite number of the night was what the band said would be their “jazz” piece, seeing that this is the “Jazz” Festival. The number was a cool, instrumental version of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” As soon as I saw drummer Gary Taylor bring out his brushes I knew I was going to melt. This dreamy number displayed the band’s versatility and their appreciation for different styles of music.

The night was appropriately rounded out by “We’d love to stay, we got to go,” which were some words the audience wasn’t quite ready to hear. However, fear not fellow jazz-lovers, that’s not the end of the festivities, it’s only the beginning. There are still a few days left to catch some fantastic acts just like this, if not better.

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