Matthew Ottignon certainly keeps himself busy. The saxophone, clarinet, flute and bass player has appeared on stage with the likes of Lou Reed and Brian Wilson, while simultaneously producing his own music and teaching. His latest project sent him to the New 505 Venue in Surry Hills for the launch of two singles with his band, MISTER OTT
Shortly after 8.30 pm on a Saturday night, one thing became apparent; it was a mystical night and the audience, sipping on Bourbon heavy cocktails in this atmospheric venue, were about to be transported on a world tour. After their opening cover of a song by the famous Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria, Ottignon requested that the volume be turned up on his sax. This was in time for the band’s performance of their first single released on the night, ‘ Take it Higher’, named after a lyric in James Brown’s ‘ Funky Good Time.’ The booming instrument threatened to drown out Ellen Kirkwood’s trumpet for a moment until they settled into this funky tune with clear percussion beats and a strong ending.
The next composition of the evening was different again. This Asian-influenced tune named ‘Shalimar the Clown’ (a title of a Salmon Rushdie work), performed by Matt Ottignon with his bass-player brother Eden, wouldn’t have been out of place in some of Rushdie’s film- adapted novels.
That trip to India also inspired the second single released on the evening, ‘Mattaraja’. The song title is a construct of the Indian word, ‘Maharaja,’ and ‘Matt.’ Playing ‘Mattaraja’, the band were accompanied by two hip hop dancers, as they upped the tempo for the second half of the show. Yes, you read that right; Ethiopian scales are often blended with hip hop beats in Ottignon’s music. And did we mention that the singles were recorded on vintage analogue gear and mixed in the Tasmanian rainforest? This cultural mishmash certainly contributes to the fresh sounds heard in their music.
Ottignon is a talented multi- instrumentalist, but a feat as great as MISTER OTT requires a full and accomplished band, who did their job astoundingly well; Eden Ottignon bass, Kirkwood on trumpet, Ben Panucci on guitar, Dan Kennedy on drums and Daniel Pliner on keyboard. They were joined on the night by special guests, Steve Marin on percussion and Peter Farrar on sax.
Such is MISTER OTT’S accessibility, that Ottignon himself dislikes the generic label of jazz. Mister OTT are clearly influenced by 50s and 60s soul and jazz, but they blend this perfectly with the traditional, as well as much improvisation to create a twenty-first century sound. Many of their base tunes are similar to the sounds of popular West African outfits such as AMADOU and MARIAM. Ottignon’s aims are to create ‘new music that draws from virtually every culture, tradition and society on the planet’ and ‘gives the soul room to breathe’. With these singles, he may just have achieved his goals.
‘Take it Higher’ and ‘Mattaraja’ are available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and all usual online MP3 stores. CD copies can be purchased at MISTER OTT gigs only. For a listing of any upcoming gigs, as well as news on Ottignon’s projects, subscribe at http://www.matthewottignon.com/.