By Garth Paulson

Most artists are lucky to manage only one work that’s considered important. For many, the artistic life is a continuous struggle to create something able to transcend time and place. Something which exists independently of trends and stylistic preferences. The majority of artists settle for a brief hiccup in the tapestry of humanity.

Then there are artists like Me’Shell NdegeOcello, effortlessly producing one dazzling work after another. NdegeOcello, meaning "free like a bird" in Swahili, is very modest regarding her impressive output.

"I’ve always just let music come to me. My first three records were spaced far apart because I needed to live a bit and have something to experience. I didn’t want to feel pressured to jump in the studio like a lot of artists do after a successful first project," NdegeOcello explains alluding to her initial slow output, but recently her direction has changed leading to a veritable slough of creativity. "I just decided to write, record and playƂ—let the chips fall where they may. Basically, the songs come into my head fully formed and the challenge is getting it out the way I hear it. It’s less about seeking perfection than it is trying to honor this gift that I can’t claim to own." NdegeOcello admits.

With a list of collaborators that reads like a who’s who of stars, including John Mellancamp, Alanis Morissette, Michel Franti, Lenny Kravitz and the Rolling Stones, Me’Shell certainly knows how to keep herself busy. Aside from her solo work she also spends time with the Spirit Music Sextet who will be making a stop in Calgary as part of the TD Canada Trust Jazz Festival. The Sextet allows her yet another creative avenue to display her considerable skills as a bassist and vocalist.

"It is wonderful to just get up and play with great musicians, these cats are multi-instrumentalists and virtuosos. Every night is different and every night is a challenge for me. I hold it together with the bottom and provide musical direction, but where we end up, nobody really can predict," says the nine-time Grammy nominee.

When The Spirit Music Sextet hits Calgary it should be a unique "once in a lifetime" experience, her obvious enthusiasm enough to convince anyone with second thoughts, "The main thing actually is to not expect anything. But hopefully it will be funky, booty shaking, African-based improvisational sounds that can excite and inspire old and new jazz listeners alike. I think we work for people who love music and good musicianship. For those who want a night of Top 40, not that there’s anything wrong with that, we don’t really work for them. I wrote these tunes with the idea of honoring everybody’s ability to interpret them for themselves, which is at the core of improvisational music. I hope people walk away with myriad interpretations of the sound of spirit."

Me’Shell NdegeOcello and the Spirit Music Sextet plays Mac Hall on Sun., June 27. Tickets are $39.50 at Ticketmaster.

Leave a comment