The Ostara Project
Release date: November 18, 2022
Label: Cellar Music Group
Ostara, the Germanic goddess of the spring equinox, is the ideal icon for a group of powerfully creative Canadian female jazz musicians. The equinox marks a point of perfect balance: for a moment, the world is poised between day and night, light and dark. In spring, that moment tumbles into a season of promise and growth and it is that hope of rebirth and rejuvenation that has inspired The Ostara Project’s self-titled debut album.
Co-led by bassist Jodi Proznick and pianist Amanda Tosoff, The Ostara Project is a super-group of award-winning musicians. Membership is fluid: a core group provides continuity while the roster changes from project to project in order to showcase the creativity of a wide spectrum of artists. This debut album showcases an outstanding group of musicians who, collectively, hold nine JUNO nominations, three JUNO awards and many National jazz awards. Each artist is a bandleader and composer in her own right and the group represents the geographic, cultural and ethnic diversity of the Canadian mosaic: vocalist Joanna Majoko, trumpeter Rachel Therrien, alto saxophonist Allison Au, guitarist Jocelyn Gould and drummer Sanah Kadoura.
Group members met in person for the first time in February, 2022 when they performed two concerts, participated in the making of a documentary and music video, and recorded an album–all in four days. For the documentary, Proznick joined forces with Lisa Buck, the Executive Director of the BJP Music Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation in Calgary that hosts concerts and is committed to jazz education and promoting gender diversity. Change The Tune, funded by the Canada Council, features the artists on this first album candidly discussing the challenges faced by female jazz musicians, challenges that highlight the resilience and determination each artist had to develop to achieve her own level of excellence. Determination, hope, and celebration are themes that bind the individual compositions of The Ostara Project into a cohesive album.
The record kicks off with Au’s original composition “Delta Sky”, a tribute to the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, a city that endured devastating challenges yet remains a powerful example of how music builds community. Joyful scatting from Majoko brings a lyrical lightness to the tune that is decidedly appropriate for this celebration of the power of the human spirit to rise above adversity.
Jodi Proznick’s “Storms and Oceans” is a compelling call to living a new truth, embodied by a woman lying in the moonlight, navigating the turmoil created by the need for change in her life. Flawless harmonies between Therrien’s trumpet blows and Majoko’s vocals offer a warm embrace for the listener that is emulated by each individual band member over the course of the track.
Within the struggle to find hope are fragile moments of peace. Joanna Majoko delivers resonant and deeply soulful melodic embellishments that glide effortlessly over a spirited groove in her arrangement of “Bye Bye Blackbird”, infusing this popular standard with a darker and deeper emotional tone. “Little One” with lyrics by Jodi Proznick and music by Amanda Tosoff, is a love song of hope and joy from a mother to her child, brimming with the wonder of new life and propelled by optimism.
“I’ve never actually played in a band with more than maybe one female artist,” Tosoff shares. “You feel so supported, just hopeful about the future, too, so it’s pretty inspiring.”
In a genre and industry where women have been severely underrepresented, The Ostara Project is a powerful example of perseverance, community and a deep love for music. New growth rising out of the darkness, stretching towards light and life, propelled by hope. This is the music of Ostara.
Read the review in the February 2023 issue of Jazzwise Magazine.
"Canada’s Cellar Music Group has been a reliable supplier of vintage Blue Note-sounding hard bopping jazz.." Read the review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"The music of The Ostara Project is significantly new, fresh and entertaining." Read the review here.
THE WHOLE NOTE
“From the track titles to the songs themselves, and even the album’s design and artwork, there is an uplifting theme to the seven original tracks and one arrangement..” Read the complete review in the February/March 2023 print issue or online here.
TAKE EFFECT REVIEWS
"The Ostara Project make an impressive first album here with 8 lively, cultured and diverse jazz tunes." Read the review here.
RAUL DA GAMA
THAT CANADIAN MAGAZINE
"Overall, this is an album where the writing shines everywhere with an easy, fluid perfection, often through webs of contrapuntal complexities...Add tonal colour spanning the gamut from satisfyingly wiry to full and sweet, and it’s a full house of grit and deliciousness, bolstered by the varied palette of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic riches as well." Read the review here.
"With a growing roster of talented musicians – some of whom, though new, featured their own original music on the tour – Ostara is like an ever-growing novel, with each chapter telling a new tale." Read the review here.