Bradley is an American funk/soul/R&B singer who was the subject of the documentary Soul of America that premiered at the South by Southwest festival in 2012. He was a James Brown impersonator since the age of 14 and then decided, in his sixties, that he was going to “do Charles Bradley instead”.

His perseverance paid off as a series of events lead him to be discovered and signed to a record deal and first album entitled No Time for Dreaming was released in 2011. Two more albums would follow and Bradley’s tracks would be sampled by hip hop artists such as Jay-Z and Asher Roth.

Charles Bradley at the Ottawa Jazz Festival by Renée Doiron

He is no stranger to heartache and his performance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival was raw and emotional. Bradley was at one point homeless and had to sleep in the NYC subway for two years, has been close to death’s door several times, and has suffered through the murder of his brother. These events seem have certainly shaped his stage persona as he belts out songs such as “Why does it Have to be so Hard?” and “Things we do for Love”.

Charles Bradley at the Ottawa Jazz Festival by Renée Doiron

Not all of his set on this warm summer evening in Ottawa’s Confederation Park was morose however. Bradley had the crowd dancing along with him as he thrust his hips and twirled his mic stand in the air while belting out “Changes for the World”.

Charles Bradley at the Ottawa Jazz Festival by Renée Doiron

A few instrumental songs gave him a well deserved break after his recent battle with cancer, but the crowd seemed to lose interest. Bradley quickly got them back on track by re-appearing in a bright green sequined outfit and belting out “Where do We Go From Here”. He closed off the night by throwing roses to the appreciative crowd.

The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival wrapped up on June 2. Click here for more coverage from the festival.

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