8 years ago

Volume 13 - Issue 10 - July/August 2008

saxophone. Ful fillment

saxophone. Ful fillment of the notated-improvisedmandate is obvious on pieces like Trio 5which harmonizes distanced piano patterns,smeary reed obbligatos and airy brass nodes.Bley was already well-established as Vancouverbassist Lisle Elliswas making his firstU.S. forays in the1970s. Over time Ellisestablished himself inpartnerships withCalifornia-basedplayers like pianist Ufilfil.1.SMike Wofford and,__..flutist Holly Hofmann,or East Coasters like trombonistGeorge Lewis and saxophonist Oliver Lake.Now a New Yorker, Ellis' Sucker PunchRequiem (Henceforth Records 104,www .henceforthrecords. corn), subtitled AnHomage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, ruminateson the short life and creative sensibilities of thevisual artist. Utilizing electronics and sounddesign as well as his bass, Ellis admixes SusieIbarra's percussion, and the vocal tones, soundsamples and processing of Pamela Z., withinstrumental contribution from his bi-coastalassociates. Structured like a traditional mass,but with layers of sonic contributions, theprogram is rough, meandering and a bit unfinished- like Basquiat's art - but the endproduct is true to the painter. Exposition andthematic recapitulation mirror one another;the purely instrumental passages tell most ofthe story. Especially important are processionalpiano chording, aviary flute asides andthe thick motions of Ellis' plucked strings.Declarative alto saxophone, cocooning tromboneslurs and watery flute burbles are oftenplayed off against one another, as are Ellis'mellow area lines, Wofford's hunt-and-peckcomping and Ibarra's pings, flams and rolls.If Ellis' homage showcases musical tangents,consider Radio 1-Ching's The Fire KeepsBurning (Resonant Music 004 www. radioichingnewyork.corn)! Among the composersrepresented are jazzers Thelonious Monk andRoland Kirk, Arabstylist Hamnza ElDin, Hollywood'sAlfred Newman andcountry picker JimmieDriftwood.Ching is Dee Popon drums and percussion,Don Fiorinoon guitar, lap steeland mandolin, and ex-Torontonian Andy Haason sax and electronics. (Haas was a memberof 1970s New-Wave rock band Martha & TheMuffins before moving to New York). Ching'sstrength lies in adapting its instruments' texturesto unexpected ends: Haas' triple tonguingand Fiorino's lotar-like claw-hammerbanjo licks on El Din's Gala 2000; and aHawaiian lounge treatment for Newman'sMoon Over Manakoora, complete with slackkey resonations, chuffing and chiming fromPop, and syrupy sax trills. Meantime Kirkprobably never imagined Volunteered Slaverywith junkeroo steel drum echoes and metallicsteel guitar riffs elaborating the theme. EvenDriftwood's folksy tune gets an injection ofguitar distortion and sax squeals. Eclecticismhas its own rewards, however, as the trioproves on the original Good Evening Mr.Dammers, named for a punk-rocker. Ratherthan punk, the sound is that of surprise withchirping reed lines doubled by electronics,sharp finger picking and conga drum pops.Moving from eclecticism to experience,Canadian improvised music's Brangelina isVancouver-based married couple cellist PeggyLee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff.Lee is featured in pianist Wayne Horvitz'Gravitas Quartet on One Dance Alone,(Songlines SGL, a charming excursioninto chamber jazz featuring cornetist RonMiles and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. Itwas recorded in Seattle, as was Zemlya (LeoRecords CD LR 507, www .leorecords.corn), which puts van der Schyffs drums,percussion and laptop with Irishman MarkO'Leary's guitar and electronics plus theviola and processing of Winnipeg-born,American-resident Eyvind Kang.As filled with pulsating and triggeredoscillations as One Dance is with pastoralsuggestions, Zemlya doesn't overuse electronics.In fact when Kang picks his fiddlemandolin-like, the three approximate thesound of a rural string band. Story of IcelandPart II and Sorcery, with their carnatic overtones,bring the partnership into focus. Multi-faceted,the latter features rim shots andcymbal slapping from the drummer, scrappedand strained spiccato viola lines and spideryriffs from the guitarist extended with whammy-barfinesse. Elements of staccatissimostop-time lead to a climax of fiery timbraldislocation, abetted by snare pounding, withthe 10 strings reaching such whirling dervish-likespeeds that they almost sonicallyblur. More balladic ... Iceland evolves fromvan der Schyffs ruffs and in sympathy withKang's contrapuntal plucks. Folksy, chromatic,and splintered with irregular drum beats,the theme produced by O'Leary's finger-styleruns is surrounded by Kang's rococo detailing.Returning to One Dance, chamber jazz isthe watchword for the Gravitas Quartet, withintermezzos and interludes more commonthan riffs or vamps. Yet recital-friendly instrumentationand bucolic licks can't maskthe hard-centre of Horvitz's compositions,nor their jazz antecedents. A Walk in the Rainfor instance, adds Lee's sul ponticello squealsand Schoenbeck's burbling accents to theswinging call-and-response. It ends withsped-up bassoon riffs and harmonic pianoswells, which then reverse themselves intoChopinesque keyboard chording and doublereedbreaths. This CD's neither-fish-norfowlprogram keeps the tracks interesting.With eclogue-like formalism never fully accepted,many parts are gently subversive.For every bit of open-horned romanticismfrom Miles, there's a matching squeak fromLee; and for every moderato vibration fromSchoenbeck, there's astringent dynamicsfrom Horvitz.These Canadian-affiliated CDs are memorableoutings. The inadvertent irony is thatonly Lee and van der Schyff haven't had toemigrate to build careers.POT POURRIO Canada! - The Perfect Anthology andHistory of Our AnthemVarious ArtistsXXI XXI-CD 2 1600Just in time for CanadaDay, we arepresented with a CDthat is the most nationalisticexpressionof musicologicalstudy that you willfind anywhere in theworld. Imagine thevery idea of Deccamaking a historical record of God Save theQueen, or Deutsche Grammophon doing sucha treatment on arrangements of Deutsch/anduber alles. It would be entirely too absurd toimagine.But this is Canada, and a complete CD ofO Canada arrangements takes its place in thecanon. Given our national insecurities (minorityparliament, on-again, off-again Quebecnationalism, and ever more absurd posturingfrom our giant southern neighbour) this recordingseems right for the time.No fewer that 22 separate tracks - theToronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras,the Canadian Brass and the Toronto MendelssohnChoir amongst many others - givean overview of the National Anthem (as ithas been officially since the mid-1960s) fromrecordings old and new. The recent reconstructionof the historically authentic 1880'sarrangement of Calixa Lavillee's tune by LesVoltigeurs de Quebec is quite refreshing.Some of the more common versions, by theRCMP band and others of that ilk, will leaveyou with indelible mental images of ThePrime Minister or Governor-General openinga public works project, against a backdrop ofbright yellow hard hats.Two different musicologists contributeessays, and both are admirably translated intoEnglish. Even the plastic jewel case is archival:it is impossible to damage the CD bydropping the heavy duty case on the floor.John S. Gray60WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM] U LY 1 - S EPT 7 2008

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