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Volume 18 Issue 3 - November 2012

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  • November
  • Toronto
  • December
  • Jazz
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Rewind (linus 2 7 0 1 5

Rewind (linus 2 7 0 1 5 5 ) is ElizabethShepherd’s first CD devotedto standards, but theyaren’t everybody’s standards;rather they’re a carefullyif quirkily chosen personalselection, including Frenchchanson (Pourqois tu vis), artsong (Kurt Weill’s eerie LonelyHouse) and jazz tunes (from LionelHampton’s Midnight Sun to BobbyHutcherson’s When You AreNear, the latter with Shepherd’sown lyrics). It’s a deeply involvingalbum — there’s an insistentintimacy in Shepherd’s light, highvoice and her subtle combinationof the articulated and the withheld.The matching of voice toband is perfect — Shepherd herselfplays various pianos, beatboxand “tuned mixing bowls andmuted pestle” — with consistentlydeft arrangements. Highlightsinclude Poinciana, with RegSchwager’s lilting guitar accompaniment,and the soul jazz classicSack of Woe with Andrew Downing’splucked cello and Shepherd’s periodWurlitzer electric piano.Toronto saxophonist KirkMacDonald is doing a fine jobof maintaining the modern bigband tradition. His last recordingDeep Shadows was a 2012JUNO nominee and he’s followedit with another performance byhis Jazz Orchestra, Family Suitefor Large Ensemble (AddoAJR013). Here trombonist TerryPromane has taken on the challengeof arranging MacDonald’s2008 quartet album Family Suitefor an 18-piece band, emphasizingbrass lustre with five trumpets andfour trombones. Promane successfullyadopts MacDonald’s complexoriginal lines to the weightier textures, burnishingthem with greater emotional depth,and MacDonald the soloist is clearly inspiredanew. The quality of the writing is emphasizedby the performances of an all-starband that includes alto saxophonist P.J.Perry, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and trumpeterKevin Turcotte.Pianist Brian Dickinson wears his influenceson his track list, opening his OtherPlaces (Addo AJR011) with a blazing andpercussive Unreal McCoy and a harmonicallycomplex Shorter Days, clear homagesto Tyner and Wayne respectively. The CDmight not win awards for originality, but itcould for sheer drive, featuring the intenseSTUART BROOMERBoston tenor saxophonist JerryBergonzi — a master of a later JohnColtrane style in which rapid, convolutedphrases are driven by atight vibrato and a slightly gravellytone. The rhythm section ofbassist Jim Vivian and drummerSteve Wallace is up to thetask and the result is charging,inspired music. Dickinson’s Tagine demonstratesthe pianist’s rhythmicinvention, an expansive take on aNorth African theme.Hexentrio (Intakt CD 205) presentsVancouver pianist PaulPlimley in outstanding internationalcompany, with Englishbassist Barry Guy and Swissdrummer Lucas Niggliexpanding the idea ofthe piano trio. Themethodology is freeimprovisation butthere’s no limit to thestyles or techniqueof the music, a brillianttapestry of 17short pieces that moves from dramaticthree wayconversations — likethe tumultuous FloVi Ru and RailwaysRear Viewed in MagicMirror that bracket theprogram — to dreamlikeepiphanies andspontaneous chromaticrhapsodies. Plimleyis an improviser of rare resourcefulnessand in this company he isable to launch tonal systems atwill, assured of empathetic andapt response. Niggli possessesan aggressive approach andan ability to suggest multiplerhythmic environments, while BarryGuy is simply the most articulate bassist apiano trio might have, embellishing the brillianttradition launched by Scott La Faro withBill Evans over 50 years ago.More than 500 kilometres northeast ofMontreal on the St. Lawrence River, Rimouskimight strike you as an unlikely spot for cuttingedge free improvisation, but you wouldn’tbe accounting for the resourcefulness of electricbassist Éric Normand whose quintetmixes Montreal visitors with Rimouski residents.Sur un Fil, released on the Italian labelSetola Di Maiale (www.setoladimaiale.net),matches Jean Derome (on flute, alto saxophoneand birdcall) and Michel F Côté (drumsand feedback) with James Darling (cello)and Antoine Létourneau-Berger (vibes andcymbals). The mood is avant-garde chambermusic, with subtle textures set up byNormand’s compositions expanded with afree hand by everyone in the band, from glitteringvibraphone to sometimes squallingsaxophone, creating a music that can be aselemental as Rimouski’s rocky shore or asabstract as a composition by Boulez.Alto saxophonist Brodie West has spentsubstantial time with the celebrated andwhimsically independent founders ofAmsterdam free jazz, studying with composerMisha Mengelberg and playing withdrummer Han Bennink. West inturn has developed his own distinctapproach. When West turnsto standard forms, he does so witha lyrical directness reminiscentof Lee Konitz and free of the polishand rote learning that oftencompromise contemporary mainstreamapproaches. That approachis in high relief with the Chris BanksTrio on the unusual Softly as in aMorning Sunrise (S/R www.chrisbankstrio.blogspot.ca)as West,bassist Banks and pianist TaniaGill play standards and olderjazz tunes from Jitterbug Waltzand Undecided to Soul Eyes.The absence of drums emphasizesan intimate and deliberate dialogue and thegenuine spirit of improvisation.Another side of West is apparent onCompound Eyes (S/R www.cluttonmichelliwest.blogspot.ca)by the trio of Clutton/Michelli/West, with the emphasis on a minimaliststyle of improvisation that oftenmatches West’s repeating whistles and vocalsmears with bassist Rob Clutton’s pulsing,repeating figures and drummer AnthonyMichelli’s spare accents and subtly insinuatedgrooves. It’s fresh and challenging work,and even here West manages to reference thetradition, inserting an attenuated phrase fromWhat’s New? in the title track.Something in the Air | Clarinet Resurgence in JazzAt the height of jazz’s popularity, duringthe Big Band era of the 1930s and1940s, one of the most common imageswas of a resplendent clarinettist, instrumentshining in the spotlight, taking a hot solo.Subsequent styles found the so-called licoriceKEN WAXMANstick relegated to a poor cousin of the saxophone,with few reed players brave enough tokeep the clarinet as a double, let alone concentrateon its unique timbres. Howeverattacks on conventional sounds, coupled withan appreciation for unique instrumental66 thewholenote.com November 1 – December 7, 2012

textures starting in the 1960s, spurred a rediscoveryof the wooden reed instrument. Rightnow there are probably more CDs extant featuringthe clarinet than at any time since theheyday of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw andWoody Herman.Similar in some wayto what a jam sessioninvolving Goodman,Shaw and Hermanwould have entailed isThe Clarinet Trio 4(Leo Records CD LR622 www.leorecords.com). Besides theobvious difference that the trio members areGerman, rather than American, additionalfactors characterize this trio of reed players asa 21st Century juggernaut not a 1930s revivalband. For a start, each man plays a differentmember of the clarinet family: Jürgen Kupke,regular clarinet; Michael Thieke, clarinet plusalto clarinet; and Gebhard Ullmann, bassclarinet. Plus nearly all the tunes are Ullmannoriginals rather than standards. Unlike earlierreed players who depended on rhythm sectionaccompaniment however, the 11 trackson this CD feature nothing but clarinet timbres.Interludes which result from anarrangement like this are put into boldestrelief on Collectives #13 #14 and GeringeAbweichungen von der Norm. The latter iscarefully unrolled at adagio tempo, with balancedreed vibrations and understatedmotion as staccato slurs and pitch-slidingsmears appear at the same time, finally meldinginto a tremolo narrative. In contrast,Collectives #13 #14 is rife with pinched notesfrom the straight clarinet, snarling quiversfrom the alto clarinet and inner-directed bassclarinet growls. Eventually a mellow interfacefrom the higher pitched reeds surmountsthese chirps and quacks as Ullmann continuesto tongue slap and masticate tones.Other tunes such as Blaues Viertel and Watersexplore variations in legato tone blending andburbling reverberations, as triple vibrationsare showcased in broken octave, chromaticlines. The climatic triple reed definition isNews No News however. As abrasive, tremololines from each reedist progressively alignagainst one another the finale finds all ultimatelydiminishing to silence. Before that, threesingular melodies have been cross-vibratedand intertwined, while staccato lines maintaineach player’s individuality.Another trio, butthis one includingstring and brassinstruments aswell as reeds, is onClarino Cookbook(Red Toucan RT9345 www3.sympatico.ca/cactus.red). This time the CD matches the clarinetof Belgian Joachim Badenhorst with thetrumpet of German Thomas Heberer, whoalso composed the dozen selections, plusGerman-French bassist Pascal Niggenkemper.Although the lineup is the same as if it were acombo of Goodman, trumpeter Harry Jamesand bassist Artie Bernstein, Heberer’s graphicnotation wouldn’t have been recognizableby those earlier jazzers, though they wouldhave been impressed by the breadth of thistrio’s technique. Encompassing a modicumof unanticipated tranquil passages, especiallyfrom muted trumpet and fluid clarinet lines,the fundamental object lies in revealing asmany contrasting tones as they intersect. Forinstance a track such as Nomos, introducedby ringing double bass tones, develops newmotifs as a busy trumpet limns the bouncingtheme. Moderated with clarinet squeaks,the piece is cleanly concluded with bowedstrings. More adventurous, Bogen is concernedwith melding air bubbled throughboth horns’ body tubes with arco swipes fromNiggenkemper, whose well-shaped noteslater underscore Heberer’s brassy yelps andBadenhorst’s rhythmic tongue slaps. Evenmore dissonance is present on Erdbär withthe bull fiddle barely audible.For an extended review of Clarino andother clarinet discs featuring François Houlewith Gordon Gridna, and Laurent Dehorswith Matthew Bourne, see the continuationof this column at thewholenote.com.POT POURRIAdvice from a Misguided ManColin MaierIndependent CMCD001www.colinmaier.com!!Colin Maier is farfrom misguided as anartist. He is comfortablein a wide rangeof musical styles as isclearly evident for listenersfamiliar withhis work as the oboistfor Quartetto Gelato.In this solo project, Maier is joined by a numberof special guests in an eclectic collectionof music.Maier, with pianist Allison Wiebe, issensitive and articulate in Saint-Saëns’Oboe Sonata. Musical puns abound inPasculli’s take on Donizetti operas, withaccordionist Alex Sevastian providing a solidaccompaniment. The traditional The Pipesis arranged by Maier and Mark Camillerifor small ensemble with oboe providing aconvincing bagpipe timbre. Maier createsthe ambiance in his steady long tones.Rousing versions of Hilario Durán’s Songfor Magdalena and the oboist’s compositionBakon showcase Maier’s ample Latin chops.Based on two contrasting Canadian folksongs, Aura Pon’s lyrical Songs of the NorthWoods, No.1 is simultaneously soothingand dramatic. The idiosyncratic collectionof short “songs” by the composer RebeccaPellett and lyricist Liza McLellan (Gelato’scellist) are dispersed as tracks throughout.Everything from new music to poetry todramatic melodies, the songs are uniquetwists in sound and attitude. There is nothingbland here.Colin Maier is a multi-talented musicianwho plays oboe with a gorgeous tone andsuperimposes his sense of seriousness andhumour into all he performs. You would bemisguided not to listen to this release.—Tiina KiikTambanavo (Dance With Them)Zhambai TrioIndependent n/awww.zhambai.com! ! The exhilaratingdebut CD by theVancouver groupZhambai Trio showcasesboth thetraditional music ofthe Shona culture ofZimbabwe and that ofits transplanted son,Kurai Blessing Mubaiwa, the group’s leader.Mubaiwa is not only an outstanding mbiradza vadzimu (“thumb piano”), marimba,ngoma (hand drum) and hosho (maraca)player; he is an eloquent and powerful singeras well.Joined by Canadians, world drummerextraordinaire Curtis Andrews and dancerpercussionistNavaro Franco, the ZhambaiTrio’s music is deeply steeped in the traditionalmbira music of Zimbabwe. The musicalform is typically cyclic, while also markedthroughout by evolving, interlocking, dualinstrument variations. Characteristic vocalsolos and choral responses are usually sungover the continuous instrumental patterns,which in the case of Chinzvenga Mutsvairo,builds into a very satisfying, densely woven,polyphonic texture. That and other tracksremind us how closely identified with theessence of music-making the voice is inmuch of West Africa. The expressive voices,so prominent on this CD, make a compellingcase as the real stars here, despite the evident“rightness” and even virtuosity of much of theinstrumental playing.The online notes refer to the “trance-y”nature of the performance in its homeland.Traditionally sought after in Shona ceremonies,trance states are used to communicatewith ancestor spirits and to offer insightsto problems of community members. Thelyrics on this CD however offer less dramatic,reassuring advice to youth, “you can also dowhat your elders can” (Chipundura). Anothersong urges people to get along with theirgrandmothers, who they rely on for comfortand warmth (Dangurangu).While the Zhambai Trio was formed asrecently as 2010, this CD is clear evidenceof an infectious brand of contemporaryZimbabwean-inflected music emerging fullyformed from our west coast.—Andrew TimarNovember 1 – December 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 67

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