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Volume 20 Issue 2 - October 2014

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Choir
  • November
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Includes the 2014 Blue Pages Member Directory

Elizabeth Shepherd

Elizabeth Shepherd continues on herunique musical path with her latest albumSignal. Straddling genres such as jazz, loungeand soul (think Björk meets James Blakemeets Stevie Wonder)the talentedkeyboardist, songwriterand singercombines funkyrhythms, moodymodes andthoughtful, obscurelyrics to create her sound. Co-produced byShepherd and John Maclean, the liberal use ofeffects, samples and unusual instrumentsenrich the soundscape and elucidate themessages of the songs, such as on AnotherDay which starts with a news clip about arace riot before launching into a chantygroove. Words from folk-blues legendLedbelly open B.T. Cotton and the use of steelpan drums keeps us on our sonic toes. What’sHappening is surely one of the prettiest songsever written about political ugliness.Many accomplished players who are regularswith Shepherd’s band fill out the tracksincluding Colin Kingsmore on drums andRoss McIntyre on bass. Guests includeguitarist and Herbie Hancock band-member,Lionel Loueke, and the velvety voiced AlexSamaras. Shepherd favours minor keys andedgy harmonic relationships and by aboutthe seventh track I found myself cravingsome nice cheery major chords. But if you’rein the frame of mind for a heady, complexlisten, Signal will do the job well. Shepherdis touring in Canada, the U.S. and Mexicothis fall.Cathy RichesConcert Note: Shepherd performs with Kingsmore,Kevin Turcotte, Thom Gill and ScottKemp at the Music Gallery on November 15.Boom CraneBoom CraneFresh Sound/New Talent FSNT 432(freshsoundrecords.com)Providing anunassailablemusical instance ofEquilibrium, “a statein which opposingforces or influencesare balanced”– also the title of onecomposition on this incisive CD – is the intuitiveskill of two expatriate Canadians and oneAmerican. In fact, such is the dexterity ofthe trio in negotiating moods and tempos onBoom Crane’s 11 selections that Boom Crane(the band) sounds like a full-time workinggroup. In truth the three convene infrequently,since Kingston, Ontario-born altosaxophonist/clarinetist Peter Van Huffel isin Berlin; while B.C. native, bassist MichaelBates lives in Brooklyn as does Yank drummerJeff Davis.Actually titled On Equilibrium, the trackperfectly syncs vibrating reed slurs, beefystring pumps and drum pops, but that’sonly one of the trio’s attributes. BesidesVan Huffel’s warm clarinet tone used on acouple of occasions to wiggle out unmatchedballadic interpretations, his biting alto linesequally illuminate bop, blues and experimentalforays. Sharp and tense, the title tuneis a stop-time blues which distends withoutever splintering and features Blake’s comfortablebut commanding strumming. DissonantSlipper Hero showcases hollow breaths forcedthrough the saxophone alongside doublestoppingarco string buzzes until Davis’amiable swing beat helps guide the othersSomething in the AirBasses Loaded For Compounded Combinations and Solo ShowcasesAs serious music has become bothmore ardent and moreaccommodating over thepast few decades, so has thedefinition of what constitutes amusical group or which instrumentis appropriate for a solosession. One of the instrumentsthat benefitted the most from thisliberal attitude is the double bass.Freed from its singular function asa timekeeper in jazz or to suggestrumbling menace in so-calledclassical music, it has become theobject of new experiments.Solo bass recitals are nolonger the novelty they oncewere, but some four-string explorersgo even further, creating situations wheremulti basses play together. Take for instanceRotations (Evil Rabbit Records ERR21 evilrabbitrecords.eu).Operating as Sequoia,four double bass players – two Germans, oneItalian and a Canadian, all based in Berlin– come up with eight-tracks that irrefutablydemonstrate the qualities of a programbased entirely on what can be created withacoustic bass. Acoustic sometimes has tobe emphasized, because when GermansMeinrad Kneer and Klaus Kürvers, ItalianAntonio Borghini and Canadian Miles Perkinfuse swabbed impulses on a track such asLifts and Escalators the results resemblethose created by electronic instruments.KEN WAXMANA block of coursing low-pitchedtones, this sonic chiaroscuro stillreveals separate timbre strata.Shaking and bouncing the tunereaches a crescendo of spinningattachments then downturns.Overall, interspaced withconcise instances of jazz-likethumping, the CD exhibits allsorts of bass desires: staccato and languid,stentorian and shrill. The almost16-minute Rotations for exampleisolates an assortment of expositions.While one bass duo creates adroning ostinato, another two makethe upper reaches of their stringschirp and whistle. Interacting withtremolo slices, the final sound-imageis that of a lively chicken coop witheach fowl contributing distinctive notes. Asimilar divide exists on the final Passing By.Except here individual aggressive thrusts arelayered from altissimo to basso, exhibitingmesmerizing strength within a mid-sectionof shrieking spiccato; and climaxing with adisplay of stentorian power that makes the1812 Overture seem like a mild exposition.Rather than halving the number andbreadth of sounds they produce with onlytwo bull fiddles, Swiss duo Peter K. Frey andDaniel Studer range through expanded narrativeson Zwirn: Live in München (CreativeSources CS 239 CD creativesourcesrec.com).Less bellicose than Sequoia’s frequentlyall-out attack, the two employ scordatura,retuning and detuning to create timbres thatoften sound less string sourced than hornresembling. This is particularly apparentduring the first measures of Eins PunktZwei. Until a clear string pluck resonates,it sounds as if a reed duet is in progress.Although not shying away from decoratingtheir interface with mellow tones and sparklingpeeps, toughness isn’t neglected either.The concluding Drei subsides after mandolinpitchedstrums; upwards-moving stringtweaks and almost visual sparks fly betweenthe two on Zwei Punkt Zwei; and there aresections of the introductory Eins Punkt Einswhere it appears as if the two are not onlycreating novel rhythms by twisting stringsnear their instruments’ scrolls, but soundingas if they’re ripping apart the bass wood asthey play. Zwei Punkt Eins is the track mostillustrative of the relationship. Climaxingwith a series of spiccato runs that eventuallyrelax into a peaceful conclusion, intenseexcitement is first built up by combiningscrubbed lowing, aviary-like chirps and stringrecoils.To see how Danish bassistsNils Davidsen and AdamPultz Maybe plus Frenchbass player BenjaminDuboc impress in solorecitals see the continuationof this column atthewholenote.com.70 | October 1 - November 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

towards an electrifying communicative finale.On Automatic Vaudeville apparently TheJazz Messenger must operate in that venerabletradition, since Bates’ walking bass andVan Huffel’s buoyant note jumps referencehard bop. Later reed squeaks and string popsconfirm the tune’s modernity, plus the time isslyly doubled until variations lead back to theinitial theme.But perhaps the most characteristic trackis Not A Living Soul. Another exercise inshifting tempos, its centrepiece is Bates’ dark,extended bass solo. It separates with skill theherky-jerky, flutter-tongued sax-led beginningand the blended conclusion of gracefulcymbal vibrations, supple reed trills and bassstring resonations.A notable debut disc that calls forcelebration not boom lowering on the trio,the CD’s tunes and the band can be experiencedin Toronto this month.Ken WaxmanConcert Note: October 28 12:30pm: aconcert/clinic with Boom Crane at HumberCollege; October 27 and October 28 8:30pmBoom Crane at The Rex.Vancouver’s jazz scenes are well documentedby some of the country’s mostactive labels, with Cellar Live (cellarlive.com) devoted to what might be called “traditionalmodern” and Songlines (songlines.com) covering more recent stylistic evolutions.Among the recent releases are a few ofVancouver’s outstanding guitarists and somedynamic crossovers of Canadian andAmerican musicians.Oliver Gannon has beena mainstay of the Vancouverscene for over 40 years, buthe has rarely recorded as soleleader, favouring partnershipslike one with the late saxophonistFraser MacPherson. Easy Sailing(Cellar Live CL 120913) celebratesthe kind of joyous swingthat Gannon can create. Hisstyle is forged in the jazz of the50s and 60s and he retainssome of the markers of WesMontgomery’s influence, likea fondness for playing in octavesand touches of the blues everywhere.The music moves alongwith a warm energy as Gannonplays through a program madeup mostly of standards, stillfinding plenty of inspiration intunes like Ellington’s Prelude toa Kiss or Harold Arlen’s Come Rain or ComeShine. He’s ably accompanied by pianist MilesBlack, bassist Jodi Proznick and drummerBlane Wikjord.Vancouver’s other mainstream guitarist ofnote is Bill Coon; in fact, the two have workedtogether as Two Much Guitar. One mightexpect Triology (Cellar Live CL 062113) toemphasize the resemblance, with the presenceof Miles Black and Jodi Proznick,but the feel of the music is very different.Coon’s sound is more distinctly electric thanGannon’s, with a shimmering, glassy qualitywhether he’s creating a lyrical reverie onProznick’s L’Espace or running rapid scalarfigures on Black’s aptly named Morocco.What really distinguishes this from theGannon quartet is its rhythmic momentum.While Gannon’s music has the slightly fracturedquality of hard bop, Triology resemblesthe smooth, headlong swing of the earlySTUART BROOMEROscar Peterson trios with guitar and foregroundedbass. The resemblance is exaggeratedby the opening track, Ray Time, a Blackoriginal dedicated to Ray Brown, Peterson’slongtime bassist, but the sense of Petersoninspiredexcess figures frequently here, as inthe pile-up of the concluding I Got Rhythm.Saxophonist Cory Weeds, founder ofCellar Live, has long paired the labelwith his recently closed Cellar JazzClub, often matching local and internationalsoloists and rhythm sections.As of Now (Cellar Live CL 100313)presents Weeds in the companyof a superb New York-based triomade up of pianist Harold Mabern,bassist John Webber and drummer JoeFarnsworth, one of the last groups toappear at the Cellar before its closurein February. The three are mastersof the kind of crisp interplay that’sat once precise, relaxed, authoritativeand aggressive, and they clearlyinspire Weeds, whose work is rootedin that of stylists like Hank Mobleyand Stanley Turrentine. The 77-yearoldMabern is as vital as ever,combining Memphisblues roots, subtlechord voicings andsudden, invigorating,percussive splashes. Aswell as playing great piano, Mabernalso contributes the best originalcompositions, including EdwardLee, a composition he recorded induet with Toronto bassist KieranOvers in 1992 on another crossborderexcursion PhiladelphiaBound (released on the Sackvillelabel and well worth seeking out).Vancouver has long been a site for someof the most creative cross-pollination injazz, reaching back to the classic 1959recording Kenneth Patchen Reads withJazz in Canada, the American poet accompaniedby the quartet of pianist Al Neil, thefirebrand of Canadian jazz surrealism. TonyReif’s Songlines label has been active since1992, documenting the frontiers of jazzboth internationally and locally, often documentingmeetings between Vancouver-basedmusicians and international collaborators.It’s a frequent Vancouver practice: KenPickering, Artistic Director of the VancouverInternational Jazz Festival, has used theapproach to develop the most creative largescalefestival in the country. At Songlines,for example, clarinetist François Houle hascreated a substantial body of work, much ofwhich consists of on-going partnerships withEuropean and American musicians.Another musician pursuing the sameopportunity with the label is guitarist GordonGrdina, whose recordings have benefittedfrom the participation of major Americanfigures like bassist Gary Peacock. Grdina’swork is exploratory, experimental, seeminglydriven outward and inward, forward and backsimultaneously, whether he’s exploring freeimprovisation or traditional Arabic music. It’sapparent in his integration of the Arabic lute,the oud and bowed guitar in his performances.No Difference (Songlines SCL 1603-2)presents recordings from New York andNew Jersey, with Grdina’s regular drummerKenton Loewen and two outstanding NewYorkers. Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby isa galvanizing presence, but Grdina formsan especially strong bond with Mark Helias,whose bass lines work hand-in-glove withGrdina’s improvisations. The bouncingfree-bop of Visceral Voices is particularlymemorable.Another example of Songlines’ creativeopenness is composer/percussionistHarris Eisenstadt’s Golden State(Songlines SCL 1602-2). The TorontobornEisenstadt spent a 2012 residencyat CalArts in Valencia wherehe created the ensemble GoldenState with his wife bassoonist SaraSchoenbeck, flutist Nicole Mitchelland bassist Mark Dresser. The musicis every bit as surprising as youmight expect from that unusualinstrumentation. Eisenstadt hasstudied African music extensively,as well as working with Europeanand American idioms, and thechoice of voices facilitates everything fromthe aggressive rhythmic introduction of WhatIs a Straw Horse, Anyway? to the almostmedieval sound of It Is Never Safe to Be andthe Schoenberg-like chamber textures ofFlabbergasted by the Unconventional, inwhich Dresser’s cello-register bowed basscomplements the winds. Don’t let the instrumentsfool you: Mitchell is among the mostcreatively aggressive of jazz flutists andSchoenbeck’s rapid-fire improvisations bringsaxophone fluency to the bassoon.thewholenote.com October 1 - November 7, 2014 | 71

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