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Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016

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  • December
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • February
  • January
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What's a vinyl renaissance? What happens when Handel's Messiah runs afoul of the rumba rhythm setting on a (gasp!) Hammond organ? What work does Marc-Andre Hamelin say he would be content to have on every recital program he plays? What are Steve Wallace's favourite fifty Christmas recordings? Why is violinist Daniel Hope celebrating Yehudi Menuhin's 100th birthday at Koerner Hall January 28? Answers to all these questions (and a whole lot more) in the Dec/Jan issue of The WholeNote.

voice. Zeisl

voice. Zeisl (1905-1959), a Jew, fled his native Austria in 1938 and wound up composing film scores and concert works in Hollywood. This CD will appeal to those interested in little-known but rewarding 20th-century repertoire (the Wellesz) and, of course, to Renée Fleming’s justifiably innumerable fans (including me). Michael Schulman Krzysztof Meyer – Piano Quartet; Piano Quintet Piotr Salajczyk; Silesian String Quartet Naxos 8.573357 !! Polish composer and pianist Krzystof Meyer (b.1943) is new to me but not to my Baker’s Biographical Dictionary (7th ed. [1984], rev. Nicolas Slonimsky), which says his “musical intelligence and acoustical acuity are of the rarest quality.” Based on this CD I concur heartily. The extended, single-movement Piano Quartet (2009) is an unusually formed work. To my ears, imaginative process and compelling content are equally involved. Declamation, dialogue, perpetual motion, stasis and recurrence are prominent yet unpredictable modes of presentation. To be sure there is considerable dissonance, yet the tonal centre and interval structure are clear. Passionate expressiveness of three Silesian String Quartet players complements pianist Salajczyk`s virtuoso performance. The Piano Quintet (1990-91) is a larger work in the traditional four movements. Its opening establishes a severe but still tonal musical language based on hierarchy of pitches. In the second movement I was especially taken by Meyer’s mastery of the midand late-twentieth century vocabulary of sound and texture, even though he does not use extended instrumental techniques. Throughout, the quartet and Salajcyzk never falter in ensemble, tone quality or dynamic control. Triplets in the more lively third movement suggest a vestigial scherzo; as perhaps also do sudden outbursts and high, scratchy strings. I enjoyed also the last movement’s drama and variety of effects – ornamental scrambles around main pitches, high dissonant bells in the piano and closing silences interrupted by retreating pizzicato whispers. Roger Knox Frederic Rzewski – The People United Will Never Be Divided; Four Hands Ursula Oppens; Jerome Lowenthal Cedille CDR 90000 158 !! The first time I heard Ursula Oppens perform was in a masterclass of Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School in New York. Ursula and I were both students of the legendary Mme Lhevinne. Listening to this CD I remember the lovely and rich tonal colours Oppens had in her classical repertoire. I am delighted to find the same lyrical palette in the Rzewski. It is so easy to make some of the Rzewski variations harsh and brittle. This is not the first recording Ursula Oppens has made of this work and this CD is far more reflective and poignant. There is a fluidity that connects the disparate movements. Rzewski gives many instructions to the pianist and each variation comes with informative titles: “with determination, delicate but firm, tenderly, in a militant manner,” and so on. In this performance each different style, whether folkloric, jazzy or lyrical does unite with sensitive and intuitive musicianship. Technically it is brilliant playing. From pounding chords to effervescent riffs of extreme delicacy Oppens is in control and commands the keyboard. There are numerous recordings of this work but this CD is definitely in a class by itself. For Rzewski’s piano duo work Four Hands, pianist Jerome Lowenthal, a Juilliard faculty member, joins Oppens. Their touch on the piano is so unified that it sounds like one pianist. It is a quirky piece with lovely moments and this work deserves more performances. However, this duo piano team would be difficult to improve on. Excellent performances. Highly recommended CD. Christina Petrowska Quilico JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC Clear Day Emilie-Claire Barlow; ECB Band; Metropole Orkest; Jules Buckley eOne eCD-CD5841 (emilieclairebarlow. com) !! Arguably, multiple-awardwinning jazz vocalist, Emilie-Claire Barlow, is one of the finest singer/musicians that Canada has ever produced. Blessed with an impressive musical genome, Barlow has consistently challenged herself, all the while continuing to mature into the impressive and accomplished artist that she is today. With her 11th recording, Barlow has partnered her stunning voice and arranging skills with the world-renowned Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley. Barlow and Steve Webster act as producers here, and the eclectic program is comprised of material from the unlikely musical bedfellows of Pat Metheny, Coldplay, Brad Mehldau, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Canadian pianist/ composer Gord Sheard and more. Described by Barlow herself as a “personal journey over the last four years,” this recording is a portrait of the artist as a mature women poised at the full apex of her skill, talent, inspiration and power. Also included in this recording are arrangements featuring Barlow’s excellent band, with Reg Schwager on guitar, Jon Maharaj on bass, Chris Donnelly on piano, Larnell Lewis on drums and Kelly Jefferson on reeds. The CD opens with the spacious and magical Amundsen by noted bassist/ composer Shelly Berger, which segues seamlessly into a dynamic and fresh arrangement of the near title-song, Burton Lane’s On a Clear Day. Other impressive tracks include a tender, string-laden take on Coldplay’s Fix You and a sensual, jazz-infused version of Paul Simon’s Feelin’ Groovy (replete with a masterful guitar solo from Schwager). Of special note is Barlow’s arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s I Don’t Know Where I Stand, sung here with the soaring, crystalline purity of her magnificent vocal instrument. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Your Mess Melissa Lauren Independent ML2015 (melissalaurenmusic.ca) !! Melissa Lauren is a prolific young songwriter and she has released her second album of (mostly) original songs in three years. Lauren collaborated on songwriting and production for Your Mess with Toronto bassist Mark Cashion. The album is about the chaos and heartbreak of life as we stumble our way through and despite such relatively serious themes the songs are mostly upbeat and playful. The album opens with two songs – Room is Too Small and Walk Behind Me – that have an air of the 50s and 60s about them as Lauren adds a bit of gutsiness to her delicate, pretty voice. The title track is given a sort of New Orleans style with swampy effect courtesy of guitarist Eric St-Laurent and Sly Juhas on drums. The album is sparingly produced with guitar, bass and drums in various combinations being the main accompaniment, but guitarist Nathan Hiltz breaks out the uke and gets strummy for the bouncy Houses which is all about being content with your current situation and which suits Lauren’s voice to a T. There is a sprinkling of covers on Your Mess and the band’s gorgeous slowed-down take on the Police tune Every Little Thing He Does is Magic is a highlight. Cathy Riches Concert Note: Melissa Lauren will be performing a holiday show on December 10 78 | December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

at 120 Diner, a relatively new jazz room on Church Street in Toronto. What Goes On Andrea Superstein Cellar Live CL073015 (andreasuperstein.com) !! The young Montreal-born, Vancouver-based chanteuse faced a big challenge to improve on her stellar EP, Stars. With talent in spades, Andrea Superstein not only made great strides, but has slipped in a rather memorable sophomore album with What Goes On. Twice as long as Stars, this noirish album is replete with repertoire well-suited to her gorgeous, sultry and sensuous voice. If you want to know what exactly that means just listen to her take on Cole Porter’s I Love Paris. Not only do you get a sense of what it is to breathe in the melancholy and crowded loneliness of crepuscular Paris, but you will also get a wonderful sense of the dramatic tension that Superstein can bring to a song that has been done over and over again. And if you thought that no vocalist could ever bring anything new to a classic, think again. Superstein sings in beautifully shaded dialogue with her accompanists, often slipping into blissfully exquisite murmurs and slanted whispers, singing seductively as she conveys a lover’s infatuation, a wounded partner and an ecstatic bride. Her vocal slurs punctuate clipped and long, loping lines. At her flippant best she can resemble a gazelle gone delightfully crazy as she catches the scent of rain. Her extroverted personality is wonderfully geared to maximize her storytelling ability as well the stylish declamation of poetry in song. Raul da Gama Les Ondes Célestes Gabriel Lambert Jazz from Rant 1549 (nette.ca/jazzfromrant) !! The label Jazz from Rant is very much a family affair, projects by composer/ drummer Michel Lambert, his partner Jeannette Lambert and her brother Reg Schwager. With this CD, guitarist Gabriel Lambert, Michel’s nephew, joins what may be the first family of Canadian jazz. Lambert is a fleet-fingered guitarist, and his thoughtful improvisations are clearly articulated with a bright, glassy sound. What makes the CD remarkable, however, is that it hardly sounds like a debut at all. His compositions mingle influences from both classical and jazz sources – serialism, modes and free improvisation – but the music always feels organized, testament to both the coherence of his vision and the developed empathy of the band. The first half of the CD consists of four individual pieces. L’ordre mystérieux des choses has bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Michel Lambert developing a drone before Gabriel Lambert enters playing a serial melody, creating the kind of tonal tension that sustains much of the work here. Approximation #2 demonstrates Gabriel Lambert and pianist Andres Vial’s gift for developed scalar improvisation in a Coltrane vein, while Approximation #3 employs a Messiaen mode to develop a heightened calm. The second half is devoted to the four-part suite, Les Ondes Célestes, in which the influences of Schoenberg and Messiaen are further integrated, until the work concludes with Les ondes, the conventional instruments of a jazz quartet creating a dreamlike state of bowed strings and shimmering cymbals and piano. It’s a fitting transformation to conclude an imaginative recording. Stuart Broomer Kings County Way North Independent (dangerherring.com/waynorth) !! Way North explores roots-based music in a highly contemporary framework. The quartet is a collective comprised of Toronto-based musicians, trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy and bassist Michael Herring along with Brooklynites Petr Cancura on saxophone and clarinet and Richie Barshay on the drums. The music is instantly inviting and infectious with a capacity for taking the listener to unexpected places. The often contrapuntal nature of both the writing and the improvising brings an earlier era of jazz to mind, specifically New Orleans, albeit a NOLA for the millennium. Rarely does a solo go on for too long without being joined by another voice or voices. At times the group improvisations can sound as if they were composed, meshing seamlessly with the written parts. Each of the group’s members has contributed compositions to the recording, resulting in a coherent and satisfying flow of tunes. Cancura’s Where the Willows Grow evolves from a slow march to a bass solo that becomes a duet with trumpet before being joined by the rest of the group. Treefology is a Michael Herring composition that combines counterpoint with unison melodies over a second-line groove. Trumpet and saxophone continue the theme, soloing together with remarkable unity of intent. Hennessy’s Kings County Sheriff is a five-beat figure with a tango-like feel. Her poignant flamencoish solo is met by Cancura’s sax solo which ranges effortlessly from an intense growl to modern chromaticism. The tune, like the rest of the album, revels in the spirit of lively conversation. Ted Quinlan Sitting, Waiting, Wasting Time Ken McDonald Quartet Independent (ken-mcdonald.ca) !! Bassist and composer Ken McDonald’s latest outing, Sitting, Waiting, Wasting Time, exemplifies the highly informed yet searching nature of much of the music being heard from a new generation of jazz musicians. Schooled in the tradition, they bring a host of their own influences to this ever-evolving music. McDonald’s quartet is a lean affair that takes full advantage of its pared-down instrumentation to create a group sound that is instantly relatable and identifiable. The seven self-penned compositions offer original twists on some classic jazz themes such as the blues and uptempo swing while venturing into calypso, Brazilian and Middle Eastern flavours. Drummer Lowell Whitty and bassist McDonald form a highly adaptable and conversational rhythm section. The front line of saxophonist Paul Metcalfe and guitarist/ oud player Demetri Petsalakis are well matched in their aggressive funkiness and bring both humour and risk-taking to the proceedings. Apocalypso, the opening tune, features an island groove and establishes the band’s sound in the angularity of the writing and the sense of space in the ensemble. Metcalf’s tenor solo has a playful quality that is in sync with Whitty’s interactive drumming. Petsalakis, with his slightly overdriven guitar sound and fluid style, expresses himself in ways that are equally melodic and edgy. Moon features a haunting melody played by oud and soprano saxophone. The dynamic arrangement and unusual instrumentation take this recording into world music territory in a way that seems totally consistent with its openness of vision. Ted Quinlan Spring Rain Samuel Blaser Quartet Whirlwind Recordings WR 4620 (whirlwindrecords.com) !! An original variant on the practice of saluting earlier jazz heroes by recording their tunes, Swissborn, Berlin-based thewholenote.com December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 | 79

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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