7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016

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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.

trombonist Samuel Blaser

trombonist Samuel Blaser honours Jimmy Giuffre’s early 1960s trio with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow, by recording five of its tunes plus seven originals in restrained chamber- jazz style. But even as Blaser empathizes with the particular sound constructed by compositions Giuffre and Carla Bley wrote for the trio, he’s like a chair designer modernizing the ergonomic concepts of 50 years ago to 2015. For a start he uses a quartet not a trio, and while there’s a sympathetic bassist in Drew Gress, his trombone and Gerald Cleaver’s drums replace Giuffre’s reeds. Most prominently, instead of using sparse acoustic piano inferences exclusively, keyboardist Russ Lossing emphasizes the textures from Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and mini-Moog. With Gress’ sympathetic string bumping and Cleaver’s dextrous patterning providing a taut rhythmic foundation, the others are free to bend melodies origami-like into novel shapes. For example, Bley’s Temporarily is souped-up with a stop-time arrangement; and Trudgin’, a Giuffre line, becomes more ambulatory as Lossing’s rococo electric piano fills make the journey buoyant as well as lengthier. Giuffre’s classic plaint, Cry Want, may ramble along like a drive in the country, but Blaser’s roistering slide blasts and the pianist’s ability to roughen the texture by mauling chords, activates the piece from its bucolic repose. Blaser’s originals are as contemporary as a clock on a smart phone, but the same way that timekeeping is based on the classic Swiss concern for precision, most don’t neglect the coiled nonchalance suggested by the Giuffre 3. Missing Mark Suetterlyn, for instance, is a pensive ballad built up from the Wurlitzer’s drenched glissandi plus staggered drum beats; while Umbra, featuring only piano and trombone, is as tranquil as anything Giuffre created. On the other hand two unaccompanied tracks showcase Blaser’s unalloyed instrumental command. And The First Snow is actually a near blizzard that picks up cues from 1970s fusion via the juddering Rhodes. Authentic in its reflection of sounds past, present and future, the CD is another fluid example of this brass player’s flourishing talent. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Samuel Blaser’s band plays at the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre 51 Stuart St. in Hamilton December 18. Artifacts Reed-Reid-Mitchell 482 Music 482-1093 ( !! Deciding to honour earlier members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) during the organization’s 50th anniversary year, flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Mike Reed – AACMers themselves – initiated this nonpareil program. Like musicians who miniaturize symphonic scores for chamber ensembles, the three dextrously reimagine pieces composed for larger, usually saxophone-oriented bands, so that the vibrant swing of the pieces is expressed alongside their exploratory natures. Cases in point are two tunes by drummer Steve McCall, B.K. and I’ll be Right Here Waiting, which flow seamlessly into one another; plus saxophonist Ed Wilkerson’s Light on the Path. During the first two, as the slaps and strums from Reid’s cello inhabit the double bass role and Reed contributes pointed rat-tat-tats, joyous benevolence is expressed in Mitchell’s measured but lighthearted flute cadenzas. Livelier still, Light on the Path mates a masterful shuffle beat with nearrainbow-hues of timbres from the flutist. As Reed’s whimsical beats couple with Mitchell’s double and triple tonguing, the elasticity of the theme stretches enough so that it’s almost sonically diaphanous. Vocally intoning the title lyrics throughout while adding double-stopping string harmonies and judicious electronic wobbles, the trio’s variant of pianist Amina Claudine Myers’ Have Mercy on Us brings out the exotic as well as the ecclesiastical essence of the composition. Even Composition 238, a piece by the reputedly difficult, multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, is transformed into a deft swinger; while pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ Munkt Monk becomes an angular near-march. Together, skittering cello twangs, a harsh tongue-fluttering flute line and Reed’s perfectly timed drumbeats conjure up images of the hippest fife-and-drum corps that ever played, demystifying these AACM classics as they expand them. By manifestly remaining themselves while saluting older inspirations, Mitchell, Reid and Reed have created the perfect golden anniversary present for the AACM…and the listener. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Canto Daniela Nardi; Espresso Manifesto eOne REA-CD-5826 ( !! Toronto singer, Daniela Nardi continues the Espresso Manifesto project with this latest album, Canto. Espresso Manifesto originated with a collection of Paolo Conte songs (Via Con Me) released in 2012, which Nardi recorded in Umbria with mostly Italian personnel. Canto on the other hand is a celebration of Italian songwriters from a range of eras recorded in both Naples and Toronto with a mix of Italian and Canadian musicians. The other new aspect of Canto is the addition of producer Antonio Fresa who lends a fresh yet often retro sound to the tracks with his inventive arrangements. Wurlitzer, clarinet, trumpet and a string section all enrich the album and Nardi’s warm expressive voice. On the opening track, Punto, the flute doubling the vibes evokes mid-century whimsy but there’s also a little Afro- Caribbean flavour stirred in. Surprising touches like these thread their way through the album – songs are reworked in French and English and there’s even a little Brazilian style added with a cool Bossa Nova treatment of Gira e Rigira and Vinicius De Moraes’ songwriting on Sensa Paura. The exceptional Canadians, Kevin Barrett, Mike Downes and Ron Davis (Nardi’s husband) come to the fore on Amami Ancora arranged by Downes and co-written by Nardi in emulation of the great song tradition of her heritage. View a video on The Making of Canto at Cathy Riches From My Life Judith Lander Independent ( !! Vocalist, composer and pianist Judith Lander has achieved wide international acclaim as a consummate classical cabaret and theatrical performer. With the release of her debut recording (produced by Lander and bassist Tom Hazlett), she achieves a level of meaning that can only be reached through rich life experience and the intuitive use of a profound emotional vocabulary in symbiosis with fine musical compositions. Lander has wisely selected material here that not only wraps around her warm contralto perfectly but also reflects her career and pays tribute to some of the legendary theatre artists with whom she has worked, such as Jacques Brel and Lotte Lenya. Included in the collection are potent tunes by Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Kurt Weill, Brel, Michael Leonard, Lennon and McCartney and Lander herself. Most beautifully rendered are Weill’s haunting September Song (rarely performed from a female perspective); a particularly lithe and graceful take on Sondheim’s title tune Anyone Can Whistle (arranged by the great Gene DiNovi) and Jacques Brel’s La Chanson des Vieux Amants, sung “en duo avec” Ghislain Aucoin. Weill’s My Ship is a true stunner, with a clever, fresh arrangement and first-rate trio work from Bruce Harvey on piano, Tom Hazlett on bass and Tom Jestadt on percussion. Also of note is Stephen Sondheim’s heart-rending ballad of longing and loss, I Remember (originally heard in the 1967 black-and-white television production of the musical Evening 80 | December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016

Primrose). This gorgeous, well-produced and well-conceived CD is not only the auspicious (and long overdue) debut of one of our most treasured performing artists, but a musthave for any serious devotee of cabaret and musical theatre. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Finding Anyplace Ozere Independent ( !! Finding Anyplace by the Canadian band Ozere is a gem of a CD that deftly combines elements of classical and various traditional and folk musics. Founded and led by classically trained violinist Jessica Deutsch in 2012, Ozere’s rich instrumental tone, interesting rhythms and inspired compositions create a music that feels profoundly comfortable and yet also very fresh and different. The core group of instruments is a new take on the quintessential classical string quartet, but here with violin, cello, mandolin and upright bass – the brainchild of Deutsch whose vision was to blend folk and art music. With the addition of vocals, guitar and some non- Western instruments we sometimes move into other musical realms, including Middle Eastern and even jazz. Of course, many bands cross these kinds of stylistic and cultural boundaries, yet not always with Ozere’s elegance and finesse. All of the 11 tracks are composed by Deutsch and vocalist Emily Rockarts except two traditional songs – Wayfaring Stranger and MacArthur Road. Each track brings something new: for example, The Sun Ain’t Down and Song for Tina are mostly Celtic in style with attractive violin and mandolin parts; Anyplace is an instrumental number that begins in quasi-Middle Eastern style, then segues into something more jazzy and Celtic; and Wayfaring Stranger is a catchy Klezmer-influenced interpretation. With its fine musicians, well-crafted songs and arrangements, and incredible variety, this is definitely a CD to recommend and a band to watch. Payadora Payadora Tango Ensemble Independent ( Annette Sanger !! The popularity of tango music is no surprise. The diverse compositional strengths, wide-ranging musical sentiments and driving rhythms offer something for all listeners, regardless of their musical tastes. Toronto-based Payadora Tango Ensemble showcase their enormous respect for the style and their phenomenal performing talents in a jam-packed 12 tango release. Payadora’s musicians are each superstars in their own right. Pianist Tom King shines in his flourishes and gutsy glissandos. Violinist Rebekah Wolkstein plays sultry long tones and melodies with equal dynamism. Double bassist Joseph Phillips performs with a rich tone while holding the group together in a tight sense of pulse. And accordionist Branko Džinović flies over the keyboard with rapid colourful phrases and chord punches executed perfected by the master of bellows control. Together they each remain as soloists yet with superb individual listening skills blend tightly as an ensemble. Superb production qualities add to this recording’s live sound. A welcome diverse collection of tango music is represented here, each performed with detailed musical nuances. Highlights include the traditional El Choclo in an uplifting, rollicking rendition with jazzy undertones. The two Astor Piazzolla compositions are performed with his musical intentions in the forefront, complete with a dramatic finale in Retrato de Milton. Julian Plaza’s Payadora is the perfect showcase with its swelling dynamic shifts, a mournful accordion and violin opening section, and a joyous, toe-tapping, dance-tango section. Enjoy this timeless release! Tiina Kiik Komitas Gurdjieff Ensemble; Levon Eskenian ECM New Series ECM 2451 !! Komitas’ name is familiar to many local music-lovers, thanks to Isabel Bayrakdarian’s performances and CD of his songs. Soghomon Soghomonian (1869-1935), considered the founder of Armenian musical nationalism, took the religious name of Komitas upon his ordination as a priest in 1895. The priestmusician not only composed original works, but transcribed some 3,000 folk tunes, arranging many for piano, often indicating the folk instrument to be imitated by the pianist, such as the plucked-string tar, the doublereed zurna and duduk, and the tmbuk drum. These annotations assisted Levon Eskenian, director of the Gurdjieff Ensemble, when arranging some of Komitas’ folk-derived pieces for his ten-member folk-instrument group. These, then, are arrangements of arrangements, rather than any original Komitas compositions. This is a disc to be dipped into, rather than listened to all at once, as most of the 18 tracks, like most of Komitas’ songs, are slow and sad. Only three uptempo pieces interrupt the melancholy: the raucous Mankakan Nvag XII for reeds and drum; Lorva Gutanerg, a pogh (flute) solo; and Hoy, Nazan, a very pretty, gently flowing pogh-kanon (zither) duet. By far the longest track, over 11 minutes, is Msho Shoror, processional dance music for a traditional religious pilgrimage, now stately, now mournful, with the keening wails of zurnas and duduks, and the haunting sound of the pogh. While more uptempo pieces would have been welcome, this CD’s beautiful melodies and vivid, piquant instrumental timbres deliver genuine listening pleasure. Michael Schulman "Giving voice to the Italian corner of the Canadian Soul" Peter Goddard/Toronto Star CANTO - Album Out Now Nielsen's vivid comedy opera has enjoyed a natural status as Denmark's national opera since its first performance at the Royal Danish Opera in 1906. Latvian violinist Baiba Skride’s natural approach to her music making has allowed her to work with some of today’s most important conductors and orchestras. An opera telling the tale of a legendary opera singer as she prepares for her Parisian comeback. December 1 2015 - February 7, 2016 | 81

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