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Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • April
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Ensemble
From 30 camp profiles to spark thoughts of being your summer musical best, to testing LUDWIG as you while away the rest of so-called winter; from Scottish Opera and the Danish Midtvest, to a first Toronto recital appearance by violin superstar Maxim Vengerov; from musings on New Creations and new creation, to the boy who made a habit of crying Beowulf; it's a month of merry meetings and rousing recordings reviewed, all here to discover in The WholeNote.

turns boudoir-like

turns boudoir-like sensuous with equivalent hedonistic splashes from Kjærgaard’s piano. While Part 3 eventually locks together winnowing reed draughts, bass string pounding and drum ruffs, the first part of the last selection is as belligerent as a declaration of war. Triple-stopping sul ponticello strokes from the bassist, crowded, circularly breathed pitch alternations bubbling from Snekkestad’s horns and swelling dynamics from the keyboard(s), and descending accents and pauses from the drummer, lead to a narrative that slowly disappears, leaving echoes of peace and power. Ken Waxman From the Attic of My Mind Sam Most Xanadu Master Edition 906074 (elemental-music.com) !! Herbie Mann may have been the most prolific; Pail Horn the most mystical; and Moe Koffman the one who composed the tune most closely identified with the instrument, but the musician who assuredly created a niche for the flute in modern jazz was Sam Most. Most (1930-2013) was an unprepossessing journeyman who spent most of his career in Hollywood studios and Las Vegas show bands. But by the early 1950s, his rhythmic overblowing and expanded colour palette fully confirmed the flute’s improvisationary dexterity. Backed matchlessly by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist George Mraz, drummer Walter Bolden and percussionist Warren Smith, the reissued 1978 session, From the Attic of My Mind, is doubly valuable since it’s the only CD made up completely of Most’s compositions. With an economy of phrasing and an extravagance of taste, Barron amplifies Most’s tonal strategies, whether it’s moderato lowpitched sonority on the bossa nova-like Breath of Love or the funky boogaloo of Keep Moving. In the latter, the flutist’s Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like note popping coupled with unison throat vocalizing is given extra impetus by Smith’s swiveling pulses and ratcheting pressures. Most also demonstrates his flexibility by transforming a romantic introduction that evolves from Mraz’s bowed bass lines into a jumping romp on Child of the Forest, and performing a similar feat with You Are Always the One that expands from a backwards turning ballad to a finger snapper with a solo that encompasses a quote from Manhattan, ornamental cadenzas and peeping beats. But it’s the simplicity of the blues that best showcase Most’s balance of passion and precision. His low-pitched rhythmic stutters intensify the earthy mood that a groove engendered by locked double bass and piano chording on Blue Hue begins; while Out of Sight in Mind contrasts his muscular flute lines with Barron’s most delicate pianism. Like an author whose freshness of style grew out of his initial ingenuity, and is recognized only after it has been put in the context of others’ prose that this CD confirms Most’s historical importance as a pioneering flutist while also preserving high-quality sounds. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Blackout Worst Pop Band Ever Independent (wpbe.bandcamp.com/music) !! The satirically named Worst Pop Band Ever (WPBE) has been crafting its eclectic blend of jazz, pop, funk, dance, soundtrack music and humour for a decade. Blackout is a fresh and successful take on a genre-hopping approach to music making that has seen a growing number of exponents in recent years. The two-keyboard mix of Dafydd Hughes and Adrean Farrugia combine with DJ LEO37’s turntables to create varied and unique textures over the rhythm section of Tim Shia and Drew Birston on drums and bass. Saxophonist Chris Gale is a powerful voice and the de facto singer in a group that doesn’t have one but certainly could. The group grafts wide-ranging musical elements onto each other that serve to subtly or not so subtly transform the source materials. Peachy Keen features modern jazz piano comping over a reggae feel that creates a surprisingly ideal setting for Chris Gale’s soulful saxophone solo. The abrupt switch to a full-out rock groove with electronica for the tune’s ending somehow seems completely appropriate. Satie-like chords float in from the crowd noise of Group Scene. The evocative piano melody gives way to Drew Birston’s melodic bass solo and synth textures heighten the atmosphere. Electric piano and Hammond B3 provide a classic backdrop for Adrean Farrugia’s funky Gospel. Farrugia and Gale solo exuberantly in the spirit of the tune. WPBE veers between being ironic and overt but it always wears its pop influences proudly. Ted Quinlan Some Fun Out of Life Rebecca Binnendyk Alma Records RBM63052 (almarecords.com) !! Emerging Canadian jazz/pop-influenced vocalist/composer Rebecca Binnendyk has fired her opening professional salvo with an impressive and eclectic collection of standards from the Great American Songbook, contemporary pop tunes and original compositions. Equally impressive are her chosen collaborators, including exceptional producer/engineer John “Beetle” Bailey and yeoman musicians of her core group, Attila Fias on piano, Kevin Laliberte on guitar, bassist Drew Birston, drummer Davide Direnzo and dynamic percussionist Rosendo “Chendy” Leon. The tasty arrangements are credited to pianist Steve Wingfield, vocalist/ keyboardist Don Breithaupt and pianist/ composer/arranger (and Elton John alum), Charles Cozens. Thankfully, no gratuitous, uninformed scat singing will be found here – but what the listener will happily find is a pure, appealing vocal instrument, interesting musical choices, and a refreshingly forthright skill with the interpretation of a lyric – whether that lyric emanates from her own tunes, Tin Pan Alley or the mind of Jon Bon Jovi. As a composer, Binnendyk contributes two gorgeous offerings here: Stars, inspired by the untimely passing of troubled music icon Amy Winehouse, and also the inspiring Live Now. Additional standouts include the zesty title track (featuring a historically correct, depression-era arrangement) and Corinne Baily Rae’s mega-hit, Put Your Records On. Presented here as a horn-infused, soulful anthem of youth and longing, this performance works – whether sung in Waterloo, Ontario or Manchester, U.K. Another gem is a moving take on Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, which features the masterful William Sperandei on trumpet. The eloquent closer is Charlie Chaplin’s Smile – simply presented – crystalline, classic and without artifice, not unlike a mine-cut diamond solitaire. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Rock Bach Double-Double Duo Independent (doubledoubleduo.com) !! Think and listen before you make any assumptions about the musical combination of accordion and clarinet. Double- Double Duo is more than a sweet sugary sound. The imaginative musical mastery, unorthodox arrangements/transcriptions and tight ensemble playing of accordionist/ pianist Michael Bridge and clarinettist/pianist Kornel Wolak stretches boundaries in both the acoustic and electronic realms in this release featuring works from their live concert repertoire. 74 | March 1, 2016 - April 7, 2016 thewholenote.com

The Brahms Rondo alla Zingarese is a more traditional transcription and exciting performance. In contrast, the four Scarlatti keyboard sonatas are given an eclectic transcription with the clarinet leading the contrapuntal lines and the free bass accordion offering harmonic and contrapuntal support. The title track Rock Bach is a musical stretch as J.S. Bach’s baroque style is shoved into modern-day sound machinations, complete with drum-kit crashes from the Roland electronic accordion. One may wonder what happened to the accordion in Petit Fleur (Bechet) and Flying Home (Goodman), as a flip of a switch and press of a button have Bridge’s Roland accordion emulate guitars, drums, keyboards etc. while Wolak wails through his clarinet leads. A traditional Bulgarian piece and Vivaldi’s Summer complete the package. Kudos for taking risks with listener favourites – one may not like the sound but there is so much care, energy, compassion and knowledge of divergent styles that their ideas must be respected. Detailed liner notes and more than the 35 minutes of music included here would be appreciated though. Looking forward to the next “refill” release! Tiina Kiik Petal Avataar InSound Records IS003 (sundarmusic.com) !! For years before this first CD release, the Toronto worldjazz band Avataar paid its dues in workshops and gigs across Ontario. Reflecting the interest in the album, recently Petal received the 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival’s Special Projects Initiative award. What’s the buzz about? Avataar is led by the multiple JUNO-nominated jazz saxophonist, bansurist and composer Sundar Viswanathan. He’s solidly supported by an all-star band including local jazzers and world music heroes (several of whom lean heavily on Hindustani musical accents): Michael Occhipinti (guitar), Justin Gray (bass), Felicity Williams (voice), Ravi Naimpally (tabla) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums). There are numerous solos by all concerned I could cite for praise, starting with wispy long lyrical melodies and searing hard bop gestures in the sax solos by Viswanathan. I also want to earmark the superb, always sensitive and sometimes exploratory guitar work throughout by Occhipinti – but each musician gets a solo to command in the album. Outstanding performances abound in the title track Petal (the space between). In it, guest Toronto keyboardist Robi Botos begins quietly by playing the grand piano’s strings muted with one hand, thus rendering a remarkably Hungarian cimbalom-like sonority and non-metric rhythmic density. Botos masterfully builds themes and textures with two hands aboard the keyboard. He’s joined by Viswanathan’s sax and Williams’ vocals in twinned melodic lines, sometimes in unison, while other times diverging into harmony with the rest of the band in supporting roles. Enhancing listening satisfaction is the initial sprinkling of atmospheric sounds in Agra, opening up the track’s soundscape to a glimpse of the world outside the Toronto studio. The pre-recorded spoken texts woven into the uplifting jazz hymn-like Petal (Ephemerata) are also handled skillfully. These are not just any words, but those which reflect the evanescence of human life spoken by Mahatma Gandhi, Osho, the Dalai Lama, Alan Watts, Swami Vivekananda and others, spiritual seekers all. They greatly amplify the positive emotion many listeners will experience in this music. Andrew Timar Ethno-Charango Surkalén Independent (surkalen.ca) !! Surkalén is a Quebec quartet of relatively recent vintage, which identifies its music as “ethno-fusion.” Three members of the band are Chileans who met in 2006 in Montreal. Claudio Rojas plays plucked strings, flutes and electric bass, the vocalist Sanda Ulloa also specializes on cuatro and percussion, while bass player Rony Dávila also plays guitar, cuatro and flutes. In 2009 the Russian-Canadian violinist Maria Demacheva joined them and Surkalén was born. The album title refers to the charango, a small guitar-like instrument of the Andes, whose sound permeates the entire album. As the group explains it, their name is derived from several languages. The “Sur” stands for their South American birthplaces, and “kalén” means “different” in the Selk’nam language of the indigenous people of the Patagonian region of southern Argentina and Chile, a culture referenced on the last track. While their geographies of origin define a significant part of their work here (particularly that of South America), Surkalén also embraces musical features of Europe, Africa, North India and the Middle East. These manifold transcontinental influences are at times startling, if not jarring, in their superimposition. For example the work Patagonia…, which at its core is almost new-age-y in its violin-led lyricism – played by Demacheva, who exhibits beautiful, secure classicallytrained tone – is at one point disturbed by an aggressive rock-like fuzz-toned electric bass solo. After repeated listing, it seems to me that despite referencing multiple geographically diverse musical performance aesthetic sources, Surkalén’s unifying feature is best characterized as a mix of vernacular music vocabularies and contemporary popular music studio values. It’s that approachable quality which probably accounts for most of the group’s warm reception and popular success. Andrew Timar Kalo-Yele Aly Keïta; Jan Galega Brönnimann; Lucas Niggli Intakt CD 261 (intaktrec.ch) !! This record marks a kind of homecoming for the Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli and reed player Jan Galega Brönnimann. The two became childhood friends in Cameroon and later played together in numerous bands in Switzerland and France during their teenage years. In the 30 years since, Niggli has focused on free jazz and composition while Brönnimann has played electronic jazz and world music. Presented with an opportunity to work with Aly Keïta, Côte d’Ivoire master of the balafon, a marimba-like instrument with calabash resonators, Niggli invited his old friend to make this a trio. The musical results are consistently remarkable. Niggli is at once one of the world’s most precise percussionists and one of the most creative, exploring a host of sounds from drums, cymbals and gongs while layering complex patterns and interacting with his partners. Aly Keïta has transformed the traditional balafon, crafting a chromatic version of the hyper-resonant instrument. Emphasizing his bass and contrabass clarinets, Brönnimann is as apt to play rhythmic patterns as traditional melodies. The parts all course together into a series of highly distinctive pieces, from the jazz-like beats of Niggli’s Bean Bag, to the piquant sweetness of Brönnimann’s wriggling soprano saxophone on Keïta’s joyously complex Abidjan Serenade, which gains layer upon layer of rhythm. Other fine moments include the sudden contrast of scraped cymbals and gritty contrabass clarinet on Brönnimann’s Bafut and the explosive riffing of Keïta’s Adjamé Street that concludes the CD. The music resounds with the discovery of a new world, an Africa of the imagination that has coalesced in a Bern recording studio. Stuart Broomer thewholenote.com March 1, 2016 - April 7, 2016 | 75

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