7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016

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  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Choir
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Bach
INSIDE: The Canaries Are Here! 116 choirs to choose from, so take the plunge! The Nylons hit the road after one last SING! Fling. Jazz writer Steve Wallace wonders "Watts Goode" rather than "what's new?" Paul Ennis has the musical picks of the HotDocs crop. David Jaeger's CBC Radio continues golden for a little while yet. Douglas McNabney is Music's Child. Leipzig meets Damascus in Alison Mackay's fertile imagination. And "C" is for KRONOS in Wende Bartley's koverage of the third annual 21C Festival. All this and as usual much much more. Enjoy.

Africa on a State

Africa on a State Department tour Ernie Watts with Oliver Nelson’s band. He settled in Los Angeles during the 1970s, playing tenor for 20 years in The Tonight Show Band, while doing a lot of film and TV work and recording with such as Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Carole King and many Motown artists, including Marvin Gaye. He joined the Rolling Stones on a 1981 tour, also appearing in their 1982 film Let’s Spend the Night Together. In the mid-80s, Watts decided to redirect his attention to jazz, his original musical interest since he was 14 and heard John Coltrane on Kind of Blue, an experience he describes as, “It was as though someone put my hand into a light socket.” This was greatly aided when bassist Charlie Haden invited Watts to join his Quartet West band in 1986, along with pianist Alan Broadbent and drummer Billy Higgins (later replaced by Larence Marable.) Watts recorded eight celebrated albums with the group between 1986 and 1999 and it is this association that he’s best known for, locally and internationally. This year his own Flying Dolphin Records label will release Wheel of Time, dedicated to the recently departed and greatly missed bassist. Watts has a big, soulful sound and a powerhouse attack – though he can also be remarkably lyrical – and his virtuosity never seems to get in the way of his emotional directness. This is because he’s a very committed, very sincere player who means every note he plays regardless of what genre or setting he finds himself in. This sincerity is what makes his versatility successful and is to be expected from a longtime colleague of a musician such as Charle Haden. Perhaps Watts himself sums up his feelings about music best: he believes that it has the power to connect all people, saying that “Music is God singing through us.” Trumpeter Brad Goode hails from Chicago and is a generation younger than Watts, but shares the saxophonist’s diverse approach to the jazz tradition. He began playing trumpet when he was ten, eventually studying with the great Ellington lead-player, Cat Anderson, and falling under the influence of Dizzy Gillespie and other bebop greats. A neighbour who knew Gillespie took Goode to meet his hero who took one look at Goode’s diminutive stature and red hair and immediately dubbed him “Little Red Rodney.” Rodney in fact became one of Goode’s musical mentors in Chicago, along with such Windy City stalwarts as Jodie Christian, Eddie Harris, Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan, Eddie DeHaas and others. Goode had the opportunity to play in Chicago house bands, thrown into the front line alongside headliners such as Lee Konitz, Pepper Adams, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson and many more. Goode suffered a serious lip injury in 2001 and as part of the arduous process of overcoming this he decided to develop his lead trumpet skills as well as delving into both free and traditional jazz; he now divides his work between lead trumpet and jazz playing. He’s also a fine educator, with professorships at the University of Cincinnati 1997 to 2003 and at the University of Colorado in Boulder, from 2004 to the present. Goode’s playing is marked by a lot of range and technique, a big, lively sound, a wealth of ideas and stylistic openness. Essentially, he’s a modern bebop player who sometimes finds that his musical train of thought doesn’t always fit that style, so he steps outside of it – I’ve heard solos by Goode that remind me of Lee Morgan and Kenny Wheeler all at once. He’s been leading his own quartet since 2010 and in his own words, he’s “attempting to combine my diverse influences and experiences into a style that embraces them all.” The connecting link between the American front line and the local rhythm team of Neil Swainson and Terry Clarke will be Torontobased pianist Adrean Farrugia, the only one in the quintet who has played with all its members. His association with Goode dates back to 2003, when the trumpeter was in Toronto to see a prominent doctor about his lip injury and dropped around to sit in at a Rex jam. They had an immediate connection, both musically and personally, and resolved to stay in touch. Despite the geographical distance, they’ve managed to do several dates a year together in various places – Chicago, Toronto, Colorado, and they’ve played together in vocalist Matt Dusk’s band since 2012. Farrugia’s connection to Watts is more recent but no less deep – thanks to Goode, they met and played a concert at the 67th Conference on World Affairs held in Boulder during April of 2015. In Farrugia’s words, “My connection with Ernie almost immediately felt like Yoda/Luke Skywalker. He’s a brilliant, wise and deeply spiritual man.” It’s fitting that Farrugia should be the linchpin here, because not only is he a scintillating pianist, but also a very empathetic one; his ears and mind are always open. I discovered this the first time I played with him many years ago, on a Saturday afternoon gig at The Pilot Tavern with a quartet led by saxophonist Bob Brough. For some reason the drummer didn’t show up Brad Goode and there wasn’t time to call a replacement, so we decided to go ahead and just play as a trio. Even on an electric keyboard, Adrean’s playing was so rhythmically engaged and propulsive that within a few bars of the first song I completely forgot we had no drummer; the music felt very complete and easy. Harry “Sweets” Edison once told me, “If I don’t have a good rhythm section I don’t have nothin’ – I’m dead in the water.” Truer words were seldom spoken. Earlier I wrote about the need for cohesion and chemistry and, brilliant as the three principals here may be, they won’t go very far without a good rhythm section. Fortunately, with Neil Swainson playing bass and Terry Clarke on drums, this is not a worry – together they’ve formed a powerful and flexible rhythmic team many times. Neil has been my good friend and colleague since moving to Toronto almost 40 years ago and as far as I’m concerned, you could hardly do better than having him on bass, regardless of the jazz context. The same goes for Clarke, who’s the best overall jazz drummer Canada has produced and remains a dynamo of energy and taste at 71. Enough said. Rich Brown: In a nice programming touch, Rich Brown and The Abeng will be opening the concert. Brown is one of the most musically authoritative and interesting electric bassists working in jazz today, combining a fat, warm sound, a lyrical and inquisitive approach to soloing and rhythmic mastery. The band takes its name from the African instrument made from a hollowed-out cow horn and plays an exciting brand of groove-oriented jazz, blending African, Latin- Caribbean and contemporary influences. The band consists of the brilliant Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Luis Deniz on alto saxophone, Stan Fomin on piano and keyboards, Mark Kelso on drums and the leader on electric bass. This concert promises something of a musical feast which I certainly plan to partake of and I urge others to do so as well. For more information, visit jazz Steve Wallace is a veteran Toronto jazz bassist and writer. He writes about jazz and other subjects on his blog “Steve Wallace: jazz, baseball, life, and other ephemera” at 14 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016

Hot Docs 2016 High Notes PAUL ENNIS Hot Docs, North America’s pre-eminent festival of Canadian and international documentary films, makes its annual return at various venues in Toronto for its 23rd edition, April 28 through May 8. Below are thumbnail sketches of a random selection of ten films whose subject is music, and one more, De Palma, which sheds light on the role of the composer in the world of cinema. All films but one screen three times. For details go to Aim for the Roses is filmmaker John Bolton’s fascinating chronicle of Vancouver bassist/composer Mark Haney’s obsession with daredevil car jumper Ken Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River from Morrisburg to Ogden Island, USA, in his modified Lincoln rocket car. Haney spent two and a half years making Aim for the Roses, a concept album devoted to the event. Bolton interweaves vintage footage of Carter with singers performing Haney’s song cycle on the banks of the St. Lawrence, alongside Haney’s own explanation of how he created the piece. (He overlaid 30 tracks of solo double bass playing to produce a super-rich emotionally resonant sound.) Adrian Mack of the Georgia Straight (who’s addicted to the album) calls it “highbrow art and complete trash.” Speaking from a grand piano, Jocelyn Morlock, composer-in-residence of the Vancouver Symphony, adds a charming layer to the proceedings, characterizing Haney as “real weird, a real composer, a real renaissance man, quite obsessive and hard working, who wears interesting suits and writes very interesting and distinctive music.” She analyzes Aim for the Roses: “It’s not diatonic but it’s not particularly dissonant. It’s very moody. When you get into the more vocal parts, it straddles the line between alternative pop music and classical. It’s really unclassifiable.” This is a one-of-a-kind documentary. I Am the Blues is a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou, the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta and the moonshine-soaked BBQs in the North Mississippi Hill Country. It visits the last original blues devils – many in their 80s – who still live in the Deep South and tour the Chitlin’ Circuit. With the legendary (or soon-to-be-legendary) Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, RL Boyce, LC Ulmer and Lil’ Buck Sinegal. Director Daniel Cross has produced a valuable time capsule. When The Revolution Will Not Be Televised premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, The Hollywood Reporter wrote about political and cultural crosscurrents colliding in director Rama Thiaw’s “boisterously engaging documentary, [a] rousing, rap-fuelled dispatch from the west African state of Senegal.” The film chronicles protests against the country’s president through musical resistance led by two charismatic rappers. “The revolution they seek may or may not (in Gil Scott-Heron’s immortal phrase) be televised but it will most certainly be anticipated, described and glorified in their lyrics. Articulate and forceful, they ‘rage against injustice and fight with words,’ providing the most visible and vocal resistance to the powers that be.” Sonita is a certified crowdpleaser, having won the Audience Award at the world’s largest documentary film festival in Amsterdam and at Sundance (where it was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize). Sonita tells the uplifting story of a courageous young Afghan refugee in Iran, a rapper dedicated to ending forced marriage. She sees herself as the spiritual daughter of Michael Jackson and Rihanna, but her music making and social activism make her vulnerable to religious authority. When her mother tries to bring Sonita back to Afghanistan for an arranged marriage, director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (who spent three years documenting her subject) intervenes and pays off the mother, allowing Sonita’s compelling journey to continue on its path to a fairytale ending. Contemporary Color: Music maven David Byrne stumbled on the colour guard phenomenon and thought people should know about this high school hybrid of parade-ground drills and athletic dance. Aim for the Roses With backing from Luminato and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, he commissioned ten composers (including himself) to write original material for an extravaganza of the top colourists which took place at the Air Canada Centre during Luminato 2015. (The material in the film was shot later that year in Brooklyn.) The music is pop-centric, ranging from the sweetness of the femme duo Lucius’ What’s the Use in Crying to Nelly Furtado’s layered hooks and Devonte Hynes’ dreamlike R&B ballad, with St. Vincent’s (Annie Clark) freaky Everyone You Know Will Go Away tapping into teen angst. In fact, the high May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 15

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