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Volume 23 Issue 5 - February 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • February
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Performing
  • Theatre
  • Musical
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  • Quartet

ecomes increasingly

ecomes increasingly intense when Liebman turns to tenor as well, first setting an exotic jungle atmosphere on flute on Murley’s modal Open Spaces before the two press forward, exploring the expressive sides of their tenors, bending pitches and sonorities. Highlights abound, including Liebman’s Nebula, an astral soundscape that foregrounds Vivian’s arco bass, and the forceful take on the session’s only standard, And the Angels Sing. Far more than a mere faculty event, Live at U of T sets the bar very high for Canada’s 2018 jazz releases. Stuart Broomer Fenyrose non Dimenticar Mario Romano Modica Music MM0020 (marioromano.ca) !! I’ve got to admit that at first I was somewhat skeptical about reviewing a jazz CD by a bigtime Toronto real estate developer who returned to his piano playing roots after almost four decades. But listening to Mario Romano’s Fenyrose Non Dimenticar – his second CD since 2010 – I was quickly disabused of my skepticism. Romano is the real McCoy, to risk punning on the fact that the legendary Mr. Tyner’s influence is apparent in Romano’s keyboard style; there are shades of Chick Corea, too. The man has sophisticated chops! Of the eight tracks on the CD, five are refreshingly arranged covers, two are Romano originals and one is by guest solo pianist, Nahre Sol. Romano is joined by four distinguished musicians, all but one Toronto-based: Pat Labarbera on sax, William Sperandei on trumpet, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and Toronto born, New York-based drummer Mark McLean. Throughout, Romano’s playing is elegant and understated, sometimes driving, sometimes effortlessly languid, all in service to his novel arrangements. Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love features Sperandei, and the band just swings! The sax and trumpet work on Non Dimenticar is absolutely lovely, as is Romano’s shimmery and stylish keyboard approach. His Hymn for Padre Pio has a grand, sweeping opening, some tasty drum work and splendid sax and trumpet solos. Estate is given a gorgeous, silky treatment, and Romano’s Encanto de Mi Niña features him on accordion in a tender, slowtango serenade. Each track shines on this gem of a CD. Non dimenticare to check it out! Sharna Searle Ethio Jazz Vol.1 Jay Danley Band Independent (thejaydanleyethiojazzproject. bandcamp.com) !! Ethiopian Jazz (Ethio Jazz) began with Mulatu Astatke, the first African student at the Berklee College of Music in the 1960s. He fused jazz with Ethiopian music to create a sub-genre which employs heavy rhythm, horns and several minor sounding scales. On Ethio Jazz Volume One, the Toronto jazz guitarist Jay Danley states Ethio Jazz has shown him “an entirely new way to play guitar, compose and most importantly how to hear” by combining the freedom of jazz with the “discipline of applying the scales, rhythms and ‘feel’ of Ethiopian music.” The Jay Danley band has a core group of guitar, bass, drums, percussion and two saxophones. This is augmented on several tunes with “special guests” Hilario Durán on piano and Alexander Brown on trumpet. The arrangements are in a straightforward melody, solos and melody format. The rhythm is in the pocket for the whole album, creating a smooth and grooving background. The fat bass, combined with horns using fourths and fifths in their harmonized lines, creates a rich but edgy sound. The melodies and solos use the Ethio-jazz scales, which provide extra tension that contrasts with the funky background. All the musicians are excellent: Danley’s solos are well crafted and Durán’s piano playing is another highlight. Bring on Volume Two! Ted Parkinson Sketches from the Road Keith O’Rourke Chronograph Records CR054 (chronographrecords.com) !! Even if the name of the disc – Sketches from the Road – is a dead giveaway, nothing can really prepare the listener for the vivid nature of the music. In fact, Keith O’Rourke may just as well be a graphic artist for the creation of these memorable works. Moreover, when O’Rourke and the other soloists get underway they become more than just painterly in the manner of their musical sojourns; indeed, they also become creators of the very landscapes that are brought to life – from New Orleans in Port NOLA with its breathtaking second line harmonic and rhythmic features to Sketch in Green, Bayswater and Lost Blues that spread their melodies in all their pastoral glory. Make no mistake however, with all of its frequent and profound impressionism this is still very much a rollicking, swinging jazzy record. Songs such as Double Black and Early Bright are not going to let us forget that; not when they feature the smoky vibrato and rustic tone of O’Rourke’s tenor saxophone and the hushed whisper of André Wickenheiser’s flugelhorn. And there’s no mistaking the swing when both instruments collide with Jon Day’s sparkling piano, Kodi Hutchinson’s strutting bass and Tyler Hornby’s chattering drums on Sonny’s Tune. As with that material, so too with the rest of the fare on this memorable disc; O’Rourke shines in his ability to write the most interestingly complex and wonderfully arresting music. Raul da Gama RhythmaRON Ron Davis Really Records RR 17002 (rondavismusic.com) !! Both subtlety and joie de vivre are pervasive qualities that pianist Ron Davis communicates performing on his first solo disc in 40 years. A sincere and persuasive musician, Davis’ playing reveals a long and fond relationship with the 13 works by an array of composers (including Davis himself) on RhythmaRON. Here Give Me the Simple Life, A Child is Born and You Must Believe in Spring are suffused with a distinctive atmosphere. Elsewhere, when the music raises its voice above the proverbial whisper as on Jitterbug Waltz and Rockin’ in Rhythm, the narratives are skillfully crafted to maintain a certain expressive decorum. And everywhere Davis alters harmonies and structural elements with impressive restraint, heading in directions that surprise and captivate the ear. As in the recreations of familiar pieces, his own compositions unfold in a series of dramatic gestures, with droll stops to swing and dance along the way in a salute to the great pianists – jazz stylists from James P. Johnson and Art Tatum to Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner – who have inspired his work over the years. Also like them, his sonic palette is stretched in telling ways on RhythmaRON, Cullibalue and Swing Street through the magic of a layered, doublehanded virtuoso performance. In all of the works, Davis performs with consummate artistry, blending superior control and tonal lucidity with a cohesive sense of line and motion. As a result, jazz music could hardly be better served. Raul da Gama Concert notes: Ron Davis appears at Lula 78 | February 2018 thewholenote.com

Lounge “SymphRONica - Into The Studio” (February 1); the Mississauga Living Arts Centre “SymphRONica Meets Symphonic Tap” (March 3) and again at Lula Lounge “SymphRONica Solo!” (May 24). Fukushima Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York Libra Records 214-044 (librarecords.com) !! Today big jazz bands only exist outside of academic institutions because of the commitment of a collection of musicians and a singularly devoted leader. That said, it becomes possible to gauge the extraordinary calling of Japanese pianist-composer Satoko Fujii and the degree to which she can inspire fellow musicians. Since 1997, when she first unveiled her Orchestra New York, she has also convened chapters in both Tokyo and Berlin. One of the most remarkable features of this new release is that most of the musicians present on the inaugural release, South Wind, have gathered again for the band’s tenth, highly exploratory release. Fujii’s inspiration here comes from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the sustained merger of composed and improvised textures insists on comparison with the best of the jazz orchestral tradition, from Duke Ellington to Charles Mingus, Carla Bley and Sun Ra. From its haunting, near silent beginnings with breath passing through wind instruments, to harsh tangles of dissonance, electronics and rhythms sometimes forceful and plodding at once, then on to passages of almost bird-like subterfuge, Fukushima summons up all the dimensions of national memory and tragedy, bearing with it the hopes of an awakened population and the possibilities of change. Along the way, Fujii is assisted in realizing her vision by a 13-member ensemble that includes saxophonists Oscar Noriega and Andy Laster, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and guitarist Nels Cline, whose complement of electronic effects consistently enriches the music’s already varied textures. Stuart Broomer Talea Paolo Angeli AnNa RER OA10/ALU 25 (rermegacorp.com) !! A combination technician and savant, Paolo Angeli is a Sardinian guitar virtuoso, the qualities of which he demonstrates on the 25 selections of this live two-CD set. Cello-size, with an extra bridge, pedal-operated hammers, additional crisscrossed strings plus pick-ups, his guitar is tuned from one-fourth or one-fifth below standard. With strings picked or bowed, the instrument can sound like a six- or 12-string guitar, amplified or acoustic, a balalaika or a double bass. Angeli’s facility is such that it often appears as if two guitarists are playing, feeding lines to one another. He also vocalizes at points, although his Mediterranean- Maghreb falsetto is more like another guitar add-on than a foreground trope. Pizzicato, as on Brida, he plays straightahead licks until buzzing variations and shading suggest he’s become an entire string band. Meanwhile his finger-picking on S’Û is so intricate that after echoing two different lines, he slashes out arena-rock-like flanges before settling into calming tonality. Arco, as on Baska, he moves between lyrical violin-like sweeps to a chunky double-bassstyle ostinato. While other tracks have him take on the guise of a rural Appalachian picker (Vlora) or a Middle Eastern European dance orchestra player (Primavera Araba), his most profound showcase is a track like Mascaratu. Outputting melody and accompaniment simultaneously, he leaps from Spanish-styled rasgueado to near-psychedelic pseudo-feedback, until the performance climaxes with clean Reveille-like strumming. Recorded at 12 concerts in six countries, Talea aptly defines Angeli’s talent and appeal. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Paolo Angeli performs February 1 at the Aga Khan Auditorium. Baroque Art. Contemporary Harmony Alexey Kruglov FancyMusic FANCY 095 (fancymusic.ru) !! The first letters of the words in this CD’s title – B-A-C-H – hint at the disc’s objective, which posits that Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions are one of the bases of modern improvisation. Evidence is supplied by modern interpretations of 13 Bach pieces by Russians: alto saxophonist Alexey Kruglov; Igor Goldenberg, principally, or Yulia Ikonnikova, on pipe organ; plus Estonian electric guitarist Jaak Sooäär. An illustration of this thesis occurs on Interpretation of Musette, where reed flutter tonguing and organ continuum spiritedly mix to create a piece related more to Jimmy Smith than E. Power Biggs. Other Goldenberg variations occur as the keyboardist provides a Fats Waller-like undercurrent to Interpretation of the Two Part Invention in C major and his silent-movie-like pressure on Improvisation on the Themes of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, where his smeared crescendo is followed by Kruglov accelerating the narrative line. Improvisation on the Theme of Orchestral Suite No.2, is Kruglov’s a cappella showcase where he deconstructs the melody into peeps and whines before moving it skywards, playing only saxophone mouthpieces. As for Sooäär, he helps revise Two Part Invention in F Major with slurred fingering and responsive live electronics along with Kruglov’s reed split tones; while his long-lined picking amplifies the saxophonist’s circular breathing on Improvisation on B-A-C-H (Part 1). Preserving the German master’s melodic artistry while dexterously reconstituting familiar modes with original adaptations confirms the performers’ hypothesis, as well as the universality of Bach’s music. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Masaryk – Národni Pisnē: Czech, Moravian and Slovak Folk Songs Reimagined Lenka Lichtenberg ARC Music EUCD2751 (lenkalichtenberg.com) ! ! Is there a new wave of interest in Czech folk music among Canadianbased musicians? Two recent albums suggest so. In the last issue of The WholeNote I reviewed The Book of Transfigurations, an album of Moravian songs originally transcribed by Julia Ulehla’s Czech musicologist great-grandfather, reimaged by the group Dálava. Casting the folk music net geographically wider, in Masaryk: Národní Písně, Czech-born Toronto-based singer-songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg presents an album of Slovak, Czech and Moravian songs. She enriches them with her 21st-century world music aesthetic. Drawing on the important songbook Národní Písně (Songs of the Nation) by Czech musician and diplomat Jan Masaryk (1886-1948), Lichtenberg and Czech musician Tomas Reindl have fashioned imaginative arrangements of 14 songs. European folk instruments such as the cimbalom, kantele and bagpipes join standard orchestral instruments in their elaborate charts, firmly placing these songs in a European context. Interestingly, Reindl’s gentle tabla playing on several songs and the didgeridoo on another serve to shift those songs’ focus slightly from the Czech lands, rendering them more universal. The album was recorded in studios in the Czech Republic and in Toronto, further underscoring its internationality. The award-winning Lichtenberg’s unaffected vocals soar over the acoustic instrumentals, often overdubbing herself with characteristic regional harmonies. Like thewholenote.com February 2018 | 79

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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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