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Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018

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  • September
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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  • Violin
In this issue: The WholeNote's 7th Annual TIFF TIPS guide to festival films with musical clout; soprano Erin Wall in conversation with Art of Song columnist Lydia Perovic, about more than the art of song; a summer's worth of recordings reviewed; Toronto Chamber Choir at 50 (is a few close friends all it takes?); and much more, as the 2018/19 season gets under way.

Village and an

Village and an all-too-quickly vanishing way of life.” To Mann the shop represents a safe place where a lot of musicians feel at home. Marc Ribot, who’s played with everyone from the Lounge Lizards to John Zorn, drops by and tells Kelly about all the people and places he’s seen vanish over the years: “I’m glad you’re still here,” he says. During the film shoot, the building next door went up for sale for .5 million. And in a jarring, awkward minute, the real estate agent walked into the store. “You couldn’t write this stuff,” Mann said. “That’s what can happen when you do these kinds of movies.” “Rick reminds me a lot of Robert Crumb, by the way,” Mann mused. “Who I interviewed for Comic Book Confidential. Robert is someone who’s out of time. Rick is more comfortable in the 1940s. In the case of Robert Crumb, Haight-Ashbury in the 60s. Rick is like Crumb’s character Mr. Natural. Rick doesn’t have a cellphone; he doesn’t know how to work a computer. It’s so great, so fantastic.” Thinking about what attracted him to Kelly, Mann says: “Rick has made guitars for Bob Dylan and Patti Smith and Lou Reed. You know, Rick has this Zen-like philosophy. At three o’clock he usually breaks out a bottle of Irish whiskey and musicians would just come and shoot the breeze. I love that barbershop quality of Carmine Street. When you walk in there, it’s like going back into time. Rick’s an artisan in the great tradition of guitar makers, in the Bohemian culture of Greenwich Village. “There’s so much noise in movies and this is quiet. There’s a guitar movie called It Might Get Loud; this is It Might Get Soft.” “It’s something that I needed to capture. I’m a guitar player – you can’t pull me out of a guitar store (or a bookstore) – they’re works of art. I just love sharing the experience of spending a week in that shop and hanging out with Rick. And I love that there’s this tradition that’s being carried on with his 25-year-old assistant, Cindy, who represents a new generation. Those machines they work on, you can’t even get parts for them anymore; there’s one guy in NYC they call who still knows how to fix those machines. It’s an old school way of making those guitars.” I asked how Mann and Kelly met and Mann’s answer explained filmmaker-musician Jim Jarmusch’s mysterious “Instigator” credit in Carmine Street Guitars. Mann was at the Big Ears Music Festival in Knoxville, TN in March 2015, to hear Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL play a live soundtrack to four short 1930s silent films by Man Ray. After the performance, Mann, Jarmusch and Jarmusch’s producer (and SQÜRL drummer) Carter Logan moved on to Nashville where Jarmusch was doing a live recording for Jack White’s Third Man Records. “When we were all out to dinner,” Mann said. “Jim told me about Carmine Street Guitars.” How ten years earlier, when his Bowery Street loft was being renovated, Jarmusch asked Kelly to make him a guitar using a piece of old lumber from the loft. It was the first time Kelly used the old New York City wood that he is now famous for. Over the years, as the old wood had dried up, the pores in the wood opened, creating the opportunity for a more resonant sound. After Nashville, Mann went to Carmine Street and met Kelly, his mother and his assistant and realized what a special place it is. Filming took two and a half weeks during the rainy summer of 2017. Mann turned to Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean for guidance in filming in such a small space. (Mann’s doc Altman also premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Full Disclosure: my son Simon Ennis has a cinematography credit on Altman and an editing credit on Know Your Mushrooms; and Mann was the executive producer of Simon’s doc, Lunarcy!) There are many moments to relish in the film. Lou Reed’s friend and guitar tech Stewart Hurwood drops by and demonstrates how Reed used to tune all of his guitar strings to the same note to produce a drone, and how Reed once told Hurwood that he “felt healed in the drones.” Nels Cline, of Wilco, buying a guitar for Jeff Tweedy’s 50th birthday, came as a complete surprise to Mann. Christine Bougie, of Bahamas, whose mellow lapsteel guitar playing was a highlight for me, was on tour in NYC, so she dropped by. One of my favourites was Bill Frisell playing Surfer Girl as he reminisced about his first relationship with the Fender Telecaster, listening to a surfing band in Denver where he grew up. “Bill is so sweet,” Mann said. “He just played it, magically played it. And we just let it go; we didn’t edit it.” Kelly fell in love with the Fender Telecaster at an early age and he’s been making his version of it for years. He understood that the wood made a difference in electric guitars. During the shoot Kelly got a call from McSorley’s, one of the oldest bars in New York, offering old floorboards. “We were fortunate that happened,” Mann said. “I had a blueprint of what I wanted, vignettes with musicians,” Mann said. “Rick is shy and one of the things Carter suggested at that Nashville dinner was, ‘What if you had musicians come in and talk to him and that will get him going?’ That device was something that worked in [Jarmusch’s] Coffee and Cigarettes – which was dramatically scripted of course.” The concept evolved into a rare behind-the-scenes look at who these musicians really are. “I keep going back to Marc Ribot talking about how the film is an invisible history of music that includes the rarely seen relationship of the musician to the instrument maker. It’s like Thirty Feet from Stardom. These are the guys – Charlie Sexton played with David Bowie and tours with Bob Dylan,” Mann said, his voice trailing off. At the end of the film, Sexton plays a wistful, light-fingered, country blues tune on the McSorley’s Old Ale House instrument that Kelly had crafted out of wood from the legendary Greenwich Village bar. “I love this guitar, Rick; it’s got a great vibe,” he says. It’s an apt description for the documentary itself. THE CANNES CONNECTION Of all the films I viewed at this year’s Cannes film festival that were intrinsically bound up in their musical subjects or subtexts, Pawel Pawlikowski’s epochal love story Cold War, which won Best Director, stood out for its cinematic artistry and fervour. Cold War begins and ends in Poland, with stops in Paris, East Berlin and Split, Yugoslavia as it journeys from 1949 to 1964. Wiktor and Zula’s love is deep and true but subject to the political vagaries of the era it inhabits. Both are musicians who meet through music (of which there is a wide variety, from traditional Polish folk to 1950s jazz). Pawlikowski depicts it with rigorous attention to detail. Filmed in stylish, enhanced black and white, with compelling performances by Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot, Cold War succeeds at every level. Zula joins the fictional Mazurek folk ensemble to escape her impoverished background; her talent, charm and drive make her a star. Wiktor, the conductor of the ensemble, is grounded in high culture, a classically trained pianist whose passion is jazz. Once the Stalinist regime uses the ensemble for political ends, Wiktor realizes his only option is to defect to Paris and follow his musical passion. Pawlikowski based the Mazurek troupe on the famed Mazowsze ensemble, which was founded in 1949 to collect folk songs which were re-worked and performed by singers and dancers dressed in costumes inspired by traditional peasant outfits. And just as the Mazurek ensemble was co-opted by the Polish regime, so too was the Mazowsze, which the authorities saw as a useful weapon against jazz and atonal music. Pawlikowski cleverly re-fashioned some of the music to give the film a subtle through line. The Mazowsze standard Two Hearts is first heard as a simple country tune sung by a young peasant girl; later it morphs into a jazz number sung in French by Zula in 1950s Paris. The bebop tune Wiktor’s jazz quintet plays in a Paris nightclub is based on a traditional dance melody (oberek) first played by a woman on 10 | September 2018

AGA KHAN MUSEUM PERFORMING ARTS PRESENTS THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED ARTISTS WHO TRANSCEND FEAR THROUGH ART Climax an accordion and then by the Mazurek company. Later in Paris at the piano, Wiktor reworks the oberek and turns it back into Two Hearts. (All the jazz numbers were arranged – and the piano parts performed – by Marcin Masecki.) The music credits for Cold War are a treasure trove of traditional Polish folk music with almost two dozen excerpts; the jazz side features Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Kulig and Kot doing Gershwin’s I Loves You, Porgy. What wraps up this musical odyssey? A few moments of Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It’s all a not-to-be-missed cinematic experience, due in large part to its crucial musical component. Gaspar Noé’s exhilarating new film set in 1996, Climax, won top prize in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar. Filmed in 15 days with a troupe of dancers, it’s 45 minutes of exuberance and technical brilliance, shot in long takes, followed by a descent into hell at a party, once the sangria spiked with LSD kicks in. Noé has admitted to always having been fascinated by situations where chaos and anarchy suddenly spread. “My greatest pleasures lie in having written and prepared nothing in advance,” he said. “And as much as possible allowing situations to happen in front of me, as in a documentary. And whenever chaos sets in, I’m even happier, knowing that it will generate images of real power, closer to reality than to theatre.” Since you can’t have dance without music, choosing it was pivotal. Noé chose music from no later than the mid-1990s, concentrating on tracks that would speak to the widest audience. From Gary Numan’s bent take on Satie’s Gymnopedies to music by Chris Carter, Cerrone, Patrick Hernandez, Lil Louis, Dopplereffekt, Neon, Suburban Knights, Daft Punk, Aphex Twin, Soft Cell, Giorgio Moroder, The Rolling Stones, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Coh, among others, Climax is an elemental shot of joyous filmmaking. Nadine Labaki’s emotionally potent film, Capernaum, about a 12-year-old Lebanese boy who sues his parents for giving him life, won the Jury Prize at Cannes. Her husband Khaled Mouzanar produced the film and composed the score. To fit what Mouzanar THE SOULFUL AND DEEPLY MOVING VOICE OF KURDISH PEOPLE THE PSYCHEDELIC INTOXICATING ARABIC JAZZ OF TRUMPETER-COMPOSER Capernaum LIMITED TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW! September 2018 | 11

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