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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018

  • Text
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
Presenters, start your engines! With TIFF and "back-to-work" out of the way, the regular concert season rumbles to life, and, if our Editor's Opener can be trusted, "Seeking Synergies" seems to be the name of the game. Denise Williams' constantly evolving "Walk Together Children" touching down at the Toronto Centre for the Arts; the second annual Festival of Arabic Music and Arts expanding its range; a lesson in Jazz Survival with Steve Wallace; the 150 presenter and performer profiles in our 19th annual Blue Pages directory... this is an issue that is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

the performances are

the performances are precise, energetic and just plain swing. Weeds’ tenor sax solos are inventive and assured; he can play solid bop lines and then pause and interject some assured lyricism. East of the Village shows the band easily changing from an opening contrapuntal bossa beat that moves to straight swing and back again. Canadian Sunset starts out with its signature loping cowboy rhythm employing Gary Smulyan’s baritone sax to good effect and then moves into a swinging section. The final piece, Ready and Able, is reminiscent of Four Brothers as it highlights the saxophone section (Weeds and Smulyan with PJ Perry on alto and Steve Kaldestad on tenor), beginning with tight ensemble playing and then opening up to multiple solos, which transition from full choruses to exchanging two-bar phrases, before building to an energetic conclusion. When Day Slips Into Night features the work of student arrangers, though it begins with Extra Time written by Mike Murley and arranged by Terry Promane, who also leads the band. Bolivia is a solid swinging song which begins with some great piano work by Noah Franche-Nolan, then uses the brass and saxes to good effect, where Brandon Tse plays some great scampering alto sax solo lines. One of the more interesting arrangements, and an example of the album’s intriguing choice of material, is (Ocean) Bloom, originally a collaboration between Radiohead and film composer Hans Zimmer for the BBC’s Blue Planet II. I find this arrangement by Michael Henley, with vocals by Brooklyn Bohach, to be more stirring than the original: the band is highly effective when it builds to the crescendos and then recedes into the performers producing semi-muted whale and ocean sounds. Explosion is the work of veteran performers and When Day Slips Into Night features students, but the latter album has solid production and performances. Some of Explosion’s arrangements are more complex and the solos are more individualized, showcasing each musician’s personal creativity and musical development. Both albums are worth repeated listening. Ted Parkinson Spellbound Joel Sheridan Independent JHS201801 (joelsheridan.com) !! The distinctive vocal qualities of jazz vocalist Joel Sheridan keep the listener attentive to his unique sound in his appropriately titled debut release, Spellbound. His decade-long, varied artistic career (with stints in Stratford and other musical theatres billed as Joel Hartt), a 12-year, career-counsellor gig, and his 2006 return to music have undoubtedly influenced his honest take on jazz singing. His goal was a storytelling concept album about the many sides of love, yet his controlled emotional performances of 12 covers and three of his own compositions are never over the top. All are performed with class and style by Sheridan, and his band – Mark Kieswetter (piano), Maxwell Roach (drums), and Jordan O’Connor (bass) with Reg Schwager (guitar) on five tracks. Fanny Brice’s vaudevillian Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love is given a novelty upbeat rendition. The Kay Ballard tune, Lazy Afternoon, features a slow atmospheric moment with mood-setting bass opening, piano chords, cymbal splashes and high vocal pitches. More clear vocal storytelling and piano backdrop are evident in Nat King Cole’s breakup tune, I Keep Going Back to Joe’s. Highlight is Sheridan’s You Were My First Love, a personal song of his two great loves, with a stellar piano, melodic lines, climactic dynamic buildup and quietly touching close. The danceable Antônio Carlos Jobim song No More Blues ends the disc with hope and happiness, like all great love stories. And all great releases like Spellbound! Tiina Kiik Murals Solon McDade Independent 19192476591 (solonmcdade.com) !! Released in April of this year, Murals is the debut solo album from the Edmontonborn bassist Solon McDade, a veteran of the Canadian music scene, active in both the jazz and folk worlds. (McDade constitutes one third of the JUNO Awardwinning band the McDades, along with his sister, Shannon Johnson, and brother, Jeremiah McDade.) Murals also features Jeremiah on tenor saxophone, as well as Donny Kennedy on alto sax, Paul Shrofel on piano, and Rich Irwin on drums, with Solon McDade handling the bass duties. (He is also the sole composer of the album’s nine songs.) Murals starts with He’s a Problem In The Locker Room, a medium, hard-swinging song, with elements of Monk and mid-60s Miles, and is followed by Buy The Tractor, a driving, minor-key tune that begins with a beautiful trio introduction from both the McDades and Kennedy. (It should also be noted that most of the song titles on Murals are evocative and wryly funny; a welcome surprise in the world of modern instrumental jazz, in which naming conventions tend towards the painfully self-serious.) Off The Bed, Rose, a medium-up minor blues, is a definite highlight, with strong, creative solos from Kennedy, Shrofel, Jeremiah McDade and Irwin, with exceptionally supportive rhythm section playing throughout. Another highlight: the album’s final track, A Shorter Thing, a groovy, Poinciana-esque song on which Solon McDade takes a succinct, lyrical solo. Murals is an accomplished, confident album from a first-class band; highly recommended. Colin Story Ejdeha Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow Songlines SGL2409-2 (songlines.com) ! ! Gordon Grdina has a compound musical identity, as both freejazz guitarist and devoted advocate of the middle-Eastern oud, the forebearer of many western plectrum instruments (“lute” is a corruption of “el oud”). In Grdina’s practice, however, the two overlap, the improvisatory traditions and subtle pitch distinctions of Arabic and Persian music clearly feeding into the kind of jazz he favours. The Marrow’s balance is perfect: he and fellow Vancouver-based percussionist Hamin Honari are matched with New York jazz mainstays, cellist Hank Roberts and bassist Mark Helias. There’s no sense of conflict. It’s territory that’s been an element of jazz since Ahmed Abdul Malik (Jonathan Tim, Jr.) and Yusef Lateef (William Huddleston) first began crossing into this terrain some 60 years ago. Today Roberts and Helias navigate microtonal modes and compound rhythms as fluently as Grdina and Honari, and the result is a very special kind of music. Grdina’s subtle pitch inflections are apparent in the rapid, detailed lines of his rubato introduction to the title track, while Roberts exhibits comparable rhythmic detail in his bowed solo on Idiolect. The two pass from the largely middle-Eastern orbit to something equal-parts European in their opening reflection to Bordeaux Bender. Wayward is emblematic of the sheer rhythmic élan that Honari brings to the project, while Helias throughout moves fluidly from ostinatos to 76 | October 2018 thewholenote.com

counterpoint to a lead voice. In all, it’s a celebration of improvisation’s ability to cross frontiers and create new identities. Stuart Broomer The Koven Collective Steve Koven Bungalow Records SK 010 5 (stevekoven.com) !! There is really no shortage of pianodriven ensembles, including those embellished by strings, vocals and inputs from other musicians, but the effervescence of each of the ten pieces performed by the Koven Collective must be applauded. The core group comprises pianist and songwriter Steve Koven, bassist Peter Eratostene and drummer Sarah Thawer, who is one of the most prodigiously gifted drummers in Canada today (the other being Larnell Lewis). On a first encounter, the nonchalant, playful charm of Koven’s music can mask the challenges and the undercurrent of often complex profundity. Koven frames this musical excursion with two relatively wellknown pieces from his repertoire. The first is Eleuthera, a piece that unravels like a cheeky vignette with an effervescent, tumbling percussive groove. The other is the more reflective (if simply titled) ballad Thinking of You. Preceding the first work and in between the others named here is spirited and insouciantly seductive repertoire that is illuminated not only by the core trio but also by saxophone, guitar, cello, banjo, vocals and very effectively employed electronic instruments. All of this strategically employed instrumentation makes for a refreshing experience of music, informed by a variety of tone colours and rhythmic excellence together with a harmonic boldness and astringency that throws all of the pieces more vividly into relief. Koven, who shepherds the trio and others involved in this music, is a songwriter who has proved once again that his music is licensed to thrill. Raul da Gama Uncharted Territories Dave Holland; Evan Parker; Craig Taborn; Ches Smith Dare2 Records Dare 2-010 (daveholland.com) !! Negating the generation gap, Britons, bassist Dave Holland, 71, and saxophonist Evan Parker, 73, join forces with younger Americans, keyboardist Craig Taborn, 48, and percussionist Ches Smith, 44, for an incandescent, two-CD set that nimbly cruises past any differences in age, nationality and orientation. Although playing together for the first time, the four easily negotiate improvised duos, trios and quartets which commingle Parker’s exploratory leanings with Holland’s solid time sense. What that means is that when, for example, on tracks such as QW2 or Tenor-Piano-Bass T2, Parker splatters split tones or unleashes chesty timbral variations, the continuum is maintained by double bass rumbles including perfectly rounded and arrayed notes, usually seconded by brief keyboard inserts and relaxed drum patterns. Together or separately, Taborn and Smith’s bravura skill is displayed, especially on Piano- Bass-Percussion T2 where a series of dynamic keyboard arpeggios expressively meld with double bass rhythms, or on Q&A where ambulatory vibraphone clips redefine the tempo alongside reed flutter-tonguing. But the CD`s apogee is in tracks from the Holland- Parker duo. Enough multi-string variables sound from Holland’s strings to personify a string quartet on Tenor-Bass-W2 for instance, making space for Parker`s instantly-identifiable multiphonic honks – with the ambulatory audacity of the track intensified by bent-string injections among brief bursts of characteristic saxophone circular breathing. Comfortable in Uncharted Territories, this quartet deserves an encore. Instead of 23 tracks such as those here, however, the four should consider developing an un-segmented suite of major proportions. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Sisters in Song Ault Sisters Independent AAA18001 (aultsisters.com) !! Amanda, Alicia, and Alanna Ault bring clear diction, excellent ensemble, musical mastery, and inspiration from other sister groups to their vocal jazz trio, The Ault Sisters. The CD Sisters in Song adds to a career that includes Toronto club and Ontario jazz festival performances, plus appearances on Vision TV’s Your All-Time Classic Hit Parade. Of the disc’s old-style numbers, I like both the well-enunciated lyrics and Adrean Farrugia’s hot piano solo in Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby/Wikked Lil Grrls. Songs from the Pointer Sisters’ era are particularly notable: Fire, Slow Hand, and Neutron Dance/Axel F. The Ault Sisters’ versatility shows, with smooth close harmony in the first two and up-tempo precision in the last; each member can lead vocally and voices intertwine seamlessly in Dylan Bell’s sophisticated arrangements. Solos adding further distinction to these tracks come from Ted Quinlan, guitar; Kevin Turcotte, flugelhorn; George Koller, upright bass; and Farrugia -- only four of the disc’s 12 all-star jazz instrumentalists. The Ault Sisters express restrained feelings in anything from whispery insights to earnest pleas in Dog and Butterfly and Sincerely. The vocalists show to advantage in both songs as arranged by Debbie Fleming; so does the group’s own creation Let’s Get Away. Thanks also to Greg Kavanagh’s fine producing, this lovers’ title seems to evoke for me a symbolic getaway to the music of the past, with the sound of the present! Roger Knox World Café Ron Korb Humbledragon HD2018 (ronkorb.com) ! ! Flutist and musical polymath, Ron Korb’s modus operandi is to study a musical genre, assimilate it and then compose a program of music reflecting that genre, take it on the road, and, finally, put it on CD, performed on the flutes most appropriate to the music, from his enormous collection of instruments from all over the world. For his 33rd CD, World Café, the musical genre he has chosen is “the Latin world ... Spain, Cuba and South America.” The outcome is both convincingly authentic and addictively alluring! Take the very first track, Bailar Conmigo, which begins with a burst of infectious rhythmic energy from his collaborators, the perfect foil for the long but always forwardmoving phrases of the melody, played in the sultry low register of a regular concert flute. To his credit, Korb moves out of the way partway through for a terrific solo by lead guitarist, Bill Bridges. Similarly, track two, Sans Regret, was intended to be a flute solo but, as Korb explains in his notes, Joe “... Macerollo did such an incredible job that this song became an accordion solo.” Macerollo isn’t the only top-flight musician on this CD. In track four, Hilario, he enlists the great pianist Hilario Durán and two other Cuban musicians, Papiosco on congas and Roberto Riveron on bass. Korb’s stunning solo line rides the energy of his fellow musicians like a surfer on giant waves! The remaining nine tracks are just as good as the three I have mentioned. A stellar effort! Allan Pulker thewholenote.com October 2018 | 77

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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