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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Faculty
  • Musical
  • Performing
When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.

The Window Cécile

The Window Cécile McLorin Salvant Justin Time JTR 8614-2 (justin-time.com) !! Cécile McLorin Salvant frames her vision of love through The Window, but this ubiquitous architectural element has been thrown so wide open that it is now a glorious metaphor, its theme spread out as vast as a lifetime of beauty against a blushing sky. And McLorin Salvant’s reputation as the premier jazz vocalist in any era has been fortified as she picks up effortlessly from where the legends such as Billie Holiday left off. McLorin Salvant is magical as she strips lyrics and narrative bare in this duo format with the incomparable pianist Sullivan Fortner, achieving – if such as thing is possible – the closest equivalent of Jazz Lieder. Songs speak to McLorin Salvant as a lover’s whispers might. When she blushes so does her lyric, when she is in pain, her heartache puts a twist in the listener’s gut and her joyous enunciations create shivers down the spine. The Peacocks featuring saxophonist Melissa Aldana is a haunting example. On Tracy Mann’s lyrics to Brazilian songsters Dori Caymmi and Gilson Peranzzetta’s Obsession, McLorin Salvant literally detonates the lines, “You’re like the wind that blows in front of a storm/The electricity explodes in the night.” Her instrument is lustrous, precise and feather-light; her musicianship fierce as she digs into the expression of each word; brings ceaseless variety to soft dynamics and gives every phrase grace. Fortner is here, an equal partner in the creation of the song’s character; his pianism rising to a rarefied realm. Raul da Gama The Joni Book Mandy Lagan – Origins Independent (mandylagan.com) !! I first met Mandy Lagan when she was a music student at Mohawk College. She already displayed considerable musical talent at that time, while possessing a keen interest in the music of legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. After hearing Mitchell’s recording Court and Spark when she was a teenager, Lagan was “forever changed.” Flash forward several decades, and Mandy Lagan has released a sparkling tribute to her muse, titled The Joni Book, featuring a roster of Canada’s finest jazz artists. She couldn’t ask for a better or more simpatico group of musicians than Kevin Turcotte, Jim Vivian, Ted Quinlan, Dave Restivo, Andrew Downing and Blair Mackay. Lagan rises to the challenge of honouring Mitchell’s legacy, while making these tunes her own. She has lived with this material a long time, and accordingly, wraps her voice around the layers of lyrical meaning and shading embedded in these great songs. It is truly a group effort, though, and all the musicians delve into both familiar (My Old Man, All I Want) and less familiar material (Conversation) with dedication and zeal. Everyone contributes to the inventive arrangements, ranging from the playful interplay on Help Me (featuring an outstanding trumpet solo by Turcotte), to the masterful textural arc they craft on Song for Sharon. Somewhere, at her home in Los Angeles, Joni Mitchell is smiling. Barry Livingston Starting Here, Starting Now Cornelia Luna Independent (cornelialuna.com) !! With the release of her debut CD, gifted vocalist and actress Cornelia Luna has joined forces with multiple-awardwinning pianist/ producer/arranger, Bill King, and created a fresh, contemporary re-imagining of nine tunes which have been key in defining Barbra Streisand’s style and taste. King refers to the recording as “The Streisand Project,” which emanated from a memorable, creative encounter that King had in 1976 with iconic arranger Peter Matz (who was well-known as the favoured Streisand arranger throughout her early career). Upon re-connecting with the perfect artist for this project, uber-talented Broadway performer Luna (whom King initially met when she was 19), the recording was propelled into being. King serves as producer/arranger/pianist here and bassist Dave Young and drummer Mark Kelso complete the Bill King Trio. Noted guest artists include vocalist Gavin Hope (duetting with Luna in Any Moment Now by Marvin Hamlisch), saxophonist Mike Murley and trumpeter William Sperandei. The strong opener is Harold Arlen’s When the Sun Comes Out. Luna’s sumptuous contralto and her emotional vocabulary create a web of intimacy and warmth on this lovely and swinging take. Another highlight is Stephen Sondheim’s Loving You from his hit show Passion. This is a triumph for both Luna and King. Her vocal instrument is sheer perfection, and King’s piano work is masterful. Gotta Move – Matz’s 1963 “Eleven O’Clock Number” – is also magic. This Barbra-defining classic has been perfectly contemporized as well as expertly and dynamically performed. Murley and Sperendei soar, swing, bob and weave through King’s fine arrangement, and the versatile Luna is as skilled in rendering a ballad, as she is in presenting a thrilling, fullthrottle performance. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Fearless and Kind Way North Independent WN002 (waynorthband.com) !! Fearless and Kind, the second album from rootsjazz quartet Way North, is a project that showcases the collaborative spirit of a group that functions as a collective, in terms of leadership, compositional contributions and improvisational style. Way North features trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy and bassist Michael Herring (both based in Toronto), saxophonist Petr Cancura (based in Ottawa), and New York drummer Richie Barshay. Recorded following a tour, Fearless and Kind is an intelligent, feel-good release in all of the right ways. By placing the emphasis on interactivity and humour, Way North has managed to produce an album that deftly combines the energy of a live show with the focus and specificity of the studio environment. Fearless and Kind kicks off with the Cancura-penned Boll Weevil, a bouncy New Orleans-inspired song that sees the band playing around with brass band tradition without succumbing to the imitative clichés that often accompany modern performances of this music. Hennessy’s Lagoon is a loping, dreamy affair, featuring a mature, lyrical performance from the trumpeter herself, and a strong solo from Herring (Lagoon also appears on the album Two Calls, released by Hennessy’s FOG Brass Band). Later on, Cancura’s solo on King Porter Stomp marks one of the album’s energetic high points. It is notable that Way North is a chordless quartet, with no piano, guitar or other traditional comping instrument; but such is the strength of the individual players and the group dynamic that no harmonic absence is registered in the first place. Colin Story The Island of Form Ethan Ardelli Independent (ethanardelli.com) ! ! The Island of Form, a new album from Toronto-based drummer Ethan Ardelli, is remarkable for a number of reasons. The first: despite the fact 92 | December 2018 / January 2019 thewholenote.com

that Ardelli has been a prominent member of the Canadian jazz community for the past ten years, this is his debut bandleader album. The second: The Island of Form was recorded in New York by engineer James Farber, who has worked on albums by such jazz luminaries as Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Brad Mehldau; and was mastered by Greg Calbi, whose clients have included Bill Frisell, Aretha Franklin and the Ramones. The third: it’s really good. In addition to Ardelli, who composed all eight of its songs, The Island of Form features Luis Deniz on alto saxophone, Chris Donnelly on piano and Devon Henderson on bass. The album begins with the Afro- Cuban-tinged Agua, which builds intently before dissolving into a drum breakdown that precedes Deniz’s confident solo. Thanks for Something, which starts with a duet between Ardelli and Deniz, contains a driving, percussive contribution from Donnelly over the song’s vamp; Henderson takes a beautiful solo on Shangri-La Pearl. 5:55 AM, the album’s shortest track, is mostly drum solo, and serves as a fun, fiery feature for the bandleader. All four band members are technically gifted players, and Ardelli’s album has many feats of compelling musical athleticism, but The Island of Form privileges tone, texture and melodicism, even during its wilder moments. Overall: an excellent debut. Colin Story SymphRONica UpfRONt Ron Davis Really Records RR 18001 (rondavismusic.com) !! A unique fusion of a jazz quartet and a string quartet, Ron Davis’ SymphRONica is truly an ensemble like no other. Energetic, virtuosic, charming, worldly – the music on this album has flare and style. Although most compositions have a predominantly jazz feel, it is the crossover of styles that makes this music excitingly unpredictable and fresh. The elements of classical, jazz, Brazilian, Hungarian, Italian, klezmer, Latin and Québecois, meet and part throughout the album in an easygoing fashion, but it is the strong ensemble that makes it all come together. Composer and pianist Ron Davis is the brain and the driving force behind this project and one can feel his carefully crafted influence in each tune. UpfRONt is a collection of six original compositions of Ron Davis alongside tunes by Mike Downes (a double bass player and a producer of this album), Louis Simão, Paolo Conte, Jack Pepper, Samuel Lerner and Miles Davis. A lovely Drew Bourée opens the album in a simple, understated way, not giving away the virtuosity and drive of WhirlyCurl that comes soon after or surprise vocals by Daniela Nardi in the arrangement of Conte’s Nina. My favourite numbers on this album, Sashagraha and Chance, both have cool, catchy tunes and are fine examples of the fusion of styles. SymphRONica is made up of stellar players but violinist Aline Homzy is especially impressive in her inventive solo improvisations. Kudos to Ron Davis for continuing to surprise us and to SymphRONica for a great performance. Ivana Popovic Concert Note: SymphRONica + the Tap Dancers Reunite! Thursday December 13 at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture – 918 Bathurst St. Volume 3 Collective Order Independent (collectiveorderjazz.com) !! Collective Order is a prime example of how art always triumphs, even when politicians of every partisan hue try and exploit the term “diversity” to suit whatever agenda they seek to advance. For Toronto’s ever-evolving, improvising large ensemble, diversity is best expressed not in platitudes, but in the expression of being a joyful cultural voice: from Native-Canadian to every other immigrant artist who makes up Canada’s multicultural musical topography. As with earlier recordings, the band’s 2018 release Vol.3 features music written by various members of its ensemble. Each time the composer decides who, or what permutation of the Collective Order, will perform the repertoire. Size composition of the group varies, and with it the feeling and musical expression of each piece is singular in nature. Quite remarkably, there is a feeling that all of this repertory belongs to one contiguous unit. This speaks to how successfully the group is able to fashion the individuality and musicianship of its members into a characterful unit. The unifying theme on Vol.3 appears to be a reverential homage (broadly speaking) to the earth, and more specifically to Toronto, Ontario and most of all to Canada. We hear this right out of the gates in Melanie Montour’s spoken word Land Acknowledgement, continuing through Theme for Lake Ontario. The proverbial strength of the Universal Mother on I Hear You, combining language, multilingual spoken and sung lyrics is by far the disc’s crowning moment. Raul da Gama Elements François Carrier; Michel Lambert; John Edward FMR Records FMRCD501 (francoiscarrier.com) !! François Carrier is a Quebecborn alto saxophone player with a decades-long history playing free improvisation with musicians around the world (including Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Dewey Redman). He has released over 30 albums recorded for many European labels that specialize in avant-garde music. In 2001 Carrier won a JUNO for his third album Compassion and has stated it is “important to record as much music as possible. You learn a lot just by listening to what you have done together and since everything is improvised, you will never do the same thing twice.” Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert have played and recorded together for years and they have toured Europe, Asia and Canada. Elements, released by UK label FMR records, also includes British bassist John Edwards and has three live performances by the trio: Wilderness, recorded at the 20th Jazz Cerkno festival (Slovenia 2015), and Elements and Roar of Joy from Iklectick (London, UK, 2016). Carrier and Lambert’s long history together ensures their musical intuition is highly attuned and their playing can change quickly from staccato and aggressive to lyrical and introspective. Edwards is an integral part of these performances and it feels as if he has played in this group for years. The first piece, Elements, begins sporadically, with Edwards playing notes off-rhythm and switching to his bow (which he uses frequently and effectively throughout the album). Carrier plays short, aggressive bursts and then Lambert enters with off-rhythm backing percussion. The piece moves through several phases trading solo parts, and around the four-minute mark Carrier introduces more lyrical lines with a sound reminiscent of Ornette Coleman. The album captures the spirit and energy of their live performances and repeated listening reveals the complexity of their shifting musical textures. Ted Parkinson Flow Vertical Jasna Jovićević Sextet FMR CD 475-0318 (jasnajovicevic.com) ! ! An indication of the high quality of music in Toronto is this CD of multifaceted compositions by Belgrade-native Jasna Jovićević. thewholenote.com December 2018 / January 2019 | 93

Volumes 21-24 (2015-2018)

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

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)