4 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019

  • Text
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Concerts
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choral
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • Choir
What a range of stuff! A profile of Liz Upchurch, the COC ensemble studio's vocal mentor extraordinaire; a backgrounder on win-win faith/arts centre partnerships and ways of exploring the possibilities; an interview with St. Petersburg-based Eifman Ballet's Boris Eifman; Ana Sokolovic's violin concert Evta finally coming to town; a Love Letter to YouTube, and much more. Plus our 17th annual Canary Pages Choral directory if all you want to do is sing! sing! sing!

Le way qu’a do Les

Le way qu’a do Les Surruralists Tour de Bras TDB90033CD ( Spine Monicker (Arthur Bull; Scott Thomson; Roger Turner) Ambiances Magnétiques AM 246 CD ( !! Guitarist and poet, Toronto-born, Nova Scotia resident Arthur Bull enjoys a compound musical identity. He has been a part of the Canadian improvising community for decades, developing a personal idiom that draws in equal parts from the extended techniques of free improvisation and the slide and finger-style traditions of blues and folk idioms. These two CDs, from Spring 2018, present Bull in radically different, if equally radical settings. The Surruralists is essentially a duo of Bull and electric bassist Éric Normand, though guests sometimes contribute to a music that’s at once timeless and timely. The two (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) merge free improvisation with folk singing, mixing French and English traditions to craft a primal music in which country tunes and proto-rhythm ‘n’ blues collide with flashes of an unearthly sound art. Bull’s raw baritone and slide guitar drive Jack o’ Diamonds and Frankie (and Johnny), while his gift for epigram emerges on the spoken Skidmarks: “I couldn’t count how many ways the woodpecker could divide the beat.” Normand adds weird electronic burbles to condition familiar themes, and he’s eloquent on the dirge La courtisane brûlée, with Bull adding plaintive harmonica and Ben Grossman a funereal vielle à roue (hurdy-gurdy). Among Bull’s international associations is one formed in 2002 with drummer Roger Turner, a charter member of the British school of free improvisation. Turner’s sometimes machine-like approach can be traced directly to an early appreciation of the brilliant precision of Dave Tough, the drummer who propelled the rise of Chicago jazz over 90 years ago. Anyone who imagines free improvisation to be somehow vague in its contours simply hasn’t heard Roger Turner. In 2018 Bull and Turner expanded their duo with the addition of trombonist Scott Thomson for a tour (as Monicker) that stretched from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia. No blow-by-blow description could do justice to Spine: the music is mercurial, each of the CD’s six tracks a continuum of shifting, permutating relationships and voices, much of it conducted at incredible speed, from Thomson’s burbling register leaps and runs, squeezed through a metal mute, to Turner’s high-pitched clatter. Bull’s voices range from long, wandering bass glissandi to high-speed flurries of metallic scattershot, liable to be confused with some of Thomson and Turner’s own voicings; but the very determination with which the three proceed soon destroys any identikit game of “he said, he said” with a conclusive “When was that?” It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation. Stuart Broomer Walk Don’t Run Jonathan Bauer Slammin Media ( !! Prolific Albertaborn trumpeter and composer, Jonathan Bauer, harkens back commendably to the past while adding a modern, unique touch on his long-awaited debut album. Coming from playing with the Grammy-Award-winning New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Bauer’s immense talent and skills are apparent on this album, with sultry and smooth riffs throughout the pieces and each track written by him. A perfect musical balance is achieved with support from saxophonist Alexander Geddes, pianist Ryan Hanseler, bassist Alex Dyring and drummer Gerald Watkins. Each musician is given several opportunities to showcase their talent through solos, and instruments blend together for a New Orleans-flavoured, foot-tapping jazz journey. The album is said to “celebrate the past while looking to the future,” showcasing Bauer’s influences, among them Art Blakey and Roy Hargrove. Tracks such as Chattin’, Precious Moments and We Need to Do Better transport the listener back to the era of jazz greats and classics while pieces like Ella and Violet showcase a more contemporary sound. The record as a whole is a beautiful contrast, bringing to light Bauer’s desire to hark back to the past while reaching into the future by adding a modernistic touch to some pieces. This gem of an album is suitable for aficionados of both classical and newer jazz, with tracks that suit the tastes of both. The talented Canadian bandleader has released a debut record that has truly been worth the wait. Kati Kiilaspea Sun of Goldfinger David Torn ECM 2613 773 1919 ( !! David Torn has had an extensive career as guitarist, film composer and record producer, ranging from work with the Nordiccool saxophonist Jan Garbarek to projects with David Bowie. Torn has also worked extensively with alto saxophonist Tim Berne, whose heated New York free jazz may seem at odds with some of Torn’s abstract cool. In this latest work, however, the association makes perfect sense. Torn is a master of looping, constructing artificial orchestras with compound ostinatos, orchestral chords and percussion. There are three long works here, ranging from 22:10 to 23:55. The opening and closing pieces, Eye Meddle and Soften the Blow, began as trio improvisations with Berne and drummer Ches Smith (the three now performing as Sun of Goldfinger), with Smith and Torn both making extensive use of electronics while still playing percussion and guitar. Torn has then taken the materials into the studio, editing, mixing and multiplying the improvisations. Ultimately, they’re layered assemblages, the looping expanding and cooling Berne’s role, merging his micro-variations with literal repetition. The music retains its expressionist quality while becoming increasingly trancelike, creating musical worlds at once akin to those of Ornette Coleman and Terry Riley. The work grows more allusive in the central piece, Spartan, Before It Hit, a Torn composition that supplements the trio with a string quartet, two more guitarists and keyboard player Craig Taborn. Sometimes creating thin washes of sound, it clarifies and broadens Torn’s textures while retaining their fundamental mystery. Stuart Broomer Quintet John Heward Mode/Avant 19 ( ! ! A fitting memorial for Montreal visual artist John Heward (1934-2018), who was as proficient in free music as in painting and sculpture, this 2014 77-minute improvisation shows how his sensitive and sophisticated approach applied proper percussion accents without bluster. Veteran American improvisers, bassist Barre Phillips and alto/soprano saxophonist Joe McPhee plus locals, bass clarinetist Lori Freedman and pianist Dana Reason are 80 | May 2019

featured with no thought of hierarchy and ample space for each. Matched in flutter tonguing, trilling or excavating basso tones from their instruments, the reed players are frequently involved in interchanges or doubling with either the bassist or pianist. Showcased on Improvisation 1 though, there’s no mistaking Freedman’s snorts or top-of-range squeals for McPhee’s shaded vibrations, even in altissimo mode. Often setting up sequences, Phillips’ angled bow strokes or measured pizzicato runs seem to always find the sweet spot between efficiency and encouragement. Meanwhile Reason’s feature on Improvisation 3, backed by brooding doublebass lines and drum rat-tat-tats, reveals a stylist whose methodical chromatic comping doesn’t stop her from challenging moody soprano saxophone vibrations with rubato cross pulses and inner piano-string scratches. Unfazed by whatever sound challenges are posed, Heward reacts like a cultivated artist. For instance, he extends McPhee’s pinched soprano tones with patterning paradiddles to achieve the proper colour balance; or elsewhere adds a martial beat to physically shape Freedman’s octave jumps to proper angles. Quintet posits that Heward may be remembered as much for his music as for his art. Ken Waxman Witness Kirk Knuffke; Steven Herring Steeplechase SCCD 31859 ( !! Shredding conventions, jazz cornetist Kirk Knuffke teams up with classically trained baritone Steven Herring for off-the-wall performances that range from operatic classics and spirituals, to poetry set to music, and standards. Raising the idiosyncratic interpretation stakes still higher, other accompaniment is from the patterning of Russ Lossing’s piano and the gruff oom pah pah of Ben Goldberg’s contra alto clarinet. Remarkably most of the transitions work. Unsurprisingly Herring aces the declarative nuances of Iago’s Credo and Questo Amor with studied formalism. But his creativity isn’t solipsistic. Goldberg’s stentorian puffs and Knuffke’s capillary peeps match operatic chortles on the former. Meanwhile the amorous exposition on the latter owes as much to plunger brass notes and seductive piano chords as to ebullient vocalizing. Witness, A City Called Heaven and other traditional religious songs fare as well. However, mellow horn parts and broad melodic sweeps from the pianist on Witness, as well as carefully modulated vamps from all the instrumentalists, produce subtle swing on both tunes, leaving the emotion to Herring. The baritone’s parlando serves him appropriately when Knuffke’s musical setting of Carl Sandburg’s Subway is transformed into song. But the recitation is mated with the cornetist’s passionate grace notes to reach its goal. In fact, the only miscue is Sun Ra’s The Satellites are Spinning. While clarinet snarls and cornet blats enliven it, the vocalist’s theatrical declarations miss its sardonic and humorous aspects. Witness works wonderfully as long as the musical alterations remain down to earth. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Paul Green – A Bissel Rhythm Paul Green & Two Worlds Big Round Records br8955 ( !! I was more than a bissel (Yiddish for “little”) tickled to see A Bissel Rhythm on the list of available CDs for review this month. For starters, being an unabashed lover of Yiddish, the title alone put a smile on my face. And it stayed there as I made my way through clarinetist Paul Green’s lively and engaging exploration of that most natural of fusions: the coming together of the distinct, yet equally soul-stirring styles of Jewish music and jazz. While this is Green’s second recorded foray into the world of Jewish/jazz fusion, it is his first as composer. Green and his aptly named band, Two Worlds, perform his eight original tracks with tremendous skill, warmth and verve; it is clear they are having a lot of fun, too! In A Bissel Rhythm, a standard jazz structure collides with a freilach; a New Orleans funeral meets a klezmer doina; the Jewish misheberach scale snakes its way around a blues. And it all works! From the joyful and virtuosic title track, and the poignant sweetness of Zoey’s Chosidl (perhaps the only time a beloved pet has been memorialized with a jazz-infused Hasidic dance), to the slinky, funky ramble of Doina and Ramble, and the waltz/ballad-like Joe’s Hurra, the album does more than simply pay homage to the two musical genres it celebrates: it wraps them in a loving embrace. Nu? Go pour yourself a bissel schnapps and enjoy A Bissel Rhythm! Sharna Searle Joy AKA Trio bendigedig BEND14-1 ( !! Coming from three continents – Europe, Africa and South America – the three virtuoso musicians of the AKA Trio have merged into the relaxed and attractive transnational musical unit we hear in the aptly titled Joy. Italian guitarist and composer Antonio Forcione has toured for over two decades, having collaborated with major musicians such as Charlie Haden, Trilok Gurtu, Angelique Kidjo and Bulgarian Voices, on the way releasing 20 albums. He brings rhythmic and tuning precision, plus a soulful expressiveness into his acoustic guitar solos on Joy’s ten tracks. Seckou Keita from Senegal, among the world’s foremost kora players, has variously been dubbed “the Hendrix of kora,” and “the Clapton of kora.” International innovation running deep throughout his work, he has collaborated with Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. Born into the Senegalese griot tradition, Keita‘s warm, flexible voice is key to the melodic and emotional charm of much of Joy. Brazilian percussionist and composer Adriano Adewale has also widely collaborated, including with Bobby McFerrin and Joanna McGregor, and includes compositions for orchestra and dance theatre in his credits. Adewale brings an easy and timbrally rich percussive energy to Joy, always tasteful, never overbearing. While Forcione, Keita and Adewale grew up in three different landscapes, speaking three different languages, formed by three different cultures and musical traditions, their musical convergence in AKA Trio is so unforced as to appear inevitable. I predict their polished arrangements will be a hit on the international world music circuit. Andrew Timar Consecration Rafael Zaldivar Effendi Records FND153 ( ! ! Since moving from his native Camagüey, Cuba to Montreal in the mid-2000s, pianist Rafael Zaldivar has established himself as one of Canada’s top Afro-Cuban musicians. His latest album, Consecration, released on March 15 through Effendi Records, is a celebration of Zaldivar’s Yoruba spirituality, as well as a showcase for his multifaceted musicianship: Consecration deftly blends the pianist’s Afro-Cuban May 2019 | 81

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