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Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019

  • Text
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Symphony
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Choir
  • October
  • Toronto
Long promised, Vivian Fellegi takes a look at Relaxed Performance practice and how it is bringing concert-going barriers down across the spectrum; Andrew Timar looks at curatorial changes afoot at the Music Gallery; David Jaeger investigates the trumpets of October; the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (and the 20th Anniversary of our October Blue Pages Presenter profiles) in our Editor's Opener; the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at 125; Tapestry at 40 and Against the Grain at 10; ringing in the changing season across our features and columns; all this and more, now available in Flip Through format here, and on the stands commencing this coming Friday September 27, 2019. Enjoy.

Come Back Emma Frank

Come Back Emma Frank Justin Time JUST 262-2 (justin-time.com) !! It’s not often that you come across a multi-faceted voice that could fit into any genre of music imaginable. Boston native Emma Frank demonstrates her ability to seamlessly blend genres within songs and navigate between them with her stellar voice on her latest release. Frank’s pieces are introspective, telling stories in such a way that any listener could directly relate to. Her vocal style is reminiscent of highly acclaimed Canadian indie pop singer Feist with a delicious hint of Diana Krall that aids in creating the perfect blend of jazz and art pop throughout the album. This album provides a welcome updated jazz sound that is suitable to listeners new to the genre and aficionados alike. Frank’s songs are of a milder tempo but have plenty of movement, allowing the listener to fully process every musical element and nuance within the pieces without growing weary. The soundscape is strewn with plenty to listen and pay attention to thanks to musicians such as Aaron Parks on piano and synthesizers, Tommy Crane on drums, Zack Lober on bass and co-producer/ guitarist Franky Rousseau with whom Frank has previously collaborated. While her record has a modern touch, it is pleasing to hear hints of traditional jazz throughout, especially within pieces such as Sometimes, Promises and See You. This fourth release by the stunning and golden-voiced vocalist is an incredibly pleasing journey through genres that leaves something new to discover around every corner. Kati Kiilaspea Mirror Image Matt Herskowitz Justin Time JUST 263-2 (justin-time.com) !! To play jazz on the piano, a musician must – at some point – come to terms with the weight of the instrument’s history. The modern drum kit started to come together in the 1920s; the electric guitar, which, unlike its classical forebears, would be played through an amplifier, primarily with a plectrum, would not be manufactured until the 1930s. But the piano – so central to the sound of mainstream jazz – predates the genre by over 200 years. On the solo album Mirror Image, released on Montreal’s Justin Time Records, the accomplished pianist Matt Herskowitz demonstrates his command of both the jazz and classical traditions through a mixture of original pieces, compositions by the likes of Ravel, Satie and Schubert, and a jazz standard. The fusion of jazz and classical has its own rich history; third stream music has enjoyed a degree of popularity since the 1960s. This synthesis is used to great effect by Herskowitz, not as a way to showcase two separate skill sets, but as a framework with which to display an intelligent, well-developed, honest approach to music making that honours the pianist’s personal experiences on the instrument. Highlights include bluesy, gospel-tinged flourishes on Gottschalk’s The Last Hope, the percussive title track Mirror Image, and My One And Only Love, which closes the album. Herskowitz’s truest success, however, is the thread with which he so effectively and confidently connects the album’s many elements into a sensible whole. Colin Story Counterstasis – Refracted Voices Bill Gilliam; Glen Hall; Joe Sorbara Independent MPBG-006 (gilliamhallsorbara.bandcamp.com) !! Counterstasis – Refracted Voices is a new album of improvised music from the trio of Bill Gilliam (acoustic piano, preparations), Glen Hall (woodwinds, electroacoustics) and Joe Sorbara (drums, percussion), recorded at Number 9 Audio Group in Toronto. Gilliam, Hall and Sorbara are veteran improvisers, and bring a wealth of creative experience to their shared practice, which takes its influence from a variety of musical traditions. The heart of this project, as described in the liner notes, is to “counter stasis, to foster change, to create a music in which [the musicians’] individual voices can be bent by, refracted through the voices of their co-conspirators.” To these exploratory and interactive ends, Hall uses an assortment of live effects, including the OMax AI improvising software and the CataRT synthesis program, both by the Paris-based Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/ Music (IRCAM). Hall’s electronic contributions range from subtle additions to the trio’s acoustic instruments (as on the opening track, Sinuous Movements), to major structural components (as on Radio Chatter, which does indeed feature radio chatter, and Cave Ritual, the album’s longest offering, in which eerie atmospheric sounds form the basis for the overall shape of the tune). Throughout the proceedings, Gilliam, Hall and Sorbara play with maturity, confidently committing themselves to the realization of a shared musical vision that privileges communication over individual athletics. The album offers many highlights, but is best heard in one listen, as the spontaneously composed event that it is. Colin Story Triio Alex Fournier Furniture Music Records (alexfournierplaysbass.com) !! Torontoborn bassist Alex Fournier has gotten together some exceptionally talented musicians for this newest album simply titled Triio. Fournier himself has penned every song on the record and it is a true and great testament to his compositional talent. For those wondering about the interesting spelling of the album title, the band leader himself mentioned that he merely added in another ‘i’ to indicate that the group is not a true trio; it was meant to originally have four members but eventually grew into the sextet that is heard on the record. The album as a whole is an interesting musical journey. It offers plenty of opportunity for experimentation and improvisation but also manages to have a certain character and, to an extent, structure, throughout. It is very easy to lose yourself completely in the unique sound of the record. The music has a variety of textures, almost as if you can physically feel the different character and flavour of each piece. The track ESD is almost what you could call “trippy,” a complete improvisational journey that fittingly starts off the record. Giant-Dad and Noisemaker have some underlying elements of traditional jazz slyly inserted into the bigger musical picture. Dusk has beautifully captivating and haunting melodies by great talents Bea Labikova on alto sax as well as flute and Aidan Sibley on trombone. This record offers something for both seasoned listeners of jazz and for people new to the scene. Kati Kiilaspia There From Here Tune Town Independent TSLCD-310 (tunetownjazz.com) ! ! There From Here is the debut album from a fresh collective on the Canadian jazz scene, a scintillating trio of Canadian talent: Kelly Jefferson on saxophones, Artie Roth on acoustic bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums. With grooves that get your foot tapping to captivating melodies and rhythms, 74 | October 2019 thewholenote.com

this collection of original pieces will breathe life into an otherwise dull and meticulous day. The album is a breath of fresh air in today’s world of constant musical shuffling; it is meant to be listened to as a story from top to bottom, acting much like a concept album. Listeners are in for a pleasing journey through various genres. The Monks of Oka harks back to the era of jazz greats, specifically Thelonious Monk. It is easy to spot the influence of his music in the piece. Sophisticated Lady takes the tempo down a notch in order to showcase the great talents of Jefferson and Roth as they take you along on a smooth and pleasing melodic voyage. The album does an astounding job of “seamlessly assimilating elements from the avant garde, funk and jazz worlds.” Especially in the track Split Infinity we hear a great funk groove supported by Roth and Cervini throughout the piece. For those tired of the rush-rush world that we live in, this is a fantastic album that allows you to sit down and take in a complete musical story. Kati Kiilaspia Fine State Heather Bambrick Heather Bambrick Music HBCD-004 (heatherbambrick.ca) !! Heather Bambrick, that beloved – and often goofy – voice familiar to anyone who tunes in to JAZZ. FM91, weekdays between 9am and 1pm (and nightly on Wednesdays), shows off her attractive pedigree with another solo recording. This album, Fine State, also confirms her growing reputation as an artist of the first order. Her voice throughout is fairly light and limpid, though not without sinew. Bambrick’s diction is exceptional, reflecting real imagination behind repertoire that spans standards as well as thoroughly interesting new work composed by her as well as other writers of repute. This is ingeniously selected music, reflective of the high quality of the production by the drummer on this date, Ben Wittman, and Jono Grant, a longtime Bambrick associate, together with the vocalist herself. If it’s hard to single out one track as being the most perfect example of Bambrick’s musicianship, it is equally hard to pick a favourite (because that would change with each playing of the recording). However, I would posit that Bambrick’s version of Milton Nascimento and Fernando Brant’s utterly beautiful song, Bridges (sung here with Gene Lees’ English lyrics) might be described as this disc’s crowning glory. Here we have a song, the poetry of which is infused with a sense of nostalgia and melancholy, its fluid melody delicately painted by a candid voice urged on by wistful instruments. Clearly an album to die for… Raul da Gama Concert notes: Heather Bambrick can be heard with various ensembles in the coming month around Ontarto: October 9 in Stirling; October 20 in Merrickville; October 26 in Whitby; November 2 at Koerner Hall; November 8 in Stratford; and November 9 in Kingston. Check her website for details. Mi Alegria Itamar Erez Independent (itamarerez.com) !! Itamar Erez’s music refreshingly defies categorization, though “world jazz” seems a reasonable option for DISCoveries review purposes. His is a rich, borderless musical world, with influences ranging from Bach to Brazilian choro. For Israeli-born, Vancouver-based Erez, a world-class guitarist, pianist, composer and educator, his myriad sources of inspiration reflect a wealth of musical traditions including Middle Eastern, flamenco, Latin, classical and the aforementioned jazz. This array of influences is readily apparent on the breathtaking new release, Mi Alegria (Spanish for my joy). With each track a compelling example of Erez’s elegant and masterful musicianship, it’s hard to know where to draw one’s attention, but the title track is as good a place as any. Dedicated to his daughter Mia, Mi Alegria (get it) is as close to a classic jazz arrangement as you’ll find on the CD. With Erez on piano, bassist James Meger, drummer Kevin Romain and Ilan Salem on flute, it swings with a jaunty energy. On the other hand, Yahli’s Lullaby, named for Erez’s 12-year-old son (whose artwork graces the front cover), is an evocative and touching piece with a Middle-Eastern flavour. For Erez’s pyrotechnical guitar work, listen to Choro Sentimental. It is truly jaw-dropping. Endless Cycle has a driving momentum, with Erez playing piano and guitar, sometimes both at the same time! Peppered throughout the album, François Houle (clarinet), Celso Machado (percussion) and Hamin Honari (tombak) contribute sumptuous layers of sound. Mi Alegria is just that: a joyful, musical celebration by a truly engaging artist. Sharna Searle Cooper’s Park Gordon Grdina Quartet Songlines SGL 1630-2 (songlines.com) !! Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina has gradually emerged on a larger stage, convening bands with distinguished international figures in addition to his regional ensembles. For this Vancouver session, Grdina is joined by New Yorkers Oscar Noriega, on alto saxophone and clarinets, Russ Lossing on piano and keyboards, and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. Grdina first unveiled this quartet on the 2017 CD Inroads, presenting crisp versions of nine of his compositions. Here the emphasis has decidedly changed. There are just five tracks here, four of them together stretching to an hour and filled with both controlled evolutions and vigorous improvisation. That focus on group interaction results in Grdina’s strongest recording to date, whether he’s emphasizing formal coherence, insistent intensity or both. The 18-minute title track sets a fluid standard for the program, generating episodes from lambent reverie to pensive conversation to pitchbending wails. There’s a special link between Grdina and Lossing everywhere here, blurring their identities on lyrical near-acoustic flights or matching distorted guitar with the harsh electric edges of Lossing’s clavinet (a keyboard that served to launch some of Sun Ra’s stellar travels). Noriega is an inspiring presence, generating rapid coiling lines at once raw and adroit on both alto saxophone and bass clarinet, while Takeishi’s complex drumming can unite impetus and commentary. Grdina has challenged himself consistently since his 2006 debut Think Like the Waves with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian. Here he takes another significant step forward. Stuart Broomer X Marks the Spot Thomas Heberer OutNow Recordings ONR 037 (outnowrecordings.com) ! ! Concise and cosmopolitan, the eight selections here offer a slice of contemporary New York improvisation, composed by expatriate German trumpeter Thomas Heberer, decorated by the supple fills of guitarist Terrence McManus and the rhythmic dexterity of drummer Jeff Davis, both locals, and driven by the mostly sensed but rarely upfront power pulse of Canadian bassist Michael Bates. Heberer’s arrangements thewholenote.com October 2019 | 75

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
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

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

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Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)