4 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020

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Welcome to our December/January issue as we turn the annual calendar page, halfway through our season for the 25th time, juggling as always, secular stuff, the spirit of the season, new year resolve and winter journeys! Why is Mozart's Handel's Messiah's trumpet a trombone? Why when Laurie Anderson offers to fly you to the moon you should take her up on the invitation. Why messing with Winterreisse can (sometimes) be a very good thing! And a bumper crop of record reviews for your reading (and sometimes listening) pleasure. Available in flipthrough here right now, and on stands commencing Thursday Nov 28. See you on the other side!

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varied program of standards and some seldom-heard songs, many bearing her deft arranging touch. She also brought along her ukulele, a new wrinkle she played on a couple of numbers. As I’ve come to expect, there was nothing cutesy or gimmicky about this; in her hands the tiny four-string guitar added a special sound and texture appropriate to the given songs. And hers is not just any old ukulele, it’s a J.F. Martin with a lovely plangent sound. In no time at all she had the audience spellbound, not just with her singing, but with her sincere presentation and effortless inclusion of them. She has a way of talking about herself to the audience between numbers which is not selfindulgent, but serves to draw back the curtain for the listeners and make them feel a part of what’s happening. She talked about what some of the songs meant to her or why she chose them and how privileged she felt to be there making music for people who appreciate it. The epiphany came as we were about to start the second set and Karin said that she wanted to begin with a tune accompanying herself at the piano, with trumpeter John Loach and her friend Geoff Claridge, who was in the audience and had brought along his clarinet. I took a chair at the entrance to the music room, glad to unexpectedly be a part of the audience while in mid-performance. She told the audience she was going to sing her new arrangement of an old song that would be very familiar to them, especially to any who had played piano when they were kids. It was Heart and Soul, along with Chopsticks; one of the cliché duets all young piano students end up playing with their teachers or parents. She began s-l-o-w-l-y with a contemplative pattern of simple gospel chords voiced in ringing tenths, ascending on off-beats, immediately stirring and hypnotic. Then she entered with that subtle sultry voice in unmistakeable jazz rhythm: “Heart and soul, I fell in love with you. Heart and soul, the way a fool would do, madly…..” and it was goosebump time. Meanwhile, behind her, John on cup-muted trumpet and Geoff on clarinet, shared a written obligato part which beautifully complemented what she was doing. Once again, musicians giving to each other and to the rapt audience, putting themselves on the line in a humble and fearless off-the-cuff offering. I was gone, swept away and surprisingly – or perhaps not – tears welled in my eyes at the sheer beauty of it. This is it, I thought, this is what music is. It felt like being in church in the best sense, or like Christmas morning. With this emotional reaction, there was some self-chiding: ”Steve, you old softie, you.” But I couldn’t help it, Karin had lifted the song from the parlour into something haunting and inspiring. Such is the generosity of her transformative imagination. I’d completely forgotten that the song had such lovely words and was originally a ballad by Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael, no slouches. Like all good things in life, it was over far too soon and in typical fashion, Karin didn’t tie Featuring some of Toronto’s best jazz musicians with a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers Clergy Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 4:30pm Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite Brian Barlow Big Band Sunday, January 12, 2020 at 4:30pm Russ Little Quintet Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 4:30pm Colleen Allen Quartet Christ Church wishes everyone a very blessed Christmas Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge St. (north of St. Clair at Heath St.) Admission is free; donations are welcome. 416-920-5211 it all up in a neat bow but left the song hanging with an unresolved dominant chord, hovering in the silent air like a question mark. Disclosure: those who want to hear this wonderful rendition may do so on Karin Plato’s latest CD, This Could Be the One (and believe, me, it is), or in a live performance available on YouTube. The second epiphany came during a gig with Mike Murley’s trio at The Homesmith Bar on November 6. During the first break, an elderly lady asked Mike if he could play Love For Sale, and he was so charmed by her and surprised by her request that he assented, even though he doesn’t often play that tune and was a little unsure of it in spots. It came off quite well and indeed may become a permanent part of our repertoire. On the second break, I was outside taking some nicotine when a silver-haired elderly lady, well-wrapped against the cold evening, came out and sat on her walker waiting for her friend to fetch the car. I went over to her and asked if she had requested Love For Sale and she smiled shyly and answered in her English accent, “Yes, and I really enjoyed it. I asked for that tune because I really love the way Sidney Bechet played it on one of his records.” I replied that I didn’t know Bechet had recorded it, adding that had Mike known he might have played it on his soprano rather than tenor, although Mike plays the curved model rather than the straight horn like Sidney. “Oh there was nobody like Bechet on that soprano,” she said. “Such passion and authority, and that sound… God, I love him.” “And Muggsy!” she continued. I started vibrating a little at this – she was talking about cornetist Muggsy Spanier, whose playing I’ve loved since I became a jazz fan. “People talk about Louis (Armstrong) doing so much to bring jazz out of the rinky-tink and he did, but Muggsy was great, he could break your heart!” I told her I was a big Muggsy fan, too and that he had that heart-on-his-sleeve streak of Irish sentimentality that could make you cry. I asked her if she knew the wonderful one-off session Bechet and Muggsy recorded together in 1940 and her face went blank for a moment then her eyes widened in Muggsy Spanier recognition. “Oh my, yes! Those two got to some romping!” She told me that she was 91 and lived in a seniors’ apartment near Christie and Bloor. “My husband died some years ago but I’ve made friends with a 93-year-old blind man named George who lives down the hall. You wouldn’t believe what he has in his apartment, everything that Muggsy ever recorded and lots of other goodies. I go round to his flat and we listen to these wonderful records. We have such fun, jazz makes you feel so happy, so alive.” I thought… at 91 or otherwise, we should all be so lucky. She was so lovely and interesting that despite the cold I wanted to stay and talk with her some more, but I had to go back inside and play. She said “My name is Joyce East and it’s been so nice meeting you.” I couldn’t resist, I leaned down and hugged her and she reached up and hugged me back warmly and gave me a peck on the cheek. The pleasure was all mine, Joyce, nighty-night. As Fats Waller once said, “One never knows, do one?” Karin Plato’s stunning transformation of Heart and Soul and this chance encounter with an nonagenarian hipster brought Christmas early to me this year. I can’t thank either of them enough. My best wishes to you all for a joyous Holiday Season and a Happy New Year. Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve Wallace jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can be accessed at Aside from the topics mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food. FRED LYON 26 | December 2019January 2020

Beat by Beat | Art of Song Winterreisse Unmasked Le Chimera at Koerner LYDIA PEROVIĆ Messing with Winterreise is a growing and delightful industry within classical music performance. Schubert’s best-known song cycle has been fully staged and orchestrated for a chamber ensemble (Netia Jones/Hans Zender/Ian Bostridge), divided between three female singers (Toronto’s Collectìf ensemble), multimediatized (William Kentridge’s video projections), arranged for singer, puppet, guitar, and piano with animated drawings (Thomas Guthrie) and staged with the piano and illustrated backdrops (Ebbe Knudsen). On January 17, Toronto will have a chance to see another contribution to the conversation on the meaning of Winterreise, when Le Chimera Project, with baritone Philippe Sly, bring their klezmerand Roma-inflected take on it to Koerner Hall. “The inspiration came when I saw a video clip of two friends, Félix de l’Étoile and Samuel Carrier, performing Gute Nacht on accordion and clarinet at a recital,” says Philippe Sly on a Skype call from San Francisco. “I thought, Oh my God, that sound suits this musical content so well. I approached Felix and asked what he thought would be the best arrangement if we were to continue with this klezmer- Gypsy-like aesthetic and he came up with the idea of having trombone, clarinet, violin and accordion instead of the piano.” De l’Étoile and Carrier wrote the draft arrangement and the entire group with Sly worked intensely on the piece for two secluded wintry weeks at the Domaine Forget in Charlevoix, where the Chimera Winterreise had its premiere. “The interesting thing is that the arranging process became a process of reduction,” Sly recalls. We realized that there was intimacy between voice and one instrument which is at the heart of what lieder is about. You have this dynamic between two people, this dyad – we wanted to highlight that, even in the multi-instrumental setting.” The show begins with one version of Gute Nacht, and ends with another version of it – after the cycle’s final song, Der Leiermann. “The narrator asks the Leiermann (hurdy-gurdy player) if he would play his song. And we never get an answer to that. What if Gute Nacht was the song that the narrator would finally sing? What if singing a song about one’s suffering lets us transcend it? What if it’s through the artistic process that we save ourselves and that we elevate the narrative of our lives?” Director Roy Rallo’s staging of the piece is open to different kinds of interpretation; it’s up to the audience to decide if they’d like to read this Winterreise in the traditional way, as one heartbroken man’s HUGO AND WILLIE Philippe Sly journey through a bleak winter landscape at the end of which perhaps he meets his end – or to experience it in a very different way. “I work in the world of opera where we have stories told in a certain way, with sets and costumes, and you’re getting singers to impersonate somebody inside of a story that’s not a story of their lives,” says Rallo, during our joint San Francisco Skype call. “Luckily, Winterreise doesn’t have a clear narrative. To me the main narrative of the evening isn’t that we’re all pretending that there’s a guy who’s had something happen to him and we’re trying to figure out what his story is. What’s going on is there are some people in the room with you, the audience members, and they’re making noise, and through the making of noise and through moving around in space, and through the framing devices that we use as part of the staging, we are creating a series of different constellations that may lead to different feelings. That is Music of Hugo Wolf and Willie P. Bennett With Giles Tomkins, Andrew Downing, Patricia O’Callaghan, and Kate Tremills JANUARY 25 8:00 P.M. ST. THOMAS’S CHURCH 383 HURON STREET, TORONTO SONGS OF THE SOUL COURTESY COLUMBIA ARTISTS December 2019January 2020 | 27

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