1 year ago

Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.

Allison Cameron Cheldon

Allison Cameron Cheldon Paterson Colin Fisher at the Music Gallery Exquisite Corpses From the Bunker LP, 1988 In Exquisite Departure 6 for example, Michalak has the first group of three musicians start five seconds apart, the next three ten seconds apart, the third three 15 seconds apart, etc. “The individual segment lengths alternate between one and one and a half minutes long, creating an interesting stacking and phasing in and out of instruments,” he says. “For the shorter Departures all musicians play for the full duration. My overall aim was to have Departures of variable length.” For inspiration, Michalak looked to the 1988 LP Exquisite Corpses from the Bunker. Made by 22 New York avant-garde improv musicians who booked a local studio, they collectively laid down 15 intense tracks. Made via the technology of overdubbing, they eschewed the star system; all players contributed on an equal basis. As befitted the project’s collective nature, there was no composer credit. It was a portrait of a specific scene in time – and so, 32 years later in Toronto, is the MGs Exquisite Departures. “As for the number of musicians on each track, four was the maximum on the shorter tracks,” added Michalak, “leaving the players plenty of sonic room to play in. On the other hand, some of the longer tracks were designed to include all 15 musicians. My goal was to build variety in the entry patterns and durations, thereby inspiring diverse musical interactions among the players.” Even a given musician’s appearance was determined by Michalak, using a complex calculation balancing a number of variables. These include the number of times a musician plays next to another, the number of times they start a track and the amount of time they spend on it, all the while keeping the total number of segments each musician plays equal to the others. Each musician, however, had the freedom within those constraints to craft their response to the other musicians on a given Departures in the spirit and received performance practice of collaborative improvisation. The team Michalak sent me finished mixes of several short audio tracks of the projected 15 Departures when I began this story. They were recorded at 918 Bathurst Street and mixed by the MG’s technical director and veteran audio engineer, Paul Hodge – his roots running deep, back to the early days of the MG. “It was reminiscent of Cage-like compositions where the elements are beyond your control and left to chance,” Hodge commented in an email. While the audio final had been completed by Hodge by this point, the six video artists in the project are preparing their visual responses to the soundtrack as I write this. They form an eclectic group, linked by their emerging-career status and diverse aesthetic and stylistic approaches. Allow me to introduce the Toronto-based video team. Pursuit Grooves (Vanese Smith) works both as a music producer – part of the experimental electronic, hip-hop and club-music scenes – and, as Mo:delic Arts, the creator of abstract video art and graphic designs. “When listening to the music samples provided, I wanted to match the experimental mood and tone. I had no idea what to expect musically, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process of providing a visual accompaniment and letting my imagination run free!” On the other hand, digital media artist Peter Rahul, who specializes in glitch methodologies, calls himself a “techno-archaeologist,” exploring the limits of vintage electronics. And self-taught animator and performer Jesi Jordan’s work is full of what she calls “chimeric landforms, melting bodies, radical womanhood, sentient objects and disarming ruptures of time and space.” J.L. Whitecrow works in multiple media, primarily showcased through Toronto LGBTQ2S and BIPOC circles and film festivals. Influenced by a background in philosophy and advocacy work in decolonization and preservation of Indigenous knowledge and worldview, Whitecrow reflects in an email, “My approach [on this project] has been to interpret my feelings evoked by the music … focusing on creating visual tonality, rather than on specific images. The abstractness of each musical segment is allowing for a distance from the ordinary world, and I’m getting lost in the texture of things. I’m also pondering the idea of essence, whether it be our humanness or how light affects us.” Also on the video team are Kadrah Mensah, an interdisciplinary artist focused on technology and cyberculture, and Julie Reich, aka Bile Sister, enjoying a multifaceted career as video artist, music producer, musician and composer, with an impressive music back catalogue. Jumping-Off Points “I chose these video artists largely because I thought their diverse approaches will hopefully keep things interesting as they use each other’s ideas as jumping-off points, “Michalak says. I’ve worked with several and they’ve all been active in video art communities that intersect some aspect of the music scenes represented through the MG.” In yet another meaningful intersection, last spring J.L. Whitecrow launched Exquisite Corpse-19, a COVID-inspired video project adapting the Surrealist game. As was the case for the musicians, the video artists were given carte blanche within their segments, though Michalak was careful to set up basic timing ground rules and expectations, “allowing for things to play out within the [exquisite corpse] game. For example, the artist who does the first third of a given Departure obviously sets the tone for it. Those following only see the last 5 to 15 seconds of the video segment that precedes theirs,” he concluded. Kristel Jax, marketing coordinator at the MG, is the final member of the Exquisite Departures production team. She’s tasked with assembling the video contributions, synching them with the finished audio tracks and managing the November 20 premiere webcast on Music Gallery Live. Which is where, after this dive into the creation of Exquisite Departures, I for one am getting ready to be, with my best monitor and speakers at hand. If you miss the premiere webcast on November 20, 2020, at 7pm at, the production’s permanent home on Bandcamp launches on December 4, 2020 at Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. 14 | November 2020

Jazz Notes Jazz in the Kitchen The COVID-19 Sessions STEVE WALLACE From both a local jazz and personal perspective, I didn’t think it could get any worse than 2019 where, as I wrote here previously, in rapid succession the deaths of Ed Bickert, Gary Williamson and John Sumner robbed the Toronto scene of three of its best musicians, and for many of us, of three long-standing and treasured friends. Norma Thompson and Rochelle Koskie, two great ladies who had adorned the Toronto scene for decades, also passed. In the middle of all of this I fell and tore up my shoulder pretty badly – very small potatoes compared to dying – but for a time the injury called into question my future as a bass player. And about a month later, my good friend Patti Loach had a bad cycling accident and tore up her clavicle. Pianist Norman Amadio made it through 2019, but just barely, dying on January 21, 2020 after a long decline. But his death, coming before the pandemic hit us, seems like last year, too. Several times back then I said out loud that on a close-to-home level, it was the worst year I could remember, ever. How wrong I was. Cortege 2020 has seen more deaths of jazz musicians than any other year in memory. Not all of these were COVID-related, but many were. Here’s a partial list – the ones I can remember off the top of my head – and it’s not even Halloween yet: Lee Konitz, Ellis Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Annie Ross, Holli Ross, (no relation but also a wonderful singer), Steve Grossman, Henry Grimes and Giuseppi Logan (days apart in April), Johnny Mandel, Jimmy Cobb, Lennie Niehaus, Eddie Gale, Helen Jones Woods, Robert Northern, Cleveland Eaton, Keith Tippett, Gary Peacock, Ira Sullivan, and two men who were not musicians but who each had a major impact on jazz for many years – Chicago-based promoter Joe Segal and writer/critic Stanley Crouch. And this doesn’t include musicians in other fields – Bill Withers, Peter Green (for my money the best British blues guitarist of them John and Patti Loach all), Charlie Daniels, John Prine (broke my heart), Eddie Van Halen and many others I’ve no doubt forgotten. Like the ballpark hawker says, “Get yer program, folks, you can’t tell the (dead) players without a program!” There have been more jazz obit notices in my email than nuisance promotions lately. The virus taketh away and then it taketh away more. Back to the Drawing Board The recent and ominous uptick in COVID numbers in Toronto has also taken away any attempts at presenting live jazz in clubs, which I touched upon, too optimistically, in my last column. We’ve now returned to a partial Phase 2 lockdown – I think it’s Phase 2, but frankly I’ve lost track – limiting indoor drinking and eating in bars and restaurants. So much for going out to hear jazz in a club, and the worrying thing is that even when (and if) these measures are lifted, the delay in reopening live jazz represents another nail in the coffin, particularly with winter weather approaching. With so much of the jazz demographic being older, the fear that by the spring when things may have improved, the habit of not going to hear live jazz will have become entrenched, keeps me awake nights. What if after a year, people simply decide they can live without live jazz? JOHN & PATTI LOACH Give the gift of music this season! MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS • GIFT CARDS • LESSONS • SHOP ONLINE Best selection. Best price. Holiday shopping made easy. 925 Bloor St. W (416) 588-7886 3313 Danforth Ave. (416) 309-8722 November 2020 | 15

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)