2 years 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.


JOHN & PATTI LOACH Steve Wallace (left) and Mark Eisenman Jazz in the Kitchen So, increasingly, presenting live – or semi-live – jazz to an audience has turned to online, remote methods, which have flourished. For a backward-looking Luddite such as myself, though – a good friend once generously described me as a “techno-peasant” – the nuts and bolts of this are both confusing and daunting, so it helps to have friends who are gifted along these lines. And I’m happy to say I have one such friend in John Loach, who is a genius of technology and design, an outside-the-box thinker par excellence. Some readers will know of John, but for those who don’t, here’s a brief rundown: he’s a mechanical and industrial engineer as well as a gifted recording engineer and trumpeter. He invented some heavyduty industrial machinery which was very successful, allowing him to pursue his many musical interests, which include being a serious enabler and patron of jazz. He and his wife, the afore-mentioned Patti, a gifted pianist, have opened their lovely and spacious Beaches home to various jazz endeavours over the years. These began with impromptu jams among friends and then John began offering certain musicians the opportunity to record free of charge in the house, which boasts a great Steinway, warm acoustics and a very relaxed atmosphere, with him acting as engineer, mixer and congenial host. Apart from the piano, one would never guess that the room opposite the kitchen was designed for musical purposes, but tucked out of sight in various large closets are a mixing board/ computer, microphones, baffles, cables and music stands. Although not a professional, he’s one of the finest recording engineers I’ve encountered because, being a good musician himself, he understands the music – and the overall requirements of musicians – as well as the technology involved. The Loaches has become my favourite place to record – good results with the likes of Warren Vaché, John Alcorn, Arlene Smith, Chase Sanborn, the Mike Murley trio including Renee Rosnes as a guest – mainly because it’s so relaxed that it doesn’t feel like you’re recording there, but rather just making music, which is invaluable and the general idea. The Loaches expanded all this when they started a series of monthly salon concerts at their house known as Jazz in the Kitchen, which became an instant success. This idea was largely John’s typically outside-the-box response to Mark Eisenman and me simply wanting to do more playing with John because we enjoyed it so much. The next thing we knew, John and Patti came up with the idea of creating an online site and selling tickets for these concerts to 35 or 40 people who came to love the close intimacy and unique informality of the setting. No noise, no waiters, no bar tabs, no yakking customers, just real jazz presented to people who want to listen to it. What a concept, and seven years and some 60 concerts later, JITK has become a treasured and integral part of the local scene. The Sessions Of course, the pandemic interrupted all of this. Mark Eisenman, drummer Mark Micklethwaite and I (the house trio at JITK) kicked around the idea of trying to do some future recording and possible other projects, but we decided the first order of business was to get together at Eisenman’s and just play, to see if we still had it. As soon as John and Patti got wind of this after our first get-together, they invited us to play at their place; so were “The COVID-19 Sessions” born. Because the trio has played there so often, the Loaches’ house seemed like a natural place to record in the future, and John wanted to experiment with the challenge of recording drums in such a small space, which he has mastered. When we arrived for the first session on July 29, John had the “studio” all ready to go – mics and some minimal baffling in place, the house drum kit set up, the house bass on a stand. He’d also placed some small video cameras on boom stands to introduce a visual element. We just went about playing, doing seven takes altogether of six different tunes. According to John, that first day had spotty audio and minimal video, but things have improved a lot since then. In subsequent sessions on August 6, 17 and 26, September 3 and 11, and October 17, we’ve recorded a whopping 54 tunes in 59 takes, with the music and audio/visual recording getting better each time. (There was also a solo piano session on October 6, which Mark Eisenman asked me to join, but I couldn’t due to a teaching commitment. You’ll notice some gaps in there – we took a break in mid- September for various cautionary reasons, including the uptick and the uncertainly of schools reopening – Mark Micklethwaite has two young daughters who might have been affected.) John posted some of the earliest efforts on YouTube but as the technical aspects improved, he had something else in mind. We all agreed that we missed the JITK concerts, and the Loaches had heard from many attendees that were missing them too. So John decided to post our videos on the JITK site and invited people to subscribe for a onetime fee of , a kind of JITK 2.0, online. The response has been very encouraging and many have not only subscribed but offered help in spreading the word. We’re not in it for the money – nobody in their right mind is – but we actually had our first “payday” from these efforts recently. It’s not the money in itself that’s important, but rather the indication that people are still willing to spend money to hear jazz, which warms the heart. I leave the sessions both uplifted and exhausted – it’s amazing how tiring playing jazz is when you’re out of shape – but the notion of an audience, even an unseen one – ups the musical ante, as always. A heartfelt thanks from the musicians in the trio and from many jazz fans to John and Patti Loach for once again providing us with such a generous outlet. There will be more music from future sessions including some jazz Christmas offerings. Those who wish to subscribe may do so at 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. Mark Micklethwaite 16 | November 2020

Bandstand Music for Life JACK MACQUARRIE As we sit in anticipation of small white crystals on our lawns, rather than those colourful bright leaves, we have to realize that our community music is going to be very different this year than the rehearsals and concerts we have been accustomed to. While the social aspects of community music have almost entirely disappeared, along with the leaves, with so many advances in digital technology we are seeing amazing adaptations across the musical spectrum. Tech Talk In last month’s issue of this column I mentioned that New Horizons Band of Toronto, in collaboration with Resa’s Pieces would be working with Long and McQuade Music for a “Tech Talk Workshop.” Other than the fact that the venture was to consist of a few online Zoom sessions of advice from specialists at L & M, details were rather sketchy at the time. Since I was not able to participate in the first of these in order to find out more for myself, I asked Randy Kligerman from New Horizons what sparked the idea and how the first session worked out. Here’s his answer to my question on how it all started: “With the advent of many new music software programs and Zoom-type communication services available, the need to better understand the benefits of external computer components like mics and speakers has never been greater. After doing some research online, two things became apparent: 1) using a better mic, speaker and headphones makes a measurable difference in the quality and enjoyment of every computer program; 2) choosing from one of the many brands and determining which would work on a desktop, laptop, iPad or phone is a daunting task.” Over time, and having exhausted far too many research options, Randy spoke with Neil Guise from Long and McQuade’s Danforth Avenue store in Toronto, and asked if he would be able to provide help in explaining the basic technology, how the many devices hook up to a computer and the cost/ benefit ratios of each option. Armed with his own laptop, Randy visited Guise and hooked up his laptop so that he could hook everything up and take it for a musical test drive! After that meeting, Randy, with the New Horizons Band of Toronto, got together with Resa’s Pieces and asked Neil to do a one-hour Zoom tech talk for their members. So in early September, they held a zoom lecture, where for 40 minutes, Neil explained the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones, whether you needed an audio interface and how to choose one, and what cabling was needed to connect the external pieces to your devices. This was followed by a Q&A for the remaining 20 minutes. The feedback from the band members was excellent. Many Neil Guise commented on how their new knowledge enabled them to have better access to their own computer needs. They also gained added confidence when they learned that they could buy and use the equipment for a limited amount of time and return it, or try something else if not satisfied. Due to demand, they ran a second Talk about Tech and included information on metronome/tuner options as well as on various types of headphones. Vince Gassi Music for Life Conversations As if that was not enough, these folks came up with the idea of what they called Music for Life Conversations. “With COVID-19 restricting our ability to play in person,” Kligerman explained, “never has the need to engage in conversation with fellow musicians been more important.” So to help ensure that this happens, New Horizons Band of Toronto (NHBT), together with Resa’s Pieces created Music for Life, a series of stimulating conversations about many aspects of a musician’s life. To date they have featured Dr. Marshall Chasin, a researcher, musician and audiologist who specializes in the prevention of hearing loss for musicians, and Vince Gassi, a composer, musician and teacher, who talked about how he approaches the challenge of turning poems and stories into musical compositions. Coming up will be conversations with conductor Mélanie Léonard, who will share some of her experiences, challenges and rewards in her career, and TSO violinist Jim Wallenberg, who will speak about his experiences and challenges in music performances under several different conductors. These Music for Life Conversations are presented through Zoom, and last approximately 50 minutes, with registration facilitated through the NHBT website. As of this writing, they are at full capacity, but I was fortunate enough to be able watch and listen to the first of these conversations with Vince Gassi. Chase the Shouting Wind Gassi is a composer, conductor and clinician, whose compositions grace the libraries of most Canadian bands. With a bachelor of music degree from Western University in London, he later studied composing and arranging at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, California. More recently he completed his PhD at York University in Toronto. With over 100 published titles to his credit, his compositions have been published by Alfred Publishing since 2006. For 25 years he has taught instrumental music at the elementary and secondary school levels and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician throughout the United States and Canada. Chase the Shouting Wind was the title of the Music for Life conversations I “attended” where Gassi explained the genesis of a composition from his first ideas to the writing of the complete score with all of the parts. His inspiration for the composition was a poem, High Flight, that I personally remember well since first reading it many years ago. This poem was written by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. an American serving in the RCAF in Britain during W.W.II. November 2020 | 17

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Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)