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Volume 27 Issue 6 | April 15 - May 27, 2022

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Violin
  • Theatre
  • Sonata
  • Recording
  • Concerto
  • Symphony
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • April
Vol 27 No. 6. Here’s some of it: “Growing up in a house full of riches” – the Kanneh-Masons; “As if the music knows what it is doing” – J.S. Bach; “Better experienced than described” – Women from Space; “Stories set in prehistoric times are notoriously difficult to pull off without invoking nervous laughter” – Orphan Song; “To this day when I look at an audience, there’s some part of me that sees a whole bunch of friendly teddy bears wearing bow-ties” – Boris Brott. …. etc

of guitar and oud and

of guitar and oud and pastoral songs of longing, all of which will stretch to climactic ensembles that can merge Armoush’s vocals and a choir of singing musicians, all topped by the mercurial leads of Ribot and the other soloists, notably tenor saxophonist Christopher Kelly. Oddly Enough is a solo guitar recording exploring the music of New York-based composer/alto saxophonist Tim Berne, a significant figure at the creative edges of jazz whose works can fuse lyricism, tradition and an expanding complexity. For the project, Grdina has created a highly distinctive palette, playing classical and acoustic guitars, oud and dobro, but most notably a hybrid midi-synth electric guitar that aids him in creating distinctive polyphonic dialogues with multiple sonic identities. The results are as apt to sound like a band as a solo guitarist, and the first sounds heard on the opening title track suggest an electronically altered drum kit rather than a guitar. That might turn off purists, but persist and one is increasingly immersed in this dense work, an almost natural path for a musician as multi-voiced as Grdina. Enord Krad, the most complex of the pieces with oud, voices and reverb crashes travelling against its keening electric lead, is the most compelling of the works, mingling lyricism, angst and technology in subtle ways, before concluding with a sustained virtuosic and acoustic cadenza. The extended Snippet and the concluding Pliant Squids, filled with singing acoustic detail, fuse the distinctive lyric predilections of composer and performer in what may be Grdina’s most fully developed statement to date. Stuart Broomer Impossible Burger p2p Country Phasers Kurt Newman In the Same Room Doug Tielli; Nick Fraser Rat Drifting (rat-drifting.bandcamp.com) ! In the early 2000s composer/ guitarist Eric Chenaux created Rat-Drifting, as imaginative and distinctive as any label might hope to be, encouraging and embracing the most varied projects, often beyond genre. My favourite was Blasé Kisses by the Reveries, the trio of Chenaux, Ryan Driver and Doug Tielli who performed standards from the Great American Songbook with mouth-speakers and a mouth-microphone, literally inside their mouths, suggesting a submerged nightclub broadcasting from deep space: mysterious, funny and somehow transcendent. Now Chenaux is back, making Rat-Drifting’s brilliant and whimsical early documentation of Toronto music available again, as well as releasing new recordings, in download format. If the label has an aesthetic, it’s less about performance and more about capturing rare states of mind. The first three releases embody a special quality, an infectious empathy. Each is utterly different, but each is restorative. Each might happily share a Sun Ra title: Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy. The group 2P2 includes Karen Ng playing sax, bass, kalimba, synth, guitar, static, slide and stomach grumble, with Philippe Melanson playing percussion, electronics, field recordings, voice and guitar, along with Christopher Willes on synthesizers, gated tape loops, flute, tenor recorder, text-to-speech with the Melanson Family and Robin Dann adding voices. But the room isn’t crowded: it includes Toronto, Montreal, Cape Breton and Moncton. A pandemic project, it triumphs over isolation, giving its varied sounds attention, yet barely dusting them with intention, disparate and distant sounds gently joined in the ether. The liquid sounds of guitar and literal water heard on I are intimate, immediate, seemingly beyond authorship, while on the brief E, instruments are glimpsed through a wall of static. The eponymous Country Phasers is a band of one, with Kurt Newman playing a just intonation harmonica, pedal steel guitar and electronics that include overdubbing, looping and percussion. It’s steeped in the sounds of country music, with the singing sustains and bending tones of the steel guitar prominently featured. The repetitions and sustained drones declare affinities with Terry Riley and Bill Frisell, while the clear, high pitches suggest Andean flute music, and the looping electronic lead of Julienne invokes bagpipes. Though a strange digital break-up occasionally occurs near an ending, e.g., Chiffonade, a second’s pause quickly restores the ambient order. Trombonist Doug Tielli and drummer (and sometimepianist here) Nick Fraser have enjoyed a long collaboration including Drumheller, a free jazz quintet that included Cheneaux, Rob Clutton and Brodie West, and which also recorded for Rat-Drifting. Active from 2003 to 2013, it was one of Canada’s most creative bands. With the two isolated In the Same Room, the emphasis is less on intense creativity than depth of feeling, mood and response. Tielli is as artful as he is vocalic, and he summons up his instrument’s great jazz tradition of expressive lyricism, whether elegant or rustic, sometimes suggesting Jack Teagarden or Roswell Rudd. Fraser is an artful partner, whether creating rhythmic dialogue and momentum or subtly supportive commentary. Stuart Broomer Anders Koppel – Mulberry Street Symphony Benjamin Koppel; Scott Colley; Brian Blade; Odense Symphony Orchestra; Martin Yates Unit Records (unitrecords.com/releases) ! Mulberry Street Symphony is Danish rock musician and composer Anders Koppel›s fascinating musical take on 19th-century New York with its huge immigrant population. So many newcomers were pushed into crowded tenements and worked in sweatshops for low wages. Seven of the eight pieces on this double CD were inspired by the photographs of the “crusading photojournalist and social reformer, Jacob Riis.” The booklet that accompanies the set allows us to view the poignant and sombre photographs including Stranded in the City, Minding the Baby, The Last Mulberry and Bandit’s Roost. Just as the immigrants had diverse origins, the Mulberry Street Symphony combines a classical orchestra with a jazz trio of bass, drums and Benjamin Koppel (son of Anders) on alto saxophone. The orchestra and jazz ensemble play back and forth with Koppel›s saxophone weaving between these two forces with a clean and energetic sound. Tommy the Shoeshine Boy is a 20-minute piece which moves through many phases and we can imagine busy street scenes, the bustle of commerce and then a few short languid sections (perhaps Tommy gets to nap?) which emphasize the strings. By contrast, Blind Man is a delicate adagio piece with eloquent saxophone lines that weave between the orchestra’s strings and woodwinds. Mulberry Street Symphony is a complex and memorable reimagining of an important time and place. Ted Parkinson 56 | April 15 - May 27, 2022 thewholenote.com

Louise Emile Parisien Sextet ACT 9943-2 (actmusic.com) ! Although Emile Parisien is French, and Louise was created featuring musicians from Europe and the USA, there is a small Canadian connection: Louise is inspired by the wellknown French/American artist Louise Bourgeois who created Maman, the rather large spider located next to the National Gallery in Ottawa. However, the main reason to enjoy this album is its gorgeous, enveloping and at times almost languorous jazz grooves. There are sounds and surprises throughout, like a clean and efficient guitar solo from Manu Codjia that, suddenly and unexpectedly, has some fuzz attached to it and veers off in a different direction. Roberto Negro plays a whimsical yet focused piano solo for the first half of Memento Pt.II which moves into an almost cacophonous percussion section. This is Parisien’s 11th album and he wrote five of the nine tunes. His soprano sax playing is delicious, with a touch of Steve Lacey and an ability to hop lightly through one piece or turn a corner and play some serious lines in another such as Jojo, a scorching bop tune. To use an old school analogy, wherever you let the needle drop in this album, you will be entranced by the atmosphere and intensity created by this quintet of superb musicians. Ted Parkinson Sonne l’image Ensemble SuperMusique Ambiances Magnétique AM 266 CD (ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com) ! Sometimes, the smallest tidbit of context can make a world of difference when it comes to interpreting art. One illustrative example that comes to mind is the powerful 1997 Derek Bailey and Min Tanaka Music and Dance album, where the listener is primarily attuned to Bailey’s guitar playing but even just a working knowledge of Tanaka’s presence helps establish a real-world setting in the mind of the listener. Similarly, Ensemble SuperMusique’s 2019 Montreal Sonne l’image performance is also one of a multidisciplinary nature, and there is something about that framing that feels critical. Even if one doesn’t get their hands on a CD where the visual scores themselves are provided, the music takes on a new shape when the imagination can vaguely infer the imagery that is being responded to. This phenomenon speaks to a desire the spectator has to feel connected to the process itself, where the stage almost seems to disappear and the hierarchy of a concert hall vanishes. But what happens when one chooses to listen ignorantly, fixating on what we’ve been given rather than extrapolating? The music itself has a definite determinate sway to it in terms of duration and select composed passages, but this is an inspiring display of collective improvisation. Throughout three movements, all individual elements are interwoven but there is never overt disruption. Everyone breathes together, and nobody takes a solo. Communal contributions take precedence over individual objectives. Patience and timing ensures fluidity. Yoshi Maclear Wall Future Moons Adams, Dunn & Haas Ansible Editions 002 727 / 16 High Alpine Hut Network Ansible Editions 001 (ansibleeditions.com) ! As one of three brilliant (and radically different) recorded collections of improvised sonic experimentation released to kickstart the new Ansible Editions label, Future Moons sets itself apart by being a truly profound headphone experience. Due to the nature of the deep textural well the trio is drawing from, the abundance of information demands to be rigorously curated and Jeff McMurrich’s strikingly intimate mix captures the holistic picture with astounding clarity. The left and right channels are in sustained dialogue, and this exemplary balance gives the impression that one is becoming increasingly enveloped in the band’s shifting evocations of colour. The pieces traverse through so many contrasting spaces, that the urge to distinguish between starting point and landing place gets completely eviscerated. The track Soft Nebula (to me, a microcosm of this entire project) makes one’s head spin; the mind keeping pace with the curveballs it throws feels like an impossibility despite clocking in at less than two minutes. The jarring timing of that initial fade-in implies that the session commenced long before the spectator sauntered into the studio. Kieran Adams (percussion), Matthew Dunn (soundscapes) and Andy Haas (woodwinds) promptly alternate setting their own infernos, in the order I named them. The final second feels like a fourth-wall break; it’s an indelible event. Depending on how one chooses to approach this work, Future Moons can be filled with those instances. Elsewhere (in an adjacent galaxy), you have 727/16, a relatively brief dizzying flurry, consisting of several dizzying flurries. Structurally, it’s everywhere at once in a given moment but it never feels disjointed in its focus or intent; in fact, quite the contrary. It takes the concept of “fusion” as a loose genre-descriptor and runs the length of the globe with it. Jazz-house-ambientnoise-progressive-funk-dub is my best attempt at coining a suitable term for what I’m hearing, which just goes to show how comically obsolete this compartmentalization process can be when an ensemble draws from such a wide array of influences. High Alpine Hut Network was founded by Christopher Shannon and Benjamin Pullia with the original intent on experimenting with house music, but the personnel of the band subsequently quadrupled in size, and by extension so did the stylistic scope of the project. 727/16 clocks in at 20 minutes, with enough ingenuity and exploration to warrant about three times that length. The way it manages to cover the amount of ground it does with such staggering efficiency is with steady, unrelenting forward motion at a breakneck pace. If the listener so much as blinks, they’ll miss a handful of sections, especially during the erratic opening track. 727 starts the way 16 ends, with a pulsating drone that eventually reveals an ethereal synth ostinato, patiently panning left and right as the listener gradually becomes aware of its presence. This moment of tranquility is particularly striking when contextualized within the glorious storm it bookends. Yoshi Maclear Wall POT POURRI Of Glow and Abandon Radia Independent (ryandavisviola.com) ! Viola is one of those instruments that is loved by many but remains somewhat underrepresented in a variety of musical contexts. Ryan Davis aka Radia puts a glowing spotlight on it here, showcasing multitudes of colours and possibilities, and does so with much skill and imagination. The whole world is wrapped up within 16 minutes of music, a world so engaging that the listener is left wishing for more. Radia is a one-man band – Davis plays his viola with abandon but he also does electronics, looping and beats, creating music that crosses genres easily. The blend of classical, electronics, folk and hip-hop elements thewholenote.com April 15 - May 27, 2022 | 57

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