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Volume 17 Issue 10 - July/August 2012

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ased pianist Katharina

ased pianist Katharina Weber has won manyawards for interpreting notated music bycontemporary composers. Swiss percussionistBalts Nill moves easily among improvised,notated and even pop music, while Britishbassist Barry Guy has been exploring the relationshipbetween instantly composed andcomposed music for years, most notably withhis London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.Throughout this CD, Weber outlines theminute-or-so composed lines in appropriatelyintense, solemn or staccato fashion.Immediately following are group improvisationswhich, without losing the underlyingsentiment, stretch the motifs with techniquesencompassing hypnotic glissandi ormethodical isolated key strokes from Weber,rim shot pop and woody reverb from Nilland Guy’s rapid string rappelling or percussivestops.A prime instance of this occurs withKurtág’s Playing with Infinity that’s followedby Improvisation VI. The former isbuilt around a descending line that radiatesovertone coloration as it fades away. The latterevolves at a speedy clip as the pianist’s huntand-peckvariations evolve into a bouncy linethat almost spirals out of control until steadiedby Guy’s thumps and Nill’s clanks andclatter. Finally the percussionist’s metallic rimshots and the bassist’s staccato rubs presage afinale of linked arpeggios from the keyboard.Elsewhere these contrapuntal musical salutesevolve in different ways, as flapping cymbalsmeet intense low-pitched piano reverb; or atremolo build up of passing piano chords isbalanced with squeaking bass lines or hardobjects reverberating on drum tops.All and all the three manage to honour anunderappreciated composer’s music whilesimultaneously creating noteworthy soundstatements on their own.— Ken WaxmanJAZZ & IMPROVISEDGloryland (Tales from the Old South)Bill!!Versatile veteranpianist/composerBill King’s latest CDis a deeply personal,musical recollectionof his boyhoodexperiences growingup in the AmericanDeep South and iscertainly one of the most interesting projectsof the year. Comprised of 12 beautifully recordedoriginal solo piano compositions, allof the material is evocative and dripping withmagnolias, sugarcane and southern gothica.King is a thrilling and deeply sensitive pianist,and he freely draws from elements of jazz,blues, boogie-woogie, sacred hymns and ragtimemotifs.Beneath the leafy, bucolic images of the OldSouth lurks a dark subtext of racism, religiousintolerance, poverty, injustice and ignorance.Eviscerated economically by the Civil War andlater by the Great Depression, the perplexingdichotomies of the Southland are fullyexplored and captured in this profound sonicphoto album.Particularly moving are the slow raginfusedThe Devil Has 666 Fingers and theheartbreakingly lovely Faces in a Field ofTrouble, which is tinged with the influence ofKing’s former teacher and mentor, Dr. OscarPeterson. King steams down the Mississippiwith The Gambler and The Riverboat andthe soulful title track invokes a gentler sideof fundamentalist Christianity. Also exquisiteare the mournful The Hangman and the eerieOne Blue Sheet Hanging in the Wind.The piano itself is an equal collaboratorhere, and then as now, it assumes the roleof cultural focal point – so important to thedreams and creativity of the small, rural,communities labouring out their lives belowthe Mason-Dixon Line.— Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeSomething in the Air | New SoloistsAdding another voice to an establishedimprovising ensemble is more precariousthan it seems. With a group havingworked out strategies allowing for individualexpression within a largercontext— and without notatedcues— the visitor(s) must beoriginal without unbalancingthe interface. Luckily the sessionshere demonstrate successfulapplications.Invited to Rimouski, Quebecto give a workshop, British saxophonistEvan Parker also participatedin Vivaces (Tour deBras TDB9006 CD,recorded with the12-piece Grand Groupe Régionald’Improvisation Libérée or LeGGRIL. Made up of players fromdifferent musical backgroundsliving in the Lower Saint-Lawrence region, GGRIL is distinctive in thatthe group includes two electric guitarists,an electric bassist plus two accordionists,but only three horn players. Using these circumstancesto best advantage, these tracks,alternately directed by Parker and GGRILviolinist Raphaël Arsensault, employ the accordionists’tremolo pulsing and sweepingelectronic oscillations to thicken the bottom.With upturned slices from the strings andbarnyard cries from the squeeze boxes, twoclarinets and the tuba, it’s often Parker’s restrainedundertone that gives a linear shapeto the improvisation. The best example ofthis is Marcottage that manages to includecontributions from nearly every GGRILer.As Parker pushes forward with staccatoKEN WAXMANsplit tones he’s backed by sympathetic gracenotes from fellow guest, trombonist ScottThomson, and skittering, slurring accordionlines. Triangle pings signal a timbralshift and presage a ferocious solofrom the saxophonist. Band members’responses range from reboundingpercussion ratamacues,crackling electronic runs from theguitars and bass plus one accordionistsounding a faux balladicline as the other pumps powerfully.Finally the mass cacophonydownshifts to a satisfyingconnective rumble.The London ImprovisersOrchestra (LIO) deals with similarsituations during a recital onLio Leo Leon (psi 11.04 group improvisationsare supplemented by two specific concertos.Conducted by guitarist Dave Tucker, Concertofor Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith & Orchestrafeatures veteran American trumpeter Smith,who has been involved in similar situationssince the mid-1960s. The other, Concerto forsoft-loud key-box No.2, is conducted by pianistSteve Beresford and designed for pianistLeon Michener, who is comfortable with bothimprovised and notated music. Mostly concernedwith textural melding and displacement,the 38-piece LIO makes maximum useof counterpoint. Some tracks depend on harmoniesamong stringed instruments; othersmate kettle drum smacks with light flutepuffs; most climax as passing tones coalesceinto linear narratives.For a more fully-fleshed out review of this LIO recording,as well as insights into how the Royal ImprovisersOrchestra of Amsterdam and Satoko Fujii OrchestraNew York deal with similar challenges read the continuationof this review at July 1 – September 7, 2012

The shortlist of Canadian-bornmusicians who’ve influenced theshape of jazz might well be headed byKenny Wheeler, who at 82 continuesto craft significant newwork. The Long Waiting (CamJazzCAMJ 7848-2), recorded in 2011,is a spectacular big band outing.Wide interval leaps, airy highsand a piquant emotional subtletystill distinguish Wheeler’s flugelhornlines, while his compositionssomehow swing as hisHindemith-like brass voicingsbring special depth and lustre. It’san unusual combination of the mobileand the regal, and Diana Torto’swordless vocal leads (the band evenhas a singer!) add another distinct dimension.The CD is a shared achievement,with Wheeler supported by ahost of long-standing associates, amongthem pianist John Taylor, guitarist JohnParricelli and saxophonists RayWarleigh and Stan Sulzmann.Mundo: The World of JaneBunnett (EMI 5-09993-01621-2-9) is a 2-CD retrospective of hercareer, compiling tracks from CDsdating back to 1989. WhetherBunnett is playing flute or sopranosaxophone, in a duo with amaster pianist like Don Pullen orPaul Bley or with a large group ofCuban percussionists and vocalists,she’s an exciting musician,committed to reaching her limitsand finding something new. HerCuban adventures are highlightedhere, but there are plenty of othermoods and rhythms, includingballadic depths (You Don’t Know WhatLove Is), playful flute chatter (Serenade toa Cuckoo), and soulful funk (New Orleansunder Water). The interest never flags in thetwo and a half hour program, further tributeto Bunnett’s taste in sidemen and her senseof variety.On Double Entendre (Soccer Mom RecordsSOCM005), Jeff McLeod mixes and matchesmusicians from Toronto and Rochester,N.Y. where he’s doing graduate work at theEastman School. It’s an ambitious 2-CD debutthat highlights his work at both the piano andorgan, devoting a disc to each. The piano discis more reflective, contemporary fare, emphasizingmusical conversations on originals anddiverse repertoire by Antonio Carlos Jobim,STUART BROOMERTom Waits and Sun Ra. On organ, McLeodseems to reach back 50 years, his pulsinggrooves animating tunes by Thelonious Monk,Chet Baker, Pete Rugolo, and the organistLarry Young, while tenor saxophonistMike Murley and guitaristBen Bishop almost dancethrough the burbling organ.McLeod’s own ballad Namekusis a highlight, a lush springboardfor some brilliant Murley work.Toronto-born drummerHarris Eisenstadt has beenworking in New York forover a decade, but he commemorateshis origins inthe name of his quintet,Canada Day, a brilliantaggregate of youngerNew York musicians thatupdates the forwardlookingmid-60s BlueNote style of EricDolphy and AndrewHill, compoundedwith their own distinctivevoices andEisenstadt’s continuingexplorations ofrhythmic structures.On Canada DayIII (Songlines SGL1596-2), the groupincludes trumpeterNate Wooley,saxophonist MattBauder, vibraphonistChris Dingmanand bassist GarthStevenson who createa glitteringweave of elements aroundEisenstadt’s works.Recorded at the end ofa tour, the group managesto play the workswith aplomb, confidentlynegotiating eventhe shifting patterns ofSlow and Steady. Evenin this company, trumpeterWooley stands out, moving from atender bop lyricism to electronic-soundingexplorations.Eisenstadt’s Canada Day Octet (482Music 482-1080) adds three winds tothe quintet, among them the veteran RayAnderson whose explosive, vocalic trom-bone work is an apt addition. Most of theCD is devoted to a four-part suite, calledThe Ombudsman, built around the idea ofnegotiating between structured and unstructuredelements and arguing for theirco-existence. Eisenstadt’s gifts as a composercome to the fore here, constructing whollysatisfying music out of apparently oppositestrategies. As with the quintet date, it’s enlivenedat every turn by absolutely superiormusicianship.Composer and pianist Gordon Sheard firstbecame interested in the music of Brazil’sBahia area around 1990, eventually makingseveral trips there for an ethno-musicologicalstudy. His desire to work with Bahia’s leadingmusicians was realized in 2009, and theresults are heard on All Saints’ Bay ( Sheard’s pieces reflectthe authentic rhythms of the region.Some works are actually composed overtracks by the drummer Gabriel Guedes dosSantos with a group of percussionistsfrom the area, whileaccording to the credits, all ofSheard’s piano and organ trackswere overdubbed in Torontoa year later. There’s an inevitablecompromise in the method.Those percolating rhythm tracksmay hum with life, but the ultimateproduction favours surfacepolish over interaction.Saxophonist John Johnson managesto break through though,contributing heated solos onboth tenor and alto.Vancouver pianist TysonNaylor’s trio suggests the maxim“less is more,” making almostevery phrase count on a debut thatreflects the post-rock minimalism ofthe Bad Plus and EST. Kosmonauten(Songlines SGL 1594-2), is imbued withmusicality and an instinctive lyricism,with the group managing to invoke theexuberant abstraction of the Amsterdamavant-garde and the rhythmic vitality ofthe South African townships, all on theopening track Paolo Conte. Naylor, bassistRussell Sholberg and drummer Skye Brooksdevelop cohesive, evolving textures, whileguest clarinettist François Houle brings a gorgeoussound, at once woody and liquid, toSee It Through. There’s a tendency on a debutto show everything one can do, but Naylor’sdeliberate approach suggests he has plentyin reserve.July 1 – September 7, 69

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