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Volume 17 Issue 2 - October 2011

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MODERN & CONTEMPORARYGroteskeMark Fewer; Jonathan Swartz;Andrés Díaz; Wendy ChenSoundset SR 1033 ( vonKorngold’s Suite,Op. 23 (1928) is aremarkable thoughlesser-known work,commissioned byone-armed pianistPaul Wittgensteinand ably performedhere by Jonathan Swartz and Mark Fewer,violins, Andrés Díaz, cello, and WendyChen, piano. The viola’s absence de-cluttersthe middle register, letting Korngold’s lefthandpiano writing shine. At the Prelude andFugue’s opening flourish the piano announcesits full and equal participation, deliveredhere with superb virtuosity by Wendy Chen.Violinists Fewer and Swartz capture the disorientedgiddiness of the Waltz while cellistDíaz leads similarly into the almost hallucinatoryGroteske, which carries us throughturbulent mood contrasts. The intense,post-Mahler Lied followed by the ingenious,energetic variations of the Rondo-Finalecomplete this exciting performance.In Toronto-based Kieran MacMillan’sFantasy Variations on a Theme byCharpentier, commissioned by Swartzfor the same instruments, fantasy is thekey element. The work weaves in and outstylistically from its theme, taken froma Marc-Antoine Charpentier cantata. Ienjoyed the atonal flights in the evanescentVariation 3 and Messiaen-like piano flourishesin Variation 6. The tonal variationsare evocative too, some tending to magicrealism in suggesting glimpses of the past orthe beyond. Mixing styles has been acceptedsince the 1960s when Foss, Rochberg,Colgrass, Kagel and others started quoting,re-working, or re-creating in the styles ofearlier composers. And through being tasteful,aptly conceived for the instrumentation,and welcoming to the listener, these fantasyvariationsare worth hearing too.—Roger KnoxNed Rorem – Chamber Music with FluteFenwick Smith; David Leisner; RonaldThomas; Mihae Lee; Ann Hobson PilotNaxos 8.559674Ned Rorem, nowin his late eightieswas, in his prime,better known for hispublished diariesthan for his music,contributing nodoubt to his beliefthat “society hasabandoned its artists in favour of a philistineculture of increasingly embittering ugliness.He feels that his own work is neitherrecognized nor properly understood.”Former Boston Symphony Orchestraflutist, Fenwick Smith is joined by pianistMihae Lee, guitarist David Leisner, harpistAnn Hobson Pilot and cellist Ronald Thomasto play five of Rorem’s compositions. Smithnavigates the varied challenges of the musicwith aplomb: in Queen Mab from the 1977Romeo and Juliet suite for flute and guitarfor instance, he uses dynamics effectively tobuild excitement, integrates flutter tonguingseamlessly, all the while maintaining greatrapport with his collaborator. In … it was thenightingale from the same suite, we hearhim as an accomplished virtuoso flutist,but for me the most moving moment in thewhole CD was his rendering of Last Prayerfrom Four Prayers, written a mere five orsix years ago, the last track on the disc. Theperformances can be considered definitive:according to the liner notes “Rorem workedclosely with” and was “honoured to be sodazzlingly represented by” the performerson this recording.Kudos to Naxos for bringing muchdeserved recognition to Ned Rorem’s workas a composer; I hope it will result in theseworks appearing more frequently in fluterecital programmes everywhere.—Allan PulkerJAZZ & IMPROVISEDMosaicTerri Lyne CarringtonConcord Jazz CJA-33016-02Terri LyneCarrington hasbrought togethersome of the topwomen in jazz forthe female-centricMosaic project,and the resultruns the stylisticgamut from jazz/funk, to rap and whatevercategory Grammy-award winning EsperanzaSpalding’s music fits into. (Baroque jazz?)Although the liner notes are at times unclearas to who performs on which track, whatis clear is that Carrington is the guidinghand, playing drums on all the songs,switching styles effortlessly, and she wrotea handful of the tunes. Other dominantperformers among the 20 or so on thedisc are Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen andHelen Sung sharing the piano and keysduties. Singer Cassandra Wilson lends hermahogany tones to the aptly named SimplyBeautiful, by Al Green, which also benefitsfrom nuanced violin work from Chia-YinCarol Ma. One of the standout tracks isthe opening Transformation, written byCarole Pope and Kevan Staples, formerlyof Toronto’s 80s music scene staple RoughTrade, along with Nona Hendryx, whoperforms the vocals. Also strong is Lennon/McCartney’s Michelle, which gets turnedon its pretty head. The only thing I founda bit off was awkwardness in some of thehorn and woodwind parts, which seemedlargely due to the arrangements rather thanthe playing. But soloing from all of thehorns — Ingrid Jensen, Anat Cohen andTineke Postma — was solid.—Cathy RichesCanada Day IIHarris EisenstadtSonglines SGL 1589-2( heleft Toronto morethan a decade ago,Brooklyn-baseddrummer HarrisEisenstadt hasn’tabandoned his hometown … or country.This thoroughlymodern session is the second CD by one ofhis working bands, whose name came fromits first gig on July 1. Complete with a coverpainting — with canoe — reminiscent of theNorthern Ontario summer camp the drummerattended, Eisenstadt’s eight originals areplayed by a quintet of top-flight New Yorkjazzers, none of whom is Canadian, althoughbassist Elvind Opsvik is Norwegian.Well engineered, “Canada Day II”balances on Opsvik’s upfront bass rhythm,as well as the never-obtrusive beats of thedrummer. With Chris Dingman’s ringingvibraphone clanks recurrently movingfrom foreground to background, most ofthe swinging pieces are elaborated by NateWooley’s buzzing trumpet technique andMatt Bauder’s vamping tenor saxophone.Both the trumpeter and bassist areshowcased on To See/Tootsie as the bassistkeeps up a steady pace and Wooley delvesinto slurry stutters, mouthpiece kissesand capillary cries. Subsequently, Bauderstates the tuneful theme and Eisenstadtaccompanies with off-side flams andrim shots. Cottage country cool ratherthan downtown hot, most of the pieceson “Canada Day II” are like that. Withthe horns or rhythm instruments oftenworking in tandem, other solos stand outas well. Jagged flutter-tonguing from thesaxophonist erupting from a foundation ofvibe resonation from Dingman enlivensNow Longer, a bass vamp that became asuite. During the piece, Opsvik slithers allover the strings or walks authoritativelyas the blurry unison horn work confirmsthe transformation.Overall the expatriate Torontonian’splaying, arranging and composing is soaccomplished that one doesn’t knownwhether to give it an “A” or an “Eh”.—Ken Waxman66 thewholenote.comOctober 1 – November 7, 2011

It’s Our JazzThe fall is always a showcase for thebest in Canadian jazz — this month’scollection is a prize package, the topthree world class.Up first is a splendid trio disc from pianistRobi Botos, who since his arrival fromHungary has consistently brought audiencesto their feet with sparkling imaginationand a fabulous technique. The impressiveRobi Botos Trio – Place To Place (A440 is the first album underhis name, 68 minutes on which he’s backedby brother Frank on drums and long-timeassociate Attila Darvas on bass. The 14-cut outing (mostlyoriginals) is terrificfrom the firstnotes of Life GoesOn with Darvasa revelation in aunit demonstratingimpeccableinteraction. Afab reworking ofWayne Shorter’sFootprints, adelightful takeon the classicswith Be Bach, alovely tribute toOscar Peterson(Emmanuel), astorming title piece,a bristling Smedley’s Attack and the humourdelivered on Inside Out are just a few dischighlights, which assert the leader’s firmgrasp of pianistic essentials. Some mightquibble at the Botos delight in fiery, top gearplaying but to these ears it’s simply splendid.Pianist John Stetch is a seriously giftedmusician whose presence unfortunately israre in the GTA despite an internationalreputation. Edmonton-born but U.S.-based,his releases invariably are stunningly originaland on the dozen tunes of John StetchTrio – Fabled States (Addo Records he demonstrates hisfluent skill at embracing a plethora of styles,rich textures and harmonic progressions. Hisvirtuosic playing and arranging is a constanthere, with the opening Oscar’s Blue GreenAlgebra an energetic, sweeping homage toOscar Peterson with gospel underpinnings.The pulsating 12-minute Black Sea Suite isa brilliant fusion of world music and westernjazz, Plutology (based on the indestructibleI Got Rhythm) spins way out and WhatThe McHeck conveys bracing hard bop.Fascinating considerations of jazz approachescontinue with Do Telepromptu probingbluegrass, Gmitri reacting to a Shostakovichprelude and the title tune riffing on BennyGolson’s Stablemates. Bass Joe Martin andGEOFF CHAPMANdrummer Greg Ritchie contribute fluently toan often breathtaking disc.Drummer Ernesto Cervini is a relativenewcomer who’s blazing a path throughcontemporary jazz with smart new ideas anda burning intensity that shouts to be heard.Taped live over two nights at Vancouver’sCellar Club, he illustrates his achievementswith terrific young sidemen in tow — versatileAmerican saxophonist Joel Frahm,pianist extraordinaire Adrean Farrugia andbassist Dan Loomis. On Ernesto CerviniQuartet – There (Anzic Records there’s nine tracks,six by him, thatillustrate individualskills and groupcohesion withFrahm’s spiky leannotes, Farrugia’sdynamic imaginationand Loomis’solid core basskeeping energy levelshigh despite formidablerhythmicshifts. They evenreimagine the soulballad Secret Loveinto helter-skeltermode rooted in bopwith Frahm’s tenorreferencing SonnyRollins. These performers always complementeach other, notably on the AndalusianflavouredGranada Bus, the reverentialGramps and the clever, quirky The Monks ofOka. Farrugia’s rollicking Woebegone is ameaty treat and the exhilarating Little BlackBird is a blast on an album that has to be oneof 2011’s best.The Cookers are a back-to-basics hard bopquintet, nowadays an attractive voice in theland of quasi-intellectual trickery, avantgardenoodling and jazz’s black sheepcousin, smooth jazz. Formed last year, thefivesome comprises veterans and newbies butthey’re close companions on The Cookers –Volume One (TC69420 its eight originals supplied by bandsmen.Immediately you know this group’s bestheard live with its mix of bop, soul, jazz andthe blues, with trumpeter Tim Hamels andsaxman Ryan Oliver swinging hard, pianistRichard Whiteman reliable as ever in allmodes and a lively pulse generated bytuneful bassist Alex Coleman and drummerMorgan Childs. The trumpet’s crisp, roughtonedprecision matches Oliver’s full-rangewarm horn, the former occasionally offeringfull rasp Roy Eldridge, the latter bringing tomind Eric Alexander. Top tracks: TheRamble, Blues to Booker and The Pork Test,but all have merit. Pity there’s just 47minutes on offer.Drummer VitoRezza’s poundingjazz fusion band5 After 4 makes amostly welcomereturn on Rome In ADay (Alma with its sixthalbum, the first since 2004. Backing thepowerhouse leader on 11 originals areversatile woodwind ace John Johnson,Matt Horner on piano, Rhodes and organ,and bassist Peter Cardinali. The musicalarchitecture is as always firm, groove andvigour uppermost. Johnson enjoys himselfthroughout, setting out his keen prioritieson the fiery opener 10,000 Days withCardinali’s bass sound big and booming,a combination that works well with triedand trusted drumming and complementarysubtleties from Horner. The bluesy TopHat is spelled out neatly with Rhodes andagile bass followed by a surprisingly sereneballad caressed by tenor and then the dense,off-kilter Mr. Govindas. Perhaps the mostappealing tune is Changes Of Season withmarked contrasts employing speed, delicacyand finally fury, Johnson leading the charge.The only problem here is a samenessin composition and execution, as if theensemble’s wound too tight.October 1 – November 7, 2011 67

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