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Volume 17 Issue 5 - February 2012

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  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
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Steamsville is briskand

Steamsville is briskand bright withgritty alto by GaryMartin, who alsoshines on AluminumBaby. Section workis mostly splendidthough soloistsvary widely inability (10 players get solo opportunities).The ensemble sounds best on relaxedmaterial, especially well-worn standards,but it can swing hard and clearly enjoyschallenging choices, including pieces fromBurt Bacharach, the Average White Bandand Charlie Mingus. Vocalist CatherineMcGregor holds her own on four songs.Three worth seeking: If you’re in themood for tight fusion try Cinque – Catch ACorner (Alma ACD83012 www.almarecords.com), a quintet featuring Robi Botos, JohnJohnson and Joey DeFrancesco. For forcefulswing there’s Cory Weeds – Just Like That(Cellar Live CL031311 www.cellarlive.com),a quartet helmed by Vancouver alto saxistWeeds with pianist Tilden Webb’s trio. Ifyou want groove and funk hear Jason Raso– The Red Arrow (Summit Records DCD 569www.jasonrasomusic.com), which showcasesthe Guelph-based bassist in action with assortedcolleagues including B3 master TonyMonaco and drummer Ted Warren.Something in the AirExpat Canadians Create High-Class ImprovKEN WAXMANAlmost from the time the professionalmusic business was established in thiscountry, the expected route for successhas been for artists to head off to the largermarket down south and set up shop there.Canadians from Percy Faith and MaynardFerguson to Joni Mitchell and Teresa Strataseffectively followedthat formula. Buttoday, as Americanmusical hegemonylessens and moderncommunicationsalmost literallyshrink the world,musicians, especiallythose who playimprovised music,can demonstrate thata permanent home inEurope is as beneficialas becoming anAmerican resident.Take VancouverbornJoe Williamsonfor instance. On Weird Weapons 2 (CreativeSources CS197 CD www.creativesourcesrec.com),the bassist, who now lives inStockholm after stints in London, Berlin andMontreal, is matched with German guitaristOlaf Rupp and drummer Tony Buck, anAustralian turned Berliner, for two extendedselections of intuitive improv. No loungeguitar trio, this band creates sonic sparksthat almost visibly fly every which way.Rupp’s constant, intense strumming oftenelasticizes into slurred fingering as Buckbuzzes drumstick on cymbals, pops histoms, door-knocks his snares and rattles andreverberates any number of bells, chains andwood blocks for additional textures. Keepingthe improvisations grounded is Williamson,who splays, stretches or saws upon his instrument’sstrings, scroll and body woodwhen he’s not creating added continuumby slapping outpedal point resonation.On thenearly 30-minuteBuckram, the threereach such a level ofpolyphonic coherencethat the cumulativetextures seemto ooze into everysonic space. Movingto the forefront thenfading back intothe ensemble, Rupppinpoints jaggedlicks that eventuallyaccelerate tostentorian multistringruns, as Buck concentrates pitter-patteringand agitatedly clanking into tremolowhacks. Finally, a climax is reached, asWilliamson’s multi-string variations, consistingof col legno strokes vibrating witha near-electronic pulse, push the three to adecisive conclusion.To read how fellow Canadians, drummerKevin Brow, bassist Pierre AlexandreTremblay and pianist Kris Davis are alsomaking their musical marks outside of thiscountry, read the continuation of this columnat www.thewholenote.com.POT POURRIMatadoR–The Songs of Leonard CohenPatricia O’CallaghanMarquis 81417I was delightedwhen I got thenod from theDISCoveries editorto go ahead andreview PatriciaO’Callaghan’s newestalbum, MatadoR– The Songs ofLeonard Cohen. Not only have I marvelledat O’Callaghan’s immense talent over theyears, but I had the pleasure of attendingher thrilling performance titled “PatriciaO’Callaghan Sings Leonard Cohen” at lastyear’s Global Cabaret Festival. And I wasvery curious to see how it all would translateto disc.Generally, it’s next to impossibleto recreate the intimacy, immediacy,spontaneity and energy of a live performanceon CD. I was utterly transfixed, watchingand listening to O’Callaghan on stage. I wasless so, listening to the recording; but themore I listened, the more I was drawn in.O’Callaghan’s voice (she trained as a sopranoat the University of Toronto) is as rich,pliable and luminous as ever, interpretingCohen’s songs with tremendous tendernessand a mature, worldly sensitivity and insight.Yes, the soprano nails Cohen!It doesn’t hurt, either, that she hasmembers of the Gryphon Trio backing herup on several tracks, as well as the finejazz pianist, David Restivo; their collectivework on Alexandra Leaving is particularlybeautiful. And bassist Andrew Downing’sgorgeous arrangements are outstanding on IfIt Be Your Will and Anthem. But, for me, thejewel is O’Callaghan’s take on Dance Me tothe End of Love. Translated into Spanish, it’spure joy and downright sexy.O’Callaghan co-produced MatadoR. Shecan be very proud of this project.—Sharna SearleConcert Note: Patricia O’Callaghan is featuredin “Masques of Love” — a cabaretpresentation by Toronto Masque Theatre,February 3 and 4.ChaChaMichele MeleIndependent (www.michelemele.com)With the releaseof ChaCha, composerand vocalistMichele Meleclearly illustrates notonly her ineffablesweetness of soul,but a gamin wit,66 thewholenote.comFebruary 1 – March 7, 2012

impeccable phrasing and mastery of thedelicious musical hook. On this, her fifth(and finest) recording, Mele shines on keyboardsand her pure, distinctive vocals arein full force and gorgeously recorded. Forthis project, brilliant producer and guitaristGreg Kavanagh has assembled a tight,groovy cadre of A-List players, includingMichael Stewart on sax, Bill McBirnie onflute and guitarist Lou Bartolomucci (notablyon Cabana Boy and Answer Every Question).The material on ChaCha is a tasty mix ofbrand new songs and several previously recordedtunes that have been given a complete(and delightful) re-imagining, such as thecharming Tree Frogs (originally written forher then ten-year-old son in celebration of hislove of amphibians).Mele is a natural, highly connective andcommunicative performer and writer, whomade quite a splash recently with her hitone-woman show “Naked on the Rocks.”Her appealing Astrud Gilberto-ish vocals area refreshing change from the over-wroughtdivas all too frequently holding sway on theairwaves and in the clubs. The title track isirresistible — rhythmic, clever and sexy — andthe Latin sizzler Hold Back Trigger is anotherstand-out, as is the lilting bossa, OneThing for Sure. Check out Michael Stewart`spotent solo on Stop Talking. This is a gem ofa recording — the optimum soundtrack for alanguid Sunday afternoon with the New YorkTimes, a mimosa and the perfect company.—Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeOnionoiseThe Vegetable OrchestraTransacoustic Research/Monkey TRES008(www.vegetableorchestra.org)With popularconcern about freshand organic produceas its height,Vienna’s 12-pieceVegetable Orchestra(VO) should garnerkudos from environmentalists.That’sbecause all of the instruments the membersplay are painstakingly fashioned fromfresh vegetables.More than gimmickry — although mostof these sound legumes can only be playedonce and are then turned into soup for theconcert audience — these compositions andimprovisations are part of the Viennese traditionof sonic experimentation that dates backto Schoenberg and Webern; although it’smore bio-degradable. Unlike self-containedserialism however, the VO’s repertoire drawsfrom pop, concrète, noise, improvised andelectronic music. Krautrock, for instance,approximates the sound of that noisy genrewith distorted cabbage scrapings. MeanwhileLe Massacre du Printemps reaches a levelof timbral intensity by layering repetitivepercussion from a pumpkin bass drum, aneggplant clatterer, a carrot xylophone and abell pepper hooter with parsley, leek and celeriaccrackles that seem to emanate from afrying pan. The mélange finale showcases anopposing lyrical airiness propelled by radishbass flute and carrot flute.There are other tasty interludes of soundmulching. They include Regen which suggestselectronic oscillations, actually createdby leek membrane pulsations as well asFrench bean crackles processed through abean-tip pickup; and Brazil, whose swingingIn 2002 Radio Netherlands Music issuedthe first volume of an Anthology of theRoyal Concertgebouw Orchestra, a 13-CD box of live performances from 1935 to1950. Five future volumes were promisedthat would cover performances, decadeby decade, to the end of the century. Theprojected series is now complete with VolumeSix containing great performances from1990 to 2000 (RCO 11004, 14 CDs). Artistsin that first volume includedWalter, Monteux, Ansermet,Mengelberg, van Beinum,Abendroth, Jochum, Karajan,Kleiber, Boult, Klemperer,Furtwangler and others, allof whom were deceased by1990. The works were fromthe standard concert repertoireof the day. This final editionbrings us pretty well up to datewith performances by eminentmaestros and soloists of thedecade. The editors who selectedperformances for inclusionhave done well as there are nosecond rate renditions to beheard in any of the 37 individualworks presented. Collectorsmay be relieved to know thatthere is no Beethoven Fifthor Ninth, (but there is a Sixthwith Sawallisch); no Brahmssymphonies, no Le Sacre duPrintemps or Bolero to add yetanother version to a balancedcollection. There are twoShostakovich symphonies, theFirst (Solti) and the Fifth (KurtSanderling); an Elgar Second(Previn); an overwhelmingMahler Fifth (Tennstedt);Sibelius Fourth (Berglund);Bluebeard’s Castle (Ivan Fischer)and scores conducted by Chailly,Dutoit, Skrowaczewski, Jansons,Flor, de Leeuw, Fournet, deWaart, Boulez, Harnoncourt, Gardiner,Rozhdestvensky, Berio, Haitink and others.Composers include Frank Martin, Dutilleux,Lutosławski, Ravel, Zemlinsky, Bartok andthe list goes on. Check Archivmusic.comLatin-American-like maraca motion pluspercussion and castanet-like resonationsresult from a bean shaker, eggplant clapper,celeriac bongo and leek pulses. The tuneeven ends with some swaying vamps fromcarrot xylophone and calabash bass.High quality rather than high caloricsounds, it seems somehow appropriate thatthis sonic salad is served up on a CD, whichafter all is the same shape as a dinner plate.—Ken WaxmanOld Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESfor the complete contents … but buy it inCanada where it’s cheaper. Not only are theperformances exemplary but the recordedsound is of audiophile quality throughout,aided by the special acoustics of theConcertgebouw. The Dutch engineers havethe art of recording this orchestra down pat.An impeccable, if somewhat esoteric (but notfor long), collection.Although it has been 22 years sincehis death in 1989, Herbertvon Karajan’s entire recordedrepertoire, beginning in 1939with Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique”symphony, is still available. Herecorded the nine Beethovensymphonies four times; for EMIin the early 1950s and then anew cycle every decade withhis Berlin Philharmonic forDG. When that final nine wasissued, the critics had a fieldday comparing and twitteringabout the felicities of movementversus movement of the threeDG cycles. His interpretationsdid evolve through the yearsculminating in the 1982–4performances which is thecycle chosen for Beethoven:Karajan, a 13-CD set of allKarajan’s Beethoven repertoirewith the Berlin Philharmonic(DG 4779830). Also includedare all the overtures, all theconcertos — piano (the first withEschenbach, and Weissenbergfor the rest), violin (Mutter)and the triple (Zeltser, Mutterand Ma); Wellington’s Victory;the Missa Solemnis; the GrosseFuge, and a couple of shortpieces without opus numbers.Only Fidelio is missing. Thisis an exceptional collectionoffering superb performances instate-of-the-art re-mastering atan absurdly low price that would have beenunimaginable just a few years ago when, ifbought separately, these discs would haveleft the buyer with little change from 0.I must add that my very favouriteFebruary – March 7, 2012thewholenote.com 67

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