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Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

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modern & contemporaryWachner, Julian – Triptych;Concerto for ClarinetScott Andrews; McGill Chamber Orchestra;Julian WachnerATMA ACD2 2319Sparked bymultiple talents ofcomposer-conductorJulian Wachner, thisdisc succeeds on allfronts! In Triptych,commissioned forthe 100th anniversaryof St. Joseph’sOratory, organist Philippe Bélanger andMontreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain offer anexciting, insightful performance. Out of orchestralchaos the organ enters with chordalgrandeur in the introductory “Logos.” Anintrospective two-part organ passage plus itsaggressive string response become the basesfor the following allegro. I was especiallystruck by the quiet return of the organ passageover a pedal note, now continued effectivelywith chimes. Bélanger and selectedinstrumentalists are beautifully reflectiveagain in the middle movement “Agape,” theviolins serene and inspired in the closingmelody. The organist shines in the final“Angelus,” building steadily with the orchestrathrough tricky metre changes to a great,moving conclusion. Himself a virtuoso organist,Wachner has created long sonorities,repeated chords, and busy passages that arestatic harmonically to suit the highly reverberantspace. Producer Johanne Goyette andengineer Anne-Marie Sylvestre deserve specialmention for the sonic results.On a lighter plane, Wachner’s eclecticConcerto for Clarinet and Orchestra receivesloving treatment from St. Louis Symphonyprincipal clarinettist Scott Andrews andthe McGill Chamber Orchestra. Andrews’clarinet manages to be Coplandesque,jazzy, klezmerish and more in the expressiveintroduction and motoric allegro.Highly recommended.—Roger KnoxJAZZ & IMPROVISEDMe, Myself & IKenny WernerJustin Time Records JUST 248Kenny Wernerhas been aroundfor a long time, is abrilliant pianist, accompanist,composerand educator, andyet somehow hasnever received thepublic recognitionhe deserves. This album was recorded at theUpstairs Jazz Bar & Grill in June 2011 aspart of the Montreal Jazz Festival and thechoice of music ranges from such standardsas Round Midnight, Blue in Green and GiantSteps, to Joni Mitchell’s classic I Had a Kingand the pianist’s own gem, Balloons. Thereis an ethereal quality to the music right fromthe opening bars of the first cut which is sustainedthroughout the album.Balloons is literally inspired by the lifeand death of helium balloons. Balloonsbought for his daughter’s birthday wouldfloat up and touch the ceiling, but eventuallythey’d come down. So the tune is sort of amusical joke — a balloon from the party toits end. If you recognize something familiarin the performance of Balloons, it has therecurring strain of Barbara Allen, a 17thcentury Scottish ballad inserted a couple oftimes, perhaps because the Werner originalis about the life and death of a helium balloonand the ballad is about the death of ayoung love.Giant Steps turns into a flight of fancywhile A Child Is Born is a delicate, introspectivevoyage of sensitivity taken withhaunting simplicity. There is nothingnegative to say about this CD. I have been aKenny Werner fan for many years and I havenever heard him play better than he does onthis recording.—Jim GallowaySilent MovieMelissa StylianouAnzic Records ANZ-0036www.melissastylianou.comOn this, herfourth album,Toronto-born, NewYork-based vocalistMelissa Stylianousings with endearingsensitivityand ample heart.Pleasing to the ear,her voice is higher in range than most jazzsingers, occasionally soaring majesticallybut for the most part remaining understated,focused on the words she sings rather thanthe sounds she produces. Stylianou’s eclectictaste for repertoire here blends standardsand originals with a range of contemporarymaterial: James Taylor, Paul Simon,Johnny Cash, avant-garde folk singer JoannaNewsom and Brazilian pop star Vanessa daMatta. Brilliantly arranged to suit Stylianou,these covers provide some exquisite musicalmoments.Perhaps the only downside to recordingsuch excellent covers is that the artist’s ownoriginals do not shine quite as brightly. Butthe album has numerous highlights includingSimon’s Hearts and Bones, da Mata’sOnde Ir, Newsom’s Swansea and a stunningtake on one of jazz’s most sentimentalstandards, The Folks Who Live on the Hill,delivered here with supreme sincerity. Allfour tracks benefit greatly from the vibrantwork of multi-reed player Anat Cohen, appearinghere on clarinet, bass clarinet andsoprano saxophone. Guitarist Peter McCannis a sympathetic asset throughout, and cellistYoed Nir is a nice added touch on a fewtracks. That said, the entire band cushionsStylianou admirably throughout this beautifullyproduced, refreshing recording.—Ori DaganHeart FirstHalie LorenJustin Time JTR 8573-2Singer HalieLoren’s Heart Firstis what I think of asget-out-the-hammockmusic. The evocationof lazy hours onthe porch in a sultrylocale hasn’t somuch to do with theorigins of the recording — Loren and creware based in Eugene, Oregon — as with theeasy, back-pocket singing style and lightlyswinging support of the band. Gifted witha sometimes breathy, sometimes throatyand always gorgeous voice, comparisons toNorah Jones are unavoidable. I even hear abit of Aaron Neville in the way Loren playswith the break in her voice, in particular onher pretty take of Bob Marley’s Waiting inVain. It’s in these covers of newer standardsand remakes of pop hits that the disc shinesbrightest, but Loren’s own songs fit in cozilywith the classics and overall breeziness. Theonly time Heart First even comes close towhat could be described as edgy is on thereharmonized All of Me, which cleverlyblends tremolo guitar (William Seiji Marsh),malleted drums (Brian West) and a minorkey for a Willie Nelson-goes-voodoo kindof vibe. Loren also occasionally unleashes abit of French and Spanish to kick up the sexappeal a notch, but not so much to make youfall out of your hammock.—Cathy RichesOpusjazzJulie LamontagneJustin Time JTR 8570-2I’ve never beena big fan of the“crossover” — operadivas singing jazz;rock stars performingopera; classicalartists playingHendrix — ouch. Tomy ear, it usuallyhasn’t worked all that well (unless you’reKeith Jarrett playing Bach). So, it was withsome trepidation that I approached pianist/composer Julie Lamontagne’s third and latestalbum, Opus Jazz.Turns out I needn’t have been so trepidatious.Lamontagne’s efforts in “revisiting”66 May 1 – June 7, 2012

favourite classical music pieces — “a meetingbetween the jazz world I currently inhabitand the classical repertoire of my youth” asshe explains in her liner notes — have proved,by and large, quite successful in this CD ofmusic for solo piano.With an early and firm grounding in classicalmusic, Lamontagne ultimately went onto study with Fred Hersh in New York in2000. (Truthfully, that’s what made me looktwice at the CD. I mean, the sublime FredHersh, for heaven’s sake — the jazz pianist’sjazz pianist, and exceptional composer.)According to Lamontagne, Hersh encouragedher “to learn the works of Brahms inorder to make the connection between jazzand classical.”Given Lamontagne’s well-executed “adaptations”of works by Fauré, Chopin, Bach,Debussy and Brahms, among others, itseems she paid close attention to the teacher;her Brahms/Hersh-inspired Waltz for Freddoes him (Hersh) justice. Bach’s PreludeNo.1 in C Major (WTC Book I) is given afluid and beautiful treatment on track three.And in Chopineries, Lamontagne takes us ona brief, though mellifluous and moving, tourof a Chopin nocturne (Op. posth.72 No.1),ballade (No.1 Op.23) and waltz (No.1 Op.18).Lamontagne is an accomplished andcreative musician, no — uh, make that“yes” — two ways about it.—Sharna SearleLess Than ThreeOri DaganScatCat Records ODCD02www.oridagan.comIn the follow upto his well-received2009 debut, S’CatGot My Tongue,Israeli-born Torontojazz vocalist OriDagan has imbuedhis latest recordingwith a healthy doseof intriguing material, cool musical sophisticationand superb musicianship. The title,Less Than Three, refers to the online symbolof a heart — illustrating Dagan’s theme of“love” in its many guises.Recently named “Canada’s Next TopCrooner” by CBC Radio, Dagan’s rich andsonorous baritone plumbs a depth of feelingabove and beyond what his title wouldindicate. The CD boasts a line-up of giftedmusicians, notably the Bill Evans-influencedpianist Mark Kieswetter and recent Orderof Canada recipient, the luminous JaneBunnett on soprano sax. All of the impressivearrangements are by Dagan andKieswetter, including eclectic takes ontunes from Madonna, Elton John, AndrewLloyd Webber and Lady Gaga, as well astwo original compositions — the entertainingand witty Googleable, and a moving ode topeace, Nu Az Ma?, sumptuously rendered inhis native Hebrew.Noteworthy is a rhythmic and wickedlysensual version of Madonna’s disco-erahit Lucky Star, as well as Eretz ZavatChalav — sung with energy and authenticity(as only a “Sabra” can) and elevated to athrilling level by Jane Bunnett’s stirringimprovisations. Other tasty tracks includea scat-o-riffic roller coaster ride on LadyGaga’s Bad Romance and a pure and elegantrendering of Elton John’s and BernieTaupin’s first big hit, Your Song. No doubtthere will be many more treats in storedown the line from this talented and inventivevocalist.—Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeFrère Jacques: Round about OffenbachGianluigi Trovesi; Gianni CosciaECM 2217Writing aboutopera in 1856,composer JacquesOffenbach (1819–1880) ascribedverve, imaginationand gaiety to Italiancomposers and cleverness,good tasteand wit to French ones. Who better then toprovide a new take on the music of the fatherof the French operetta than two veteranItalian improvising musicians?Accordionist Gianni Coscia and GianluigiTrovesi on piccolo and alto clarinet createstripped-down reconfigurations of 12 ofOffenbach’s familiar themes. They oftenmeld those lines with their own droll commentariesproducing tracks that are postmodernyet jaunty and swinging, with thegaiety implicit in the French composer’sbest work. Trovesi especially, known forhis membership in the Italian InstabileOrchestra, can interject blues tonality insuch a way that his echoing glissandi reflectthe 21st as well as the 19th centuries.Intensely pumping, Coscia’s squeeze box notonly provides tremolo rhythms throughout,but adds dance-like slides and jerks whichlink Offenbach’s favoured Belle Epoque cancanto the rustic Italian tarantella.These affectionate homage-spoofs are frequentlyexpressed in title juxtapositions aswell. For instance, Offenbach’s lilting merrygo-roundstyled Et moi is coupled with theduo’s No, tu, no, which includes fluttertonguedreed slithers, while their Sei italianoencompasses wide-bore reed cadenzas andcomic bellows timing that plays up the thematiclyricism in Offenbach’s No! … Je suisBrésilien. The piece also links his operettasto what will become musical theatre songs.By including staccato tongue flutters andpolyphonic glissandi in their renditions,Trovesi and Coscia confirm that their languidand lyrical extensions of Offenbach’sthemes are treated as seriously as they wouldthe work of any composer or improviser.This impression is fortified on the originalGalop … trottrellando when the clarinetist’svirtuosic trills only attain decisive bel cantoexpression alongside the squeeze box interpolatingdistinctive can-can rhythms.—Ken WaxmanKen Waxman’s Something in the Air:Provocative Ethnic Blends with discs featuringRudresh Mahanthappa, Amir ElSaffar,Mats Gustafsson and David Sait can befound at Peterson’s Easter SuiteOscar Peterson; Niels-Henning OrstedtPedersen; Martin BrewArtHaus Musik 107 063The music on thisDVD was recordedin 1984 for LondonWeekend Television,commissioned bythe BBC and broadcaston Good Friday,April 24, 1984. Itis one of the leastknown compositions by Oscar Peterson,even though virtually all sources mention itas one of his major works. The eight movementsfollow the events related in the gospelstory. Long-time associates, bassist Niels-Henning Orstedt Pedersen and drummerMartin Drew, accompany Peterson and, asmight be expected, the playing is of an exceptionallyhigh standard.The DVD also features an interestinginterview with Peterson in which he admitsto an initial scepticism about interpretingsuch a topic in the medium of jazz and hisrelation to spiritual music. He also describesin detail the various motifs of the work andI recommend playing the interview beforelistening to the SuiteThe passion and resurrection may seemsurprising topics for a longer jazz work,but Oscar Peterson with his Easter Suitejoins a number of significant other jazzgreats — artists such as Mary Lou Williams,John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and DaveBrubeck introduced religious themes in theirlater works as a way of expressing theirspiritual beliefs. But religion-inspired jazzhas been around for some time. In fact onecould present a case that there has been aconnection right from the early days in NewOrleans with the street parades and the interplayof musical and religious traditions.The Easter Suite will make an interestingaddition to your Peterson collection and wehave to thank BBC for making it possible. Itis hard to imagine an American network producingsuch an event.—Jim GallowayMay 1 – June 7, 67

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