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Volume 18 Issue 1 - September 2012

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his resonating double

his resonating double bass lines with selfcontrolledelectronics and electric guitaristSam Shanabi moving from arena-rock-styledflanged distortion to intricate and off-centrenote clusters, the sonic result is as aleatoricas it is atmospheric. A tune like Passing theGates of Shalmir-Keshtoum for instance, languidlycontrasts electrically oscillated bassmotion with drum clatters and ruffs; whereasstaccato guitar runs plus heavy-gauge bassstrings plucked and resonating for maximumphysicality, meet nerve beats from the drummeron Gul Shah’s Hunchback Henchmen.Meanwhile among Côté’s seemingly randomhits and rumbles on In Which Jack’s Cruiseis Ended, Shanabi manages to weave densechording and filigree licks in such a way as tosound as if several guitarists are present. Mostcharacteristically, each player appears to takeoff in a different direction on Third Invasionof the Swingingsguord until cross-patterningdrums, a slurred bass ostinato and distortedguitar licks combine for a sound eruptionthat makes Pierre Schaeffer’s pioneeringÉtude aux chemins de fer sound as hushedand primitive as liturgical plainsong, whileavoiding the blank nihilism of Hard Rock. IfJane and the Magic Bananas can be faulted,it’s that the three players don’t extend thehumour implicit in their name and song titlesto leaven some of the dense chiaroscuro-colouredimprovisations here.—Ken WaxmanReg schwager is a consummate guitarist,as skilled an accompanist as he isa soloist and an imaginative improviserat bop tempos and ballads, continuingthe special lineage of Toronto guitarists thatincludes Ed Bickert and SonnyGreenwich. On Duets (Rant 1142www.rantrecords.com) Schwagerplays with four distinguished bassists,each of whom he has workedwith extensively: Don Thompson,Neil Swainson, Dave Young and PatCollins. Each duet has some specialquality: there’s the boppishSir George with Swainson, dedicatedto their former employer GeorgeShearing; the cool Niterói Night Skywith Young’s propulsive use of glissandi;and the understated Latin rhythmthat floats Collins’ own Judge’s Row. Thesense of dialogue is always strong, butSchwager’s exotic The Alchemist’s Dreamis a highpoint, a probing, expansivediscussion between the guitaristand Don Thompson, frequentduo partners.Electric bassist Chris Tarryhas put together one of the mostimaginative releases of the pastyear, combining the music of hisquintet with his short story writing.Rest of the Story (19/8 Recordswww.christarry.com) looks like a book, butby the fourth story in the collection — TheHole — it gives way to just that and the next70 pages present a fringe of text around a CD(it was striking enough to win the RecordingPackaging of the Year award at the 2012JUNOs). Tarry’s narrative interests arise inhis compositions as well: they’re filled withsubtle harmonic ambiguities and rhythmicnuances, with strong melodies and intriguinginternal shifts in genre, a ballad assuminga blues hue, a beat becoming explicitlyLatinate. The band includes first-rank soloistsin guitarist Pete McCann — he brings a shimmeringlucidity to You Are the State — andforceful saxophonist Kelly Jefferson.There are strong narrative elements aswell in the Maria Farinha Band’s Uwattibi(Farpat 009 www.mariaffarinha.com),STUART BROOMERthough one requires a command of BrazilianPortuguese to pick up the details. The titlemeans “place of the canoe in Tupi-Guarani,”an allusion to a love story about a French colonizerand a native Brazilian woman. Farinhapresents her songs with a lighttouch and they’re filled withneatly turned emotional resonances,whether poignancy ormuted joy. The band is co-led byguitarist Roy Patterson, and it’svery good: Andrew Downingplays cello in addition to bass,adding a distinctive textureto AtinaMarahao and adarker hue to thebuoyant instrumentalSentientBaiao as it soarson Jean PierreZanella’s flute.The VancouverbasedclarinettistFrançois Houle hasassembled a genuinelybrilliant band that hecalls 5 + 1 for Genera(Songlines SGL 1595-2www.songlines.com).It’s an internationalcast withU.S. cornetist Taylor HoBynum, Swiss trombonistSamuel Blaser, expatriateCanadians MichaelBates on bass and HarrisEisenstadt on drums, withfrequent appearances hereby French pianist BenoîtDelbecq, a long-time Houleassociate (they released the duo CD BecauseShe Hoped on Songlines last year). Houle’scompositions are more than just triggersfor improvisation. The beautiful Guanara,anchored to a slow Latin beat, achieves analmost Gil Evans-like sonic richness from alimited palette; Essay #7, all tightly controlledangles, finally surrenders to a burst of liberatingcollective improvisation; Le Concombrede Chicoutimi II has the suspension and graceof Ravel. It’s a CD filled with clear, thoughtful,expressive work, and the settings — boththe compositions and the band — raise Houle’sown improvisations to a new level.The Element Choir, founded and ledby Christine Duncan, is a large Torontovocal group that practices “conduction,”collectively interpreting and improvising onhand signals that trigger different activitiesand sub-groups, control dynamics andsynchronize dramatic events. The choir isa cross-section of Toronto’s improvisedmusic community and their latest CD, withWilliam Parker at Christ Church Deer Park(Barnyard BR0326 www.barnyardrecords.com), is a spectacular performance withthe choir 70-strong and joined by severalmusicians: the trio of trumpeter Jim Lewis,bassist Andrew Downing and drummerJean Martin; Eric Robertson — both a regularcollaborator and organist atChrist Church Deer Park — andthe New York bassist WilliamParker. The result — a 44-minutecollective improvisation calledVentures in a Cloud Chamber — isremarkable, whether it’s thechoir in the foreground with itsstartling massed pitches, rhythmicchanting, eerie dialogues orbanshee wails, or the musicianssoloing against the backdrop of allthose voices. Hearing about it, itmight sound like an experiment;hearing it, it’s a remarkablecommunal accomplishment.Paying homage to late greatartists is as perilous as it isinviting. Ranee Lee recorded Deep Song:A Tribute to Billie Holiday (Justin TimeJust 250-2) in 1989 and it’s just beenreissued. Lee is a fine singer with aninterpretive depth and melodic subtletythat immediately distinguish her. Thosegifts serve her well on such challengingHoliday classics as God Bless the Child andthe harrowing Strange Fruit. She can alsomanage the Holiday playfulness on a lightpop tune like Them There Eyes, but she’s lesssuccessful in the emotional netherworld ofDon’t Explain. The accompaniment, too, isa mixed bag. Pianist Oliver Jones and bassistMilton Hinton play great jazz; saxophonist/flutist Richard Beaudet just sounds “jazzy.”Overall, it’s an affecting invocation of asingular figure, and Lee manages to assert herown vocal personality while creating it.66 thewholenote.com September 1 – October 7, 2012

Something in the Air | New Excitementat the Guelph Jazz FestivalKEN WAXMANOne of jazz’s watershedmusical creations, JohnColtrane’s 1965 performanceof Ascension marked hiscommitment to Free Jazz andhas since served as a yardstickagainst which saxophone-centredlarge ensemble improvisationsare measured. On September 7at the River Run Centre’s mainstage, one of the highpoints ofthis year’s Guelph Jazz Festivalis a reimagining of Coltrane’smasterwork by the Bay area-basedROVA Saxophone Quartet andguests. Not only is the ensemblegutsily tackling the suite, but itsarrangement takes Coltrane’s allacousticpiece for five saxes, twotrumpets and rhythm section andreconfigures it so that ROVA’s foursaxes plus one trumpeter interactwith two drummers, two violins,electric guitar and bass pluselectronic processing.You can get an idea of ROVA’sstyle of sonic daring-do on AShort History (Jazzwerkstatt JW 099 www.jazzwerkstatt.eu). Referencing all sorts ofreed writing from R&B vamps to atonalserialism, the 35-year-old quartet made upof soprano and tenor saxophonist BruceAckley, alto and sopranino saxophonist SteveAdams, baritone and alto saxophonist JonRaskin and tenor and sopranino saxophonistLarry Ochs show its versatility throughout.Especially germane and related to Ascensionis a section on Part 2 of the Ochs-composedCertain Space sequence when he corkscrewsan intense, stop-time solo into a stridentcollection of irregular polyphony and slaptongueinvention from the other saxes withthe authority of Coltrane’s sax choir from47 years earlier. That’s merely one highlightof this tour-de-force which outline’s theband’s other influences with tracks dedicatedto improv pianist Cecil Taylor and notatedcomposers Giacinto Scelsi and MortonFeldman. The Scelsi section dramaticallycontrasts bagpipe-like slurs from the soloistswith impressionistic harmonies from theother reeds modulating through differentmodes and tones. Although other sequencesin the Taylor section expose sinewy tessituraand staccato reed bites in call-and-responsefashion, Part 3, for Feldman, is unsurprisinglymoderato and leisurely, introduced andcompleted by air blown through the horns’body tubes without key movement, yetlyrically balanced throughout as eachsaxophone’s timbre is clearly heard withinthe close harmonies.That same night, Ascensionguitarist Nels Cline and otherswill join members of Norway’sHuntsville trio at St. George’sChurch for its unique mixtureof improvisation temperedwith electronic impulses andinfluenced by folk and rockmusic textures. Huntsville’s IvarGrydeland, who plays electric,acoustic and pedal steel guitarsplus banjo and electronicswith bassist Tonny Kluften andpercussionist Ingar Zach in thatband, shows off his zesty mixof spidery licks, resonatingtwangs and droning pulses withBallrogg, another Norwegiancombo on Cabin Music (HubroCD 2515 www.hubromusic.com).With that trio filled out by altosaxophonist/clarinettist KlausHolm, who adds electronics andfield recordings to the mix, andbassist Roger Arntzen, the disc isa close cousin to what Huntsvillecreates, albeit with moreoverdubbing, and, with Grydeland frailing hisbanjo as often as he strums his guitar, morecountry-folksy. Probably the most descriptivetrack is Sliding Doors which manages todeftly balance clarinet glissandi, ringingbanjo flanges and a powerful walking bassline. Before the result takes on too much of arural interface however, the trio’s judderinginteraction is meticulously intercut withpreviously prepared jagged guitar flanges andsluicing bass lines.Negotiating the tightrope betweenstaccato and lyrical in his playing is theforte of pianist Matthew Shipp, whose duowith saxophonist Darius Jones is the otherhalf of the double bill at Cooperators Hall.Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear TH 57202.2www.thirstyear.com), with long-timeassociates bassist Michael Bisio and drummerWhit Dickey however, shows that Shipp’simprovising can be as mercurial in thestandard jazz piano trio setting as well. Witheach of the 13 aspects of this suite stretchingso that they adhere to one another, the effectis wholly organic, not unlike the recording ofAscension. With Dickey’s nuanced patterningand Bisio’s buzzing, often bowed, sometimeswalking bass lines beside him, Shippskilfully moves through the piano language.A track like Explosive Aspects balances onringing, left-handed syncopation, while thesubsequent Raw Materials evolves like abaroque invention with leaping, high-pitchednotes carefully shaded as they jostle withpedal-point bass line until the theme finallybreaks free into rubato pulsing. There areinternal string plucks and harpsichord echoesin Shipp’s playing as well. With tremolo,lyrical and sometimes impressionisticpatterning on show, the trio maintains theswinging centre of jazz while subtly or overtlycharting new experiments and explorations.Overall 2012 promises to be a banner yearfor the Guelph Jazz Festival (September 5to 9). And that’s not even mentioning thedusk-to-dawn Nuit Blanche late Saturdayencompassing more unexpected sounds.Full details can be found at www.guelphjazzfestival.com.Read the continuation of this review atthewholenote.com.POT POURRIOur Lovely DayPatricia HammondImperial Music and Media IMMPLC002www.patriciahammond.com!!Canadian bornand London (UK)based mezzo-sopranoPatricia Hammond hasa luscious classicallytrained voice thathas graced the stagewith numerousopera companies andsymphonies. But on Our Lovely Day sheperforms a collection of “parlour” songs fromthe late 19th and early 20th centuries thatshe has performed in recital for the elderlyin British hospitals and nursing homes. Herjoyous interpretations, haunting tone colourand in-depth background knowledge createa brilliant presentation of historical accuracyand contemporary flavour.The Hammond-penned liner notescombine historical facts with personal reminiscencesfrom her performances, childhoodand recording sessions which aids to a betterunderstanding of each track. It is great tohear the rarely performed verses included inButton Up Your Overcoat and Always. Love’sOld Sweet Song is a bit quick for my liking yetHammond’s clear diction saves the day. Shecleverly adds in a bit of baroque-like ornamentationat the close of Drink to Me Only,while the rocking band instrumental leadinginto the Did You Ever See a Dream Walkingshowcases her tight backup orchestra andthe colourful work of arrangers/musiciansNicholas D. Ball and Matthew Redman.Our Lovely Day will appeal to all agegroups, from the very young to the not sovery young. My experience allows me tostress that the songs here are extremely trickyto perform, but Hammond makes them allsound so easy and fun!—Tiina KiikSeptember 1 – October 7, 2012 thewholenote.com 67

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