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Volume 18 Issue 7 - April 2013

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Arts
  • Choir
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Concerts
  • Singers

orchestra. A knockout

orchestra. A knockout performance of LesIlluminations, ten sophisticated settingsof the poetry of Artur Rimbaud from 1939,opens the disc. Soprano Barbara Hanniganis in fine fettle here, singing very beautifullyin excellent French while the virtuoso stringorchestra blooms luxuriantly in the warmacoustics of Haarlem’s Philharmonie Hall.Hannigan, renowned for her expertise in contemporarymusic, is one of Canada’s mostcelebrated vocalists and though that informationfigures quite prominently on herpersonal website, the liner notes ruthlesslydelete any reference to her nationality!An eclectic parody of myriad musicalstyles for string orchestra follows, the 1937Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, dedicatedto Britten’s first composition teacherand “musical father.” Bridge was an outlierin the parochial British music scene and oneof the very few who appreciated the progressivemusic of continental Europe, knowledgehe passed down to his eager teenage pupil.The recording cleaves quite closely to thetimings and interpretation of Britten’s own1966 recording though the modern sound,recorded in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden, isexcessively reverberant and over-modulated,though I suppose this might be considered avirtue for SACD fanatics.Superior microphone placement makesthis less of a problem in the closing item, theSerenade for tenor, horn and strings from1943. It features James Gilchrist, a fine singerwith more heft to his voice and less affectationsthan most English tenors, partneredwith the assured playing of the principalhorn of the Concertgebouw Orchestra,Jasper de Waal.—Daniel FoleyDavid Tanner; Jose Elizondo –Of Birds and LemonsMoravian Philharmonic; Vit Micka,Petr Vronsky; Millennium Symphony;Robert Ian WinstinNavona Records 96931navonarecords.com!!For those who havealways tended to shyaway from contemporarymusic for fearit’s too “avant-garde,”this disc titled Of Birdsand Lemons featuringmusic by two composersmay be just thething. The two in question — David Tanner(born in 1950) and José Elizondo (born in1972) both write in a style that may rightly bedescribed as “contemporary conservative.”Indeed, there isn’t a tone cluster or a trace ofelectronica to be heard anywhere on this CD.Born in the UK, Tanner came to Canadaas a child, and while in his 20s, earned fameas a member of the rock group Lighthouse.He is also known as a fine saxophonist andhas taught the instrument at the Universityof Toronto and the Royal Conservatory ofMusic. Tanner’s approach — that music shouldbe enjoyed by performers and audiencesalike — is very much reflected in the piecesincluded on this disc — Pocket Symphony,Tango of the Lemons, I’ll Come to Thee byMoonlight and Tyger — performed by theMoravian Philharmonic and the MillenniumSymphony. Together, they embody a buoyantand optimistic spirit, perfect for thecommunity groups for which many of themwere intended.Mexican-born José Elizondo shares a similaroutlook. In addition to his musical studies,Elizondo also studied electrical engineeringat MIT and Harvard. He too, writes in anaffable, contemporary style which he claimsmight be “too simple” for certain tastes. Buthis pieces Estampas Mexicanas, Leyendadel Quetzal y la Serpiente and DanzasLatinoamericanas — clearly reflecting hisroots — are joyful and engaging and the twoorchestras conducted by Petr Vronsky, VitMicka and Robert Ian Winstin perform withgreat bravado.This is definitely “music with a smile on itsface” — and who’s to say we don’t need moreof that these days?—Richard HaskellRichard Haskell calls the CD of pianistAlain Lefèvre performing Dompierre’s 24Préludes an appealing case of “new winein old bottles” at thewholenote.com.A Little Knight Music – Selected worksby General Sir Maurice Grove TaylorJoan Harrison; Elaine Keillor; Brigit KnechtIndependent!!The Ottawa-basedcellist Joan Harrisonhas produced a fascinatingand delightfulCD on her own label,The EnterprisingRabbit, featuring themusic of the amateurEnglish composerGeneral Sir Maurice Grove Taylor (1881–1961)cleverly titled A Little Knight Music. Taylorwas a career soldier in the British army,but his abiding passion was music. Despitebeing a distinguished and highly regardedpiano professor at the Royal College of Music,his father Franklin Taylor refused to teachhis son, who was consequently entirelyself-taught.Composed essentially for fun, and primarilyfor private performance, Taylor’s musicexists only in manuscript form. On the evidenceof this CD it’s interesting, competentand attractive writing, albeit with little senseof any real development.Harrison is joined by pianist Elaine Keillorfor the Sonata for Cello and Piano; violinistBrigit Knecht is the third member in theTrio for Violin, Violoncello and Piano, whichhas a simple but very effective slow movement.Both works needed a few touches fromKeillor to finish the incomplete finales.The other four works on the CD — the LlynMaelog Suite, Fair Winds, Brave Wind andSunset — were originally for violin and piano(Taylor’s wife was a fine violinist) and weretranscribed for cello by Harrison.This isn’t music that will change the world,but it does prove yet again that the explorationof the byways of music can yield suchsatisfying results. The playing throughout isexemplary, and it’s beautifully recorded too.Harrison, who discovered this musicthrough a chance encounter with one of thecomposer’s grandsons, plans to make themusic for the recorded works available on herwebsites, joanharrisonmusic.com and enterprisingrabbit.com,where the CD will alsobe available for purchase. The sheet musicshould be available for download this month.— Terry RobbinsJAZZ & IMPROVISEDMy Funny Valentine –The Chet Baker SongbookMatt DuskEone Music roY-CD-5626mattdusk.com! ! Toronto-basedsinger Matt Duskhas just released MyFunny Valentine: TheChet Baker Songbook.Given the title, onemight think thealbum would bearsome resemblance tothe late singer and trumpet player’s work.While many of the songs on the disc were signaturesfor Baker, he was not a songwriterand these are standards that have been coveredby many, many performers over theyears. Additionally, Dusk — a self-describedcrooner — has a very different singing stylethan Baker, who had a quiet and vulnerableapproach to song delivery. To their credit,neither Dusk nor guest trumpeters ArturoSandoval and Guido Basso attempt to imitateBaker’s sound. All are fine musicians in theirown right and take their own approach.So if it’s not really about Chet Baker thenwhat is it? Dusk and team (co-producersTerry Sawchuk and Shelly Berger) set outto “recreate a nostalgic musical experience”by producing a substantial album with amusical narrative intended to take the listeneron a journey. In that they have succeededutterly. The beautiful artwork and photographs— mostly of Dusk in various suits andsettings — evoke years gone by. And the music,complete with horns and sweeping orchestralarrangements, has style and heft. Baker was aposter boy for the spare, laid back West Coast/cool jazz sound and his most popular musicwas performed with just a quartet. So, certainlyenjoy Dusk’s album on its own merits,but listen to the original for a sense of whatBaker was all about.—Cathy Riches66 | April 1 – May 7, 2013 thewholenote.com

FluiDensityBrian Groder; Tonino MianoLatham Records/Impressus Recordsimpressusrecords.com!!Here is a recordingof free improvisationthat channels the players’multiple sourcesto combine Americanjazz and Europeanart music. Related tothe tradition of “freejazz” founded by CecilTaylor at the end of the 1950s, this way ofmaking music requires prodigious rhythmicassurance and close attention to moment-tomomentevents. Recording it is the exactingart of the single take: no editing, no overdubs,nowhere to hide.The players are engaged in a kind of collectivecreation that balances the strongindividualism of each against the duo’s abilityto meld their ideas. In this, Groder and Mianohappily avoid standard improvisational techniquesof simple imitation or “default” rolessuch as soloist and accompanist.Miano’s virtuosity is all over the piano. Heis most often the “dense” to Groder’s “fluid”in this equation. He never lacks for texturaland gestural ideas that contribute a sense ofdesigned space to the improvisations, his harmoniesranging from modal to atonal.Groder’s sound is the more deeply “jazz,”especially in the way a jazz wind playeraccesses quasi-vocal lyricism. His phrasing,articulation, pitch modulations andMiles Davis-like staccato identify him as theAmerican in this European-American pairing.The lonely, elegiac solo trumpet is an iconic20th century American sound that hereavoids cliché by virtue of its sincerity.— Nic GothamRecallGilbert Isbin; Scott WaltonpfMENTUM CD073pfmentum.com!!Very little contemporarymusic has beenwritten for the lute.While the guitar hasbeen featured prominentlythroughoutthe 20th century, thelute can often feel likeit belongs to anotherera entirely. Gilbert Isbin seeks to remedy thiswith his latest disc. Recorded in October of2011, Recall features Isbin on lute and ScottWalton on bass.The disc contains a series of short compositionsand improvisations. Although much ofthe material is thematically linked, each piecebegins to feel like its own short story. Interplayis emphasized here with both performersskilfully manoeuvring between composedsections and more freely improvised passages.This is evident on the track Pensive, withIsbin laying down a harmonic foundationfor Walton’s extended bowing techniques.The result is akin to a short piece by MortonFeldman. Timbre is important throughoutthe set and delicate unison passages can oftengive way to more turbulent textures. Flutter isa good example of this, with the duo settlinginto a groove before evolving naturally intoa section of free improvisation. This configurationallows for a great deal of space in themusic that each performer seems comfortableexploring. Overall, this is a very engaging setfrom two creative musicians.—Daniel MooreHave a Little FunAlex Pangman; Bucky PizzarelliJustin Time JTR 8578-2!!It’s difficult notto greet a new AlexPangman record witha smile and senseof gratitude. TheToronto-based singerhas suffered for yearswith cystic fibrosisand a few yearsStuart Broomerago, her health had deteriorated to the pointwhere she didn’t have the strength to standup to sing. Then she received an organ donationand underwent a successful double lungtransplant. For anyone, that is a major gift,but for a singer, it’s nothing short of a miracleto be able to perform again.Pangman has been going strong ever sinceand her latest CD Have a Little Fun is aptlynamed. Continuing in the style she has foryears — covering music from the 20s, 30s and40s — this CD has the added bonus of the éminencegrise Bucky Pizzarelli. The Americanguitarist has played with many legendarymusicians including Les Paul, StéphaneGrapelli and Benny Goodman, and his calm,collected rhythm playing is a steady presencethroughout the record. Although the songsare mostly medium and up tempo and havea veneer of fun, the lyrics run the gamut ofthe human condition describing loss, yearningand regret along with happiness and goodtimes. Along with standards like Stardust andI’m Confessin’ are a few of Pangman’s owncompositions and one, It Felt So Good To BeSo Bad, is a standout. And, really, who amongus can’t relate to that sentiment?— Cathy RichesJazz is sufficiently diverse, divisiveand sometimes justplain obscureso that plenty ofpeople who likesome facet of it mightnever knowingly recognizeothers as anything likejazz. Trio Derome GuilbeaultTanguay is somehow different,a group of avant-gardistswhose wildly eclectic performancemight make any listenerrespond at some point witha shock of recognition. Theirlatest CD, Wow! (AmbiancesMagnétiques AM 209), takes itsname from a composition bythe great experimenter LennieTristano, but when it appears it’sa segue from You Can Depend onMe by Earl Hines, a pianist whomTristano idolized and emulated.Similarly, when saxophonist JeanDerome sings a barroom versionof The Best Things in LifeAre Free or takes on The Baron,Eric Dolphy’s musical portrait of CharlesMingus, he and bassist Normand Guilbeaultand drummer Pierre Tanguay are calling upthe whole of the jazz past in a kind of feastthat anyone with empathy for the musicmight pick up on. It’s one of Canada’s essentialbands, whatever your sub-genreof choice.Shirantha Beddage, originallyfrom North Bay, Ontario, has gonefrom studies at Toronto’s HumberCollege to a doctorate from theEastman School of Music and backto Humber, where he’s currentlyhead of theory and harmony.There are also plenty of fine saxophoneteachers in Beddage’s past, includingToronto tenors Pat LaBarbera andAlex Dean and New York baritonesaxophonist supreme Gary Smulyan.Based on the evidence of Identity(Addo AJR012 addorecords .com),Beddage has a well-developed identityon the demanding baritone,playing with real power and focusingon the instrument’s middleand upper register, working intenor saxophone territory withthe baritone’s added grit. Hisstyle is essentially hard bop, withinfusions of blues and gospel,but he’s also compelling on balladslike The Wanderer. TrumpeterNathan Eklund, pianist DaveRestivo, bassist Mike Downes and drummersMark Kelso or Larnell Lewis provide ableassistance.As heard on Live at Joe Mama’s, theToronto band Organic (organic-jazz.com) isthewholenote.com April 1 – May 7, 2013 | 67

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