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Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

  • Text
  • September
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Festival
  • Concerts
  • Symphony
  • Arts

Eclectic and artful,

Eclectic and artful, Whose Shadow? is stillmostly covers, but Solnicki has chosen moremodern and unusual songs, and, along withproducer and bass player George Koller, hasinterpreted them in interesting ways. Thatalong with Solnicki’s classical training makesthis a refreshing departure from more traditionalvocal jazz albums. Her delicate, highvoice is a natural for songs such as KateBush’s Sunset and Joni Mitchell’s Shades ofScarlett Conquering. The combination ofa lightly swinging groove from the rhythmsection (jazz stalwarts such as Ted Quinlan onguitar, Mark Kieswetter on piano, Nick Fraseron drums and Davide DiRenzo on percussion)and Solnicki’s straight treatment ofthe melody on Purcell’s Music for a While issurprising and successful. Freedom Danceharkens back to 70s smooth jazz completewith wind chimes. Overall, the effect of thealbum is dreamy, contemplative and pleasant.Cathy RichesPlay BluePaul BleyECM 2373Aged 81 and ailing,the likelihood ofCanadian expatriatepianist Paul Bleygiving (m)any moreconcerts is limited.But this newly issued2008 live performancefrom Oslo easilyconfirms why the unique style he developedin the early 1960s has influenced many pianistsincluding Keith Jarrett.Except for Sonny Rollins’ Pent-Up House,which Bley performs in response to vociferousdemands for an encore from the audience– and to which he appends some so-calledclassical trope to the boppish line – all thecompositions are his. Given enough time todevelop, each is, for all intents and purposes,a suite, which brings in many allusions.Deceptively lyrical as well as maintaining ablues sensibility, Flame’s ringing key strokessuggest nightclub ballads like My Way, butwith a cleaner interface. The dramatic Longeris crowded with chords and arpeggiated runsthat would be as didactic as an Art Tatumperformance if Bley didn’t slyly insert whatsounds like a lick from Arrivederci Romamidway through.Bravura, but without bravado, Bley defineshis art on Far North and Way Down SouthSuite. Starting off in a nervy gallop, he firstcycles through passing chords and glances atthe American Songbook before settling intoan impressionistic melody that by the finalevibrates basso, bop-like textures from thesoundboard. Sharp and intense, the titledSuite piles strident glissandi and blues allusionsinto an exposition, then after a theatricalmany-seconds pause, first deconstructsthe melody then focuses it again with evenhandeddynamics. Bley’s piano command issuch that without leaving the keys it appearsas if he’s violently plucking the instrument’sstrings as he plays.We can hope that more Bley will appearon record. But if this concert recording is hisswan song, the unique mixture of skills whichmade his reputation are definitely and appropriatelyexhibited on it.Ken WaxmanMaquequeJane BunnettJustin Time JTR 8586-2Toronto saxplayer Jane Bunnetthas long immersedherself in Cubanmusic and many ofher award-winningrecordings haveintroduced Cubanmusicians to NorthAmerican audiences by blending Afro-Cubanrhythms with contemporary jazz. Her latest,Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, is no different,as Bunnett ventured to Havana to record withthis new all-female group. (“Maqueque” –pronounced Ma-keh-keh – means the spirit ofa young girl in an Afro-Cuban dialect.) Voice,flute and soprano sax-laden, the tracks aredriven by percussion, as you’d expect. Thestrings, courtesy of the Annex String Quartetarranged by ex-pat Cuban and piano masterHilario Durán, lend a sense of drama andold-fashioned romance to many of the songs.The recording is not over-produced so hasan immediacy and authenticity to it. SingerDayme Arocena has a particularly strongpresence as she wrote three of the songs onthe disc – including the lovely Canto a Babba– and has a raw, earthy warmth to her voice.One of the standout tracks is her duet on BillWithers’ Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gonesung in English and Spanish which starts outsimply and hauntingly accompanied by onlytres guitar and congas.The final cut – Song for Haiti – was originallyrecorded as a fundraiser for Red Crossrelief efforts in that struggling country andhas completely different personnel on it,including Cuban rapper Telemary. The cleverarrangement is a sophisticated and touchingway to close out the disc. Maqueque is touringCanada and the U.S. this year and dates canbe found at janebunnett.com/tour.Cathy RichesEditor’s Note: Four-time JUNO Awardwinner,two-time GRAMMY nomineeand Officer of the Order of Canada, JaneBunnett has been chosen as a finalist for theOntario 2014 Premier’s Award for Excellencein the Arts. The laureates will be announcedat an awards ceremony at Roy Thomson Hallon September 16. Bunnett and Maquequefinish up their U.S. tour on September 22 atNYC’s prestigious Blue Note Jazz Club andgive a farewell performance at Hugh’s Roomin Toronto on September 27, before the bandreturns to Cuba.Last DanceKeith Jarrett; Charlie HadenECM 2399Prescient by happenstance, Last Dance hadjust been released when double bassistCharlie Haden died from the effects of postpoliosyndrome at 76 on July 11, 2014. Actuallyrecorded in 2007, this nine-track recital,featuring Haden’s and pianist Keith Jarrett’sreimagining of jazz and American songbookclassics, demonstrates only one aspect of thebass master’s skills. His evolutionaryrecasting of the instrument’s role, definedduring his membership in Ornette Coleman’sbarrier-breaking quartet, and his politicalcommitment, expressed by his leadership ofthe aptly named Liberation Music Orchestra,can be researched elsewhere.Instead Haden and Jarrett, in whose quartethe played from 1967to 1976, deal herewith instantly recognizablemelodiesin a novel fashion,but subtly enoughthat familiar underpinningsaren’tneglected. It’s noteworthy,with Jarrett’s reputation for immoderationand showiness, that Haden’sbass work puts the finer point on thesere-creations. At times, for instance, whenit appears as if the pianist is opting forponderous readings, dialogue with Hadenprods the pianist to open up the tune.Case in point is when Haden’s rhythmicallyperfect countermelody adds ballast toJarrett’s interpretation of Everything Happensto Me. With the pianist now commenting onthe chromatic bass line, dancing key strokesbecome more than decoration. Similarly ItMight As Well Be Spring bounces along as atoo-familiar show tune until Haden’s pluckedreverb exposes the piece’s underlying gravitas,which is maintained even as the headis reprised. Even Dance of the Infidels, theset’s one up-tempo number, benefits fromHaden’s ability to suggest a sub-theme whilesolidly accompanying the pianist’s narrativeelaboration.Poignantly, the bassist’s modest, yetpowerful solo on Goodbye, the CD’sconcluding track, adds an appropriate finalityto the project. Haden’s string expositioncreates the proper context for Jarrett’s themevariations. Unwittingly perhaps, Hadenexits this session leaving behind a first-classdemonstration of one facet of his sizablemusical talent.Ken Waxman74 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

By happy coincidence the past fewmonths have seen new releases by manyof Toronto’s most consistently creativemusicians.The trio of saxophonist Mike Murley,guitarist Ed Bickert and bassist Steve Wallaceset a high standard for harmonically sophisticated,lyrical chamber jazz. The groupreleased just two CDs – Live at the Senatorand Test of Time – but each won the JUNOfor Best Traditional Jazz Album, the formerin 2002 and the latter in 2013. Guitarist RegSchwager assumed the guitar chair whenBickert retired in 2001, but Looking Back(Cornerstone CRST CD143 cornerstonerecordsinc.com)is the first time this configurationof The Mike Murley Trio has recorded.The tunes are chosen with rare taste, emphasizinglittle-heard pieces by great composers,like Billy Strayhorn’s Isfahanand Antônio Carlos Jobim’sIf You Never Come to Me. It’smusic of supreme artistry,floated aloft on Murley’sdistinctive, almost feathery,tenor saxophone sound andthe bubbling electric clarityof Schwager’s guitar, all of ittethered joyously to Wallace’s pulsingbass lines. A rare blend ofwistful reflections andsoaring freedom make theCD another JUNO contender.Reg Schwager turns up inanother fine ensemble, trombonistDarren Sigesmund’sdistinctive septet, on StrandsIII (darrensigesmund.ca). Sigesmund is anoutstanding composer,creating welcoming moodscomprised of evocativeand elusive harmonies.His music is both warmand cool, dense and transparent,and there’s a subtleLatin flavour woven throughout. If his earlierwork suggested a strong Wayne Shorterinfluence, his own identity is everywhereapparent here, its distinctive sound formedby the unusual combination of Eliana Cuevas’wordless voice, his own mellifluous tromboneand the expressive wail of Luis Deniz’salto and soprano saxophones, complementedby Schwager, vibraphonist MichaelDavidson, bassist Jim Vivian and drummerEthan Ardelli. El Encanto, the only song herewith words (Cuevas’ own) is particularlycompelling.Fern Lindzon is a rare jazz singer, herstrong identity based on nuanced expression,a clear, almost silky voice, and afreedom from the collections of mannerismsSTUART BROOMERthat many jazz singers use to distinguishthemselves. Instead, her workseems to grow from her solid pianoplaying and the empathy that existswith her band. For her third CD,Like a Circle in a Spiral (iatrosIMO3 fernlindzon.com), shemoves deftly between languagesand styles, singing songs inHebrew (Mishaela) and Yiddish (AMalekh Veynt) with the same idiomaticcomfort that marks the morefamiliar Windmills of Your Mind.The most striking piece may beher arrangement of alternative popsongwriter Ron Sexsmith’s Jazzat the Bookstore, a richly ironicrendition in which accomplishedjazz musicians (saxophonist David French,bassist/producer George Koller,vibraphonist Michael Davidson anddrummer Nick Fraser) get to “play”jazz musicians.Bassist Andrew Downing, trumpeterJim Lewis and guitaristDavid Occhipinti provide comparablesurprise on Bristles (OccdavMusic - OM007, davidocchipinti.com), as they alternate a series of briefcollective improvisations with longertreatments of standards. Each ofthe improvisations is named for a20th-century painter, with a directmethodological link betweenthe repeated even tones andcyclical discords of Cy Twomblyand the sudden swirling lines of JacksonPollock. The standards are evidentlychosen for melodic richness, withthe trio exploring the possibilitiesof such tunes as My One andOnly Love, Emily and I Fall in LoveToo Easily. There’s a spectacularclarity of thought and sound asthe three embellish and reshapetheir materials, at times turningsuddenly from icy abstraction tothe most exalted lyricism.Pianist Gerry Shatfordworked extensively in theMontreal, Vancouver andOttawa jazz scenes beforereturning to Toronto where he wasraised. He’s been emphasizingcomposition in recent years,along with studies with masterpianist Stanley Cowell, and theresults of both pursuits are documentedon When I Sat Down toPlay the Piano (gerryshatford.com), a suite of pieces inspiredby Al Purdy’s poetry. Viewedthrough the great piano traditionof James P. Johnson, TheloniousMonk (his compositions getquoted) and Bud Powell, thepoems find analogues in the offkilterstride of Home-Made Beeror the romantic reverie of How aDog Feels to Be Old. Accompanied here by theideal rhythm section in bassist Neil Swainsonand drummer Terry Clarke, the journeymanShatford reveals a strong identity of his own.The Jazz Descendants are another pianotrio featuring a relatively unknown pianistwith a stellar rhythm section, combiningbassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer LeroyWilliams with pianist Joshua Goodman, whoworks regularly in Disterheft’s quartet. Red(Superfran Records SFR0008, superfranrecords.com)is dedicated to Barry Harris,the respected bop pianist and teacher withwhom Williams has long been associatedand with whom Goodman has studied. Muchof the music is low key, Goodman blendinghis mainstream jazz and classical influencesin a consistently pleasant way, While hisreflective Medley goes on too long, stretchingits pastoral themes to the 14-minute mark, hebrings a precise bop touch to the venerableScrapple from the Apple. The best momentscome when Disterheft and Williams come tothe fore, as on the bassist’s potent Prayer toRelease the Troops.Old Wine, New BottlesFine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESConductor Ferenc Fricsay (1914-1963) was a significant figure inthe international music world in the mid-20th century. He wasborn in Budapest and studied with Bartók, Dohnányi and Kodályat the Budapest Academy of Music. He held several posts before 1945when he became co-conductor of what would become the BudapestPhilharmonic Orchestra and sole director of the Budapest Opera. Bythe 1950s his interpretive talent was recognized and he was in demandas a guest conductor by leading orchestras. He left the BudapestPhilharmonic in 1948 to become music director of the recently formed RIAS Symphony inBerlin. He held that post from 1948 through 1954, then again from 1959 to 1963.Thanks to Deutsche Grammophon (DGG at the time) who recorded Fricsay working with histhewholenote.com September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 | 75

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