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Volume 20 Issue 3 - November 2014

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piece on this recording

piece on this recording is surely Barber’sString Quartet, if only because of the famousAdagio, most often heard arranged for stringorchestra. Here, the warmly resonant stringsfurther heighten the movement’s elegiacmood. Equally elegiac is the brief Largo forviolin, clarinet and piano by Charles Ives.Insurance broker by day and composer onthe weekend, Ives was very much an individualist.His approach to music was distinctlyAmerican, and I liken the introspective moodof this piece from 1901 to those stark urbanlandscapes by Edward Hopper created 30years later. Elliott Carter’s Elegy for viola andpiano from 1943 is marked by a romanticconservatism not seen in his later style.So it would seem that during the 1930s and40s, there was more going on musically inAmerica than the jitterbug and big bands andthis CD proves it admirably. Kudos to JamesEhnes and his group from Seattle for bringingto light some treasures that most certainlydeserve greater exposure.Richard HaskellThe TranscendentalistIvan IlicHeresy Records 015( it comes tonew music the averagemusic lover, includingmyself, is in anunknown territory (ordownright ignorant)and that can provokehostility and aversionat times. This new discby Ivan Ilic, a distinguished American pianistof Serbian descent, does an immeasurableservice to smoothen the road to acceptance bythe back door, so to speak.It’s a masterstroke to devise a program withthe likes of Cage, Feldman or Wollschleger bytracing them backwards to “fall on branchesdescending from Frédéric Chopin.” It’s alsoall the more surprising – says Mr. Ilic – thatScriabin, one of the greatest innovators in theearly 20th century, took Chopin as a point ofdeparture. And this is the point at which thisremarkable journey begins.Scriabin’s Prelude Op.16, No.1 indeedsounds a bit like a Chopin Nocturne witha charming little melody developed nicelyand it’s over in two minutes. Fine… everyoneis happy about that, but our pianist nowpresents an early piece by John Cage, Dream(1948), and we immediately sense the relationshipto Scriabin. The hesitant fragmentsmoving at an even pace like moving in andout of our subconscious, laying out slowlya wonderful oriental landscape, sometimesinterrupted by deep and disturbing chords…yes, indeed, we feel the connection, but alsoexperience the departure into a new worldwith a mesmerizing, hypnotic effect.“Transcendental meditation?” The phrasehere takes on a new meaning under the magichands of Ilic who is guaranteed to hypnotizeyou like no other into the mysteries ofanother universe, but at the same time playsScriabin’s gorgeous D-flat major PreludeOp.31, No.1 so beautifully that you canperhaps endure the vicissitudes of this hereuniverse.Janos GardonyiHosokawa – Orchestral Works 2Royal Scottish National Orchestra;Orchestre National de Lyon; Jun MärklNaxos 8.573276Toshio Hosokawa isin some way a visualartist disguised as acomposer. The threepieces on this collectionof orchestralmusic bear a strikingsimilarity of form;they remind me ofSt. Exupéry’s descriptions of his childishdrawings of boa constrictors who swallowedelephants. The author never succeeded inconveying how fearsome these images wereto him; Hosokawa’s music, on the other hand,delivers moments of awe and terror, borderedby serenity and contemplation.Each work opens with a sustained unison Bflat, shimmering and pulsing; eventually eacharrives at a final unison elsewhere. Hosokawarejects artifice and architecture, preferringthe organic. He depicts development, origins,growth. The first piece, Woven Dreams,traces an imaginary passage from the womb.Blossoming II and Circulating Ocean arereflections on the natural world. In the linernotes he describes the signature unison openingsas fluid, amniotic or aquatic. One hearsbirdsong and water droplets, earthquakesand storms.Though Hosokawa’s forms have curvededges, his orchestral effects often jar. Hediscovers new dissonances through notebends and microtonal juxtaposition. Deepbooming percussion nearly overwhelms.At times his orchestration reminds me ofSchnittke, at others of Mahler. He will usethe orchestra as a huge macabre organ andthen exploit individual instruments forpassagework.Unlike his senior compatriot, ToruTakemitsu, Hosokawa chose to embrace ratherthan distance himself from his own culture.He often uses canonic melodic entries, oftencascades in the treble winds. He refers to thistechnique as Oibuki, featured in a style ofJapanese court music called Gagaku. WhereTakemitsu was repelled by the militarismhe witnessed as boy, Hosokawa worries hisculture is too ready to adopt external modelsrather than grow from its own roots.Two different orchestras supply the music,under the able direction of Jun Märkl, whoseparents bridge the east-west musical divide,a German violinist for a father, his mother aJapanese pianist.Max ChristieJAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSICSilent PartnerJohn MacMurchy( often I receivea CD with all originalmaterial and it raisesa warning flag. Willthere be melodic andharmonic contentthat will stand a lotof re-listening? Inthis case I have nosuch doubts. Silent Partner is a thoroughlyenjoyable program of original compositionsplayed by groups of varying sizes andincluding contributions by Bruce Cassidy,flugelhorn and EVI, pianist Mark Kieswetter,guitarist Dan Ionescu, Ross MacIntyre,bass, Daniel Barnes, drums, and AlanHetherington, percussion. They all makevaluable contributions to the success of thisrecording.As I mentioned the songs are allMacMurchy originals. He has a beautifulsound on clarinet and his compositions,whether ballad or up-tempo, are little gems.I particularly enjoyed the somewhat melancholy“The Stars Were Out Of Order” and“A Good Day To Be Happy.” In fact listeningto this music helps to make it a good day. Asuperior recording by superior musicians. Ihighly recommend this CD.Jim GallowaySaloon StandardJoe Coughlin & Mark Eisenmanindiepool JCJAZZ 008 ( the releaseof Saloon Standard,veteran BC-basedCanadian jazz vocalistJoe Coughlin andskilled pianist/arranger MarkEisenman have donethe near-impossible –created a triumph of a recording that not onlycelebrates the art of vocal jazz, but honoursthe symbiotic relationship between piano andvoice, all the while thrilling us with 13 tracksthat not only venerate the jazz “standard”but break our hearts with almost unbearablebeauty and fathomless emotional subtext.Although Coughlin and Eisenman (whohave worked together since their 20s) havecreated a program of finely crafted ballads,there is no “pearls before swine” posing here.Whether Coughlin is plying his stirring,voluptuous baritone to the rarely performedmovie theme, The Bad and the Beautiful(a tune that proved too vocally difficult forTony Bennett, by the way) or plumbing thedepths of heartbreak and renewal with MichelLeGrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s You80 | November 1 - December 7, 2014

Must Believe in Spring, every note and everynuance is totally accessible and eminentlysatisfying... no gratuitous scat singingand other tasteless vocal grandstandingare welcome in the “Saloon” tradition ofJoe Coughlin.Other tasty tracks include Rogers andHart’s You’re Nearer from the 1940 film TooMany Girls; a lilting, almost bluesy take onBernstein/Comden and Green’s Lucky to beMe from the hit Judy Holliday musical BellsAre Ringing; Cole Porter’s romantic DreamDancing (sung with the rarely performedverse) and Hague/Horwitt’s moving balladYoung and Foolish.This CD is of such a high level of excellencethat it would be well-served with a Part Two!Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeSomething in the AirMixing Advanced Jazz with Program MusicCreating an entire program ofintegrated story and soundhas long been a hallmark ofwestern music. Just because the20th and 21st centuries have givencomposers not only more instrumentsand modes to work with butalso the possibility of adding aleatoricpassages hasn`t lessened suchprojects’ appeal. Unlike the sometimesill-conceived so-calledjazz musicals of the past, today’simprovisers have the skills neededto link a coherent story line withcreative sounds.Science fiction in its many formsfascinates many of these composersand the appeal of Intergalactic Beings(FPE Records FPE 02 how composer/flutist Nicole Mitchellleads her ten-member ensemble in interpretinga theme that’s far from common.Mitchell’s nine-part suite uses vocal andinstrumental emphasis to interpret theXenogenesis trilogy of books by OctaviaButler (1947-2006), whose post-feministAfro-futurism deals with racial and sexualambiguity. Briefly Intergalactic Beings positsa post-apocalyptic world where the fewremaining humans must mate with tentaclegraspingaliens with superior genes in orderfor humanity to survive. This obviously isn’tHello Dolly or Chicago. Throughout the alternatinglyrical soprano and guttural alto shadingsof Mankwe Ndosi’s voice express thenuances of the tale, with tracks like “Cycle ofMetamorphosis” including such phrases as“transformation to save the nation” to propelthe storyline. As Ndosi’s verbal expositionmoves through pseudo-orgasmic cries, renalmurmurs and finally triumphant cosmic-likehallelujahs, the score is advanced by timbraldislocation. Chamber-like concentration,mostly from violin, cello and double bass,KEN WAXMANThe Great Lakes SuitesWadada Leo SmithTum Records Tum CD 041-2 ( Wadada Leo Smith isone of the most ambitious and engagedcreators in jazz.In 2012 he recordedhis epic tribute to theAmerican civil rightsmovement, TenFreedom Years, afour-CD suite for hisjazz quintet andchamber ensemblethat had been over 30 years in the making.The same year he recorded Occupy the World,mates with tougher interjectionsfrom Jeff Parker’s flangingguitar twangs, crying tripletonguedmelisma from DavidBoykin’s reeds, plus the composer’stongue-fluttering, sometimesdoubled by Renée Baker’sviolin strokes. As concentratedmultiphonics from the strings,horns and dual percussionistsintersect in lumbering, gentlingor staccato sequences interminglingsexuality is alluded to andresolved. The verbalized “hopeis a memory” serves as a leitmotiffor the adjoining Webof Hope/Fields of Possibility asmarimba pops, trumpet bites and concentratedstring sweeps presage the resolution.By the final The Inevitable, combative dissonanceis put aside for a contrapuntal nearwaltzfrom strings and vocalist. Fortissimoflute patterns backed by magisterial drumclunks and muted triplets from trumpeterDavid Young confirm the humannessremaining in the newly born third gender.A descriptive coda recaps the initial fragilehuman theme, with jagged note patternstoughening it to suggest the existence of anew identity – and corpus.American literature with fantasticalimplants is the theme of Awaits SilentTristero’s Empire (Singlespeed MusicSSM-014 by oboist/English horn player Kyle Bruckmann’s sevenpieceavant chamber ensemble Wrack. Thefour-part composition suggests moods engenderedby Thomas Pynchon’s best-knownnovels. Thematic, but not literal, the sometimesdour Pynchon would probably besurprised to hear how much buoyant humourBruckmann has injected into his interpretations.“Gravity’s Rainbow” for instance movesfrom discordant vibrations pumped out bywith the 22-member TUMO improvisingorchestra. His Great Lakes Suites spans twoCDs but the manpower is much more concentrated,a quartet in which Smith is joined bythree masters: Henry Threadgill on reeds,John Lindberg on bass and Jack DeJohnetteon drums.Smith’s interest in the Great Lakes focuseson the contrast between their flat surface andtheir potential turbulence, along with aspectsof transportation, communication and waveformation. The music is fittingly spare, attimes unfolding with a declarative simplicity.The emphasis on stark solo voices – whetherSmith’s trumpet or Threadgill’s saxophoneor flute – conveys the drama of great naturalforces. We are repeatedly drawn to his subject:scrubbing strings and siren-like brass untila rim shot from drummer Tim Daisy pushesthe theme into cabaret territory. From then onthe piece bounces from broken triplet tonespropelled by trumpeter Darren Johnston, aBurlington, Ontario native, backed by stringhammering from bassist Anton Hatwich; toslurping tonguing from Bruckmann and bassclarinetist Jason Stein; through a folk-likestretch from violist Jen Clare Paulson, finallydissolving into barnyard-like cacophony withmoos and caws mixed among instrumentaltones. Retreating from tailgate slurs fromtrombonist Jeb Bishop, the final sequencesuggests what would happen if a string duowas lost on the vast prairies. Wrack managesto add a contrapuntal tango beat from huffinghorns and stolid double bass into “The Cryingof Lot 49,” preceding Daisy’s scene-settingdrumming with the same finesse exhibitedin bass drum thumps, snare paradiddlesand cymbal clanks. But it’s V, Pynchon’sbest-known book which gets extensive treatment.Complex enough to zigzag throughmany themes and counter themes, the musicreflects the book’s time-dislocated thesis.Highlights include, on the somber side,Bishop’s dark and dirty blues sequence thatis accompanied by slap bass and two-beatdrumming; and for a lively change of pace,Stein’s hyper-macho descending split tonesthat are eventually moderated by airy fluttertonguing from English horn and trumpet. Incomplete contrast is a midsection line thatstarts off Jazz Age processional yet ends upwith freilicher-like joyousness propelled byparallel counterpoint from viola and oboe.The exaggerated swing that pops out here andthere throughout the tracks, like raisins incereal, is eventually regularized into a salutaryconclusion.To read how Austrians Franz Koglmannand Michael Lösch individually deal withthematic material, see the continuation ofthis column at November 1 - December 7, 2014 | 81

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