8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 4 - December 2014

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Piatigorsky’s insight

Piatigorsky’s insight into human natureexposes a glimpse of humanity at itsmost vulnerable as the libretto juxtaposesmundane conversations with the characters’introspective thoughts. This dramatic fluctuationis sustained, quite extraordinarily, by thechamber chorus and soloists Carla Huhtanen(Ad Exec), Krisztina Szabó (Flight Attendant),Graham Thomson (Scholar), AlexanderDobson (Worker/Pilot) and Geoffrey Sirett(Business Man).Current’s depiction of turbulence isfrighteningly realistic until an eerie stillness,beautifully performed by the instrumentalensemble, underscores the Pilot’s aria,providing an impression of suspended timeand space. Superbly sung by Dobson, it ironicallydescribes his joy of flying as the planedescends. The disturbing Epilogue closes theopera with a prolonged, final silence.Dr. Réa BeaumontáltaVoz ComposersJACK QuartetNew Focus Recordings FCR150In this latestrelease by the JACKQuartet, four LatinAmerican composersare featured, each ofwhom are membersof the composerconsortium knownas áltaVoz. Membersof áltaVoz see it as their mandate to promotecutting edge contemporary music concerts,workshops, symposia and interdisciplinaryprojects with the intension of providing aprovocative forum for artists, institutions andthe community at large.The four quartets on this recording representthe confluence of its members’ willingnessto embrace a wide spectrum of aestheticsand influences. First on the disc, composerFelipe Lara’s Tran(slate) invites us into aworld of daring gestures, pops and slides, thatcharmingly evoke playful otherworldly soniclandscapes. The vast array of extended playingtechniques is masterfully orchestrated andelevates the composer’s language. Next, JoséLuis-Hurtado’s L’ardito e quasi stridente gestocreates an unsettling mood as quiet meanderingdissonances explode with jagged interruptions.Throughout Mauricio Pauly’s Everynew volition a mercurial swerve, processdrivenswells and pulses propel the listenerinto a swarm of rhythmic activity. An etherealcontrast is created with a luminous harmoniclightness before the blistering climaxbombards the ear. In Jorge VillavicencioGrossmann’s String Quartet No. 3 “músicafúnebre y nocturna,” the only multi-movementwork on the disc, we receive the clearestallusions to the tradition of the string quartet.The influence of Bartók is quite clear andreminiscences of tonal centres are unmistakable.This, matched with lively groove-drivenpassages, secures this work as the mostaccessible of the lot.The JACK Quartet has approached eachwork with a passionate virtuosity andimpressive attention to detail. The punchinessand clarity of gesture throughout is a fineexample of the quartet’s expressive capabilities.The JACK Quartet is known for impassionedinterpretations of contemporaryworks, and this recording certainly lives up tothat expectation.Adam ScimeSatie SlowlyPhilip CornerUnseen Worlds UW12I was impressedwith the programnotes written byPhilip Corner in whatwas really a smallbook. His writing wasextremely entertainingand informative.The written wordsreally gave a sense of the wit and brillianceof Satie. For example: “Satie is not as greatas John Cage would have us believe. Whocould be? Certainly not Bach or Beethoven.”My favourite quote has to be: “If his pianopieces are so easy why are they so badlyplayed? […They resist all] added expressivity;they make those who indulge sound ridiculous.Yet nothing is lacking in them.” Corner’swritten analysis of each piece reflects thepersonality of Satie’s music. Critics duringthe time slandered Satie and called him a“petit maître” alongside Debussy and Ravel.He was not revolutionary in a flamboyantway but cloaked his visions in traditionalforms reflected in the more obscure repertoirechosen for these CDs.A medieval theme is reflected in theselections which are the Ogives, The FeastGiven By the Norman Knights to Honour aYoung Girl, Preludes of the Nazarene, TheGothic Dances, Fanfares of the Rose+Cross,Chorales. These were all played in a veryslow tempo but represented the nature ofthe music. Gnossienne No.1, Gymnopedies(1,2,3) and the Empire’s Diva didn’t fit therest of the program but were played in thesame tempo. I would have liked to hear moreswing in the Gnossienne and Gymnopediesand definitely a more up-beat tempo for theEmpire’s Diva, who was a stripper in a musichall. However, I could see a Satie wink in thisunique double CD.Christina Petrowska QuilicoJAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSICReconnectDiane RoblinIndependent ( a more than 20-year intermission,talented keyboardist and composerDiane Roblin has made a strong re-emergenceinto the jazz world with the release of hernew independentrecording Reconnect.The well-produced CDis comprised of tenoriginal compositionsby Roblin that run thegamut from funk andfusion to soul and jazz.Roblin has also surrounded herself withcreative and dynamic musicians (Jeff King ontenor, Howard Spring on guitar, Russ Boswellon bass and Roger Travassos on drums) whoeasily and intuitively fit into her eclectic andinvigorating musical vision.Reconnect kicks off with In the Beginning –a vigorous funk exploration that calls to mindelectric-era Herbie Hancock. There is nothingdainty about Roblin’s attack. She is a facileand deeply emotional keyboardist who establishesher musical territory with a muscularperformance on the Fender Rhodes and technicalskill on the acoustic piano. Her pianisticvirtuosity is clearly evident on SuspendYourself – a complex piece of work in 7/4,involving a trip to the etheric realms, as wellas a brash dose of fusoid and progressive jazz.Of particular beauty and depth is Balladin 3/4. The haunting melodic line and King’ssonorous tenor work are an evocative treat.On Reconnect, Roblin also includes Tunefor Fraser – a stunning acoustic piano solopiece dedicated to her late musician husband,Fraser Finlayson. This brave compositionseems to emotionally expose the artist asshe transcends, through her music, all of thestages of grief and finally arrives at ultimateredemption.Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeBones BluesPete MagadiniDelmark/Sackville CD2-4004( reissuedwith an added track,this 1977 Torontorecordedgem isnearly timeless sinceit’s an unpretentioussession by a consummateprofessional thatcould have been tapedany time after 1954 … or tomorrow. Unlikecontemporary bop-era emulators however,the participants in Bones Blues were aroundas mainstream jazz was being forged andplayed this mixture of blues, standards andrhythm tunes almost daily in nightclubs.Bones Blues has added value as wellbecause it initially gave Toronto piano legendWray Downes one of his first chances tostretch out on record. On the intro to What aTime We Had, for instance, his sympatheticelegance is notable; as is his innate commandof the blues sensibility in the title tune.In 1977, Massachusetts-born leader, drummer80 | December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015

Pete Magadini, had just begun his 28-yearCanadian residency as teacher and performer;while on the disc Buffalo-born tenor saxophonist,Don Menza, consistently demonstrateshis mastery of both bop and swingthat gave him featured status in big bands likeBuddy Rich’s. Buoyant even when assayingassertive 1950s classics like Solar and Freddiethe Freeloader, the saxophonist’s skillfulbalance is a highlight. Note how his caressingof Poor Butterfly’s melody parallels Downes’two-handed, near-boogie-woogie exposition,and how both lines are underscored byMagadini’s subtle brush work. Amplifyingthe others’ work with powerful strokes anddecorative cadenzas is bassist Dave Young,who has in the intervening years become alocal legend, habitually busy with club andconcert work in a variety of contexts.Overall, ballads and finger-snappers aretreated with the same respect and performedat the same high level on this CD. Listening tohow the disc’s eight tracks evolve and gratify,confirms why this session, unlike manypretentious, highly vaulted projects of thesame era, has stood the test of time.Ken WaxmanNewAlex PangmanJustin Time JTR 8587-2There can be nodoubt that that AlexPangman – Canada’sown “Sweetheartof Swing” – is anational treasureand a true original.Feisty, authentic anda fully realized music historian, Pangmanhas continued to delight with New, herlatest recording on Justin Time Records. Forthis project (and not unlike Aretha headingto Muscle Shoals, Alabama), Pangman hasbravely stepped outside of her musical andexperiential comfort zone by recording inthe historic Algiers section of New Orleans– accompanied by the popular local depression-eraswing band, the Cottonmouth Kings.It seems apparent that an important part ofthis creative process was Pangman’s collaborator,producer/engineer (and Canadianex-pat) Andrew “Goat” Gilchrist.New is a mature album, and Pangman’svoice – while still maintaining her clear,luminous sound – now reflects the depth andsubtext of her own life experience. She is fearlessin her emotional openness – imbuingeach of the ten tasty tracks with large dollopsof confidence, sensuality, joy, irony and maybeeven a certain ennui.Thoroughly enjoyable tracks include Fitas a Fiddle (and Ready for Love), whichfeatures rambunctious, Joe Venuti-esqueviolin work by Matt Rhody. The popular TinPan Alley tune also has special meaning forPangman, who recorded this track only sevenmonths following her second double-lungtransplant, and was finally feeling “Fit as aFiddle.” Canadian composer Ruth Lowe’s I’llNever Smile Again is a beauty – performedwith a languid, Crescent City feel which suitsPangman’s sultry alto, and she also swings itsweet and low on You Let Me Down.Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeSomething in the AirOutstanding and Unusual Boxed SetsAs the availability of musicon different media continues toproliferate, the focus of the durablebox set has become equallydiverse. No longer does a multidisccollection have to be definitiveor far-ranging. As a matterof fact some of the best, like theones discussed here, concentrate on certainsequences in an artist’s career.Case in point is Discography (JazzWerksttatt JW 150, afour-CD collection of sessions from the 1980sand 1990s by German bassist Peter Kowald(1944-2002). Someone who began his careerin the 1960s ground zero for European FreeJazz, over the years Kowald interacted withthose playing mainstream and contemporaryjazz as well as making forays into crossculturalimprov with non-Western players.His recorded career, with disc cover picturesand personnel, is outlined in the 210-pagebooklet included with the set. Still the focusof Discography is Kowald’s Free Jazz achievements.Right off the bat, Solo ImprovisationMusic on CD1 is a 35-minute tour-de-forcefrom 1981 that captures his unvarnishedinventiveness. Showcasing equal facility withfingers or bow, he moves seamlessly fromstrident smacks and slashing strums to acollection of spiccato rubs and rasps producingaviary-like shrills as well as mellowcontinuum. Discography also highlightsthe talents of Greek clarinetist/saxophonistFloros Floridis, a frequent Kowald playingpartner. Compare how the two reactedwithout prevarication in different settings. A1989 Athens session, for instance, emphasizesthe music’s bop and blues roots, due to theinimitable time-keeping of American drummaster Andrew Cyrille. At the same time asKowald’s doubled strokes steady the beatalongside Cyrille, jocular intensity on tunessuch as Nice Ending Folks! and Points SlashesEtc. is expressed by Floridis’ fluid clarinetflutters and vocalized blats from Germantrombonist Conny Bauer. Six tracks from thenext year are more expansive since Kowald’sand Floridis’ partners are American Frenchhornist Vincent Chancy and South Africandrummer Louis Moholo. Kowald’s carefulnote placement gives the proceedings a lighterKEN WAXMANGuitar in the Space AgeBill FrisellOkeh 88843074612 ( a career spanning four decades, BillFrisell (born 1951) has taken the idea of jazzguitar in very different directions, emphasizingsonic architecture and sustained tonesfeel as the four prove themselveson both spirited and sorrowfultunes. The Spell is one of the latteras Chancy’s facility emphasizesnot only melancholic cries, butanimates the tune through steadypacing. With verbal interjectionsfrom Moholo Mongezi is anotherstandout since tough vibrations from the hornand Floridis’ saxophone reed bites work up tofreneticism as pulsating power from the bassand percussion keep the narrative snappy.Even better is CD4 from 1997 where Floridison alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet andbass clarinet, Kowald and German percussionistGünter Baby Sommer – featured withthe bassist on a long improvisation on CD1– turn out 26 brief “Aphorisms.” Rangingfrom less than one minute to almost two anda half, the concise motifs express everythingthat others would need greater length to do. Atrack like Aphorismus III for instance featuresKowald strumming what sounds like telephone-wirethick strings, Sommer pinginggamelan-like bells and Floridis’ smoothsoprano sax surmounting both. AphorismusXI is pure jazz with mountaineering thumpsfrom the drummer, spiccato bass strokesand reed bites; while Aphorismus VI parallelsclarinet tongue-slaps with bagpipe-liketremolos from the bass. Floridis’ alto saxophonetone can be as sharp as any bopper’sas it is on Aphorismus XVII; while percussionclip-clops are sophisticatedly smoothed intoa connective exposition on Aphorismus XIX.The program ends with Sommer affectionatelymocking Kowald’s chamber music-likesweeps and Floridis’ delicate clarinet lineswith obtrusive Jew’s harp twangs.To read about interesting multi-discsets from German pianist Hans Lüdemann,American cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum andBelgian jazz-rock-experimental big band FlatEarth Society, see the continuation of thiscolumn at December 1 2014 - February 7, 2015 | 81

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