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Volume 20 Issue 5 - February 2015

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Volume 20 Issue 5

her second album Kissing

her second album Kissing You. That said, Lica may not satisfy jazz purists, as she has strong pop elements in her work, especially in her original material. Similar to her first album, Kissing You alternates between clever originals (eight of the 11 tracks) and imaginative reworkings of standards. Genre aside, what Lica is consistently very good at is getting a story across. Her pretty, girlish voice (shades of Stacey Kent and Blossom Dearie) is well-suited to her material. Her lyric writing amuses on the lighter songs such as Canoe (“You’re no dreamboat but you’re a really nice canoe”) and touches us on the more serious That’s What I Hate, about the end of a romance. The reworkings of the standards really stood out for me as genuinely fresh approaches, in particular on Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out of You, where the George Martinesque take gives us a renewed and charming song. Keyboard player and arranger Lou Pomanti is in the producer’s chair and his sensitive and inventive playing is a feature of the album, along with other leading Toronto musicians such as Reg Schwager on guitar, Mark Kelso on drums, Marc Rogers on bass and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet. The ensemble is showcased brilliantly on the title track which has a sweeping, film score quality – perhaps for a film about an up-and-coming young singer… Cathy Riches Concert Note: Barbra Lica is featured in Jazz- FM’s series at Hugh’s Room on February 25 (Sherman Brothers tribute) and March 12 (Peggy Lee tribute). Left Alone Selena Evangeline; Bill King Slaight Music 6 16969 997869 ( With the third installment of Slaight Music/7 Arts Entertainment’s excellent piano/voice duet series, renowned pianist Bill King has collaborated with a vocally stunning partner – Selena Evangeline. An auspicious debut for Evangeline, the recording is an homage to some of the greatest ladies of song, including Gladys Knight, Dinah Washington, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and contemporary artists Dianne Reeves, Anita Baker and Lizz Wright. On each track, Evangeline’s sumptuous voice has placed its own unique, interpretive stamp, and King repeatedly raises the art of vocal accompaniment to a new level of insight, depth and skill. Evangeline’s rendering of the Dionne Warwick hit A House is Not a Home plumbs new emotional depths, and her smoky, sensuous alto easily captures and exalts in every possible nuance. Inspired phrasing, exquisite intonation and creative melodic play, the earmarks of Evangeline’s style, are evident on each and every track of this tasty sonic buffet. King is the perfect complement for Evangeline – putting into use his wide range of stylistic experience, taste and musical skill. Of particular note are the soulful If You Don’t Know Me By Now, featuring King on piano and Hammond B3 with stirring lead and multi-track vocals from Evangeline; the haunting title track from the canon of Billie Holiday; a deeply soulful take on Gladys Knight and the Pips immortal Midnight Train to Georgia and a gorgeous re-boot of Anita Baker’s Rapture. This recording is a total delight, and if you purchase only one vocal/ piano duo album in 2015 – make this one it. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Green River Sessions Hannah Burgé Independent ( Toronto singer Hannah Burgé’s debut album Green River Sessions finds its heart in mid-tolate 20th century international jazz currents, (re)influenced as they were by bossa nova, Cuban and African musical streams. The result could be described reductively as a synthesis of jazz and world music, though the radio-ready Black Velvet has a clear rock edge enhanced by Burgé’s hard vocal tone, precise harmonies in the chorus, as well as Mark Kelso’s dynamic drumming and the fuzz electric guitar work by Tony Zorzi. Green River Sessions was produced by the Mexican-Canadian bassist and arranger Paco Luviano, his presence manifest on the Spanish language track, De Repente. Jazz keyboard maestro Robi Botos also makes an outstanding musical contribution to the entire record. An additional guest in the ballads Be My Love and Sunshine Samba, the NYC harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens, echoes Burgé’s velvety reedy soprano with his own tastefully complementary and swinging solos. They blend remarkably with her voice. Among my favorites on the album is Horace Silver’s bop composition Nica’s Dream. Arranged by Luviano, he craftily wraps its angular bop vocal melody with syncopated yet smooth Latin rhythms. (Following the world music-jazz thread here, it’s of interest to note that Silver, born Silva, was of Cape Verdean Portuguese descent on his father’s side and was taught its folk music when young.) With such an auspicious debut, we’re hoping Hannah Burgé will not wait long for her follow-up record. Andrew Timar Destination: Void Peter Evans Quintet More is More MM 141 ( Unusually constituted with a front line of brass, piano and live electronics, Destination: Void is another indication of how trumpeter Peter Evans is altering the fabric of improvised music. Seemingly capable of producing every sound on his horn from spindly murmurs to aggressive whinnying, the four extended Evans compositions here feature Sam Pluta’s sound wave mutation and are given extra impetus by Ron Stabinsky’s mercurial exploration of piano keys and strings. Evans’ command of his instrument is such that at points his graceful flutters take on reed characteristics, most appropriately on 12 (for Evan Parker), saluting the British saxophonist. Elsewhere he singlehandedly creates a rhythmic ostinato that would usually come from a conventional rhythm section of bass and drums. Diffident throughout, in contrast, bassist Tom Blancarte showcases triple-stopping on the concluding Tresillo; while surprisingly percussionist Jim Black’s thumping resonations are most prominent when linked with processed hisses plus the pianist’s low-pitched rumbling on the balladic Make It So. Taken as a whole, formalist notated music is referenced throughout. If the preceding tracks ramp up excitement via speed-of-light keyboard exchanges, half-valve dramatics plus in-and-out-of-focus oscillated flanges, the 27-minute concluding Tresillo crackles with such intensity that you could imagine a second quartet with the same instruments is present and playing along. As Evans’ endlessly inventive disconnected grace notes float over the theme expansion that is one part multiphonic electronic drones and one part ever-shifting rhythm, the initial sequence climaxes with distinctive animallike shrieks and shudders. Never losing the narrative direction however, the end section could be an acoustic showcase recital, as Stabinsky shapes the program with slapped keys and sweeping glissandi at the same time as Evans attains the highest-pitched triplets with his horn. With these virtuosic performances spectacular but never lapsing into bravado for its own sake, Evans and company demonstrate that improvised music’s future destination isn’t void but diversity. Ken Waxman Concert note: Peter Evans plays solo at Ratio, 283 College Street on February 6. 64 | February 1 - March 7, 2015

If a single quality distinguishes much of what’s best in Canadian jazz it’s lyricism, a warm, singing focus on melody that links many of our best musicians, whether they choose to stay near home (Ed Bickert) or move away (Paul Bley). It’s a quality shared by three distinguished recent releases, though they differ in style and locale. Some Other Spring by the Don Thompson Trio (Cornerstone 144, is an elegy in advance. Dedicated to Peter Appleyard, it was recorded a couple of months before his passing in July 2013, but Thompson reflects that the great vibraphonist was in his thoughts during the recording. While the multi-instrumentalist Thompson may be less well-known for his vibraphone playing than for his skills as a bassist and pianist, he’s a fine player, his work imbued with a resonant lyricism. He’s joined here by guitarist Reg Schwager and bassist Neil Swainson, comparable masters and long-time associates (for many years the three played in George Shearing’s quintet) in a program of standards and a few originals. It’s state-ofthe-art chamber jazz, with superb renderings of some lesser-known pop songs, like Hoagy Carmichael’s One Morning in May, as well as classic jazz tunes like Django Reinhardt’s Nuages. There’s more great guitar playing on Lenny Breau’s LA Bootleg 1984 (Guitarchives 270201, linusentertainment. com), the first release of a club set from Donte’s in Hollywood recorded just two months before Breau’s death. Breau was a celebrated technician and his work (especially commercial recordings) sometimes suffered from pastiche, his playing marred by a clutter of classical, flamenco and country & western elements. Here there’s none of that, just intensely focused playing on familiar tunes with the empathetic support of bassist Paul Gormley and drummer Ted Hawk. Breau’s technical brilliance and harmonic invention (he was strongly influenced by pianist Bill Evans) come to the fore on ballads and up-tempo performances alike. His version of Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now is sublime, a composer’s harmonic subtlety igniting a performer’s. Pianist/composer Marianne Trudel has emerged in recent years as one of Quebec’s brightest talents, a musician of considerable STUART BROOMER depth with a strong identity. La Vie Commence Ici (Justin Time JTR-8588-2, a quintet date featuring British Columbia (by way of New York) trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, is her finest work to date. The instrumentation proceeds from an opening duet through mutations of the ensemble and a rich sense of timbre and voicings. At times Trudel’s material can suggest Mozart, at other times Ravel, but it seems to proceed from the title, developing a meditative depth that communicates a reverence for life. The title track demonstrates how well Trudel can orchestrate, reducing the ensemble to just Morgan Moore’s pizzicato bass for the theme, then later repeating it with a duo of bass and minimal piano. Saxophonist Jonathan Stewart and drummer Robbie Kuster contribute effectively, but Trudel’s compositions seem to find their fullest voice in Jensen’s soaring, passionate performance. Montreal is currently serving as an incubator for innovative jazz composition. While Trudel represents the mainstream, alto saxophonist Erik Hove (originally from Vancouver) has radical forebears, drawing on influences from the microtonal spectral harmonies of contemporary French composers Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail and the rhythmic languages of American saxophonist/composers Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton. Hove’s Chamber Ensemble on Saturated Colour ( is an imaginative nonet mixing winds and strings and relatively traditional bass and drums with standout performances from flutist Anna Webber and violinist Josh Zubot. A tree by a pond, half-lit is evanescent, a subtle spray of high-pitched sounds, while Inner Chamber and Brain Freeze find disjunct but genuine grooves. Hove the soloist is clearly an improviser who thrives on complex support, and Hove the composer is adept at supplying it. Pianist/composer Félix Stüssi relocated from Switzerland to Montreal in 1998, and within a few years was leading a quintet that still includes saxophonists Alexandre Côté and Bruno Lamarche, bassist Clinton Ryder and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli. Since 2008 it’s been Félix Stüssi 5 & Ray Anderson, celebrating the American’s status as one of the trombone’s most virtuosic, creative and witty performers. On Arrabbiata (Effendi FND133,, Stüssi works from a varied palette, evident immediately with Funda-Mentally, a distant relation of Tiger Rag that turns into free improvisation at the drop of a cue. His energy and humour can be reminiscent of Charles Mingus, with broad farcical nods to ancient idioms mixed with energized revisions of blues, bop and gospel. Côté and Ceccarelli provide fine moments, but it’s ultimately Anderson’s show: he can exaggerate the trombone’s traditional vocal proclivities to the point of parody while leaping registers or playing double-time bop. Samuel Blais is a young Montreal saxophonist who has come a long way since his 2008 debut CD Where to Go. He’s earned a masters in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music under the direction of saxophonist Dave Liebman, and he commemorates the relationship with Cycling (Effendi FND137), the two saxophonists getting together with bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Martin Auguste during a break in a saxophone quartet tour. It’s a loose blowing session on a batch of originals, played in a joyous spirit of mutual regard and inspiration. Blais plays baritone, alto and soprano, Liebman, tenor and soprano, and they exploit the possibilities for similarity (two sopranos on Liebman’s title tune) and difference (baritone and soprano on Blais’s Interludio Obscurio). The only familiar tune is A Taste of Honey, the modal theme leading to some inspired Coltrane-flavoured collective improvisation. Concert Note 1: Dave Liebman is currently visiting professor in the University of Toronto Jazz Program. He’ll be playing in a quartet with another former student, Mike Murley February 28 at The Rex with bassist Jon Maharaj and drummer Nick Fraser. Concert Note 2: Don Thompson appears with Barry Harris, Howard Rees, an all-star big band and a 275-voice childrens choir in the sixth annual We Are One Jazz Project gala concert February 11 at the George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre for The Arts. Always find more reviews online at February 1 - March 7, 2015 | 65

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