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Volume 20 Issue 6 - March 2015

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Something in the

Something in the AirUnusual Formats for New Music“Everything old is new again” doesn’t goquite far enough in describing formatsnow available for disseminating music.Not only are downloads and streamingbecoming preferred options, but CDs are stillbeing pressed at the same time as musiciansexperiment with DVDs, vinyl variants andeven tape cassettes. Happily the significanceof the musical messages outweighs the mediamultiplicity.If there’s oneinstance of a musicianhaving it all,then considerSwedish saxophonistMats Gustafsson’sboxed set Hidros 6 –Knockin’ (Not TwoMW 915 during a five-day gig in Krakow,by a specially constituted 12-member NUEnsemble, it highlights the group’s performanceof the title track plus different musicians’solo work. In total the Hidros boxcontains five CDs, two LPs, one DVD plus a22-page LP-sized booklet. An addendum,the hour-plus DVD, includes a filmic recordof different-sized ensembles improvising,rehearsing or performing the Knockin’ scoreplus interviews with many of the principals.All four sides of the LPs are given over to thelarge ensemble performance, which celebratesthe transgressive sounds which LittleRichard Penniman brought to pop music inthe 1950s. Not rock ’n’ roll by any stretch ofthe imagination, Gustafsson’s graphic scorecombines the free jazz methodology of theplayers with samples of Little Richard’s workspropelled by turntablist Dieb13, plus highpitchedrepetition of certain phrases fromhis hits by vocalist Stine Janvind Motland.Climaxing with a call-and-response manifestthe four sides of Knockin’ shove the vocalfreedom engendered by Penniman into theinstrumental realm. Solo and in sections, theplayers use extended instrumental proceduresto fragment themes into in-your-face abstractions.Lyric soprano Motland has the hardesttask since repeatedly vocalizing Little Richardlyrics such as “Hmm, I don’t need a show/Gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie” or“Bama lama bama loo/Go, go, have a time”calls for intense concentration plus a senseof humour. She and the other players arebetter showcased on the three group CDs.Accompanied by only Dieb13 and drummerPaal Nilssen-Love, Motland eschews wordsfor bird-like falsetto titters and warbles whichelongate enough to make common causewith the slashes of sound and LP trackingrumbles sourced by Dieb13. At the same timeher staccato pacing and wails connect on avisceral level with Nilssen-Love’s undulatingKEN WAXMANand unvarying patterning. Elsewhere, thedrummer demonstrates his malleability layingdown an unobtrusive beat for Nybyggarlandone of the vintage Scandinavian bop classicsthe band Swedish Azz plays. That quintet,filled out by Per Åke Holmlander’s tuba,Gustafsson on baritone sax, Dieb13 and KjellNordeson on vibes and drums creates a tunethat’s engaging and swinging at the sametime, with Nordeson’s vibes providing thesparkling melody as the low-pitched hornspush out balanced blasts. Nordeson is also anexceptional drummer, with the evidence onthe more-than 29-minute duet with pianistAgustí Fernández. Aggressively acoustic, thetwo produce a memorable savage, free-formintensity, as does a medley of New Thing classicsperformed on a later disc at warp-speedvelocity by The Thing – Gustafsson, Nilssen-Love, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – plusadditional tenor saxophonist Joe McPhee.With Fernández smacking the side of hisinstrument and forcefully plucking pianostrings with fish-hook sharpness, it’s sometimeshard to determine where the drummer’sdynamic clunks and metal rustlesend and his begin. Crucially this bluntbeatcolouration reaches an exultant climaxfollowing the pianist’s highly volatilekeyboard cascades and the percussionist’sintroduction of clacking metal bar abrasionsfrom his vibes. More memorable matchupsinclude Fernández and Gustafsson joiningtrumpeter Peter Evans or McPhee with bassclarinetist Christer Bothén. On the first, thepianist’s rappelling forward at player-pianovelocity challenges as well as accompanies thehorn men. The result is staccato and dyspeptictimbres from both: in Evans’ case movingbeyond the limits of his horn to elevate notespast triplets; and in Gustafsson’s blastinghonks and slurs upwards. McPhee and Bothéncreate a gentler duet, each man defining theAmerican or Swedish abstractions’ elaboration,with McPhee supplying human-likecries from his horn as Bothén appears to bedigging into his own stomach lining for rawexpression. With so much music to choosefrom however, it’s likely the listener will findmuch to enjoy in this box of wonders.To read which formats were selected byMontréal duos Charuest and Epps, Marteland Lauzier and British bassist Barry Guyfor their music, see the continuation of thiscolumn at pianist and UBC music professorCorey Hamm, a champion of avant-gardemusic, and the erhu player Nicole Ge Li, theconcertmaster of the B.C. Chinese MusicEnsemble. She is a virtuoso on that Chinesetwo-stringed fiddle, the most popular ofthe huqin family. Moreover, as eloquentlyevidenced on this album, Li is as much athome in recent Western musical idioms as inChinese ones.While the combination of erhu and pianomay be novel to most Canadian listeners, itisn’t news in China. There the practice of apianist accompanying an erhu soloist reachesback into the last century. The compositionswhich form the backbone of Li and Hamm’sproject however, exemplify a more fluid interplaybetween these two instruments, each anicon of its respective culture. Rather than aninter-cultural vanity project, their collectivemusic-making focuses on polished, musicallyengaged readings of recently commissionedscores. It’s also a reflection of Vancouver’srich, ever-evolving, pan-Pacific music scene.The repertoire on the album all dates fromwithin the last few years. It explores a widestylistic range, from the alternately sassy,sizzling Blues ’n Grooves (2014) composedby University of Toronto composition studentRoydon Tse, to Edward Top’s mysterious,modernist Lamentation (2014), a feast for Li’sexpressive mastery in the erhu’s upper range.Top was a recent composer-in-residence withthe Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.A word about the composers; of the tenfeatured here most are Canadian, includingJocelyn Morlock, John Oliver, Laurie Radfordand Mark Armanini. The polished scores theyhave produced for PEP are all performedwith care and élan, and bear repeatedlistening. With a treasury of over 40 commissionedworks by both Canadian and Chinesecomposers played to high standards, I’m notsurprised that Volume 2 of PEP has alreadybeen announced.Andrew TimarJAZZ AND IMPROVIZED MUSICP.S. I Love YouMonica Chapman; William SperandeiLME Records 6 79444 20020 0(!!With P.S. I LoveYou, talented vocalistMonica Chapmanpresents an engagingcollection of materialthat is both nostalgicand romantic, butwith a discernablysensual and torrid blues sensibility. She hassurrounded herself with intuitive musicalcollaborators, including JUNO-winningproducer/pianist Bill King, whose innovativearrangements (as well as his piano work)really define this well-conceived project.72 | March 1 - April 7, 2015

Other first-call musicians include DaveYoung on bass, Nathan Hiltz on guitar, MarkKelso on drums and featured guest, WilliamSperandei on trumpet.First up is Irving Berlin’s Tin Pan Alley hit,I Love a Piano, which sets the stylistic toneand is sung with the rarely performed verse,which then segues into a funky chitlin’ circuitjam, replete with a burning hot trumpet solofrom Sperandei. The title track is the rarelyperformed Gordon Jenkins/Johnny Mercerballad, which was most notably recorded bythe incomparable Billie Holiday. In Chapman’sinterpretation she has captured an appropriatelyironic, bittersweet subtext whileclinging to the beauty of the melodic line andlyrical intent.Of special note is another Berlin tune,Shaking the Blues Away, which is perhapsmost recognized as the four-alarm numberperformed by Ann Miller in MGM’s classicmovie musical Easter Parade – cleverly deliveredhere with a spicy Louisiana roadhousefeel and lusciously languid vocals. A real treat(and slightly forward in the timeline) is LionelBart’s theme from the 1963 James Bond flick,From Russia with Love, which is perfectlyarranged for Chapman’s luscious voice in apure, classic jazz mode. This CD is a stunner,and a wonderful follow up to Chapman’s2014 debut CD.Lesley Mitchell-ClarkeNew VocabularyOrnette ColemanSystem Dialing SDR #009(!!Maverick as hehas been throughouthis career, alto saxophonistOrnetteColeman, whopersonifies experimentaljazz and wonthe Pulitzer Prizefor music in 2007,has released a new disc with little fanfare.Recorded in 2009, Coleman’s first CD since2006, and first studio session since 1996, NewVocabulary doesn’t feature the acoustic twobasses-and-drumsquartet with which thereedist has been touring for a decade. InsteadColeman improvises alongside trumpeterand electronic manipulator Jordan McLean,drummer Amir Ziv, and, on three of the 12tracks, pianist Adam Holzman. Although hisname is neither on the cover nor attributed onthe un-credited songs, the idiosyncratic titlesare classic Coleman-speak.Just as the alto saxophonist defined freejazz in the late 1950s and jazz-funk fusion inthe 1980s, he easily adapts to the centrality ofprocessed wave forms plus chunky percussionbeats. Significantly, his barbed but effervescentreed tone is as individual, staccatoand pointed as ever. Accordingly, tunes suchas H2O and The Idea Has No Destiny clearlydemonstrate how cymbal cracks and fierceThough KennyWheeleremigrated toBritain in the 1950s,few made his ongoingcontribution to jazzin Canada, fromteaching at the BanffCentre and recording with the Maritime JazzOrchestra to performing in between – and noCanadian jazz musician has been a greaterstylistic influence around the world – fromhis distinctive leaping lines and subtly expressivepitch mutations to the spacious inventionof his compositions. Wheeler passed away inSeptember 2014 but was already in ill-healthin December 2013 when he recorded Songsfor Quintet (ECM 2388,’s typical Wheeler, here surrounded by hisquintet of London regulars, the powerfultenor saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, the spareand glassy toned guitarist John Parricelliand the rhythm section of Chris Laurenceand Martin France, so quietly buoyant as tobe almost invisible. That’s one of the specialqualities of a Wheeler performance, a kindof musical intimacy that suggests a man athome composing, playing the piano or flugelhorn,looking out the window, then suddenlyilluminated by an epiphany, some confluenceof memory, climate and mood, some revelationthat transforms the quotidian. Wheeler’sbreath and embouchure may be less securethan they once were, but that rare vision isintact throughout this CD, a final gem in abrilliant discography.If classical musicand jazz have intersectedin a thousanddifferent ways, themeeting has rarelybeen as comfortableas John Roney’sPreludes (EffendiFND138, an hour-long program, thepianist blurs the lines between interpretationand improvisation, stretching the contoursand harmonic vocabularies of a series of classicalpreludes by Bach, Gershwin, Debussy,Chopin and Scriabin, with Duke Ellington’sPrelude to a Kiss included to further therange. There’s a romantic sweep to muchof the music, a passion for melody that willpress a piece into another idiom. An openingprelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavierstretches to impressionism, a closing one toboogie-woogie. Debussy, Chopin and Scriabinhave influenced the greatest jazz pianists (ArtTatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans) to such anextent that it seems perfectly natural to hearthem extended in such a fluid way.STUART BROOMERIt’s been two yearssince Tell, the debutof Myriad 3, and thetrio of pianist ChrisDonnelly, bassist DanFortin and drummerErnesto Cervinicontinues to developa distinctive style on The Where (AlmaACD61742,, fusing classicaland pop elements in a traditional pianotrio. The band’s identity hinges on the sharedcomposing strengths of its members, each ofwhom brings an almost orchestral palette tothe trio. The group’s sonic breadth is furtherenhanced by the band’s prodigious doubling:both Donnelly and Fortin employ synthesizers,while Cervini overdubs four woodwindson his own der Trockner. There’s adistinctive direction evident from Donnelly’sFirst Flight, propelled by a rhythmic forcethat suggests art rock bands like KingCrimson, and it’s just as palpable at the CD’sconclusion with Fortin’s looming, broodingDon’t You Think.Eric Dolphy was anessential catalyst in thefree jazz revolution ofthe 1960s. A brilliantmulti-reed player, hemade vital contributionsto the music ofJohn Coltrane, OrnetteColeman and CharlesMingus, among others, helping to shape ageneration. 2014 was the 50th anniversary ofhis death and among the commemorations isTangent (for Eric Dolphy) by Ken Aldcroft’sConvergence Ensemble (Trio RecordsTRP-020, to Dolphy’s innovative spirit, guitaristAldcroft pursues his own course (onlythe theme of Section VI strongly suggestsDolphy’s compositions), supplying composedmaterials to his band who are free to initiateand combine them, extending the freedom ofimprovisation while developing specific ideas.The spirit of group creation is strong andthe results are consistently engaging, withcomplex dialogues involving all concerned,including trombonist Scott Thomson, bassistWes Neal, drummer Joe Sorbara and newarrival Karen Ng on alto saxophone. Her finestmoments arise in the cool fire of Section V.Karen Ng has rapidly become a significantpresence at the creative edges of Toronto jazz.In 2014 she also joined See Through Trio, aproject founded in 2004 that includes pianistTania Gill and bassist Pete Johnston. Devotedto Johnston’s angular and elusive compositions,Parallel Lights (Woods and WatersRecords WW008, March 1 - April 7, 2015 | 73

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