8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 7 - April 2015

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  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Bloor
  • Symphony
  • Trio
  • Orchestra


STUART BROOMERPerfectionisn’t usuallyin the equationfor jazz recordings,but guitarist RegSchwager’s Delphinus(Rant 1447, comesvery close, with a balance of polish, spontaneityand depth of expression. Schwager drawsmuch of his inspiration from Northern climes(the same that feed the aesthetic of ECMrecords), evident on the opening Resolute(named for the Nunavut town) and the titletrack (named for a Northern constellation)and reaching its apotheosis on The LonesomeScenes of Winter, a stunning treatment of astrongly modal folk ballad. Schwager’s musicis filled with the crystalline clarity and brighthighs of sunlight glancing off ice and starlightfar from cities, and it extends to the restof his quartet, pianist Don Thompson, bassistNeil Swainson and drummer Michel Lambert,a group that can move comfortably fromJerome Kern’s They Didn’t Believe Me to thefree jazz of Schwager’s Four Eyes.Bassist Rob Clutton stands out for thebreadth of his affiliations,workingregularly from themainstream (pianistSteve Koven’s trio)through free jazz(Drumheller) toexperimental electronica(LinaAllemano’s Titanium Riot). He’s also a highlycreative bandleader when he assumes therole, amalgamating elements of free improvisation,electronica and folk music. They’reall evident on The Cluttertones’ Ordinary Joys(Healing Power Records HPR#30,sometimes ona single track. Working with longtime associatesAllemano on trumpet; Ryan Driver onanalog synthesizer, piano and voice (a reedyhigh tenor reminiscent of Robert Wyatt’s);and Tim Posgate on guitar and banjo, Cluttoncomposes pieces that begin with the improbableand sometimes approach the uncanny,strange states of musical mind in which theheterodox elements seem to tune calmly toa new standard. The nine-minute Agostois a fine example, Clutton’s warm, springy,lyrical pizzicato blending through and linkingthe divergent impulses of banjo, trumpetand synth.Monk Work – Évidence (AmbiancesMagnétiques AM 218 The compositionsof TheloniousMonk represent aunique body of workin the jazz canon,pieces that have beenexplored repeatedlyby musiciansfrom mainstream toavant-garde, many finding something newin Monk’s quirky puzzles of rhythm andharmony. Among the most dedicated advocatesis the Quebec trio Évidence, consistingof electric bassist Pierre Cartier, saxophonistJean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguaywho together have been exploring Monk’smusic since 1985, and who in 2014 interpretedhis complete works in a three-dayMontreal marathon. Évidence brings its ownvoice to this selection, mixing and matchingthe familiar and obscure in Monk’s repertoire.Stylistically Évidence invokes another master,Ornette Coleman, with Derome developinga similar lyricism while the rhythm sectionwork masterfully through the kind of flexible,sprung rhythms that distinguished Coleman’searly work. Derome plays baritone on Comingon the Hudson with a wry wit akin to Monk’sown, while Cartier maintains fluid rhythmand Tanguay sustains the mood with light,crisp, animating brushwork. Derome’s vocalicalto comes to the forein the fine three-waydialogue of Skippy.Kirk MacDonald isa powerhouse tenorsaxophonist whosemature style matchesfierce rhythmicdrive with focussedemotion and the sound of controlled aggression.His latest CD, Vista Obscura (AddoRecords AJR025,, is acareer high, winner of the 2015 JUNO awardfor Jazz Album of the Year, Solo. It presentsMacDonald with the stellar rhythm sectionof bassist Neil Swainson and drummer AndréWhite, veteran American pianist HaroldMabern adding a special drive to the proceedingsas well as his own animated solos. TheCD is largely focused around MacDonald’seffective originals, but there’s also a specialdimension to the set. Every September,MacDonald and fellow tenor saxophonist PatLaBarbera pay homage to John Coltrane’sgenius at Toronto’s Rex Jazz and Blues Bar.Here MacDonald opens with an intense,faster-than-usual trip through Trane’sLonnie’s Lament; LaBarbera joins him forthree tunes here: oneis a brilliant extendedversion of Naima,Coltrane’s best-knownballad, entirely worthyof the Coltrane legacy.MacDonald andLaBarbera (along withMike Murley and Perry White) have long set astandard for mainstream Toronto tenor saxophonists– as educators as well as performers– and the legacy is evident in two verydifferent players who have recently emerged.Dave Neill and Johnny Griffith are bothgraduates of the Master of Jazz Performanceprogram at the University of Toronto (whereMurley teaches), and both teach at Toronto’sHumber College.Dave Neill’s Daylight (On the Fly RecordsOTF112844, is marked by hisdistinctive, warm, round sound, thoughtfulsolos and compositions, developing areflective, almost orchestral sound with hisquintet. He’s used the same rhythm sectionsince his 2008 debut, the fine combinationof pianist David Braid, bassist Pat Collinsand drummer Anthony Michelli, addingtrombonist Terry Promane here. Neill hascreatively shaped the session with four briefvariations of his Thelonious Monk-like TheDay Savers, played in duet with Braid andinterspersed throughout the program. Healso includes pieces by Promane and Braid,outstanding composers/arrangers of improvisation-friendlymusic. Braid’s Red Herois a powerful, elegiac work that matchesthe depth of KennyWheeler and GilEvans, a distinctivetradition with a strongCanadian component.For all the similarities,Johnny Griffithsounds very differenton Dance with the Lady (GB Records’s a more kinetic player, farless deliberate, pushing toward a raw expressionistedge, showing affinities with JohnColtrane and the ancestral energies of rhythm& blues. He shares the front line with trumpeterJeremy Pelt, a star in the New Yorkmainstream firmament. It can be risky, butit works here, with Pelt, pianist AdreanFerrugia, bassist John Maharaj and drummerEthan Ardelli making consistently lively, wellexecuted music. The menacingly themed TheKuleshascope is a highlight, with Griffithpressing further and further out.74 | April 1 - May 7, 2015

appended by the string players mask theirinstruments’ immediate identity as well asappending reed-like vibratos and electronicoscillations to the program.To get an idea of the trio’s range compareShuffle Stomp and Fliver Shame whichfollow one another on the disc. With a soundmidway between a gas explosion and arunaway train, the first soars as it cunninglyutilizes guitar reverb and flanges to animatethe drummers’ named shuffle beat. Thelatter tune builds its microtonal narrativefrom wetted-finger slides across drumtops meeting spiccato plinks and scrubsfrom the strings. Spacey sideband delayspresage a movie soundtrack-like theme ona track like Toss Filler Here, climaxing witha pleasant melody that eventually eruptsfrom sluicing fiddle jumps, popping vibeslikereverberations and clacking percussionaccents. As machine-processed abrasions andacoustic calmness echo through ReflectiveDrime, the trio reaches a gripping conclusionwith the final Too Pins Over. Consistingof Lyricon-like peeps and processed tremololines, no particular instrument predominatesso that the opaque spellbinding droneappears unyielding and infinite until withoutwarning it halts.Overall, the improvisers who make upSubtle Lip Can create music that’s as inimitableas the band’s name.Ken WaxmanLiteral LateralCrofts - Adams - Pearse + HemingwaySuddenlyLISTEN (!!Adding just enoughemphasis to boost thisfree-flowing programto an elevated plane isAmerican drummerGerry Hemingway.That’s because themonumental soundinfrastructure alreadylaunched by the Halifax-based trio of pianistTim Crofts, cellist Norman Adams and bassistLukas Pearce needs only supplementaryfoundation work not rococo decorations.One of the most in-demand percussionistsWhat if you couldlisten in?Now you can!internationally, conversant in jazz, notatedand free music, Hemingway arrives with theappropriate tools, knowing exactly wheneither earth-moving crunches or subduedtapping is appropriate. Pillars of suddenlyLISTEN,the Nova Scotia capital’s creativemusic hub, Crofts, Adams and Pearce haveplayed with many non-Maritimers developinga distinctive sound.On Literal Lateral’s nine tracks the stringplayers are so assured that on a track suchas Pre-Reveal the expected chordal texturesare boosted by others which sound as ifthey’re being powerfully strummed from a12-string guitar or finessed by Delta bottleneckpicking. Meantime Hemingway anglescymbal clanks and Pearce thumps a lowpitchedostinato beside them. The bassist’spizzicato double stops, col legno pops or spiccatopulses consistently add necessary ballastto many tracks, especially on Shard Work thatbegins with such a deep-seated string buzzthat it could be a blast from a tuba. Urgedto a buoyant clip by bell-hammering, thatperformance also includes a full-out swingsection initiated by the pianist and underlinedby poised cello sweeps.Nevertheless passages that resembleangular modern jazz are no more prominentthan what could be seen as throughcomposedNew Music motifs. Manycompositional and improvisational sequencesare pressed into use throughout to ensure themusic flows appropriately and chromatically.In fact Beacon vs Lure, the CD’s longestand most defining track, wraps those influencesinto an interface that also finds spacefor atonal, electro-acoustic buzzes and whistles,rumbling piano glissandi plus a smoothlyromantic cello line. Building to a crescendo ofcrossing and echoing tones, Crofts’ steeplechasingacross the keys leads to a narrowedsatisfying conclusion.Literal Lateral could be the most winningAmerican-Maritime connection since theUnited Empire Loyalists moved north morethan two centuries ago.Ken WaxmanConcert Note: Crofts - Adams - Pearse +Hemingway are at The Rex April 5.POT POURRIZ [zee]Zeynep OzbilenIndependent (!!Where would the1969 Blood Sweatand Tears’ jazz fusionhit Spinning Wheelby Canadian singerDavid Clayton-Thomasreceive a calienteLatin-inflected remakeby Toronto bandleader and arranger RobertoLinares Brown (leaning heavily on the originalinfluential Grammy Award-winning arrangementby Fred Lipsius), but infused withTurkish lyrics by the singer Zeynep Ozbilen?In Toronto, that’s where. Titled Donme Dolap,the song is among the delights of Z [zee].While the individual tracks were recordedin cities emblematic of the music genresrepresented – Istanbul, Miami, NYC andToronto – the album was produced, mixedand mastered in Toronto. I mention thegeography and its implied cultural shiftsbecause it accurately reflects the hybridmusical aesthetics and artistic ambitions ofOzbilen, aided by her producer and bandleader Brown.This album with the single consonant title(given the American pronunciation), is thenewest project of Turkish-born, now Torontobasedsinger and songsmith Zeynep Ozbilen.For over a decade she was the lead vocalist forthe Latin All Stars, the first and best-knownLatin group in Turkey. Her warm throaty altois equally at home in jazz and musical standardsas in Anatolian, Balkan and Ladinosongs. The lyrics on Z [zee] underscore thismulticulturalism, smoothly negotiatingbetween Turkish, English and Spanish.The skillful fingerprints of Roberto LinaresBrown are all over the album too, infusing hisknowledge of multiple Latin styles into skillfulhorn-rich arrangements and delivering understatedkeyboard performances. While not everysong here will make it into my personal heavyrotation, the album as a whole encourages myhybrid musical heart to sing – and to kick offthose winter boots and dance.Andrew TimarPreviously uploaded tothe Listening more informationThom McKercher“... Unique exchanges aboundamongst the instrumentalists,particularly in the Kapsbergerselections, ever shifting inrhythmic nuance...”-Dianne Wells, Dec 2014“... From the first hesitantmeasures, the listenerimmediately senses that indeed,this is what Beethoven wouldhave wanted .... the phrasingalways carefully nuanced...”-Richard Haskell, Dec 2014“... the Sonata for Cello andPiano (1946) which I mustconfess is my favourite selectionwith its shades of Debussy andcascading melodies ...”-David Olds, Dec April 1 - May 7, 2015 | 75

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