7 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Trio
  • Violin
  • Flute
  • Summers

UK DK Michala Petri;

UK DK Michala Petri; Mahan Esfahani OUR Recordings 6.220611 !! Another offering from Danish recorder player Michala Petri’s own label, this disc serves up a smorgasbord of modern-era music from Denmark and Britain, played by Petri and Tehran-born, London-based harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. It’s to be much appreciated that Petri remains so committed to the commissioning, performance and recording of new works for the recorder. Off the top, Malcolm Arnold’s Sonatina reveals the interpretive unity and precise ensemble which make this such a successful duo, and the six little movements of Benjamin Britten’s Alpine Suite receive the best performance they’ve probably ever had. Gordon Jacob’s Sonatina and Encore are quite beautiful, but marred a little by some pungent tuning on the alto recorder. (That said, when Petri plays at blistering speed or sings a counter melody along with herself, she’s right on the Cleartune money.) Given the title of Henning Christiansen’s piece – It’s Spring – one might expect the recorder to be typecast in its centuries-old role of bird imitator par excellence; and indeed it is, with the addition of some harpsichord bumblebee imitation. The aleatoric, post-modern angst of Daniel Kidane’s Tourbillon and Axel Børup-Jørgensen’s Fantasia provide a different mood and are very welcome here. Along with Vagn Holmboe’s Sonata, they also strike a more equal musical partnership between the two instruments than much of the other music. Mahan Esfahani’s playing is a real delight and I find it a little sad that the harpsichord parts here don’t all make better use of him. Alison Melville George Rochberg – Complete Flute Music 1 Christina Jennings; Lura Johnson; June Han Naxos 8.559776 !! The WholeNote’s 20th season has brought symmetry: in the September issue I reviewed Marina Piccinini’s marvellous CD of Paganini’s 24 Caprices; in this last issue the recording of George Rochberg’s flute music includes 20 of his 51 Caprice Variations (on Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 in A Minor), a significant addition not only to the already long list of compositions based on this work but also to the flute repertoire. Like the original Caprices, Rochberg’s variations were written for the violin. Jennings has adapted “…those best suited to the flute while representing the enormous stylistic range of [the] whole set.” It is to her credit both that the Caprice Variations sounds as if it was written for the flute and that her formidable technique is up to its prodigious technical demands. The common thread binding the other two compositions, Between Two Worlds and The Something in the Air Canadian Exposure for Out-of-the-Country Out-of-the-Ordinary Improvisers KEN WAXMAN Just as international improvisers sometimes find a more welcoming atmosphere for their sound experiments in Canada than at home, so too have Canadian record labels become a vehicle to release notable free music sessions. Attesting to this openness, two of the most recent discs by British saxophone master Evan Parker are on Canadian imprints. But each arrived by a different route. One of the triumphs of 2014’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, this performance of Seven by Parker’s ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo 127 is available on Victo, FIMAV’s affiliated imprint. Consisting of one massive and one shorter instant composition, Seven literally delineates the electro-acoustic divide. Trumpeter Peter Evans, reedist Ned Rothenberg, cellist Okkyung Lee and Parker make up the acoustic side, while varied laptop processes are operated by Ikue Mori and Sam Pluta, with George Lewis switching between laptop and trombone, with his huffing brass tone making a particular impression during a contrapuntal face-off with Parker’s soprano saxophone during Seven-2. At nearly 46 minutes, Seven-1 is the defining work, attaining several musical crests during its ghostly, meandering near-time suspension. Allowing for full expression of instrumental virtuosity, dynamic flutters, flanges and processes, the laptoppists accompany, comment upon or challenge the acoustic instruments. Alternately wave form loops and echoes cause the instrumentalists to forge their reposes. Plenty of sonic surprises arise during the sequences. Undefined processedsounding bee-buzzing motifs, for example, are revealed as mouth and lip modulations from Evans’ piccolo trumpet or aviary trills from Rothenberg’s clarinet. In contrast the electronics’ crackles and static are often boosted into mellower affiliations that sound purely acoustic. Eventually both aspects meld into a climax of bubbly consistency with any background-foreground, electro or acoustic displays satisfactorily melded. More percussive Seven-2 has a climax involving fragmented electronics pulsating steadily as first Evans, then Rothenberg and finally Parker spill out timbres that confirm formalism as much as freedom. While Seven’s domestic release seems almost mandatory, Montreal-based Red Toucan’s decision to release UK-recorded Extremes (RT 9349 red) demonstrates its commitment to this music. Parker on tenor saxophone, alongside Paul Dunmall, another intense British tenor specialist, plus American drummer Tony Bianco, offer a three-track masterclass in free-form improvisation. With the drummer keeping up a constant barrage of smacks, whacks, ruffs and pops in the propulsive Elvin Jones tradition, the saxophonists dig into every variation and shading of reed and metal tones like an updated John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Unlike the maelstrom of bedlam-like expression in which some sound explorers operate, however, Dunmall and Parker play with relaxed intensity. This isn’t a cutting contest either, but a demonstration of how saxophonists can function as separate parts of a single entity. With the final Horus especially adding affirming motes to the jazz tradition via glossolalia and faint echoes of Sonny Rollins’ East Broadway Rundown, each player maintains his individuality no matter how many harsh snorts or siren-pitched expressions are unleashed. Parker’s tone is distinguished by lighter vibrations and swifter split tones while Dunmall’s timbres are darker and grittier. With intuitive timing the tenors attain concluding connection, showcasing rowdy theme variations on the 30-minute-plus title track and polyphonic expressiveness on Horus. Overall, the result is head expanding, not head banging. To read how Portuguese trio Earnear, plus the American ensembles of Harris Eisenstadt and Anthony Braxton, took advantage of Canadian record companies’ welcoming support, see the continuation of this column at 86 | June | July | August, 2015

STUART BROOMER Calgary-raised, Toronto-educated and now based in New York, pianist/ composer Kris Davis has built a substantial reputation at the cutting edge where jazz blends freely with classical and improvised inspirations. However, Save Your Breath (Cleanfeed CF 322 CD,, by her new ensemble Infrasound, is her most exciting work to date. What might draw a composer to create an octet combining the chordal density of piano, organ and guitar with the inchoate depths of four bass clarinets? The answer is apparent everywhere here in thick, welling music that moves from haunted opera house to the real depths provided by shaking low frequencies, all of it combined in ways both masterful and mysterious to create a music that you definitely haven’t heard before. Among the cast of bass clarinetists, Ben Goldberg is profound on Always Leave Them (Wanting More) and Joachim Badenhorst incendiary on Whirly Swirly. Ottawa trumpeter Craig Pedersen’s Quartet has just released its third CD, Ghosts (cpm- 006,, as remarkable for its concentration as its brevity. Less than 18 minutes long, the five-part work suggests roots in the 1960s avant-garde – the braying, villageband dirges of Albert Ayler (Ghosts, though, is Pedersen’s, not Ayler’s) and the linked suites of Don Cherry – but Pedersen has his own voice. His compositions can reduce and repeat melody, insisting on its essence in Something to Like, or hint at musical travels: a Latin beat, a Middle-Eastern mode, the wail of flamenco. Within the intensely collective enterprise, each individual voice presses forward, whether it’s alto saxophonist Linsey Wellman and bassist Joel Kerr on Sung Song or drummer Eric Thibodeau on Clothesline. At the work’s conclusion, the highly vocal trumpet and saxophone give way to actual chanting. Chantal de Villiers emphasizes the connection between jazz and soul music on Funky Princess (Independent CDV 052014, and lives up to the billing by delivering the kind of rich tenor saxophone sound – think Gene Ammons to Grover Washington – that saturates a melody as much as it articulates it. The emphasis is definitely on fundamentals, with strong rhythmic grooves provided by some of Montreal’s finest, bassist Fraser Hollins and the drummers Rich Irwin or Dave Laing. The Shadow of Your Smile and Dexter Gordon’s Panther supply further touchstones, but de Villiers is adept at fashioning her own anthems, like the opening Groovy Step, a slice of solid jazz funk. Alto saxophonist Rémi Bolduc appears, adding a lighter touch, while Burt De Villiers contributes further heft with Hammond B3 organ. Cory Weeds closed his Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver at the end of February 2014, but it hasn’t hampered his career as a saxophonist or his vigorous Cellar Live record label, which continues to release sessions from the club and further afield. Weeds’ musical ideal is hard bop: hard-edged, blues-inflected, modern jazz as defined in New York in the late 50s and early 60s. It’s much in evidence in several recent releases. Weeds marks the label’s 100th release with his own Condition Blue, The Music Of Jackie McLean (Cellar Live CL111214,, paying tribute to the great alto saxophonist. Weeds brings his own alto sound to this – no one should try to duplicate McLean’s unique, acid-toned, slightly sharp delivery – touching on aspects of McLean’s style from the drum-like phrasing of the title track to the abstract Capuchin Swing and the serpentine coil of Jacknife. The back-up is an organ trio, with Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth bringing a gentler, burbling, almost dreamlike ambience to McLean’s visceral art. Drummer Curtis Nowosad made his recording debut two years ago. A recent graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Jazz Studies Program, he led a band made up of his teachers, mixing a hard bop approach with material sourced from Pink Floyd to Tupac Shakur. Nowosad is currently living and studying in New York, but he reassembled the same band for Dialectics (Cellar Live CL010115), including the stellar saxophonist Jimmy Greene. The repertoire is much more conventional, mostly Nowosad originals that frankly reference works by hard bop masters like Horace Silver and Duke Pearson. It’s consistently lively work, and Nowosad stands out on his Afro-Cuban arrangement of Monk’s Bye-Ya. Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band Live at Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club (Cellar Live CL120513) was recorded in December 2013, shortly before the club closed. Though the presence of Canadian musicians is limited to Weeds sitting in on Sack of Woe, he fits right in, no small accomplishment. Hayes was 76 at the time, as precise as when he was propelling Adderley and Horace Silver in his 20s. With alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt in the front line, the band plays the soulful bop and blues of Adderley’s repertoire (Dat Dere stands out) with as much élan as any contemporary group might manage. The highpoint of Weeds’ current crop is by an expatriate Torontonian, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart who established himself in New York 25 years ago. His Trio (Cellar Live CL111014) is boiled down to just tenor, bass and drums, but while it’s reminiscent of Sonny Rollins’ great orations, the resemblance takes nothing away from Stewart’s achievement. It’s spontaneous dialogue at the highest level, with the saxophonist at once as meaty and abstract as his model, whether cascading through chord changes or in intimate rhythmic dialogue with bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer (and brother) Phil Stewart. The trio spins particularly memorable variations on Everything’s Coming up Roses. June | July | August, 2015 | 87

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