7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015

Vol 21 No 2 is now available for your viewing pleasure, and it's a bumper crop, right at the harvest moon. First ever Canadian opera on the Four Seasons Centre main stage gets double coverage with Wende Bartley interviewing Pyramus and Thisbe composer Barbara Monk Feldman and Chris Hoile connecting with director Christopher Alden; Paul Ennis digs into the musical mind of pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and pianist Eve Egoyan is "On the Record" in conversation with publisher David Perlman ahead of the Oct release concert for her tenth recording. And at the heart of it all the 16th edition of our annual BLUE PAGES directory of presenters profile the season now well and truly under way.

triumphs and instructive

triumphs and instructive pleasures of Cold Duck. No matter how many instances of sound separation exist, no individual voice is more prominent than the others. The result is a program that confirms group cohesion while fittingly sampling a saxophone choir’s outermost elements. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Christian Kobi is a member of the all saxophone Konus Quartett which performs 21st Century reed compositions at Gallery 345 on October 19. Wild Man Dance Charles Lloyd Blue Note B002243302 ( !! Charles Lloyd achieved tremendous success in the 1960s as the first jazz musician to bridge the gap between the new jazz and the new rock audience, combining strong melodies and hypnotic modal improvisations with a tenor saxophone sound that could traverse the ground between the hard metallic brilliance of John Coltrane and the airy sound of Stan Getz. In the decades since, Lloyd has sometimes taken extended leaves from public performance, but the lyric depth of his music only develops further. It’s clearly apparent in the six-part Wild Man Dance Suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland and recorded there in November 2013. Lloyd’s focus on sonority takes on fresh significance here as he expands his usual quartet to include two European masters, Sokratis Sinopoulos, playing a Greek bowed lyra, and Miklos Lukacs on a cimbalom, the Hungarian form of a hammered dulcimer. The themes are everywhere enriched by the vernacular instruments, each adding a certain brilliance to the group sound and a certain resonance to the melodies. It’s apparent immediately on River which is further highlighted by Lukacs’ glittering solo and the way his lines dovetail with Gerald Clayton’s rippling piano. There’s also a special concordance between Lloyd’s tenor saxophone and Sinopoulos’ cello-like timbre. Lloyd achieves a flute-like delicacy on Invitation, while Lark will suggest Coltrane’s Crescent in its meditative depth. Folk inspirations fuel the band’s long, open modal improvisations, propelled forward by bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Gerald Cleaver’s surging rhythms. At 75 minutes, it’s a long suite, but inspiration seldom flags. Stuart Broomer Passion World Kurt Elling Concord Jazz CJA-36841-02 ( !! When I first tried to listen to Kurt Elling’s new album Passion World, I had a hard time getting through it. That’s because whenever I got to the seventh track – his cover of U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name – I had to stop, hit repeat and then just take a moment to recover. It’s a powerful and beautiful take on an already powerful and beautiful song. Once I managed to move on, I realized it’s an album full of such takes. Passion World was born out of Elling’s desire, when touring, to deliver a song that would give the audience a taste of their country’s own music – what he refers to as “charmers.” The collection of songs then developed into a project for Jazz at Lincoln Center and, now, an album. Leaning mainly toward ballads, Passion World is filled with songs about longing and a sense of place. The project also exemplifies collaboration in its many forms. The opening tracks set the tone as Elling puts lyrics about home and the road to two instrumentals by John Clayton and Pat Metheny before getting into more traditional territory with Loch Tay Boat Song featuring a modern woodwind arrangement played by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Arturo Sandoval’s Bonita Cuba is another fine example of musical minds meeting. The band members all play major roles in the success of this album and, in particular, John McLean’s arrangements and guitar work elevate this collection. Cathy Riches With John Russell Emanem 5037 ( !! As the musicians of the so-called second generation of British improvisers move into their seventh decade, many celebratory concerts are marking their undiminished skills. One of the best, preserved on this 78-minute disc, took place last December as 60th-birthday-boy, guitarist John Russell, played four sets with six improvisers. The result confirms the adage that free music keeps you young. Measuring all four, the two shorter meetings are like extended bagatelles. On The Second Half of the First Half, Russell matches wits with his contemporary, sound-singer Phil Minton, who has never found a noise he couldn’t duplicate. As Minton bellows, burbles, moans, whistles and hiccups, the guitarist’s folksy picking is perfect accompaniment for a bawdy verbal Punch & Judy show with the singer taking all the parts. The Second Half of the Second Half signals a rare return to the electric guitar for Russell to battle the psyched-out, dial-twisting distortions from Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore. Propelling electronic shrieks, flanges and trebly rebounds likely not heard since Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck worked together, Russell rocks out while keeping the duet chromatic and with unexpected aleatory highlights. True sonic sustenance comes with the extended trios. The First Half of the First Half unites three separate musical strands into congenial whole cloth. Trading licks with trumpeter Henry Lowther’s muted puffs as if the two are Art Farmer and Jim Hall in a cool jazz situation, Russell also plinks wide linear accents which lock in with the studied sweeps of violinist Satoko Fukuda expressing her classical training. Staccato stopping on the guitarist’s part knit the loose ends so the garment has no holes. Even more impressive is The First Half of the Second Half, where the trio is filled out by a younger – bassist John Edwards – and an older – tenor saxophonist Evan Parker – free-music lifer like himself. With the bassist digging a foundation scooping darker tones from within his wooden instrument, Russell uses resonating flanges and slurred fingering to build a modernist edifice, upon which Parker’s architecturally inventive vibrations provide the decorative detailing. With confirms Russell’s – and free improv’s – adaptability, foretelling many more creative years for both. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia Alfie Boe; Billy Idol; Phil Daniels; Pete Townsend; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Robert Ziegler Deutsche Grammophon 479 5057 !! British rock icon Pete Townshend has embarked on a project to arrange his music into orchestral scores for future generations to perform. The album Quadrophenia was first released in 1973 by The Who. Written by Pete Townshend, the rock opera is set during the 1960s Mod movement and tells the story of the troubled youth Jimmy. Composer, orchestrator and Townshend’s life partner Rachel Fuller took on the monumental task of arranging it for symphony orchestra, choir and singers. The resulting Classic Quadrophenia is an intriguing mix of rock anthem, movie soundtrack, Broadway musical, opera and classical symphonic overture. Tenor Alfie Boe sings with a satisfying mix of operatic passion and rock star angst in the role of Jimmy, originally sung by Roger Daltrey. Boe makes the part his own, 70 | Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015

especially in the closing Love Reign O’er Me where his powerful expressive singing against the colourful choir washes, tinkling piano and thundering percussion transforms the rock anthem into an operatic showcase. Billy Idol as Ace Face sings with his trademark gruff presence; Phil Daniels is convincing in the part of Jimmy’s dad; while Townshend as the Godfather makes satisfying yet way too brief vocal and guitar appearances. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Robert Ziegler and the London Oriana Choir under Dominic Peckham perform with joyful conviction. An accompanying DVD supports with visuals and informative commentaries. Missed here in performance is The Who’s rock stadium energy, stage presence and spontaneous musicality, yet Classic Quadrophenia soars as a more classical music alternative. Tiina Kiik Asia Beauty Ron Korb Humble Dragon 2015 ( !! Ron Korb’s new CD, Asia Beauty, is a charming hybrid – sad, sweet melodies with a Chinese and sometimes a Celtic feel – played on a variety of instruments, traditional and modern. Korb’s melodies are accompanied by small ensembles which include an astounding 27 musicians playing 15 different plucked, bowed or hammered Chinese, Celtic and Western string instruments, one of which is always the piano, playing harmonic progressions recognizably of the Western tradition. Reflecting on this amalgam of East and West, Korb muses in the liner notes, “In the 1930s...Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Hanoi were meeting places between East and West. ...I wondered how the cultures intermingled and all the secret romances that must have occurred.” Later he writes about the “bittersweet feelings” and “sublime romantic tragedy” expressed by both traditional and contemporary pop Asian music. The same atmosphere is to be found on most of the tracks on this CD. Most intriguing, however, is the Celtic influence, which never seems far away in Korb’s music, helped along at times by, but never dependent on, Sharlene Wallace’s Celtic harp and Korb’s penny whistle. In fact the Chinese bamboo flute (dizi) and the traditional Chinese clarinet (bawu) seem made for the Celtic idiom, which mysteriously and frequently appears. Both Eastern and Western musical currents are part of who Ron Korb is as a musician and as a man. He has totally assimilated the musical language of both traditions; the result is music which is really neither one nor the other but both. Allan Pulker Something in the Air Skilful Eastern European Musicians are No Polish Joke KEN WAXMAN Since the realignment of East and West after the fall of the Berlin Wall, musicians of every stripe have found new playing opportunities and partners. In the former Soviet countries, one particularly fertile area for improvisers has been Poland. While westerners may figure Polish jazz begins and ends with Krzysztof Komeda’s score for Rosemary’s Baby and other Roman Polanski films, the country’s rich jazz history goes back to the 1920s and maintained its place during Communist rule. Today, like the equivalent attention paid to their ancestral roots among the children of immigrants, western improvisers have discovered the fulfillment of working with Polish bands or having Polish musicians part of their groups. Case in point is Montreal alto saxophonist François Carrier. Unknowable (NotTwo Records MW 928-2, showcases a touring partnership he and his Montreal associate, drummer Michel Lambert, have formed with Krakow-based acoustic bass guitarist Rafal Mazur. Authoritatively using both the guitar and double bass properties of his instrument with equal proficiency, Mazur is like the third partner in a fantasy ménage à trois, adding to the situation without disrupting the others’ union. An equal opportunity companion, his hand taps add percussive weight to Lambert’s rolling ruffs and pops, while his array of thumb and finger positions animates Carrier’s skyward smears or stressed multiphonics. Listening Between, the first track, could serve as a description of how the three operate throughout: not only shadowing each other’s propelled textures, but also anticipating sound patterns to fit what will soon be heard. Carrier’s initial churlish reed-straining on that track for instance is soon pulled towards accommodating mezzo-like melisma as Mazur strums his guitar as if he was backing an operatic tenor. With Lambert beating away stoically, the bass guitarist loops out multiple theme variations, as compressed buzzes slide from Carrier’s Chinese oboe for a unique interaction. Broken-octave communication characterizes Unknowable, the date’s centerpiece. Like an extended length of hose unrolling, Mazur’s staccato finger style sets up a continuum that’s matched by the saxophonist’s rubato cries which retain some sweetness. Eventually rim shot crackles and cross sticking from Lambert resolve the outbursts into a satisfying thematic whole. Still, it’s indisputable that the three didn’t want to let go of what they achieved musically. Like guests at a great party who dawdle before leaving, Springing Out, the next track, and Dissolution, the concluding, barely 90-second one, come across as coda and then as coda to the coda of the title performance. A duo consisting of American pianist Matthew Shipp and Polish multi-reedist Mat Walerian illustrates another collaborative application. Involved with his own trio and other combinations, Shipp has worked sporadically with Walerian, who plays alto saxophone, soprano and bass clarinet plus flute, yet the ten selections on The Uppercut – Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk 5007 document fulfilling rapport between the two. Like a method actor, Walerian portrays a different character on each horn, but the output is united in finding unique sounds. Because of this, Shipp’s narratives encompass everything from multi-note Art Tatum-like emphasis, out-and-out abstract key and string ratcheting reflecting both new music and free music, shaggy keyboard carpets of Chopin-like recital-ready intermezzos and primitive blues and early jazz echoes. The last is apparent on Blues for Acid Cold where a restrained lounge-like exposition from Shipp gradually hardens into a blues conception following Walerian’s rangy, elongated clarinet tone. By the climax the two could be Jimmy Noone and Earl Hines in 1920s Chicago. In contrast, what begins with the pianist and alto saxophonist propelling slick mainstream timbres at one another on Love and Other Species – think Phil Woods and Jim McNeely – evolves into a breathtaking display of complicit split tones, as the two deconstruct the melody as if it were a building being dynamited to smithereens, then rebuild the tune into a solid edifice for a Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015 | 71

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