7 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Musical
  • Violin
  • Quartet
2016 is off to a flying start! We chronicle the Artful Times of Andrew Burashko, the violistic versatility of Teng Li, the ageless ebullience of jazz pianist Gene DiNovi and the ninetieth birthday of trumpeter Johnny Cowell. Jaeger remembers Boulez; Waxman recalls Bley's influence, and Olds finds Bowie haunting Editor's Corner. Oh, and did we mention there's all that music? Hello (and goodbye) to the February blues, and here's to swinging through the musical vines of the Year of the Monkey.

Brodsky. Which was about

Brodsky. Which was about exile, essentially. And I think that first time I had Ted Dykstra read it. Basically it was music, with a little bit of a twist.” That “First Season” (1999/2000) consisted of just three one-nighters. “Then for the next few years, I just kept going. There was no infrastructure. I would get on the phone, I would invite people. There was nothing, other than to pay the players and to rent the hall. And that’s how it continued until about 2005. Slowly it was growing, mainly through the arts community. I was becoming more and more daring with the programs and I was just aware that it would never grow if I kept doing it on the sidelines, growing by the seat of my pants, it would never go anywhere. “In 2005 we moved to Harbourfront and started doing four shows of two-nighters. It was basically, I don’t want to say whim, I went on some sort of belief that wasn’t backed by anything in the physical world. That first year our budget was about ,000. Today it’s over a million dollars.” I point out to him that Art of Time is such an evocative name, since the concept of time is so central to what is arguably the core of music. He immediately agrees and expands the thought: “The most noticeable and important fingerprint, for lack of a better word, the most important quality, of a musician or the first thing I notice about a musician, is their sense of time.” But the name also works on another level, he quickly says. And again Leon Fleisher’s name re-enters the conversation. “Fleisher used to talk about compositions as these elaborate structures or cathedrals built out of time. They were time structures. So on those two levels, really, that’s how I came up with Art of Time.” 2015/2016: Our conversation moves into the three shows that Chelsea Fresh from a SOLD-OUT National Tour! hotel the songs of leonard Cohen Directed & Conceived by Tracey Power Musical Direction & Arrangements by Steven Charles February 3-21, 2016 Theatre Passe Muraille | 416.504.7529 Presenting Sponsor Anonymous “War of the Worlds” (2011) will complete the 2015/2016 season, Zappa, Erwin Schulhoff and Hawksley Workman. “What drew you to Frank Zappa?” I ask. “Wow!” he responds, explaining that Zappa has made a deep impression on him since his teens. Later, in the new music world, he was exposed to him a number of times. (“Zappa’s the only one I could think of who straddled more than one world completely.”) In fact, he says, it was a Zappa concert by Frank Boudreau and the Quebec Contemporary Music Society at the Music Gallery, way back in 1988, that planted the seed for Art of Time’s own Zappa program, February 19 and 20. “Their Zappa show was so much fun. It blew me away.” That concert never left him; and knowing that the charts for that music existed defined the repertoire for February’s show. Most of the arrangements for the upcoming concert are from the late 1980s and are very dense and busy. Burashko wanted to dilute the “assault-onthe-senses” effect a little bit by adding numbers like Bobby Brown Goes Down and Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow. And Stephen Clarke and Gregory Oh, the two keyboardists in the show (Burashko is conducting), wanted to do Zappa’s four-hands piece, Ruth Is Sleeping (so astonishingly contemporary, it sounds like it could have been written today). “I’m trying to turn people on to all this music,” Burashko said, explaining his decision not replicate the Boudreau program. “We have such a diverse audience and we’ve developed all this trust just based on previous experience, not necessarily knowing what to expect, so I wanted to add a few of Zappa’s lighter fare tunes.” Burashko says that his programming has become increasingly more daring over the years. His “War of the Worlds” program began with a tribute to Bernard Herrmann, who collaborated with Orson Welles on radio, and ended as a theatre piece with a few musicians when Burashko realized that there was very little music (and none by Herrmann) in the original radio broadcast. “I Send You This Cadmium Red” blended Gavin Bryars’ music with John Berger’s words and images. “Magic and Loss: A Tribute to Lou Reed” was, in his words, amazing. “It was seminal in a way, because the essence of Lou Reed is rock ‘n’ roll and simplicity and attitude. To dress it up in fancy clothes would be to just miss the point and destroy the music. I can’t think of anything farther from classical music.” The current Beatles project, Sgt. Pepper, also crosses no genres. Admitting he’s a Beatles nut, Burashko says that the important thing is to approach the project with great reverence, while retaining the spirit and feel of the original, which is pop music and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s nothing classical about this show other than the involvement of classical musicians (along with the pop musicians) and the classical composers who wrote the arrangements. Sgt. Pepper is far and away Art of Time’s most popular show. It’s been mounted three separate times. And Burashko completed a “great, gruelling” 13-concert, 18-day tour of the show through the Eastern United States in November. A tour of the American midwest is set for September 2016. “That music just connects on such a deep level with people.” Next, I ask about the Schulhoff show, coming up April 1 and 2. I’m a fan of Schulhoff’s diverse sonic palette, I say. Again Burashko agrees. Schulhoff, he says, was very eclectic; the upcoming concert is a repeat of one Art of Time put on in 2005, with the addition of Martha Burns performing the aptly named Sonata Erotica for female voice solo. Violinist Stephen Sitarski, cellist Thomas Wiebe, flutist Susan Hoeppner and Burashko on the piano all return from the original cast ten years ago, joined by such local superstars as violist Teng Li, alto saxophonist Wallace Halladay and others in Schulhoff’s Hot Sonate for Alto Sax & Piano, Concertino for Viola, Flute & Double Bass, Five Jazz Etudes for Piano and String Sextet. Burashko wanted to bring it back because “it’s such amazing music” (there’s that word again!). The first time he played any Schulhoff was on a [Robert Aitken-led] New Music Concerts program in 1993, JOHN LAUENER 10 | February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016

the year Burashko’s daughter was born. “So thanks, Bob,” he says. Besides, Art of Time’s audience has grown exponentially. “In 2005, our audience was one-twentieth of what it is now.” So for many it will be an entirely new show. Finally in this season, Hawksley Workman will sing Bruce Cockburn’s music in the latest instalment of the Art of Time Songbook, May 13 and 14. This is the first time a songbook has been devoted to the work of a single composer and is the culmination of much back and forth between Burashko and Workman. “I love Hawksley Workman,” Burashko told me, before offering an explanation as to why it took so long for the singer to agree. “He called me; he had seen and heard enough stuff that we did that he really wanted to do something with us.” The general idea for Songbook is to invite a non-classical singer to choose 12 songs they’ve always wanted to do; then Burashko delegates the songs to a group of disparate composers/ arrangers to create arrangements for an ensemble that is half pop, and half classical. It’s always a collaboration but he gives the singer licence to be as creative as possible. “It’s about finding that fine line about being as creative as possible without ruining the original intent of the song.” It was Workman’s choice to do Cockburn, and only Cockburn. Burashko will get the charts for the music two months before the show and the concert will be preceded by four full days of intensive rehearsal. One of Art of Time’s strengths is its impressive roster of musicians. I comment on the alchemy that must have have gone into selecting Christine Duncan and Wallace Halladay for Zappa, and Halladay and Teng Li for Schulhoff, all of whom are making their debut with the ensemble. “The thing that I pride myself on most is the group of musicians, of artists, that I get to work with,” Burashko answered. “Having that incredible luxury of only working with people that I want to. Over the years, that collective has grown to such an extent that I’m proud to say that most musicians would love to work with Art of Time because it also means working with musicians whom they love. “With Christine – I had heard her a number of times over the years – when I heard these Zappa charts – they’re incredibly complex – and when I heard them in the 80s they were done with two classical singers. It was still a great show and I loved it, but it really ruined something for me. So Christine was a no-brainer because there aren’t that many non-classical singers who are literate enough to learn this music, who are good readers.” All three remaining shows this season exemplify Burashko’s curatorial prowess: the programs themselves; the chemistry that unites great music and excellent musicians; Art of Time’s transformative theatrical magic. “It’s so intuitive” Burashko says. “Ultimately I never go near anything that is unfamiliar to me. Programming to me is about creating something balanced with a really interesting arc. And the world is my oyster.” The Art of Time Ensemble performs Zappa February 19 and 20 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote. Marie-Josée Lord & Quartango: TANGOPÉRA MARCH 3 The sparkling soprano and accomplished quartet revisit operatic classics with the bewitching rhythms of the tango. Beat by Beat | Jazz Stories Priceless Gene ORI DAGAN On an excruciatingly cold January afternoon Gene DiNovi welcomes me into his home and provides warm smiles and a pair of slippers. He leads me up the stairs, through the kitchen, proudly showing me family photos and art pieces he has collected through the years. We finally reach “the museum,” a spacious room busily adorned with framed photos and autographed posters, shelves full of sheet music and a grand piano. Gene DiNovi performs at the Old Mill’s Home Smith Bar Now 87-years young, DiNovi has been in show business for seven decades and has hundreds of stories to share: We talk about his new gig at The Old Mill on the first Tuesday of every month; on his triumphant career as pianist, arranger, songwriter and musical director; on working with Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne and Carmen McRae; sitting in with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker; recording with Lester Young and Benny Goodman; his native Brooklyn; a stint in Los Angeles; moving to Toronto. But how did he get into this music in the first place? He takes a moment, stares ahead, and smiles as he remembers his first musical inspiration: “I heard a record of ‘The World is Waiting for the Sunrise’ which is a Canadian tune actually, by Ernest Seitz and Gene Lockhart. It was Mel Powell and His Orchestra – Melvin Epstein from the Bronx, who became Mel Powell. My brother Victor used to take me to the Paramount Theatre on a Saturday, or the Strand, or the Loew’s State Theatre. But I heard Mel there. Mel recorded that song a number of times with Benny. On this particular side he plays a solo which had three or four horns on it: Billy Butterfield on trumpet, George Berg on tenor, Lou McGarity on trombone and of course Benny on clarinet, Kansas Fields on drums, who I played with later. So I heard this piano Cameron Carpenter MARCH 30 The show-stopping Juilliard grad and Grammy nominee performs a diverse repertoire on his custom-built International Touring Organ. DON VICKERY Box Office: 905-688-0722 February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016 | 11

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