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.

wrote for one of his

wrote for one of his American gamelans in the finale of this album. In Honor of the Divine Mr. Handel (1991), for concert harp and small Javanese gamelan in just intonation, is stylishly directed by composer and Harrison scholar Bill Alves. It manages a difficult and deft dual musical trick: it is not only a delightfully tuneful tribute to the baroque composer but also to the music of the Javanese gamelan. Among today’s leading composers in the Western classical lineage, John Luther Adams is represented here by two suites, Five Athabascan Dances and Five Yup’ik Dances, both from 1995. Like Harrison before him, Adams, in these works, pays respect to indigenous music-making. Commissioned for the Just Strings trio, the works drew on traditional songs of the Athabascan people for the first set and on the songs of the Yup’ik of the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta for the second. Those songs were extensively reworked and rendered in the Pythagorean tuning by the composer, who remarked that he had “extended and transformed these … melodies in many ways. In the process, they have become something else, somewhat far removed from Alaska Native music in sound and in context.” In the skillful musical hands of the three Grammy Award-winning musicians of Just Strings, this melody-forward music of Adams and Harrison rings true clear across boundaries marked by culture, musical performance practice and genre. Andrew Timar Elliott Sharp – The Boreal Various Artists Starkland ST-222 ( !! There is a sense of beautiful, orderly turmoil on Elliott Sharp’s The Boreal. Speaking first of the piece and then the whole album, the fullest appreciation of the music is, of course, to be had by following its schematics from Sharp’s score, which is exquisite in all its minimalistic glory. This, as the composer points out, includes “hocketed grooves, difference tones and non-pitched materials generated by the use of alternate bows made from ballchain and metal springs.” The effect is quite masterful, pleasing to the ear, mostly due to the clarity of the gestures, and of course, the JACK Quartet’s brilliant interpretation of this written/improvised score. You learn immediately to appreciate, the combustible spontaneity, the treasurable fire, communicative flair and consummate craft of Sharp’s indelible inspiration. Headlined by The Boreal, the recording also features some of Elliott Sharp’s other remarkable pieces – Oligosono from 2004, Proof Of Erdős from 2006, performed by Orchestra Carbon, with David Bloom as conductor, and On Corlear’s Hook from 2007 performed by the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra with Peter Rundel conducting. The selection provides a peep into Sharp’s polymath-like artistry. The noteworthy Oligosono is a reference to the world of “little sounds” and what is even more remarkable is its transposition from the stringed instrument for which it was written, to the piano, and performed with wit and intuition by pianist Jenny Lin. Two hands here and a new generation of rhythm and harmonic overtones make this piece quite memorable. Proof Of Erdős is an erudite homage to the mathematician Pál Erdős. The tonal colours of On Corlear’s Hook are culled from Sharp’s ethereal palette and flawless artistry. Raul da Gama JAZZ AND IMPROVISED A Love Supreme John Coltrane Impulse/Verve 80023727-02 !! Few jazz recordings have the significance of A Love Supreme, the four-part suite that Coltrane recorded on December 9, 1964, with his classic quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones. With Miles Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue, it virtually defines the concept LP in jazz. Inspired by a transformative experience that freed Coltrane of his addictions and turned his music into a spiritual mission, A Love Supreme is his most structured work, describing the progress through Acknowledgement, Resolution, and Pursuance to an ultimate Psalm. A definitive statement of the quartet, it was also a watershed between some of Coltrane’s most orderly work and the tumultuous free jazz that marked his last years. For the 50th anniversary of its release, Verve has expanded on the previous deluxe edition of 2002 with two- and three-CD versions. For serious Coltrane listeners, the three-CD set, with extensive commentary and more new material, is the one to get. Some material seems superfluous, the mono dubs to which Coltrane listened adding nothing new, but the alternate takes and other versions (virtually the complete recordings) demonstrate the extent to which the released version is an image of order amidst rough seas. The day after the quartet recording, Coltrane set about recording the suite with a sextet that added tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp and bassist Art Davis. The set adds two sextet versions of Acknowledgement to those previously released. The music initially seems less successful, with Shepp adding a raucous, almost R & B flavour, but as one listens to the four takes, one appreciates the spirit of collective improvisation that Coltrane was exploring, with each version radically different than the one before, each growing in freedom and intensity. Also included is Coltrane’s sole live performance of the work, recorded six months later at the Antibes jazz festival. This, too, is raw, more exploratory work, with the up-tempo Pursuance stretched from ten to 21 minutes in length. Listening to Coltrane’s further elaborations on A Love Supreme, reinforces the idea that the quartet studio recording captured a uniquely reflective (and structuralist) moment in Coltrane’s art, a gathering of one’s secure knowledge before launching again into the unknown. Stuart Broomer Spring Susie Arioli Spectra Musique SPECD-7854 ( !! For this, her eighth studio album, Montreal-based singer Susie Arioli looked to Toronto and its roster of heavy-hitters in the jazz realm for support. Produced by Grammy Award-winner John Snyder and arranged by the legendary Don Thompson, Spring is about renewal and fresh starts. In other words, it’s a break-up album. A glance through the list of songs – Those Lonely, Lonely Nights, Me Myself and I, After You’ve Gone – tells the story. The clever illustrations by Arioli that accompanying each song title on the CD cover, literally paint a picture. So, while lyrically this is an unhappy album, the music is anything but. There’s nary a ballad to be found. It’s upbeat and swingy with a bouncy horn section and Arioli’s deep, warm voice casually cataloguing a list of hurts. With Thompson’s vibraphone doubling Reg Schwager’s guitar, the cool 60s are evoked on a number of tunes including Mean to Me and I’m the Caring Kind. Arioli’s own compositions, of which there are four on the album, range in style from a country and western homage to the lure of the bottle on Can’t Say No, to a breezy bossa nova-style indictment of infidelity on Someone Else. Ariloi has a number of tour dates in 2016 in Quebec, with more to come. Check Cathy Riches Flying Without Wings John Alcorn Loach Engineering LE1001 ( !! This project was conceived and recorded by trumpeter/engineer/producer John Loach, and came about as a result of his 62 | February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016

eing inspired by a performance by leading Canadian jazz vocalist John Alcorn. During his show, Alcorn not only rendered gems from the Great American Songbook, but also deftly included anecdotes and fascinating factoids about each composer and composition. This idea of creating a total, composer-focused experience propelled Loach to produce this fine CD – which features talented musicians Mark Eisenman on piano, Reg Schwager on guitar, Steve Wallace on bass and the world-renowned cornetist Warren Vaché. Throughout the 12 tracks (which include contributions from Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins and more), Alcorn’s rich baritone is expressive and infused with life experience. His intuitive understanding of a witty, ironic or devastatingly emotional lyric coupled with his intuitive communications with the other players are part and parcel of the contagious appeal of this charismatic and thoroughly gifted musical artist. Standouts include Porter’s Just One of Those Things, which cooks along with an irresistible percolation from the rhythm section and features a masterful solo from Eisenman. Also of note is It’s Like Reaching for the Moon (Marqusee/Sherman/Lewis), featuring an intimate guitar/voice intro, which segues into trio perfection, as well as a stunner of a solo from Warren Vaché, who embraces the era of the composition while adding his own contemporized sensibilities. Also of special note is an evocative arrangement of the rarely performed You’re My Thrill (Clare/Gorney), which conjures up a languid, sensual garden of delight. The CD closes with Harry Warren’s I Wish I Knew – a track filled with almost unbearable beauty and longing. This exceptional CD – so full of heart – is aptly dedicated to the memory of the lovely Diane Alcorn. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Pocket Symphronica Ron Davis Really Records REA-ED-5886 ( !! With the release of his tenth recording, eclectic and skilled pianist/composer/ producer Ron Davis has reaffirmed his position as one of the most tenacious and engaging musical artists in Canada. Pocket Symphronica embraces the wide range of Davis’ skills and taste (which includes explorations into the milieus of jazz, world, pop/ dance and classical musics). Comprised of 11 original compositions (and with Davis performing brilliantly on piano, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3), this new project is a fresh distillation of his previous, innovative CD, Symphronica – a clever symphonic jazz recording which in turn led to the current chamber-sized, more portable version of the larger ensemble. Davis has surrounded himself here with a stalwart group of collaborators, including arrangers Mike Downes, Jason Nett and Tania Gill and co-producers Dennis Patterson, Mike Downes, Roger Travassos and Kevin Barrett. A breathtaking string quartet (including genius Andrew Downing on cello) and a firstcall core band comprised of guitarist Barrett, bassist Downes and drummer/percussionist Travassos fully manifest Davis’ creative and stylistically diverse visions. Included in the recording are Davis’ impressions of such far-flung motifs and artists as Lady Gaga (the ambitious Fugue and Variations on Gaga and Poker Face), funk (Gruvmuv – featuring a few face-melters from Barrett), Middle Eastern/Sephardic elements (the exciting and rhythmic D’hora) and a beautifully string-laden and evocative take on the traditional Jewish Passover song, Chassal Siddur Pesach (featuring sumptuous cello work from George Meanwell). Additional memorable tracks include the uptempo string/piano feature, Presto and the gentle, bossa-infused beauty of Jeanamora. This is a deeply satisfying CD, as well as a portrait of an artist at the peak of his creativity and technical facility. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Discern Artie Roth Quartet Independent ( !! Bassist Artie Roth’s latest offering, Discern, is a highly textured and interactive affair, combining a loose, open feel with remarkably precise and detailed arrangements. The mix of electronic sounds with acoustic instrumentation lends itself to approaches that are both highly varied and coherent. His writing is steeped in the harmonic and rhythmic language of contemporary jazz while retaining a strong melodicism. The Compromise Blues establishes the tone of the recording with its majestic soundscape and drummer Anthony Michelli’s Elvin Jones-inspired groove. Roth opens the soloing, elaborating on the lyricism of the melody and paving the way for Mike Filice’s tenor sax. Filice’s understated opening lines and relaxed style gathers momentum as he fluidly weaves his way in and out of the tune’s harmony. Guitarist Geoff Young, equally adept in the language of modern jazz, makes use of a rich overdriven tone to build into inspired double time lines. As well, Young’s sonic palette orchestrates the proceedings in ways that become increasingly apparent as the album unfolds. The textural aspect of the CD comes into full fruition in Still Hear, dedicated to the late drummer Archie Alleyne, a long time cohort of Roth’s. Tenor saxophone and bass clarinet are overdubbed, meshing with Young’s atmospheric guitar colours. Frontline instruments converse and Michelli lets loose over Roth’s ostinato bass figure. This is a beautifully played and produced recording that is a pleasure to listen to. Ted Quinlan Wait, There’s More Heillig Manoeuvre Independent HM 6015 ( !! The latest incarnation of bassist and composer Henry Heillig’s Heillig Manoeuvre continues the shift from the group’s earlier more electric sound to the decidedly mainstream bent of Wait, There’s More. The constant in the band’s evolution has been Heillig’s accessible, groove-oriented compositional style. The current group, including longtime Manteca cohort Charlie Cooley on drums, pianist Stacie McGregor and saxophonist Alison Young may be its most compelling lineup to date. Young, who has established herself as an important new player on the scene, brings a confident, fresh voice to the quartet’s blend of bebop, blues and funk. McGregor embraces a similar sensibility, occupying both frontline and rhythm section roles with aplomb. Wait, There’s More, the opening tune, highlights Heillig’s and Cooley’s ease with classic Latin and swing feels. The drum/sax duet off the top of Young’s solo is a perfect setup for her soulful, swinging style. McGregor follows suit, complementing the sax solo with her own well-rooted sense of the tradition. Arrangements are the key here and solos are concise and to the point without feeling truncated. Wonky Rhomboid features bass and baritone saxophone over a seven-beat figure that slips momentarily into a fast swing, reminiscent of Mingus’ Fables Of Faubus. Young’s composition Waltz For Harriet showcases the composer’s command of nuance with a nod to Cannonball Adderley’s funky exuberance. Groove and fun are the order of the day in this highly satisfying outing. Ted Quinlan Paul Newman – Duo Compositions Paul Newman; Karen Ng; Heather Segger Independent (paulnewman1.bandcamp. com) !! Paul Newman has already proved his credentials at the existential end of the saxophone. Now he turns that angst and all of February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016 | 63

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