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.

his utterly brilliant

his utterly brilliant compositional prowess to a pair of daring works for a set of duets – the first featuring his tenor saxophone with the alto of Karen Ng, entitled Strange Customs. The second piece (with Heather Segger’s trombone replacing Ng’s alto) is a furiously innovative one, its title taken from a poem by the quintessential artist, Dianne Korchynski. The music is as arresting as the title: When I Die, Who Will Be There to Count the Rings? While experimental music such as this can be more concerned with process than result, the fruits of Paul Newman’s experiments – especially on Duo Compositions – are brave, gutsy and aurally fascinating. These duets could have been limited by the timbre of each instrument – a tenor and an alto saxophone and a trombone. But Newman’s scores expand the consciousness of the improvising musicians. And you experience this throughout the recording. These are endlessly fascinating pieces, their broad glissandos and darting arpeggios, products of the fertile imaginations of the improvising musicians, Ng and Segger. The language of Cage might seem to be spoken and sung; that and the gleeful dancing of Cecil Taylor, whose gymnastically inclined pianism appear to inform the improvisations. The scores suggest something equally original, both in the suggested “vocalastics” and instrumental mischief of saxophones and human smears of the trombone. These admirable performances make a worthwhile addition to any collection of music. Raul da Gama The Ten Thousand Things Simon Rose; Stefan Schultze Red Toucan RT 9350 ( !! Joining forces to extract as many undiscovered textures from their instruments as humanly possible, British alto and baritone saxophonist Simon Rose and German-prepared piano specialist Stefan Schultze come across less like mad scientists and more like dedicated epistemologists. Like researchers confronted with unexpected by-products from their experiments, they assiduously dissect the results for further trials. And like the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding in tandem, for every extended technique exposed by Rose, from tongue slapping to atonal smears, Schultze has an appropriate response or goad, plucking, stopping, pushing and sliding along his strings, and with implements such as bowls, bells and mashers vibrating atop them. A track like Magua for instance starts with gargantuan baritone sax textures exposed via bone-dry multiphonics, soon pleasantly liquefying to a jerky slap-tongue rhythm to affiliate with bell-like clangs from the piano’s speaking length. Or consider Schultze’s ring modulator-like reverberations which bring out the mellow underpinning of Rose’s backand-forth snuffling on Bird Sommersaults. Additionally, harpsichord-like string stopping gets a tougher interface that vibrates the soundboard strings when sympathetically matched with low-pitched reed vibrations on Unstabled. Rose’s split tones allow him to play reed strategies that are simultaneously mellow and rickety or skyscraper high and copper mine low at the same time; while Schultze’s strategies create equivalent concurrent textures inside and outside the piano. Leviathan Blues is a fine demonstration of this. The pianist’s stretching the strings while percussively key slapping creates a rhythmic backbeat which expands to meet the saxophonist’s theme variations that likewise widen and become more dissonant as Rose plays. Altissimo reed agitation brings out equivalent kinetic key pummeling, until a simple pedal-push counter-theme calms the woodwind cyclone enough to move Rose to singular honks that finally meld with solidifying key vibrations. By the time the last note sounds at the end of this CD’s 11th and final track, if the two haven’t exposed the sound textures from 10,000 things they’ve certainly come close to doing so. Ken Waxman Mette Henriette Mette Henriette ECM 2460/2461 ( !! Mette Henriette is a young Norwegian saxophonist and composer and this eponymous two-CD debut is a remarkable statement, whether considered for its skill, beauty or sheer reach. Recorded during 2013 and 2014, the music possesses sufficient breadth to escape any immediate classification, with materials and textures drawn from contemporary composed music, jazz and free improvisation. The two CDs are distinguished by their resources: the first features a trio with pianist Johan Lindvall and cellist Katrine Schiøtt; the second adds 11 musicians including a jazz rhythm section and five more strings. Henriette does not immediately reveal herself on the first CD as Lindvall and Schiiøtt develop elongated textures that are at once rich and spare, aloof and full of suggestion. There’s a profound state of attentiveness in this music: neither specifically contemplative nor serene, it seems poised to accept revelation. The opening track, So, may suggest something of Arvo Pärt, while later episodes are at times more evanescent still, touching on the whispers and transparency of George Crumb’s Night Music. Henriette’s tenor saxophone is often limited here to long tones and brief phrases, her interest focused on sonority, overtones and the literal sound of air and moisture in the horn. That role expands, along with the range of compositions, on the second CD, with Henriette’s wellspring of lyricism coming immediately to the fore on the beautiful passé, before the music moves on to darker realms, including the foreboding circus of late à la carte. As a saxophonist, she has a tremendous expressive range. Her timbral focus can suggest tenor sounds as distinct as Stan Getz, Jan Garbarek and Gato Barbieri (the latter in wildheart, a brooding noisefest that invokes the early Jazz Composers Orchestra), while a willingness to explore multiphonics and sheer air suggests affinities with free improvisers. Mette Henriette’s reach is impressive, her grasp even more so. Stuart Broomer Ask The Ages Sonny Sharrock M.O.D. Technologies MOD0016 ( !! Many creative musicians have struggled to find a supportive audience, and that was certainly the case with guitarist Sonny Sharrock. He emerged in the late 1960s as a school of one, playing free jazz with the raw power of electric blues and the sonic edge of rock guitar, bringing a signal force to recordings like Pharoah Sanders’ Tauhid and Miles Davis’ Jack Johnson. Over the following years Sharrock was in and out of music, until forming an association with bassist/producer Bill Laswell. The fruits of that association included the explosive band Last Exit and this CD from 1991, Sharrock’s last recording as a leader before his death in 1994. Sharrock has ideal partners here, including saxophonist Sanders, drummer Elvin Jones and the younger bassist Charnett Moffett, all of them sharing a vision of music possessing palpable spiritual power. The music is often anthemic with a sonic density rare in jazz (thanks to Laswell’s production) and an emotional power seldom approached in jazz fusion. There’s a perfect balance between Sanders’ apocalyptic rant and Sharrock’s own wild inventiveness, from the skittering electric chatter of Promises Kept to the illuminated eloquence of Who Does She Hope to Be?, his ringing, sustained sound the closest a guitarist will likely ever get to the spirit of John Coltrane. The match of the four musicians on each of Sharrock’s six compositions is uncanny, achieving its greatest power on Many Mansions, Sanders wailing above Jones’ thunderous drumming while Sharrock and Moffett generate a pulsing wall of sound. Stuart Broomer 64 | February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016

POT POURRI Pillorikput Inuit – Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons Deantha Edmunds; Karrie Obed; Innismara Vocal Ensemble; Suncor Energy String Quartet; Tom Gordon Memorial ( pillorikputinuit) !! Musicologist and pianist Tom Gordon, professor emeritus of the School of Music at Memorial University in St. John’s, NL has long been fascinated by the sacred music performed by the Inuit Moravians of Northern Labrador. Unlike other Christian denominations, Moravian missionaries not only placed a high value on personal piety and missions, but also particularly encouraged the place of music in worship. Digging to understand this music’s history, Gordon sifted through hundreds of manuscripts in Moravian church archives along the Labrador coast. What emerged was a rich musical practice with roots back to the 1770s and 1780s when European Moravian missionaries founded settlements in Northern Labrador at Nain, then Okak and Arvertok, the first (of many more) Christian missions to the Inuit in what is now Canada. They came to preach Christianity and one of their prime tools – and legacies – was music. Quite rapidly the music imported from Europe evolved, in the words of Gordon, as an “expressive practice re-conceived to reflect the spirituality and aesthetic preferences of Inuit musicians.” It was music heard almost exclusively within the modest clapboard walls of Labrador Moravian churches. There it remained, almost unknown to the outside world, until now. From these communities’ extensive repertoire of brass music, congregational singing and choral music, Gordon has chosen 16 tracks of solo sacred arias and duets, reconstructing them from church manuscripts. The result is the impressively documented and performed CD Pillorikput Inuit (Behold, the People), true not only to the letter of the source manuscripts but also to the Inuit spirit of its performers and tradition-keepers. The music chosen celebrates key annual liturgical events like Christmas and Easter, as well as the community celebrations of Married People’s Day and Church Festival Day. Featuring the classically trained Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds and Moravian Inuit music expert Karrie Obed, both singing in Inuktitut, the repertoire includes music by two leading European composers of their day, Handel and Haydn. As expected, songs by lesser-tier yet fascinating Moravian composers such as Johann Daniel Grimm (1719–1760), the American John Antes (1740– 1811) and the English clergyman Christian Ignatius Latrobe (1758–1836) are also well represented. Organ, wind and string instrumental accompaniment, and the Innismara Vocal Ensemble from St. John’s provide suitable period support throughout. What is unique in these performances? It’s not so much the repertoire or the conventional instrumental forces employed. It is rather the deeply heartfelt renditions of these European songs in Inuktitut representing a hybrid Inuit performance practice dating back over 225 years in Canada’s North that I find so moving. It seems to me Pillorikput Inuit represents the tip of the iceberg of the rich Inuit musical heritage the rest of us in the South are just beginning to discover, and enjoy. Andrew Timar Rebirth of a Nation (DJ Spooky) Kronos Quartet Cantaloupe CA21110 !! If ever there was a potent time to release this masterfully crafted new soundtrack to the D.W. Griffith classic, Birth of a Nation, it would be now during Something in the Air Advanced Jazz’s Fountain of Youth KEN WAXMAN the tumultuous rebuilding of post-George W. Bush America by its extraordinary protagonist Barak Obama. Oblique parallel lines could be drawn through the similarities of situation, except that the country is not fighting a civil war to – among other things – end slavery. However a sharply divided people and flare-ups of discrimination along racial lines, unpopular wars and a dramatic decline in civility towards the presidency might be a likely background for such a soundtrack to what Spooky, the irreverent composer, aka Paul D. Miller, calls Rebirth of a Nation. The Kronos Quartet seem to be a perfect fit for this musical adventure and the quartet seems to come to terms with DJ Spooky’s mindset as if they were one and the same brain. Their transcendent musicianship, a result of great empathy between the players, provides not just memorable accompaniment to the dramaturgy of Griffith’s visuals but also discreet, seductive and eloquent continuo for Spooky’s own musical instruments, which remain stark and dominant throughout the unfolding visuals. Yes, visuals! The soundtrack is accompanied by a wonderfully produced DVD so it is possible to hear the music work in conjunction with the original silent moving picture as well. I also like Spooky’s laserbright instrumentation. Raul da Gama One common shibboleth of mid-20th century creative music was that “jazz was a young man’s art.” Putting aside the sexism implicit in the statement, the idea denied jazz musicians the sort of late career acclaim that notated music masters like Pablo Casals and Vladimir Horowitz enjoyed. Times have more than changed. Expanded from the Baby Boomer cliché that “50 is the new 30” and its upwards affiliations, career longevity is now taken for granted in all serious music. These CDs recorded by improvised musicians in their 70s attest to that. Take American pianist Ran Blake for example, now 80 and usually found in a solo or duo context. But Ghost Tones (A side 0001, created when he was a mere 75, is a more ambitious project. The 17-track CD reconstitutes the compositions/arrangements of jazz theorist George Russell (1923-2009) written for combos or big bands. Blake plays solo acoustic or electric piano framed by interjections from horns, strings, electronics and even a second piano. Like a curator who situates artifacts in modern settings, Blake’s conceptions are both contemporary and faithful to the originals. The Ballad of Hix Blewitt for instance, receives a tripartite setting with Rachel Massey’s violin sounding impressionistic sweetness; Dave “Knife” Fabris’ steel guitar reverberating with country music melancholy; and both setting off Blake’s melody variations. A similar transformation affects You Are My Sunshine which begins and ends with steel-guitar twanging, but is defined by a middle section of dissonant improvisations between Fabris and Blake. Jack’s Blues, in contrast, features Ryan Dugre’s tough guitar chording atop a brass choir, as blues-tinted piano lines weave in and out of the narration like a taxi in heavy traffic, finally introducing blues sensibility in the penultimate moments. The futuristic Stratusphunk is a solo piano feature that invests the theme with call-and-response patterning. yet retains the tune’s linear status. Still, the paramount indication of Blake’s skill appears on the forbiddingly titled Vertical Form VI and the theatrical Lonely Place. On the first, a sense of underlying swing is brought forward with tympani rat tat tats, trombone blats and Blake trading riffs with electric pianist Eric Lane. Lonely Place’s emotional lonesomeness is expressed as Aaron Hartley’s plunger trombone echoes and Doug Pet’s free-flowing tenor saxophone lines are superseded by Blake’s precise and icy harmonies. February 1, 2016 - March 7, 2016 | 65

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