6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Festival
  • Arts
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Choir
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Bach
INSIDE: The Canaries Are Here! 116 choirs to choose from, so take the plunge! The Nylons hit the road after one last SING! Fling. Jazz writer Steve Wallace wonders "Watts Goode" rather than "what's new?" Paul Ennis has the musical picks of the HotDocs crop. David Jaeger's CBC Radio continues golden for a little while yet. Douglas McNabney is Music's Child. Leipzig meets Damascus in Alison Mackay's fertile imagination. And "C" is for KRONOS in Wende Bartley's koverage of the third annual 21C Festival. All this and as usual much much more. Enjoy.

hat towards minimalism,

hat towards minimalism, Berkok’s playing is exhilarating, extroverted and virtuosic. Simple as it seems it actually presents rather formidable technical challenges, all of which are surmounted almost with nonchalance. Berkok has a particularly rewarding sense of rhythm, high-sprung, light and incisive, and entirely secure. John Coltrane’s Giant Steps is particularly brilliant, also played with no-holds-barred intuition. Raul da Gama Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground Noah Preminger Independent ( !! Last year New York tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger released Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar, leading his quartet in two half-hour improvisations based on themes from the 1930s blues master Booker “Bukka” White. Now there’s a studio follow-up deep in the same vein, with concentrated instrumental treatments of nine songs by White, Blind Willie Johnson, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and other country blues and gospel singers who recorded in the late 20s and early 30s. Preminger’s group conception is rooted in the early 60s work of Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins (particularly their bands with Don Cherry), employing that highly conversational, free jazz style and its raw, vocalic emphasis as a conduit to the emotional wellsprings of early blues. White’s I Am the Heavenly Way has the band in celebratory flight, from the bouncing theme statement and sprung rhythms generated by bassist Kim Cass and expatriate Vancouver drummer Ian Froman to Preminger’s charging solo and trumpeter Jason Palmer’s rapid-fire, splintering lines. Jefferson’s Black Snake Moan has elements of a New Orleans parade band, while Robert Johnson’s mournful Love in Vain is reduced to an ever-resolving melodic fragment, at once litany and cry. It’s music filled with a subtle light as Preminger and company seek the emotional and spiritual heart of jazz through the grain of its primal melodic figures, journeying into the past to achieve a rare presence. Stuart Broomer Turning Towards the Light Adam Rudolph Go Organic Guitar Orchestra Cuneiform Records RUNE 406 ( !! New York guitarist Adam Rudolph’s conducted Toronto players in a fascinating group improvisation earlier this year at the Music Gallery. But it was also like reading one well-crafted chapter in a serialized novel. That’s because the peripatetic Rudolph has directed similar large groups for the past few years, melding non-western rhythms with Euro- American instrumental techniques. Turning Towards the Light is the most recent recorded example, but rather than parcelling out parts among vocalist and instrumentalists as in Toronto, the CD showcases 13 instances of intermingling string strategies from six electric guitarists, one acoustic guitarist, a bass guitarist as well as three pickers who individually switch between electric bass and lap steel guitar, electric and national steel guitars and electric guitar and banjo. Rather than resembling a free-for-all at a string-players convention, sonic strategies unite each performance. Like an architect combining many styles to design a distinctive building, Rudolph’s musical configurations can be jarring as well as soothing. As opposed to some builders who attempt to shoehorn period details onto a contemporary structure, complementary textures are instead sought out and used judiciously as microtones and for maximum effect. On Lambent for instance, the overlapping of thick surf musiclike electric bass runs and the tang of steelguitar licks creates a feeling of both freedom and formalism. Specular finds two guitarists hashing out hard blues licks over a rhythmic groove. Meanwhile the narrative of the title tune buffets ocean-liner-like on waves of so many buzzing flanges and doorstopper-like resonations that the interaction could reflect computer programming. However the most indicative track is Flame and Moth which, unlike its title, transmogrifies caterpillar to butterfly within seven minutes. Initially sharply contrasting electric bass beats and meandering guitar locks, subsequent stacked string lines clang metronome-like to reach a crescendo of courtly gavotte-like passes, where all the pickers participate in sustained textural interchange. Without stringing anyone along, Rudolph and his 11 associates demonstrate how, in the right hands and plectrums, improvising guitars can produce a riveting, transformative program. Ken Waxman Derengés/Dawn Grenscó Open Collective SLAM CD 565/Hunnia Records HR CD 1508 ( !! Arguably Hungary’s most unique composer of the post-war era, pianist György Szabados (1939-2011) had difficulty performing his admixture of free jazz-new music and folkloric sounds in communist times. Even after liberalization, during his sole Canadian appearance at 2006’s Guelph Jazz Festival, his duo with percussionist Vladimir Tarasov was the equivalent of reading a Reader’s Digest version of a novel – textures were lacking. Budapestbased reedist István Grenscó, who was a frequent member of the composer’s ensembles from 1984 to 2007, rectifies the situation with this two-CD set of six Szabados compositions. Grenscó, who plays soprano and alto saxophones and bass clarinet here, creates the equivalent of a Technicolor film from the scores by adapting them to the varied tones produced by his own band – pianist Máté Pozsár, bassist Róbert Benkö and percussionist Szilveszter Miklós – plus, on three tracks, the viola of Szilárd Mezei, who may be Szabados’ heir as a composer; trumpeter Ádám Meggtes on two; as well as two additional woodwind voices to give a breezy vaudeville-like strut to the concluding Regölés/Minstrelsky. Meggtes’ atonal blasts add the requisite free jazz tinctures to Adyton. But otherwise that tune, like Azesküvö/The Wedding and Fohsáz/Supplication is chiefly animated by carefree currents of Roma-like dances via Mezei’s fiddle, stacked up against the alternately dark ecclesiastical (deepened by bell-like resounds from the cymbals) or evocatively romantic, melody-making from Pozsár. Torquing the pace via nasal soprano bites or mocking the profundity of the slower faux-rustic tunes with sardonic alto saxophone cries, Grenscó still shepherds the ensemble back to the head at each composition’s completion. Halott-Táncoltatás/Dance of Reanimation is the multiphonic masterstroke here. The original quartet members precisely figure out the exact percentage of light and dark tones and fast and slow rhythms needed to animate the composition, with the skill of medics gauging the proper amount of vaccine in a hypodermic needle. Pozsár uses pedal pressure to dig notes from the instrument’s nether regions in tandem with thumping string bass slaps as a way to bolster the theme propelled on unruffled saxophone cries and then bass clarinet reverb. Meanwhile these instances of solo reed elation constantly trade places with successive theme motifs that encompass rustic dance-like cadences and a final military-like crescendo. The aura emanating from this CD demonstrates both the quality of Szabados’ compositions and the pliant talents of his devoted interpreters. Ken Waxman 74 | May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016

POT POURRI So Long Seven Neil Hendry; William Lamoureux; Ravi Naimpally; Tim Posgate Independent SLS001 ( !! The music scene in Toronto is jampacked with talented, inventive and courageous musicians. So Long Seven, a multifaceted collective comprised of composer/banjoist Tim Posgate, composer/ guitarist/mandolinist Neil Hendry, composer/ tabla star Ravi Naimpally and violinist William Lamoureux, is one of our city’s cream of the musical crop. Their self-titled debut CD features eight tracks of joyous, at times complex, original tunes with melodious world music, blues, jazz, pop, symphonic, classical and folk-flavoured nuances. Each track is composed yet features lengthy, storytelling improvisations. Highlights include Hendry’s Torch River Rail Company which opens with a tight group melodic section punctuated by brief stops followed by a touching violin improvisation. Postgate’s MSVR (My Swedish Viking Roots) rocks with his lyric and groove banjo playing and a big band group crescendo ending. Naimpally’s Aarti features special guest, South Asian singer Samidha Joglekar, soaring to lyrical and complex rhythmic heights while the ensemble creates both conversational backdrops and instrumental interludes. There is such a positive glowing musical force driving the sound. Each performer is a star when soloing and improvising. Great production values add a live off-the-floor ambiance. Brilliant original songwriting creates a unique band sound. Yet the group’s real strength lies in each member’s ability to share and understand the importance of close ensemble listening and the intricacies of musical interplay. So Long Seven is a release that absolutely every music aficionado needs to hear over and over and over again! Tiina Kiik Tango Fado Project Manhattan Camerata Sorel Classics SC CD 005 ( !! Created by artistic director/composer/ pianist Lucia Caruso and music director/ composer/guitarist Pedro H. da Silva, Manhattan Camerata is a chamber orchestra that excels in its ability to combine all styles of world and classical music to create their self-described Transclassical Music. Here along with special guests Daniel Binelli (bandoneón), Polly Ferman (tango/classical piano) and Nathalie Pires (fado singer), Argentinian tango and Portuguese fado styles are performed, combined and transformed into music that soars in astonishing lyrical emotion and rhythmic drive. Tango and fado may differ rhythmically yet their shared lyrical and melodic styles thrive when combined. Binelli has arranged the familiar Raul Ferrao Portuguese song April in Portugal into Tango “Abril en Portugal.” A mournful virtuosic violin opening leads into a joyful bandoneón, piano and orchestral tango rendition. Other successful reworkings include compositions by Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel among others. But the original compositions are the highlights. Pires sings da Silva and Caruso’s Amor é Fogo with both understated remorse and a dramatic powerhouse ending. Caruso’s Tanguito Cordobés takes Bach-like fugal counterpoint into tango land with conviction. Da Silva’s Non-Absolutist Universal Anthem is a blasting mass of Latin rhythms, mindboggling instrumental solos and orchestral bravado. The brilliant virtuosic playing by all the performers is inspiring and captured clearly in the production. The tango/fado compositions and arrangements are surprisingly successful and never mannered in their stylistic interweaving and reworkings. Tango Fado Project is an uplifting unique listening experience. Tiina Kiik Something in the Air Matching Electronic And Acoustic Improvisation KEN WAXMAN At least since 1948, when French theorist Pierre Schaeffer coined the term musique concrète as serious composers and performers began experimenting with technology to create music, the possibilities available from the use of electronics became accepted. Today electronically advanced sounds are as common and expected as outlandish tonsorial choices for pop stars. Electronic processing has also been adapted to create more variables in improvised music. Although some purists renounce non-electronic sources completely, in the main those players that create a nourishing musical meal by pairing electronic and acoustic impulses appear to end up with the most interesting programs. Made to Break for instance is a quartet consisting of Americans Ken Vandermark on saxophones and clarinet, and drummer Tim Daisy, plus Dutch electric bassist Jasper Stadhouders and Austrian Christof Kurzmann playing the lloopp, interactive MaxMSP software for an Apple Mac. The key to the three tracks on Before the Code (Trost TR 141 is how well Kurzmann’s apparatus links with the others’ free-form improvising. Never suggested is the image of an improvising trio playing in one area and a lab-coated sound scientist wriggling his machine’s dials in the other. Whether it’s swifter, extended fare like Dial the Number or Window Breaking Hammer or the mellow interlude that is Off-Picture No.119, the lloopp’s distinctive undertow complements the acoustic playing like fine plating for a meal in a gourmet restaurant. The last track is particularly enhanced as accordion-like tremolos from Kurzmann help slide Vandermark’s hurtling saxophone honks into a form that’s both chipper and clanging. On the faster tracks Stadhouders’ resonating thumb pops and Daisy’s backbeats join with lloopp tones to create a continuum. But considering that Kurzmann’s interface can at points resemble teletype keys code or an electric kazoo, those effects are unique. Crucially, the concluding Window Breaking Hammer defines the latitude available. Following a dispassionate hand-drum display and wafting clarinet warbles, near moderato is traded in for near-metal with Vandermark’s baritone saxophone blasting away and Daisy beat crunching. Coupled with Kurzmann loops, this makes the climax distinctive as well as dramatic. In-your-face mockery shares space with musicianship on My Horse Doesn’t Give a Shit (Unit Records UTR 4609 unitrecords. com) as the German Knu! trio uses Achim Zepezauer’s electronics, Florian Walter’s baritone saxophone synthesizer and Simon Camatta’s drums to create the improvised music equivalent of punk rock. Over the course of 14 tracks, some with semi-scatological titles, rawness is the outstanding leitmotif. Walter’s glottal blasts often evolve in direct counterpoint to the electronic processing, while shaded drumbeats underline that contest. In a way it’s the equivalent of a 1950s film on juvenile gangs, May 1, 2016 - June 7, 2016 | 75

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