5 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016

  • Text
  • September
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • October
  • Festival
  • Symphony
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Volume
Music lover's TIFF (our fifth annual guide to the Toronto International Film Festival); Aix Marks the Spot (how Brexit could impact on operatic co-production); The Unstoppable Howard Cable (an affectionate memoir of a late chapter in the life of of a great Canadian arranger; Kensington Jazz Story (the newest kid on the festival block flexes its muscles). These stories and much more as we say a lingering goodbye to summer and turn to the task, for the 22nd season, of covering the live and recorded music that make Southern Ontario tick.

Corea. A dynamic,

Corea. A dynamic, intricate and full-throttle arrangement defines this stellar track. The musical communication flows like a good Chianti, and the soloing and ensemble work are confident, symbiotic and stirring. Other standouts include the lush and romantic, Stairway to the Stars, featuring a solid vocal by trumpeter Banack and a warm, mellifluous tenor solo by Weeds and also Ciacca’s hi-octane bop-burner, Scotty. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Blue Canvas Brandi Disterheft; Harold Mabern; Joe Farnsworth Justin Time JUST 255-2 ( !! It’s been some time since Brandi Disterheft, Canada’s prodigiously talented bassist, has released a recording under her own name. So it is appropriate to be reminded that listening to her is like putting your finger into a naked power-socket. Blue Canvas is lit up with a sizzling performance ten pieces long. The lasting impression they make is of deeply integrated performances that flow naturally as if the music were created on the spot. The performance is intoxicated with thrilling music by a trio that lays out its breadth and sustaining power with elegance and ease. Although fronted by a young lady, a fact that might raise the question of feminine power, I would posit that Disterheft handles her bass violin with as much visceral audacity as the great Charles Mingus once did. She spins out the solo passages on Prelude to the Crippling Thrill and the introduction to Willow Weep for Me with dazzling facility and makes the most of her moments of emotional fire. A particular highlight of the recording is Disterheft’s vocals which play off her bass, but in an altogether different palette of thrilling, luminous colours. It would be a travesty to even suggest that Disterheft is all that this disc has to offer. The iconic pianist Harold Mabern and drummer Joe Farnsworth complete the trio as they breathe fiery dialogues into the bassist’s sinuous lines. Theirs is a study in swing and the expressive liberation of the music’s ebb and flow. Raul da Gama Left Monkey House Alma Records ACD52762 ( !! Scene-setting, storytelling and just old-fashioned lyric poetry – these are just some of the wonderful aspects L/R of Left, the fifth album by Monkey House, Don Breithaupt’s iconic Toronto band since 1992. The musician, keyboardist and vocalist has lavished all that and more on each of the 11 songs that he has written either alone or with celebrated partners including Jay Graydon and Marc Jordan. Celebrity appeal has its commercial benefits, but in this case a large measure of the success is owed to Don Breithaupt, who demonstrates not simply a keen musical sensibility, but a glorious turn of phrase and a unique sense of the dramatic. None of that would matter had it not been for the most impressive performances by the members of Monkey House. You would expect nothing less of drummer Mark Kelso, bassist Pat Kilbride and guitarist Justin Abedin. Each of the core members of the band – as well as the guest musicians – reveals the composer’s intentions most enthrallingly giving new meaning to the term “musicianship.” Good to Live and It’s Already Dark in New York are good examples of the expressive range of emotions that these musicians bring to the program. Breithaupt leads from the front and his vocal evocations are splendidly balanced by the rhythmic vitality of his musicality, expressed on a variety of keyboards. His performance shows itself most clearly in the beautiful The Art of Starting Over, which affords perfectly judged musical and textural contrast, together with a dancelike finale. Raul da Gama Bridges Barry Livingston Group Independent ( !! In June, I had the pleasure of hearing the Barry Livingston Group perform music from its first release, Bridges, at a house concert. It was a beautiful evening of inspired music and music-making. The CD, recorded live at Toronto’s magical Musideum (alas, recently closed) does the music – all Livingston’s – justice. Livingston is an exceptionally gifted (yet modest) pianist and composer. A University of Toronto graduate who spent many productive years on the west coast before returning to Ontario, Livingston deftly traverses musical borders, incorporating the diverse influences of mainstream jazz, South Indian and Asian music, Latin jazz and bossa nova into his writing. Fittingly, the Toronto-based group comprises some of the most in-demand musicians from the jazz and world music scenes. Standouts for me include Suba Sankaran’s languid vocals on the Muhal Richard Abrams-inspired Dreaming Eloquence, and her sublime, South Indian-style intro to Peace – Part 1. The group shines on the Metheny-esque Windcatcher – inspired, in fact, by Metheny’s close associate, keyboardist Lyle Mays. Sankaran’s voice is luminous, Colleen Allen’s sax playing is gorgeous and expansive, and Livingston achieves the open sound and wider tonal palette he was aiming for, according to his liner notes. Bassist Kobi Hass and drummer Paul Fitterer round out the sound with their superb, understated and tasteful playing. Sheila’s Bounce, dedicated to jazz great Sheila Jordan, really swings. Sankaran does some mean scatting and Allen is right on and right there with her. Straight ahead good fun. A stellar first release! Sharna Searle Concert note: Barry Livingston Group performs at the Church of the Incarnation Jazz Vespers on Sunday, November 13, at 4:30pm. Miller’s Tale Sylvie Courvoiser; Mark Feldman; Ikue Mori; Evan Parker Intakt Records CD 270 ( !! British saxophonist Evan Parker initially assembled this quartet of free improvisers in 2015 for a performance at New York’s The Stone, achieving results that led to this studio recording of quartet and duo pieces. It’s a meeting of virtuosi, each musician possessing a certain brilliance of execution, whether it’s violinist Mark Feldman’s vibrant, slashing bow work, Sylvie Courvoisier’s waterfall runs and mutating piano preparation, Ikue Mori’s everevolving stream of patterns and novel timbres from her electronics or Parker’s command of alternative techniques, combining multiphonics and circular breathing into teeming, oscillating waves of bird-like sound. However, it’s the level of interaction that’s most impressive. Individual instruments come together, sometimes blurring and even fusing identities, from the whirling hive of sound that climaxes Death of a Salesman to the welling drama of The American Dream, an extended piece that reveals each member’s capacity to shape an extended piece. Up from Paradise strongly suggests the work of Messiaen. The astonishing attention to detail and a consistent delicacy of mood make this sound less like collective improvisation and more like a composed suite of subtly varying textures, a unity that spreads from the four quartet pieces to the series of five duets, which includes every possible pairing except Courvoisier and Feldman, a husband-andwife team who have recorded extensively as a duo. This is one of the most accomplished CDs of the year in improvised music. Stuart Broomer 70 | September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016

Unheard Bird – The Unissued Takes Charlie Parker Verve B0024802-02 !! Perhaps no musician in jazz history (not Armstrong, Young or Coltrane) has quite inspired the devotion accorded Charlie Parker, the result of changing recording technology, incandescent improvisational genius and a brief, mythologized life. He inspired cultish devotion, from Kerouac poems to heroin addiction, and the pioneering bop label Dial was virtually launched to record him. One acolyte, Dean Benedetti, recorded Parker live, following him from California to New York, sometimes recording just his solos to economize on tape – the recordings run to seven CDs. That should provide context for this 2-CD set of recordings made by Norman Granz from 1949 to 1952. It matches 52 previously unknown false starts, incomplete takes and occasional alternates with the 17 corresponding released masters. That may sound like material meant only for the scholar or completist, but its appeal may be broader. Those false starts demonstrate the invention that Parker could lavish on a theme statement; and more extensive takes show the way he would re-envision a tune in the studio. There’s even something fascinating about hearing that mercurial mind interrupted by a whistle or shout before reassembling the possibilities. Parker’s accelerated mind seems made for this, as if each interruption is an opportunity for another path, as if improvisation is a strategy for evasion. The complete takes offer both resolution and reward for what goes before, and there are moments here from highly varied Parker projects, the session with Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, working with small bands and large ensembles from strings to Machito’s Latin big band. It’s all fascinating stuff. Stuart Broomer Twenty Metalwood Cellar Live CL020116 ( !! Metalwood, one of Canada’s prototypical electric jazz ensembles, has reunited for their first recording in over a decade. This style of jazz has been around for long enough to have become firmly entrenched in the mainstream of the music and Twenty is a testament to many of its best and most exciting aspects. Bassist Chris Tarry’s The Path Before You establishes the group’s focus on the first track. This is groove oriented, electric music played from an undeniably jazz perspective. The rhythm section of Tarry and drummer Ian Froman form a highly interactive unit, reacting to and eliciting stellar solos from multi-instrumentalist Brad Turner, on piano here, and veteran saxophonist Mike Murley. Both soloists are clearly going for it in this strong opener, capturing the intensity of the tune’s Weather Report-ish vibe. Turner’s Bodybeard opens with an incredibly funky intro on Fender Rhodes electric piano before giving way to some deep syncopation from Tarry and Froman. Turner, playing wah trumpet, and Murley on tenor demonstrate remarkable soulfulness combined with chromaticism over the deceptive simplicity of the tune’s harmony. The brief quote from Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance at the end of the melody is a nice nod to one of the originators of this music. Extra Salty, the sole Murley composition on the recording, juxtaposes a compelling melody over a bass ostinato in three and features the only bass solo on the CD. Tarry solos with great tone, technique and lyricism, leaving us wanting more. Ted Quinlan Concert Note: Metalwood performs at the Rex September 13 and 14. The Number 1 Beatles Jazz Album Various Artists Universal 4794337 L/R !! Hearing old favourite songs redone in a totally different manner from the original can be a challenge. It’s especially true when vocal songs that are basically embedded in your DNA are turned into instrumentals. So fans of the Beatles should approach this new compilation of jazz treatments of the Fab Four’s tunes with an open mind and fresh ears, because there are some magnificent performances here. Starting right off with Chick Corea and Gary Burton’s take on Eleanor Rigby. The two master musicians are totally in sync as they turn the tune into a driving, meditative work. Some of the covers stay closer to the originals, and they’re very nice – Gregory Porter’s version of Let It Be, for instance, is warm and sincere and feels utterly right. It’s the ones that deviate and reinvent that are among my favourites however, like Grant Green’s I Want To Hold Your Hand. It’s a swingy gas. Or when Kenny Rankin unleashes his gorgeous talent on I’ve Just Seen a Face. The arranger of the piece isn’t credited, but whoever it is poured their inventive heart into it. Diana Krall stays true to form with a lush, slowed down take of In My Life. A couple of the tracks lean more toward easy listening than jazz, but that’s okay. When you have a combination of songwriting at the level of Lennon-McCartney and an unwaveringly talented roster of musicians covering them, it’s next to impossible to go wrong. Cathy Riches POT POURRI April Snow Stephanie Martin; Chad Irschick Sovereign Productions SPM002 ( !! Luminous vocalist/ composer Stephanie Martin not only possesses a delicious vocal instrument, but on her new, completely appealing recording, she also demonstrates her considerable chops as a composer of accessible, highly musical material. Expertly produced and co-written by the brilliant Chad Irschick, this gorgeously crafted CD is comprised entirely of original compositions arranged with intelligence and skill … in fact, Martin’s musical expression is beautifully defined by the harmonically satisfying vocal and instrumental arrangements. The talented musicians who join Martin on the project include gifted multi-instrumentalist Tom Szczesniak on bass, keyboards and accordion, David MacDougall on drums (whose work is the strong, invigorating and steady pulse of the recording), Brian Barlow on percussion, Michael “Pepi” Francis on acoustic and electric guitars, Chad Irschick and Steve O’Connor on keyboards and yeoman featured guest vocalist Neil Donell. Martin incorporates a number of influences into her vocal and writing style – transcending definitions and embracing elements of contemporary, pop, country and jazz musics. Her clear, stunning soprano (slightly reminiscent of the late, great, Nicolette Larson) deftly glides over the 13 satisfying melodies, making it all seem so easy and organic – replete with poetic lyrics that detail vivid and visceral life experiences to which we can all relate. Top tracks include the rhythmic and exciting Brazilian-influenced Roundabout; the anthem of independence, No Hard Feeling; the blistering political statement, Circle of Elders, featuring face-melting guitar work from Francis; the gorgeous ballad, The Sweater Song, made all the lovelier by Szczesniak’s acoustic piano and the album closer, No One in Particular, a gentle and uplifting vocal duet with Donell. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Instruments of Happiness Electric Guitar Quartet Tim Brady; Gary Schwartz; Michel Héroux; Antoine Berthiaume Starkland ST-224 ( September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016 | 71

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