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.

!! I cannot think of

!! I cannot think of anything more exciting for any electric guitar super fan than listening to the Electric Guitar Quartet. Guitarists Tim Brady, Gary Schwartz, Michel Héroux and Antoine Berthiaume are each formidable instrumentalists who join listening and technical forces touching on all styles of guitar, be it rock, funk, new music, etc. Three composed works are featured here. Brady’s The Same River Twice: Symphony # 5.0 is full of symphony orchestra-like harmonies, riffs, guitar effects adventures, a funky waltz and an intense closing section featuring loud verbal rhythmic counting. Each group section is divided by refreshing solo guitar meanderings. Brady then takes on this work as a solo piece. The Same River Twice Symphony #5.Solo is more introspective and different in its attitude. It feels more programmatic with its washes of sound in Freeze, and the dripping effects in Thaw. Berthiaume’s Fungi is a sensitive and classical flavoured ensemble work in 6/4 time with its peaceful interludes and sections alluding to film and tango reminiscent dance music. Brady then remixes two live studio performances of Rainer Wiens’ What is Time? Wiens imaged it as a “series of clouds, constantly changing…” by utilizing different guitar preparations either fixed or performed in random order and requiring each performer to listen to each other’s breathing. The result is a sonic blast of washes and effects. This is great happy music to be enjoyed over and over again! Tiina Kiik Sing Me Home Silk Road Ensemble; Yo-Yo Ma Sony Masterworks 88875 18101 2 ( !! This latest album by Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road examines unique and diverse perspectives of home, with original and traditional tunes composed and/ or arranged by members of the ensemble. Joining them are a number of stellar guest artists, amongst them singer Rhiannon Giddens, the Grammy-winning vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, Galician band Rustica, Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, and the great Indian sitarist Shujaat Khan, among many other notable international performers. Each track tells a unique story. The Taiko drums of Shingashi Song are later followed by the voice of Dima Orsho, who shares a glimpse into a Syrian village wedding. Fiddler Martin Hayes adds a haunting cavalry march. In Little Birdie, singer Sarah Jarosz pays sweet tribute to the late Pete Seeger, with the addition of pipa (Chinese lute) and sheng (Chinese mouth organ) to the mix while Going Home is sung in both Chinese and English by vocalist and banjo player Abigail Washburn with ensemble member Wu Tong. Master guitarist Bill Frisell creates a wonderful interplay with Silk Road members on shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and Indian tabla. This recording provides a veritable tapestry of world fusion; nonetheless, each selection is truly distinct and highly reminiscent of many diverse conceptions of home. Dianne Wells Nazar Turkwaz Independent Turkwaz01 ( NazariTurkwaz) !! With their first album Nazar, the Toronto based vocal quartet Turkwaz introduces a wondrous world of uniquely imaginative songs. This compilation features a selection from the Middle East, Turkey, Greece and the Balkans, collected individually over many years. While the songs themselves are traditional, the creative vocal arrangements and the use of exotic world instruments make this music delightful to the ear and harmonically surprising at times. Turkwaz – Maryem Tollar, Brenna MacCrimmon, Sophia Grigoriadis and Jayne Brown – sounds both pure and raw, with sincerity and sentiment that comes from their deep appreciation of this music. Their individual voices are light yet loaded with emotion. Collectively, the intended textures of their voices are exquisite. The lyrics, sung in Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Macedonian and Bulgarian, are pure poetry, and for the most part fragrant with love themes. Nested in between the songs are expressive improvisatory vignettes by guest artists – Demetrios Petsalakis (spectacular on bağlama, outi), Nagmeh Farahmand (daff, tombak), Ernie Tollar (duduk, bansuri flute, saxophone) and Andrew Downing (cello). Among many charming songs, a few numbers stood out for me. Send Me a Message My Love, The Beloved Visited Me in the Myrtle Garden, Love on a Rainy Day and the lively Alexandris/Grandpa’s Brandy all share alluring harmonic twists and delicately ornamented melodies, the power of voices being a driving force. The word nazar is derived from Arabic “sight” or “seeing.” It is a perfect title for this album as the members of Turkwaz bring forward their musical vision to each song. Ivana Popovic Concert note: Turkwaz will release Nazar at the Music Gallery with guest musicians Andrew Downing, Demetri Petsalakis and Ernie Tollar on September 24. Made to Measure Countermeasure Independent ( !! Toronto a cappella group Countermeasure showcases itself as a musically astute and on-the-edge vocal group. Using only their voices, they create a mindboggling array of sounds from harmonic lyrical choral to rocking percussive to instrumental sounds. Exciting and groundbreaking to say the least, the 14 young members are led in this energetic band project by composer/ arranger Aaron Jensen. A plethora of styles and influences are technically and convincingly performed. Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin is a funky percussive rendition with lush harmonies, horn and bass sounds supporting soloist Qwyn MacLachlan. Jensen’s ballad Fox in the Field highlights more classic wistful colourful harmonies and phrases. Train the A Take draws on the standard Take the A Train as fragments of melodies are combined and repeated while amazing train-like vocal noises keep it moving. Covers of a Middle Eastern world music-flavoured Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in A Dangerous Time, and pop, jazz and you-name-it spiced Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There give each song refreshing new aural lives. The title track Made to Measure is an uplifting touch of musical theatre written by member J-M Erlendson. Witty yet never sarcastic, the show goes on with brevity, drama and comedy. Sometimes there is too much of a good thing as so many stylistic references and percussive sounds overtake the essence of the piece. Nonetheless, Countermeasure is a rising star in the Canadian music and recording scene. Tiina Kiik 72 | September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016

Something in the Air Musical Inspirations Arise from Unexpected Sources KEN WAXMAN Creativity may, as the aphorism says, be 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. But finding the proper inspiration can be a challenge in itself. Like a mathematical theorem made up of various formulae, stimulus for music – especially creative music – arrives from anywhere. Consider these discs whose genesis couldn’t be more dissimilar, but whose interpretation is of uniform high quality. Turning another page in its scorebook filled with the themes of composers from the so-called classical music canon, Montrealbased Quartetski – now a quintet – Does Bartók, on Mikrokosmos Sz 107 (Ambiances Magnétiques AM 224 CD It reconfigures to group improvisation piano pieces composed by Hungarian Béla Bartók (1881-1945) to synthesize musical and technical problems. Bartók, who was as attuned to Magyar folk music as his contemporary Arnold Schoenberg was to serialism, could never have imagined Quartetski’s instrumental make-up, unless he was also a futurist. The band is reedist Philippe Lauzier, guitarist Bernard Falaise, violinist Joshua Zubot, drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli and Pierre- Yves Martel, playing electric bass and synthesizer. Like films whose interpretation of a literary source is radically different, but representative, Quartetski’s 25-track variant of the oeuvre adding jazz, folk, rock and electronic inflections must be judged on its own. One reductionist way to approach this material is to itemize how often and quickly musical currents appear and disappear. For instance, take the many transitions which are evident during the sequenced five tracks: En mode mixolydien #48, Unisson divisé #52, Mélodie en dixièmes #56, Majeur et mineur #59, Triolets #75 and Hommage à Robert Schumann #80. Near-heavy metal thuds and clangs struggle for space alongside pastoral reed notes and high-European string swells. Later, like a space ship from the future landing in primitive times, contemporary timbres are subsumed beneath electronic loops. Paradoxically, when the themes are more obtuse, a buoyant melody is created where rugged Eastern European dance inferences mix up with crinkly guitar flanges. Similar schematic diagrams could be constructed for other sequences which append inferences including Hawaiian guitar-styled licks to an electric bass line reminiscent of Stax-Volt. But the key linkage appears among other tracks, Six mélodies à l’unisson, Notes pointées #7, Mains alternées #10, Mouvement parallèle #11 and Danse hongroise #68 plus Mélodie contre double-cordes #70. Prominent among the calliope-like motifs and synthesizer smears is an arching narrative that by the end adds Prairie hints to the Magyar countryside. Quartetski’s originality is confirmed on the group-composed title track. Like the inevitability of waves hitting and receding from the shore, the performance bonds string sweeps, aviary reed whistles and an electric undertow into tremolo washes. The CD confirms that the quintet can positively transform a revered composer’s supposedly unalterable work. An even better known 20th-century composer is Bob Dylan, whose 1966 2-LP milestone Blonde on Blonde is the inspiration for Berlin quartet Absolutely Sweet Marie (ASM)’s Another Side of Blonde On Blonde (Tiger Moon: Records TMR 003 Unlike Dylan’s electrified guitars and keyboards-focused session, the band – trumpeter Steffan Faul, trombonist Matthias Müller, tenor saxophonist Alexander Beierbach and drummer Max Andrzejewski – play the songs in the same sequence as the original disc, but completely acoustically. Dylan’s canon is no more inviolable than Bartók’s and ASM shows its skill by re-contextualizing the familiar themes to take on new resonance. The marching band/Dixieland outlines of tunes such as Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 and Most Likely You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine are easily converted to peppy showcases with R&B-styled sax riffs and trumpet exotica. But like the climber who first rappels up the Matterhorn then tackles Mount Everest, upping the challenge is more breathtaking. Absolutely Sweet Marie for instance, takes on a trumpet and trombone Mariachi sheen, while Pledging My Time becomes a canon as horn tremolos decorate the theme. Replete with altissimo slurs from Beierbach, Temporary Like Achilles is ground down into atoms. Just as art restorers sometimes find traces of an earlier picture on the canvas underneath another, ASM exposes unexpected jazz linkages in some of the songs. Cross pulsations inject the chorus of Sun Ra’s Space is the Place into the melody of One of Us Must Know; while the transformation of Fourth Time Around into an energetic bebop rocker is both mocked and underlined as John Coltrane’s unmistakable introduction to A Love Supreme is heard. The crowning achievement is when the four inject a circus-like atmosphere into I Want You via yelping horn parts to make it swing in all senses. As notable and thorny as alloying steel, the anthemic Just Like a Woman is re-imagined with a horn trio, with Berierbach almost tying himself into knots as he improvises freely. A jazz score composed for a free-form dance company, Touch My Beloved’s Thought (Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1050 has clear-cut themes and a point of view, but like a film recast with new actors to give it contemporary resonance, part of its achievement is what it’s not. That’s because the inspiration for alto saxophonist Greg Ward’s creation, interpreted by his 10 Tongues band, was that a Chicago dance company wanted to choreograph movements to something like Charles Mingus’ 1963 milestone, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Taking that as a challenge, Ward adapted elements of Mingus’ seminal work without emulating any of the music itself and used different instrumentation ranging from the cornet on top to the bass trombone and baritone saxophone on the bottom to do so. A couple of times his own sour reed bites approximate the sound of earlier soloists and in the finale, Gather Round, The Revolution Is at Hand, a direct Mingus theme is interpolated. But mostly Ward’s music is more romantic, bluesy and utilitarian than its model. Especially noteworthy is The Menacing Lean, where a bolero beast superseded Marcus Evans’ timed drum rolls, preceding a stoptime challenge from baritone saxophonist Keefe Jackson and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman that moves the ensemble to effortless swing. Jason Roebke’s ringing double bass line and Dennis Luxion’s piano note emphasis enhances the climax. Later, Norman Palm’s lazy trombone slurs and call and response from the saxophonists frame the penultimate tracks. Round 3 and Dialogue of the Black Saint come across as much a brass player’s derby’s tip to Mingus’ influence Duke Ellington and many pre-modern trombonists as dance accompaniment. Sonically illuminating many motifs from staccato tonguing to muted nostalgia, Ward suggests strategies for the dancers. Then, like a mathematician marshalling various hypotheses into a theorem, he uses the concluding sequence to build the instrumental sections up to excited cacophony and down to calm for an appropriately simultaneous summation and homage. In terms of slightly off-centre inspirations, consider the Umlaut Big Band’s Euro Swing Vol. 2 (Umlaut UMFR-CD18 umlautrecords. com). While the 16-piece French orchestra puts a new spin on swing-era tunes, the transcriptions on which they’re based – mostly created by its saxophonist/director Pierre Antoine Badaroux – are unique. That’s because these pre-World War II recordings either featured jazzers like Duke Ellington visiting Europe, or were played by local bands directed September 1, 2016 - October 7, 2016 | 73

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