5 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017

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  • December
  • Toronto
  • Arts
  • January
  • Symphony
  • February
  • Jazz
  • Performing
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
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In this issue: a conversation with pianist Stewart Goodyear, in advance of his upcoming show at Koerner Hall; a preview of the annual New Year’s phenomenon that is Bravissimo!/Salute to Vienna; an inside look at music performance in Toronto’s health-care centres; and a reflection on the incredible life and lasting influence of the late Pauline Oliveros. These and more, in a special December/January combined issue!

Smalls in NYC, the

Smalls in NYC, the album’s nine tunes make a compelling case for the variety to be found in contemporary mainstream jazz. The programming is an eclectic mix of standards and originals with Hazeltine’s considerable arranging skills shedding new light on a few old chestnuts. The opening track, Kenny Drew’s With Prestige establishes the band’s hard-bop credentials. Weeds sounds right at home here, incorporating a relaxed, swinging style with a big tone and impeccable lines. Trumpeter Joe Magnarelli’s loose, behind-the-beat phrasing opens into a tour de force of double-time ideas. Hazeltine demonstrates a classic style, playing with a deep-time feel and exquisite taste. Paul Gill’s arco bass solo summons up Paul Chambers in its facility, sound and note choice. The late Ross Taggart, a brilliant musician/ composer and a Vancouver compatriot of Weeds, is remembered in two of his compositions. Expose introduces a modal vibe to the recording, and the players take full advantage of the leeway it allows. Solos explore greater angularity and Hazeltine makes a playful reference to Surrey With A Fringe On Top. Drummer Jason Tiemann contributes aggressive, up-tempo playing and an explosive solo. The title track, It’s Easy To Remember is full of twists and turns. All of the players negotiate Hazeltine’s complex arrangement with the combination of confidence and abandon that defines this recording. Ted Quinlan Oddara Jane Bunnett and Maqueque Linus Entertainment 270244 ( !! Award-winning soprano saxophonist/ flutist Jane Bunnett has a knack for putting together great bands. In fact, she has been doing so since before the release of her first recording, In Dew Time (1987), through to the acclaimed Spirits of Havana band, which celebrated their 25th anniversary this year (see Andrew Timar’s review in the September 2016 issue of The WholeNote). Her latest outing showcases the all-female band, Maqueque (meaning “the energy of a young girl’s spirit”), formed five years ago. This group follows in the Bunnett tradition of ensembles featuring not only phenomenally talented players, but also great chemistry amongst the musicians. This chemistry is evident throughout Oddara, Maqueque’s follow-up to their 2014 self-titled debut CD. Accordingly, core band members Dánae Olano (piano, vocals), Celia Jiménez (bass, vocals), Magdelys Savigne (percussion, vocals), Yissy Garcia (drums) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (violin, vocals) all turn in great, inspired performances. However, it is the group dynamic, deep listening, empathy and superb communication that come to the fore on each track. Highlights include the Melvis Santa composition, Power of Two (Ibeyi). Based on a traditional Afro-Cuban chant, the song opens with a call-and-response section, before seguing into a beautiful pentatonic vocal and flute melody. On Dream, the ensemble showcases their versatility as they navigate a variety of textures and turns in this multi-layered arrangement. Bunnett’s distinctive sound and impeccable musicianship shine throughout. This is music brimming with joy, mastery, beauty and passion. Barry Livingston All My Treasures Lauren Bush Independent ( !! Currently based in the UK, Canadian jazz vocalist Lauren Bush showcases her diverse musical abilities as she sings and scats a selection of her favourite tunes with energy and a distinctive vocal colour while being supported by her superb band comprised of Liam Dunachie (piano/ arranger), Andrew Robb (acoustic bass) and David Ingamells (drums), The opening I’ve Got Just About Everything I Need is a fast-paced jazz tune arranged by Canadian musician Don Thompson. Bush sings the challenging plethora of words set at a higher pitch with conviction and clarity. The addition of a horn section provides a welcome New Orleans-flavoured sound for instrumental solos and for Bush to sing a bouncy version of Sweet Georgia Brown. But it is the slower tunes where Bush performs the best. Her sultry vocal opening in the Latin tune Dindi leads to varied vocal stylings with a great horn solo. The Mancini/Mercer song Charade suits her voice perfectly, allowing her to lay back and expand her subtle vocal lyrical qualities while listening closely to the band to set her phrases. Likewise the kid’s show classic, A, You’re Adorable is given an accented vocal performance against more legato sections, a rousing piano solo and touches of Fender Rhodes chimes. Kudos to Bush for choosing songs that are both well suited to her voice, and also those more musically challenging. Excellent performances by both Bush and her band set the stage for an exciting musical future. Tiina Kiik Otterville Andrew Downing Independent AD00105 ( !! JUNO Award-winning bassist, cellist and composer Andrew Downing’s new double CD (and his tenth release) takes its name from a diminutive burg located in Ontario’s tobacco country, the family seat of the Downings throughout the 20th century. The beautifully composed, recorded and performed project is a laconic, nostalgic journey through small-town Canadiana, where linear time is only a concept and the hard-working lives of generations are imbued in the land itself. The thoughtful and complex Otterville is comprised of 15 original pieces (primarily by Downing) some of which embrace elements and snippets of familiar themes from the Great American Songbook, cleverly re-constructed on a framework of highly intriguing instrumentation, and taking inspiration from diverse tunesmiths Billy Strayhorn, Kurt Weill and Ry Cooder. The fine musicians include (producer) Downing on cello, Tara Davidson on alto saxophone, Christine Bougie on lap steel guitar, Michael Davidson on vibraphone, Paul Mathew on bass, Nick Fraser on drums and special guests Rebecca Hennessy on trumpet and William Carn on trombone. The opening track, This Year’s Fancies, could be considered a loose structural homage to Johnny Mercer and Jerome Kern’s standard I’m Old Fashioned, re-invented with a modern, multi-instrumental cacophony of both melodic lines and harmonic dissonance. A standout is Family Portrait, composed by the uber-talented Tara Davidson. Linear sax lines and the heartwarming juxtaposition of strings and reeds make this one of the most appealing and accessible songs on the project. Additionally, Downing’s haunting take of Strayhorn’s Take the A Train is nothing short of genius and his composition, Leaving Me With a Memory overflows with emotion and sweet reverie, and defines the mise-en-scène of this potent project. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke The Long Slog Snaggle Browntasauras Records NCC-1701G ( !! Many young musicians today put out records that feature a wide range of playing styles. It’s a healthy trend, especially when the program makes intrinsic musical sense from start to finish. However, not many musicians make their records sound as elegant and sophisticated as Snaggle. The record in question is The Long Slog and it comes courtesy of the well-known Toronto musician, Brownman Ali. Snaggle is a quintet comprising six young Torontonians and the smoky syntax of their keyboards, 86 | December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017

guitar, tenor saxophone, trumpet, bass and drums is quite unique. Each of the instrumentalists brilliantly addresses keyboardist Nick Maclean’s compositions, bringing the music’s intense rhythmic interplay and extended lyrical passages to life. Each of Maclean’s charts is superlative although Theorum and Lagaan, which feature the electric trumpet of Brownman Ali, are especially riveting. Bassist Doug Moore does contribute Nonuhno, which features not only a tongue-twisting title, but also a tantalizing pulse. While the relentless swirling down into the furthest reaches of their instruments’ capabilities might be the first aspect of this record to captivate the listener, one is soon drawn into the music’s inner machinations – the sensuous inner rhythm, vivid harmonic colours and the overall wonders and mysteries of the music. The wonder of the musicians’ playing is how engagingly, articulately, flowingly and creatively they pour themselves into the songs, adding further lustre to this recording, which is stylish, responsive and richly atmospheric. Raul da Gama Concert note: On December 9 and 11, Snaggle presents “Christmas Single Release Show Featuring Brownman Ali” at Mây Café. Safe Travels Sharon Minemoto Pagetown Records PTCD007 ( !! Pianist Sharon Minemoto – soulmate of the late, ineffable Ross Taggart – celebrates Taggart’s life and genius with this rather special, heartfelt homage: Safe Travels. Bidding farewell especially in rather bittersweet circumstances is never easy at the best of times. Musically the temptation to let sentimentality take over is all too real. Minemoto eschews that with a program of music that is informed by nuanced, poetic rumination that manages to also be refreshingly uplifting as well. Eight of the nine songs are based on funny and bittersweet memories of when Minemoto and Taggart were partners. The Vancouver-based pianist emerges from this recital with great credit – imaginative and lyrical as a composer, with pianistic technique in spades. This recording will not only be remembered for its elegiac reconstruction of the largerthan-life personality that Taggart was, especially among Canada’s West Coast musical community. Rather it will also draw accolades for its gorgeous, cinematic quality. Song after song brings to life the interplay between the two characters – Taggart and Minemoto. And if the listener reads the notes along with the music, moving pictures almost come to life before the eyes. The wittily chipper 15 for 2 depicts a charming episode between the characters at play. Safe Travels is a wistful rhapsody. Perhaps the best aspect of the music is that it suggests characters enjoying themselves, playing at life. All credit to performances by Minemoto and saxophonist Jon Bentley, bassist Adam Thomas and drummer Bernie Arai for making this come alive. Raul da Gama Time/Life Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra Impulse 4798480 L/R !! The great bassist Charlie Haden (1937- 2014) launched his recording career as a leader in 1969 with the Liberation Music Orchestra, a big band devoted to political protest, its repertoire of international folk songs and contemporary compositions all orchestrated by Carla Bley and featuring stellar associates like Don Cherry and Gato Barbieri. Haden and Bley returned to the project intermittently and were in the midst of this environment-focused work when Haden became too ill to continue in 2012. On Time/Life, two pieces recorded with Haden in Norway in 2011 bracket three from 2015, with Steve Swallow playing bass in Haden’s stead in the same 12-piece band, with trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and saxophonists Tony Malaby and Loren Stillman among the soloists. The music possesses the same quality that Haden and Bley first developed nearly 50 years ago, a combination of anthemic determination, pastoral reflection and moments of intense, wailing expressionism. The environmental focus arises in new arrangements of older compositions, opening with a serenely beautiful treatment of Miles Davis’ and Bill Evans’ Blue in Green. Bley’s Silent Spring, inspired by Rachel Carson, dates from the 60s; her Útviklingssang, written to protest the impact of Norwegian dams, from the 70s. Only the warm, welling, richly-voiced Time/ Life, her elegy for Haden, is recent. The final track is Haden’s Song for the Whales, first composed in 1978 and recorded by the group Old and New Dreams. The work inscribes an arc, bracketed by Haden’s wispy arco passages emulating whale song. Its plaintive theme serves as a springboard to Tony Malaby’s admirably constructed solo, moving from lyric reflection to sounds that suggest the whale voices to be found in the reaches of his tenor saxophone solo. Stuart Broomer Deep Memory Barry Guy; Marilyn Crispell; Paul Lytton Intakt Records CD273 ( !! The trio of bassist Barry Guy, pianist Marilyn Crispell and percussionist Paul Lytton has a longstanding history. Assembled to interpret Guy’s compositions, the group recorded Odyssey in 1999, Ithaca in 2003 and Phases of the Night in 2007. Clearly there’s a continuing theme apparent in the first two releases, and the group’s latest CD seems to reference it with a piece called Return of Ulysses. Guy may be one of the great free improvisers, but his work is often inspired by other arts and both mythic and modernist themes. Here the titles come from paintings by Hughie O’Donoghue – whose dreamlike works fuse representation and fields of welling colour – both trigger and analogue to this richly diverse work. The group intuition here is at an exalted level, as the three take the conventional jazz piano trio into new terrain. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish where Guy’s compositions end and the collective improvisation begins, motifs sounding elastic in their first appearance. The opening Scent hints at flamenco sources, with Crispell and Guy vying to assume the guitar part. Fallen Angel juxtaposes tumultuous descending figures with a gently determined lyric rise, while Sleeper is at once minimalist melody and profound reverie. There’s a Romantic power and sweep at work here, each piece stretching at emotional constraint, whether it’s a subtle weave of melodies from Guy and Crispell, memories coming into view on the rise of Lytton’s drums, or an explosion of percussive energy and ricocheting shards, as in the startling rhythmic unison of piano and drums on Return of Ulysses. Stuart Broomer Convallaria Thumbscrew Cuneiform Records Rune 415 ( !! Probably improvised music’s most celebrated guitarist at present, Mary Halvorson has attained the position because of her individuality as well as her ability. Like an actor who moves effortlessly between comedy and drama, Halvorson is equally proficient playing solo or in large ensembles, but her best work is done in intimate circumstances. While her dynamic strokes often define a tune’s parameters, her styling is particularly notable during Convallaria’s 11 selections when her light-fingered invention is complemented by bassist Michael Formanek’s chunky thumps. She’s like December 1, 2016 - February 7, 2017 | 87

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