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Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

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  • February
  • Toronto
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  • Arts
  • Jazz
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  • Performing
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In this issue: an interview with composer/vocalist Jeremy Dutcher, on his upcoming debut album and unique compositional voice; a conversation with Boston Symphony hornist James Sommerville, as as the BSO gets ready to come to his hometown; Stuart Hamilton, fondly remembered; and an inside look at Hugh’s Room, as it enters a complicated chapter in the story of its life in the complex fabric of our musical city. These and other stories, as we celebrate the past and look forward to the rest of 2016/17, the first glimpses of 2017/18, and beyond!

varied works amount to a

varied works amount to a concert program for home listening that’s highly entertaining. Michael Schulman Ginastera Orchestral Works 2 – Panambi; Piano Concerto No.2 Xiayin Wang; Manchester Chamber Choir; BBC Philharmonic; Juanjo Mena Chandos CHAN 10923 !! Continuing a 2016 series celebrating the centennial of Argentinian master Alberto Ginastera’s birth, this disc offers an intriguing contrast of compositions from his early and late periods. Beginning with the latter, Xiayin Wang’s elegant and sonorous performance of the Second Piano Concerto (1972) will be a surprise for anyone who associates the composer with pianistic bombast. Her crisp, even touch in both the perpetual motion, repeated-note scherzo and the prestissimo triplet finale is remarkable, yet so is her balance of complex chords and gradual pacing in the tread-like build of the slow movement to a crisis point. The first movement is the most dissonant and complex. Succeeding movements are more accessible; textures and sounds fascinate throughout. Altogether, this work is a major statement of artistic freedom and of identification with both classical and contemporary music for the composer, who had recently moved to Switzerland from the darkening situation in his homeland. Panambi (1934-37), subtitled Choreographic Legend in One Act, is Ginastera’s Op.1. It is a precocious work from his folkloric years, one which also includes modern tendencies. Notable are the composer’s varied percussion writing and his seeking out of innovative low-register combinations. Rather than dwell on obvious influences from early 20th-century Paris, I would like to emphasize his successful evocation though imagery and sound of the Argentinian pampas, suggesting feelings associated with nature and the past. The BBC Philharmonic led by Juanjo Mena play with verve and sensitivity throughout. Roger Knox Jonathan Leshnoff – Zohar; Symphony No.2 Jessica Rivera; Nmon Ford; Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Robert Spano ASO Media !! John Franklin aptly wrote in the autumn 2016 Imago newsletter, “…artists have a capacity to see what is coming in a culture and their work indicates the mood and values of society.” Jonathan Leshnoff’s Zohar and Symphony No.2 “Innerspace” represent part of his exploration of Jewish mysticism. But they also succeed in his attempt to transport us to transcendence, and isn’t that what we need when we feel mired in this current global atmosphere of oppression and alienation? Symphony No.2 describes a benevolent “G-d,” whose omnipotence quickly becomes apparent in the second through fourth movements in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s bold portrait of divinity. It’s huge and satisfies our need to encounter the incomprehensible. Then, the final movement, Unimaginable, shifts gears with one clarinet playing one note for seven seconds and suddenly we are confronted with 83 seconds of silence which complete the symphony. The silence is surprisingly moving and makes the listener mindful of the Jewish constraint against saying YHWH’s name. Zohar is Leshnoff’s mystical commentary on the Pentateuch and was commissioned to be performed in conjunction with Brahms’ German Requiem. The text of the eponymous first movement sets the stage for the work: “Master of all Worlds…no thought can grasp You.” The second movement reflects on the puniness of man but for the grace of God’s recognition. In the following Twenty-two Letters, some theolinguistic synecdoche discusses the Hebrew alphabet that was used to create the universe. This Master is so great that the boy in the fourth movement (Shepherd Boy) feels inadequate to pray to Him correctly, and this is given a very sympathetic and informed interpretation by baritone Nmon Ford. The work wraps up with a choral reiteration that He is, indeed, “higher than all that is high.” This CD struck me as being one that will become very important in the canon of religious choral and orchestral works. Vanessa Wells JAZZ AND IMPROVISED You’ll Never Know Heather Bambrick Independent HBCD003 ( !! Toronto-based singer and radio personality Heather Bambrick, has released her first solo recording in a decade. Certainly during that time you could have heard her in many live performances, on other recordings and even voicing animated characters, if you were paying attention. But it’s good to hear a fresh recording from Bambrick since she’s one of the finest jazz singers in this country and her projects are a guaranteed musical treat. Her impeccable technique and heartfelt delivery are on display from the outset with a swing treatment of I Only Have Eyes for You. This track sets the tone for the rest of the album which is mostly mid- to down-tempo covers of songs from the past few decades. Piano accompanist extraordinaire Mark Kieswetter has arranged most of the songs and he outdoes himself – along with drummer Davide DiRenzo and Bambrick – on the reimagining of Lovers in a Dangerous Time. I didn’t think any version of the Bruce Cockburn song could rival the Barenaked Ladies’ 2006 cover, but this does, artfully enabled by John Johnson on soprano sax and Ross MacIntyre’s perfectly minimalist bass playing. Bambrick’s Newfoundland roots usually make an appearance on her albums in the form of a traditional song and Petty Harbour Bait Skiff does the job here. But the poignant Far from the Home I Love also beautifully tells the tale. Cathy Riches Will Jarvis – Con Gracias Will Jarvis; Hilario Duran; Bill McBirnie; Kevin Turcotte et al. Independent WTM-001 ( !! This impressive debut recording from bassist/composer Will Jarvis is a collection of ten original tunes, firmly steeped in the Afro-Cuban tradition. Jarvis, who also acts as producer and arranger here, has been focused on Latin musics since the early 90s, and the muy picante CD features an impressive line-up, including pianist Hilario Duran, flutist Bill McBirnie, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, percussionists Luis Orbegoso, Rosendo Chendy León Arocha and Daniel Stone, as well as jazz mainstays Don Thompson on vibes, Bruce Cassidy on flugelhorn, Michael Stuart on tenor sax and Trevor Dick and Drew Jurecka on violins. First up is the lively Vientos de Cambio (Winds of Change). Written as a zesty guaguancó, the percussion work propels this tune along, as does the solid solo and ensemble work from McBirnie and Duran, as well as a tasty bass solo by Jarvis. Also, the gorgeous Cha-Cha-Cha, Como Metheny, honours the creative spirit of the celebrated guitarist, and Don Thompson’s contrapuntal vibraphone lines further imply a very Metheny-esque flavour while Kevin Turcotte’s flugelhorn solo is, simply, perfection. Outstanding is the title track Con Gracias (With Thanks). This bolero beautifully represents contemporary Cuba and the massive impact on jazz that has been graciously given to the world by a prestigious parade of talented and brave Cuban musicians. Michael 78 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

Stuart’s heartrending tenor solo conveys this heady emotional cocktail of joy and longing. This fine CD aptly closes with the intense, contemporary cooker, Nuevo Afro, which lovingly embraces everything that is so intoxicating about Afro-Cuban musical forms. Superbly conceived and performed, this is a thoroughly satisfying, accessible and authentic journey into our most ancient and visceral musical origins. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke 3Rio Alexandre Côté; Gary Schwartz; Jim Doxas Independent ( !! If at first it seems odd to listen to a disc that has neither the benefit of a contrabass nor a tuba to hold up the bottom end of the musical scale, but relies upon the bass drum to do that, all raised eyebrows are soon lowered when this threesome gets to Monk’s Dream. It is then that Jim Doxas comes into his own not only as a drummer who is doing the rhythmist’s job all on his own, but is actually playing the role of a percussion colourist and the third melodist of the band. Ensembles that are as free-flowing as 3Rio often tend to be reminiscent of the many unpredictable musical journeys that Jimmy Giuffre’s duo and trio might take. However Doxas, Alexandre Côté and Gary Schwartz make everything from written counterpoint (You Stepped Out of a Dream) to classic improvisation (Monk’s Dream), and free form – or formless – improvisation (Bridge 1-6) sound shockingly unexpected and fresher than music from other improvising groups. Warm, sliding chords (Bridge 3) reveal an elegant structural sense on the part of guitarist Schwartz, even without text. This is easily carried over by Schwartz into his poetic waltz-time The Cove, an obliquely tonal homage to the instrument he plays so well. Côté responds beautifully on the tenor saxophone. Côté plays with brilliant focus and timbral variety always staying just long enough to charm and dazzle the senses helping weave the magical threads into an enigmatic musical fabric. Raul da Gama Infinitude Ingrid and Christine Jensen with Ben Monder Whirlwind Recordings WR4694 ( !! Originally from Vancouver Island, sisters Ingrid and Christine Jensen have both established careers in jazz, Ingrid as a trumpeter in New York, Christine as a composer and alto saxophonist in Montreal. Their individual styles share a compelling sense of spaciousness and a keen alertness to voicings and sound, qualities that link them, as annotator James Hale notes, to a Canadian tradition embodied in forebears like Paul Bley and Kenny Wheeler. While both may be best known for orchestral projects, Infinitude presents them in a quintet with guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Jon Wikan. Despite that sparse instrumentation, the music often does feel orchestral, a tribute to the sisters’ rich sonorities and thoughtful harmonies as well as Monder’s resourceful mastery of electric guitar timbres. A feeling of infinite space is apparent from Monder’s Echolalia, a rolling piece that sets its repeating theme on the carpet of sound provided by Hollins’ resonant bass. That sense of space colours the music in other ways as well; Ingrid’s Duo Space is a duet with Monder, her burnished trumpet sound supported by waves of atmospheric guitar sound. Another sense of space is apparent, too. If Christine’s reputation as composer and orchestrator has long surpassed her instrumental achievements, the openness of this group highlights a new fluency on saxophone. It comes through especially on her Octofolk: she reveals a fresh assertiveness and a shifting mercurial creativity in both line and sound. Stuart Broomer The Picasso Zone Modus Factor Browntasauras Records NCC-1701H ( !! Don’t expect things to be dull and dreary when Brownman Ali is around – either on stage, or in the studio. Ever. Moreover, on Modus Factor’s 2016 release The Picasso Zone, Brownman has added bassist Ian De Souza and drummer Chris Lesso into the molten mix that is cooking in this bubbling cauldron of an album. It might not be that odd to think of this music in the Cubist terms that it references. The sharply angular rhythms and harmonic objects that are analyzed, broken up and reassembled in a brand new multi-dimensional form of music closely resemble the Cubist line. The introspective nature of Now & Zen, for instance, might be considered – without putting too fine a point on its melody – a strikingly “Blue Period” piece. There have been times when Brownman has been spoken of in less than flattering terms as being in the time-warp that held Miles Davis’ fancy during his electronic period. But Brownman is no clone of anyone. His singular voice is just that; a trumpet that is played to mimic the sounds of the human voice as it revels in astonishing whoops, excited stutters and solfège, with its loud resonance and frequent blurring of syllables. It’s quite ingenious technically but, what’s more, carefully melting the sonority of the human voice into that of the trumpet, Brownman is able to emote freely, often leaping joyously from the ecstatic head games of the Monkish Rounded Corners to a more contemplative Metanoia. Much as it might seem that the trumpeter is the dominant voice on The Picasso Zone, De Souza and Lesso also assert themselves with virtuoso performances. Both men combine cohesively, playing with more expressive depth and luxuriating in the burnished, golden tone of Brownman’s trumpet with roaring bass and a broad palette of percussion colours. Raul da Gama Stabilimento Roberto Occhipinti Modica Music MM0017 ( L/R !! In Stabilimento Toronto bassist and composer Roberto Occhipinti has produced a highly ambitious and coherent musical statement. The album’s repertoire combines Occhipinti’s wide-ranging compositions with imaginative interpretations of pieces by Caetano Veloso, Stevie Wonder and Beethoven. A strong world music vibe, a hallmark of Occhipinti’s varied musical career, serves as a home base for the album’s nine tracks. Saxophonist Tim Ries is prominently featured on the first five tunes. His remarkable virtuosity and inventiveness is cast alongside Luis Deniz’s equally compelling alto playing on Tuareg, the opening cut. Pianist Manuel Valera creates a wide-open landscape for the horns to blow on and proceeds to take full advantage of this territory, starting with small rhythmic cells that expand into fleet double-time lines. Drummer Dafnis Prieto brings an Afro-Cuban edge to the groove and closes the track with a brief but explosive solo. Ries’ rich soprano sound brings a bittersweet quality to Stevie Wonder’s Another Star, treated here as a ballad rather than the Latin/funk of Wonder’s original recording. The ensemble adds horns, strings and percussion for the title track, Occhipinti’s Stabilimento. The writing is lush and inviting with inspired blowing from Ries and Deniz as well as a challenging and expertly executed soli section. Valera conjures Herbie Hancock on the vamp out. Tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff is featured on Wayne Shorter’s February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 79

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