6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Theatre
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!

Penelope. The

Penelope. The large-ensemble arrangement, this time including pianist Hilario Duran and drummer Mark Kelso, lends itself beautifully to the poignant waltz and Nachoff improvises fluidly and effortlessly. Ted Quinlan Glamour Nails Lina Allemano; Justin Haynes ( !! Between the arc-lit symbolisms of Glamour Nails (as evinced by a lurid cover image) is music of great subterfuge. It is based on the fountainhead of the electrifying trumpeter Lina Allemano, who seems determined to create a fresh sound for the 21st century in the manner of Graham Haynes and Toshinori Kondo as well as to establish a new approach to what might be the renaissance of art music. Allemano’s music quickly finds itself in the eye of a swirling tornado created by the guitarist Justin Haynes who echoes the singing of Fred Frith. Haynes is also a canny electro-technician who adds FM synth, prepared piano, cassette player and tin cans into this delightfully weird modern mistura fina. The album is a short one. But it is provocative, adventurous and broadly atmospheric. It is appealing and colourful, combining the cultural topography of Frith and Kondo in music with portents of a rapidly advancing future. Allemano teams her trumpet with Haynes’ myriad electronic instruments and a lonely electric guitar, which blends gleaming sonorities with soaring gestures and dramatically free and volatile improvisation. There are a total of ten tracks on this disc. Two gems stand out; Tawny Owl, which puts a haunting spin on the poetic imagism of the bold brass of the trumpet. And then there is Crumb, made up of wild, impressionistic figures that combine seamlessly with the impassioned lines of the trumpet. Bolder and more brazen creativity will be hard to find. Raul da Gama Olden Times – Live at Birdland Neuburg Lee Konitz-Kenny Wheeler Quartet Double Moon Records DMCHR 71146 !! In 1996 the late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler may have recorded his most singularly beautiful CD, Angel Song, with a quartet that included alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Dave Holland, each a consummately lyrical musician. Two years later Wheeler and Konitz were appearing in a quartet in the Bavarian city of Neuburg with two German musicians, pianist Frank Wunsch and bassist Gunnar Plümer, who provide solid support and some fine individual moments. This live recording captures music very near the level of Angel Song, benefitting further from the relaxed club atmosphere. Konitz’s compositions swing readily, with a strong inner drive and a lighter mood, whether it’s his propulsive solo on Lennie’s, named for his mentor Lennie Tristano, or the highly varied Thingin’, which in its lively quarter hour keeps finding different instrumental textures within the quartet, whether it’s a two-horn theme statement accompanied by just lockstep piano chording or an ebullient passage of alto saxophone set against just walking bass. Wheeler contributes four pieces, including two that appeared on Angel Song: Kind Folk and Onmo. His compositions and improvisations are masterful demonstrations of economy of means and maximum effect. What begins as a work of serene repose can take on a range of subtle emotions from pensive reflection to sublime melancholy, whether delivered with a sudden leap into the upper register, a pinched note or a sustained blast of air through his flugelhorn. Konitz and Wheeler sound like they were born to play together, and their accompanists here complement them well. Stuart Broomer Volume 1 Stu Harrison; Neil Swainson; Terry Clarke One Night Stand Records 2016-001 ( !! On his debut release as a leader, Stu Harrison has tackled perhaps the biggest challenge for a jazz pianist: a set of time-honoured standards performed in the classic trio format. Harrison, accompanied by veterans Neil Swainson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums, brings a well-rooted sensibility to the album’s ten tracks. His deep affinity for the tradition is evident throughout the album and he manages to bring a fresh voice to familiar material. On The Street Where You Live opens the recording with a fast tempo and a tasty reharmonization of the tune’s opening chords. Swainson and Clarke swing hard while Harrison plays compelling single lines, adding left hand chords in the bridge. His playing moves easily from bebop to contemporary as he pushes the harmonic edge of the changes. Clarke lets loose over a vamp before the final melody. Blame It On My Youth has a funky, gospellike feel to it. Harrison knows when to play it loose with the harmony, mixing blues and modern influences in his thematic and well-constructed improvisation. In Your Own Sweet Way features a searching rubato intro from Harrison and a superb solo from bassist Swainson. An imaginative arrangement of Nature Boy opens up the tune’s possibilities with a key change creating the illusion of a bridge in a tune that doesn’t have one. Harrison’s virtuosic triplet and double-time lines illuminate the expanded form. Ted Quinlan Warsaw Concert Schlippenbach Trio Intakt Records CD 275 ( !! As pianist, composer and bandleader, Alexander von Schlippenbach is a major figure in European free jazz, numbering among his achievements the founding of Globe Unity Orchestra, a pan-national improvising big band in 1966, and the recording of Monk’s Casino in 2005, in which he performed all of Thelonious Monk’s known compositions. Perhaps above all, though, he’s the leader of Schlippenbach Trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens, a group that has been performing regularly since 1970, releasing some 20 LPs and CDs without any personnel change beyond the occasional addition of a bassist. Schlippenbach still embraces the term “free jazz,” and there’s little reason to fuss the delineation. This largely improvised music belongs undeniably to the category: the group moves fluidly through patterns of harmonic agreement and it swings mightily. The credits acknowledge “briefly played themes,” one by Schlippenbach and two by Eric Dolphy. When Schlippenbach launches an unaccompanied solo in the midst of the 52-minute track called Warsaw Concert, it’s rooted in the twin sources of blues and bop, the former a specific melodic content, the latter a characteristically jagged rhythmic exploration that becomes only more specific when Lovens joins in. The trio has a unique sense of momentum: a sparkling conversation among old friends includes some fine turns of inspired individual rhetoric – Parker can spin a tale while wandering through mazes of cycling harmonics – but Lovens’ dizzying cymbals are there to highlight the finish. It’s particularly fine when the three seem bent on an idyllic ballad, only to have the collective pulse race at the promise of adventure. Stuart Broomer A Multitude of Angels Keith Jarrett ECM 2500-03 !! The ECM label is continuing to release high quality previously unissued live performances 80 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

from master musician Keith Jarrett’s catalogue. Recent archival concert releases include Sleeper, Bregenz and Hamburg 1972 – all issued over the last few years. The latest in this series is A Multitude of Angels, a four-CD set encompassing consecutive concerts from his 1996 European tour. This was the final time that Jarrett would perform the extended solo improvisations – up to 45 minutes in length without a break – for which he had become famous. Following a several-year performing hiatus, Jarrett returned to the concert stage with a new approach and format that would instead feature shorter solo vignettes. As he would never perform his extended solos again, A Multitude of Angels gives us a glimpse into this fruitful period of his last documented lengthy solo improvisations. Also, as all of these concerts were recorded within one week, the listener gets a rare view of Jarrett’s creative process on a nightly basis as he performs concerts in Modena, Ferrara, Torino and Genova. Modena Part 1 begins with a beautiful, reflective ballad structure through shifting tonal centres. One gets the sense of the artist finding his way over a long, winding path, as he takes his time exploring a continuous thematic arc. Midway through, Jarrett segues into one of his trademark pedal point vamps as he improvises over a funky gospel left hand figure. The pianist then subtly shifts into a stunning contrapuntal section of intersecting right and left hand lines, until he eventually returns full circle to a pristine ballad. Other highlights of the set include Ferrara Part 1, in which the pianist moves from a powerful chant-like section into musical territory that is infused with rhythmic influences from central Asia and Africa. The crown jewel of the set, though, is the Genova concert. The concluding tremolobased section of Part 1 and the hymn-like opening of Part 2 may be some of the most sublime music he has ever created. All told, A Multitude of Angels is a major masterpiece: a testament to the transformative power of music. Barry Livingston Drought Hübsch; Martel; Zoubek Tour de Bras TDB 9017 CD ( !! Like a carefully coordinated multination NATO exercise, but anything but bellicose, the distinctive soundscape that is Drought is the result of a longtime alliance among L/R tubist Carl Ludwig Hübsch and prepared piano stylist Phillip Zoubek, both from Köln, and Montreal-based Pierre-Yves Martel, who improvises on the soprano viola da gamba. Dating from the 15th century and with both viola and cello tone attributes, that instrument, played in tandem with the others exposes a rugged postmodern concept on the seven selections here, which the trio presented last year in Toronto. With the sophistication of undercover agents adopting new identities, each player functions in unexpected ways. Zoubek spends most of his time plucking and stopping the piano’s internal string set plus deadening the key action to produce a clavichord-like exposition with marimba-like reverberations. On pieces such as Darth, Martel meets the contrapuntal piano challenge with a series of staccato buzzes. Rounding the duo’s abrasive thrusts into connectivity, Hübsch produces a breathy continuum so fluid and watery that it appears distant and segmented, nothing like the brass beast’s usual rhino-like snores. As the nearly opaque narratives unroll, individual contributions are still clearly heard. On Guts, for instance, the interruptions resemble – or are – Ping-Pong balls bouncing on inner piano strings. Later the unusually delicate harmonies created from juddering brass reverb and high-pitched tremolo strokes from Martel, is a highlight of Civilisation. Like a computer manufacturer able to reproduce any desktop function on a handheld device, the 15 1/2 minutes of Conditions miniaturizes themes in solo, duo or trio forms. Comparison of string vibrations from Martel and Zoubek expose subtle differences; while downward whistling tones are expressed individually by Hübsch’s measured breaths and Martel’s pinched strings. Finally the swelling cacophony of twitters, plucks, twangs and judders settles into a reductionist coda where tick-tock piano chords are perfectly segmented by abrasive metal scratches from the outside of Hübsch’s horn. Not as dry as titled, there’s also no musical drought when it comes to dynamic interaction on this session. Ken Waxman A Boat Upon Its Blood Jason Sharp Constellation Records CST 1119 ( !! No gimmick, A Boat Upon Its Blood could be termed a medical as well as a musical advance, since Montreal-based bass saxophonist Jason Sharp uses amplified heartbeats and breaths to trigger a wave-form pulse. Like the plasma dripping out of the blood bag during a procedure, this signal-processed continuum is incorporated with synthesizer amplifications alongside acoustic textures from Sharp, violinist Joshua Zubot and pedal steel guitarist Joe Grass, for an operation that’s fascinating as well as worthwhile. Swirling, irregular strings plus the sound of the healthy human heart’s orderly progression reach a congruent crescendo on Pt.2 of the title tune, later climaxing on A Boat Upon Its Blood Pt.3 as invasive reed gusts bring distinctive balm to suture any remaining gashes left by the tonal surgery. Unconventional, but cohered harmonies characterize all the CD’s tunes, inspired by Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley’s collection The Heart, with concentrated motordriven timbres, sandpaper-like rubs and screaming reed explosions creating constant surprises, but ones which reflect the unique half-antiseptic and half-amorous program. These implicit tonal contradictions tersely blend with a lessening of polyphonic stresses on the concluding Still I Sit, With You Inside Me Pt.2, as string plucks and thumps are as prominent as undulations on a heart monitor. Before that, on Still I Sit, with You Inside Me Pt.1, textures as distinct as infant-yelping resembling saxophone squawks and concentrated pipe organ-like-processed reverberations are stacked as solidly as medical equipment in a supply cupboard. Even the occasional reed growl or drum machine pressure doesn’t detract from the therapeutic nature of the performance. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Tumblers from the Vault Syrinx Rervng RWRVNG08 ( !! In Tumblers from the Vault, series conceiver William Blakeney continues his collectively titled JMC Retrospective 1967- 1977, highlighting the early career recorded music of John Mills-Cockell. A Torontoborn composer, keyboardist and pioneering synthesizer performer, Mills-Cockell was not only an early adapter of the modular synth – he purchased a Moog Mark IIP the same winter of 1968 when the American studio synth trailblazers Wendy Carlos and Suzanne Ciani acquired theirs – but he also swiftly put that early model synth to good use in live performances across Canada and the USA. Furthermore, it featured prominently on the Intersystems albums reissue reviewed in these pages last year. By 1970, Mills-Cockell’s next music project had emerged: Syrinx was a trio which included two other Toronto musicians, saxophonist Doug Pringle and percussionist Alan Wells. Armed with Mills-Cockell’s February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 81

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