6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017

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  • March
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  • Jazz
  • April
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On our cover: Owen Pallett's musical palette on display at New Creations. Spring brings thoughts of summer music education! (It's never too late.). For Marc-Andre Hamelin the score is king. Ella at 100 has the tributes happening. All; this and more.


esists over-interpretation, letting the tonal feast proceed unhindered. Articulation and ensemble are precise in their spirited Finale. A conventional Terzettino (1905) by Théodore Dubois was the first piece for flute, viola, and harp, given here with appealing French sentiment. Uruguayan-born Miguel del Aguila’s commissioned work Submerged (2013) here receives its CD premiere. Hat Trick brings excitement and commitment to its dance rhythms and under-the-sea imagery. The group plays Toro Takemitsu’s And then I knew ’twas Wind (1992) with sensitivity to evocative contemporary timbres and textures, the work’s main attractions. I find the tonal material much derived from Messiaen’s scales, though. Sofia Gubaidulina`s 1980 Garten von Freuden und Traurigkeiten (Garden of Joys and Sorrows) is the lengthiest work. Its extended exploration of harmonics, glissandi, percussive harp and many other effects is realized here with maximal facility. Altogether this is a stellar production by Hat Trick – April Clayton, flute; David Wallace, viola; and Kristi Shade, harp – who indeed make every shot count. Roger Knox Mieczyslav Weinberg – Chamber Symphonies; Piano Quintet Kremerata Baltica; Gidon Kremer ECM New Series 2538/39 !! In his late 60s, Mieczyslav Weinberg began reaching back over 40 years, transforming three unpublished string quartets into three Chamber Symphonies for string orchestra, making numerous changes and composing new L/R movements for each. Many Hindemith-like neo-Baroque melodies and sequences indicate Weinberg’s early stylistic orientation. Chamber Symphony No.1 (1986) is sunny, graceful and dance-like, its Presto finale resembling an episode from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. No.2 (1987) is darker and more dramatic, the newly composed middle movement a wry Mahlerian ländler. No.3 (1990), based on a quartet from 1945, is darker still, its first and third movements sombre reflections of their wartime origins. The vigorous second movement suggests the influence of Shostakovich, Weinberg’s friend and mentor whose stylistic fingerprints cover many pages of Weinberg’s scores, including the newly composed, eerily haunting Andantino that ends No.3. As much as I enjoyed No.3, I was unprepared for the emotional impact of Chamber Symphony No.4 (1992), Weinberg’s last completed work, containing quotations from several of his mature compositions. Here, Weinberg truly sounds like no one else but himself. In this profoundly affecting music, I hear a lifetime of experiences – long-ago loves, losses, pleasures and griefs, the klezmer clarinet an aching echo from Weinberg’s childhood in Poland, before he fled the Nazis to live in Russia. I consider it a masterpiece. Weinberg’s youthfully robust Piano Quintet (1944), arranged by Weinberg enthusiast Gidon Kremer and percussionist Andrei Pushkarev, completes this very significant and satisfying 2-CD set. Michael Schulman György and Márta Kurtág play Kurtág György Kurtág; Márta Kurtág BMC Records CD 233 ( !! In February 2016 the city of Budapest celebrated György Kurtág’s 90th birthday with something few living composers receive: an eight-day festival. The internationally renowned Hungarian composer is also a pianist, who for decades served as an influential professor of piano and later of chamber music at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. Márta, his wife of over 65 years, is also a pianist, and they have performed and recorded together for almost as long. Of the 43 pieces/tracks on the CD, 39 are from the composer’s Játékok (Games). Begun in 1973, Játékok is an ever-growing extensive collection of aphoristic solo and duo piano “pedagogical performance pieces.” Presently numbering eight volumes, they mark significant stages in the development of Kurtág’s oeuvre. Kurtág explains his initial motivation for the Játékok series was “suggested by children playing spontaneously…for whom the piano still means a toy.…They pile up seemingly disconnected sounds, and if this happens to arouse their musical instinct they look consciously for some of the harmonies found by chance and keep repeating them.” This disc presents previously unreleased live concert recordings as well as those made by the Kurtágs for Hungarian Radio over a period of 23 years. Performed close to the date they were composed, they preserve the composer’s germinal vision for the works, many of which are meant as miniature memorials for friends or musicians. Here is one of the paradoxes of these works: the remarkable power of a sonic fragment to suggest vast space or timelessness. Not simply a series of dry pedagogic piano exercises, Játékok explores Kurtag’s signature sound world marked by concentration and sonic intensity hand in hand with the exploration of a very wide range of human experience. It’s a world in turns playful and intellectually exploratory, evoking flowers as much as death and tears. This is music which richly rewards repeated visits. Andrew Timar Concert note: New Music Concerts presents soprano Tony Arnold and violinist Movses Pogossian performing Kurtág’s iconic Kafka Fragments on March 26 at Gallery 345. Eliot Britton – Metatron Architek Percussion ambiences magnetiques AM 232 CD ( !! Metatron was composed as part of Eliot Britton’s doctoral dissertation at McGill a couple of years ago, and it has now happily been recorded by Montrealbased quartet Architek Percussion. This music is the result of a very purposeful collision of two different sound worlds: the kaleidoscopic sounds of Architek’s drums, cymbals, other percussive instruments and synthesizers are woven together with recorded samples of old vinyl, mostly jazz and swing music. Britton has deftly integrated these two sources, not only exploiting the obvious sonic dissonances between them, but also finding surprising ways to bring them into harmony with each other. The liner notes say that Britton was partly inspired by memories of destroying his childhood piano with a chainsaw, an experience that led him to reflect on the relationships between technology, history, and our musical lives. At times the pummelling power of the percussion certainly feels like it is annihilating the sampled music, but Britton also reserves sparser passages for the samples to stand on their own, offering brief glimpses of earlier musical aesthetics between the percussion and electronics. Metatron is a thrilling record, though perhaps not one for all occasions. Bristling with a youthful energy and fearlessness, at times it reaches the same rhythmic intensity as techno, making it a record that is more likely to give you a jolt than soothe you. Will Pearson JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC Is That All There Is Misses Satchmo Bros BROS11602 ( !! In their third offering, this delightful Montreal-based quintet has released a project that literally drips with authenticity from “The Big Easy” and fully embraces the multi-cultural, Afro-Creole-Acadian-infused mojo that has made sultry New Orleans the musical crossroads of the world since the 17th century. This elegant ensemble presents a spicy étoufée of 13 sassy, eclectic tunes, embracing traditional spiritual material, as well as compositions from the great Louis Armstrong, the Gershwins, Fats Waller, 78 | March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017

early pop hit-makers Leiber and Stoller and more. The tight and talented group includes the luminous Lysandre Champagne on trumpet and voice, Blanche Baillargeon on acoustic bass, Marton Maderspach on drums, Yvan Belleau on clarinet and saxophones, Jeff Moseley on guitar and banjo. Following a brief guitar/whistle intro, the CD kicks off with a distinctly Depression-era medley of My Babe/Muddy Water, which features authentic front line drumming, call and response as well as sexy, unpretentious vocals. A standout is the Gershwins’ It Ain’t Necessarily So (written for the opera Porgy and Bess). All at once sweltering, swinging and sensual, this interpretation takes things to a fresh, contemporary stylistic level. Also charming is Why Don’t You Do Right (J.J. McCoy) which is arranged with a strippeddown distillation that includes double bass stops and lovely marimba accents from Maderspach. The title track is certainly one of the strongest cuts on the CD – a savvy rendition of the Leiber and Stoller hit, Is That All There Is (made famous by Peggy Lee) which is enhanced not only by the spot-on, ironic, no-nonsense vocal, but also by the clever addition of slide guitar and theremin into the inspired arrangement. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke The Twilight Fall Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night School Browntasauras Records NCC-1701J ( !! Twenty-fouryear-old composer, orchestrator and tenor saxophonist Chelsea McBride’s debut recording features ten original compositions performed by an energetic 19-piece ensemble, including solid vocals from noted jazz chanteur, Alex Samaras. With hints of compositional influences from Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evans, McBride has described the evocative project as “the soundtrack to your travelling daydreams, the story of your life,” with each composition poetically and musically defining a segment of the shared human journey. Unusually, the CD booklet itself includes a “Compositional Narrative” which outlines how McBride would suggest the listener envision each track, as they walk the wheel of McBride’s “Lifecycle.” Members of the Socialist Night School include the gifted Colleen Allen on reeds, Brownman Ali on trumpet and flugelhorn (who also serves as executive producer here) and William Carn on trombone. The song cycle begins with Ambleside, which establishes the cinematic and emotional tone of the CD. McBride’s haunting tenor saxophone, Chris Bruder’s piano and Samaras’ voice conjure a vision of spacious austerity and alienation. Other standouts include Intransitory, which features the potent Allen on alto sax and guitarist Dave Riddel weaving a complex, high-energy expression echoing the working person spinning on the proverbial hamster wheel. Also of note are the mind-bending title track and the funky cool confessional Smooth (or What I Should Have Said Instead). The recording closes with Something Simple, a joyous dénouement encapsulating our brief, but luminous life experience here on planet Earth. Tenorist McBride soars, dips, digs and intertwines with Samaras’ fine vocal instrument. Certainly this is one of the most intriguing recordings of the year thus far, and a defining debut from the intensely gifted McBride. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Hold On, Let Go Steve Amirault Independent ( Steve Amirault’s solo CD Hold On, Let Go is a wry commentary on life. This mood continues throughout the 11 songs on the disc and is sometimes made intricately droll perhaps, by the fact that he sits in splendid isolation at the piano, interweaving the lyrics with the shimmering sonority and yearning rapture of his accompaniment. Any form of solo performance is a lonely pursuit. The artist and the engineer are inevitably separated by glass which invariably accentuates the experience. It is in this very atmosphere that Amirault’s music rustles like raw silk. The listener is treated to spiritual flights far above the mundane and journeys through worlds at once zealous, reflective and transcendent. Amirault’s Dindi is a little gem, elementally melancholic yet infinitely hopeful. On Moon River and God Bless the Child, he uses elongated syllables to evoke the crepuscular and the dramatic. In this way, Amirault shapes every phrase with ardent sensitivity, lingering or propelling the narratives as they heighten the music’s ineffable meanings. There is, of course, a lot more. Steve Amirault is an exceptional artist and he proves time and again on Hold On, Let Go that he has an innate ability to find a keen balance between poetry and intensity. His pianism, albeit featured here in the shadow of his spotlighted voice, provides a superb brand of animation, meeting the needs of the music exquisitely and fittingly, as equal to the loneliness of this music. Raul da Gama Alom Mola Michel Lambert Jazz from Rant 1650 ( !! Any music that has been inspired by the work of Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571- 1610), the Baroque artist who worked in Naples, Sicily and Malta, and flavoured by the rumblings of Steve Lacy’s legendary French bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel as well as Jan Jarcyzk, the pianist and pedagogue from Montreal, has to be symphonically beguiling. Or put another way: why expect anything less from a riveting musician enthralled by three iconic characters from three disparate timespace continuums? Still you would be remiss if you did not admit to many moments of breathlessness not only during Caravaggio, ténèbres et lumières, but all through Alom Mola, as you might expect from the ingenious drummer Michel Lambert, whose inspiration is drawn from Mayan mythology as well as the Baroque and modern art history. The musicians’ traversal of Lambert’s complex music is remarkable. The music throughout Alom Mola is crafted on an orchestral soundscape that manages – somehow – to be monumentally miniscule, enormously small. Each of the five works presents a sound environment of wisps, susurrations, noises and the odd pitched note. Key to the music’s success, though, is Lambert’s subtle layering of different instrument groups – brass, woodwind, strings, piano and a whole universe of percussion instruments and devices. The resultant music is impossibly brilliant; evoked by different shades and densities of an aural patina passed around various orchestral permutations to produce a veritable ecosystem of music that is at once delicate and powerful. Raul da Gama Freedom Is Space for the Spirit Francois Carrier; Michel Lambert; Alexey Lapin FMR Records FMRCD425 ( !! The milieu of spatial freedom can be noisy. If that were not so, nothing would be heard or written in tabula rasa in corde suo, “the blank slate of the heart” so to speak. Fortunately, where there is sound, there is also silence, more so in this music by saxophonist François Carrier, drummer Michel Lambert and pianist Alexey Lapin. Each musician leads this performance, which is surprisingly formed and visceral despite March 1, 2017 - April 7, 2017 | 79

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