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Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017

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In this issue: Our podcast ramps up with interviews in March with fight director Jenny Parr, countertenor Daniel Taylor, and baritone Russell Braun; two views of composer John Beckwith at 90; how music’s connection to memory can assist with the care of patients with Alzheimer’s; musical celebrations in film and jazz, at National Canadian Film Day and Jazz Day; and a preview of Louis Riel, which opens this month at the COC. These and other stories, in our April 2017 issue of the magazine!


JAZZ AND IMPROVISED The Orange Challenge Quatuor André Lachance Independent AL201601 ( !! The Quebec Cityborn, Vancouverbased musical journeyman André Lachance may be better known as one of Canada’s highly prized younger bassists, but he is reincarnated as a guitarist on The Orange Challenge, which also features his dreamy and distinctive writing. The music here is fascinatingly complex. At its dizzying best, it conjures imagery of the guitar equivalent of dancing figures in ice skating, dispatched consummately by the abstract, dramatic and virtuosic ramblings of Lachance. Rush-hour momentum, caffeine highs, ennui, angst and closing-time loneliness are driven powerfully by the guitarist together with swinging, rock-solid contributions from keyboardist Brad Turner, drumming colourist Joe Poole and the sonic lightning of Chris Gestrin’s Moog bass. It is difficult to single out any chart for special mention, but for sentimental reasons Claude shall receive exactly that. For one, its high and lonesome beauty perfectly describes its inner melancholia. Secondly, it is the perfect dedication to the legendary Canadian drummer Claude Ranger. Understandably, the spotlight is on Poole, who crowns the song with sonic wonders while Lachance caps things with the heart-stopping sadness of his playing. The rest of the music, though, is not as heavy-laden as Claude. Noteworthy are the lovely, swinging miniatures: Life Cycle and The Orange Challenge – the latter informed by an invigorating workout from Turner as well as another fine solo by Poole. The rich and sweet sound and impeccable virtuosity in a spacy and warm acoustic all combine to make this a rather memorable disc. Raul da Gama Sweet Ruby Suite – The Music of Kenny Wheeler University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra U of T Jazz ( !! The University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra is an 18-member student unit directed by Gordon Foote. On Sweet Ruby Suite, they pay tribute to the late Kenny Wheeler, Canada’s most esteemed jazz composer. The orchestra is joined by singer Norma Winstone, one of Wheeler’s closest collaborators and the distinguished American saxophonist Dave Liebman. The program also pays tribute to one of Wheeler’s finest Canadian chapters, his work as soloist, composer and orchestrator with the Maritime Jazz Orchestra: the group, which featured U of T faculty member Mike Murley, recorded two of the pieces here, the half-hour title suite and the brief W.W. in 2002, and another, Winter Sweet, in 1996. The U of T orchestra brings admirable precision and taste to the performance, with Foote drawing lustrous brass textures from the ensemble in keeping with Wheeler’s Hindemith-inspired harmonies. Two of the trumpeters are featured as soloists on flugelhorn, Wheeler’s own frequent instrument of choice: Brad Eaton has a lively give-andtake improvisation with Liebman on the sprightly W.W., while Marie Goudy touches on Wheeler’s special lyricism, at once slightly muffled and soaring, on Winter Sweet. Canter No.1, which Wheeler performed with both small groups and large, is effectively arranged here by Terry Promane, creating a delicate backdrop for Winstone’s brilliant wordless improvising and Liebman’s rapid, peppering soprano saxophone. The entire program is a worthy homage to Wheeler’s contributions to jazz composition and education. Stuart Broomer Trio Arthur Bull; John Heward; Adam Linson Ambiance magnetiques AM 229 CD ( !! The title Trio celebrates the special unity of these three improvisers. Nova Scotiabased guitarist Arthur Bull has worked in contexts from folk to free jazz, including the avant-folk Surruralists with Éric Normand. Montrealer John Heward, now 82, is best known as a painter of minimalist abstractions: his drumming, which has led to partnerships with saxophonists Glenn Spearman and Joe McPhee, possesses the same qualities as his paintings – a series of subtle and definitive gestures. Los Angeles-born bassist Adam Linson, about half Heward’s age (Bull is in the middle), has wide experience in European free improvisation alongside esteemed musicians like Evan Parker and Axel Dörner. Recorded in a stone studio in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, this music has a quality of elemental life. Bull brings something of country blues to it, a vocabulary of bending tones and percussive attacks rather than specific harmonies or rhythms. That helps root the music, contributing to a central stream, an emotional and dynamic continuum, to which Heward and Linson also subscribe. It’s improvised music in which the three are so in tune that it never seems responsive, resembling instead the inevitability, consistency and variegation of water, stone, earth or air. Given that, there’s still development from piece to piece. There’s a general build in intensity and density as the program progresses: lines become thicker, pitches higher, attacks more percussive; the degree of abstraction grows as it becomes more animated, the notion of a lead voice becomes less appropriate. The absence of ego along with the heightened sense of communion and consistency make this an ideal introduction to improvised music, a kind of folk music of the future. Stuart Broomer The Waves David Restivo Modica Music MM0015 ( !! David Restivo, one of the country’s most forwardthinking pianists, has employed a timehonoured format for his latest CD, The Waves. The music he has composed for the classic lineup of trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums is modern, challenging and beautiful. The album’s eight tracks are arranged like a suite and reward being listened to in one uninterrupted session. The opening compositions provide a series of quick segues into the main body of music. The aptly titled Piano Intro showcases Restivo’s harmonically lush and adventurous playing in a solo context and perfectly sets up the band’s entrance on the short piece The Bull and the Roses. Honeydew Harbour settles into a straight eighth, odd-time groove and features Restivo on the Fender Rhodes piano. Trumpet player Alexander Brown builds from a relaxed approach into beautifully sculpted lines and Restivo solos with great energy and fluidity. The graceful ease of the ensemble’s performance belies the complexity of the music. The title track features Brown and tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson in a counterpoint line with Restivo and bassist Luke Sellick that gives way to a deep four-four swing courtesy of drummer Maxwell Roach. Restivo tastefully crafts lines that move in and out of double time. Jefferson starts sparsely, exploring the lower register of his horn and incorporating a restrained yet intense bluesiness. Kurt and Mark, a tribute to guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and saxophonist Mark Turner, captures the spirit of the two musical comrades from the point of view of a very like-minded peer. Ted Quinlan 72 | April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017

Common Ground KMJO (Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra) Addo Records AJR032 ( !! Common Ground, the latest offering from saxophonist/composer Kirk MacDonald, is a major work of uncommon scope and depth. The double-CD set is also somewhat of a retrospective of material drawn from his impressive body of work, set this time in a big-band format by longtime collaborator, arranger and trumpeter Joe Sullivan. Sullivan, who has often worked with MacDonald in both large and small groups, displays an uncanny ability to interpret the composer’s tunes on a grand scale and the results here are outstanding. MacDonald has been generous in his allotment of solo space and the casting on this album is extraordinary, featuring a stellar lineup of Canada’s top jazz musicians. PJ Perry and Pat LaBarbera are an inspired pairing on the title track. Perry’s beautiful alto tone and bop-ish sensibility sound perfectly at home in the contemporary harmonic context of MacDonald’s music. LaBarbera brings his huge tenor sound to a duet with bassist Neil Swainson for the opening of his solo. It’s a nice dynamic shift and the two master musicians take full advantage of the space it affords before the rest of the rhythm section kicks in and LaBarbera lets loose with impassioned, angular lines. There are too many similarly brilliant moments to mention here. MacDonald’s rich tenor tone and deep linear concept can be heard several times throughout the album perhaps most notably on the final track Vanda Justina where he shares solo responsibilities with his daughter, the excellent clarinetist, Virginia Frigault-MacDonald. Ted Quinlan Tropical Fun & General Lightness Pink Saliva Sono Sordo S02 ( !! Don’t be fooled by the tile of this album by Montreal band Pink Saliva. The two-CD set is anything but light and fun. That’s because the 24 tracks consist of moderato-paced oscillating drones, percussion pivots and brass squeals that in a (Morton) Feldman-like fashion unfold slowly while squirming forward. On the other hand, band members Alexandre St.-Onge who plays electric bass and electronics, Michel F. Côté, whose skill encompasses percussion, steel guitar and all manner of electronics, and Ellwood Epps, who varies his trumpet sound with a series of mutes, are canny enough to limit their compositions to between two and four minutes. Overall, the tunes’ appeal is in how precisely like light bulbs in a socket, the musicians’ ideas adhere and subsequently illuminate. For instance a track such as Mario & Salvio is measured out in double bass thumps, making rhythmic sense of brass squeaks and hamster-wheel-like cranks, while (J. von P.) transforms from doom-laden drumming, as it’s opened up with moleculesized brass bites to reach a theme of satisfying nonchalance. Like its subject matter, Nixon à la télévision shows that the band can be down and dirty in its exposition but by its conclusion use focused string pulses and relaxed drum pops to direct the narrative to soar sympathetically upwards. Tropical Fun & General Lightness easily proves that the trio members are experts in creating the musical equivalent of Instagram photos or pointed tweets. But without appearing to be too old-fashioned, longer tracks with more extensive solos would demonstrate how well Pink Saliva stacks up against the work of earlier, innovative improvisers. Ken Waxman Infinite Distances Noah Haidu Cellar Live CL080216 ( Masters Legacy Series Vol.1 – Emmet Cohen Emmet Cohen featuring Jimmy Cobb Cellar Live CL03161 Sapphire Birds Maya Rae Cellar Live CL101816 !! The Cellar, Vancouver’s iconic jazz club, may have long-since closed and the hive of activity relocated to Coastal Jazz, but impresario Cory Weeds – the common denominator in it all – has retained executive producer privileges at Cellar Live. Virtually every month something resembling a gleaming gem (or three) pops up on the horizon. Here, for instance, are three such nuggets of plenty – two from American artists and one by a Canadian; or put another way, two featuring gifted pianists – Noah Haidu and Emmet Cohen – and one startling young songbird: Maya Rae. As is expected not a ray of daylight separates talent here. In the case of the pianists, styles may be disparate, but intellect and authentic pianism is of one piece. In Rae one is presented with the beckoning voice of a young woman that stands out in solitary splendour from among a crowded field. Noah Haidu’s jazz abstraction is, not for nothing, called Infinite Distances and is presented in the form of a ten-piece suite of the same name. The title is borrowed from the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who suggested: “Among the closest people there remain infinite distances.” In keeping with this inspired Rilke quotation all of the songs included here reflect this profoundly meditative state of being for Haidu, who has also been touched, it would seem, by the mortal nature of humanity. Each of the miniatures in the suite is a beautiful heart-offering, poetically crafted and ornamented by the gifted pianist with an all-star ensemble featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and bassist Peter Brendler. Pianist Emmet Cohen draws on the gifts of the virtuoso drumming and allround erudite musicianship of Jimmy Cobb to bring his trio recording to fruition with the ubiquitous and supremely talented bassist Yasushi Nakamura. The album includes two quartet features with the vibrato-rich voice of alto saxophonist, Haitian-born Godwin Louis as musical doppelgänger. Cohen’s playing is spry and his right-hand agility is wonderfully complemented by a genuinely expressive left hand punching out chords that recall the manysplendoured stride masters of a bygone era that still beg emulation. His breathtaking introduction to When I Fall in Love – easily the high point of the performance – beckons an ineffably delicate response from the legendary Jimmy Cobb on cymbals. A memorable performance from end to end. Maya Rae’s disc must surely be a frontrunner for many accolades to come. The Vancouver singer is an extraordinarily prodigious talent who is still barely 14 years old and who, even more incredibly, wrote the title track of Sapphire Birds when she was in fourth grade. It is impossible to overstate the genius of Rae who also displays maturity wildly beyond her years in So Caught Up. Showcasing those wondrous “vocalastic” skills, Rae turns up the heat in a fiery version of I Got Rhythm and then knocks it right out of the park with Summertime. There is ample evidence here that the world is Rae’s to conquer. What a coup for Cellar Live to have her on board. Raul da Gama April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 | 73

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