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Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Choir
  • Musical
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!

POT POURRI Rivers Shawn

POT POURRI Rivers Shawn Mativetsky Samskara SAM-3 (shawnmativetsky.com) !! In his Indiegogo fundraising campaign video, Montreal tabla player Shawn Mativetsky quips that his album Rivers would be the “first album of solo tabla music to be recorded by a Quebecer!” Bracketted by footage of what appears to be the St. Lawrence River, Mativetsky continued: “This album would be the way to pay tribute to my guru Pandit Sharda Sahai-ji [of the Benares/Varanasi tabla lineage] who truly desired for his family’s tabla tradition to spread around the world, to be enjoyed by all.” For well over a decade Mativetsky has been “living fully immersed in the world of tabla and Indian classical music,” but it was only last year he finally felt the time had come to release his first traditional solo tabla album. Rivers is an apt poetic-geographic metaphor for the project. It refers to both Mativetsky’s home St. Lawrence as well as to the mighty Ganges in his adopted Varanasi, India. The cover photographically mashes up a bare snowbound shore with the other shore featuring the ghats of Varanasi, but the two long tracks are truly a one-way “rhythmic journey to Varanasi.” Mativetsky’s tabla solos are idiomatically accompanied on the bowed dilruba by the veteran Toronto bassist and long-time Hindustani music performer George Koller. They are set in the 16-beat teental, the principal tala (rhythmic cycle) of North Indian classical music. Koller accompanies the tabla solos with a series of lehras, which are repeated short melodies, providing an aural outline of the tala. Enriching the listening experience, they have wisely chosen lehras in five different ragas, each evoking a distinctive modal and emotional flavour for each tabla section instead of choosing standard practice: a single melody throughout. The Madhya Laya (medium tempo) track presents fixed tabla compositions, while the Vilambit Laya (slow tempo) track explores the theme-and-variation format with emphasis on improvisation. Mativetsky’s tabla solos in Rivers eloquently reflect his evident dedication to the dynamic, received tradition of Benares style of tabla playing, his own individual spontaneous creativity, as well as his passion for this rich form of music-making. Andrew Timar Bach ’n’ Jazz Flûte Alors! ATMA ACD2 2745 (atmaclassique.com) L/R !! Montreal-based recorder quartet Flûte Alors! mixes Baroque with a splash of jazz in this satisfying release. The four quartet members – Vincent Lauzer, Marie- Laurence Primeau, Alexa Raine-Wright and Caroline Tremblay – are each accomplished musicians. Together, these self-described new-generation recorder players perform with glorious tone, technique and tight ensemble etiquette. It is not surprising that J.S. Bach’s organ music translates well when arranged for recorder. Both instruments create sound Something in the Air Twisting Classic and Jazz Classics KEN WAXMAN Classic jazz, sometimes called Dixieland or trad jazz, can be a path into the music. However since the 100th birthday of recorded jazz passed last month, those who stick to recreating jazz standards of earlier eras are in the position of early music devotées who refuse to consider anything not played on period instruments. Ironically enough, some well-known Free players started out as Dixielanders, including saxophonist Steve Lacy and Toronto artistpianist Michael Snow, but they soon switched to more challenging fare. Recently a new curiosity has emerged though. As a postmodern paradox some advanced improvisers are mixing old-timey classics with free-form sounds with unique results. Take for instance the Italian octet The Freexielanders. On Looking Back, Playing Forward (Rudi Records RRJ1032 rudirecords.com) the band brings the same rollicking, texture-stretching freedom to contemporary originals as they do to two-beat tunes that were even considered warhorses in the early 1950s. Yet starting with the first track which blends the hoary St. James Infirmary with Gotta Get to St. Joe, the foot-tapping performance is done with such finesse that it’s obvious that Alberto Popolla’s sparkling clarinet blowing and Giancarlo Schiaffini’s gutbucket trombone slurs would impress during this pseudo-march exposition whether played in 1917 or 2017. This same sort of transubstantiation is applied to standards like Yardbird Shuffle, borne on trumpeter Aurelio Tontini’s Gabriel-like high chortles and slap bass from Gianfranco Tedeschi; or Black Maria that evolves into a hearty swing-shuffle dance, following a jagged split tone intro from the five horns plus vibraphone-clanking extensions from Francesco Lo Cascio that could have been part of a 1965 free-jazz date. Like actors who are as convincing in a Shakespearean production as in an action flick, the eight perform reverse alchemy on modern tunes. Sabor de habanera, a Schiaffini composition, moves from tango to tea dance to something more within the contrapuntal challenge between the trombonist and clarinetist and ends with a Count Basie-like repeated riff. Meanwhile Voci del Deserto, treated as a cousin to Hoagy Carmichael’s Hong Kong Blues, features both free-form reed wiggles from Popolla and sizzling Gene Krupa-styled pumps from drummer Nicola Raffone. Relentless polyphony that characterizes the recasting of Jelly Roll Morton’s Cannonball Blues relates both to notated orchestrations with a Native Indian-like lilt that pulls it one way plus slap bass and so-called Jungle effects trumpeting pulling it in another. More distinctively Tontini’s sputtering tongue stops and Schiaffini’s well-modulated slides not only made a perfect topping for the stacked reed trio vamps on Come Sunday but by leaves space for altissimo clarinet puffs. The piece is deconstructed to the extent that the performances – like most of the CD – become timeless. Timeless too is a 1979 Paris duo between American cornetist/saxophonist Joe McPhee and French saxophonist/clarinetist André Jaume on Nuclear Family (Corbett vs Dempsey CD031 corbettvsdempsey. com). At a time when so-called young lions claimed ownership of all of jazz’s pre-1960s vocabulary and ignoring modern currents, these players presented their own originals alongside classics from the Duke Ellington band, Monk, Coleman and Charles Mingus. With a layer-cake-like recipe of dense and voltaic alto saxophone licks atop guttural bass clarinet slurps, the narrative of Ellington’s Come Sunday is more emotional yet grounded than the Freexielanders’ version. This combination of jump-through-hoops modernism coupled with heart-on-sleeve sentiments conveyed by Jaume’s tenor saxophone is augured on the preceding Chelsea Bridge and echoed on Nuclear, the free improvisation that follows. With variable snorts and spits nearly electric in output, the half-atonal, half-accessible theme is transformed when the pocket cornet’s sprightly grace notes add a whiff of Come Sunday to the exposition, completed by staccato growls and slurred snarls from reeds and brass. This tightrope-balancing act between affiliation and avant-garde is expressed throughout, whether the two play off one another’s advances with punchy note nips during Pithecanthropus Erectus or make jittery Blue Monk even more antsy in execution, as Jaume’s outer-space-like bass clarinet rumbling and 74 | April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

y air/wind movement, and Bach’s strong contrapuntal lines flow on the recorder. Of the six arrangements, most satisfying is group member/arranger Raine-Wright’s take on Concerto in D Minor BWV 596. Her focus on Bach’s flowing lines and contrasting articulations add colour and clearly emulate the organ sound. Of note is the attentiongrabbing high-pitch opening note of her arrangement of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BMV 565. Why jazz? Because Flûte Alors! had a café gig and decided to mix Bach with jazz. Their jazz tracks may not be as astounding as their Bach, but this musical experiment is an evolving work in progress. Fly Me to the Moon opens with contrapuntal Baroque flavours leading to a jazzy pleasant swingfeel rendition of this popular standard. Dick Kooman’s The Jogger is a clever mix of classical and jazz with pavement-pounding detached rhythmic patterns driving the piece home. Congratulations to Flûte Alors! for taking programming risks. Their Bach is more memorable, yet their detours to jazz land are pleasant listening, and crucial to the group’s artistic development. Tiina Kiik Lo Único Constante Alex Cuba (healer.alexcuba.com) !! Canadian-Cuban multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer Alex Cuba (né Alexis Puente) is wearing all of his many hats on his latest superb release, Lo Único Constante (Constantly Unique). The recording is dedicated to the seminal musical artists of Cuba’s “Filin Movement” (including José Antonio Méndez, César Portillo de la Luz and Marta Valdés) who have been a profound influence on Cuba and the development of his own unique style, which embraces not only Afro-Cuban motifs, but also funk, jazz and pop. Cuba, who performs here on acoustic and electric guitars, requinto, Hammond B3, acoustic bass, drums, cajon and vocals, has collaborated with more than a dozen fine musicians to bring this dynamic project to fruition – a project that is focused on the blessed concepts of hope, peace, unity, love and the power of positive change. The CD opens with the lovely En Mi Guitarra – in the words of Cuba, “a voice found its way into my guitar…giving me power to create beautiful melodies, while controlling my choice of notes and silences.” Sumptuous string lines move effortlessly through the composition – as does Cuba’s equally sumptuous voice. Other highlights include the stirring, syncopated Yo Sé Quién Soy (I Know Who I Am) and the moving Ahora (Now), rendered in pure guitar, voice, strings and minimal percussion. This exceptional recording closes with the compassionate Lagrimas Del Que Llora, which features Josemi Carmona’s stirring flamenco guitar. It’s not necessary to understand Spanish to resonate with the deep emotional content here, as all meaning is conveyed in the universal language of music, and in the tradition of some of the finest musiciancomposers that Cuba has every produced – of which Alex Cuba is most definitely one. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Concert note: Alex Cuba launches Lo Único Constante with a concert at Koerner Hall on April 8. McPhee’s tongue slaps and bites beak down the theme into atoms before reconstructing it. Echoes of early jazz even work their way into Rue St. Jaume. Here New Orleans-style tongued exaggerations from both saxophonists swirl around the theme like a handkerchief waving at a parade, with high-pitched split tones overlapping with the equivalent of a reverent coda at a jazz funeral. Pianist Jelly Roll Morton’s jazz funeral took place in 1941, but pianist Dave Burrell and tuba player Bob Stewart pinpoint the adaptability of Morton’s arrangements to contemporary setting on The Crave (No Business Records NBLP 100 nobusinessrecords.com) by splitting the program between three Morton compositions and three by Burrell. A commanding stylist, Burrell’s performances bring an Ellington-like refinement to this bare-bones format, opened up on tracks such as his own Pua Mae ‘Ole. But at the same time, like a couturier who insists on classic detailing on a leading-edge garment he’s crafting, the pianist doesn’t mute echoes of the past, such as primitive blues on Morton’s New Orleans Blues and ragtime reflections on Morton’s The Crave. On the latter Stewart defines the function of a so-called brass bass, huffing a grounding ostinato alongside the pianist’s jaunty interpretation that also twists tango intimations into Jazz, with intelligent pauses and contemporary chord augmentations not upsetting the piece’s terpsichorean orientation. In contrast, the tubist’s dramatic growling, coupled with the pianist’s meditative pace, ups the intense storytelling that is Burrell’s I Am His Brother. Instructively enough Burrell’s savvy conversion of two other Morton tunes points out the lineage between 1920s ivory ticklers and Monk. These Monkish allusions are especially noticeable on the harder-edged Spanish Swat, where Burrell’s keyboard creeping leads to opaque, moderato and angled patterning. His narrative, which slides from high-pitched glissandi to segmented bass chords, is held up like the top man on a human pyramid by Stewart’s puffing continuum. New Orleans Blues is taken at a more leisurely pace than the original, with contemporary note variations pockmarking the stone face of Morton’s original. These improvisations not only stretch the theme with the looseness of a cat chasing a string, but allow the tuba player’s contemporary oom-pah-pahs to march in rhythmic lockstep with Burrell’s deeply felt and relaxed tune elaborations. With many Monk compositions now nearly 70 years old, they’re as much classic jazz as Morton tunes. On Monk ’n’ More (Leo Records CD LR 780 leorecords.com), Russian- American pianist Simon Nabatov tries for a similar alchemical updating of five Monk lines by interspacing them among five originals that probe keyboard extensions using live electronics. Nabatov no more takes the Monk canon as immutable than a Talmudist would take the Torah’s words as unavailable for interpretation. Like that scholar’s theories, Nabatov’s explorations provide alternative readings of the pieces. Nabatov’s take on Skippy, for instance, is more herky-jerky than the original, while Oska T. is taken thicker and faster. Using pedal shading Nabatov adds echoes of the Russian Romantic tradition, while paradoxically emphasizing the tune’s swinging pulse that in turn links it to the blues and stride Morton and Ellington were perfecting in the 1920s and 1930s. Re-harmonized, Pannonica becomes more expansive, with the triplet-timed note colouration adding unexpected tenderness to its habitual angularity. Although most of the electronic experiments are concerned with laboratory-condition-like probes into pitch and timbral extensions, the additional clanging results confirm Monk’s unique orientation. The discontinuous interface on Electroacoustic Extension 4, for example, with its blurry pulses reflecting back onto the initial stop-and-start theme posits how Monk could have utilized computer programming. This is confirmed on Sunrise Twice Redux, the CD’s 14-minute centrepiece. Unfolding like a flower probed by a buzzing bee, unique pitch-bending techniques allow for tone examination, rhythmic asides and protracted pauses that add honeyed chamber music allusions to the jazz and electronics already present. Gathering these strands together to revamp existing parts of the jazz canon is Nabatov’s contribution to examining classic music from new angles. All of these CDs are instances of how intermingling new ideas and older themes rejuvenates venerable material. thewholenote.com April 1, 2017 - May 7, 2017 | 75

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
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Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
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Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
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Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
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Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
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Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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