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Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Concerts
  • Quartet
  • Arts
  • September
  • Volume
CBC Radio's Lost Horizon; Pinocchio as Po-Mo Operatic Poster Boy; Meet the Curators (Crow, Bernstein, Ridge); a Global Music Orchestra is born; and festivals, festivals, festivals in our 13th annual summer music Green Pages. All this and more in our three-month June-through August summer special issue, now available in flipthrough HERE and on the stands commencing Thursday June 1.

Stir Yves Charuest;

Stir Yves Charuest; Agustí Fernández; Nicolas Caloia; Peter Valsamis Tour de Bras TDB 9021cd (tourdebras.com) !! The group involved in Stir begins as an unrecorded Montrealbased trio called Still that consists of alto saxophonist Yves Charuest, bassist Nicolas Caloia and drummer Peter Valsamis, then adds the titanic Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández. It’s a collective performance by a compound ensemble devoted to free jazz, but there’s also a sense of traditional roles, with Charuest and Fernández frequently in the foreground. Charuest runs counter to expectations for free jazz saxophonists, his playing consistently lyrical, often understated, his brief, sometimes elliptical lines conveying intense passion and thought, but rarely cascades of notes or distorted timbres. His original models likely included Lee Konitz, but Charuest, who began his career in the 1980s and spent a creative stretch in Europe, long ago sublimated his influences into a distinctly personal style. Charuest’s meeting with Fernández can suggest some of the Davidand-Goliath dialogue of Jimmy Lyons and Cecil Taylor, but the telepathic interaction practised by the two is remarkable, with even short, simultaneous phrases sounding like they might have arrived via manuscript paper. The collective improvisations Stir presents here are titled (Un)fold I-VI, and range from brief episodes (the delicate I and the pensive VI) to extended forays. The group’s raw power and investigative reach explode on (Un)fold II, while III is a foray into sounds in which Caloia and Valsamis, always creative in support, come forward, sometimes mingling indistinguishably with the interior of Fernández’ piano. This is free jazz of the first order. Stuart Broomer June Trouble Kaze Circum-Disc HeliX LX009 (circum-disc. com) !! Kaze first launched in 2011 as a quartet of Japanese and French improvisers, matching the husband and wife team of trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii with trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. That brassy instrumentation may suggest an overdose of trumpet pyrotechnics, but Tamura and Pruvost’s virtuosity includes extended techniques, radically altering their palettes, while the band’s invention and energy create real excitement. Trouble Kaze expands the group to a sextet with the addition of two more French musicians, pianist Sophie Agnel and drummer Didier Lasserre, the name punning on the resultant triple duo or double trio. The five-segment performance eschews formal match-ups for a loose, intuitive shape with a meditative and ceremonial character. Parts I and II have a serene and distinctly Asian quality, combining small cymbals with the sounds of prepared piano strings; as the work progresses, it literally engages the sound of its space, allowing instruments to approach and even reach silence or, alternatively, to make dramatic and singular sonic gestures. Part IV has a lengthy and lyric muted trumpet solo, likely Tamura, a rare occasion for a familiar trumpet timbre, while Part V begins with a fine approximation of a crying baby. By its conclusion, the piece has become isolated drum strokes, trumpet blasts and piano chords along with what sounds like a beeping alarm endowed with the ability to change pitch. It’s more powerful than any description might suggest. Stuart Broomer Concert Note: Kaze (quartet) performs at Hamilton’s Something Else! Festival of Creative Music on June 16. Trandans Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell Wig #25 (stichtingwig.com) !! Having played together in many contexts for more than a quarter century, Dutch reedist Ab Baars and violist Ig Henneman are like draft horses, so long in harness that they can respond to each other’s motions before they even happen. Although this mixture of strained, sul tasto resilience from the fiddler and outpourings that range from shrilly atonal snarled blares to mere breaths, depending on Baars’ use of clarinet, tenor saxophone or shakuhachi, would be distinctive in itself, they up the ante on Trandans by playing with veteran American pianist Dave Burrell, with whom neither had previously recorded. As meditative and whimsical in his huntand-peck narratives as the other two are penetrating, as demonstrated on his mostly solo musings on Korsekebacken, Burrell’s basso-directed fills are low-key in both senses of the word. Yet as tracks such as Fyllevägen and Laggareno demonstrate, his unflappable keyboard command adds a certain formality when involved in counterpoint with the duo. Especially illustrative is Laggareno, since the harshness engendered by the fiddler’s tempered-blade volatility, in broken octave concordance with altissimo reed shrieks, is warmed to a finer-tuned narrative via the pianist’s even-tempered chording. On their own as captured on Rassel runt Brunnen, the duo follows multiphonic paths the way a grizzled guide uses trail markers. They’re never lost and are constantly interesting, since Baars’ crying split tones or lows from the tenor saxophone’s bottom notes help regularize the near-atonal exposition, even as Henneman brings her own spiny individualism to the tune. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Baars and Henneman are onehalf of a quartet called Perch, Hen, Brock & Rain, playing Array Space June 20. Heads or Tails Hamid Drake; Sylvain Kassap RogueArt ROG-0072 (roguart.com) !! Facility, rhythm and invention unite in the playing of Chicago’s Hamid Drake, one of the go-to percussionists in improvised music. That’s because Drake is both Clark Kent and Superman: able to power the most extravagant freeblowing ensemble as well as use subtle beats to advance a narrative. At his best in small groups, the drummer is absorbingly paired with a reedist of equal skill on this 2-CD set. Parisian Sylvain Kassap, master of almost every clarinet extant, slides fluidly between playing notated and improvised music, with detours into theatre and electronics. Heads or Tails is illustrative of this duo’s art, with one CD of extended performances and the other of 13 studio sessions. Putting quick-change artists to shame, the duo demonstrates faultless command of moods and inferences throughout the second disc. Whether it’s temple-bell-like resonations atop a buzzing reed ostinato on Everyone Holds Its Breath, the clarinetist’s agile slide from bagpipe chanter to flute-like timbres on Stubborn Old Folks, Drake craftily shifting drum vibrations from irregular to steady on Heavy Traffic, or a piquant duet in near-swing rhythm on Downtown Riots, singly and together the two are as in-sync as trapeze artists. Discerningly titled Mutual Respect, CD 1’s over-24-minute showcase could be termed the 3D version of the standard films on the other disc. Enthusiasm is maintained with an ever-shifting landscape, with watery trills or sweet puffs on Kassap’s part succeeded by hard slurs or separate melodies from a deconstructed clarinet, aptly paced by Drake’s rolls, paradiddles, frame-drum throbs and pauses. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Hamid Drake will be part of the DKV Trio playing Burdock Music Hall on June 15. 86 | June 1, 2017 - September 7, 2017 thewholenote.com

POT POURRI Small Pieces Rakkatak Independent RA017 (rakkatak.com) !! Toronto tabla player Anita Katakkar founded Rakkatak as a solo project in 2009. Abetted by a laptop and sequencer, hers was a mix of classical Hindustani music and electronica performed with a pop-music aesthetic. For Small Pieces, Katakkar invited into the studio bassist Oriana Barbato, sitar player Rex Van der Spuy who’s been playing sitar in Toronto since 1989, plus eight guest musicians. Collectively they represent a crosssection of what has been tagged the Toronto Gharana – local musicians pursuing music rooted in the classical Hindustani tradition. The larger ensemble on the album also effectively broadens Rakkatak’s aesthetic focus to embrace a more inclusive sonic palette. Of mixed Indian and Scottish ancestry, Katakkar noted that “I heard plenty of Indian music growing up from my grandmother.” She began studying tabla with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble’s Ritesh Das, and later in California and Kolkata with the pre-eminent tablist Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri. As she matured as a creative musician Katakkar found she “had stories to tell.” Eesha’s Song, track five on Small Pieces, featuring the sitar of Joanna Mack and violin of Jessica Deutsche, was meant as an elegy to a friend’s daughter who passed away much too young. In it, Katakkar’s tabla solos “were inspired by running up a big hill and barely being able to keep up, sort of like Eesha’s heart.” The album closes with Riffing on 9, a solo for Katakkar, bringing the album back to her early career working with just tabla and laptop. It’s a stripped down salute to the Asian Underground movement that initially inspired her on her fascinating creative journey. Andrew Timar Toronto Taiko Tales Nagata Shachu Independent KNE013 (nagatashachu.com) !! On several occasions I’ve written about the Toronto group Nagata Shachu in my WholeNote World Music column. “Nagata Shachu is one of our city’s musical treasures,” I wrote in one, “…its performances invariably filled with a high level of ensemble musicianship coupled with mental and corporeal discipline.” Canadian-born percussionist Kiyoshi Nagata, the group’s founding artistic director, has composed and performed taiko-based music for theatre, film, dance and radio. He’s also collaborated with musicians practising many genres of music, including most recently the Toronto Tabla Ensemble. Nagata Shachu’s Blu-ray release Toronto Taiko Tales shows the group in top form. The concert video footage shot in 2016 at Aki Studio Theatre, in Toronto’s core Regent Park neighbourhood, not only captures the group’s usual lofty musicking but also its inventive choreography. In that category I include playful deployment of drumsticks, and intense physicality in performance, all attractively captured in medium shots, closeups and in clear audio. The well-crafted compositions are by Kiyoshi Nagata and associate artistic director Aki Takahashi, who is also the founder of the Japanese folk ensemble ten ten. Takahashi offers a welcome palate cleanser in contrast to Nagata Shachu’s drum-centric repertoire, with a moving rendition of her song Zare Shamisen, which she sings accompanying herself on the shamisen. I also enjoyed the peaceful footage of Toronto’s natural landscape as it passes though the seasons, artfully interspersed throughout the video. It’s a welcome reminder of the rhythms of nature pulsating in the multicultural city we all call home. Andrew Timar What About Wool Wishbags Denielle Bassels Independent DEN001 (reverbnation.com/ deniellebasselsquintet) !! Denielle Bassels is a fresh new voice on the Toronto scene. This is despite the fact that she borrows from some well-established styles like trad jazz and gypsy jazz. Yet her songwriting and singing approach make it all sound rather modern and at times surreal. Bassels’ appealing voice is reminiscent of a few indie pop singers, like Corrine Bailey Rae and Feist, who have had an influence on the latest generation of vocalists. And her solid range and technique serve the tunes well. The arrangements and instrumentation also lend a fun quirkiness: ukulele, percussion, clarinet, horns and violin bounce along through most of the tunes. Bassels’ writing and production partner Mike Mathieson plays a number of the instruments and joins core rhythm players Andy Mac, guitar, Scott Hunter, bass, and Joe Ryan, drums. The songwriting is consistently upbeat throughout, or at least has a veneer of positivity, despite a few thought-provoking lyrics. Spiders Kiss is a 3/4 time, Euro-tinged lament with a je ne regrette rien attitude and Silly Lion seems to be about betrayal, but it’s hard to fathom. The title track has a wacky, stayedtoo-long-at-the-carnival feel to it. Perhaps the best approach to What About Wool Wishbags is to not take the words too literally and simply enjoy the album as a lighthearted lark. Cathy Riches A Cappella 101 Qw4rtz Analekta AN 2 8860 (analekta.com) !! Members of Qw4rtz, Louis Alexandre Beauchemin, François Pothier Bouchard, Philippe Courchesne Leboeuf and François Dubé, began singing together in the boys’ choir of Les Petits Chanteurs de Trois-Rivières and burst fully realized onto the professional stage in 2010. With the release of their debut CD, this remarkably skilled a cappella vocal quartet has presented the listener with an irresistible potpourri of musical motifs, including material from the worlds of jazzypop, alternative/indie, rap as well as their own takes on classic French Chanson. Not since Blossom Dearie’s Blue Stars of Paris has such a superb, Francophone vocal ensemble emerged (a cappella or otherwise). Clearly influenced by groups as diverse as The Four Seasons and Manhattan Transfer as well as musical theatre, these talented artists see no stylistic boundaries and specialize in blurring the lines. Qw4rtz’s two tenors, frequently arranged in unison, effortless contrapuntal commitment and solid, relentless bass lines, lend a dynamism to all of the clever and complex arrangements found here. The 13-track CD kicks off with the bombastic Julie – Les Coocs and segues into the delightful Fais-moi un show de boucane (Give Me a Show of Smoke). Nearly unbearably beautiful are Hymne à l’amour (Hymn to Love), written by the “Little Sparrow” herself, the great Edith Piaf, and her protégé Charles Aznevour’s Emmenez-moi (Take Me). A rollicking and joyful stand-out, Boum boum boum/Elle me dit (Boom Boom Boom/ She Tells Me) is guaranteed to please, as is the emotional and energetic closer, Papaoutai. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Introducing… Hogtown Brass Quintet Independent (hogtownbrass.com) !! This short disc (23 minutes) by the Hogtown Brass Quintet reinforces my enthusiasm from their concert last year at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church’s thewholenote.com June 1, 2017 - September 7, 2017 | 87

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
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Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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