6 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017

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  • September
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • October
  • Recording
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  • Theatre
In this issue: a look at why musicians experience stage fright, and how to combat it; an inside look at the second Kensington Market Jazz Festival, which zeros in on one of Toronto’s true ‘music villages’; an in-depth interview with Elisa Citterio, new music director of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; and The WholeNote’s guide to TIFF, with suggestions for the 20 most musical films at this year’s festival. These and other stories, in our September 2017 issue of the magazine!

a dominant, demanding

a dominant, demanding father figure? In Whiting’s relaxed, naturalistic yet precise performances the songs feel almost lullabylike, equally timeless and emblematic of the 20th-century avant-garde. By the way, I recommend the Blu-ray version that comes with this release. The visual cues and energy in Whiting’s assured performances bring the Cage works, particularly the two long percussion text scores, alive in full colour. Andrew Timar The Wreck of Former Boundaries Elision Ensemble at 30 HCR/NMC HRC13CD ( !! Celebrating 30 years of engagement with complex and challenging aesthetics, Australia’s Elision ensemble has released The Wreck of Former Boundaries, a live recording featuring their 2016 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival performances of the eponymous work by Aaron Cassidy, and How Forests Think, by Liza Lim. In his bountiful 33-minute work, Cassidy writes remarkable musical situations for Elision’s consummately nimble cast. His diagonal consideration of instrumental colour facilitates their concentration on not just the notes, but continuous timbral flux expressed through idiomatically applied glissandi, pressure variance, embouchure tension and dynamic changes. In the liner notes, perhaps with benefit of hindsight, Cassidy describes the work as a double trumpet concerto, although elsewhere he calls it six stand-alone pieces that can be performed independently. It projects, however, as a fluid stream of restless, stratified solos and duos with infrequent, disjunct episodic interjections from the ensemble. Crispy, familiar electronics pursue contours of similar profile to the instrumental writing, prodigiously applied in the potent latter third of the work. Lim’s How Forests Think reflects on anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s nuanced idea of forest ecologies as intersecting communities and social networks (human and nonhuman). Musical identities share succulent attributes, supporting, absorbing and transferring them across the Chinese sheng and ensemble parts. Whereas Cassidy revels in anxiously winding materials through selfreferential guides, Lim’s understory focuses on a different manner of complexity, nourished by outward-pointing substrata that creep and trail across the work. The result is polyreferential and broad, in vocabulary and scope, with deftly probed textures propagating a vital, bifurcating soundscape. Paul Steenhuisen Penderecki – Double Concerto; Piano Concerto; Trumpet Concerto Jakub Haufa; Marcel Markowski; Szymon Nehring; Aleksander Kobus; Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra; Krzysztof Penderecki Dux Recording Producers DUX 1345 !! What becomes of revolutionaries when, inevitably, with the passage of time, they become members of the establishment? Well, if you were Krzysztof Penderecki, you would be paying a tribute to the past. Now 84, the once-iconoclastic Polish composer, who stunned the musical world with his 1969 opera The Devils of Loudun and charmed it with the 1961, UNESCOprize winning Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima, Penderecki today is more reflective and less innovative, but certainly not any less masterful. Though the Double Concerto references Brahms in its form, the music is firmly in the Bartók corner. Powerful and sinewy melodic lines, especially those of the cello (originally scored for a viola) emanate freshness and the unmistakable delight of a newness of style. This is full-on, shivers-down-thespine stuff, exciting, dangerous and hypnotic. The Piano Concerto and the Concertino for Trumpet are more standard expressions of this musical lion-in-winter, yet still bears his clear signature. All of the performers are very young, including this recently formed orchestra of Polish musicians under the age of 30. Their enthusiasm in performance is contagious, adding yet another dimension to this fine CD. A must for Penderecki fans and a not-at-all-bad introduction to his works for those ten people in the world who do not know him yet. Robert Tomas JAZZ AND IMPROVISED MUSIC Quinsin Nachoff’s Ethereal Trio Quinsin Nachoff; Mark Helias; Dan Weiss Whirlwind Recordings WR4706 ( !! Toronto-born New York resident Quinsin Nachoff has created several projects in which interests in jazz and formal composition overlap, from the harmonic complexity of his Flux to the strings of his Horizons Ensemble. The Ethereal Trio, a more improvisation-oriented group that matches Nachoff’s tenor saxophone with the very distinguished bass work of the veteran Mark Helias (who will perform a solo set at the Guelph Jazz Festival on September 17 at noon) and the propulsive, creative drumming of Dan Weiss, arose from a project with the Penderecki String Quartet that combined the quartet with a jazz trio, encouraging Nachoff to pursue this bare-bones format further. Without a chordal instrument, the trio’s emphasis is rhythmic and melodic with a keen sense of structural interactivity between Nachoff’s compositions and the group’s relatively free improvisations. While Nachoff’s patterns tend more to the serial than the triadic, there’s a certain kinship to the great early trios of saxophonist Sonny Rollins, with an acute rhythmic awareness among the three partners as they shift accents and bounce phrases off one another’s lines. It’s strongest on the hard-edged Subliminal Circularity, but it arises as well in the layered rhythms of Push-Pull Topology. Nachoff’s fondness for traditional string textures is supported here by Helias’ fine arco work, especially on the lyrical Gravitas. The trio is loose without being casual, at once taut and free, and the consistent quality of detailed interplay and invention brings Nachoff’s forceful, inventive tenor playing to the fore. It may be his most satisfying recording to date. Stuart Broomer Christine Jensen – Under the Influence Suite Orchestre National de Jazz Montreal; Christine Jensen Justin Time JTR 8957-2 ( L/R !! Two-time JUNOwinner, saxophonist, composer and conductor Christine Jensen is one of the most gifted, creative and skilled international musicians/ composers of her generation. With her new five-part jazz suite and recording, Montrealbased Jensen has materialized nothing short of a musical triumph. A deeply personal project, this well-produced CD (which was commissioned by l’Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal) is an homage to Jensen’s significant musical influences – creative masters with whom she found a deep, soul connection and who have helped to shape her as an artist and as a human being. These jazz icons include the late Kenny Wheeler, the late Jan Jarczyk, the late John Coltrane, Lee Konitz (with whom Jensen studied extensively) and Wayne Shorter. Jensen (who conducts the ONJM) has also chosen to incorporate the lovely voice of Sienna Dahlen – which in timbre and tone is the perfect complement to the dynamic ONJM and also to the potent music itself (to which Dahlen contributed lyrics). Among the superb sections of this cycle are Part I (For Kenny Wheeler), which begins with Ouverture – a spooky and disarming sequence that opens the door for Starbright, a stunning, breathtaking and heartbreaking opus that segues into an expressionistic and 80 | September 2017

free-flowing vocal and instrumental exploration, which then explodes into a cacophony of heart-pounding brass, a scorching piano solo by genius François Bourassa as well as gorgeous solos/rhythm section work from trumpeter Bill Mahar and drummer Kevin Warren. Also performed to perfection are the lilting, sassy and swinging Sweet Lee (For Lee Konitz) and both compositions written in tribute to Wayne Shorter: Anthem – a spiritual, non-linear, outside of space/time experience – and the joyous, dueling saxophones of Chant. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Second Act Alex Goodman Lyte Records LR040 ( !! It seems that for much of Second Act, Alex Goodman maintains a sort of spectral presence as a guitarist, shadowing the pianist Eden Ladin or saxophonist and EWI player Matt Marantz with liquid single-note lines, creating contrapuntal tête-à-têtes with them. But in each song Goodman does emerge briefly to punch the clock with short, stabbing solos that might end – as with Marantz’s saxophone in Heightened – in a kind of knotted entanglement with the melody before all but disappearing into the shadows of the music again. This, of course, puts the focus back on the compositional ability of Goodman and how his sinuous music sounds when played in an ensemble setting. It’s also refreshing when a disc turns up that hearkens back to unfettered swing the way Second Act does. In a sense it feels like listening to big band music without the large ensemble. This quintet is also augmented by the incredible vocalists Felicity Williams and Alex Samaras. Together the ensemble sounds big even as it loses flutes and strings. This keeps the superbly economical melodies swinging and staying in shape through the spare, yet enhanced aural palettes of guitar, piano, saxophone and voice. The breathless fluttering of guitar on The First Break, tumbling cascades of piano in Losing Cool and burbling warmth of the saxophone on Acrobat all make for high art and high entertainment. And when the two meet – as they do in Second Act – memorability is assured. Raul da Gama Copy Cat Coo Coo Fran Jaré Superfran Records FJ0157 !! Fran Jaré wears a number of hats on her new recording – producer, pianist, organist, composer and vocalist. Having made strong inroads into the genres of R&B, pop and rock (notably as the lead vocalist for the popular Vancouver ensemble Soultrax), Jaré has journeyed back into jazz with some L/R very (dare I say it?) groovy results. The tight, cool and satisfying ensemble is bound together not only by talent and love of music, but also by a jazz-pedigreed gene pool (the executive producer is Jaré’s husband, Brian Disterheft, and features both her JUNO-winning bassist daughter, Brandi Disterheft, and her Grammy-winning sister, Angie Jaree). Additional JUNO-winning instrumentalists include Olaf DeShield on guitar and electric bass, Tom Keenlyside on sax and flute, Buff Allen on drums, Brad Turner on trumpet and also famed percussionist Portinho. The well-chosen material is primarily a mash-up of Jaré’s original compositions, written over a period of time and culled from previous recordings and musical situations – including Soultrax and incarnations of the Fran Jaré Trio/Quartet/Quintet. A deep bow to the incredible Stevie Wonder is also included with Jaré’s slow, smooth and funky take on I Wish. She also pays tribute to the late great, Oliver Nelson with the buoyant Step Right Up. The title track is an infectious, soulful romp, perfectly underscored and punctuated by Jaré’s considerable organ/piano chops and the fine soloing and ensemble playing. On Yeah! Together Again, Jaré’s smokey vocal sound brings to mind Joe Stafford and Julie London in perfect synthesis with Jaré’s own sensual, unique, film noir-infused voice. Her charming scat singing is not only completely musical, but delivered with joy and accuracy. A fine recording! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Music for Solo Tenor Saxophone Paul Newman Somewhere There ( !! Local musician/composer Paul Newman performs his tasteful, thoughtful compositions with care, musicality and colour here. Both works are three tracks each, and explore sound quality, phrasing and mostly gentle melodic movement using contemporary musical tools. Full Circle is immediately attention-grabbing with its opening lengthy bent tones alternating with long silent spaces, allowing the listener time to reflect on the sound. The work leads to a steady almost slow walking pace with clear tones magically performed. The slightly faster second movement takes on a two-instrument conversational feel between high and low tones. The atonal sound of the third section features faster interval leaps and extended technique. Excitement builds with the short staccato repeated notes and melodies ending with minimalistic flavoured long tones. In As Long As We Remain (for Ken Aldcroft and Braz King), Newman illustrates more of his contemporary, experimental musical side. The work also opens with longer lyrical notes and phrases, leading to a section of high and low tricky pitch jumps. Especially exciting is the final movement. Fluctuating colours, timbres and similar jumps make for a more atonal listening adventure, ending with a glorious, loooong held tone. This solo music experience is so gratifying due to Newman’s confident compositional and performance virtuosity, along with a clear production that captures all his musical subtleties. This is brilliant reflective experimental music driving along a mainstream highway of sound. Tiina Kiik Ugly Beauty Kadi Vija; Lucas Dann Texicalli !! Kadi Vija and Lucas Dann – a Finnish musician who calls herself a “vocal instrumentalist” and a Canadian pianist of considerable pedigree – might seem like strange bedfellows but in the music of Thelonious Monk on Ugly Beauty, the very oddness of the partnership gives the album’s title a distinctly Monkish meaning. The album takes its name from the only waltz among Monk’s compositions and it is appropriately kicked off by a relatively rarely played Gallop’s Gallop, which, in turn, establishes the extraordinary relationship between these two musicians. For from the very first bars it becomes clear that something astonishingly brilliant is happening here. Both Vija and Dann ignite Monk’s music operating as a partnership of equals, not as vocalist and piano accompanist. Their relationship recalls the enduring one between Monk and his ubiquitous tenor saxophonist, Charlie Rouse, lending credence to Vija’s “vocal instrumentalist” persona. In fact, the vocalist melds Rouse in with gorgeous echoes of the great American vocal gymnast, Lauren Newton, who shone with the iconic Vienna Art Orchestra. Meanwhile Dann negotiates the music with magnificent control of fingerwork in these most densely textured and substantially road-tested songs, keeping it close to Monk while managing to ring in the changes. Consider the two wondrous takes on Bemsha Swing. The haunting compositions supply this duo’s usual range of ear-worm music – dancing melodies, chopped rhythms and gorgeous harmonies – with the added element of unusual textures. Raul da Gama September 2017 | 81

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