6 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017

  • Text
  • September
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Orchestra
  • Musical
  • October
  • Recording
  • Composer
  • Symphony
  • 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!

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 Thelonious Monk Sam/Saga SRS-1-CD ( !! For Thelonious Monk, the most creative of bop composers and a brilliantly original pianist, life flowed no more smoothly than one of his craggy, knotted, playfully or naggingly disjointed compositions. When director Roger Vadim contracted him to provide a soundtrack for Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960, Monk was experiencing career highs and personal lows, gaining attention and employment while facing drug charges and a nervous breakdown. This two-CD (or two-LP) set issues material from the 1959 soundtrack session for the first time, supplementing it with extensive documentation. Monk really was at his best in the late 50s, increased acceptance leading to regular work, frequent recording and the best sidemen of his career (e.g., John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins). Here it’s the newly arrived tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, Monk’s most convivial partner, a stellar rhythm team of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor and tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen added on some material. The music is alternatively sparkling (the quintet’s Rhythm-a-Ning), profoundly lyrical (solo and quartet versions of Pannonica) and pensively luminous (a solo version of the hymn By and By), a boon to every connoisseur of Monk’s mysteries. That said, this material is less accessible to the Monk newcomer: there are multiple takes and false starts, two edits of the same take, and a 14-minute rehearsal with Monk repeatedly trying to get Taylor to play an awkward drum pattern. There are numerous Riverside recordings available that are much more welcoming. Stuart Broomer Small Town Bill Frisell; Thomas Morgan ECM 2525 !! Bill Frisell has developed a distinctive style, his lines spare and spacious, his sustained electric guitar sound approaching the mass of a pedal steel. He has explored the resonant depths of a variety of roots music (country, blues and rockabilly) as well as creating an original voice in jazz. The complex mix of warm intimacy and refractory cool that Frisell can bring to a performance is amplified in his recent work with Thomas Morgan, whose broad-toned acoustic bass provides both underpinning and reflection to Frisell’s lines. Recorded at New York’s Village Vanguard (the room is both resonant and reverential), Something in the Air New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival KEN WAXMAN After a couple of quiet years the annual Guelph Festival (GJF), September 13 to 17, is newly energized and asserting its role as one of Canada’s most consistent showcases of adventurous music. Another reason for this year’s buzz is that besides the outstanding Canadian and American musicians consistently featured at the GJF, major European improvisers will be on hand as well. Probably the band members most equipped to show off their individual and cumulative talents in different settings are trombonist Ray Anderson and bassist Mark Helias, who both live near New York City, and fellow American, drummer Gerry Hemingway who lives and teaches in Luzern, Switzerland. Together they make up BassDrumBone (BDB), which celebrates its 40th anniversary on September 16 as part of a double bill with Montreal-Vancouver quartet MendHam at the Co-operators Hall of the River Run Centre (RRC). On September 15 Anderson’s Pocket Brass Band will be the closing act at the Market Square Stage. Then, on September 17 at the Guelph Youth Music Centre, Hemingway, in duet with German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn, shares a bill with a solo bass recital by Helias. The two-CD set, The Long Road (Auricle Records AUR 16/17, offers 13 examples of BassDrumBone’s cooperative talent, mostly as a trio, but like a roast improved with seasoning, adding either tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano or pianist Jason Moran on some tracks. Lovano’s expositions, which function with explosive power on BluRay and Bluish, confirm the rhythmic sides of BDB as the saxophonist’s reed vaulting doubles the trombonist’s gutbucket whinnies. Vigorously backed by slap bass and drum rolls, the tunes demonstrate how to swing heartily without abandoning technical skills, and also suggest how Anderson’s rollicking brass ensemble operates. Moran’s targeted keyboard musings help showcase BDB’s other skills as the four dynamically invest Bungle Low and Tone L with subtle colouration, balancing among individual timbral elaboration, as they take turns shadowing each others’ advances. Solidly walking or subtly vibrating throughout, Different Cities confirms how Helias sounds on his own, with the bassist given space to thrust an opulent section of arco expressions on multiple strings into the mix, finally engaging in a dialogue with the trombonist’s vocalized cries. BDB’s ability to disguise itself as a carefree jump band is given full reign on the set’s two extended live tracks as well as At Another Time. Not only does the last allow Anderson to showcase every manner of smeared and slurred tailgate tones, but Hemingway moves upfront with a spectacular display of cymbal clanks and paradiddles, reminiscent of drum masters from pioneers like Baby Dodds to the most modern stylists. A saxophonist undeniably in tune with modern sound experiments is London-based John Butcher, who has partnered Hemingway in the past. He won’t do so at the GJF, although two other instances of his musicianship are featured. On September 15, he’ll perform with Lehn and New York pianist Matthew Shipp at the Co-operators Hall on a bill with Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee’s Film in Music. Then on September 16 at the Guelph Little Theatre, Butcher and FIM members, bassist Torsten Müller and drummer Dylan van der Schyff perform as the Way Out Northwest trio, sharing the stage with Quebec guitarist René Lussier’s MEUH. An expanded variant of Butcher’s interactive and interpretative talent is Anemone – A Wing Dissolved in Light (NoBusiness Records NBLP 105, where the saxophonist is part of the band Anemone joined by bassist Clayton Thomas and drummer Paul Lovens, pianist Frédéric Blondy and trumpeter Peter Evans. Challenging Evans’ ability to attain Maynard Ferguson-like skyscraping notes, Butcher may begin his exposition with emotional cries, but moderates the interaction to harsh slurs and stuttering signs, also connecting to Blondy’s distinctive key jabbing. Meanwhile, Thomas’ string buzzes, and the metal clangs and Mylar echoes from Lovens comfortably carpet the narratives’ bottoms. Une Aile Dissoute dans la Lumiere (Part II) is a more deliberate showcase as the final sequence breaks free from Part I’s swirling cacophony. Brief reductionist solos that include a single stopped piano key, an oboe-like sour reed blat and a wooden drum plop, are emphasized. 82 | September 2017

Small Town explores a breadth of American music within a unifying vision. It opens with the late drummer Paul Motian’s It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago, revealing the harmonic telepathy of which the two are capable, then continues Frisell’s associations with modern jazz royalty with a contrapuntal and lightly boppish treatment of Lee Konitz’s Subconscious Lee. Frisell’s luminous title piece explores multiple dimensions of an American heartland, while its mystery appears in an eerily beautiful rendition of Wildwood Flower, composed by Joseph Philbrick Webster in 1860 and first recorded by the Carter Family in 1928. The breadth of Frisell’s relationship to traditional popular music is further apparent in the cheerfully subdued version of Fats Domino’s What a Party. It might escape recognition, but the concluding Goldfinger won’t. Frisell can shed new light on the most unlikely material. Stuart Broomer Live at A Space 1976 Joseph Bowie; Oliver Lake Sackville SK 2010 ( L/R !! Featuring a masterful series of duets by alto saxophonist/flutist Oliver Lake and trombonist Joseph Bowie, this five-track reissue captures two accomplished improvisers at their most adventurous and celebrates an epoch when Toronto’s reputation as a major haven for experimental music was being established. Although the two would go on to make more accessible sessions with jazz-funk bands like Jump Up and Defunkt, the surprise in hindsight is how accessible some of these sounds actually are. While there are enough extended techniques involving wailing split tones, tongue slaps and percussion plus deep-in-the-throat snorts and guffaws from both horn players, sonic unity is paramount. A track like Orange Butterflies, for instance, may set up opposing flute peeps and brass snorts as if they’re going to recall the unpleasant meeting of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, but these untrammelled tremors eventually cease, replaced by tones that bond the two in lockstep unity. Another strategy, summarily demonstrated on After Assistance, is how one horn produces a solid continuum upon which the other is free to improvise, with the two subsequently switching roles with the coordinated skill of paired ballroom dancers. Bowie’s prestidigitations are most aptly demonstrated on A Space Rontoto, when slide motions are used to taper his usual gutbucket action into a mere sound thread as if strained through a sieve. Meanwhile Lake’s wobbling, lowing and fluttering multiphonic variations on Zaki don’t preclude him cycling back to its theme in tandem with Bowie at the finale. Ken Waxman Finally, hollow reverberations from the drummer, hunt-and-peck keyboard patterns and even to-the-colours bugle-like peeps from the trumpeter combine into a languid exit. Still, a sharp whistle from the saxophonist and a hard chord from the pianist as the coda reference the dissonance that preceded the calm. A pianist who can be tranquil or turbulent in turn is Matthew Shipp, who besides playing with Butcher and Lehn gives his own solo concert at the Co-operators Hall, September 16. Shipp is as potent a stylist in a group setting as he is a soloist, as is shown on This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (ESP-Disk ESP 5011, where the pianist, longtime confrere bassist William Parker, plus Polish saxophonist Mat Walerian, make up the Toxic trio. Anything but toxic in the usual sense, the CD’s five selections are unique, since to engage Parker’s playing of the shakuhachi as well as bass and Walerian’s use of alto saxophone, flute, and bass and soprano clarinet, Shipp debuts on organ as well as piano. The multi-keyboard is only brought out on the final Peace And Respect but like church pews now used in a bistro, it’s removed from the tinge of the chapel. Instead, the organ’s polyphonic upsurge comes in and out of focus to reflect and redefine Walerian’s harsh bass clarinet slurps and Parker’s thumping bass thwacks. Shipp reverts to piano cadences to regularize the track’s processional ending. The four tracks preceding this allow the pianist leeway to emphasize his swinging and straight sides. The tone elaboration and colouration he extracts from the piano on the title tune could easily slip into a Romantic-era concerto, despite being surrounded by solid bass pulses and dramatic runs from Walerian. Shipp’s stridestyle comping eventually nudges all three into a swinging line. In sharp contrast, the low-pitched, metronomic groove that the bassist and pianist create on The Breakfast Club Day 2 has a contemplative gait, but resonates with such effortless swing that Walerian’s light chromatic clarinet flutters could come from a reborn Benny Goodman. One musician never confused with Goodman is Germany’s Peter Brötzmann, who presents a solo woodwinds concert at the Guelph Little Theatre September 13. In the mid-1960s, he created an original outlook that brought free jazz advances and continental sophistication to the music, And Brötzmann is still at the height of his powers, playing a variety of saxophones, clarinets and the Hungarian tárogató. The sonic blending expressed by his small groups have been as influential as Goodman’s trios and quartets. One trio, recorded live on Krakow Nights (Not Two MW-937-2, features canny American trombonist Steve Swell and commanding Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love. Most instructive are sections of Scotopia and the massive Full Spectrum Response which feature instances of Brötzmann’s tárogató solos on the former and tenor saxophone and bass clarinet on the latter. The wooden Magyar horn brings out his emotional nature as he cruises through a selection of mellow tones. Soon enough though, with the others on side, the result is as rough and cathartic as anything else on the disc, with Brötzmann’s tone now nephritic and bellicose, a pattern he repeats when he switches to sour-toned tenor, aided by the drummer’s rolls and pops and the trombonist’s high-pitched colouration. The reedist’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde duality has its most extended showcase on Full Spectrum Response. With an introduction built around nuanced cymbal colouration that radiates in a 360-degree angle from Nilssen-Love and Swell’s plunger cries, Brötzmann’s initial unaccompanied tenor saxophone solo is dramatic, calm and perfectly modulated, exploring every possible reed variation. But once the drummer’s pressurized clunks, plus Swell’s tremolo smears, join him, the saxophonist reacts like James Brown after the comforting cape has been draped around him during the penultimate minutes of his performance. The soul singer then shakes off the cloak to exuberantly continue singing, until the cloak goes on again. Brown again shakes it off, and the pantomime repeats until peak excitement is reached. Here, within seconds of Brötzmann screaming a fervidly wrenching solo on tárogató, he switches to clarinet for a moderato exposition, backed by drum-top scrapes from Nilssen-Love and mellow plunger tones from Swell. Then, like Brown, it appears Brötzmann can’t control himself any longer and he’s soon propelling machinegun-like volleys of altissimo split tones. This routine, taking in the highest levels of glossolalia and the most moderate instances of flutter tonguing continues throughout the track, pinpointing Brötzmann’s stamina and repository of musical ideas. Also featured is a standout drum solo, bending, tapping and clanging every part of the kit without disrupting the proceedings with an aplomb that would have impressed Goodman associate Gene Krupa, plus both staccato forward motion and mellow elaborations from Swell. These Krakow Nights were undoubtedly memorable for the audience and presage what GJF attendees should experience. The music on these discs posits that the festival’s 24th edition could be one of the most dazzling in the festival’s history. September 2017 | 83

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