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Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • November
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Orchestra
  • Bloor
In this issue: conversations (of one kind or another) galore! Daniela Nardi on taking the reins at "best-kept secret" venue, 918 Bathurst; composer Jeff Ryan on his "Afghanistan" Requiem for a Generation" partnership with war poet, Susan Steele; lutenist Ben Stein on seventeenth century jazz; collaborative pianist Philip Chiu on going solo; Barbara Hannigan on her upcoming Viennese "Second School" recital at Koerner; Tina Pearson on Pauline Oliveros; and as always a whole lot more!

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on trying to find a connection to the model work, and came up with a brilliant, jazzy number. It, Parish Ode (attention anagram lovers), by Liduino Pitombeira of Brazil, and The Three Alcids by Melody Eötvös are my favourites. Max Christie New Discoveries Cavell Trio Blue Griffin Records BGR447 (bluegriffin.com) !! A trio named for a heroic WW1 nurse, or for the mountain named for Edith Cavell, I’m not sure which, has compiled more than their share of recordings of new works and released them on this disc. Sharing five reeds between them, they also share a deft rhythmic sense and more-than-decent pitch; nor is this surprising, as they work together as section mates of the Tuscaloosa Symphony. The material is charming and spunky, matched by solid and able instrumental performances by Shelly Myers (oboe), Osiris Molina (clarinet) and Jenny Mann (bassoon). They are at their best in the more challenging works, the opening track Devil Winds by Greg Simon, Ron Wray’s Trail Mix and Trois Pièces by Jeanine Rueff. Much of the other material suffers from an amiable sameness, exacerbated by unremitting reediness. The virtue of blend becomes somewhat a cloying sin over the course of this remarkably large collection. It is as though the composers who interest the group all choose similar movement durations, and stick to conventional sequences of mood and tempi. Or perhaps the group has developed a sort of signature set of tempi for slow, medium and fast. Or maybe there is simply too ample a range of pieces featuring this same group and too narrow a stylistic range of composers presented for it to be something to listen to straight through. Carping aside, the playing is consistently good: their blend, pitch and rhythmic unity serve the composers well. The disc provides a resource for other trios who might want to pick and choose among the material presented. Max Christie Antique Violences: Music of John Mackey Michigan State University Wind Symphony; Kevin Sedatoale Blue Griffin Records BGR449 (bluegriffin.com) !! John Mackey (b.1973) is a much-commissioned American composer. On this disc the vocal writing and instrumentation of Songs for the End of the World (2015), written for the outstanding soprano Lindsay Kesselman, is appealing. It vividly re-imagines part of the Odyssey from the point of view of Kalypso on her island. Mackey’s setting of A.E. Jacques‘s text reflects her weariness from isolation, leaving room for Kesselman’s rich voice to grow vocally throughout the performance. In the second movement Kalypso recalls Odysseus washing up on shore after his shipwreck and, in Lydian mode phrases extending into Kesselman’s radiant top range, her healing of him and the love they developed. Bright harp, vibraphone and piano tones add lustre. But after seven years Odysseus leaves for Ithaca where Penelope awaits. The third movement’s title At Sea indicates Kalypso’s memory-haunted despair, captured in Kesselman’s mournful tone backed by an evanescent harp. Antique Violences (2017), a four-movement trumpet concerto premiered with panache by Justin Emerich, evokes and questions mass violence throughout history. While admiring the composer’s wind symphony mastery and idiomatic trumpet part, I question whether the work realizes its stated musical ideas. According to program notes for the second movement “The music begins in a decadent French Baroque style, then unravels its shimmering mask to reveal the barbarism beneath.” But to me it is poor musical pastiche, lacking compensating artistic value. Asphalt Cocktail (2009) is a high-class car chase, with the Michigan State University Wind Symphony conducted by Kevin L. Sedatole attaining peak form. Roger Knox JAZZ AND IMPROVISED The Brightest Minute Andrew Scott Quartet Cellar Live CL022817 (cellarlive.com) !! Skilled guitarist, composer, arranger and highly respected jazz educator Andrew Scott has just released his new Quartet CD under the fine auspices of the internationally noted jazz label Cellar Live. Co-produced by Scott and pianist Jake Wilkinson (who also engineered), the CD features eight tasty original, contemporary jazz compositions by Scott, as well as a fine lineup of players including Scott on guitar, Wilkinson on piano, Jon Meyer on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums. Kicking things off is My Ears Can’t Hear Your Voice. Scott’s swinging, soulful, full-bodied guitar sound brings to mind elements of Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis and Grant Green. Combine that with a tight, grooving, acoustic quartet, propelled by the jaunty, well-written material and Scott’s facile soloing, and you have a dynamic jazz track. Wilkinson’s rhythmic and emotional piano style is clearly featured here, and is reminiscent of a young Hampton Hawes. A highlight of the recording (and in contrast to the rest of the high-octane tracks) is the thoroughly gorgeous ballad For Marilyn, dedicated to Scott’s late mother, Marilyn Elizabeth Scott, who died in 2016. Scott is capable of such direct communication through his music that one can easily feel the love that inspired this piece. Also of note is the title tune – a high-intensity, New York-ish cooker that features not only the musical tightness of the ensemble, but also the high level of unspoken communication between the band members. A final favourite is Dreamin’ – rendered with an almost Basielike simplicity and Scott’s perfect, rhythmic comping and in-the-pocket soloing. Easily one of the best small jazz group recordings of the year. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Grey Mirror Jamie Reynolds Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 528 (freshsoundrecords.com) ! ! Canadian-born and New York Citybased jazz pianist Jamie Reynolds has just released a challenging and deeply moving recording, featuring himself on acoustic piano and Wurlitzer as well as special guests Matthew Stevens on guitar (who also served as co-producer), Orlando LeFleming on acoustic and electric bass and Eric Doob on drums. Other key players on this project are the noted brass quartet, the Westerlies, featuring Andy Clauson and Willem de Koch on trombones, and Zubin Hensler and Riley Mulherkar on trumpets. In the planning stages Reynolds determined that in order to achieve the artistic expression, depth and meaning that he was looking for, he would arrange most of his 14 original compositions on the CD to be played in two diverse ways – by his trio plus Stevens and also by a brass quartet… thereby illustrating in a very real way, the constant, and often distorted and contradictory mirror images of nature. The opening track, The Earliest Ending, is first expressed as a brief intro of stunning, warm and moving brass lines, and later as an almost Satie-like piano solo which seamlessly melds into sensual, lush guitar lines. The same juxtaposition occurs with Small Worlds, a hard-driving, face-melting guitar-centric 78 | November 2017 thewholenote.com

quartet take, followed later in the program by a smooth and beautiful brass arrangement of the same composition. Other superb tracks include the evocative title track, which features excellent solos from the quartet and the stirring Good Help, replete with the distinctive, percussive sound of the Wurlitzer electric piano as well as concise and solid bass work from LeFleming. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Slightly Higher in Canada Kite Trio Sunset Hill Music SHM-021703 (kitetrio.com) !! With their third release, this fine Montreal-based jazz trio has pushed past the boundaries of contemporary jazz and into a zone of pure expression and freedom. Produced by Dave King (The Bad Plus), the recording is both raw and experimental. Of the 12 explorations here, half are composed by the trio, and half by the talented individual members of the ensemble, which include Eric Couture- Telmosse on guitar, Paul Van Dyk on bass and Eric Dew on drums, synthesizer and banjo. On the opening track, Pidgin, the ensemble creeps in with a subtle, and then an insistent, guitar-defined rhythm and melody. The seemingly simple becomes complex as the composition dis-assembles into molecular form and re-assembles into kinesthetic harmonic and percussive exultation. The next track up is Paul Van Dyk’s Estranged – a solemn solo journey to the netherworld of the acoustic bass, where dark double-stops transport the listener deep into the chasm of the bass clef. The appealing That Good Old Feeling features the trio in an energetic and joyous light. Bombastic and masterful drum and guitar work as well as solid, innovative bass lines (arco and pizzicato) and some wellplaced banjo embellishments define this fine arrangement. The dynamic title track establishes a complex pulse of opposition and contrast, while lyrical sections seductively lure the listener into a thrilling guitar-infused realm of vibrancy, rife with the goose-bump raising excitement of possible danger. Another standout is Milkman, which represents the perfect integration of rock and free jazz sensibilities, and also features more superb Richter-scale musicianship from the trio a well as intriguing synthesizer sequences. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Sometimes Y Lina Allemano Four Lumo Records 2017-7 Squish It! Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot Lumo Records 2017-8 (linaallemano.com) !! Trumpeter Lina Allemano has been playing in Toronto for two decades, becoming a central figure among the city’s more creative musicians and developing enduring musical associations that tip over into a variety of bands. In recent years, Allemano has been splitting her time between Toronto and Berlin, where her musical life includes work with improvising ensembles from duos to the Berlin Improvisers Orchestra as well as studies with Axel Dörner, whose exploration of extended techniques has given the trumpet new life. On the home front, Allemano is releasing work by her two ongoing Toronto bands, each CD testifying to the virtues of longstanding partnerships combined with questing musical minds. The Lina Allemano Four first recorded in 2003 and the current lineup has been in place since 2006, with alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. The group has apparent roots in classic free jazz ensembles like the Ornette Coleman Quartet, with similar emphasis on the leader’s compositions and an almost stark principle of dialogue consistently informing the music. There’s a frequent emphasis on speech patterns in Allemano’s compositions, sometimes consisting of short, emphatic truncated phrases, and their realizations here are just as conversational, with West consistently adding supportive counterlines to Allemano’s solos and the trumpeter returning the favour. Kanada, a high point, ends with an extended group dialogue that grows naturally from Downing’s arco lead. Allemano first assembled Titanium Riot in 2013 and released the group’s debut Kiss the Brain a year later. Including Ryan Driver on analogue synthesizer, Rob Clutton on electric bass and Nick Fraser on drums, the group, devoted to free collective improvisation, undoubtedly benefits from the years working together in different contexts. The 2017 recording Squish It! is a dramatic continuation of the process. In this context, Allemano combines a distilled and pointed lyricism with striking timbral explorations to provide the music with an essential focus. It’s evident in the opening moments of the title track as she concentrates on long tones and a sound that’s a striking combination of subtle muting and the light buzz of air through the horn, the effect suggesting more than one trumpet. The quartet’s close listening and attention to texture consistently create an almost orchestral feel. Allemano’s focused concentration on sonority dovetails with Clutton’s rich sustained bass tones and mobile lines, Fraser’s shifting, energizing patterns and Driver’s creative mix of environmental, vintage cartoon and sci-fi sounds. The results range from the playful to the genuinely mysterious. While the methodologies of Allemano’s two quartets differ, the groups share a collective passion for creative interaction as well as admirable results. Stuart Broomer Concert Note: The official double release party takes place at the Tranzac on Tuesday, November 28. Thoughtful Fun Heillig Manoeuvre Independent HM2017 (heilligman.com) ! ! Canada’s onetime boy wonder of neo-mainstream, Henry Heillig, has now, unbelievably, spent over 30 years ploughing his fertile furrow across the continent and elsewhere with the Heillig Manoeuvre, among other well-known ensembles. With Thoughtful Fun, the Manoeuvre’s sixth album, the bassist continues to entertain and dazzle in his virtuoso playing together with the extraordinary musicianship of other members of this ensemble. Every piece here is played by Heillig with a languid ease, each rhythmic variation following the other, quietly inexorabe, his sumptuous bass sound brilliantly caught in this recording. There is an unhurried quality to his approach, a lived-in character to his phrase-making that is very engaging; and while it might lack the fire and brimstone of youth, it is more than compensated for by the well-honed values of experience. Stacie McGregor on piano and organ, Charlie Cooley on drums and Alison Young on saxophones also bring their own exceptional musicianship to the eight songs on this disc. Their own playing puts a special spotlight on these beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness, each informed by lovingly caressed phrases at every turn. Vocalist Alex Tait not only sings on Extreme Strolling and El Niño, but has also written poetic lyrics for the latter song. She too is completely attuned to the vision of the Heillig Manoeuvre. Hers is a voice whose mellifluous timbre beguiles and swings in the spacious arrangements of both songs. Raul da Gama thewholenote.com November 2017 | 79

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

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