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Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • Performing
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
In this issue: composer Nicole Lizée talks about her love for analogue equipment, and the music that “glitching” evokes; Richard Rose, artistic director at the Tarragon Theatre, gives us insights into their a rock-and-roll Hamlet, now entering production; Toronto prepares for a mini-revival of Schoenberg’s music, with three upcoming shows at New Music Concerts; and the local music theatre community remembers and celebrates the life and work of Mi’kmaq playwright and performer Cathy Elliott . These and other stories, in our double-issue December/January edition of the magazine.

Cervini and company’s

Cervini and company’s brand-new offering includes five original pieces (two composed by Cervini – who also acts as producer here), two pop covers and one vintage Tin-Pan- Alley-era jazz standard. The project is also masterfully recorded by John “Beetle” Bailey, capturing all of the dynamism and excitement of a live performance, and mixed on the hot side, with a definite New York City sensibility. Farrugia is without question one of the most extraordinarily talented young jazz pianist/composers on the scene today, and his composition The Libertine is a perfect opener for REV. The tune kicks things off with a tasty drum intro from Cervini, followed by seamless section work and non-Euclidean penetrating lines, rife with dynamics and sonic colours, as well as a complex and percussive piano solo by Farrugia and burning tenor work from Frahm. Another standout is Cervini’s Granada Bus, which strives to capture the essence of Spain, and shines with a stirring solo on soprano from Davidson. Other strong contributions include the fullthrottle, post-bop title track, Radiohead’s The Daily Mail, featuring a stellar bass solo from Loomis, and the swinging and soulful Med Flory-ish Pennies From Heaven. Truly something for everyone! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Concert note: Turboprop celebrates the release of REV with two performance at The Rex, January 11 and 12. The Greatest Invention Harley Card Independent DYM003 ( Hypnagogia Polis Simon Legault; Jules Payette; Andrew Boudreau; Adrian Vedady; Louis-Vincent Hamel Effendi Records FND146 ( !! Two new and strikingly different albums by Canadian jazz guitarists demonstrate the health and diversity of that instrument in this country. Harley Card has been active in the Toronto music scene since 2003 as a sideman, composer, teacher and bandleader. The Greatest Invention is the third album under his own name and features Card on guitar with Jon Maharaj (bass), Matt Newton (piano), David French (saxophone) and Ethan Ardelli (drums). The “invention” is the bicycle and the album opens with the title tune, containing a repeating riff reminiscent of spinning gears or wheels. The orchestration is sophisticated, with Card’s guitar and French’s resonant tenor saxophone weaving throughout most of the piece, sometimes in harmony, other times with alternating melodies while the drums and piano punctuate the piece with their own counterpoint. This initial song sets the tone for the album, which highlights Card’s compositional skills. The song is four and a half minutes but the only solo (guitar) lasts 90 seconds; the rest is intricate ensemble playing. Card’s liner notes add insight to our listening and he mentions studying with Phil Nimmons, an influence that is heard throughout. It is a treat to listen to a jazz album that develops compositional and ensemble ideas at length rather than the more typical head/solo(s)/head structure. The most ambitious piece is The Shadows of Shea Pines, which is almost nine minutes with three movements. It begins with a slow saxophone and acoustic guitar ballad (with a touch of Epistrophy) then moves into smooth jazz and finishes with a melodic bossa novainspired section. Hypnagogia Polis is Montreal guitarist Simon Legault’s third album and the first with a quintet. Hypnogogia is the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep and many of the songs have a hypnotic, luminescent quality. The opening Aethereal Spheres begins with a wickedly tight ostinato pattern set up by the piano (Andrew Boudreau) and bass (Adrian Vedady). Then the saxophone (Jules Payette) and guitar enter with a contrapuntal unison melody while Louis- Vincent Hamel’s drums underpin the action. This sophisticated playfulness permeates the album. Euphemized Blues has a groovy lilting melody which loops around several times before Legault takes off on one of his lyrical and swirling solos. Legault’s album benefits from the virtuosity of the soloists. The tunes are inventive and reminiscent of Metheny or Scofield, but the highlights are the freewheeling improvisations, particularly with Legault’s fleet lines and Payette’s wailing and lyrical sax. Boudreau adds some fine piano work as well and it all makes for a clever and sophisticated disc. Ted Parkinson Concert note: The Alex Samaras Trio (with Harley Card and Jon Maharaj) performs at The Old Mill on December 21. Alleviation Mikkel Ploug Songlines SGL 1623-2 ( !! Mikkel Ploug is a Danish guitarist who works regularly with his own jazz groups as well as Equilibrium, a trio with singer Sissel Vera Pettersen and clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst, a fascinating improvising chamber group that has found a home with Vancouver’s Songlines label. This solo acoustic guitar disc continues Ploug’s association with the label. Both the solo and acoustic aspects are departures for Ploug, who recounts his discovery and acquisition of a particularly apt mid-40s Gibson Bannerhead guitar, a steel-string, mahogany-bodied, flat top more apt to supply chorded accompaniments to a folk singer. Instead it’s inspired some of the most beautiful and unexpected solo guitar music one might wish to hear. On one level it’s distinguished by Ploug’s investment in its special sound store, its fret clatter and squeaks, the kind of string noise some seek to surmount and that others love. Its resonance is even more appealing, with Ploug using finger picking on most pieces, exploring the instrument’s warm account of triads and seventh chords then extending the spectrum to create dense weaves of contrasting harmonic languages, sometimes beginning a phrase in one world and ending in another. One of the most lustrous is Couleurs d’Olivier, a Messiaen inspiration in which diatonic scales ascend into dense chromaticism; another is Circle Wind, a cycling piece inspired by Steve Reich that creates an added dimension with metallic fret noise. This is consistently engaging music, bridging many genres. Stuart Broomer Inroads Gordon Grdina Quartet Songlines SGL 1623-2 ( ! ! Since his 2006 debut, Think Like the Waves with jazz greats Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina has pursued multiple musical paths, setting his guitar amidst his jazz-based ensembles, the classically influenced third stream music of the East Van Strings or Dan Mangan’s rock band, while concurrently exploring the oud, a Middle Eastern lute, in both traditional and contemporary applications. Inroads summarizes and synthesizes that decade of exploration, while presenting Grdina in a stellar group of New York-based musicians: Oscar Noriega on alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet; Russ Lossing on piano and electric piano; and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. Grdina’s disparate influences here range through Béla Bartók, the rock band Soundgarden and free jazz, while his compositions pass through divergent moods, densities and methodologies. The opening Giggles is limpidly beautiful unaccompanied piano, while Not Sure is chameleon-like, moving from rapid-fire guitar aggression through lyrical piano and alto saxophone passages 84 | December 2017 / January 2018

and then on to thrashing drums and howling saxophone, presenting many of Grdina’s elements in a single piece. Some of the most affecting pieces are also models of brevity. Kite Flight is a tantalizing explosion of lower register guitar, raucous bass clarinet and elemental percussion, while Semantics, a guitar/clarinet duet, is subtly evanescent. That same delicacy informs the longer Fragments in its blend of piano and oud, while contrasting Middle Eastern elements energize Apocalympics. It’s a fascinating program in which Grdina takes his materials in very different directions. Stuart Broomer Intersections Emie R Roussel Trio Effendi Records FND148 ( !! It is quite impossible not to be seduced by the cultivated and masterful pianism of Emie R Roussel, whose music on Intersections is patently expansive and at times a veritable masterclass in how to build assiduous climaxes, how to intelligently scale one’s dynamics and how to balance the music’s massive textures in sonorously judicious proportions. Her music is vivid. Each piece is a unique narrative. Musical character is well rounded and each piece is always fully developed before its natural denouement announces a natural demise. On three occasions the trio is expanded into a quartet and on each resulting work the addition of another musician – whether the vocalist on Away, the trumpeter on De Tadoussac à Auckland or the bassist on Tout le monde ensemble – is timely and perfectly placed. It’s surely an indication that the ideas and the material dictate the direction that the music should take. Rhythm is also an essential tool throughout and Roussel depends greatly on her left hand bass lines, together with the flights of fancy by her drummer, Dominic Cloutier and bassist, Nicolas Bédard, as a means of communicating ideas as well as shaping the structure of each piece. Each piece also has its own unique charisma, and flowing from this each gathers momentum, swinging to its climax with the wind of melody and harmony under its proverbial wings. All of this yields a magical and quite unforgettable album from a pianist of whom much is expected in the future. Raul da Gama The Vancouver Concert John Stetch & Vulneraville Independent ( !! Splitting his time between New York and British Columbia, Edmonton-born pianist John Stetch’s recent Vancouver concert was a rare opportunity to display locally the contiguous rapport he’s developed with his Big Apple cohort of tenor saxophonist Steve Kortyka, bassist Ben Tiberio and drummer Philippe Lemm, collectively called Vulneraville. Four-fifths of the disc is made up of Stetch’s compositions, which mix the rigour of notated pieces with jazz’s dramatic timbral fluctuations. This is particularly apparent on Rondeau, related to a two-part Renaissance form with one part of the structure set to one musical line and the second to another. Stetch’s extravagant keyboard technique easily adapts the mode, especially in the second section when his emphasis on the piano’s higherpitched dynamics is furthered by Kortyka’s thickened obbligatos and increasingly powerful crunches from Lemm. It’s these sorts of high-quality themes and variations that inform the pianist’s other tunes, with Oscar’s Blue-Green Algebra, another example. Mixing church-like processional motifs with chunks of pure keyboard swing, he suggests Oscar Peterson’s hefty approach to the piano. Oddly enough though, Stetch ends the concert with a straight-ahead version of the standard Things Ain’t What They Used to Be. While the performance exudes romping excitement, with ample space for scorching breaks from each quartet member – even Tiberio, who is buried in the mix elsewhere – the choice is unfortunate. Things have changed as Stretch’s compositions and Vulneraville’s playing demonstrate. A less straight-ahead treatment would have been a better choice to affirm the title of the track. Ken Waxman Contumbao Hilario Durán Alma Records ACD92272 ( !! Passionate, innovative, expressive, dynamic, evocative, sophisticated, genius – superlatives consistently used to describe the towering musicality and virtuosity that is pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Hilario Durán. Born in Havana, Cuba and based in Toronto for the past 20 years, Durán has been wowing the world with his creative approach to Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, one breathtaking concert after another. Contumbao is a project that literally has brought Durán back to his Cuban roots. Recorded at Havana’s legendary EGREM studios (whose storied roster includes Orquesta Aragón, Arturo Sandoval, Chucho Valdés and the Buena Vista Social Club, and where Durán had recorded hundreds of sessions), it was Durán’s dream to get back What we're listening to this month: The Operatic Pianist, volume II Andrew Wright A rich collection of transcriptions of themes and fantasies from the opera, following the highly praised first album. Poems and Dreams Rebecca Jeffreys Rebecca Jeffreys and Alexander Timofeev present a collection of original works for flute and piano, exploring the new sounds of living composers. Portrait: Max Richter Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà One of Canada's greatest violinists performs works by influential post-minimalist composer Max Richter with her wonderful string orchestra La Pietà. Sublime! Rev Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop Featuring Tara Davidson, Joel Frahm, William Carn, Adrean Farrugia, Dan Loomis and Ernesto Cervini "A shoot-the-lights-out blast of a listen" Downbeat Magazine December 2017 / January 2018 | 85

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