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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.

there and play with some

there and play with some of his favourite musical collaborators, including two original bandmates from his 1990s band, Perspectiva: guitarist Jorge Luis Valdés (“Chicoy”) and bassist Jorge Reyes. Contumbao is a heartfelt homage to Cuba’s rich, musical history. Indeed, Durán dedicates his album of new compositions to Cuban music and its many musical styles “whose music and rhythms run through my veins.” This is apparent from the pulsating rhythms of the title track, and the spirited rumbas, El Tahonero and Rumba de Cajón, to the poignant Parque 527 – Durán’s former Havana address – and the exhilarating Duo Influenciado, performed with his friend and champion, the aforementioned Cuban piano great, Chucho Valdés. All the superlatives in the world can’t do justice to the experience of listening to Durán and his stellar cast of musical compatriots. In fact, Contumbao may leave you speechless! Sharna Searle Jondo Joshua Rager Nonet Bent River Records BRR-201702 ( !! With his highly alluring nonet recording entitled Jondo, pianist Josh Rager enters a field crowded with stellar performances by pianists. However, his multi-layered idiomatic compositions and their memorable execution set him somewhat apart from the rest of the tribe. The repertoire may be named after the rhythmically rich and mysterious Jondo, but the album derives most of its richness from the opening, extended work, the Prodigal Son Suite. It is a work that is by turns poised, polished, intimate and exuberant. Rager – with his lustrous pianism – leads an ensemble that works like a welloiled machine, playing his compositions with authority and élan and doing a remarkable job of getting under Rager’s sonic skin. For his part the pianist swings with palpable enjoyment and as in the way he makes his trills into mischievous flourishes – especially on songs such as Child’s Play and 3 Legged Dog – as well as in the rich variety of articulation and dynamic gradation throughout the rest of the recording. The pacing of his Zen-like piece, The Master Waits, and the tricky movements of The Inside Track, reveal Rager to be both a writer and pianist of distinct personality, ever sensitive and careful never to become overbearing. In the end, how one will react to this recording will largely depend on one’s taste for music that emerges from a large tonal palette. To that end, everything that the Joshua Rager Nonet serves up on Jondo is brimful with infectious delight and enjoyment. Raul da Gama Thank You for Listening The Joe Bowden Project Independent ( !! As a young teenager, I was taught to repeat the phrase “thank you for listening” when taking a post-performance bow. Joe Bowden should feel free to repeat this phrase over and over as he deserves endless praise and respect for his brilliant work as composer, drummer, arranger and bandleader in his latest release. Originally from Halifax, Bowden moved to Toronto in the early 1980s where he studied at Humber College and was musically inspired by listening to and working with many jazz musicians. His music here is driven by a mature understanding of jazz style, rhythms, and awe-inspiring musicianship. Bowden’s ten musicians play with a deep respect for his music and artistry. Mingus is an upbeat toe-tapping tradition-flavoured tune with a locked-in groove between the drums and Rich Brown’s bass. I’m Here Again is a slower quasi-ballad, featuring Michael Occhipinti’s modernistic guitar solos and Manuel Valera’s chromatic runs and intervals on piano. Devil Five lives up to its title, featuring a wide interval, almost minimalistic repeating bass line, zippy piano runs and Bowden’s virtuosic drum solos. Nice change of pace with FSC (Funky Soul Calypso), a fun get-up-and-dance tune featuring Joy Lapps- Lewis’ steel pan artistry. Bowden writes on the CD jacket “Pursuit of Happiness, is it reality or a dream?” Like the track of the same name, the reflection, improvisations and grooves make this a dreamy musical reality! Tiina Kiik You’re Gonna Hear From Me Mary-Catherine Pazzano Glorious Feeling Records !! On her debut release, elegant chanteuse Mary- Catherine Pazzano has not only shown exceptional good taste in presenting 12 fine compositions from musical theatre, film and the Great American Songbook, but she has also conscripted a superb lineup of musical collaborators, including Don Buchanan on piano (also co-producer), Jason Hunter on saxophones, Pat Collins on bass and Steve James on drums. Arranged and produced by Pazzano, she has selectively dipped into the catalogues of venerable composers such as Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, Harry Warren, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer as well as contemporary artists, Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel. First up is the stirring (and rarely performed) title track, written for the cult film Inside Daisy Clover starring Natalie Wood. Pazzano shines throughout with energy and luscious tone, as she soars with her quartet. Buchanan and Pazzano have included one well-written original composition, A Simple Conversation – which has the potential to become a contemporary jazz standard. Another standout is Mancini and Mercer’s Charade, from the hit movie of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn. Haunting and languid, this tune is set as perfectly as a Tiffany solitaire – with a manyfaceted voice/bass section in front, followed by an up-tempo sequence and fine bass solo from Collins. Pazzano possesses a gorgeous, classically trained contralto voice capable of projecting the full gamut of emotions, as well as an uncanny skill with rendering the lyrics of current music, jazz standards and show tunes. A fine opening salvo! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Concert notes: Mary-Catherine Pazzano has a number of upcoming performances in the GTA: December 1 at the Jazz Room in Waterloo with the Penderecki String Quartet, Joni NehRita and the New Vibes Quintet; January 25 at Jazz Bistro in Toronto with Don Buchanan, piano, Pat Collins, bass, and Steve James, drums; and March 9 as part of Women Music Revolutionaries at the Registry Theatre, Kitchener. Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole Ori Dagan Independent ODCD03 ( Nat “King” Cole & Me Gregory Porter Blue Note 5791468 ! ! Nat King Cole had an incredibly prolific recording career, producing an astounding 30 albums, despite his early death at age 45. He was a pop artist as much as a jazz singer and piano player, and he was much loved for his velvety voice and gentlemanly demeanour. So it’s no surprise that this month we have not one, but two tribute albums to the legendary musician. Toronto singer Ori Dagan, known for his scat-singing talents, inventiveness and lighthearted tune choices (check out his Super Mario medley on YouTube!), is true to form on Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole. With Mark Kieswetter, Nathan Hiltz, Ross McIntyre and Mark Kelso accompanying, we’re treated to familiar Cole songs (Nature Boy) and a few lesser known (Lillette), as well 86 | December 2017 / January 2018

as some original compositions inspired by Cole’s music and life. American souljazz singer Gregory Porter has come out with a tender tribute to his boyhood musical hero. With the 80-piece London Studio Orchestra – masterfully arranged by Vince Mendoza – featured on most of the tracks, Nat “King” Cole & Me is big, string-laden and lush. Porter’s warm voice is similar in tone to Cole’s but he doesn’t attempt to imitate. His straight, heartfelt delivery allows the lyrics to speak for themselves. Many of the big hits are covered including Mona Lisa and L-O-V-E, and all the emotional stops are pulled out on Smile. These two albums are so different in style that a Cole fan could do well by adding both to their collection. Cathy Riches Swinging on a Star Tardo Hammer Trio Cellar Live CL110717 ( !! To play bebop, one needs to deal with two competing impulses: master the instrument – amass the fluency required to float at heightened tempi, navigate harmonic complexities and execute ornamented lines that are part of this music’s tradition – and utilize a relaxed phraseology that is anything but frenetic and that comes across as “not trying too hard.” No doubt, to play with the sort of authenticity that stellar musicians Tardo Hammer, Lee Hudson and Steve Williams bring to Hammer’s Swinging On A Star is difficult. But to listeners, the effort is hidden, the inventive spirit of musical collaboration and taste displayed. In the spirit of disclosure, I, as guitarist and occasional liner-note writer, am affiliated with Cellar Live, the label on which Hammer’s disc is released. Nonetheless, as an objective jazz fan, I am routinely impressed by their expanding catalogue of great releases of which Swinging On A Star is no exception. Drinking from the well of Bud Powell, Barry Harris and Thelonious Monk, Hammer and company offer an auditory snapshot of a blue-chip jazz trio on any given night. Yes, there are arrangements and unique repertoire; however, this recording fits comfortably within the tradition of blowing sessions, wherein beauty is revealed through improvisatory extrapolations that spin forward when three masters come together in a comfortable listening environment. Overall, a swinging recording that marries beautiful songs, improvisatory excellence and, as a bonus, insightful liner notes by Morgan Childs. Andrew Scott Metamorphosis LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst Clean Feed CF433 CD ( !! Metamorphosis is true to its title only if the term includes transmogrifying one way and subsequently taking a completely opposite form, as this Canadian/ Belgian foursome does on this CD. Initially on Metamorphosis I, it appears that the brassy emphasis from Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and pressurized flutters from Belgian bass clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst are going to be mere bagatelles to the polyrhythmic undulations from Portuguese keyboardist Gonçalo Almeida, which seem to subsume all other timbres into a crackling electronic wash. But not only is there soon space for brass and reed counterpoint, once the sounds flow into Metamorphosis II, the pulsating tick-tock of Canadian drummer Greg Smith kicks into gear and is joined by string plucks from Almeida, who has switched to double bass, an expansion creating a powerful acoustic jazz trope. This movement from electronic to acoustic continues throughout the CD, through faultless changes of pitch and tempo. Especially striking is how Badenhorst and Silva appear to be going their separate ways, examining extended techniques, involving, for instance, contralto hollow tones from the clarinetist and billowing plunger excursions from the trumpeter, only to interlock onto a series of connective riffs in the nick of time. Officially Badenhorst is still a guest of the LAMA trio, but it’s evident that the four have evolved a strategy that gives everyone a chance at textural exploration as a notable group sound is produced. Ken Waxman Somewhere Sacred Chris Wallace’s Many Names GB Records ( !! Jazz musician/ drummer/composer Chris Wallace hails from Regina, but his varied career has seen him working in Europe, the United States and Canada, residing/ working in Edinburgh, Scotland from 2002 to 2013 when he moved to Toronto. So many locales and musical experiences, along with his compositional process he describes as “allowing myself to be open to something I don’t fully understand and that is where the music comes from – somewhere sacred,” must have influenced his smart contemporary jazz compositions here, featuring his outstanding band Many Names – Jeff King What we're listening to this month: Sideralis Roberto Ottaviano QuarkTet Roberto Ottaviano, saxophones; Alexander Hawkins, piano; Michael Formanek, bass; Gerry Hemingway, drums A sound exploration, a manifesto of gratitude to John Coltrane (1967-2017) Stravinski - Prokofiev David Jalbert Canadian pianist David Jalbert is featured on this recording of piano transcriptions of Russian ballet repertoire. He brilliantly performs music from Stravinsky and Prokofiev. Verdi's Guitar Alan Rinehart Guitarist Alan Rinehart presents solo guitar by 19th-century composer Josef Kaspar Mertz on his debut Ravello release. Violin Muse Madeleine Mitchell A fabulous collection of contemporary works by leading British composers – all world premieres. Works for violin/piano, two violins and violin/orchestra. December 2017 / January 2018 | 87

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