6 years ago

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.

(tenor sax), Adrean

(tenor sax), Adrean Farrugia (piano) and Daniel Fortin (double bass). Wallace the composer and Wallace the drummer both listen astutely, have complex technical prowess and unique musical storytelling capabilities. Wallace’s drumming is dense and colourful yet never overwhelming, and fully supportive of his colleagues – as best heard in Chapter Zero where his backdrop supports King’s sax stylings, Farrugia’s florid piano, Fortin’s driving bass and the occasional band quasi-unison sections. More reflective is the opening of the title track, with a luscious sax melody, laid-back groove, superb bass solo and wide-pitch piano explorations. New-music sounds appear in the pitch leaps in the sax and the chromatic florid piano runs of Visitation. Nice musical conversations between the players flavour the more traditional jazz sounding A Memory of 10. With touches of many styles throughout performed by great multi-faceted musicians/improvisers, Wallace’s challenging jazz welcomes repeated listening. Tiina Kiik Entangled Pathways Gilliam, Milmine & Pottie Melos Productions MPCD 005 ( !! This challenging and enervating recording is a collection of original music created by the acoustic trio of pianist Bill Gilliam, soprano saxophonist Kayla Milmine and drummer Ambrose Pottie. The creative group originally met through the noted Toronto Improvisers Orchestra (TIO) and soon began writing and performing impressive free music together. According to Gilliam (the producer and primary composer), “Some pieces are composed using free-floating melodies, jazz idioms and modal-chromatic tonalities, while other pieces are freely improvised creations.” Although perhaps gestated by different processes, the 12 impressive tracks all seem to lead to a central concept of connectedness, alternate realities and divergent pathways that may yet resonate together like strands in a web; in other words, musical quantum entanglement. The Singularity is well-placed in the program, as it seems to portend the sonic and emotional musical journey ahead. Gilliam’s lush, powerful and insistent piano lines are both appealing and unnerving, and Milmine’s commitment to this extraordinary and technically challenging music is evident with every note that she plays – she bends that piece of cold metal to her will, and makes it sing. Mountain Dance is a standout. One of the most visual and rhythmically complex pieces on the CD, the action is propelled by Pottie, who remains completely musical while deftly driving the trio into the nether regions. Also, the groovy and exotic Porous Borders utilizes unison and descending lines as well as modal dissonance and stark piano statements to create a feeling of nervous isolation – all rendered with a sense of irony, as true isolation may be nothing more than a selfimposed construct. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Concert Note: Gilliam, Milmine & Pottie perform at the Burdock on February 6. Aladdin’s Dream - The Firebirds Play Carl Nielsen The Firebirds ILK 269 CD ( !! Tweaking the compositions of Denmark’s most prominent composer to new ends, The Firebirds – tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Anders Banke, keyboardist Anders Filipsen and percussionist Stefan Pasborg – discover hitherto hidden grooves in Carl August Nielsen’s (1865-1931) work. Concentrating on extracts from Aladdin, the Helios Overture and Little Suite for Strings, the trio emphasizes eastern Eurasian dance-like motifs with pliable keyboard shakes and ney-like reed outbursts, while adding a pronounced, almost rock-like beat to the tunes. If a combination of tenor sax blasts and drum backbeats suggest heavy metal tropes on The Market Place in Ispahan, remember that rock style is now as prominent in Scandinavia as the buoyancy of Nielsen’s tunes, exemplified by Filipsen’s animated key chiming. The Helios Overture provides the most varied instance of the trio’s sound reconstitution. Evolving from sophisticated saxophone and ruffled keyboard timbres at the beginning, to a snaking, stop-time melody examination in the middle, to an intense display of agitated snare pops and splashing cymbal from Pasborg, the convivial theme returns as light swing by the finale, helped by the keyboardist’s walking bass line. The band’s name came about after the trio recorded a CD which transformed some Stravinsky compositions into semi-improvised theme and variations. The three have now proven they can perform similar alchemy on another composer’s work with this CD. There are plenty of other modern composers whose work could provide material for equal transformations. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Meter Autorickshaw Tala-Wallah Records TW006 ( !! Autorickshaw, the critically acclaimed, worldtouring Toronto group is reconnecting with its early band roots in its 15th anniversary season. Its previous album The Humours of Autorickshaw was enriched by more than a dozen musicians appearing in complex studio mixes. On Meter, Autorickshaw returns to its core: Suba Sankaran (voice, percussion), Ed Hanley (tabla, vocal and other percussion) and Dylan Bell (bass, voice, vocal drums, keyboards). Meter serves up new compositions by each member as well as works by other Toronto musicians. Covers are again a feature here: Peter Gabriel’s Mercy Street, Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard and perhaps most surprisingly, the traditional Francophone J’entends le Moulin, all get the Autorickshaw treatment. The short but delightful Thom Petti by Suba Sankaran begins with the phrase “ta-thom, thom-ta,” derived from Carnatic (South India) solkattu (onomatopoetic drum syllables) as vocalized by all three musicians. These phrases echo the percussive clickety-clack of a long train ride though India with its track gaps, curves and straightaways, heard as superimpositions of several rhythmic feels. The addition of a harmonically rich vocalized chord – imitating a passing train horn – adds sparkle to the onomatopoeic fun. Another musically outstanding moment comes halfway through the song The Trouble with Hari, composed by Toronto jazz veteran Gordon Sheard. Bell’s electric bass joins Sankaran’s jazz-inflected scatting, Carnatic solkattus and sargams (solfège recitation) in exact melodic coupling, call-response and harmonic comping. It’s a sterling example of the kind of inspired border-crisscrossing musical experience the album offers listeners up for adventure. Andrew Timar Moderne Frau Adi Braun Independent ( ! ! Perhaps Adi Braun is playing to her strengths on Moderne Frau. But rarely is the seduction of Weimar Berlin cabaret been performed with a sassier va-va-voom 88 | December 2017 / January 2018

and oomph than on the 13 songs of this recording. Now that could well be due in part to the outstanding musicians on the album, but there is nothing whatsoever that can outshine Braun’s luminously sung performance. Clearly Braun’s redemptive gods are Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill and she makes every gesture count meaningfully on this disc, where biting satire and burlesque meet outrageously colourful art song. Certainly the music speaks in a special way to Braun. She reveals their secrets in seductive whispers; there is a burning lust for life played out in these lyrics, especially in the music of Brecht and Weill, but Moderne Frau, the title track (her own compositon), is also an outstanding example of her creativity, as is Speak Low from the pen of Weill and Ogden Nash. Braun clearly revels in the intensity of the songs’ drama and it is this aspect of the disc that spotlights her vocals throughout. The vocalist’s larger-than-life persona is also a perfect fit for this repertoire and she isn’t afraid to push it to its limits either. The results are often more beautiful and nuanced than expected. The edgiest moments come in Mackie Messer, perhaps the defining moment on the entire disc, closely followed by the bittersweet tenderness of It Never Was You. Raul da Gama Concert Note: Adi Braun celebrates the launch of Moderne Frau at the Jazz Bistro on December 10. Brass Fabulous Jason Rosenblatt & Orkestra Severni Independent ( !! Founded in 2009 by trombonist Rachel Lemisch, the Montreal-based Orkestra Severni (Northern Orchestra) performs brass band repertoire of Klezmer, Moldavian and Serbian traditions. Besides their great energetic performances here, what makes their debut release even more exciting is that all 11 tracks are original works rooted in the new Eastern European music genre by composer/ pianist/harmonica player Jason Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt’s compositions embody many styles. The opening Sirba from the three-movement Sirba a la Oscar is driven by fast upbeat rhythms that are always in control. A great effect is having its final cadence resolve into the introduction of the next movement, Hora, a work comprised of more traditional-sounding melodies, rhythms and exquisite dynamic shifts. The striking rhythmic bounces of the silences between the resounding brass shots in the third movement, Freylach, showcase the musicians’ tight ensemble technique. Rosenblatt Kid’s Contra features a descending chromatic line that makes for happy walking music with a carnival feel. Nice style contrast is Chassidic Love Tango, with its traditional tango groove interspersed with brief threequarter waltz sections. The closing Anshei Brzezan Nign has a lullaby-feel ending with sublime held-piano sounds. All the accomplished band musicians, along with special guest Ben Holmes (trumpet) play brilliantly. Sound quality is great too. Brass Fabulous lives up to its name. This a spectacular addition to the brass band repertoire, well deserving of lots of fans and of lots of listening hours. Tiina Kiik The Book of Transfigurations Dálava Songlines SGL 2408-2 ( !! About the group Dálava, reviewer Mark Tucker wrote, “… I was both chilled and thrilled by the fusion of avant-garde, ancient, and progressive musics…” After listening to their second album The Book of Transfigurations, released on the Vancouver boundary-crashing Songlines label, I’d have to agree. Dálava’s project crosses and combines several genres, disciplines, generations and continents. At its core is the duo of American vocalist Julia Ulehla and guitarist Aram Bajakian (known for his work with John Zorn and with Lou Reed). Musical and life partners, they perform Moravian folk songs of the 19th and early-20th century transcribed over 100 years ago by Ulehla’s Czech musicologist great-grandfather. The songs are then transfigured through their 21st-century sensibilities, informed by world music, creative jazz and post-rock. Ulehla is currently working on her PhD researching Moravian song with UBC ethnomusicologist Michael Tenzer. Her scholarship is amply illustrated in the lavish 36-page booklet (including original lyrics with English translations and commentary) and it richly informs Dálava’s interpretations. As for Bajakian, he keeps busy gigging on guitar with other bands, including the American-Hungarian folk/art-rock band Glass House Ensemble. The duo’s music, while a profoundly personal statement, is also emotionally supported and amplified on the album by leading musicians on the Vancouver creative music scene: cellist Peggy Lee, Tyson Naylor on multi-keys, bassist Colin Cowan and Dylan van der Schyff on drums. Ulehla and Bajakian have reportedly already made a splash in the Czech Republic with their live interpretations of this material. I predict Dálava’s affective music will gain many more global fans with this release. Andrew Timar Something in the Air: Seven Musical Voices for the Future KEN WAXMAN The year just ending marked one important milestone in musical history. The first so-called jazz record was issued in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB). Obviously that musical designation, which in its century of existence has gone through as many permutations and retrenchments as so-called classical music has in many centuries, is far different then the ODJB’s primitive efforts. But jazz/improvised music continues to evolve, buttressed by new voices. Here is a group of youngish improvisers who will likely still be contributing to the shape of jazz during its 125th anniversary – and probably for years afterwards. First is Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based pianist Kris Davis, 37, whose presence on advanced jazz sessions over the past half-decade or so has become almost as ubiquitous as Lennon-McCartney tunes at retro-60s parties. Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed CF 428 CD finds the Canadian pianist in a combo led by bassist Eric Revis, featuring tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer Chad Taylor. Although each of the other players has extensive experience, there are points at which Davis dominates. Good Company, for instance, which begins with a J. Arthur Rank-like gong resonation from Taylor’s cymbals and reed asides in brief Morse Code-like dashes, retains its tension from the pianist’s kinetic pressure, with the saxophonist’s peek-a-boo contributions hardening into pressurized honks that unroll in tandem with keyboard tinkling. Obliogo features a middle section where high-frequency piano notes slice kinetically through saxophone snorts and string elaboration from Revis, but maintain the composition’s careful shape. Instructively Rye Eclipse, the one Davis composition, is multi-sequenced and December 2017 / January 2018 | 89

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