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Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018

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  • 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.

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more complex. Mixing Revis’ sliding bass notes with stopped piano keys, Vandermark’s sheets of sounds become staccato just as the piano playing becomes more percussive. The result shapes reed overblowing, string reverberations and complex drum beats into a groove of storytelling and solid forward motion. Another pianist who is equally valuable in international collaborations as leader and sideperson is the United Kingdom’s Alexander Hawkins, 36. On Sideralis (Dodicilune Dischi Ed 354, he joins veteran American heavy hitters, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Gerry Hemingway as part of Italian saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano’s QuarkTet, to interpret ten of Ottaviano’s compositions that range from rhythm numbers to ballads. Checking off the saxophonist’s influences, Planet Nichols, Ottaviano’s stop-time salute to pianist Herbie Nichols, gets much of its rollicking shape from Hawkins’ high-frequency key splatters and crescendos, with a walking bass line and cymbal breaks also contributing. At the same time the power of Formanek’s accompaniment on Planet John Lee Hooker, coupled with singular soprano saxophone breaths, makes the tune appear more a salute to Charles Mingus than the Mississippi bluesman. Replete with shadowing of the composer’s every breath on Berenice’s Code, Hawkins’ keyboard caressing preserves the balladic mood while moving the piece linearly. Centaurus’ lilt is cemented by inner piano string plucks that confirm the composition’s jocular theme, with Hemingway’s bell pealing and the pianist’s key slaps and crunches deconstructing and extending the melody until the saxophonist’s tiny reed bites reel it into straightahead swing. This same freedom that never exceeds its parameters is displayed on the title tune. Stopped keys and scrubbing slides from the pianist plus the drummer’s rubs provide the perfect contrast to Ottaviano’s intense note puffing. Subsequent return to a rumbling pulse confirms the tune’s gentle motion and the collaborative skill of this ad-hoc quartet. Minimalist and experimental, Timeless (JACC Records 034 is a duet between Portuguese guitarist Marcelo dos Reis and French pianist Eve Risser, 35, who made her reputation working in ensembles as different as France’s Orchestra National de Jazz and in a rock-oriented duo. With both instruments prepared with numerous objects, as well as played straight, the selections are compressed and cramped, inhabiting a narrow spectrum, but never abandoning rhythm or feelings. A piece such as Balance Spring, for instance, suggests computer-generated wave forms even though there is no electronic processing. Instead, as the guitarist creates a strummed continuum, the pianist emphasizes carefully thought out patterns, culminating in chiselled movements. In the same way, clanks and crunches from internal piano strings plus external ones on the guitar neck, produce timbres on Hourglass that could have come from a vibraphone. This sound, jolted along with bottleneck-guitar slashes, reaches a thematic crescendo that’s almost lyrical as Riser’s splayed and sharp tones amalgamate into melodic interface. With the tracks reflecting ambience as well as aggression, a piece like the extended Water Clock reflects this strategy in miniature. While dos Reis’ metallic string sawing and percussive strums narrow the interface to a single, almost static line, Risser’s sharp strokes move from aping the guitarist’s heft and power to become chromatic. Eventually, sweeping acoustic piano lines reveal an underlying melody that sets up an unconventional groove. Of course it’s not just pianists who will determine the future of 21st-century improvised music. Horn players and drummers will make their own noises. Take for example two of the players in the Amok Amor (AA) quartet, American trumpeter Peter Evans, 36, and German drummer Christian Lillinger, 33. Their work with alto saxophonist Wanja Slavin and bassist Petter Eldh on We Know Not What We Do (Intakt CD, shows their interactive skills in one of the many bands in which they participate. It’s the same story with Chicago-based tenor saxophonist Dave Rempis, 42, and drummer Tim Daisy, 41, featured on The Halfway There Suite (Relay Recordings 016 by the drummer`s Celebration Sextet. Different discs could find Rempis in the leadership role or both as sidefolk. Composers as well as players – Evans wrote two tunes on We Know Not What We Do and Lillinger three – the key to their talents is how carefully they work in an organized setting, as on Pulsar, the Evanspenned first track. It’s lavish and lovely, notched with contrapuntal slurs and staccato tremors from the horns as the drummer’s percussive bumps and focused rim shots keep the tune bouncy and relaxed. These ambulatory dynamics are also present on Trio Amok, a Lillinger composition, pushed along with percussion bumps and rumbles and resonating pumps from bassist Petter Eldh. While Evans’ spectacular brassiness adds to the tune’s tautness, a respite after he intertwines open-horn brays with staccato tongue flutters from Slavin dissipates the tension. A more striking instance of the drummer’s dexterity is on A Run through the Neoliberalism, another of his compositions, during which altissimo reed squalls and trumpet tattoos set up as a staccatissimo, near-bebop romp. The drummer’s accompaniment may crackle and churn, but as the horns’ work explodes the theme into atoms, his cymbal cascades and rim shots glue it back into a swinging whole. With some of the other tracks utilizing palindromes, balladic melancholy, fiery stomps and rhythmic stop-time sequences, AA keeps the session engaging and moving. The saxophonist and bassist get solo space as well, with the combination of power and bluster from the rhythm section and inventive flutters and echoes from the horns ensuring that while predicting what sounds will appear next is nearly impossible, the knowledge that they will be first-class is confirmed. Daisy and Rempis are other first-class sound explorers featured on The Halfway There Suite along with Chicago associates, clarinetist James Falzone, trumpeter Russ Johnson, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and visiting New Yorker, trombonist Steve Swell. Composed as a birthday present for himself and the featured musicians, it isn’t clear whether Daisy’s CD title refers to mortality or the length of the four-part suite that lasts only 33 minutes. But like brevity being the soul of wit, the arrangements and solo work are exceptional enough to not need more length. Rempis’ showcase is on Part 2, where his skyscraperhigh multiphonics and glossolalia bring energetic freedom to the piece which otherwise flows along with orchestral calm and a steady jazz groove. Falzone’s solo tone is closest to so-called legitimate as he negotiates linkages between the two genres. Swell, and to a lesser extend Johnson, are the disrupters. The trombonist sprays many of the arrangements with gutbucket-styled slurs and tailgate-like elaborations. With the cellist scratching out notes and Daisy replicating kettle-drum-like pressure, Part 3 rolls from crescendos to diminuendos without breaking the melodic continuum. These disparate currents climax in the concluding Part 4, with stop-time polyphony shattered by a clean trumpet blast that joins with cello pumps to herd the sequence into a finale that swings, and neatly refers back to the introduction on Part 1. Throughout, Daisy’s solos, whether involving press rolls and bass drum stomps or freer jumping and double time rhythms, don’t draw attention, but advance the suite. On the evidence here, the Celebration Sextet is a lot more than halfway along to reaching musical goals. It’s another confirmation of how from their ideas and those of the players on the other CDs, jazz innovation will thrive in the years to come. 90 | December 2017 / January 2018

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released Bernstein Remastered BRUCE SURTEES Leonard Bernstein - The Remastered Edition (100 CDs) Sony 541714 In her 1998 DVD Reaching for the Note, Susan Lacey recalls the way the moment felt. “It is very rare that someone dies and the whole community seems to be part of that event. It’s as if everything else stopped and for that moment the world turned around that event.” Such was the case in New York City following the death of Leonard Bernstein on October 14, 1990. When the funeral cortege left from the Dakota, his apartment on the Upper West Side, there was already a large gathering across 72nd Street to pay homage and see him off. “There was this phalanx of motorcycle cops and police cars leading this enormous cortege out to Brooklyn’s Greenwood cemetery… When we came out on the Brooklyn side of the East River there was a big construction project and in spite of all the cops and motorcycles and police cars and everything, we came to a dead halt. And on the side were all these hard hats and mothers of various sorts with baby carriages and Orthodox Jews who just happened to be passing by. A perfect crosssection of New York City. And finally the sirens began again as this slowly started to move out, all these people! I especially remember the hard hats all waved and took off their hats and said. ‘Goodbye Lenny, goodbye.’ I can’t think of anything, anything, in the world that would have pleased Lenny more than that.” Leonard Bernstein – The Remastered Edition does not pretend to be in any way encyclopedic, but it gives profound insight into every facet of his musical life. New York City claimed him but Bernstein, conductor, composer, pianist, educator, author and music lecturer was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25, 1918, the eldest of three children of Ukrainian-Jewish parents. Soon after, they moved to Boston where father Samuel built up a prosperous business in hairdressing supplies. Samuel expected, naturally, that his elder son would go to college, return and take over the business. However, when Leonard was only ten, cousin Lillian’s unwanted upright piano was moved into their parlour and the die was cast. From the first note he knew that music was his calling. He could play by ear the tunes he had heard and improvise freely. At 13, he composed a piano concerto with a program, “a war between the Russians and the Gypsies.” At 14, after a disastrous year with two really incompetent teachers, he went to Heinrich Gebhard, one of Boston’s most respected teachers who entrusted him to his assistant, Helen Coates. She completely understood her earnest pupil’s impatience with practise and studies but instilled in him self-discipline. Bernstein credited her with being a decisive influence in his training. When he became known and successful he sent for her to be his personal secretary. She became his close friend and lifelong personal assistant and representative. Their letters are part of the Bernstein Collection in the Library of Congress. At 16, he heard his first live concert when he went with his father to hear the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky who later became his teacher and close friend. He attended the Boston Latin School. In the summers at Sharon, Massachusetts, he produced and directed shows with the Boston Public School Orchestra with entertainments like Gilbert & Sullivan and Carmen. He graduated in 1935 and thence to Harvard, where he met many of those who would become his lifelong friends. He studied with Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame Hill and Arthur Tillman Merritt. He met Aaron Copland who became a major influence. Also, Dimitri Mitropoulos asked him to play and was so exceedingly impressed that he invited Bernstein to rehearsals with the Boston Symphony. For Bernstein’s part, he was taken by the older conductor’s intellect, his unique conducting style and his personal dynamism. He graduated from Harvard in 1939 and enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner, orchestration with Randall Thompson, counterpoint with Richard Stöhr and score reading with Renée Longy Miquelle. Reiner said later that Bernstein received the only “A Grade” he ever awarded. After Curtis he spent some time in NYC, then in Boston where Koussevitzky, who was sort of a father figure, was a major influence on Bernstein’s emotional interpretations. Shortly after he had been appointed (under Artur Rodziński) assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein made his life-changing major conducting debut. Guest conductor Bruno Walter was unable to conduct the afternoon concert of November 14, 1943. Bernstein was told early that morning that he was to conduct the concert. He had not rehearsed but stood before the orchestra and conducted the concert that was heard coast to coast on the CBS Radio Network. A star was born and Leonard Bernstein was well on his way. In 1958, after he guest conducted major orchestras around the world, he was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic, a post he held until 1969. After that he was seen and heard around the world conducting and teaching, making recordings and videos and, when he could make time, composing. In truth he most solemnly desired to be remembered as a composer. Consider his works for the theatre that include Peter Pan (1950), On the Town (1944), Trouble in Tahiti (1952), West Side Story (1957) and Candide (1956 rev.1973 rev.1989); also all the ballets, Fancy Free (1944), Facsimile (1946) and Dybbuk (1974), all of which are included in this unique edition of the remastered original recordings. His own works for the concert hall chosen for inclusion are the three symphonies, Jeremiah (Symphony No.1, 1942), The Age of Anxiety (Symphony No.2, 1949 rev.1965) and Kaddish (Symphony No.3 1963 rev. 1977). Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (commissioned by Woody Herman in 1949) is here with Benny Goodman. Torontonians heard this work with December 2017 / January 2018 | 91

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