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Volume 23 Issue 5 - February 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • February
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Performing
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Quartet

Double Concerto.

Double Concerto. Violinist Joe Puglia evokes references to Berg’s Violin Concerto amid orchestral hints of Mahler. The Double Concerto, with soloists Harmen de Boer and Harry Sparnaay, offers touches of humour, impressionistic colours and sustained passages of quasi-tonal lyricism. There’s more to admire on The Entangled Tales CD, containing de Raaff’s Cello Concerto, Entangled Tales and Symphony No.3 “Illumination… Eclipse.” The Cello Concerto reveals a very different side of de Raaff, as brooding, songful emotionality replaces brash busy-ness. Here, the dynamics are subdued, the orchestral textures leaner but darker. In five connected movements lasting half an hour, the inwardlooking, penumbral concerto receives a haunting performance by Marien van Stallen, the cellist for whom it was written, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Entangled Tales, an eight-minute synopsis of de Raaff’s penchant for assertive declamations and vivid sonorities (similar to Unisono) was commissioned by the Boston Symphony, premiered at Tanglewood and subsequently incorporated into his Symphony No.1 “Tanglewood Tales.” It’s performed with suitable high energy by Neeme Järvi and The Hague’s Residentie Orkest. De Raaff’s 30-minute, three-movement Symphony No.3 is performed by Het Gelders Orkest under Antonello Manacorda. As its subtitle suggests, it deals with contrasts of light and dark, beginning with two piccolos and tinkly percussion creating eerie, electronics-like sounds, followed by a sudden descent into the orchestra’s dark timbres of brass and percussion. The struggle continues throughout, with quiet, plaintive solos and duos alternating with powerful tutti outbursts. The symphony ends with gentle chords played in mid-range instrumental registers, suggesting a final resolution of synthesis and reconciliation. I recommend the Entangled Tales CD for anyone wanting an introduction to this significant 21st -century compositional voice. Michael Schulman Zoltán Jeney – Wohin? Various Artists BMC BMC CD 240 (bmcrecords.hu) !! Wohin? gives international listeners a valuable insight into the postmodernist Hungarian concert music composer Zoltán Jeney (b.1943), featuring recent works for solo piano, voice, cello and piano, string quartet and orchestra. Jeney has been a major voice in Hungarian concert music circles since the 1960s. In 1970, in collaboration with five other leading Hungarian composers, he cofounded the influential group Budapest New Music Studio, which introduced the aesthetics and music of John Cage and Minimalism at its public concerts. The most provocative work on this album is the title track, Wohin? (German for “Where?”) A five-minute orchestral score featuring a truncated chorus in its last 30 seconds, it’s his response to the Allied invasion of Iraq. Jeney offers a withering parody in his postmodern mashup of recognizable bits of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. As the anthem of the European Union proclaiming that “All people will be brothers,” Jeney couldn’t have chosen a better subject with which to convey his deeply ironic view of the war. Pavane (2007) for orchestra, the last and most substantial work here, employs a 128-note melody derived from a fractal series. Its first section recalls Ligeti’s Atmosphères with amorphous, shifting orchestral textures and tight heterophony. The second section, characterized by jagged polyphonic lines is brief, succeeded by a much longer final movement featuring a continuous, harmonized melody. The music builds into a kind of halting secular chorale – punctuated by irregular percussive accents – fading out on a quiet yet ultimately unsettled unison. Andrew Timar Peter Eötvös – String Quartets: The Sirens Cycle; Korrespondenz Audrey Luna; Calder Quartet BMC BMC CD 249 (bmcrecords.hu) !! Péter Eötvös (b.1944) is a highly respected Hungarian composer of operas and large ensemble works. Musical director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain from 1979 to 1991, he has guest-conducted top European orchestras. The sirens of Homer’s Odyssey have inspired works of writers and composers, including Jörg Widmann, whose excellent Island of the Sirens for solo violin and strings was reviewed here in March 2014. Eötvös joins their company with The Sirens Cycle (2015/16), a complex work operating in a number of dimensions including pre-compositional spectral analysis of the spoken text. Even in this engaged recording by coloratura soprano Audrey Luna and the Calder Quartet, the work is overwhelming and only reveals its secrets gradually! The soprano has an attractive timbre and a threeand-a-half-octave range, here applied, using both conventional and extended vocal techniques, to singing and declaiming texts by Joyce (from Ulysses), Homer and Kafka. By turn they are startling, humorous, erotic and finally dispiriting, as the sirens mysteriously disappear. In both the above composition and Correspondence: Scenes for String Quartet (1992), the American Calder Quartet displays mastery of extensively used instrumental techniques including harmonics, by-thebridge (sul ponticello) bowing, and pizzicato; glissandi become almost speech-like at times. The latter bring us to the unspoken text of the work, which is from correspondence between W. A. Mozart and his father Leopold in 1778. Derived in part from a method of assigning vowels to intervals, the uncanny effect is that instruments strive for but don’t attain speech. Roger Knox JAZZ AND IMPROVISED For You Carol Welsman Welcar Music WMCD369 (carolwelsman.com) ! ! I have long been up for any recording by Canadian jazz singer and pianist Carol Welsman (now Los Angeles-based), and my admiration continues with her most recent CD, For You. It is a solo recording except for three tracks on which expert guitarist Paulinho Garcia plays. The title refers to a social media process: after listening to 30-second soundbytes, around 5,000 voters selected the songs. The result is 16 standards in a wide variety of moods, styles and languages, each song presented with enough musical intimacy to suggest that it is indeed, For You. On this disc Carol Welsman sings in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian – regardless, her excellent diction and sense of style are convincing as is heard in such titles as Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Legrand) and Corcovado (Jobim). American numbers show the same clarity and sensitivity to lyrics, suggesting many different moods. Her delivery is direct and almost non-vibrato in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, breathy and sensual in My Foolish Heart, and vulnerable, almost down to a whisper in Skylark. Those remembering her exuberant singing and pianism in earlier times may be surprised by the restrained contralto and spare apt accompaniments on this CD. Yet she conveys a feeling of optimism, and a sense of more closeness is now gained, perhaps abetted by producer Takao Ishizuka. The disc has already been a bestseller among jazz listeners in Japan. Roger Knox 76 | February 2018 thewholenote.com

Concert notes: Carol Welsman’s February performances include the Aeolian Theatre, London, ON (14); Night Town, Cleveland, OH (15); St. James, Oakville, ON (17); Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival, Niagara, ON (18) and Bistro Mi Casa, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (21 and 22). Alex Pangman’s Hot Three Alex Pangman Justin Time JTR 8610-2 (alexpangman.com) !! In his 2010 book Perfecting Sound Forever, Greg Milner describes how Thomas Edison mounted thousands of “tone tests” across America in the early 20th century to prove how his Diamond Disc record player “perfectly” represented sound. The phonograph would play while a singer would perform intermittently and the audience would be stunned by how closely the recorded and live performances meshed. The “secret” of this demonstration was that the singers emulated the “pinched” quality of the recording which was the baseline against which everything else was measured. “Recorded versus live” has had a fascinating history, with many opinions regarding which sound is the best. With Alex Pangman’s Hot Three, the Toronto jazz singer has created a bold experiment of her own by travelling to New Orleans and, with local musicians, recording an album of seven standards live to an acetate 78 rpm disc. She wanted to “explore the roots of the recording medium and how and why early recordings have the energy they do.” The results are conveniently available on CD. This disc literally crackles with excitement; you can hear the sound of the needle cutting through the acetate and there is a low hum throughout. For authenticity only one microphone was used and the sound is high on treble but Tom Saunders’ excellent bass sax playing produces a solidly articulated bottom end. Matt Rhody (violin) and Nahum Zdybel (guitar) are also top-notch and Pangman’s vocals are energetic and manage to be nuanced within the limits of the medium. These tracks do not have the fidelity we are used to hearing and that is part of their appeal. Ted Parkinson Concert notes: Alex Pangman appears at the Reservoir Lounge – Toronto (February 1); The Jazz Room with Ross Wooldridge’s Benny Goodman Sextet – Waterloo (February 3); Lula Lounge Mardi Gras Redux Celebration – Toronto (February 13). Torche! Xavier Charles, Michel F Côté, Franz Hautzinger, Philippe Lauzier, Éric Normand Tour de Bras TDB90024cd (tourdebras.com) !! Bandleader, electric bassist and organizer Éric Normand has become a central figure in Canadian improvised music, working from his unlikely base in Rimouski, Quebec to develop a large ensemble, a local festival and regular programs of international visitors, activities that have led to international touring for his ensemble GGRIL. Torche! comes from a 2016 quintet tour in which Normand was joined by Montreal-based drummer Michel F Côté and bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier along with two distinguished European visitors, French clarinetist Xavier Charles and German trumpeter Franz Hautzinger. On paper that instrumentation might look like a jazz group, even a free jazz group, but the methodology is very different, with close listening the only directive, and the music’s evolution timbral and textural rather than linear. Wind instruments are sometimes played with oscillator-like evenness, even when they’re exploring complex multiphonics; the unfolding layers of sound can suggest an insect-dense forest or the compound sonic ambience of fluorescent lights, varied electronic appliances and of one’s own internal processes. Individual instrumental voices disappear into the collective whole, so that one is less aware of personalities, more involved in the movement of sound. The music feels orchestral rather than like a collection of individual voices, collective purpose creating work that is as profoundly selfless as it is involving. It’s a highly evolved art, with the five musicians here shaping eight taut improvisations that are remarkably free of meanderings or those empty moments of merely getting acquainted. Stuart Broomer Murphy Carn Davidson 9 Independent CD9-002 (taradavidson.ca; williamcarn.com) !! The new recording from multi-reed player Tara Davidson and trombonist William Carn is not only named after their venerable cat, but is also a shining example of what fine jazz composition, arranging and performance should be. Co-produced by Davidson and Carn, the ensemble is loaded with jazz talent, including Davidson on alto and soprano sax, flute and clarinet; Kelly Jefferson on alto and soprano sax and clarinet; Perry White on baritone sax and bass clarinet; Kevin Turcotte and Jason Logue on trumpet and flugelhorn; William Carn on trombone; Alex Duncan on bass trombone; Andrew Downing on bass; Ernesto Cervini on drums and special guest, awardwinning and luminous jazz vocalist Emilie- Claire Barlow on Carn’s tune, Glassman (arranged by Geoff Young). All compositions on this project were written by Carn and Davidson, and they have collaborated on the skilled arrangements with other fine musician/composers (Cervini, Downing, Logue, Andy Ballantyne and Geoff Young). First up is Carn’s composition Try Again (arranged by Cervini). Rife with tricky contrapuntal horn lines and percussive drum work, this track swings with a distinctive quintessential bop viguor. Groovy, extended solos by White on baritone sax and Carn on trombone sail in and around Downing’s powerful and insistent bass lines. One of the most interesting songs on this recording is Downing’s arrangement of Davidson’s composition, Family Portrait. Gorgeous, lyrical and melancholy, Downing makes brilliant use of space and warm chord structures. Other impressive tracks include Carn’s Glassman – Barlow’s sumptuous voice acts as an instrument here, moving in seamless musical symmetry with the others – and the joyous closer, Murphy! (written by Carn and arranged by Ballantyne), featuring buoyant solos from both Carn and Davidson. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Live at U of T Liebman/Murley Quartet U of T Jazz (uoftjazz.ca) ! ! Mike Murley has a decades-long musical relationship with celebrated American, fellow saxophonist Dave Liebman, and it has only strengthened since Liebman joined Murley as a visiting artist/adjunct professor in the University of Toronto’s jazz department. This CD documents a performance by the two at the department’s concert space, joined by the solid support of fellow faculty members Jim Vivian on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The style is at the leading edge of the modern jazz mainstream, rooted in the music of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins as well as Miles Davis (with whom Liebman worked in the 1970s). It’s energized, often joyous, and there’s a celebratory edge as well as a disciplined focus. Liebman sticks to soprano and Murley to tenor through the first half of the program, developing sinuous, coiling lines on Vivian’s pulsing composition Split or Whole and a relaxed swing on Murley’s YBSN. The music thewholenote.com February 2018 | 77

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2019)

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Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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