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Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Arts
  • Faculty
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Quartet
  • Performing
In this issue: Canadian Stage, Tapestry Opera and Vancouver Opera collaborate to take Gogol’s short story The Overcoat to the operatic stage; Montreal-based Sam Shalabi brings his ensemble Land of Kush, and his newest composition, to Toronto; Five Canadian composers, each with a different CBC connection, are nominated for JUNOs; and The WholeNote team presents its annual Summer Music Education Directory, a directory of summer music camps, programs and courses across the province and beyond.

If I Had the Strength

If I Had the Strength Lemon Bucket Orkestra Independent (lemonbucket.com) !! Following up on its 2015 JUNO Award-nominated album Moorka, Toronto’s “Balkanklezmer-gypsyparty-punk” Lemon Bucket Orkestra weaves a narrative that runs throughout its new record’s 11 titles. The through line is based on an old Slavic prison ballad about a rebel returning home. Covering a wide emotional range, the theatrically presented songs and instrumentals – several infused with the 12-musician band’s furiously fast dance-friendly energy – also reflect the musicians’ personal experiences on the ground during the recent Ukraine-Russia conflict. LBO leader Mark Marczyk explained in a recent press release, “If I Had the Strength is … about coming home, about never being the same, about the parts of ourselves we lose, the parts we gain, and about the prisons we inhabit or that inhabit us.” The album also echoes aspects of LBO’s immersive musical theatre work Counting Sheep. In 2016 The Guardian reviewer Mark Fisher dubbed it as “the polyphonic protest show that puts you inside Kiev’s Maidan. Using folk singing, found footage and a revolutionary interactive staging, Marichka Kudriavtseva and Mark Marczyk’s ‘guerrilla folk opera’ throws Edinburgh audiences into the heart of the Ukrainian struggles.” LBO once again draws inspiration from the deep well of Eastern European folklore for If I Had the Strength, primarily from Ukrainian traditions. Guest soloists include Canadian diva Measha Brueggergosman, Montrealbased rapper Boogat, and on the moving concluding track Peace, Toronto’s Choir! Choir! Choir!. They effectively broaden the aesthetic range and audience appeal of this gripping new album. Andrew Timar Yüz Yüze Ihtimanska Independent (ihtimanska.com) !! World music fans (and the rest of us too) are in for a big treat as saxophonist Ariane Morin and accordionist/ pianist Yoni Kaston perform duets based on Bulgarian and Turkish folk and urban music. Both are superstar instrumentalists who together make unique, colourful, uplifting sounds. The Montreal-based Ihtimanska duet clearly understands the music they are interpreting, making their arrangements so exciting. Morin plays her virtuosic lines clearly while constantly listening and reacting to Kaston’s shifting rhythms, long accordion drones and lead lines. Bourgasko horo is a traditional Bulgarian tune from the Black Sea. The fast toe-tapping opening leads to a slower section, closing with a faster accordion and saxophone interchange with touches of jazz sounds sneaking in with the held accordion notes and sax flourishes. Thracian Bulgarian choral piece Brala Moma Rhuza Cvete is given a Baroque-flavoured rendition, as Kaston’s well-suited accordion harmonic progressions and melodies are performed with great phrasing and supported by sax embellishments. A highlight is the traditional Bulgarian Thracian Racenitsa with its shifting rhythms, breathtaking rapid sax lines, and great dialogue between accordion and sax. Kaston’s piano stylings on three tracks add almost popular flavours, while vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon is a welcome guest with her clear lyrical voice and intonation on two tracks. So much work, effort, understanding, respect and fun has gone into this captivating, uplifting release. Great work by great musicians! Tiina Kiik Kala Kalo So Long Seven Independent SLS02 (solongseven.com) !! Formed a few years ago, So Long Seven is a Toronto music collective comprised of Neil Hendry (guitars), Tim Posgate (banjo, bass guitar), William Lamoureux (violin, other strings) and Ravi Naimpally (tabla, other percussion). Individually they’re among Canada’s leading instrumentalists on their respective instruments and chosen music genres. As a group they share a common mission. “We all love music. We often play and compose for each other with great mutual respect, trying to challenge, push and inspire each other,” reflects Posgate. He also makes a point of pointing to the diverse influences on group members spanning not only cultures, “but generation too – they cover four decades in age, with a member in each (20s, 30s, 40s and 50s).” Their sophomore album Kala Kalo reflects that democratic spirit of sharing. Each musician has contributed two or more compositions – plus they leave each other plenty of room to stretch out in fluent, expressive solos. The album’s 11 tracks feature numerous influences from many worlds of music. There is an overlying feeling, however, of collective music-making throughout the album, underscored by loose a cappella choruses on several tracks. By the way, the invented phrase Kala Kalo translates as “black” in both Hindi and Romani respectively; the album is dedicated to those black sheep who have been marginalized and ostracized personally or politically. Whether you self-identify as a black sheep or not, my bet is that you will feel a warm welcome in the imaginative musical world presented on this disc. Andrew Timar Concert note: So Long Seven's Kala Kalo CD and vinyl release concert takes place at Small World Centre, 180 Shaw St, Toronto on April 13. Mi Mundo Brenda Navarrete Alma Records ACD92972 (almarecords.com) ! ! The auspicious opening salvo from classically trained, Cuban-born vocalist, composer and percussionist Brenda Navarrete is a scintillating, sweeping journey into Afro-Cuban music and mysticism (inseparable in Afro-Cuban culture). The fine CD was produced by first-call bassist Peter Cardinali (founder of Toronto’s Alma Records) and expertly recorded in Havana, Cuba by noted, multiple award-winning engineer, John “Beetle” Bailey. Navarrete’s stellar lineup includes Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Rodney Barreto and Jose Carlos on drums; Roberto Carcasses, Rolando Luna and Leonardo Ledesman on piano; Alain Pérez on bass; Adonis Panter on quinto and Eduardo Sandoval on trombone. Navarrete first garnered international attention as a vocalist in the red-hot, global Cuban sensation Interactivo. As well as creating and performing the CD’s complex vocals, Navarrete also composed the majority of the material, and performs masterfully on bata and congas (for which she describes her training as more of a “street classroom”). Every track is a gem, but of particular luminescence is Baba Elegguá, on which ancient vocal call and response and intricate percussion invoke the world’s first music – enhanced by multi-layered, perfect vocals, this song generates a trancelike state, which is also imbued with generational reverence. Also wonderful are Rumbero Como Yo, a fantastic, elemental web of Rhumba rhythms, targeting a place of awareness that is both deeply sensual and spiritual, and the enchanting Drume Negrita, which features exquisite harmonica work from Josué Borges Maresma. Navarette (who listened and absorbed everything from Ella to Billie) also gives us her take on Cachita by Rafael Hernández Marin, a joyous celebration of classic Cuban musical form, in the tradition of the immortal Celia Cruz. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke 80 | March 2018 thewholenote.com

Something in the Air One Is the Loneliest Number – Or Is It? KEN WAXMAN Although there were isolated experiments dating back to the 1940s, the watershed recording of saxophone solos was Anthony Braxton’s double LP For Alto in 1969. Comparably innovative sets by Evan Parker and Steve Lacy followed soon afterwards. Since then, many exploratory reedists have added their own challenging chapters to the solo saxophone literature. One of them is Braxton himself, whose most recently recorded alto foray is Solo – Victoriaville 2017 (Victo cd 130 victo.qc.ca), nine tracks from a concert at last year’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec. Nearly a half-century after For Alto, Braxton is still showcasing novel approaches. Interestingly enough, while all the tunes except for the standard Body and Soul have abstract titles, at this juncture hints of melodies and inferences to tunes as unanticipated as Everything Happens to Me, It’s Now or Never, Strike Up the Band and even The Anniversary Song insinuate themselves into the improvisations. This is no game of Name that Tune however, for Braxton’s talents are communicated through the technical alchemy obvious on each track. For instance, No 394c elongates the narrative line until it’s suddenly shaped into a balladic melody. The same sort of tunefulness informs the introductory No 392a; here, shaky cadenzas turn moderato when Braxton emphasizes the chalumeau register. At the same time no one would mistake Braxton for a member of Guy Lombardo’s sax section. Sophisticated funk works its way into the circular breathing and overblowing on No 392c, while its tremolo exposition showcases pauses and timbre extensions. More characteristically, No 394a consists of near-stifled reed screams, tongue slapping and pressurized action, culminating in terminal growling. Plus No 392b evolves with Flight of the Bumblebee-like buzzing swiftness, with multiple slurred and staccato notes tried on for size. As the balladic inferences slide by in nanoseconds, the improvisation’s finale is packed with innumerable pitches and tones. Yet, when Braxton tackles Body and Soul in tremolo double time, the distinctive theme is present along with a traditional final recapping of the head. Three decades Braxton’s junior, Chicago’s Dave Rempis follows an analogous but distinct route on Lattice (Aerophonic 015 aerophonicrecords.com) by bookending his improvisations with two jazz standards. Although Rempis plays alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, his strategy is similar on each horn – using its distinctive properties to better describe the improvisations. Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower is a Lovesome Thing and Eric Dolphy’s Serene are treated no differently than the abstract improvisations. Playing baritone on the former, he digs deep, shaking textures from the instrument’s body tube that accelerate from snorts to screams before creating variations on a mellow version of the theme. Dolphy’s avantgarde credentials are emphasized with stratospheric whistles, duck quacks and chicken cackles in the middle of Serene following a near inchoate theme elaboration by the alto saxophone. However the piece climaxes with rhapsodic mellowness and the head recapped. The most impressive instance of Rempis’ solo musicianship is on If You Get Lost in Santa Paula, where he inveigles a collection of tongue slaps and pops into captivating textures that are almost danceable and certainly rhythmic, then maintains this mouth percussion until the end. A track like Horse Court demonstrates how he can output enough bites and beeps for two saxophonists in counterpoint while using spatial dimensions to bounce back the sound; meanwhile Loose Snus proves that split tones and spetrofluctuation can be vibrated into satisfying storytelling. Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen is also involved with spatial properties since Lieber Heiland, laß uns sterben (SOFA Music 60 sofamusic.no) was recorded in the crypt of the cathedral in Lund, Sweden and utilizes field recording, an iPod, speakers and electronics plus overdubbed saxophone lines. An idea of how this works is Ruf Zu Mer Bezprizorni…, where the distant sounds of piano students rehearsing Baroque classics cause Küchen to retaliate with mocking squeaks and puffs, plus percussive slaps that emphasize the saxophone’s metal body. Music To Silence Music in contrast makes the ancient crypt walls another instrument, as they vibrate and echo back the initial saxophone lowing and air-piercing extensions, the equivalent of overdubbed reed parts. Real overdubbing to a multiple of six is used on Amen Choir, but when coupled with low-pitched electronic drones and the outdoor noises leaking into the space, the results not only almost replicate scrubs and sawing on double bass strings, but also suggest a near visual picture of reed breaths floating across the sound field. Far-off pealing church bells make the perfect coda. Küchen’s solo design has non-Western Listen in! • Read the review • Click to listen • Click to buy New this month to the Listening Room TheWholeNote.com/Listening For more information listeningroom@thewholenote.com Tones & Colors Liza Stepanova Acclaimed pianist Liza Stepanova takes the listener on a multisensory adventure featuring three centuries of music with a special connection to visual art. The People's Purcell Michael Slattery / La Nef The People’s Purcell reunites tenor Michael Slattery and La Nef to perform some of the most beautiful music by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). thewholenote.com March 2018 | 81

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 2020
Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
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