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Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018

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  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
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In this issue: we talk with jazz pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo about growing up in Toronto, building a musical career, and being adaptive to change; pianist Eve Egoyan prepares for her upcoming Luminato project and for the next stage in her long-term collaborative relationship with Spanish-German composer Maria de Alvear; jazz violinist Aline Homzy, halfway through preparing for a concert featuring standout women bandleaders, talks about social equity in the world of improvised music; and the local choral community celebrates the life and work of choral conductor Elmer Iseler, 20 years after his passing.

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various combinations of choir, sextet and soloists with expanding meaning and a series of luminous textures. It’s brilliant work that combines genres and techniques to create its own world. Stuart Broomer Music for Six Musicians: Hommage à Olivier Messiaen Steve Swell Silkheart SHCD 161 ( !! Taking the postmodern concept of saluting favoured musicians without recreating their work, trombonist Steve Swell convened a sextet of New York improvisers to play five of his compositions expanding on the work of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). Extrapolating Messiaen’s complex harmonies, rhythms and melodies to the 21st century, this 76-minute suite manages to replicate orchestral verisimilitude with violist Jason Kao Hwang, cellist Tomas Ulrich, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, keyboardist Robert Boston and drummer Jim Pugliese. Boston’s ecclesiastical organ fills create the perfect environment for a sly takeoff on Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, titled Sextet for the End of Democracy. Quiet but sardonic like the 1941 classic, this piece features appropriate aviary cackles from the strings and plunger variables by Swell. Contrasting melodic cello and astringent reed timbres contribute to the juddering swing as the tune climaxes with swelling organ pulsations. Comparable transformations advance the other tracks, with the polyphonic and nearly atonal final Exit the Labyrinth filled with squeaking strings and blowsy horns reaching a passionate crescendo; and Joy and the Remarkable Behavior of Time outright jazz, matching drum shuffles and pseudo-tailgate trombone with cascading piano chording. Tellingly it’s the nearly 25-minute Opening track which sets up compositional tropes from the dynamic to the compliant, with as many dual contrapuntal challenges and pseudo-romantic tutti outbursts as solos that measure technique against inspiration. More than a Hommage, the performance demonstrates how considered inspiration can create a work as memorable as its antecedent(s). Ken Waxman JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Sky Glow Chris Platt Trio Independent ( !! Released internationally in March 2018, guitarist Chris Platt’s debut album is a tight, wellcrafted collection of seven original compositions, performed in guitar trio format. Joining Platt are bassist Phill Albert and drummer Robin Claxton, both of whom, like Platt, are graduates of the University of Toronto’s Jazz Studies program. Both Albert and Claxton provide intelligent, engaging support throughout, with compelling solo moments of their own. Sky Glow has firm roots in the guitar trio tradition. The album is anchored by Platt’s ligneous archtop tone, and for good reason: his sound is warm and expressive, and synthesizes some of the most pleasant qualities of electric and acoustic guitar playing. The guitar is strongly present in both channels, and is generally foregrounded, allowing the finer details of articulation to be heard throughout the album. While this might become overwhelming with a different player, Platt is sensitive enough that the choice works well. The overall effect, as on the straighteighths, bossa-tinged title track, is that the deep texture of the guitar provides the backdrop against which the action of the music takes place, even during moments of doubletime single-note soloing. Beyond the title track, notable selections include the contemplative, 3/4 I Like The Sad Ones, the raucous Platter and the beautiful When You’re Not Here, a solo piece whose pairing of harmonic sophistication and hollow-body warmth succinctly distills Sky Glow’s charming ethos. Colin Story Sometime Ago Jim Vivian; John Abercrombie; Ian Froman; Mike Murley Cornerstone Records ( !! John Abercrombie, who passed away at 72 in 2017, was one of the finest jazz guitarists of his generation. He possessed a consummate lyricism and harmonic subtlety that could stand comparison with the guitarists who initially influenced him, like Jim Hall, while his thumb picking, derived from Wes Montgomery, added a warm, personal sound. This session, led by bassist Jim Vivian, was recorded in Toronto in 2016 following a series of performances at Jazz Bistro. Five of the tracks are trio performances with drummer Ian Froman; three tracks add tenor saxophonist Mike Murley. It’s eminently listenable music, low-key modern jazz that possesses depths and details that reward close attention. Abercrombie, Vivian and Froman weave complex webs of subtly inflected lines, often on jazz standards. The set opens with Everything I Love, a relatively obscure Cole Porter song favoured by jazz musicians – including Bill Evans, whose interactive trio conception informs this group, with Vivian and Froman busy in a positive way. Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way gets a similar, slightly abstracted treatment, while Miles Davis’ Nardis builds from its spare and slightly exotic melody to inspired scalar improvisation. Vivian comes to the fore on some imaginative repertoire choices, like Petty Harbour Bait Skiff, a song commemorating a nautical disaster from his native Newfoundland, and the Argentinian Sergio Mihanovich’s limpidly beautiful title track. Mike Murley fits in perfectly on the dancing four-way improvisation of Abercrombie’s Another Ralph’s and Vivian’s tuneful Stellaluria. Stuart Broomer Orbit Avi Granite 6 Pet Mantis Records PM102 ( ! ! Avi Granite 6 is a small combo comprising guitarist Granite, together with an extraordinary assemblage of reeds, trumpet, trombone, bass and drums. But Peter Lutek, Jim Lewis, Tom Richards, Neal Davis and Ted Warren are hardly an average backing band for the guitarist. The sextet comes together to offer a gorgeous evocation of Granite’s music on Orbit, which is full of enigmatic depths, expectations, anger, hope, doubt and affirmation amid what seems like a moody atmosphere encountered through a shattered mirror by moonlight. Despite all of the extreme emotion, Granite’s music as heard on Like a Magazine can be meditative, with long, glistening runs on the guitar and saxophone. The guitarist can also be quite rambunctious, plucking and rattling the strings on the broadly grinning Knocking on the Door, or downright mysterious as on Over and Out/Ancestral Walkie Talkie, with his leaping, parabolic lines punctuated with jabbing octaves. The music of Orbit has, by its composer’s admission, been incubating for a decade, some of which was spent in a great personal 76 | April 2018

crisis. Coming through has meant everything to Granite and this is reflected not only in the CD’s quieter, more contemplative moments, but also in the jagged, bittersweet works such as Undo Process and When the View Became the Way. Together, these 11 pieces represent the work of a thoughtful composer with exceptional resourcefulness and imagination. Raul da Gama Octet Vol. 2 Dave Young/Terry Promane Octet Modica Music ( !! Following the success of their first album, Octet Vol. 1, the Dave Young/ Terry Promane Octet is back with Vol. 2, a collection of ten songs arranged by group co-leaders Young (bass) and Promane (trombone). A standard bearer for the Canadian large ensemble tradition of Phil Nimmons and Rob McConnell, the DYTP 8 features some of Toronto’s most prominent and well-established musicians, including Kevin Turcotte (trumpet/flugelhorn), Vern Dorge (alto saxophone), Mike Murley (tenor saxophone), Perry White (baritone saxophone), Dave Restivo (piano) and Terry Clarke (drums), all of whom deliver memorable, top-tier performances. For the uninitiated, the DYTP 8 functions more like a big band than it does as a traditional combo-style group. Listeners can expect to hear clear melodic statements, thoughtfully voiced horn backgrounds, and punchy rhythm section playing, all of which are present on the Promane-arranged Oh, What A Beautiful Morning, the album’s first track. Young’s evocative arrangement of Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love is another winning moment, as is the Murley original Can’t You See, a bouncy, medium-up-tempo bebop tune that features solos from Young, Promane and Murley, in addition to athletic contributions from the whole band, with special mention to drummer Clarke on Promane’s solo. Highly recommended both to largeensemble aficionados and newcomers to the genre, Octet Vol. 2 is engaging from start to finish, with a strong performance from an experienced band that sounds bigger and more exciting than many groups twice its size. Colin Story Out of Silence François Carrier; Michel Lambert FMR Records FMRCD455 ( !! Two of Canada’s foremost jazz artists, saxophonist François Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert, have come together to create and record a spontaneous, symbiotic expression of skilled, improvisational, musical possibilities. All of the pieces on this remarkable project are improvised creations of Carrier and Lambert, who by travelling along the tones and beats of mankind’s most elemental musical impulses have morphed into inter-dimensional space/ time travellers – soaring seamlessly between conscious and subconscious thought, in and around their own memories and egos, through deep emotional subtext, cultural precepts and to the very soul itself. This CD was beautifully recorded as a live concert at Ryan’s Bar in London, UK, and Carrier wears several hats here: producer, sound designer and artist. There are seven odysseys on the recording – and each one is evocative and stirring in its own nuanced way, with its own dual-narrative. The opening salvo is the title track – crisp, arrogant, and at the same time, strangely melancholic – like a lost youth from West Side Story questioning every boundary. This is an urban landscape, and Lambert’s intricate and skilled brushwork, propels the action, while Carrier is the virtual voice in the Gotham-like wilderness. Ancient DNA engrams vibrate into this reality, with the addition of Carrier’s Chinese oboe. As the piece progresses, perspective and overview – both musically and emotionally – begin to percolate and coalesce; eventually, a new perspective is birthed by Lambert, whose playing feels as though it could be the sacred heartbeat of Mother Earth herself. Out of Silence (both the track and the disc as a whole) is brave, audacious and sometimes uncomfortably exposing – but it is also joyous and freeing at a deeply profound level. Only two artists at the peak of their talent, insight and skill could produce a project of such gravitas and complexity. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke The River John Roney; Tevet Sela Effendi Records FND149 ( !!“It’s all kind of going in a big cultural pot.” Those are some of the essence-capturing words Montrealbased jazz pianist John Roney uses to describe The River, his collaborative project with Israeli-born, Montreal-based, alto saxophonist Tevet Sela, in a September 2017 YouTube video introducing the project, which was released the following month. The “it’s” he refers to is the amalgam of their diverse musical influences permeating – or perhaps more apt, flowing through – The River: Middle Eastern, jazz, klezmer, classical chamber music and North African rhythms. The album is a most engaging collaboration. Roney and Sela are highly skilled and innovative players and composers; this is apparent from The River’s ten original tracks. After listening to the entire CD several times (it warrants an uninterrupted session), these are some of the words that came to mind: lyrical, poignant, probing, driving, intimate, hypnotic, expansive, compelling, moving and mellifluous. From the CD’s cover art to each evocatively named composition – in addition to the title track are such monikers as Watershed, Always Too Far, Gentle Shifts, Dream in Blue, Closer Horizon, Calm Flat Sea – Sela and Roney have created a singular musical journey that does indeed flow with a river’s momentum. I conclude, as I began, with some words by Roney from the YouTube video: “The river is really a metaphor for the overwhelming power of inspiration, improvisation and really being spontaneous in the moment, and allow[ing] the music to carry you forward.” May your spirit be inspired and buoyed up by The River. Sharna Searle Concert Notes: The Tevet Sela Quartet performs May 4 at The Rex (Toronto) and May 5 at The Jazz Room (Waterloo). Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics Jon Irabagon Quartet with Tim Hagans Irabbagist Records 010 ( ! ! Saxophonist Jon Irabagon rose to prominence in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the eclectic, ironic, virtuosic band that has redefined the parameters of jazz with post-modern pastiche since 2003. His current projects stretch from the modern mainstream to solo sopranino concerts. This quartet is rooted in post-bop (the 60s Jazz Messengers and tenor saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson: riffs, vamps, ostinatos, modes) but has its own approach, with a breadth that extends comfortably forward. Irabagon sticks to his tenor here, and his big sound and hard-edged authority are apparent from his introduction to The Demon Barber of Fleet Week (the CD has a medicine/freak show theme), focusing the coiled energy of a working band, recorded while on tour in Buenos Aires. Pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Rudy Royston all exude the same intense command of a complex language. Veteran trumpeter Tim Hagans (he first recorded in 1974) joins the group on several tracks, a restrained complement to the leader’s bustle. He’s at his finest on Pretty like April 2018 | 77

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