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Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Performing
  • Choir
  • Theatre
  • Orchestra
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.

North Dakota, from the

North Dakota, from the keening, Miles-like muted playing to the dark, brassy burr of his open sound. The multi-dimensional ballad demonstrates different sides of each member: Perdomo’s translucent grace, Nakamura’s flowing lyricism and Royston’s orchestral drama. Irabagon plays booting tenor, building from blues roots to Coltrane-like flurries, before he and Hagans conclude with an improvised dialogue that crowns both the 15-minute tune and the CD as a whole. Stuart Broomer Near Me LJ Folk Independent NMLJF-FSM-18 (ljfolk.com) !! I’ve got a new favourite Toronto singer. And by “new” I mean new to me, because LJ (aka Larry) Folk has been on the scene for decades in various capacities – guitarist, producer, composer and educator – in a variety of genres. But Folk’s focus on singing – and jazz – for his second album, Near Me, means we are all the beneficiaries. A subtle singer, his voice is expressive yet controlled and has a lovely warm tone. In addition to singing, Folk plays guitar on several tracks and his compositions are sprinkled throughout the lineup. Recorded during two separate sessions with a who’s who of Toronto jazz players, the covers include a couple of standards but mostly lean to rock classics. Highlights of the album are the first track Brazilia!, a breezy, samba-tinged original, featuring Brazilian-born percussionist Maninho Costa and drummer Steve Heathcote, a swing treatment of Bargain by The Who, which works surprisingly well, and a lilting (12/8?) version of Elton John’s Your Song with an extended soulful ending. The best bit is a duet with the exquisite Emilie- Claire Barlow on The Look of Love. Tasteful solos by all the players, including John MacMurchy on sax, Peter Mueller on guitar, Stu Harrison on piano and Pat Collins on bass, round out the charms of this album. Find concert dates at ljfolk.com. Cathy Riches Holly Holly Cole Universal Music Canada O256726398 (hollycole.com) !! It has been five long years since the jazz-infused, honey-voiced Holly Cole has released a CD. Recognized internationally for her unique, sultry performances, the new recording does not disappoint. There has always been a vein of honesty that runs through every note that Cole sings – reflected in her often strippeddown arrangements of engaging and rarely performed material. On this exquisite, selftitled recording, Cole collaborates with genius pianist/keyboardist Larry Goldings. Goldings has notably performed and recorded with such diverse artists as the late jazz guitar legend Jim Hall and iconic popular music artist James Taylor. Cole produces and contributes to arrangements on the 11 delicious tracks, and her fine collaborators include producer Russ Titelman; Aaron Davis on keyboards; Ed Cherry on guitar; David Piltch and Ben Street on bass; Justin Faulkner and Davide DiRenzo on drums; John Johnson on flute; Scott Robinson on tenor sax and cornet; and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, who also sings two delicious duets with Cole! A huge standout is Mose Allison’s Your Mind is on Vacation. Cole’s sassy, ironic interpretation and Davis’ Fender Rhodes solo invoke lost innocence and frustration (of the late 1960s and today). Burke and van Heusen’s It Could Happen to You is presented with a simply stunning piano/vocal arrangement. Set at an unusually slow tempo, Cole deftly wrings every last drop of emotional content from the potent lyric, while Goldings demonstrates how it’s supposed to be done. Teach Me Tonight, is arranged with a big dose of Goldings’ sexy Hammond B3 work – and when Cole sings in her velvety alto “I have lost all fear, my love,” we believe it. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke A New Standard Thompson Egbo-Egbo eOne Entertainment EMC-CD-16 (egbo.ca) !! The notion of standards and the Great American Songbook have defined much of jazz music’s history and each musician must choose a way to address this background. Pianist Thompson Egbo-Egbo’s playfully titled album A New Standard contains both classic and not-sostandard standards. Egbo-Egbo is a graduate of Humber College, studied at Berklee and regularly plays in Toronto with his trio. He performs with a calm assurance and combines elements of jazz, pop and classical styles. His playing is often more chordal and rhythmic than linear. Drummer Jeff Halischuck and bassist Randall Hall provide a sensitive and nuanced accompaniment. Album highlights include Sing to the Moon in which Egbo-Egbo offers restrained accompaniment to a gorgeous vocal by Nikki Ponte. Softly As in a Morning Sunrise has a great bounce and right-hand intricacy reminiscent of Oscar Peterson. Be Courageous has a pop feel and gradually increases in intensity throughout its first half, which is driven by swirling drums; there is a brief solo respite and then it pushes to the end. Coltrane’s Mr PC takes off at a blistering speed and after a frenetic solo it morphs into Spiderman which seems to just make sense. My Favourite Things brings together many of Egbo-Egbo’s ideas and techniques. It begins with a quiet semi-classical arrangement with a left-handed counterpoint to the melody. Over its six-minute length it gradually builds and becomes louder, more intense and majestic with its impassioned ending. Ted Parkinson Octoblue Joe McPhee; Jérôme Bourdellon Label Usine l.u. 2016 (bourdellon.com) ! ! American Joe McPhee has pursued an itinerant improvisers’ path since the mid- 1960s; Octoblue is another of his significant discs for several reasons. Not only is McPhee’s versatility matched by France’s Jérôme Bourdellon, who plays C, bass and contrabass flutes, piccolo and bass clarinet, but McPhee’s expressiveness on clarinet and pocket trumpet is extended to toy piano, singing and bubbling water(!). Switching among instruments, the two add the unexpected to the exposition throughout the CD. Deep Sea Dancers, for example, is a mini-suite in itself. Moving through plunger trumpet growls, whale-like sounds from the contrabass flute and dual key percussion, further elaborations include shrill brass whistles and reed tongue stops, with the finale half-valve brass extensions steadied by foottapping bass flute pacing. With Bourdellon’s woody clarinet as stop-time accompaniment, McPhee’s melismatic blues singing on the title tune is Ray Charles-like (if somewhat coarser), while still communicating profound sentiments like “freedom is a work in progress.” Conversely, Across the Water reaches the zenith of atonality, as water-burbled mouthpiece timbres are stretched into strangled trumpet blasts contrasted with airy flute puffs, as both horns quicken to elevated pitches without losing the narrative. After McPhee unexpectedly introduces a toy piano to honour the deceased keyboardist on Tribute to Borah Bergmann, and a track like On the Way to History melds loping clarinet tones and graceful flute symmetry, both players expose almost every mood and modulation. For McPhee, itinerant is a synonym for inventiveness, as he demonstrates his cooperative skills at every performance. Ken Waxman 78 | April 2018 thewholenote.com

Concert Note: Joe McPhee is part of a program of improvised music at the Music Gallery, 918 Bathurst St. on April 29. POT POURRI Conversation of the Birds David Buchbinder’s OdessaHavana Independent MFR CD003 (odessahavana.com) !! David Buchbinder’s release Conversation of the Birds forays into the countryside of fantasy while still staying on course for the musical realms between the Baltic and Cuba, where he befriends much more than fine feathered friends in the forests outside Odessa and Havana. If one has been an admirer of the trumpeter and his extraordinary group, one can now be persuaded to go travelling with him and his posse that includes drummer Mark Kelso, violinist/violist Aleksandar Gajic, extraordinary pianist Hilario Duran and the ineffably beautiful vocals of Maryem Hassan Tollar – you can hear a sense of freedom in her voice as she remembers the elegance of the proverbial bridesmaid in La Galana, while the elegance of the band sends her spirits soaring during another visit to Iberia in Bembe Andaluz. Throughout the visceral excitement of this music the listener is transported to a rarefied realm, all but becoming a part of the vivid, natural landscape – one that mixes beauty and danger, and conjures the exotic locales in the keening ululations of Tollar as well as in the congas, bongos, chekere and darbuka. All of the musicians are completely attuned to Buchbinder’s unique vision and artistry. Saxophonist John Johnson, Flamenco guitarist Benjamin Barrile and percussionists Joaquin Hidalgo and Raquy Danziger deliver hugely powerful performances evocative of steamy Cuban and Turkish afternoons as well as freezing Baltic nights on this inspiring musical journey. Raul da Gama Concert note: OdessaHavana shares the bill with KUNÉ – Canada’s Global Orchestra at Koerner Hall on April 7. KUNÉ – Canada’s Global Orchestra KUNÉ The Royal Conservatory 8088909562 (rcmusic.com/performance/KUNE) !! Launched last year as the New Canadian Global Music Orchestra, the Toronto ensemble self-described as “Canada’s Global Orchestra” has recently been gifted with a name change. Rebranded KUNÉ, it has produced an ambitious eponymous debut album as its calling card. KUNÉ means “together” in Esperanto, the most widely spoken constructed language in the world. With one of its core tenets being “to foster harmony between people from different countries,” it’s an apt language with which to succinctly express the raison d’être of this multicultural musical group. The ensemble consists of 13 virtuoso Canadian resident musicians each with deep roots in a different country’s music and language, plus Métis fiddler and singer Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk. Under the skilled artistic direction of the JUNO Award-winning trumpeter, composer and “cultural inventor” David Buchbinder, this album is the first permanent record of KUNÉ’s “journey to create a band that looks and sounds like Canada today.” The opening track features Delbaere- Sawchuk’s suite We Met in Tkaranto. Locating the band’s project firmly on native land, the track twigs us to the multi-border-crossing musical journey ahead. Delbaere-Sawchuk’s confident fiddling at first welcomes the listener to what sounds like familiar Celtic territory. It’s only when the kora, sitar and other world instruments enter that we realize that this album aims to add layer to multicultural musical layer. To detail the vast range of musical and cultural influences, instruments and music genres traversed in the album’s 14 tracks is impossible to do succinctly – let alone to adequately assess the artistic and cultural resonances generated. I won’t hesitate however to state that repeated listening will gradually reveal plenty of music to explore for the globally curious sonic traveller. They will find both musical riches and a worldviewaffirming transcultural harmony. Andrew Timar Concert note: KUNÉ shares the bill with David Buchbinder’s OdessaHavana at Koerner Hall on April 7. Near East Near East Trio (Ravi Naimpally; Demetri Petsalakis; Ernie Tollar) Independent NE001 (neareasttrio.com) !! This excellent album is like an elegant railway system linking jazz, folk, Hindustani, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern music, which all seems to come together in an elegant 21st-century conservatoire. But to describe it as such might also give the impression of overcooking when in fact it is a masterpiece of subtlety. Ernie Tollar’s reeds and woodwinds are an exotic take on the lineage of the cool spacey music of an Indian durbar and the moist echo of a Turkish bath. The exotic atmospherics come from the flute, albeit in a less than conventional setting, even as Tollar summons breathy woody tones from the instrument. These float benignly over the sound of Demetri Petsalakis’ lutes, which in turn add a rich harmonic foundation to the music. Meanwhile the regal rumble of Ravi Naimpally’s tabla makes for a hypnotic trance-like beat. The surprises when they come on songs such as Cairo and Muzafir are effective but discreet: a gamelan-like riff is played as pizzicato harmonics; a delicate curlicue of a bass drum line underpins what sounds like a Gaelic lament played on the flute; and a close-knit ensemble passage on Muzafir develops from a single phrase. That said, there are moments throughout when the trio loosens just enough to let the individual instrumental personality through, as when a soaring ney flute emerges imparting a mystical tinge, or a lyra solo arises from the relentless cycles conjuring the otherworldliness of this music. Raul da Gama This City Heavyweights Brass Band Lulaworld Records (heavyweightsbrassband.com) ! ! The uplifting, toe-tapping, impressive playing of the Heavyweights Brass Band in their third release has the band live up to its name with great, diverse musical sounds. The five members – John Pittman (trumpet), Chris Butcher (trombone), Paul Metcalfe (tenor saxophone), Tom Richards (tuba/keyboard/trombone) and Lowell Whitty (drums/percussion) – are each brilliant in any role from soloist, to backup support, to improvisers, to astute group musicians, to composer/arrangers. This time they travelled to New Orleans to record in the city of their inspiration, collaborating with special guests from both there and Toronto. The eight tracks blast with wide-ranging styles and influences. Richards’ Two Foot Ticket is an intriguing mix of low tuba lead line contrasted by higher pitched horns sections and a smart solo by guest guitarist Kevin Breit. I love guest Roger Lewis’ Roger’s Intro, with its wailing baritone sax leading into Metcalfe’s get-up-and-boogie funky dance tune Dance Out On The Corner. There’s a refreshing, almost laid-back yet fun feel in the Metcalfe arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s hit Tell Me Something Good. Another change of pace is guest vocalist Jackie Richardson soaring through Pittman’s at times almost thewholenote.com April 2018 | 79

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

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
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
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Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

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Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)