5 years ago

Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Choral
  • Singers
  • Arts
  • Theatre
  • Concerts
  • Jazz
  • Festival
In this issue: our sixteenth annual Choral Canary Pages; coverage of 21C, Estonian Music Week and the 3rd Toronto Bach Festival (three festivals that aren’t waiting for summer!); and features galore: “Final Finales” for Larry Beckwith’s Toronto Masque Theatre and for David Fallis as artistic director of Toronto Consort; four conductors on the challenges of choral conducting; operatic Hockey Noir; violinist Stephen Sitarski’s perspective on addressing depression; remembering bandleader, composer and saxophonist Paul Cram. These and other stories, in our May 2018 edition of the magazine.

eleased on the Swiss

eleased on the Swiss label Unity Records, is a compelling offering that functions both as a celebration of diverse influences and as a unified statement of artistic intent. Plus One is a nonet record, and Pugach arranged (or co-arranged, with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis) all of the album’s nine tracks, the majority of which – with the exception of Jolene, Crystal Silence and Love Dance – are original compositions. Brooklyn Blues, the opening track, is a fitting beginning for the album, as it showcases Pugach’s confluent interests: while the harmonic and textural choices may be Brooklyn, the song is anchored by a classic New Orleans second-line rhythmic feel. The influence of modern large-ensemble composers such as Maria Schneider is evident on the 7/4 Coming Here, a driving, lyrical Pugach original, which features a powerful trumpet solo from frequent Schneider collaborator Ingrid Jensen, as well as great solo work from tenor saxophonist Jeremy Powell and, in the song’s final section, from Pugach himself. Our Blues, an original 12/8 blues that recalls Bonnie Raitt as much as it does Charles Mingus, is a tongue-in-cheek piece that features Zuraitis’ strong vocals. The exciting, medium-up Discourse This! ends the album, with great solos from alto saxophonist Andrew Gould, trumpeter David Smith and Pugach. Plus One is a robust, intelligent debut, and is as notable for its arrangements as it is for its top-tier playing. Colin Story Concert notes: Dan Pugach has a busy schedule in May with concerts in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Inidana and NYC. Check for details. Dance Hall Jerry Granelli Justin Time JTR 8606-2 ( !! Listening to this marvellous recording by drummer Jerry Granelli, one cannot help but be seduced by the mood and atmosphere – sometimes genuinely spooky – and with the drummer’s sublime ability to coordinate shade and structure to a rare degree. Every one of the eight pieces here is played by Granelli with languid ease, each rhythmic variation following the other inexorably, from the bluesy brilliance of Boogie Stop Shuffle to the sinister elegance of Driva Man. As if things could not get any more perfect, guitarists Bill Frisell and Robben Ford team up with Granelli and his son and bassist J. Anthony Granelli to sculpt and shape the sustained inventions of The Great Pretender, Caldonia and other pieces with endless craftsmanship, beguiling variety and sensuousness. The power and stylishness of this music makes this a champagne disc, full of fizz and finesse. It is also music of enormous drama, full of glinting lights, mysterious depths, expectations, frustrations, hopes and doubts, like the shattered shadows of a sinister quasiexistential soundtrack to life glimpsed by moonlight in a forest. There’s an unhurried quality to this approach, a lived-in character to the rhythmic phrase-making that is endlessly engaging, as the fire and brimstone of youth is melded with the well-honed values of experience. In sheer colour and variety, in the exceptional refinement of its musicianship, Granelli here imparts a monumental stature to the eternal blues, seemingly played in the shadows of the Dance Hall. Raul da Gama Concert note: Jerry Granelli performs at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 27 and on June 29 at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Gord Mowat’s Skeleton Crew Gordon Mowat; Chris Gale; Rececca Hennessy; Jeff Halischuk; Tom Richards Independent ( !! Gord Mowat’s Skeleton Crew is, as the title suggests, the debut album from bandleader Gord Mowat’s band Skeleton Crew, which includes trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy, tenor saxophonist Chris Gale, trombonist Tom Richards, drummer Jeff Halischuk, and Mowat, who, in addition to playing upright bass, is the sole composer and arranger of the album’s six tunes. The group is notable for its lack of piano, guitar, or other traditional chord-playing instrument, aligning itself with a rich lineage of “chordless” small ensembles that hearkens back to the Gerry Mulligan/ Chet Baker recordings of the early 1950s. For Skeleton Crew, the choice of instrumentation is a winning one, as it foregrounds both Mowat’s compositional prowess and the individual voices of each band member, resulting in an engaging, nuanced approach to music-making that places the emphasis on communication and group interplay, rather than on individual heroism. Nomads, the album’s first track, begins with a rubato section in which all five band members gradually enter, exploring the space and bringing things to a small climax before Mowat plays a propulsive figure and Gale comes in with the melody, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the album. The through-composed Spinnaker is both the album’s longest song and one of its highlights: it features a beautiful melodic treatment by Mowat and Hennessy, strong solos from Gale, Hennessy and Halischuk, and is structured much like a suite. Skeleton Crew is a confident, wellexecuted album with a clear concept, ably realized by accomplished players. Colin Story More Songs About Error and Shame Peripheral Vision Independent STEP3-007 ( !! More Songs About Error and Shame is the fourth CD release from Peripheral Vision. Group leaders, guitarist Don Scott and bassist Michael Herring, wrote all seven tracks and are joined by Trevor Hogg on tenor saxophone and Nick Fraser on drums. They state the title is a reference to an “iconic album by famously neurotic band, Talking Heads” and it illustrates their desire to mix genres and themes along with different types of jazz and popular music. The tunes are as inventive as their titles (e.g. The Blunder, Syntax Error, Click Bait) and each track evolves through melodic statements, repeated riffs, solos, duets and solid ensemble playing. The music sounds like elaborate conversations which ebb and flow, growing heated and then reflexive. For example, Mycelium Running begins with a lyric sax melody, develops into a lively interchange among sax, guitar and drums, followed by a long, lilting guitar solo and a pensive solo saxophone; then the rest of the band enters and it builds to a loud and majestic ending. Scott’s guitar mixes inventive lines, chord melody and even some grunge/fuzz tones. Fraser’s drumming is always inventive and here he provides an engaging and shifting background to the mix of ensemble and solo playing. Hogg’s playing is clean, focused and versatile while Herring’s bass work is subtle, grooving and complex. More Songs is an inventive album with unique performances and a sense of humour. Ted Parkinson Lost Villages Robert Diack Independent ( ! ! Lost Villages, a new album from drummer/bandleader Robert Diack, is named for a collection of nine communities in Southern Ontario that were permanently depopulated and submerged in 1958 as part of the construction of the Saint Lawrence 76 | May 2018

Seaway. With song titles such as Displace, Bittered and Placed, the album takes a certain literary influence from the Lost Villages, but the metaphor seems to run deeper: from the eerie, atmospheric opening notes of Displace, the album’s first track, it becomes apparent that Diack’s goal is to synthesize his disparate influences into a unique musical language that evokes – much like a glimpse of underwater ruins – a compelling vision greater than the sum of its parts. While Lost Villages doesn’t restrict itself to the traditional, essentially acoustic format of a conventional jazz recording, it is a quartet album: bassist Brandon Davis, guitarist Patrick O’Reilly and pianist Jacob Thompson round out the group. O’Reilly often takes on the lead melodic role, as in Pluterperfect, which features an adventurous, overdriven guitar solo on a tightly controlled 11/8 vamp. Other noteworthy tracks include the laidback, 4/4 Idyll, which features Thompson, whose articulate, clear playing serves as an effective foil for O’Reilly, and Sap, the album’s longest (and probably most open) song, in which all four band members gradually layer in new textures before Davis and O’Reilly play a short, repeated melody that ends the tune. Overall, Lost Villages offers an interesting, worthwhile listen, and functions as a thoughtful, unexpected bandleader debut for Diack. Colin Story The Questions Kurt Elling OKeh/Sony Masterworks 886446753768 ( !! The stark dramatic intro to the first track, Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, sets the tone for Kurt Elling’s latest album. A response to the widespread anxiety of the times we’re living in now, The Questions brings together a collection of songs that are sometimes cynical, sometimes hopeful and all thoughtful. The jazzy and powerful singing we’ve come to expect from Elling is in abundance here. I should note that people fall into two camps when it comes to Elling – love him and hate him. I’m solidly in the love-him camp, but I can understand how some may not enjoy his vocal tone, which can be strident at times. His technical skills, big range and beautiful handling of ballads override any cringe-making bits for me though. His bandmates turn in equally powerful and emotive performances. Jeff “Tain” Watts is particularly strong on drums on A Secret in Three Views, a revamp of the Jaco Pastorius instrumental Three Views of a Secret that Elling has set lyrics to, with help from the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. This is just one of three songs on the album for which Elling has adapted existing poetry. The others are Endless Lawns – Carla Bley’s Lawns with lyrics from a poem by Sara Teasdale (with a gorgeous trumpet solo from Marquis Hill) and The Enchantress, a beautiful new song by pianist Joey Calderazzo with a bit of a bossa nova feel, and lyrics using lines from a Wallace Stevens poem. A lovely, swooping take on Skylark, with sensitive piano solo by Stu Mindeman, closes out the album with an appropriate sense of expectant longing. Cathy Riches From The Alvin Curran Fakebook Curran; Schiaffini; C. Neto; Armaroli Dodicilune Dischi Ed 886 ( !! Turning the use of a “fakebook” on its head, instead of improvising on famous standards’ lead sheets, Romebased American composer Alvin Curran and his Italian associates use 13 of his compositions as the basis for creativity. Known for his pioneering electroacoustic soundscapes for Musica Elettronica Viva, Curran, plus trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini, multi-reedist Alipio C Neto, vibist/percussionist Sergio Armaroli, bassist Marcello Testa and drummer Nicola Stranieri, creates two CDs of music that sounds both aleatoric and arranged. Although the brief final tracks on CD2 could be performed by a lounge combo, the disc’s crucial concepts occur when the first CD foregrounds the composer’s talents on computer (Max’d Out) and piano (Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights). Electronic oscillations and circularbreathed saxophone sluices on Max’d Out contrast with plunger trombone vibrations and bell-shaking tones until climaxing as a balanced narrative. On the second tune, wolf-whistle-like reed lines and theatrical keyboard cadenzas are not only expanded, with soothing trombone burrs and delicate vibes’ resonation, but also dissembled, with granular synthesis that dissects pre-recorded voices into backwards-moving mumble and mysterious textures. These machine-instrument explorations, plus other unique challenges, are resolved on the over-33-minute The Answer Is. With vibraphone pings maintaining the melody, computer crackles, tailgate trombone and gibberish vocal mutations move aside, as polyphonic cacophony or perfectly performed cool jazz are tried on for size then regularized into a tonally fluctuating finale. Technical mastery and dazzling sonic surprise are never faked on this session. Ken Waxman Playmates Muddersten SOFA 565 ( !! Despite the photo of a muscle man flexing on the CD cover, musical exercises by the Danish trio Muddersten are anything but broad and powerful. In fact, microtonal tubaist/ electronic manipulator Martin Taxt, Håvard Volden, who plays guitar and tape loops, and Henrik Olsson, whose equipment includes objects, piezo and friction, wouldn’t reach the podium in an artistic weight-lifting contest. Instead the band’s programmed continuum, distant object lacerations and intermittent blares add up to featherweight strategies that subtly score, literally without fanfare. With an electronic ostinato perpetually bonding sequences from below, air whooshes and metronomic friction occasionally minutely recede so that guitar flanges and twangs or brass bites and whistles can be heard. Watery, baleful and somewhat threatening, the tracks’ challenges are met and enlivened as near-static tones suddenly open up to reveal unique juddering counterpoint. Seemingly plodding, in spite of many short episodes of commotion, compared to noisier, flashier programs, Muddersten ultimately impresses by the realization that the trio’s bursts of musical quality are presented in such a way that they can be appropriately savoured. Plus no matter how many ring-modular-like gongs, menacing object scratches or distanced brass buzzes appear and vanish along the way; the tale of these Playmates never ceases long enough to disrupt a stable chronology that also highlights a strapping contest of timbral strength. Ken Waxman Concert note: Microtonal tubaist Martin Taxt will be part of a duo playing Double Double Land, 209 Augusta Avenue on May 25. POT POURRI Uprooted (Turkish traditional music reimagined) Minor Empire World Trip Records WTR002 ( ! ! Minor Empire, the Toronto group at the vanguard of Turkish-based world music in the country, is led by singer-songwriter Ozgu Ozman and electric guitarist and synth programmer Ozan Boz. Founded May 2018 | 77

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)