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Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018

  • Text
  • Festival
  • Listings
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Concerts
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
PLANTING NOT PAVING! In this JUNE / JULY /AUGUST combined issue: Farewell interviews with TSO's Peter Oundjian and Stratford Summer Music's John Miller, along with "going places" chats with Luminato's Josephine Ridge, TD Jazz's Josh Grossman and Charm of Finches' Terry Lim. ) Plus a summer's worth of fruitful festival inquiry, in the city and on the road, in a feast of stories and our annual GREEN PAGES summer Directory.

stunning compositions

stunning compositions include Ultestakon/ Shaker Lullaby, which has a simply gorgeous melody and sonorous percussion that evokes a comforting heartbeat; and also Love Song, which is arranged with angelic and complex vocals that act as sonic waves of uplifting awareness and oneness. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke ID MAZ Bleu 44 BLEUCD-4445 ( !! Montreal group MAZ has many accolades under their belt. With this, their third album, there should be many more to come as the group tastefully takes Québécois traditional music in a new direction, as the group self-describes, “in a flow of trad, jazz and electro.” Each member is a superb performer/ composer. Leader/electric guitarist/banjoist Marc Maziade plays and sings with confidence and originality. His opening zippy clear vocals in the traditional tune La guenille foreshadow what the future tracks will bring, with a fastdriving bass groove by Hugo Blouin, great fiddling by Pierre-Olivier Dufresne, and Roxane Beaulieu on keyboards. The rest are original tunes which feature interesting style developments. Love the club dance feel of Projet 4, as a touch of folk is supported by solid low-end bounce and electro music. Le fléau moves at a nice walking pace as traditional music is modernized with a nice accelerando, bouncy melody, instrumental solos and closing squeaks. Le cercle dives into more contemporary sounds with its larger interval leap melodic lines, multi-rhythms and quasiatonal harmonic changes. The fun upbeat closing of ID 4/4 – reel du chemin moves subtly from pop vocals and grooves to a more traditional reel so we can all remember where their music came from! MAZ members are so respectful of each other that the multi-genre styles they are transforming and combining never feel contrived and produce fresh, accessible, inventive Québécois world music. Tiina Kiik Three Rivers Jordan Officer Spectra Musique SPECD-7866 ( !! Perhaps like many outside of Quebec, I first discovered guitarist Jordan Officer by way of his association with vocalist Susie Arioli. First impacted by the authenticity of his guitar playing and by how deeply he had drunk from the well of Charlie Christian, Carl Kress and Django Reinhardt, Officer established a high bar of excellence for guitarists in Canada, playing meaningfully and without unnecessary sentimentality in what I might describe as “roots” music; a performative style that foregrounds acoustic timbres, period-piece instruments and nondigitally mediated sounds to conjure up a place and space of yesteryear. Said commitment continues here on Three Rivers, but, like many broad musical thinkers, Officer is now beyond genre in his approach. While there are clear flourishes of jazz throughout, this recording is an expansive musical undertaking that employs the blues, country, a connection to hymns, and gospel singing with whimsically expressive lyrics scattered throughout. It sounds like a road album or a travelogue with sights and sounds, all quintessentially American, created sonically or in the mind’s eye. I was not familiar with Officer as a singer before this recording, but am not surprised to discover that he is talented, expressive and, most of all, musical in his delivery. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recording, both musically and sonically, and one that should earn Officer heightened accolades and fans. Andrew Scott 7 Billion Kiran Ahluwalia Independent KM2018 ( !! Steeped in the vocal traditions of India and Pakistan, Kiran Ahluwalia has, in the course of six albums, restlessly explored world music genres featuring collaborations with Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, Malian group Tinariwen, Portuguese fado masters and jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi. Her discs have garnered her two JUNO Awards and other significant accolades. Over six songs, with music and lyrics by Ahluwalia, 7 Billion explores yet more musical crossroads in search of the human condition with the help of her five-piece band of electric guitar, electric bass, keyboards, tabla and drum kit. “When you take different styles and merge them together… then you’re really developing a new hybrid genre,” Ahluwalia says. “For me it’s important to blur the musical boundaries between my Indian background, influences from Western sounds and… Mali. It’s incredibly invigorating when I feel a connection in expressions from different cultures and then figure out ways to connect them seamlessly in my music,” she states. Her lyrics speak of realizing female desire without shame, the perils of love, and raging against the institutionalization of religion. Recorded in a Toronto studio, Ahluwalia’s We Sinful Women caps the album. Its lyrics use a 1991 Urdu feminist poem by Kishwar Naheed (translated by Rukhsana Ahmad, the Pakistani novelist, playwright and poet). A powerful indictment of male oppression of women, it’s also a rocker with a hook-y chorus, with room to feature driving jazz breaks by electric guitarist Abbasi and organist Louis Simao. It’s worth another listen. Andrew Timar Something New Michael Kaeshammer Linus Entertainment 270337 ( ! ! There can be no question that talented pianist and vocalist Michael Kaeshammer has been on a trajectory of excellence since his first JUNO nomination in 2001. Having entered the jazz world as a wunderkind, Kaeshammer is now a fully realized mature artist, and with his latest release (which he also produced) he has plumbed the depths of the New Orleans sound. He is bolstered on this heady trip down South by some of the finest jazz musicians on either side of the Mason-Dixon Line, including Cyril Neville, George Porter Jr., legendary drummer Johnny Vidacovich, Mike Dillon, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers Brass Band and bassist David Piltch. Other noted guests include Colin James, Randy Bachman, Curtis Salgado, Jim Byrnes, Amos Garrett and Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones. Of the original 11 tracks on this CD, ten were penned by Kaeshammer and all were recorded at the historic Esplanade Studios, located in the heart of New Orleans’ Treme District. Kaeshammer has unapologetically blurred the musical lines here between boogie-woogie, trad jazz, blues, straight ahead jazz, Zydeco and more. The CD kicks off with Scenic Route. On this groovy cooker, Kaeshammer sings with a new depth and intensity. The tight horn section and relentless, skilled drumming from Vidacovich make this track a standout. Also wonderful is Do You Believe – where meaty vocals and harmonica from Salgado and the brilliant horn arrangement by saxophonist/pianist Phil Dwyer ensure that this track is a thing of beauty. Also of note is the melancholy Weimar, which parenthesizes the project, and puts Kaeshammer’s lyrical and romantic piano chops firmly on centre stage. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke 88 | June | July | August 2018

Free Yourself Up Lake Street Dive Nonesuch 2 567158 ( !! I first came across Lake Street Dive when I caught their (viral) YouTube cover of The Jackson Five hit I Want You Back, shot live on a street in Boston. I was immediately drawn in by lead singer Rachael Price’s throaty, soulful voice. Add to that the four-piece band’s tight vocal harmonies, groove and cohesion and I was hooked. But that was six years ago when doing cool covers in jazzy/R&B style was their main thing. Now the group’s songwriting is at the fore with their latest release, Free Yourself Up, and their sound has shifted to a more swaggering electric/soul/pop feel. Vocal harmonies, however, are still a strong and endearing feature of the band. Bass player Bridget Kearney (formerly of Joy Kills Sorrow) did most of the songwriting on the album either alone or with bandmate Mike Olson (trumpet, guitars). Her specialty is breakup songs and she and the band manage to make them driving and soulful yet still melodic, as in Good Kisser and the beautiful Musta Been Something. The songs co-written by Olson and drummer Mike Calabrese are lyrically a little more insouciant but still clever, as in the very funky Red Light Kisses and Doesn’t Even Matter Now. Generally the album is a head-bopping ride and I bet this band would be a lot of fun to see live. Details of their extensive tour – including a stop in Toronto on June 25 as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival – can be found at Cathy Riches Concert note: Lake Street Dive performs at the Danforth Music Hall on June 25. Something in the Air The Continued Relevance of Composer/Performer Roscoe Mitchell KEN WAXMAN More than a half-century after his recording debut, multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell shows no sign of slowing down as a player or composer. One of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), Mitchell, who also teaches, keeps the AEC going alongside experiments with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands. Many of the bigger configurations are pliable, however, so what at first appears to be a large ensemble turns out to be several subsets of musicians who more faithfully portray some of Mitchell’s thornier compositions. Bells for the South Side (ECM 2494/2495, a two-CD set, is an example of this. Although an additional eight players are featured interpreting a dozen Mitchell originals, the band members – percussionists Tani Tabbal, William Winant and Kikanju Baku, trumpeter Hugh Ragin, reedist James Fei, keyboardist Craig Taborn, bassist Jaribu Shahid plus Tyshawn Sorey, who plays trombone, piano and drums – are usually divided into various-sized groups featuring Mitchell on soprano, sopranino, alto or bass saxophones, flute, piccolo, bass recorder and percussion. The resilient Winant skilfully employs tubular bells, glockenspiel, vibes and marimba during the 11 Chicago-recorded tracks, either in contrast to other instrumental motifs or as a clanging continuum. On the title track, for instance, his combination of bell shakes and bell-ringing echoes alongside washboard-like scrubs as a perfect backdrop for equivalent honks from Fei’s contralto clarinet and delicate storytelling from Ragin’s piccolo trumpet. Meanwhile, Spatial Aspects of the Sound, the leadoff track, demonstrates how tubular bell-hammering plus segmented scrapes from other players (using Mitchell’s specially constructed percussion cage) serve as discerning contrasts to formalist timbres from pianist Taborn and Mitchell’s piccolo. These sorts of meaningful challenges meander throughout the discs, as when Fei’s sopranino and Mitchell’s bass saxophone move from shrill peeps and tongue slaps to a pastoral-sounding coda; or when Shahid, Tabbal, Ragin, one pianist and Mitchell on The Last Chord work brass tweets, reed snarls, keyboard asides and bass-and-drum deliberations into a theme that extends the concept of how a free-oriented group should sound, offering simple swing and timbre scrutiny in equal measure. Slippery reed and brass excursions are as common as carefully harmonized and calming horn sequences here, as are delicate passages from vibes and piano which set off equally intense drum forays pulsating from any or all of the percussion kits. The extended and concluding Red Moon in the Sky/Odwalla wraps up these sound currents, then expands the program. Taborn’s and Fei’s electronically pushed waveform pulsations and space-invader-like wiggles give way to martial drumming and screaming reeds that amplify the wistful, contemporary jazz narrative suggested earlier on Prelude to the Card Game, Cards for Drums, And the Final Hand, but with Ragin’s cascading grace notes and Mitchell’s nasal vibrations rejuvenating the narrative still further. Finally, the gentle swing of Odwalla, an AEC classic, is the setting for Mitchell’s mournful alto solo and some drum pitter patter. A decade previously in Sardinia (2005), Mitchell, playing alto and soprano saxophone plus flute, met pianist Matthew Shipp, with whom he had been collaborating for more than a dozen years, for seven variations on Accelerated Projection (RogueArt Rog 0079 In these pure improvisations, the players alternate solo passages with those moments where their thought processes could be that of a single mind. Feeling out each other’s dynamics and drawbacks, they experiment with sweeping and clattering keyboard lines, pinched reed peeps and augmentations in solo and duo configurations. By the time the fourth track arrives, though, they’ve worked out an interactive concoction. At that point, just as they’ve serenely probed every musical nuance, they rev up to hardened staccato with so many timbres packed into their playing that they threaten to overflow the sound limits. Accelerated Projection VI is the climactic synthesis, where after experimenting with inner-piano-string pulls plus ethereal flute somersaults, they limit themselves to the keyboard and saxophones. On soprano, Mitchell’s honks and split tones vibrate every note and its extensions to the limit, as Shipp turns from key dusting and caressing to highfrequency chording that echoes and links to the reed output. From that point on, an exercise in smoothing out key jiggles and overblown reed shrills leads to an instance of sophisticated tonal fusion. Flash forward 11 years to Toronto and Ride the Wind (Nessa ncd-40 preserves a concert Mitchell was involved in, featuring an 18-piece Montreal-Toronto Art Orchestra (MTAO) specially assembled by trombonist Scott Thomson and bassist Nicolas Caloia to play expanded arrangements, transcribed and orchestrated from some of the saxophonist’s compositions, many of which were previously recorded with Taborn and Baku in trio form. With Gregory Oh as conductor, Mitchell supervises rather than plays, except for a brief June | July | August 2018 | 89

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