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Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018

  • Text
  • September
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • Symphony
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Festival
  • Theatre
  • Violin
In this issue: The WholeNote's 7th Annual TIFF TIPS guide to festival films with musical clout; soprano Erin Wall in conversation with Art of Song columnist Lydia Perovic, about more than the art of song; a summer's worth of recordings reviewed; Toronto Chamber Choir at 50 (is a few close friends all it takes?); and much more, as the 2018/19 season gets under way.

is evoked through barely

is evoked through barely moving textures, confirmed in their otherworldliness through emphasized sul ponticello bow strokes and pressurized reed snarls and buzzes, until both motifs finally combine. Although the CD is titled The Space Between Us, the profound musical connection established by Thiessen and Toninato confirms that this gap is minimal at best. Ken Waxman Concert Note: Jennifer Thiessen and Ida Toninato play the Somewhere There Improvised Music Series on September 9. POT POURRI Night Chants – Native American Flute Gary Stroutsos ARC Music EUCD2777 ( !! A 35-year, 30-album career makes Seattle-based flute player Gary Stroutsos a veteran of the ethnic flute scene. He’s been heard in concerts, on albums, on TV and film soundtracks. While he considers jazz and new age music pioneer flutist Paul Horn (1930-2014) one of his mentors, Stroutsos has made his own mark exploring the music of Native American flutes. His passion for the stewardship of diverse cultures and the natural environment can be heard throughout the 16 tracks of Night Chants. All the music was composed and performed by Stroutsos on various Native American flutes with technical and musical assuredness and cultural sensitivity. Stroutsos performs on a wide range of flutes here. They include Dakota 5-hole cedar and 6-hole cedar elk flutes, a Hopi rim flute, a Navajo 6-hole cedar flute, as well as river cane wind whistles and clay aerophones. The various timbral and tonal qualities evoked by each flute are vividly captured in the recording, enriching the overall contemplative mood. In addition, the introduction of occasional percussion and sounds of nature – such as bird song, night frog choruses and wind – pair beautifully with Stroutsos’ unhackneyed and unhurried flute melodies. Together they share a contemplative space that invites listeners into a particular and peaceful sense of place. I began listening to Night Chants wondering if I would last an entire album of solo cedar flute. Given the rich musicalcultural journey Stroutsos takes us on, I’d gladly embark again soon. Andrew Timar Yiddish to the Heart Tango Yona Independent n/a ( Tango Fado Duo Daniel Binelli; Pedro H. da Silva Sorel Classics SC CD 012 ( !! My first childhood memories of tangos were watching my parents and their friends put on the vinyl and dance enchantingly in living rooms and backyard lawns to the rhythmic, sultry melodies. I loved the sounds and later became enthralled with the extension of the style by Astor Piazzolla. Here are two releases which take tango even further. Montreal-based Tango Yona is comprised of the amazing accordionist Yoni Kaston with Briga Dajczer and Daniel Fuchs (violins), Gael Huard (cello), Joel Kerr (bass) and Jane Erkin (vocals). Their CD, Yiddish to the Heart, features heart-wrenching exploratory performances embracing tango qualities of Holocaust songs, and other songs from the 1920s to the 1960s. The emotionally charged Yiddish-language lyrics, juxtaposed against familiar tango qualities, create moving memorable music. Erkin is a dynamic performer, whether singing or speaking the heartrending mother’s love story A Mames Harts/A Mama’s Heart, against violin/accordion solos and a closing fast tango. Markovtshizne has a more traditional tango feel with superb vocal/violin interplay, deep resonant bass, and melodic accordion flourishes, with the dynamic vocals grappling with difficult labour camp existence. Like the more symphonic string sound under the vocal duet with Erkin and guest Damian Nisenson, Es Benkt Zikh/Yearning, the less evident tango backdrop lets the love lyrics lead. Contrasting touches of New York theatre surface, as a jazzy show tune leads to a strong tango and theatrical violin ending in Shpet Bay Nakht/ Late at Night. Tango Yona deserves a standing ovation for their research and performances of these dramatic, diverse pieces. Portuguese Fado music meets Argentine tangos head on as Portuguese guitarist Pedro H. da Silva and Argentine bandoneonist Daniel Binelli unite their multifaceted superstar musical talents in this strong, novel genre duet project, Tango Fado Duo. Opening track Quiero ser tu sombra (“La partida”) sets the stage with contrasting instrumental possibilities at fast tempos. Big surprise here is that the absent bass and drums on the CD are not missed, as the music is driven by the tight ensemble playing. The traditional tango El Choclo (tango) is a straightforward, uplifting cover of the tango classic, especially in the guitar middle section where the accompanying sharp staccato bandoneon notes create a new take on this famous tune. Piazzolla classic Oblivión (milonga lenta) is given a unique rendition with an overwhelmingly musical, impassioned exploration. The classic Portuguese song Lisboa antiga becomes a tango with bandoneon melodic swells, dramatic slow guitar strums and held-note ending. Fado style is maintained in the fast tempo Maria Lisboa (fado) featuring more great musical dialogues. An extremely subtle tango backdrop is heard in Binelli’s French musette-spirited Paris desde aqui, while Da Silva’s Lachrymae has him use finger-style classical techniques on the Portuguese guitar. Intriguing! Tiina Kiik Concert note: Tango Yona performs at the Ashkenaz Festival on September 2 at 3:00 in the Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre. Mobius David Clayton-Thomas Antoinette & the SRG ANT549 ( ! ! Veteran performer and multi-Grammy Award-winner David Clayton- Thomas has released a new album of original works. After veering off into covers on his last couple of albums, Clayton-Thomas has returned to what made him the force of Blood, Sweat & Tears and an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Although a few of the songs venture into mellow territory, there is plenty of vintage Clayton-Thomas here – rockin’ and soulful. With co-writing and arranging from some of Toronto’s finest, like Lou Pomanti and George Koller (who also co-produces and plays bass), Mobius opens strongly with Back to the 60s. No wallow in nostalgia, it’s a call for young people to come together like they did at Woodstock – and like the Parkland protestors who took to the streets to express their outrage – to bring peace to the world. A great horn section and a lineup of musicians, who bring a diverse range of sounds and skills to the record, keep the tracks interesting. Eric St. Laurent’s work ranges from epic guitar god on the opening track to breezy bossa nova on Carnival, Hugh Marsh turns in a haunting violin solo on Long Night and Larnell Lewis’ funky drumming keeps all the tracks in the pocket. The roadhouse rocker Passin’ Thru is a fitting closing track and reminder of what made Clayton-Thomas the road warrior he is, still going strong after all 72 | September 2018

these years. Cathy Riches A Woman’s Soul – A Tribute to Bessie Smith Rory Block Stony Plain Records SPCD1399 ( !! With the release of her fine Bessie Smith-centric recording, five-time Blues Music Awardwinning guitarist/ vocalist Rory Block is kicking off a series of projects under the umbrella of “Power Women of the Blues.” The subsequent CDs will continue to honour a group of brave, feisty women (like Smith) who irrevocably disrupted and transformed the status quo of the musical and gender-biased landscape. Sadly, many of these blues icons have fallen into obscurity – and for some, their recordings have been lost in time altogether. Block first heard the recorded voice of Bessie Smith in 1964, when she was just a slip of a girl, living in New York City. Some years later, as a mature artist, Block is finally able to realize her creative dream and record this historic material with her own soulful, deeply respectful stamp and acoustic musical skill. Block serves here as producer (along with Rob Davis), arranger, guitarist, vocalist and percussionist. She has devised a brilliant, ten-track program of Smith’s more familiar work, interspersed with rarely performed gems. Up first is a sassy take on Do Your Duty, featuring some excellent guitar work by Block, as well as her husky, sexy, powerful pipes. She adopts a lilting, almost Music Hall motif on the naughty, double entendre-laden Kitchen Man and swings her way through a lush and funky version of the Smith classic, Gimme a Pig Foot and a Bottle of Beer. On every track, the authentic blues feel, the intricate guitar and percussion work (sometimes involving kitchen utensils) and Block’s multi-textured and irresistible vocal chops, deliver it all. No doubt, Miss Bessie Smith would be proud! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Something in the Air The Established Maturity of The Guelph Jazz Festival KEN WAXMAN A quarter of a century is an important milestone, even more so when the 25-year-old is a jazz festival rather than a person. Yet from its minimalist beginnings, the Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) has managed to expand and intensify its programs. As befits a young adult, this year’s festival, September 12 to 16, features some new acquaintances as well as old friends in diverse settings. One new visitor, who plays both a noonhour solo concert at the University of Guelph’s MacKinnon building on September 13 and an evening duo on September 14 with Montreal alto saxophonist Yves Charuest at the River Run Centre’s Cooperators Hall, is Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández. Fernández is a sophisticated expert in such settings, as he proves on a duo CD with Swedish bassist Johannes Nästesjö, Like listening with your fingertips (Konvoj Records KOR 013 konvojart. com). Fernández, who can be as lyrical as he wishes when playing in any sized group, angles this musical partnership on the disc’s single improvised track by spending as much time as pseudo-percussionist as on the keyboard. Whacking the case, key frame and strung back of the instrument plus plucking, stopping and sliding the strings to create comparable reverberations, his actions match Nästesjö’s chunky thrusts and spiccato swells that are only a little less husky when bowed. The few times the pianist moves from soundboard stimulation to complete keyboarding, his cascading patterns feature speedy kinetics or high-frequency slaps. Eventually the two reach dynamic animation, where sul ponticello arco sprawls from the bassist are decorated with single keystrokes from the pianist, like diamonds sparking on a jeweller’s bolster. One musician who Fernández, and seemingly half of the international creative musicians, has played with often, is American bassist William Parker, who gives a solo concert on September 15 at Royal City Church. Besides double bass, Parker, who has played at the GJF many times, often expresses himself on a six-or-eight string doussin gouni and African wooden flute. Lake of Light – Compositions for AquaSonics (Gotta Let It Out GLIO 19 CD, is even more unique in that it features Parker and three associates, Jeff Schlanger, Anne Humanfeld, both of whom are visual artists, and percussionist Leonid Galaganov, improvising with the AquaSonic, which can be both bowed like a string instrument or struck like an idiophone. The results are audacious, adventurous and atonal in equal measures. Each of the seven soundscapes reference sci-fi film soundtrack bleeps as much as they resemble polyphonic timbres from steel drums, wooden flutes, vibraphones, mridangams and güiros. On tracks like Lake of Light, Parker’s double bass prowess is such that each stroke brings out not only one tone but also all the pseudo-string’s squealing extensions. The most insouciant and least percussive collaboration sounds like it could come from an offbeat string ensemble, with the finale both contrapuntal and chromatic. In contrast, Helium Butterfly is all steel-pan-like bangs and bops, with the echoes multiplying from piccolo-like airs and rushed mallet strokes into deepened riffs. These floating puffs, spiccato bowing and vibrating smacks join for the final track, Action. Here all players continuously rattle the idiophones so that wood and metal responses are directed towards group resonation. Parker often works with trombonist Steve Swell, whose Soul Travelers combo shares the bill at Cooperators Hall September 14 with Fernández/Charuest. Tellingly, one of the trombonist’s newer CDs, Masters of Improvisation (Valid Records VR-1016 lacks a bassist – but includes tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, pianist Joel Futterman and drummer Alvin Fielder, all of whom have played with Parker. Within the three live selections are prime instances of in-the-moment improvisation. Moving from slow boil to eruptive textures, the tunes unroll on a carpet of cymbal raps, pinpointed smacks and timed rolls from Fielder, as Futterman’s contrapuntal contributions move from laidback comping to kinetic keyboard scampers, while the saxophonist and trombonist intertwine textures like a 21st-century Archie Shepp- Roswell Rudd duo. Stuttering grace notes from Swell and undulating coloratura slurs from Jordan often define the theme. Deft enough to tunefully pivot 180 degrees on the final Sawdust on the Floor, the quartet uses triple-tongued brassiness, reed overblowing and keyboard sprinkles to turn the tune into a close cousin of Lonely Avenue, with the percussion backbeat and gutbucket smears that are September 2018 | 73

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