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Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018

  • Text
  • November
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Symphony
  • Bloor
Reluctant arranger! National Ballet Orchestra percussionist Kris Maddigan on creating the JUNO and BAFTA award-winning smash hit Cuphead video game soundtrack; Evergreen by name and by nature, quintessentially Canadian gamelan (Andrew Timar explains); violinist Angèle Dubeau on 20 years and 60 million streams; two children’s choirs where this month remembrance and living history must intersect. And much more, online in our kiosk now, and on the street commencing Thursday November 1.

while impurity chains is

while impurity chains is a 15-minute long solo for electric guitar via vocoder. This is a tough slog, and, to quote the helpful liner notes, marked by “various abstruse texts… embedded into the timbral fabric.” Max Christie Canadian Composers Series Nos.6-10 Various Artists another timbre (anothertimbre.com) !! Canadian Composers on Another Timbre: Another Timbre is a distinguished English label that specializes in a particular range of contemporary music that draws from the indeterminacy and minimalism of John Cage and Morton Feldman and intersects regularly with the textures and practices of European free improvisation. In 2017 it released five CDs by Canadian composers (reviewed by Raul da Gama in these pages in May 2017) and has just released five more, all ten discussed in a 116-page book of interviews with the composers that’s available with the CDs (anothertimbre.com). Among the highlights of the series are two CDs by Victoria native Cassandra Miller. Just So (at129, Canadian Composer series #9) presents string quartet pieces performed by Montreal’s Quatuor Bozzini, varied works that possess a rare, original lyricism, in which traditional materials are fragmented and recast, including the delicate bird songs of Warblework and the strangely still About Bach in which transcribed materials are evidently undone by computer glitches, while the first violin part is performed in a stratospheric upper register. Miller’s O, Zomer! (at126, CC series #6) presents her work for varied ensembles, including an octet form of the group Apartment House performing the title work (from 2007, it’s Miller’s earliest work here), a minimalist piece that moves from a kind of light tapping to insistent ensemble reiteration of the same tones. Philip the Wanderer, composed for pianist Philip Thomas, wanders until it ends on a simple, and repeated, major scale. Her unusually titled Duet for Cello and Orchestra, performed by Charles Curtis and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, includes a cello part that is radically minimalist, at one point posing a two-note phrase against a busy orchestral melody. As with many of Miller’s works, it’s much more than merely unusual, creating great drama and depth from truncated materials. Lance Austin Olson is a 75-yearold painter (his paintings appear on many of the CDs in the series) and sound artist who lives in Victoria. Dark Heart (at128, CC#8) focuses largely on graphic scores and field recordings and various mergers of the two. Performances of his work range from two different realizations of a graphic score, Theseus’ Breath, by members of Apartment House, to Olson’s extended explorations of others’ materials and graphic scores, creating soundscapes that mingle guitar, voice, field and found recordings as well as amplified copper plate and park bench. These works are far more engaging than one might expect: an ancient wax cylinder in A Mediation on the History of Painting sounds like a voice from another world. Alex Jang’s momentary encounters (at127, CC#7) inevitably suggests Feldman and Christian Wolff. He literally lets the world in on the title piece, a clarinet solo performed outdoors amidst birds, children, a dog and a consistent hum. Other pieces include a grey, bent interior horizon, beautifully realized by guitarist Cristián Alvear. Linda Catlin Smith, the artist most extensively represented in the series, adds Wanderer (at130, CC #10), another set of often limpidly beautiful, evanescent chamber works performed by Apartment House, to the two-disc Drifter in the first five-CD batch. Stuart Broomer Legends and Light – New Works for Large Ensemble Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Croation Chamber Orchestra Navona Records NV6187 (navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6187) !! Four melodysaturated neo- Romantic works offer lots of “good-old-fashioned” musical entertainment. Dutch composer Hans Bakker (b.1945) calls his ten-minute Canzona III: “Hidden in Her Light” a “hymn to the sun,” but I found this music far from hymn-like, its propulsive rhythms, blazing brass and ringing percussion suggesting instead an ancient martial saga. The 15-minute Suite for Strings by Ottawa native Jan Järvlepp (b.1953) begins with Changing Times, a merry dance featuring abrupt changes in metre. Shifting Cargo is more dramatic, with strong, syncopated ostinatos. The elegiac A Thoughtful Moment reminded me of Grieg, while Dance of the Monkey Man is a rustic romp, complete with foot-stomping. Clive Muncaster (b.1936) left England to study in the U.S., where he remained as composer, teacher and music-therapist. His 21-minute Redcliffe Gardens Suite for Strings comprises the cinematically sentimental Petronella, the gently rocking Pastorella and Stella, Fuga Romantica (in which the “romantica” dominates the “fuga”) and the sprightly Girandole. American Shirley Mier (b.1966) teaches at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Her 19-minute Of Lakes and Legends presents four local scenarios: Legend of the White Bear depicts a tragic tale of lovers from rival Indigenous tribes; Ride on the Rails evokes the inaugural train journey from St. Paul to White Bear Lake in 1868; a nostalgic waltz, Parlor Recital, recalls “intimate concerts” at a piano-teacher’s home; Regatta (White Bear Yacht Club) celebrates the region’s boat-racing community. A highly enjoyable disc! Michael Schulman Miguel Kertsman – Three Concertos; Chamber Symphony No.2 “New York of 50 Doors” Marina Piccinini; Orsolya Korcsolán; Martin Kuuskmann; Gergely Sugar; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Dennis Russell Davies Naxos 8.573987 (naxos.com) ! ! Brazilian/ American Miguel Kertsman utilizes his artistic musical experiences as a composer, keyboardist, producer, audio engineer and music executive to compose classification-defying symphonic music that ranges from classical to atonal to mainstream/modern jazz to rock to folk. The passionate performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Dennis Russell Davies support the soloists. Flutist Marina Piccinini performs colourful long-held notes, melodies and rhythmic sections in the Concerto Brasileiro for Flute, Strings and Percussion. Noteworthy are her virtuosic closing first-movement flute cadenza-like coda, and the third movement rhythmic folk/orchestral Repentes dance featuring flute and string conversations with 76 | November 2018 thewholenote.com

percussion flourishes. Concerto for Violin, Horn, Shofar and Orchestra is an exciting four-movement exploration of styles, tonalities and rhythms. Journey for Bassoon and Orchestra is a geographical/musical trip. The outer movements are named after the composer (and soloist bassoonist) Martin Kuuskmann’s hometowns – the Tallinn movement features a lyrical Nordic-flavoured bassoon line, while the final Recife movement develops from an extended string fugato to a lively Brazilian dance frevo. Kertsman’s time in New York influences the jazzy middle movement highlighted by laid-back bassoon and xylophone conversations, and a driving rhythm section. Two brief solo bassoon extended-technique Inträludiums between movements are exceptional. The jazzy Chamber Symphony No.2 “New York of 50 Doors” uses two main themes from an earlier work with a repetitive chromatic four-note melody, and extended synthesizer use adding unique sounds. This original disc is a high-quality listening experience! Tiina Kiik Julius Eastman – Piano Interpretations Kukuruz Quartet Intakt Records CD 306/2018 (intaktrec.ch) !! In his relatively brief career, Julius Eastman (1940- 1990) inhabited a kind of no man’s land as an African-American composer/ performer in the classical wing of the American avant-garde, an associate of Cage, Feldman and Foss and a practitioner of a minimalism that embraced traditional chordal sequences. His titles were deliberately provocative – for example, Crazy Nigger and Gay Guerrilla – and he endured both drug addiction and homelessness. By the time of his death at 49, his work seemed slated for oblivion, and a rebirth of interest only began around 2010. Here the four pianists of the Kukuruz Quartet (Philip Bartels, Duri Collenberg, Simone Keller and Lukas Rickli) provide interpretations of four of Eastman’s compositions, works that possess drama and luminous power, resonating at once with work by Terry Riley and John Coltrane. While the pieces operate on similar principles, using overlapping repetitions of short cadences, each has its own identity. The opening Fugue No.7 (1983) resembles church bells that echo and decay, building density through repetition and thickening, accumulating dissonances. Evil Nigger (1979) refines and expands elements of African-American church music. Buddha (1983) is a quiet change of pace, an extended foray into delicate textures as the four pianists focus on their instruments’ strings. The concluding Gay Guerrilla (1979) begins with repeated single notes, developing force through its half-hour length to its final triumphant, ascending figure. There’s a rare strength to this music, its very methodology assuming a kind of defiance as the work develops its compelling identity. Stuart Broomer JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Endings Rarely Are Natasha D’Agostino Independent (natashadagostino.com) !! What a bold move for Natasha D’Agostino to begin Endings Rarely Are, a debut album, with an original song in a minor key and sung with a seemingly endless line of wordless vocalastics. It immediately sets the tone for a very unusual album. But the young Vancouver-based Canadian is not only an audacious vocalist who has decided to buck the conventional trend, but also leaps off a musical cliff time and again when singing her own compositions, and also four wonderful jazz standards. D’Agostino’s agile, luminous voice seems ideal for this kind of derring-do and she sings with power and subtlety. Immediately after two originals, including the aforementioned show-opener Flutter, she serves notice that she will worship at the altar of originality by swinging Earl Brent’s Angel Eyes at a blistering pace, turning the 1946 original on its proverbial head. And we find her taking a similarly bold and angular approach to the rest of the standards, especially in an intoxicating version of You Go to My Head and a touching rendition of I’ll Be Seeing You. But the highlight of the album are D’Agostino’s originals, each of which she illuminates with wonderful control not only of narrative and emotion but also of lyricism and texture of word and line, which boasts some beautifully controlled singing in the deft tapering of quiet dynamics. Her resonant timbre deepens in Home, where she engages a wonderful band completely attuned to her artistry. Raul da Gama In A Sentimental Mood Joani Taylor (featuring PJ Perry; Miles Black; Neil Swainson) Cellar Live CL111517 (cellarlive.com) !! After the sudden passing of her husband and musical partner, followed by a brutal (but victorious) battle with leukemia, veteran Vancouver-based jazz vocalist Joani Taylor was in no mood to record an album of standards. Fortunately for jazz listeners everywhere, Taylor was ultimately coaxed back to the microphone by iconic saxophonist (and lifelong friend) P.J. Perry. As the project began to take shape, inspired pianist, Miles Black, created arrangements of Taylor’s personally-selected tunes that framed her voice like a Tiffany setting, and fully embraced the considerable talents of multi-saxophonist Perry and bassist Neil Swainson. Each of the 12 tracks are rife with skill, inspiration, and of course, Taylor’s sumptuous alto voice. There is no gratuitous, ill-informed scat-singing here – just superb musicianship, flawless and fluid interpretation, as well as a voice that reflects a lifetime in jazz. The CD kicks off with the Rodgers and Hart classic, This Can’t Be Love. The sound is authentic, warm and swinging – as is Taylor! The fine title track is a languid trip to the smokiest, hippest jazz boite in town. Taylor’s voice is full of power and intent, and her phrasing wrings every last emotional drop out of each Ellingtonian phrase. A true standout is Taylor’s rendition of the Vincent Youmans hit, More Than You Know. Black and Swainson move contiguously through the bluesy, musical landscape while Taylor’s voice lilts and wails like a horn, until Perry enters the scene with a sax solo that elevates the tune to a whole new level. No doubt, this is one of the finest jazz vocal recordings of the year, and should be a required part of any serious jazz curriculum. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke No One Ever Tells You Amy Cervini Anzic Records ANZ-0062 (amycervini.com) ! ! No One Ever Tells You, released this summer on New York’s Anzic Records, is Amy Cervini’s fifth solo album, and marks the singer’s continuing interest in exploring the connections between jazz and other kinds of American roots music. Where her previous release – 2014’s Jazz Country, also on Anzic Records – featured thewholenote.com November 2018 | 77

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