2 years ago

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.

intelligently arranged,

intelligently arranged, acoustic guitar-driven versions of country songs from artists such as Hank Williams and Carrie Underwood, the focus of No One Ever Tells You is on the link between jazz and rock-inflected blues, with a decidedly more electric feel than its predecessor. While this new album is as much Susan Tedeschi as it is Blossom Dearie, Cervini maintains a distinct smallensemble vibe throughout, with all of the nuance and communicative interplay that one would expect from Cervini’s seasoned band (Jesse Lewis, guitar, Michael Cabe, piano, Matt Aronoff, bass, Jared Schonig, drums, with special guest organist Gary Versace on four tracks). I Don’t Know, the album’s opener (and the sole Cervini original), is a groovy, smouldering 12/8 blues, with strong solos from Versace and Lewis, and aptly establishes the mood for the nine tracks to come. Please Be Kind and You Know Who! hew closer to the jazz end of the blues-jazz spectrum, and Bye-Bye Country Boy – something of a feature for Lewis – is a fun highlight. Also a highlight: the album’s penultimate track, a beautiful rendition of One For My Baby, which Cervini performs in duet with Versace. Colin Story Abundance Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop Anzic Records ANZ-0063 ( !! Is there a more perfect time to release a CD titled Abundance than amid the lush colours of October and the overflowing riches of the fall harvest? Drummer, bandleader and composer Ernesto Cervini’s JUNO-nominated sextet Turboprop’s third CD, released on the eve of the Thanksgiving weekend, is a study in abundance and gratitude. A seasoned, thoughtful (and grateful) bandleader, Cervini consistently draws out the best in his bandmates. Featuring Tara Davidson on alto and soprano saxophones and flute, Joel Frahm on tenor sax, William Carn on trombone, Adrean Farrugia at the piano and bassist Dan Loomis, the CD’s eight tracks include innovative originals from Davidson, Farrugia, Loomis and Cervini, as well as inventive takes on three classics, Dameron’s Tadd’s Delight, Arlen’s My Shining Hour and Smile by Charlie Chaplin, the latter showcasing some absolutely lush trombone work by Carn. Davidson’s The Queen is a driving tour de force; The Ten Thousand Things by Farrugia opens with Loomis’ rich and resonant bass work; Cervini’s Gramps is a lovely, contemplative ballad dedicated to his late grandfather; and his Song for Cito celebrates legendary Blue Jays manager, Cito Gaston (remember those back-to-back World Series titles in 1992/93?). Evident throughout are Farrugia’s stellar piano solos, Davidson’s and Frahm’s saxophone mastery and Cervini’s always-tasteful work on the drums. In the liner notes, Cervini expresses heartfelt gratitude to several important and inspiring people in his life. However, it is we, the listeners, who should be abundantly grateful for the existence of this outstanding album. Sharna Searle Sandstorm Alexis Baro G-THREE GT0015 ( !! Released in August on G-THREE Music, Sandstorm is the newest album from Havanaborn, Torontobased trumpet player Alexis Baro. An accomplished musician, Baro’s résumé includes performances with a wide range of artists, such as saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, organist Joey DeFrancesco and producer David Foster. Inspired by Baro’s experiences living in a big city, Sandstorm is framed as a celebration of “the vibrant energy of diverse cultures living together in a rapidly changing urban environment.” Nine of the album’s eleven compositions are Baro’s; of the remaining two, one is a reworking of the traditional Latin American lullaby Drume Negrita, and the other is a cover of The Beatles’ Come Together. In addition to Baro, Sandstorm features keyboardists Jeremy Ledbetter and Anthony Brancati, bassists Yoser Rodriguez, Roberto Riveron and Andrew Stewart, and drummers Amhed Mitchel, Anthony Daniel, and Larnell Lewis. After an exploratory, searching intro, in which Baro demonstrates the range of his melodic and timbral control, Sandstorm’s hard-driving title track begins with a repeated 5/8 motif that is woven throughout the song. The B Side of A, one of the album’s funkier entries, sees Baro playing with a filtered, electric trumpet sound while trading with Brancati, with a strong drum solo from Lewis. Baro’s trumpet glides smoothly atop the programmed drums in Drume Negrita, and Come Together is arranged with a sophisticated, understated groove. Central to Sandstorm is Baro’s sound: warm, articulate and confident in both the lower and upper registers, reassuring and surprising throughout the album. Colin Story Missing Element Alex Francoeur Group Effendi Records FND151 ( !! Even the abundant Québécois music scene throws up a particular surprise every once and a while; such is the case listening in wonder to the saxophonist Alex Francoeur. A superb technician who plays with tremendous élan and whose music allows the unimpeded flow of emotion without ever descending into gratuitous sentimentality, Francoeur plays with eloquent articulation and astounding control capped off by erudition and temperament that eludes many woodwind players of his generation. The audience of the Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill in Montreal was certainly in the best position to experience all of his unique gifts, as this recording, Missing Element, certainly proves. It is a brilliant record of the proceedings that eschews pyrotechnics for depth of feeling, couched in the restrained liquidity of the music. Francoeur’s playing feels extraordinarily reflective and relaxed throughout, and is especially rewarding in his limpid account of I Hear a Rhapsody, a standard that is all too often covered with fire and brimstone which, in turn, destroys its emotional content completely. The rest of this wonderful repertoire comprises original material and here too one gets a glimpse of Francoeur’s musical stature. Works such as Tides are layered and complex and the musicians in his group (Chris Edmondson, alto sax; Gentiane MG, piano; Levi Dover, bass; Louis-Vincent Hamel, drums) respond with great musical intellect and intuition to meld the infectious allure of each with consummate skill and wholehearted enthusiasm. Raul da Gama Northern Ranger Harry Vetro TOSound TSND-02 ( ! ! Northern Ranger is both an ice-breaking ferry operating in Newfoundland and Labrador and the name of an album by drummer and composer Harry Vetro. Vetro was inspired by Canada’s 150th birthday and a desire to travel across the country and learn more about our geography and Indigenous communities. An undergraduate special projects grant from the University of Toronto to record his first album allowed him to create this ambitious project. 78 | November 2018

The album creates an illusion of travelling through its descriptive names and some programmatic elements in the music. Many of the compositions are named after travel, for example: Gondola to Blackcomb, Hawk Air. Another way of creating movement is the mixing of several shorter pieces (solo guitar, solo piano and two trios), with works using a larger group with rhythm section, trumpet, saxophone and a string quartet. The album opens with Northern Ranger: Leaving Goose Bay, an almost two-minute guitar solo played in a semi-classical style by Ian McGimpsey over the sampled sounds of the ocean. This leads into a thoughtful drum solo by Vetro which begins Buffalo Jump. Then the whole ensemble plays but quiets for a solo violin poignantly playing the main melodic motif, which is repeated by guitar, and then all strings and brass join for an animated central section. Repeatedly beginning small and gradually building could be a cliché in music but in the context of this album it is a thoughtful exposition of the travel theme, where soft beginnings lead sometimes to rousing excitement and other times to quieter introspection. Vetro’s compositions are mainly jazz-oriented but have heavy folk and classical influences. The performances and solos are excellent and Lina Allemano has a marvellous trumpet sound, with a broad lyricism that reminds me of Kenny Wheeler. Ted Parkinson Jim and Paul play Glenn and Ludwig Jim Gelcer; Paul Hoffert; George Koller Centrediscs CMCCD 25818 ( !! Curiosity and doubt surprisingly quickly turned to delight and respect when listening to Jim Gelcer (drums), Paul Hoffert (piano) and George Koller (bass) with guests Bill McBirnie (flute on three tracks) and Ifield Joseph (guitar on one track) face the music and develop their jazz ideas based on recordings of pianist Glenn Gould playing Beethoven. Why you may ask? Well, why not? Following the Glenn Gould Estate’s suggestion to create a recording, Gelcer and Hoffert listened to the wealth of Gould-recorded Beethoven music, and subsequently chose to arrange themes from the Moonlight Sonata, Fifth Symphony, Fifth Piano Concerto and Pathétique Sonata to create nine tracks. Touches of classical and jazz resonate throughout. Opening track Moon Light starts with an almost traditional piano Moonlight Sonata performance but with drum accompaniment, until the bass moves the music into a dramatic jazz direction featuring a witty jazzy flute middle section. The closing track Day Light takes the same Sonata in a more classical direction with shifts in major and minor tonalities and a contrapuntal jazz flute development above a piano backdrop playing the opening sonata-line ideas. The famous four-note opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony takes on a toe-tapping upbeat fun jazz sound in Vitamin B51. First Path has the trio lead the Pathétique theme into a tight, fun jazz trio and duet improvisations With their jazz brilliance, all the musicians give new life and colour to the music of Glenn and Ludwig! Tiina Kiik The Bitter Suite Marie Goudy 12tet featuring Jocelyn Barth Independent ( !! Haunting, poetic, imaginative – The Bitter Suite grabs the listener right away and doesn’t let go. A love story told through five movements, each chapter of the story connected with a particular season, a song cycle that is enchanting in atmosphere and brimming with emotion. The Bitter Suite feels intimate, like late night confessions, yet universal in meaning. Written and arranged by Marie Goudy, it has an interestingly varied musical language – elements of jazz and mariachi styles combine very well here. Goudy’s musical world is gentle and transcendent but she is fiery in her expression as a composer and as a trumpet player. The large jazz ensemble lays out harmonies and rhythms across the board, creating a mellow landscape for engaging solos in each piece. But what really links the pieces together is the mesmerizing voice and phrasing of the vocalist Jocelyn Barth. The album opens with Goudy’s dreamy solo trumpet Intro. Playful Son for Sunshine and passionate Autumn’s Embrace follow in its footsteps, each different in expression but both influenced with mariachi rhythms and style. Winter is simply beautiful, a story about the world covered in snow and a heartbreak. The suite itself concludes with Lilacs, a classy tune with a melancholy feel. Although the last piece on the album, Remember the Days, does not belong to the suite (it is an ode to a cherished friendship), it makes for a lovely postscript. Ivana Popovic The Silent Wish Bill McBirnie; Bernie Senensky Extreme Flute EF08 ( !! The Silent Wish brings the two loves of flutist Bill McBirnie – his mastery of the flute and his love for his wife – together in a sunburst of 12 familiar and rarely performed gems. A true virtuoso, who counts the great classical flutist Sir James Galway as a diehard fan, McBirnie does not make many records. Consequently, each production is a work of several months (sometimes years) of painstaking selection and agonizing rehearsal which always yields a work of polished, honed craftsmanship. This bejewelled 2018 masterpiece is a duet with another celebrated Canadian musician, the pianist Bernie Senensky. Both McBirnie and Senensky have acquired reputations for being fine craftsmen on their respective instruments, but while they are masterful virtuosos their music eschews ornament for the ornament’s sake. Instead their virtuoso flights are completely dedicated to the melodic beauty of the music, which is tossed from flute to piano in great flights of harmonic fancy. To that end the two musicians infuse these 12 conventional songs – a variety of idioms and styles – with an intimacy and an emotional intensity which can only be described as the poetry of feeling; and there is no finer example of this than the performance of Charlie Haden’s First Song. There is a feeling that this record is ballad-like, but tempi often vary and songs often abound in quite startling dramatic contrasts with moments of lyric tenderness being followed by passages of tumultuous energy, always played with unruffled grace. Raul da Gama Kenny Wheeler: Suite for Hard Rubber Orchestra Hard Rubber Orchestra featuring Norma Winstone Justin Time JTR 8614-2 ( ! ! Though Kenny Wheeler left Canada for England in 1952, the distinguished composer/ trumpeter/ flugelhornist always maintained close relations with musicians and audiences here. In 2013, the year before Wheeler’s death, composer (and sometime trumpeter) John Korsrud commissioned Wheeler to compose a suite for Vancouver’s Hard Rubber Orchestra, an 18-member group Korsrud has been leading since 1990, debuting Canadian November 2018 | 79

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