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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.

works from jazz to new

works from jazz to new music. Wheeler provided five movements, and Korsrud has sequenced them, adding improvised interludes. The music is distinctively Wheeler’s, bringing a Hindemith-like richness and clarity to the big-band format to evoke joy and wistfulness, celebration and memory, then shading and mingling them with sometimes astonishing harmonic nuance. Singer Norma Winstone, a longtime collaborator, is an essential component of the orchestra, her wordless parts soaring through the massed brass and saxophones. The music, too, is a celebration of the subtlety and art that Wheeler brought to the trumpet: two orchestral movements feature Mike Herriott, while the brief and lustrous interludes have Brad Turner improvising duets with bassist André Lachance, pianist Chris Gestrin and guitarist Ron Samworth. Among other soloists, tenor saxophonist Eli Bennett is aggressively creative on Movement I. The quality of the music is such that one doesn’t mourn, but instead celebrates Wheeler’s continuing presence – a national legacy that now stretches from Nova Scotia and the Maritime Jazz Orchestra’s Siren’s Song to the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s Sweet Ruby Suite to this suite for Vancouver’s Hard Rubber Orchestra. Stuart Broomer Séance Philippe Lemoine; Simon Rose Tour de Bras TDB9036cd (tourdebras.com) !! Consisting of a dozen brief tracks that showcase the sweep of extended reed playing, Séance also confirms improvised music’s universality. French tenor saxophonist Philippe Lemoine and British baritone saxophonist Simon Rose, both Berlin-based, are on a Canadian label. Geographic considerations aside, the tracks, which last from just over one minute to almost six and a half, demonstrate that saxophone probing can be both penetrating and pleasing. Hope River is the only track on which expected baritone and tenor tones are displayed with comforting familiarity; the others concentrate on testing as many reed tropes as possible. Sometimes, as on Worm Gill, it is tongue slaps; other times, as on Planchette, air is whooshed through horns’ body tubes without key movements, creating whale-like or bird-echoing textures; or on Now Séance the two fluidly modulate deep pitches to their farthest extensions without losing momentum. Still it’s the longest pieces that meet the most reed challenges. Veering from squeaky to subterranean timbres during Dans(e) le flux, both burrow deep inside their horns for protracted rumbles that are cleverly harmonized with key percussion. Equally percussive as well as abstract, Medium is an essay in tongue slaps, key rattles, juddering cries and slurps that accede to a concentrated mass, but one in which both horns can be heard clearly. Whether believing in contacting the deceased through a medium or not, this Séance is one in which many a saxophonist would want to participate. Ken Waxman Moose Blues Subtone Laika Records 3510366.2 (subtone.eu) !! Moose Blues is the fifth album from the German jazz quintet Subtone, a collective whose members include Malte Dürrschnabel (reeds), Magnus Schriefl (trumpet), Matthias Pichler (bass), Peter Gall (drums), and Florian Hoefner, a pianist who, after years working in New York, now teaches at Memorial University in Newfoundland. Released on the German label Laika Records, and recorded following a Subtone tour of Canada earlier this year, Moose Blues is a tour diary of sorts: a reflection on time spent travelling throughout Canada, during which the group’s music was developed and refined. Moose Blues begins with the Hoefnerpenned Orbit, a propulsive, groove-based song featuring confident solos from Hoefner and Schriefl, bookended by dark, texturally lush sections. E-Nuts, a Schriefl composition, is a strong, swinging entry, with tight melodic playing from Schriefl and Dürrschnabel, and a concise, interesting bass solo from Pichler. Gall’s Alphabet City is a simmering, mixedmeter affair that showcases the group’s ability to juxtapose intensity and shifting dynamic levels, and Upside Up, written by Hoefner, is a sophisticated, bluesy 3/4 song, with satisfying playing both from the rhythm section and from the horns. Subtone is a group with firm roots in the tradition of artists such as Lee Morgan, and the album’s final track – the titular Moose Blues – is as close as they get to a conventional hard bop aesthetic. The real charm of Subtone, however, is their ability to synthesize the performance practices of hard bop – strong rhythm section playing, tight horn lines, bluesy flourishes – with modern harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic ideas. Colin Story Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One Andrés Vial Chromatic Audio Chroma 111417 (chromatic-audio.com) !! 2017 marked Thelonious Sphere Monk’s centenary, but 2018 seems to be the year it’s commemorated. There’s guitarist Miles Okazaki’s brilliant six-album digital set with all 70 of Monk’s compositions played solo, and pianist Frank Kimbrough is releasing quartet versions of them on six CDs (each adding three tunes to Monk’s Casino, Alexander von Schlippenbach’s 2005 journey through the complete works). Montreal pianist Andrés Vial is also taking on Monk repertoire, though this Volume One gives no indication of how far he might pursue the impulse. A crisp, inventive pianist, Vial here leads two quartets with different rhythm sections, one New York-based, one Montreal, both good. He emphasizes less-played repertoire from Monk’s canon and does so hand-inglove with guitarist Peter Bernstein. Both treat Monk’s distinctive rhythmic and harmonic language with respect, though Bernstein’s warm guitar tone sometimes softens the edges. However, they retain Monk’s essential quality, which might be characterized as divergence, an ability to embody contraries. Thus Bernstein manages to be both oblique and funky on the opening Bluehawk, while both he and Vial are cheerfully dissonant on Green Chimneys. The approach is often reflective, never more so than on Ask Me Now, a pleasantly pensive duet by Vial and Bernstein, and the bluesy, late night quality extends to Light Blue. New York bassist Dezron Douglas contributes structuralist bass solos while Rodney Green recalls the melodic drumming of Monk associate Frankie Dunlop; Montrealers Martin Heslop and André White shine on the extended Functional. Stuart Broomer POT POURRI Jamie Thompson and the Urban Flute Project – Live at St. Anne’s The Junction Trio & Friends Independent (urbanfluteproject.com) ! ! This latest CD from the Urban Flute Project is a compilation of 20 performances recorded live over the first ten years of the Music at 80 | November 2018 thewholenote.com

St. Anne’s concert series. That makes it more than just a CD; it is a “remembrance of things past,” a chronicle of a time and a place when a loosely knit band of musicians listened to the impulse to bring music to life – yes, to make it live but also, as documented in the listings in The WholeNote over the course of that decade, to bring it to the life of their community. For this they received very little money and only a modicum of fame, as many in the community do. Music at St. Anne’s was the musical equivalent of what British theatre and film director Peter Brook called – in his book The Empty Space – “Holy Theatre...the theatre of the invisible-made-visible.” The CD brings all this to life, with unvarnished live performances which, maybe just because they are unedited and un-doctored, make those moments in lost time immediate and all the more precious because they are gone. The names of over 20 musicians are listed, and many more unnamed were involved because there are performances by three choirs. The range of music is vast, from a motet by Thomas Tallis to improvisations involving both conventional instruments and secondhand pots and pans which produce the most magical sounds, and something of everything in between. This CD is like a slice of The WholeNote made audible, and a testament to our need for art in life. Allan Pulker Concert Note: Music at St. Anne’s continues this month on Sunday, November 18. Bhumika Toronto Tabla Ensemble Independent (torontotabla.com) !! Bhumika, a rich philosophical Sanskrit term, derived from bhūmi meaning earth or soil, can refer to a writing surface, receptacle, or an introduction to a book, among other things. Bhumika is also the title of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble’s sixth album and its first track. Composed by TTE’s artistic director and tabla educator Ritesh Das, the title track, featuring a chanted Sanskrit sloka, is dedicated to Ritesh Das’ brother the influential kathak dancer and teacher Chitresh Das (1944-2015). The liner notes also acknowledge another key artistic inspiration, Swapan Chaudhuri who is among today’s outstanding tabla masters. Bhumika the album reflects the richness of the tabla’s extensive technique, repertoire and the complexity of Indian rhythmic practice: the album features talas (rhythmic cycles) of 5½, 9½ and 11 beats. It also speaks to Ritesh Das’ larger artistic ambition to engage culturally with his Toronto home and collaborate with other resident musical cultures and musicians. For example, instruments heard on the album include ritual Indian conch trumpet, finger cymbals, Hindustani tabla and sarod, Carnatic mrdangam, but also drum kit, violin, Chinese zheng, flute, and the Japanese taiko ensemble Nagata Sachu. Most of them are played by Toronto area musicians, some of whom are students of Das. For me the strength of this album is the convincing argument it makes for the tabla forming the core of a musically compelling drum-centric ensemble in 2018 Toronto, far from its (first) homeland. Before Das dreamed it in 1991, that did not exist. Andrew Timar A QSF Journey Quartet San Francisco Reference Recordings RR-143 (referencerecordings.com) !! The boundaries between music genres are fluid and constantly moving these days, with many musicians experimenting and combining elements of different styles in both new compositions and interpretations of the traditional ones. Classical music seems to be an especially productive foundation for such crossovers, breeding many exciting projects. One of them is the latest release by Grammynominated Quartet San Francisco – A QSF Journey. Most of the tracks on the album are written and arranged by Jeremy Cohen (the first violinist of the quartet) and the album contains seven world premieres, making it an adventuresome journey into the chamber music of the 21st century. While the album features arrangements of traditional folk songs (Chinese, Mongolian and African), many of the tracks are rooted in the tango tradition and, to some extent, American folk. Rhapsody in Bluegrass combines two vastly different works – Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and bluegrass tune Orange Blossom Special. The result is a lively, toe-tapping, buoyant tune. Frederico II, written by Italian cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima, is a whirlwind piece with a constantly pushing rhythmical drive and strong medieval roots. I really enjoyed Cohen’s tango pieces as well – Al Colón, Francini, La Heroína and the opening Tango Eight – and their passionate, cheeky melodies. QSF members are true crossover stars. Their playing is effortless and entertaining, with just the right amount of classical touch, and with an abundance of beauty. Ivana Popovic It’s Time Tanya Wills Quartet Independent (tanyawills.ca) !! Carrying the DNA of an artistic lineage, it is no surprise that gifted vocalist, dancer and actor Tanya Wills would enter the family business and manifest an international performance career. With the release of her debut CD, Wills has drawn from her diverse career experiences and fashioned an eclectic, stirring and musically stunning recording – beautifully recorded by Bernie Cisternas. Acting as producer here, Wills has assembled the perfect musical complement to her smoky, substantial, mezzo-soprano: Jordan Klapman on piano, Bill Bridges on guitar (and also primary arranger) and Ron Johnston on bass. A few of the sources of the intriguing material on this project come from the worlds of musical theatre, the European/ American cabaret culture of the post-WWI era, American popular song, traditional folk music, a proto-rock ‘n’ roll contribution from Elvis and two original compositions, including Tony Quarrington and Klapman’s dark bossa, Rain on the Roof. One of the many standouts is Wills’ performance on Lazy Afternoon. Her voice is exquisitely controlled, as she weaves a laconic, gossamer web of sensuality around the mesmerized listener, and Bridges’ guitar accompaniment is nothing short of luminous. Another track of note is Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River – a passive/aggressive anthem made popular by the late Julie London. Wills puts her own contemporary stamp on the tune, cleverly morphing the intent of the lyric into a statement by a strong woman (rather than a victim’s lament). I would be remiss if I didn’t single out the joyous rendition of If I Were a Bell – Frank Loesser’s hit from the venerable musical Guys and Dolls. Wills imbues this tune with just the right amount of spice and sass. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Anba Tonèl Daniel Bellegarde Independent (danielbellegarde.com) ! ! Daniel Bellegarde has enjoyed a 35-year career as a freelance percussionist primarily in Quebec. As he explains, Anba Tonèl (Under the Arbor), his first album as a leader, primary arranger and composer, is the fruit of his research on the confluence of European and thewholenote.com November 2018 | 81

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