2 years ago

Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019

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  • Toronto
  • December
  • January
  • Jazz
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When is a trumpet like a motorcycle in a dressage event? How many Brunhilde's does it take to change an Elektra? Just two of the many questions you've been dying to ask, to which you will find answers in a 24th annual combined December/January issue – in which our 11 beat columnists sift through what's on offer in the upcoming holiday month, and what they're already circling in their calendars for 2019. Oh, and features too: a klezmer violinist breathing new life into a very old film; two New Music festivals in January, 200 metres apart; a Music & Health story on the restorative powers of a grassroots exercise in collective music-making; even a good reason to go to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. All this and more in Vol 24 No 4, now available in flipthrough format here.

Jovićević lived in

Jovićević lived in Toronto from 2006 to 2009, while receiving her MA in composition at York University, recording with local players and sampling different musical currents to use in her own work. However this CD, while proficient musically doesn’t settle on a consistent genre. With an unusual lineup (violin, viola, cello, bassoon, percussion and her own saxophones, bass clarinet, spacedrum and vocals), the seven tracks bounce among animated string-oriented tremolo showcases, Balkantinged vocal laments, spacey voice, string and reed elaboration, plus instrumental virtuosity that zips, from near-atonal to nearsmooth jazz. Ram Run through the Veins, the CD’s lengthiest track, defines the conundrum in miniature. Beginning as an exercise in freeform saxophone squeals and whistles, backed by a sardonic march conveyed by splash cymbals, it settles down to become a quasiballad with triple-stropping strings and breathy English vocalizing accompanied by a bassoon obbligato. Other tracks such as Speak Loud My Inner Child show off Jovićević’s unaccompanied saxophone prowess. Still others like Rising Barefoot Ballad and Silver Winds of a Thousand Petals create closeknit harmonies which express such intense emotionalism that either could be part of the formal Romantic canon. Flow Vertical is a top-flight demonstration of what Jovićević can do as a composer and performer. But settling on one consistent narrative would better define her ideas. Ken Waxman You Have Options François Houle; Alexander Hawkins; Harris Eisenstadt Songlines SGL1628-2 ( !! Ken Pickering, who recently passed away from cancer, was co-founder and artistic director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. For over three decades he created a singular and still-growing contribution to Canadian improvised music by regularly assembling ad hoc groups matching Vancouver musicians with their international counterparts. Among his achievements was this stellar assembly of Vancouver clarinetist François Houle, English pianist Alexander Hawkins and Toronto-born, US-resident, drummer Harris Eisenstadt. First matched in 2014, the three reunited during the 2016 festival and went into the recording studio. This resulting CD, an essay in chamber jazz that explores the trio’s own fresh compositions and a few from some stellar composers, is dedicated to Pickering’s memory. The group’s lyric potential is apparent first on Hawkins’ opening Clue and Steve Lacy’s Art. There’s a rich, warm woodiness to Houle’s clarinet and it’s admirably matched with Hawkins’ liquid keyboard and Eisenstadt’s subtly propulsive drumming. Houle’s edgy Run Riot and Eisenstadt’s You Have Options. I Have a Lawyer will momentarily break the spell, but it’s the group’s reflective depths that define the CD: Houle’s gently spiralling, impassioned lines on The Pitts; the group’s insistently coiling phrases on the modal Prayer and the very light, traditional blues of Advice. The group’s breadth is evidenced by a free interpretation of Charles Ives’ Largo, while Andrew Hill’s Dusk, sometimes serene, sometimes gently animated, provides a fitting conclusion, from Houle’s a cappella introduction to its shimmering conclusion. Stuart Broomer tse Cyril Bondi; Pierre-Yves Martel; Christoph Schiller Another Timbre at123 ( !! Redefining period instruments, Montreal viola da gamba, harmonica and pitch pipes player Pierre-Yves Martel joins two musicians from Geneva, Cyril Bondi on Indian harmonium, objects and pitch pipes plus spinet specialist Christoph Schiller, to create five microtonal improvisations that amplify the in-the-moment concept that tse (which means “here” in a mountain dialect spoken near Geneva) only suggests. Based around cycles of tremolo drones from the harmonium, the moody performances are narrow but nuanced, since the repetitive outpouring is periodically disrupted by concentrated string plinks or stabs. The extended rustles that make up a track like III have their delicacy challenged when swelling harmonica puffs and concentrated wave-form-like buzzes clamorously dominate the sound field, until that moment when the organ-like extensions give way to string twangs until both expositions dissolve into silence. On other tracks, the group’s minimalist sways and squirms demonstrate similar contradictions and resolutions, as when shrill whistles, peeps, tinkling bells and unexpected reed-like tones create parallel motifs to the underlying ostinato, and then combine for a satisfying flat-line conclusion. More than background sounds, but never powerful enough to be obnoxiously upfront, the fascination in tse’s presence is how these sounds, designed with understated, overlapping restrictions, continue to hold aural interest during the evolution of each track. Ken Waxman Contemporary Chaos Practices Ingrid Laubrock Intakt 314 ( !! While third stream (the merger of jazz and classical music) is rarely heard of these days, it’s far more developed than in its 1950s heyday. Saxophonist/ composer Ingrid Laubrock here presents two pieces integrating written and improvised passages for a 34-piece orchestra and four featured soloists: Laubrock herself, guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Nate Wooley and pianist Kris Davis, among the most distinguished international improvisers of a generation now in its late-30s and 40s. The orchestra of New York freelancers negotiates the complex scores – Eric Wubbels conducts the written passages, Taylor Ho Bynum (like most of the soloists a close associate of Anthony Braxton) conducts the improvised – with a necessary combination of precision, energy and vision. Inspired by the models and methods of Ligeti, Xenakis and Braxton, Laubrock develops new synergies with her mixed palette. The first two movements of the title work erupt with the overlapping energies of soloists (most notably Halvorson’s very electronic guitar) and ensemble, while the third and fourth expand the breadth of the orchestral dimension. The single-movement Vogelfrei (Outlaw) adds eight voices and mixes light and sombre elements as it develops a dialogue between notated and improvised orchestral passages, at times creating an almost concerto-like setting for Davis’ prominent piano. Along with other recent works like Christopher Fox’s Topophony (with John Butcher and Axel Dörner) and Roscoe Mitchell’s Ride the Wind (with the Montreal- Toronto Art Orchestra), this represents a significant new development in the integration of scored and improvised music. Stuart Broomer Miki Miki Yamanaka; Bill Stewart; Steve Nelson; Orlando le Fleming Cellar Live CL020718 ( ! ! Miki is the debut recording from the Kobe-born, New York-based pianist Miki Yamanaka. Recorded in New York and released on Vancouver’s Cellar Live Records, Miki features eight originals – all written by Yamanaka, most with food-related titles – and two covers, For All We Know and Monk’s 94 | December 2018 / January 2019

Dream. Joining Yamanaka are drummer Bill Stewart, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and bassist Orlando le Fleming, all three of whom are veterans of the New York jazz scene, both as bandleaders and sidepeople. Miki begins with Mr. Pancake, a swinging, medium-up song, with a concise, intelligent bass solo, playful trading between Yamanaka and Nelson, and a strong drum solo over a vamp that follows the final statement of the melody. Monk’s Dream starts with an evocative, tastefully Monk-ish solo piano section before the band enters with an arrangement that juxtaposes sections of 3/4 with the song’s typical 4/4 feel. Stuffed Cabbage, performed in trio format with Stewart and le Fleming, is a groovy, straight-eighths composition that gives plenty of room to all involved to stretch out, and A Fake Hero is anchored by tight melodic playing from Yamanaka and Nelson over propulsive rhythm section shots. For All We Know, played as a ballad and arranged as a duet with Nelson, is treated with sensitive, communicative maturity, and stands out as one of the album’s highlights. Overall, Miki is a success, both on the merits of Yamanaka’s playing and on the compelling group dynamic that she has cultivated. Colin Story Vol. II Onze Heures Onze Orchestra Onze Heures Onze ONZ 027 ( !! Skilled in notated as well as improvised music, the 14-piece Parisbased Onze Heures Onze Orchestra (OHOO) takes themes from 20thand 21st-century compositions and bends them into stimulatingly expressive tracks. Since two percussionists are part of the collective, a forceful rock-like beat adds to the thematic dislocations. No component overpowers the others, however, which is why for instance From Crippled Symmetry uses Morton Feldman’s creation as basis for a lusty big-band swing piece driven by Magic Malik’s muscular flute, Alexandre Herer’s piano clipping and dramatic eloquence from one of the alto saxophonists. Just as dynamic, but spared from novelty, Conlon Nancarrow’s Study for Player Piano No. 20 throbs as patterns bounce between piano and Stéphan Caracci’s ringing vibes, as graceful brass and burly percussion give it more orchestral shape than the original. Europeans aren’t neglected either. Two tracks inspired by Olivier Messiaen boomerang among marching band riffs, electric rock and mellow horn motifs, with one featuring a dissected piano solo and the other now titled Kung Fu 37. Not surprisingly though, the most expressive arrangement is Densite 11.11 inspired by Edgar Varèse. Expanding the original’s lofty intent, the OHOO harmonizes whinnying trombone, growling trumpet, rolls from both drummers and paced kinetics from vibes and piano into a unique recasting. Unlike efforts to jazz up the classics or elevate improvisation, Vol. II creates a durable synthesis of contemporary sounds that should attract those from every part of the musical spectrum. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Felix Anima Jeff Bird Independent ( !! Canadian multiinstrumentalist Jeff Bird, familiar to many as the harmonica player for the Cowboy Junkies, describes his interpretations of the music of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) as “Man plays 800-year-old music on the harmonica.” And so he does, with passion, clear musical understanding and respect on eight of her sacred chants. Bird also supports his harmonica playing with many other instruments like shruti box and lap steel, with special guest pianist Witold Grabowiecki on two tracks. This is such a rewarding magical listening experience. Bird’s perfect breath control on harmonica emulates the original vocal lines throughout all his contemplative arrangements. The opening solo Lovingly Inclined Towards All is amazing from the start, with nice use of drone and musical touches maintaining von Bingen’s original stylistic aspects. Noble Rupert is given a reflective performance on harmonica and shruti box, as a low drone note supports the lead harmonica lines featuring dynamic held note swells. The Third Flies Everywhere is an intense harmonica/ piano duet tour de force as the resonating very low piano notes contrast a detached piano melody, with the harmonica introduction adding new colour. A mid-piece solo piano leads to duet melodic conversations and an inspiring reflective harmonica line against more florid piano movement. Bird’s decades-long passion for von Bingen’s music has enabled him to create a new brilliant sound mix of medieval and modern arrangements for instrumentations that all just work perfectly to the final harmonica closing fade. Tiina Kiik Songs without Words – Torchsongs Transformed Les Délices Navona Records NV6195 ( !! A unique programming scenario highlights this second release by Les Délices, a Baroque instrumental trio founded in 2009 by Baroque oboist Debra Nagy, with members Mélisande Corriveau on viola da gamba and pardessus de viole, and Eric Milnes on harpsichord. Here the trio performs 17th- and 18th-century vocal airs and 20th-century jazz standards and torch songs, creating mindset-altering music. As no published solo music existed for Baroque woodwinds prior to 1700, vocal songs were adapted for instruments. Les Délices chose French love songs from some of the greatest 17th-century songwriters. Highlights include Marin Marais’ Prelude in A Minor featuring intricate ornamentations and trills, clear phrasing and clear harpsichord accompanying cadences. Nice melodic and ornamental interplay between harpsichord and oboe makes for a straightforward Baroque rendition of Jean-Baptiste de Bousett’s Pourquoy, doux rossignol. Strong ensemble playing keeps the listener’s attention throughout a slow and heartbreaking rendition of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Tristes apprets. The big surprises here are the contemporary songs. For example, the Patsy Cline/ Willie Nelson classic Crazy is true to the original, with the almost-country-band rhythmic harpsichord and viola da gamba supporting the wailing oboe melody. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Michelle highlights an upbeat pop harpsichord with a sing-along oboe melody. The closing Joseph Kosma/Johnny Mercer Autumn Leaves features almost percussive harpsichord chords with an almost walking bass viola da gamba background, highlighted by an oboe lead complete with solo improvisation. This is successful risk-taking music! Tiina Kiik Dreamers Magos Herrera; Brooklyn Rider Sony Masterworks 190758907123 ( ! ! In a context where the term “dreamers” is being misused to characterize immigrants as being motivated by some kind of imaginary land grab or cultural December 2018 / January 2019 | 95

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