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Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019

  • Text
  • Composer
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  • Reviews
  • Piano
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  • March
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Something Old, Something New! The Ide(a)s of March are Upon Us! Rob Harris's Rear View Mirror looks forward to a tonal revival; Tafelmusik expands their chronological envelope in two directions, Esprit makes wave after wave; Pax Christi's new oratorio by Barbara Croall catches the attention of our choral and new music columnists; and summer music education is our special focus, right when warm days are once again possible to imagine. All this and more in our March 2019 edition, available in flipthrough here, and on the stands starting Thursday Feb 28.

that, between Davidson

that, between Davidson and Fortin, the musicians marshal their forces with superb discipline, producing a wonderfully fresh sound which also manages to possess the requisite amount of mystery – essential for a work this spare in sound. Clock Radio is a collection of musical impressions and memories of Davidson’s apprenticeship, in 2017, with the celebrated mallet percussionist David Friedman in Germany. Davidson strikes the sound bars with hard and soft mallets to bounce bright, orotund tone colours off his instrument. He invites Fortin into this soundworld. The bassist engages in the musical conversation with angular counterpoint that is characterized by the ink-dark rumble of his instrument. The disc is dappled with – among others – elements from a suite-in-the-making titled Berlin; miniatures imbued with contrapuntal unison passages, as well as restless, scurrying and brilliantly inventive features from one musician in response to the other. And the miraculous piece entitled zwei werden eins (Two Become One) makes vivid listening from a partnership we hope to hear much more from. Raul da Gama Concert note: Clock Radio will be launched March 23 at the Canadian Music Centre at 8pm. Dream Libretto Marilyn Crispell; Tanya Kalmanovitch; Richard Teitelbaum Leo Records CD LR 849 (leorecords.com) !! A rare departure for American pianist Marilyn Crispell and Canadian violinist Tanya Kalmanovitch, who are usually involved with spiky improvisational work, this mostly sombre program instead deals with loss and regeneration reflected in a five-part Crispell composition for trio and seven duo improvisations. Showcased, Memoria/For Pessa Malka is the pianist’s formal composition, and it evolves in different sequences to reflect the emotions she felt following the recent deaths of close relatives and friends. Crucially, Richard Teitelbaum’s wave-form processing is funeral parlour-like muted, with the requisite sense of mourning really conveyed by brief violin sweeps that help amplify the pianist’s low-frequency threnody. Luckily when the final sequence is heard, Crispell has shaken off enough melancholy to enliven the coda with chiming piano chords. Created without electronics, the seven equally brief improvisations are a requiem respite. Accelerating from the first four tracks which crisply outline how grief can lead to musical artistry, the pieces become livelier with, for instance, Kalmanovitch’s snapping spiccato strings and Crispell stretching arpeggios into tremolo chording. By the time Stones Remain Still and Walked through to Sleep (the penultimate tracks) arrive, the mood has been elevated to become more stimulating. This is done with inner-piano string strums and keyboard surges alongside upward string swells from the violinist. Instructively though, the musical uplift reflected in these duos still maintains the solemn mood that is intensified in the final Stars Visible and Invisible which cannily reflects back on the initial suite. Ken Waxman Endangered Species Alvin Curran New World Records 80804-2 (newworldrecords.org) !! American composer Alvin Curran is famed as a member of Musica Elettronica Viva, the pioneering improvising electroacoustic ensemble. Yet in his 80th year he has revived his primary musical experiences, playing American Songbook standards. But since this is Curran and this is the 21st century, this two-CD set of classic tunes arrives with a twist. Besides his subtle piano improvisations that impressively re-imagine the tunes, he employs a Yamaha Disklavier. Resembling a grand piano, but actually a blend of acoustic keyboard, player piano and digital computer, the Disklavier allows him to append any manner of previously recorded sounds to the tracks. Take the nearly 17-minute rendition of Ain’t Misbehavin’. As Curran works his way through the familiar melody with aplomb, all manner of inharmonious and grating noises are interjected and then vanish, including whistles, yodels, bel canto arias, wolf calls, marching feet, erotic moans and duck calls. Incorporating these disruptions, he alters the melody at points to work in blues tonality and formal recital inferences, culminating in a thoroughly original re-creation. Each of the 18 compositions goes through a similar transformation, whether it’s 1896’s Red River Valley or 1955’s Arrivederci Roma. While most include a humorous palimpsest of the original, only Arrivederci Roma with its sonic overlay of crying infants, street noises and snatches of Italian-language conversations, add a hint of seriousness to the familiar light-hearted melody, since Curran has lived and taught in Rome since the early 1960s. Ken Waxman The Newest Sound You Never Heard Ran Blake; Jeanne Lee a-side records 0005 (a-siderecords.com) !! When singer Jeanne Lee and pianist Ran Blake released their 1961 debut, The Newest Sound Around, it introduced a new interpretive freedom to a broad range of songs. The duo extended traditional roles to a genuine improvised duet between voice and instrument, from Lee’s frequent a cappella rubatos and chromatic fantasies to Blake’s playful keyboard explosions, all of it held together by near-telepathic attention to one another’s sense of inspired detail. This two-CD set combines unreleased studio and concert performances recorded in Belgium in 1966 and 1967. One can simply celebrate the breadth of their repertoire, extending from Ellington, Monk (his Misterioso here set to Gertrude Stein’s words) and Harold Arlen to Ornette Coleman, Ray Charles, Lennon-McCartney and Bob Dylan; however, it’s their unique handling of the material that distinguishes the results, stringing songs together in vast medleys, then trusting to the individual song to hold the performance together. In part they play on the familiarity of their material, Lee’s rich, nuanced delivery of a single phrase conveying an entire song’s depth. The live disc initially reminds that Out of this World started with Arlen and Johnny Mercer, even if the greatest debt here is to John Coltrane. It then segues to a fragmented Mr. Tambourine Man in a chain that includes an abstracted pointillist Blake solo and Lee’s roots-drenched versions of He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands and Billie’s Blues. This is rare and fine material. Stuart Broomer Harder on the Outside Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord Independent HOT CUP 108 (jonlundbom.com) ! ! The “avant jazz guitarist” Jon Lundbom has an eclectic and inventive history which includes studying jazz and classical guitar in Chicago and New York; playing in Bryan & the Haggards, a New York-based alternative Merle Haggard cover band; and releasing eight recordings with his own group, Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord. (I fell in love with the Haggard’s 2013 Merles Just Want to Have Fun featuring Eugene Chadbourne). Harder on the Outside is intense, 88 | March 2019 thewholenote.com

aggressive, fun and solidly grooving. It is a combination of hardcore/alternative fusion with solid beats and free-form soloing. The “beats” come from a longer-term project between saxophonist Bryan Murray and Lundbom which is forthcoming, but Lundbom was inspired to record live versions of those songs with the Big Five Chord (Lundbom with Jon Irabagon on alto and soprano saxophones, Murray on tenor and balto! saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass and Dan Monaghan on drums). Two examples of this album’s range are: People Be Talking which features a 6/4 metre propelled by an eccentric bass and drum groove, melodic head, sputtering and energized tenor solo by Murray and then a reverbed, ethereal guitar solo from Lundbom. Prednisone is slower with a cautious, crawling melody played in fourths with the saxophones. Justin Wood (a guest “sixth chord”) plays a lyric alto sax solo and then Lundbom finishes with a fuzzed-out guitar displaying very solid fusion chops. None of the tunes end with the traditional recap of the melody; the solo finishes and that’s it. The beats are seriously heavy and the playing is intense. Ted Parkinson Weighting Gabriel Zucker ESP-Disk ESP5027 (gabrielzucker.com) !! Gabriel Zucker is a New Yorkbased composer and pianist who has been creating music which combines elements of contemporary composition, jazz improvisation and indie band music. He writes and performs for a band he calls The Delegation which has a revolving membership and recently toured Ontario. Weighting sounds similar to the music of The Delegation, but it is a specific project based on the novel The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. The group comprises Zucker with Tyshawn Sorey (drums), Adam O’Farrill (trumpet) and Eric Trudel (saxophone). Weighting contains sounds and motifs that unwind narratively in three parts: Soul, Appointments and Stones (each of which has two or three movements). The first movement of Part 1 – Would It Come Back to You? – begins with trumpet and saxophone playing lines that are part counterpoint, part call and response; they grow loud, then soft, interspersing flurries of notes with longer tones. The piano and drums enter after the piece is half over, filling out the sound with discordant clusters of notes and drum rolls and then all four players exchange several intense riffs until only the piano is left to calmly introduce the second movement, The Uselessness of Truth/Not to be Anything More. Soon Sorey joins with some bow-oncymbal work and eventually Trudel plays primarily pads over a soft piano background. Each of the movements contains contrasting composed sections and some improvised parts which maintain the sense of moving forward to the next idea. Zucker has carved out a unique vision with his music and Weighting is an engaging album. Ted Parkinson POT POURRI Rupakarias Nicolas Hernandez Independent (nicolashernandez.com) !! Nick Hernandez is a beautiful guitarist who generally keeps a low profile. The Torontobased musician is an accompanist to flamenco dancers and singers, as musical director of Esmeralda Enrique’s Spanish Dance Company, and for the last dozen or so years, his main gig has been accompanying another fine guitarist, Jesse Cook. Now he’s stepping into the spotlight somewhat with his second album in 13 years (time flies!), Rupakarias. Filled with original compositions in traditional flamenco song styles like guajiras and tarantas, the album also has some nontraditional elements such as South Asian drums, courtesy of Toronto tabla master Ravi Naimpally. The title of the album is a portmanteau of two song styles – flamenco bulerias and the Indian classical tala, rupak. The song Rupakerias is an artful mashup of the two styles with tabla blending beautifully with the guitar and vice versa. The jaleos (calls) and palmas (hand claps) at the end give the song a traditional touch. The gorgeous Mociones y Emociones is one of the more accessible songs on the album. Its Gipsy Kings-esque sound – a rumba style, which I think of as the pop music of the flamenco world due to the group bringing the style to prominence and global airplay back in the 80s – gives it a ring of familiarity. The fiery bulerias Recordando a Cesar, will get your heart started with percussionist Rosendo Chendy León Arocha’s cajón playing and palmas driving the tempo. Dos Mundos is a bit of a departure with its searing electric guitar work, courtesy of Kevin Laliberté. Re Mi Sol is a sunny and evocative closer to this fine album. Cathy Riches The Walls are Made of Song Ladom Ensemble Independent (ladomensemble.com) !! The muchanticipated second release of local instrumental group Ladom Ensemble features tight, infectious, energetic and virtuosic performances by each member. Pianist/composer/arranger Pouya Hamidi, accordionist Michael Bridge, cellist Beth Silver and percussionist Adam Campbell play both as soloists and ensemble musicians in the wide-ranging musical genres performed. The four classical arrangements for Ladom show respect for the original work while exploring new sounds in the transcriptions. Of note is the entertaining Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5 in G Minor featuring rapid accordion melody lines with tremolo bellowing, and contrasting dramatic fast and slow sections. The first movement of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No.7 in G Minor is an interesting approach with contrapuntal lines against more modern, almost party-like rhythms. The stylistically accurate East Coast Medley featuring the “fiddle” parts on cello, a straightforward rendition of Piazzolla’s Libertango, and an orchestral flavoured cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi bring welcome sonic contrasts. Vocalist Brenna MacCrimmon sings on two tracks. Her clear, beautiful vocals on the traditional Azeri Lullaby are supported by held notes to the final “falling asleep” cello pluck. Three original works are performed. Hamidi’s The Walls are Made of Song is a slower tonal soundscape with dramatic build and dynamic contrasts while his Gift is more a reflective almost mournful piece. Maziar Heidari’s Summer in Tehran features well placed short ideas. Ladom Ensemble is an exciting, evolving group with musicality, technical acumen and an overwhelming sense of joy in playing. Tiina Kiik Risorgimento Romina Di Gasbarro Modica Music MM0022 (romina.ca) ! ! Multitalented Canadian vocalist/ composer/instrumentalist Romina Di Gasbarro stretches her musicianship to the limits in her third CD release. She weaves together ancient and modern music such as folk, jazz, opera, art song and pop, in both Italian and English, to tell old-to-current cultural and political stories. Other than a thewholenote.com March 2019 | 89

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