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Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020

  • Text
  • Faculty
  • Performing
  • Musical
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Theatre
  • Symphony
  • December
  • January
  • Toronto
Welcome to our December/January issue as we turn the annual calendar page, halfway through our season for the 25th time, juggling as always, secular stuff, the spirit of the season, new year resolve and winter journeys! Why is Mozart's Handel's Messiah's trumpet a trombone? Why when Laurie Anderson offers to fly you to the moon you should take her up on the invitation. Why messing with Winterreisse can (sometimes) be a very good thing! And a bumper crop of record reviews for your reading (and sometimes listening) pleasure. Available in flipthrough here right now, and on stands commencing Thursday Nov 28. See you on the other side!

an intimate encounter as

an intimate encounter as between pianist and vocalist, Champian Fulton, and saxophonist and impresario, Cory Weeds. What is no accident, however, is the fact that these two musicians seem to automatically fall in with each other, melodically, harmonically and rhythmically, so that axiomatic sparks begin to fly. Weeds plays with quiet brilliance throughout Dream a Little… His uniquely sophisticated and sonorous style weaves in and out of the vibrant and affectionate expressivity of Fulton’s pianism, her voice often becoming the crowning glory of the songs here. Both musicians seem to connect in a rarefied realm, but they then descend to earth where they each inhabit a palette of sumptuous colour. Then, like a couple in love, playfully oblivious of the attention they have attracted, they hold each other’s music in a tight embrace. There is too much proverbial gold on this album, but I am going to risk suggesting that the biggest ear-opener is Darn that Dream. This performance burns in the quietude of the bluest part of a musical flame; its languid, seemingly interminable narrative made to simmer forever in a rhythmic and sonic intensity where Weeds contributes lyrical prowess, while Fulton offers her brilliant vocalastics, which sustain the music’s emotional mood while bringing the text’s poetic imagery to life. Raul da Gama High and Low Sam Kirmayer; Ben Paterson; Dave Laing Cellar Live CLO 20118 (cellarlive.com) !! During an era in which even the most straight-ahead jazz guitarist tends to have a sprawling array of pedals on stage, Sam Kirmayer is something of an anomaly. A traditionalist who tends to eschew effects in favour of the unmediated connection between instrument and amplifier, Kirmayer has found a voice for himself in the bluesy, hard bop style of guitarists like Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and Peter Bernstein. His newest album, High and Low, is his first to be released on Vancouver’s Cellar Live Records; an apposite fit, for a label that has become Canada’s leading outlet for hard bop. High and Low is an organ trio album, a rarity in and of itself in Canada. Drummer Dave Laing – who also played on Kirmayer’s debut album – is a faculty member in McGill’s jazz program, and is a stalwart of the Montreal scene. New York organist Ben Paterson, whose résumé includes work with Bobby Broom, Johnny O’Neal, and Peter Bernstein, rounds out the trio. High and Low delivers amply on the premise that it sets out for itself: it is a swinging hard-hitting album, with crisp, tasteful playing from all involved. It is also, from the opening notes of the title track, a sonically beautiful experience, with all of the richness and depth that one hopes for in an organ trio recording. Kirmayer is in his element throughout High and Low, and Laing and Paterson make for a strong rhythmic team. Colin Story Trane of Thought (Live at The Rex) Pat LaBarbera/Kirk MacDonald Quintet Cellar Live CLO71819 (cellarlive.com) !! When two extraordinary jazz saxophonists team up for a John Coltrane tribute, you know it’s going to be explosive. And that’s exactly what this live recording, featuring both Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald along with their band, is. The record is a well-picked and thought-out selection of songs from the two Coltrane tribute shows that the duo performed at our city’s beloved jazz joint, The Rex, in 2018. Ranging from the legendary saxophonist’s earlier works to some of his most lasting and obscure ones, LaBarbera and MacDonald have achieved, in their own words, “a thoughtful balance.” The album stems from a love for Coltrane that the duo has, LaBarbera seeing him live when he was studying at the Berklee School of Music and MacDonald discovering Coltrane on record at an early age. The songs on the record, although from separate live shows, have been picked in such a way that it tells a thorough story; starting off sultry and well-paced with On a Misty Night and Village Blues, building up to a wonderful and fevered climax with Impressions and coming to a scintillating end with Acknowledgment/Resolution. Coltrane’s works can be appreciated very well here, especially with the excellent backing musicians – Brian Dickinson on piano, Neil Swainson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Fan of Coltrane or not, this album should definitely be a part of any jazz aficionado’s collection. Kati Kiilaspea Chrysalis Sonia Johnson Independent PSJCD1911 (soniajohnson.com) !! Creating an album of music where disparate musical styles come together can seem burdensome on paper. But when there is just too much in the essence of music to be left out, indulging everything becomes imperative. This is the raison d’être for Chrysalis the first English language album from the francophone artist Sonia Johnson. The title suggests a bringing to birth of something transformative. It certainly seems so after the last notes disappear into the air. But more than anything else, you get the sense that Chrysalis is a labour of love. Featuring beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness, in every lovingly caressed phrase, Chrysalis lays bare Johnson’s adoration of music in all its harmonic sumptuousness. Her chosen material consists of original songs – either written by her, or co-written with others whose work she delights in – so that listening to this music feels like opening an ornate box to reveal hidden gems. For instance, listening to the way in which Johnson seductively bends the notes in Storm and Monsters, and how she sculpts the long, sustained invention of We Need to Know, it’s clear that there’s not a single semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered vocally and instrumentally by an ensemble attuned to Johnson’s artistic vision. Two other vocalists – Judith Little-Daudelin and Elie Haroun – deliver powerful performances. Meanwhile Johnson’s mellifluous timbre beguiles throughout as she digs deep into her nasal, throat and chest voice. Raul da Gama Fundamentally Flawed Dan Pitt Trio Independent (dan-pitt.com) ! ! Over the past few years, guitarist Dan Pitt has been steadily establishing a presence for himself on the Toronto jazz scene. Fundamentally Flawed, the debut album for both Pitt and his eponymous trio, is a showcase for Pitt’s playing and his unique compositional style; in both, one can find complementary elements of modern jazz and creative/improvised music, with a tendency to employ the former in service of the latter. This being the case, Pitt has done well in choosing his bandmates: bassist Alex Fournier, whose recently released album Triio is a stylistic cousin to Fundamentally Flawed, and drummer Nick Fraser. A generation removed from Pitt and Fournier, Fraser’s artful drumming has been an increasingly common presence on the projects of younger Toronto musicians, and it is affecting to see him continue to contribute to a scene that he helped to establish in the late 90s and early 2000s. Though Pitt plays electric guitar, Fundamentally Flawed is, at its core, an acoustic trio album, with an emphasis on the interactivity, excitement and close listening 94 | December 2019January 2020 thewholenote.com

that seem uniquely possible in the trio format. From the raucous, heavily distorted moments of Overdewitt and Mark III to lush, slow sections in Balmoral and January Blues, Pitt’s music has a transparent quality that allows the individual characteristics of each band member to be clearly heard at any given time, highlighting minute shifts in improvisational trajectory. A solid debut from a compelling band. Colin Story City Abstract Dan McCarthy Origin Records 82788 (originarts.com) !! Vibraphonist Dan McCarthy’s newest album, City Abstract, heralds the Toronto native’s return to his hometown, after 15 years living in New York and working with the likes of Steve Swallow, Ben Monder and George Garzone. City Abstract is a Canadian affair: recorded earlier this year at the Canterbury Music Company, it features the quartet of McCarthy, guitarist Ted Quinlan, bassist Pat Collins and drummer Ted Warren; of the nine tracks, six are McCarthy compositions. McCarthy is an accomplished vibraphonist, with a strong technical command of his instrument and well-developed artistic intuition. This combination of taste and judgment serves him well throughout City Abstract, whether on up-tempo numbers like Bleyto and Go Berserk or on more reflective songs, such as Coral and Other Things of Less Consequence. Quinlan, Collins and Warren share this approach; though this is a band with chops to spare, they are always deployed in service to the music, rather than for personal glory. City Abstract has many highlights to choose from. Bleyto, the album’s opener, is a tight, swinging song, with an athletic melody played ably in unison by Quinlan and McCarthy. The 7/4 Go Berserk is also an unexpected treat, if only because the juxtaposition of the vibraphone with distorted, high-gain guitar still seems relatively novel. Overall, City Abstract is a well-crafted modern jazz album from a talented bandleader whom the Toronto jazz scene should be glad to have back. Colin Story Andy Ballantyne: Play on Words Andy Ballantyne; Rob Piltch; Adrean Farrugia; Neil Swainson; Terry Clarke GB Records GBCD190307 (gbrecords.ca) !! Toronto-native, saxophonist Andy Ballantyne has decided to pay tribute to some of his greatest influences on this new release. Ballantyne describes the thought behind this record as being a showcase of how it’s possible to make something your own and add your personal touch and flare to it, even within the bounds of certain stylistic constraints you often have as a freelance musician. It’s very much about showing how a musician can add their own unique perspective within a piece of music. Ballantyne composed all of the pieces except Till the Clouds Roll By, written by Jerome Kern, a famed musical theatre and popular music composer from the early 1900s. All of the songs stand out in their own right and, if the listener knows about the greats Ballantyne is paying tribute to, it is easy to hear their influence. Some pieces that really come forth are Gordian Knot, a catchy and rhythmically pleasing opening track dedicated to Dexter Gordon, Round Shot, a song that is positively groovy and is a shout out to the great Cannonball Adderley and Mr. P.L., a quite cleverly named tune to honour one of our amazing local saxophonists (maybe the reader will be able to figure out who.) Featuring Adrean Farrugia on piano, Rob Piltch on guitar, Neil Swainson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums, this record is nothing short of excellent. Kati Kiilaspea Offering Rob Clutton with Tony Malaby Snailbongbong SBB006 (robclutton.bandcamp.com) !! Bassist Rob Clutton has long been a mainstay of Toronto’s jazz community, as diligent supporting player in the mainstream and a creative catalyst in more adventurous settings. Clutton leads his own Cluttertones, combining songs, synthesizer and banjo, and he’s explored individualistic inspirations on solo bass. Here he’s playing a series of duets with New York saxophonist Tony Malaby, a fellow member of drummer Nick Fraser’s Quartet, and a standout soloist, whether for the animated gravel of his tenor or the piquant air of his soprano. That pared-down instrumentation reveals its rationale on the hymn-like title track, one of Clutton’s seven compositions here, his bowed bass complementing Malaby’s warm, airy tenor sound. On Refuge, as well, the two reach toward the grace and intensity of John Coltrane. Often admirably concise, the two can also stretch out, extending their spontaneous interaction on Crimes of Tantalus. Among the three improvisations, Swamp Cut has both musicians reaching deep into their sonic resources, Malaby’s grainy soprano meeting its double in the high harmonics of Clutton’s bowed bass. The rapid-fire Twig has Clutton to the fore, plucking a kind of compound ostinato that fires Malaby’s lyricism. Swerve has as much focused energy and raw expressionism as bass and tenor might provide, while Nick Fraser’s Sketch #11 possesses a special melodic attraction. Throughout, one hears the special camaraderie that two gifted improvisers can achieve in a stripped-down setting, while Clutton’s compositions could support a larger ensemble and further elaboration. Stuart Broomer Concert Note: The Clutton/Malaby duo play at The Rex on a double bill with Fraser/ Malaby/Davis on December 2. Liminal Spaces Simon Legault Trio Effendi Records (effendirecords.com) ! ! Simon Legault’s previous album was titled Hypnagogia Polis (2017) which referred to a transitional state from wakefulness to sleep and featured a quintet. Liminal Spaces (2019) is a trio album which includes Adrian Vedady on electric and acoustic bass and Michel Lambert on drums. Liminal means “relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.” Therefore the theme of “transitions” can explain many of the melodic and compositional elements of his work. Legault’s guitar playing is both clean and precise and includes a spacey quality that hints at other worlds and explorations beyond the immediacy of the groove. Many of the pieces seem to have evolved from improvisations and work organically through several organizing ideas or movements. The opening Liminal Spaces contains many rubato portions which draw on Legault’s melodic scampering; a pastiche of percussive nuances from Lambert provides a nuanced and shifting backdrop. Solus I, II, III and IV are shorter solo guitar works that explore a variety of melodic and harmonic ideas, all in relatively free time. On the other hand, Inflexion has a solid groove and a harder bop feel which Vedady and Lambert accentuate with great ensemble backing. Interwoven’s title could refer to thewholenote.com December 2019January 2020 | 95

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 7 - April 2020
Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020
Volume 25 Issue 5 - February 2020
Volume 25 Issue 4 - December 2019 / January 2020
Volume 25 Issue 3 - November 2019
Volume 25 Issue 2 - October 2019
Volume 25 Issue 1 - September 2019
Volume 24 Issue 8 - May 2019
Volume 24 Issue 7 - April 2019
Volume 24 Issue 6 - March 2019
Volume 24 Issue 5 - February 2019
Volume 24 Issue 4 - December 2018 / January 2019
Volume 24 Issue 3 - November 2018
Volume 24 Issue 2 - October 2018
Volume 24 Issue 1 - September 2018
Volume 23 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2018
Volume 23 Issue 8 - May 2018
Volume 23 Issue 7 - April 2018
Volume 23 Issue 6 - March 2018
Volume 23 Issue 4 - December 2017 / January 2018
Volume 23 Issue 3 - November 2017
Volume 23 Issue 2 - October 2017
Volume 23 Issue 1 - September 2017
Volume 22 Issue 9 - Summer 2017
Volume 22 Issue 8 - May 2017
Volume 22 Issue 7 - April 2017
Volume 22 Issue 6 - March 2017
Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017
Volume 22 Issue 4 - December 2016/January 2017
Volume 22 Issue 2 - October 2016
Volume 22 Issue 1 - September 2016
Volume 21 Issue 9 - Summer 2016
Volume 21 Issue 8 - May 2016
Volume 21 Issue 6 - March 2016
Volume 21 Issue 5 - February 2016
Volume 21 Issue 4 - December 2015/January 2016
Volume 21 Issue 3 - November 2015
Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015
Volume 21 Issue 1 - September 2015

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)