3 years ago

Volume 25 Issue 6 - March 2020

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FEATURED: Music & Health writer Vivien Fellegi explores music, blindness & the plasticity of perception; David Jaeger digs into Gustavo Gimeno's plans for new music in his upcoming first season as music director at TSO; pianist James Rhodes, here for an early March recital, speaks his mind in a Q&A with Paul Ennis; and Lydia Perovic talks music and more with rising Turkish-Canadian mezzo Beste Kalender. Also, among our columns, Peggy Baker Dance Projects headlines Wende Bartley's In with the New; Steve Wallace's Jazz Notes rushes in definitionally where many fear to tread; ... and more.

three of that city’s

three of that city’s most accomplished free players: multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Marc Edwards. All four function as if they’ve worked together for years. With Fisher on alto and tenor saxophones, while Carter roams among clarinet, flute, tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, the only disorientation occurs when both play saxophones. But on Valley Spirit for instance, the resulting layered reed affirmations create enough elasticized power to counter the rugged polyrhythms of Edwards, who is constantly aggressive, although his distinctive accents and patterns never disrupt the narratives. Elsewhere Carter’s discursive trumpet flutters, breezy flute tones or fluid clarinet timbres create a calm oasis during the extended tracks, which Fisher joins with breathy lower-case vibrations. Meanwhile Lopez’s sprawling thumps maintain the tunes’ flow, except those times he joins the others for expressive intensity. Overall, the horn players use chalumeau and clarion registers in double counterpoint to create packed tension or relaxed flow with frequent detours into split tones and irregular vibrations, as on Crescent Moon Furnace and Embryonic Breath. What this means is that Fisher, Carter and the others unite to productively vary sequences among light and dark, speedy and frantic, and high and low pitches. It also confirms that a Hogtown improviser can easily pull his weight when facing Big Apple challengers. Ken Waxman Café Grand Abyss Jon Rose; Alvin Curran ReR Megacorp ReRJRAC ( !! Busman’s holidays for American pianist Alvin Curran and Australian violinist Jon Rose; the two navigate a program of improvisations that also reference Curran’s experiments with electronics and Rose’s habit of stretching the fiddle’s expected characteristics for offbeat music-making. Both are possessed of a sardonic sense of humour. For instance, they end the disc with a brief singing saw-and-keyboard-clipping variant on Tea for Two and precede that with a pseudo-blues, where at every turn, wide multi-string violin squeaks burlesque the jittery piano syncopation beside it. But this café’s main courses are extended duets, where amplified tenor violin sweeps expose unexpected techniques answered succinctly by keyboard colours plus wave-form drones or sampled sounds. Curran exhibits percussion backing, brasslike pumps, electronic wiggles, and sampled vocals and music on Benjamin at the Border, without neglecting consistent piano note patterns. These merge with Rose’s kinetic glissandi and hoedown-like patterns that complement the exposition while mocking the pianist’s few lapses into romanticism. Dramatically intriguing, The Marcuse Problem is built upon thickening a narrative constructed from angled fiddle runs and keyboard clinking to reach such a level of echoed intensity that it appears the pressure can’t be further amplified – and then it is. Finally the theme is deconstructed, leading to an appealing conclusion. Recorded in sessions two years apart in Rome and Sydney where each musician lives, the CD’s stimulating duo program should encourage the two to collaborate more frequently. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Latin Romance Ensemble Vivant Opening Day ODR 7458 ( !! This is Ensemble Vivant’s 14th album. Founder, artistic director and pianist, Catherine Wilson, and her merry band of fellow world-class musicians, have been serving up a captivating mix of classical, Latin, jazz, ragtime and music from the Great American Songbook, in an intimate chamber music format for over 30 years! Writing this, as I am, on Valentine’s Day, how very appropriate that so much of the music, and the music-making, on Latin Romance is absolutely stirring and heartachingly beautiful; Wilson’s opening solo on Gismonti’s Memoria Y Fado is especially poignant. And speaking of matters of the heart, sadly, noted Canadian composer, John Burke, whose rich and rhythmic La Despedida for solo piano (a gift to Wilson, his longtime friend and colleague) graces track five, passed away on January 18, 2020. (Eerily, and perhaps fittingly, La Despedida – translated as “The Farewell” – was the last piece of his music Burke heard performed, live, before he died six weeks later.) Wilson, along with bassist Jim Vivian, violinist Corey Gemmell, violist Norman Hathaway, cellist Sybil Shanahan, and guests Don Thompson, whose vibe work on Gismonti’s Lôro is an exhilarating tour de force, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, and Juan Carlos Medrano and Luisito Orbegoso on Latin percussion, sparkle, shimmer, pulsate, yearn, beckon, move, tango and haunt in gorgeous (and often sexy) pieces by Piazzolla, Jobim, Lecuona, Albeniz, Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, Ernesto Nazareth, Leroy Anderson and Phil Dwyer. Latin Romance is chamber music at its evocative best! Sharna Searle Concert note: A Tribute Concert to John Burke: A Celebration of His Musical Life is being organized by Catherine Wilson, to be held later in 2020. For details contact or visit www. Something More Lynn Harrison Independent ( ! ! Sometimes a low-key first impression leads, like the title of this CD, to Something More. Toronto folk singer Lynn Harrison’s finely crafted, penetrating lyrics and music become more and more intriguing as the disc progresses. In the title song I was at first concerned about plainness, but now I realize that, together with hollow-sounding guitar chord voicings, the repeated word “something” builds a sense of trouble effectively. Relentless lyrical uncertainty is appropriate enough in the song Riddle, yet in the closing guitar passage acceptance emerges non-verbally. In another song, Don’t Know How It Works, the line “To turn this anxious overflow into an easy grace” is especially memorable. In When I’m on the Water the continuation goes “… I’m above deep blue/When I hold my paddle I can glide on through.” With political and environmental themes, Protester and Pretty It Up become distinguished contributions in the social justice tradition. Hope in the face of difficulty is pervasive, and this artist’s inner depth no doubt also supports her work as Unitarian Universalist minister. In Harrison’s folk style, her clear alto voice and confident acoustic guitar work are notable. Enriching influences from blues, rock and jazz in her songs are realized by stellar contributions from Noah Zacharin on guitars, including slide work on You Come to Me, and from too many other excellent instrumentalists to name individually. Production by Zacharin in association with Douglas September tops it all off professionally and imaginatively. Roger Knox 88 | March 2020

The Space Between Disguises Simone Baron & Arco Belo Independent GF0001 (; !! American pianist/accordionist/composer/ arranger Simone Baron created her self-described “genre queer” sevenmember chamber ensemble Arco Belo to perform styles ranging from classical to jazz to folk to world to new music. This debut release is a grounded creative quasi-work in progress performed with expertise. Co-produced with bassist Michael Pope and percussionist/drummer Lucas Ashby, Baron’s music is eclectic accessible listening. Baron is equally proficient in arranging and composing. Highlights include her opening track composition, Post Edit Delete, with lush string sounds opening, followed by her solo piano playing leading to a more jazz sound with solo violin. Its diversity is surprisingly not fragmented and introduces the listener to Baron’s self-described musical “worlds as different gestures.” Her Passive Puppeteer touches on many, never dissonant, ideas featuring her piano grooves and accordion runs supported by Pope’s electric bass virtuosity. Love her three short Disguise Interludes with static electronic sounds and voice. Baron’s arrangement of Brazilian composer Tibor Fittel’s Valsa, which features a lyrical accordion part with bass, full string section and traditional harmonies, shifts from sad to upbeat rhythmic tango. Baron’s sensitive accordion performance here would benefit from more subtle dynamic variations but the high accordion pitches, trills and repeated notes at the end are colourful. World music sounds abound in her take on Béla Bartók’s Buciumeana/Kadynja. String players Aaron Malone, Bill Neri and Peter Kibbe, and percussionist Patrick Graney complete the band membership. Other special guests play here too and Baron’s musical forecast shines brightly! Tiina Kiik Wherein Lies the Good The Westerlies Westerlies Records WST001 ( !! The Westerlies are a brass quartet playing postmodern roots music with classical finesse while throwing in some down and dirty jazz licks and a few extended techniques. Wherein Lies the Good is their third album and the current members are Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands (trumpet) and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch (trombone). The album is just over an hour with 18 songs and they run the gamut from Charles Ives to five gospel numbers transcribed from the Golden Gate Quartet’s arrangements, and an original from each member of the group. One of my favourites is Robert Henry, written by Clausen for his nephew’s birth. It has a beautiful lilting melody played by the trumpets over pensive and moving trombone bass lines. It contains strains of minimalism with rapid fire exchanges between the trumpets and crisp articulation from everyone. Like many of the works, it has several sections which shift moods and keep the listener engaged. On the other hand, Entropy Part II becomes densely discordant and downright spooky. Wherein Lies the Good is a fresh delight and the arrangements make the four horns seem like a much larger ensemble. Ted Parkinson Something in the Air Expanding the Trumpet’s Role and Range Outwards KEN WAXMAN With the trumpet’s traditional heraldic and heroic roles in most music, and construction which depends on only three valves, tubing and a bell, it would seem that distinctive brass innovation would be at a premium. Yet as the following discs demonstrate, those who mix innovative concepts and technical sophistication can create notable exploratory sessions. While American Dave Douglas’ Engage (Greenleaf Music GRE-CD- 1074 is the performance closest to the jazz tradition, his choice of engaged song titles such as Sanctuary Cities and Living Earth confirms his political concerns, while the group lineup is unconventional. Besides drummer Kate Gentile and bassist Nick Dunston, it includes guitarist Jeff Parker, cellist Tomeka Reid plus Canada’s Anna Webber moving among alto and bass flutes and tenor saxophone. Engaged, not agit-prop though, challenges are expressed in sound. Orchestral, with a bass flute introduction for instance, In It Together splinters from anthemic to atonal due to trumpet gusts, swift cello string jerks and barbed guitar frails. One Sun, A Million Rays mates an exemplar of brass tongue jujitsu and valve hide-and-seek timbres propelled by guest trumpeter Dave Adewumi, with parade ground-like drumming and a chromatic counter line from the flutist. Meanwhile Living Earth could be a sleigh-ride melody reimagined by a Dixieland combo, although Webber’s tough tenor intensity, Parker’s colourful finger-picking and Douglas’ open horn work, backed by vamps from Adewumi and another trumpet guest, Riley Mulherkar, confirm its contemporary stance. This substantiates another Douglas concept. Like a concerned progressive who wishes society to evolve not rupture, his compositions cannily advance new textures that build on established ones. Faith Alliance and Free Libraries, Engage’s most advanced tracks, are instances of this. Faith Alliance slides Parker’s Jimi Hendrix-like squealing flanges and razor-sharp distortions within a layered horn vamp, culminating in a challenge from string pressure to brass expansion. Free Libraries could be termed roots music with the cello’s string swelling and the guitar’s blues licks never disrupting the harmonized horn part that, with gentling grace notes, instills concluding calm. Touching on roots music by inference is Dropping Stuff and other Folk Songs (Relative Pitch RPR 1094 but the eight tracks don’t resemble any extant folk music. Instead they reflect the sounds made by instruments stretched to their technical limits during improvisations created by an unconventional line-up of Amsterdam-based violist Ig Henneman and flutist Anne La Berge plus American trumpeter Jaimie Branch. There are a few instances of March 2020 | 89

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