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Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

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  • Ensemble
  • Classical
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  • Choral
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
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  • September
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Choral Scene: Uncharted territory: three choirs finding paths forward; Music Theatre: Loose Tea on the boil with Alaina Viau’s Dead Reckoning; In with the New: what happens to soundart when climate change meets COVID-19; Call to action: diversity, accountability, and reform in post-secondary jazz studies; 9th Annual TIFF Tips: a filmfest like no other; Remembering: Leon Fleisher; DISCoveries: a NY state of mind; 25th anniversary stroll-through; and more. Online in flip through here, and on stands commencing Tues SEP 1.


Saturday’s Circumference is a driving tonal duet featuring intermittent happy toe-tapping and slower reflective sections. Abel is a compositional master of intriguing contemporary music. Tiina Kiik JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Life is a Gong Show Songs of Tales Roots2boot Recordings ( ! A bewitching collaboration born from the minds of four talented jazz musicians from across Canada, this debut CD is a simple yet complex musical hodgepodge of eclectic rhythms and meandering melodies brought together by great musicianship. Saxophonist and keyboardist Petr Cancura; Jean Martin on drums, vibraphone and electronics; Jesse Zubot on violin, bass, congas and synths; and Gordon Grdina on oud, guitars and bass, together produce a very apparent likeminded flow of creativity and expression. What really makes this album stand out is the instrumentation featuring the pairing of saxophone and violin that often play main melodic strains together; the tracks take on a unique modernistic quality yet still with a touch of authenticity. Throw the electronics into the mix and you have a truly pleasurable avant-jazz-pop-jazz album. The record starts off with a picturesque opening track, Traure, which calls to mind a scene from a western with a classic cowboy staredown which reflects the fact that partial inspiration for this album is taken from film music. Burning Bright takes on another tone altogether, leaning more towards jazz with rhythmic complexity, sax and vibraphone melody and a hint of uncertainty stirred in. The album ends with Mary Go Round, a track that conjures up the image of a vast expanse, a melancholic and haunting violin and acoustic guitar theme bringing the scenic musical journey to a close. A truly interesting and inspiring album. Kati Kiilaspea Borjoner Aimee-Jo Benoit and Trio Velocity Independent ( ! Famed vocalist Aimee-Jo Benoit’s newest release featuring Trio Velocity can be described as “an album of loosely arranged… tunes closest to the heart of the [artist’s] musical journey.” The tracks are a collection of songs written by renowned musicians from various corners of the musical universe, ranging from Kurt Cobain to Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach. Benoit’s unique soft-yet-defined timbre combined with instrumentation featuring upright bass, drums and piano enables these arrangements to have an interesting and refreshing twist. Each track has its own story to tell and the vocalist herself expresses her love of storytelling by “using a variety of vocal techniques to convey the narrative inherent in [each] song.” Benoit’s interpretation of Cobain’s All Apologies stands out for highlighting the main recognizable riff while replacing the melancholic tone of the original song with a much more positive one through the use of Sheldon Zandboer’s soft and melodic piano theme. This Flight Tonight is an energetic and pleasing interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s classic tune carried forward by Simon Fisk on bass and Robin Tufts on drums, within which you can hear hints of Mitchell’s timbre peeking through in Benoit’s vocal styling while she still makes the tune completely her own. For those in search of a refreshing take on modern classics with just the right amount of character mixed in, this album is a perfect listen. Kati Kiilaspea Rise and Shine Grant Stewart Quartet Cellar Music CM110419 ( ! A discussion I frequently have with fellow jazz musicians regards what percentage of a musician’s time is best allocated towards paying homage to the tradition, versus innovating. I’m generally of the camp that stresses innovation and modernity, but I have much respect for those who masterfully devote themselves to keeping a more classic style of improvised music alive, with the caveat that this is executed in the most genuine and immaculate way possible. What could be a better way to accomplish this goal, than to record at the Meccaesque Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey locale that has accommodated countless sessions for Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse and CTI, among other record labels? Jazz is a style of music that frequently negates the technicalities of where it’s recorded (“it’s all about the notes, man!”) but a listener would be hard pressed not to notice the unique sound Rudy Van Gelder’s studio imparts, even today, four years after the late engineer’s passing. The thought crossed my mind how perfectly both Grant Stewart’s musicianship and the aforementioned studio fit the mandate of Cellar Music – “timeless, swinging, heartfelt, and resonant.” Returning to my earlier musings on tradition versus innovation, it strikes me that there is a certain level of commitment necessary to make a recording in 2020 that harkens back to the jazz of the 50s and 60s sound “timeless.” Grant Stewart, along with his stellar band and excellently balanced repertoire, demonstrate this commitment to its fullest extent, making Rise and Shine a treat to listen to. Sam Dickinson Night Devoid of Stars Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra Cellar Music CM051119 ( ! Three words come to mind when listening to Night Devoid of Stars: sophisticated, assured and grooving. Daniel Hersog is based in Vancouver, as are most of the excellent musicians in his orchestra, but the album features two special guests: New York saxophonist Noah Preminger and pianist Frank Carlberg (director of the New England Conservatory Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra). Hersog’s compositions contain many textures and techniques, incorporating contrapuntal movement between horn sections, extended passages with flute and muted brass voicings, other times opening up to feature soloists. The opening song, Cloud Break, begins with a four-note rising fanfare which is thrown around between brass and wind sections, takes on a minor variation and some counterpoint that leads into a free-wheeling trumpet solo from Frank Turner that is both loose and swinging. Motion begins with some fine gospel piano from Carlberg, and after the band enters to state a theme, he embarks on a solo grounded in solid rhythm with just enough notes to impart feeling and innuendo without hubris. After a brief ensemble interlude, Preminger lays down a solo that demonstrates why he won a Downbeat award. He begins with a sparse and wistful melody, his lines become more fluid, he and Carlberg perform some off-rhythmic riffing, and then he throws in a few angular and aggressive patterns before the band’s outro and Carlberg’s calm ending. Night Devoid of Stars is full of complex and surprising moments like these. In fact, the title has to be slightly ironic because there are many stars on this album: Hersog’s compositions and arrangements, his featured guests and the very fine jazz orchestra. Ted Parkinson 50 | September 2020

Still I Rise Derrick Gardner & the Big dig! Band Impact Jazz IJ002 ( ! Derrick Gardner’s musical journey began in Chicago, where both his parents were musicians and educators, moved to New York for more study, then around the world as he played in the Count Basie Orchestra and other groups. Since 2011 he has held the Babs Asper Chair in Jazz Trumpet at the University of Manitoba’s School of Music in Winnipeg. For Still I Rise, an album he composed and arranged, he gathered musical friends and family from the past two decades (from the United States, several players local to Winnipeg and others, like Curtis Nowosad who was originally from Winnipeg but has been making a name for himself in New York). Soulful Brother Gelispie, is dedicated to drummer Randy Gelispie, and contains excellent solos from guitarist Kasey Kurtz, Mark Gross on soprano sax and Nowosad on drums. Melody for Trayvon (dedicated to the teen slain in a “neighbourhood watch fiasco” in 2012) is slower and pensive, reminiscent of Mingus’ Goodbye Porkpie Hat. Push Come da Shove begins with a meditative introduction, then shifts gears when the band enters with a grooving blues riff, and full sax and brass ensemble sections work into a sophisticated trumpet solo by Gardner. The title piece starts rolling immediately with ensemble sections, some contrasting figures between saxophones and brass and then into an up-tempo solo by Gardner and a trombone solo by his brother Vincent. The closer, Heavens to Murgatroyd!, is a playful tune which includes cartoon samples and DJ Stop sounds all over a solid 3/4 time groove. Gardner’s orchestrations are expressive and contain full-on band sections as well as more restrained segments. All pieces are between seven and 15 minutes which gives the soloists time to stretch out so we can hear their individual personalities. Still I Rise swings from beginning to end. Ted Parkinson Blood Moon Ingrid Laubrock; Kris Davis Intakt CD 345 ( ! German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and Canadian pianist Kris Davis met more than a decade ago as newcomers to the New York jazz world. They soon developed a trio, Paradoxical Frog, with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and have collaborated in various projects, including Laubrock’s Anti-House quintet and her orchestral Contemporary Chaos Practices. In recent years, each has achieved considerable prominence, recording frequently and topping international jazz critics polls. This state-ofthe-art dialogue at chamber music dynamic levels demonstrates why. Davis’ opening Snakes and Lattice introduces a partnership of virtuosos as they fly through a complex series of glissandi and tremolos, leaping registers and shifting tempos, all delivered with a kind of playful aplomb. There’s more of the same in Laubrock’s Whistlings, music in which dexterity is not an end but a gateway to new terrain, soprano saxophone and piano so close as to suggest a single musician. Much of the music here is simply beautiful, but often in fresh ways. Laubrock produces sonorities of rare lustre, while Davis’ clouds of limpid notes blur Debussy and Second Viennese School. Their inventiveness and sense of detail are evident in Davis’ Flying Embers in which Laubrock’s quiet long tones and subtly shifting pitches fuse with the sustained hum of the piano strings. Laubrock’s Maroon moves toward form: initially balladic, it moves through a sustained free exchange, eventually arriving at two distinct voices, a lyric saxophone and an insistently percussive, mechanistic piano. Stuart Broomer The Jerry Granelli Trio plays Vince Guaraldi & Mose Allison Jerry Granelli Trio RareNoiseRecords RNR120 ( ! Drummer Jerry Granelli will turn 80 this year and he’s had a long and varied career in music, from San Francisco in the 1960s to Nova Scotia since the 1990s. His stellar contributions there have included a fine Haligonian trio with saxophonist Don Palmer and the late bassist Skip Beckwith. Here Granelli revisits the 1960s when he worked with pianist/composer Vince Guaraldi (including his famous Peanuts soundtracks) and the singer/pianist/songwriter Mose Allison, whose light Southern drawl and distinctive creativity somehow fused roots blues and modern jazz. Granelli’s choice of partners here is inspired, creating a consummate balance of polish, energy and invention. Pianist Jamie Saft, perhaps best known for playing multiple keyboards on John Zorn projects from lounge to noise, plays with both verve and drive; bassist Brad Jones leads as adeptly as he accompanies, playing two improvised duets with Granelli, Mind Prelude 1 and 2. Guaraldi’s masterful pop tunes bracket the session, opening with a buoyant Cast Your Fate to the Wind and closing with Christmas Is Here, at once wistful and radiant. Mose Allison’s songs get the bulk of the attention, with the trio’s combination of rhythmic force and playful post-modernism standing in for the missing lyrics. The rootsevocative Parchman Farm goes from a modal approach to a weirdly abstract Saft solo interlude in which blues and soul phrases mix freely with pointillist abstractions, while Your Mind Is on Vacation is tightrope-dancing improvisation heading for a melody. Stuart Broomer Inside Rhythmic Falls Aruán Ortiz w/Andrew Cyrille; Mauricio Herrera Intakt CD 339 ( ! Pianist/ composer Aruán Ortiz has spent half his life in Cuba and half in America, his work linking two strong traditions. One is that of the composer/ pianist as rhythmic/harmonic explorer and sound sculptor, connecting to Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Cecil Taylor and Andrew Hill. The other is the wellspring of Cuban music, a conduit of African roots into jazz, at least since percussionist Chano Pozo collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s. Ortiz’s solo CD Cub(an)ism explored the dual vision of painter Wilfredo Lam; Inside Rhythmic Falls extends recent trio recordings but does so with a difference: it’s a percussion trio, setting the piano in conversation with two very different drummers: Andrew Cyrille, best known perhaps for a decade-long partnership with Cecil Taylor, but whose 60-year career began by recording with Coleman Hawkins and includes explorations of his Haitian roots; and Mauricio Herrera, who sings and plays Cuban vernacular percussion, some reaching back to Africa: changüi bongos, catá and cowbells. The music is filled with a special mystery and a rare vitality: the former raises queries about methodology; the latter silences them. The cross patterns of Lucero Mundo include speech-like vocals as well as the calm elaboration of complex rhythms, while Marímbula’s Mood is suffused with hypnotic ambiguity. Conversation with the Oaks is abstract musing, à la Taylor and Hill, with Cyrille supporting multiple paths; the concluding Para ti Nengón celebrates hybridity, adding three vocalists for a popular Cuban song. Stuart Broomer September 2020 | 51

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