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Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020

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  • Ensemble
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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.

Irrationalities Petros

Irrationalities Petros Klampanis Enja Yellow Bird YEB-7797 ( ! The personal, profound and eloquent utterances grow organically into and out of this extraordinary music by contrabassist Petros Klampanis together with the brilliant young pianist Kristjan Randalu and the drum wizard, Bodek Janke. Irrationalities has luxuriant and mystical music, played with intimately expressed feelings and emotion. All three musicians have proven their versatility on numerous occasions and their coming together here again, at the bassist’s behest, to play his atmospheric music seems to be a divinely fortuitous event. The music that ensues on the recording is something to die for. It is fastidiously conceived and sensuously played. Not a single semiquaver is out of place as Klampanis, Randalu and Janke traverse what seems like one musical epiphany after another. The performance on Seeing You Behind My Eyes is enigmatic. The two parts of Temporary Secret are beguiling and Blame it On My Youth is simply breathtaking. A rare kind of intimacy and shared enjoyment is all over the performance. Compositions are idiomatically interpreted and every improvisational phrase is seized as if to capture the most ephemeral aspects of musical creation – and that too, with consummate ease. This music is natural and inspired. Klampanis’ powerful virtuosity rumbles with gravitas from the very first bars that he plays. Unusual, even through the darkest tones of his bass, is the manner in which he is able to make it all work, while offsetting Randalu’s wispy elegance and quiet charm and Bodek’s whispered gentility throughout. Raul da Gama Live in Willisau James Brandon Lewis; Chad Taylor Intakt CD 342 ( ! Heir to unabashed reed/ drums experimentation, Americans James Brandon Lewis (tenor saxophone) and Chad Taylor (percussion) equally emphasize links to the jazz tradition on this exemplary Swiss festival set. Lewis, whose gripping ability to invest animated improvisations with multiple variations on extended reed techniques from call-and-response vamps to inflating glossolalia, is substantially encouraged by Taylor’s coordinated strategies. The drummer’s substantial rhythmic sophistication is further extended with jolts of mbira (thumb piano) plinks when the program warrants it. In essence that means that the nine-track set gets more gripping as it evolves. Alongside socking drum beats, the saxophonist ratchets through every manner of altissimo cries and subterranean honks, melismatic slurs and mocking phrases as the two redefine a Coltrane line and their own originals. Later Mal Waldon’s obscure Watakushi No Sekai, positioned with cymbal crackles and reedshattering sparkles is interpreted as movingly as is a quietly genial version of Duke Ellington’s famous Come Sunday. Finally the two respond to vociferous audience acclaim with an encore of a reconstituted Over the Rainbow, featuring hide-and-seek divulging of the melody among stuttering reed split tones and percussion clip-clops. But the concert’s most telling track and an acknowledgment of departed improvisational masters, is a screaming near-R&B version of Willisee featuring drum shuffles and yakkitysax variations. This same tune was performed on the same stage in 1980 with equal energy and skill by its composer, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, in a duo with drummer Ed Blackwell. Ken Waxman A uiš Jubileum Quartet NotTwo MW 1005-2 ( ! Four adept improvisation arbiters from four countries assembled for a program of unadulterated improvisation at the Jazz Cerkno festival recently and A uiš is the enraptured result. The title means “and you go” in Slovenian, which sums up the mutual respect and lack of arrogance each displays towards the others’ talents. Tenor saxophonist Evan Parker was present at the birth of the genre more than 50 years ago; French bassist Joëlle Léandre and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández arrived a little later. All have been in fruitful partnerships with one another as has Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, whose 40th anniversary as a musician was being celebrated. Throughout this single 45-minute improvisation the four are always in sync, yet constantly projecting individual tropes: Parker’s circular breathing expressions; Léandre’s dramatic command of pressurized twang and arco sweeps; Fernández’s judicious key positioning that encompasses internal string plucks and kinetic keyboard agitation; and Kaučič’s prudent theme patterning that bolsters without bombast. The piece’s texture unfolds with collective logic at the same time as acerbic peeps and sympathetic echoes evolve from single sound strands to multiphonic emphasis. Yet the transitions, as well as focused solos and duos, arrive and depart with such subtle competence that narrative flow is never disrupted. Rapturous applause at the finale demonstrates not only why the performance is another exemplar of free music but also confirms each quartet member’s immense and ingenious talents. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Delicacies in the Garden of Plenty Sarah Peebles; Kyle Brenders; Nilan Perera Independent ( ! Concerned about Canadians impacted by COVID- 19, Toronto-based experimental musicians and composers Sarah Peebles (shō, electroacoustics), Kyle Brenders (saxophones) and Nilan Perera (altered electric guitar) joined forces to help. Earlier this year they released their album Delicacies in the Garden of Plenty, proceeds from which benefit Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue charity. The eponymous tracks one and four are free improvisations by the trio performed at Ratio, the intimate former downtown Toronto performance space. They feature Perera’s delicate experimental electric guitarism, Brenders’ saxophonic exploration of “the interaction of intentionality and surprise,” and Peebles’ chordal performances on shō, the Japanese mouth organ. The slowly evolving music of Delicacies… is a testament to the trio’s improvisational skill, deep listening and generosity of shared spirit. The inner two tracks are hybrid soundscape-electroacoustic works by Peebles, featuring the sound of birds, amphibians, insects and water from Aotearoa/ New Zealand, masterfully mixed with occasional shō and electroacoustic interpolations. The nearly 20-minute In the Canopy – Meditations from Paparoa and Kāpiti Island (2005/2020) is the album’s standout work. Deeply informed by Peebles’ long involvement with sound ecology and biodiversity, she uses her beautiful field recordings of nature sounds and studio-made electroacoustics, layering and extending them into a compelling musical statement. In addition to learning from the voices of the land, Peebles points out that her approach in the work was informed by indigenous Māori concepts reflecting spiritual dimensions. In this music we get a rare glimpse of the sort of eloquent, non-hegemonic sonic dialogue possible between nature and humans. It’s an impressive feat even when 52 | September 2020

constructed in the recording studio for our listening pleasure. Andrew Timar Of Shadows Kamancello Independent ( ! Last year I reviewed Kamancello II: Voyage. I noted that the portmanteau word Kamancello was invented to serve as the name of the Toronto-based bowed-string instrument duo of Kurdish- Iranian kamanche player and composer Shahriyar Jamshidi, and classically trained Canadian cellist and composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne. Weinroth-Browne is also a member of the progressive metal band Leprous. And his motoric metal cello chops occasionally emerge in his Kamancello contributions. Describing their music as “East-meets- West,” rendering “improvised performances [that] transcend genres and cultural boundaries,” they take us on another epic musical journey on their new six-track album Of Shadows. As on the previous outing, improvisation is front and centre. The duo proudly states as much on its Bandcamp page – “recorded live at Union Sound Company in Toronto … all of the music on this album is fully improvised and unedited” – lending the musical dialogue an organic quality. Yet there are also well-developed modal-melodic frameworks and formal structures shaping the improvs into a coherent musical narrative. Individual tracks in Of Shadows often commence quietly without pulse, then slowly develop a polyphonic texture through a fluent dialogue between these two sensitive musicians building themes and dramatic tension. Listening to this new album reinforced an appreciation of the timbral differences between the mellow deep cello sound and that of the thinner, higher tessitura kamanche, distinctions effectively exploited by the duo. Yet again, it was the perfect music to accompany my inner journey this evening. Andrew Timar Sounds of Brazil Angela Turone; Chris Platt Independent (; ! Angela Turone and Chris Platt, like so many of us around the globe, have become smitten with Brazilian music. Although there is a deep, rich musical culture in that country that goes beyond bossa nova, that well-known style is the focus of the Torontobased duo’s debut album, Sounds of Brazil. Bossa nova has a light, breezy air to it which belies the complexity of the music and the skill required to master it, which Turone and Platt do, with a little help from some friends. Turone beautifully handles all the piano playing and singing – much of the latter in Portuguese – and her warm, pure vocals really suit the style. Platt does all the deft guitar work, most prominently on nylon string. The duo covers standards by Jobim, de Moraes and others – several from the classic Getz/Gilberto album, which essentially introduced bossa nova to North America – with a few jazz standards and lesser-known gems too. There’s plenty of collaboration with local talent, including ethnomusicologist and keyboardist, Gordon Sheard, who produced the album. Andrew Downing’s cello work shines on many tracks, in particular on the haunting Chega de Saudade. On the sprightly Doralice, everyone’s agility is on display, in particular Chase Sanborn on trumpet and John Nicholson on flute doubling Turone’s vocal gymnastics. The standout, for me, is Lendas Brasileiras by Guinga. Gorgeous. The final tune – featuring percussionist Helio Cunha – ventures into samba territory and since that style epitomizes the renowned pre-Lent celebrations in Rio, A Festa Do Divino, is a fitting closer to this fine album. Cathy Riches Soul Singer John Finley Vesuvius Music ( ! Vocalist and composer John Finley’s impressive career includes more than 50 years of navigating the heady waters of blues, popular music, gospel and soul. During that time, not only has Finley established himself as a compelling and vibrant performer, but also as a fine composer and noted crafter of hit tunes. He has shared the stage with an array of topflight artists, including the Rolling Stones and The Temptations. After an extended stay in LA, Finley returned to his native Toronto in 2018 and subsequently released perhaps the finest recording of his soulful career. Brilliant producer/arranger Lou Pomanti is a driving force behind this project, having co-written two tunes and performed on piano, organ and keyboards. The fine cast of musicians also includes Marc Rogers on bass, Larnell Lewis and Davide Direnzo on drums, John Findlay and Sam Pomanti on guitar, William Carn on trombone, William Sperandei and Tony Carlucci on trumpet and Alison Young on Saxophone. Nearly all 11 compositions on this album were penned or co-penned by Finley, and first at bat is Let Me Serenade You. Gospel motifs saturate this soulful, B3-driven tune and Finley’s well-lived-in, elastic tenor swoops and dips through this joyful track, replete with exquisitely placed horn lines and swinging, rhythmic, background vocals. Other highlights include GO, an uber-cool journey into a deep cave of funk and also the enervating closer, Who Will the Next Fool Be – a languid, down-home blues tinged with just the right amount of ennui, vigour and regret by Finley. This exceptionally conceived, produced, written, arranged and performed album is one of the most musically and emotionally satisfying recordings that I have had the chance to experience this year. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Breath & Hammer David Krakauer; Kathleen Tagg Table Pounding Records ( ! Alchemy is an attempt to turn base metal into gold. That’s a bit like what clarinetist David Krakauer and pianist Kathleen Tagg have done with this release. Issuing a call for raw material, in the form of song ideas, from their various musical friends, they then gave each a treatment blending electronic with acoustic effects. You wouldn’t know it from listening, but each track is a mosaic of multiple electronic bits. The Hammer is Tagg, an adept performer/ engineer of the prepared piano who uses her experience in contemporary extended techniques to expand the instrument, unlocking its potential for sounds well beyond convention. Breath is supplied by Krakauer, who is possibly best known for his mastery of the klezmer style, although that is just one of the several musical hats he wears. Per The Wall Street Journal: “Krakauer… moves so seamlessly between different genres… you’d almost think there’s no appreciable difference between jazz, klezmer and formal classical music.” You might categorize this as a jazz-coloured klezmer album, the experience elevated or transformed by virtue of the novel sounds produced by the two musicians. Both engage in beat-boxing, bouncing bops of sound out of the bodies of their instruments. Tagg gets inside the lid and draws a plectrum across the strings beyond the bridge, sending shivers up the spine. Soft-shoe breath effects alternate with pop bottle hoots in the intro of Rattlin’ Down the Road. Demon Chopper is great rapid-fire fun. Listen and wonder: “How’d they do that?” Max Christie September 2020 | 53

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