2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020

  • Text
  • Classical
  • Artists
  • Choral
  • Concerts
  • Performances
  • Choir
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • October
Following the Goldberg trail from Gould to Lang Lang; Measha Brueggergosman and Edwin Huizinga on face to face collaboration in strange times; diggings into dance as FFDN keeps live alive; "Classical unicorn?" - Luke Welch reflects on life as a Black classical pianist; Debashis Sinha's adventures in sound art; choral lessons from Skagit Valley; and the 21st annual WholeNote Blue Pages (part 1 of 3) in print and online. Here now. And, yes, still in print, with distribution starting Thursday October 1.

Contemporary Voices

Contemporary Voices Pacifica Quartet; Otis Murphy Cedille CDR 90000 196 ( ! Markedly different works by three laureates of the Pulitzer Prize for Music – Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the first-ever woman recipient (1983), Shulamit Ran (1991) and Jennifer Higdon (2010) – are performed by the Grammy-winning Pacifica Quartet, Indiana University artists-in-residence. In Zwilich’s 17-minute, three-movement Quintet for alto saxophone and string quartet (2007), Indiana University professor Otis Murphy adds what Zwilich calls “a certain sassy attitude to the mix.” Murphy’s bluesy saxophone saunters and riffs above pulsating, animated strings, yet moody lyricism prevails over the “sass.” Ran’s 22-minute Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory – String Quartet No. 3 (2013) honours artists who, facing death in the Holocaust, continued working. The opening movement shifts from serenity to disquiet, followed by Menace, a Shostakovich-like sardonic scherzo. The third movement is titled “If I perish – do not let my paintings die,” words of Felix Nussbaum, who painted until dying in Auschwitz. The unsettled, fragmented music reflects, says Ran, “the conflicting states of mind that would have made it possible, and essential, to continue to live and practice one’s art.” Of the elegiac epilogue, she says, “As we remember, we restore dignity to those who are gone.” Higdon describes her 18-minute Voices (1993) as transitioning “from manic and frenzied to calm and quiet.” In movements titled Blitz, Soft Enlacing and Grace, the Pacifica Quartet gorgeously illuminates the densely scored music, a textbook of string sonorities. Three very stylistically diverse compositions, but not a single dull moment on this entire CD! Michael Schulman Of Being Ning Yu New Focus Recordings fcr242 ( ning-yu-of-being/) ! For pianist Ning Yu, clearly tradition is a wonderful reality; but not understanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate would be a prison. It’s certainly what the lively works by Wang Lu, Misato Mochizuki and Emily Praetorius in Of Being seem to tell us. This is chiselled music; uniquely beautiful, but also defiantly provocative. It is a body of music carved from the bedrock of the Western music tradition and yet it forces the listener to reconsider what that tradition is. In doing so, Yu actively throws overboard melodic, structural and harmonic hooks that have become expressively blunted through overuse. Then she rebuilds the architecture of the music from what might – or mightn’t – be left. Sound and silence are treated with equal respect, and innovation is always paramount. This means that Yu might also reach outside the keyboard and inside the instrument to create the purest melodies and harmonies as she manipulates the strings – stretched taut across the cast-iron plate, which she often strums delicately or strikes percussively. Her pedalling adds sudden moments of drama to the music as if opening a window and letting filtered light into the room full of sound, by unexpected use of the sostenuto followed by the unacorda; all of which may be abruptly shut down expressly with the damper. In the end the music seems to unfurl as if in streaming ribbons suspended interminably in time. Raul da Gama Malcolm Lipkin – Recollections Various Artists Divine Art dds 25202 ( ! I first listened to chamber works by British composer Malcolm Lipkin (1932-2017) while studying music in Europe in 1982. I was strongly moved by his combination of traditional compositional sounds with touches of the modern. I do not remember what the works were, but this collection of seven compositions spanning 50 years of creation is fabulous and respectful. Three remastered recordings from a 1986 Hyperion Nash Ensemble vinyl release are included. String Trio (1964) is well written with compelling fourth movement rhythms. Repeated tonal chord rhythms and strings above distant horn lines resound in Pastorale (1964), a work evoking its title’s traditional form. Clifford’s Tower (1977), commemorating a 12th-century York Jewish massacre, features scary jagged notes and rhythm patterns, harsh loud winds and contrasting calming held notes. The four recent recordings contribute to Lipkin’s legacy. Prelude and Dance (1987) is his tribute to Jacqueline du Pré. Its tonal Prelude has interesting piano chordal pitch jumps and ascending cello runs. Dance is fun with subtle major/minor tonality shifts and high tinkling piano with repeated cello notes. The Journey (2016), a tribute to John McCabe, is delightfully played by John Turner on recorder, with memorable ornamental turns breaking up the colourful held notes. Naboth’s Vineyard (1982) and Interplay (1976) complete this over 80-minute long release. Repeated listening adds to my appreciation, as the musicians all perform with thoughtful, precise musical detail. Lipkin’s works may be slightly old-fashioned but they are memorable. Tiina Kiik JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Ides of March Dave Young Quartet Modica Music ( ! Toronto bassist Dave Young has a rich history as a partner to pianists, most notably Oscar Peterson, Kenny Barron and Oliver Jones. He also has a distinguished career as a bandleader, putting together groups devoted to specific modern jazz repertoire, including the compositions of Horace Silver and Charles Mingus. Ides of March continues that neo-classical approach, with half the repertoire composed by Herbie Hancock. There’s also a certain special resonance in the instrumental makeup. The quartet includes trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, guitarist Reg Schwager and drummer Terry Clarke, each a first-call musician with a refined execution. The band’s conception resembles trumpeter Art Farmer’s 1960s quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, an island of artful elegance in a clamorous decade. Turcotte’s role as the offscreen trumpet voice in Born to Be Blue, the dramatized biography of Chet Baker, testifies to his warmth and economy, while Schwager possesses liquid lyricism and harmonic depth. Together they emphasize the melodic grace of Hancock’s Speak like a Child or Gershwin’s My Man’s Gone Now (a favourite of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, here distinguished by a limpidly melancholic introduction by Young and Schwager), but they also find nuance in more aggressive material, like Lee Morgan’s Speedball or Hancock’s One Finger Snap, both consistently motivated by Clarke’s crisp articulation and subtle inflections. It’s a thoughtful, often reflective program, further enhanced by a developed account of Niels Lan Doky’s angular, slightly dissonant The Target and Young’s own, slightly pensive, title track. Stuart Broomer 62 | October 2020

Unearth New Hermitage Independent ( ! New Hermitage is a quartet from Halifax specializing in free improvisation and ambient music. It is comprised of Andrew MacKelvie (alto/tenor saxophone, bass clarinet), India Gailey (cello), Ellen Gibling (harp) and Ross Burns (guitar and effects). They have been playing together since 2017 and this is their fifth album. The premise behind Unearth is a dystopian world where “pollution has decimated the population of the Earth” and the “surviving humans ... live in nomadic clans.” The titles (Boiling Off, Collecting Vapours, Light Through the Rubble, Pine Bottle Skylight, Stalkers) evoke a quiet world of limited resources, and a civilization struggling to hold on. All the pieces are inventive and the sounds could be described as “environmental” where strings are as likely to be plucked and scraped as bowed. Lyricism is often eschewed for a sombre layering of sounds. In Signal Scan, MacKelvie’s saxophone is ephemeral and whimsical, sounding like someone searching through static for words or other signs of civilization. Stalkers has a science fiction air with forbidding noises and some kind of fog horn echoing through a tunnel. In Unearth, New Hermitage have created a sparse and inventive world with scarce resources and a compelling story. Ted Parkinson Ontario 559 West Harrison Argatoff; Ian McGimpsey Independent n/a ( ! Nick Drake was a British singer/ songwriter who released three albums and died in 1974. Since that time he’s attracted a larger-than-cult following who have enjoyed his soft and melodic singing, subtle guitar playing and enigmatic lyrics. His third album, Pink Moon, was his most sparse with just guitar and vocals. In March of 2020, Ian McGimpsey (guitar) and Harrison Argatoff (tenor saxophone) travelled on Ontario 559 West to Carling Township where they spent three days recording this album which is their tribute to, and interpretation of, Pink Moon. They have certainly captured the mood of Drake’s final album with the intricate guitar parts and luscious and melodic saxophone lines. Ontario 559 West is a genuine homage to the earlier album but maintains its own identity: I listened to Pink Moon before Ontario 559 West and could not identify any specific song or melody that is covered in the later album. The interplay between McGimpsey and Argatoff contains elements of jazz, folk and some freer improvisation. At points Argatoff’s playing and tone are reminiscent of Stan Getz (particularly in the final song Swings) and McGimpsey’s guitar is clean and nuanced. Ontario 559 West is an alluring concept which is executed by two sympathetic musicians. Ted Parkinson Recoder François Houle 4 Songlines Records SGL1632-2 ( ! Canadian clarinetist/composer/ improviser and allround inspiring musician François Houle works here again with Canadian Gordon Grdina (guitar), and in first-time collaborations with Americans Mark Helias (double bass/clarinet) and Gerry Hemingway (drums). The eight free-improvised Houle/Helias clarinet duets, and seven full-band Houle compositions, are memorable in their smart stylistic modern jazz/ contemporary diversities and performance virtuosities. Houle’s spontaneous single-take improvisations with Helias are short – some less than a minute – yet bursting with musical ideas. Each duet is placed between the longer Houle compositions, giving a welcome contrast. The opening Prelude features tonal, short, sweet and calming two-clarinet melodic interchanges by the two masters. At under one minute, it tweaks interest in what is to come. Interlude 1 features high-pitched contrapuntal lines, like the little birds singing outside my window, and is a great contrast to the fast, complex, dense full-band The Black Bird – the track just before it – with its slower guitar solo midsection and touches of superimposed jazz and avant-garde full-band sounds. The brilliant title track Recoder has all things musical, from pacesetting staccato guitar opening plucks, full-band, wall-of-sound effects, standard swinging grooves, amazing Houle rapid clarinet lines and clear production values. Houle writes in his notes that he formulated “an approach that would be mindful of giving each instrument within the quartet complete involvement.” From calm to intense, his brave musical approach drives Recoder to timeless musical permanence. Tiina Kiik Palladium 2020 Palladium Independent ( ! In celebration of the legendary Wayne Shorter’s 87th birthday, inspired impresario and producer Jesse Markowitz has created a two-disc, 22-track recording project featuring 30-plus musicians performing compositions written and/ or made famous by the iconic saxophonist/ composer. Released on Shorter’s birthday, August 25, this project is also an uplifting response to a world thrown into the harsh reality of a global pandemic. The impressive roster of artists on Palladium 2020 has been handpicked/curated by Markowitz, and reflects Shorter’s eclectic and luminous creative life, as well as many of his seminal collaborations, including those with Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Wynton Kelly, Weather Report and Herbie Hancock. There are myriad brilliant contributions to this project, however several tracks stand out, having been culled from some of Shorter’s most memorable recordings. Embracing the length and breadth of his stellar career, it includes the ultra-cool bop exploration The Summit, taken from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ 1960 release Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, and features Nicole Glover’s burning tenor. Consummate pianist Eric Reed’s interpretation of Sydney (from Wynton Kelly’s 1959 Kelly Great) is not only masterful, but has captured the very essence of Shorter’s deeply sensitive soul. Of special profundity is legendary soprano player Dave Liebman’s journey around the galaxy, flying on Shorter’s Footprints, first released on Miles Davis’ 1966 Miles Smiles, and arranged in a fresh way – as an elemental duo with the great Willy Rodriguez on drums. Leibman is as dynamic and rife with ideas as usual. This entire project is a tribute not only to Shorter himself, but to the very elemental power of music – power to heal and transform – which is exactly what Shorter has done through his art for his entire career. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke October 2020 | 63

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