Views
1 month ago

Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.

own organs. Meadowcroft

own organs. Meadowcroft has a particular knack for quirky electronic tinkering and applies these sonorities to obfuscate the difference between acoustic and electronic sources for the listener. When thinking about a CD of contemporary percussion music, the mind immediately expects to hear bombast and raucousness. This release is an extremely successful shift from the norm in its novel use of electronic auras that blend with acoustic instruments – a must listen for those seeking something unfamiliar in the world of percussion music. Adam Scime JAZZ AND IMPROVISED This Dream of You Diana Krall Verve B0032519 (dianakrall.com) ! Four years ago, Diana Krall was working in the studio with her longtime, legendary producer Tommy LiPuma. LiPuma was ill and Krall knew it, so the pair recorded over 30 tracks during those sessions. The initial result was Turn Up the Quiet, released in 2017 shortly after LiPuma died. That album was a return to Krall’s classic, stripped-down jazz sound and This Dream of You is a continuation of that exploration. An homage to the Great American Songbook, and her friend and mentor, Krall delivers the exquisite sound and technique we’ve come to expect from her, both on piano and vocals. Working with three different small ensembles, the majority of the songs are with her bandmates, John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums) and Anthony Wilson (guitar). The opening track with that crew, But Beautiful, sets the minimalist tone as the album moves from breathy ballads to gently swinging midtempo standards. It diverges into somewhat trad/rootsy territory on three tracks featuring the ensemble of Marc Ribot (guitar), Tony Garnier (bass) Karriem Riggins (drums) and Stuart Duncan (fiddle), including the title track, a country-tinged Bob Dylan tune. In-demand players, Christian McBride (bass) and Russell Malone (guitar), appear on two tracks, including a gorgeous, slower-thanslow rendition of Autumn in New York. The top-notch production has Krall’s vocals front and centre in the mix so it sounds as if she’s right in the room with you, giving you a big old aural hug. It’s just what the doctor ordered in these pandemic times. Cathy Riches Whiskey Kisses Alex Bird & the Jazz Mavericks Independent (alexbird.net) ! It’s not often that an individual can hit it big in both the acting and music worlds, but locally based vocalist Alex Bird clearly demonstrates his stellar talents and ability to transition smoothly into the realm of jazz with the release of his debut album. Bird will captivate any listener with his sultry and mellow voice that has just that touch of smokiness which both manages to serve as a hark back to the era of golden jazz crooners like Sinatra and Bennett but also brings us into the present with a freshness that breathes new life into the traditional aspects of the genre. The vocalist has had a hand in composing each piece and the disc features the fabulous Jazz Mavericks, a group of emerging musicians, namely Ewen Farncombe on keys, Eric West on drums and Scott Hunter on bass. The record opens up with the edgy Fire Not Warmth, a toe-tapping piece that sets the mood for the time-travelling journey to the period of greats that the listener is embarking on. The influence of jazz bigwigs such as Bennett, Baker and Fitzgerald on the goldenthroated vocalist is apparent; Bird adds a distinct charm to his stylings while bringing that timeless classiness along into his new take on the past. Title track Whisky Kisses is a beautiful ballad that closes the album on a melancholic yet positive note, a sign that there’s much more to come from this astounding new talent. Kati Kiilaspea Walk in the Park Jerry Cook Quartet + Cellar Music CM091919 (cellarlive.com/collections) ! Vancouver is known for parks – this disc could aptly accompany a real or imagined walk in the park, romantic possibilities included! Quartet leader/tenor saxophonist Jerry Cook hopes to “help relax, reflect, and recharge.” In a melodic, restrained style, there is nevertheless plenty of expressive, imaginative playing in both standards and Cook’s original numbers. Other quartet players include Chris Gestrin, piano, John Lee, bass, and Jesse Cahill, drums; with added musician Dave Sikula, guitar, they coalesce in a blues-inflected jazz sound, achieving the recording’s purposes well. Cook’s wellcontrolled slightly edgy tone distinguishes his title track, while pianist Gestrin is confident in accentuation and chord substitution. In Soul Eyes I especially enjoyed Cook’s lyrical, tastefully-ornamented melodic delivery. Soul is more obvious in Scarlett Ribbons, which builds impressively from opening gospel harmonies to greater complexity while maintaining style and mood. Contrasting is Cook’s Blues, a mediumtempo swing number with agile sax, guitar and bass solos where Sikula’s style is smooth and assured. As for the rhythm section, there is a playful touch in Hello My Lovely where bass and drums are left all alone, just to trade fours for a while. Bassist Lee nails a harddriving figure in Summertime, suggesting the oppression underlying this well-known number. And overt seriousness is established in Nature’s Lament’s solemn, modal opening, followed by the insistent, urgent Latin drum beat supporting a plea for environmental change. Roger Knox You’re It! Mike Melito/Dino Losito Quartet Cellar Music CM041620 (cellarlive.com/collections) ! This album gives off the perfect jazz vibe, from its packaging to the swinging music inside. The title, You’re It!, and the cover artwork, have an excellent retro feel and deserve to be issued on vinyl because they are so reminiscent of an earlier era. The group is named after the drummer (Mike Melito) and pianist (Dino Losito) but it is really a superb partnership amongst all four players. In addition to having written the title track, Larry McKenna possesses a marvellous tenor sax tone that is so smooth and elegant you almost miss his inventive and flowing improvisations. Losito’s piano tone is warm, yet articulate, and he’s one of those players whose thought processes you can almost follow as they develop a solo. A great example is For Heaven’s Sake where he starts out sparse and playful and then works into some excellent bop lines. The pair of Neal Miner (bass) and Melito are always comfortably in sync, as evidenced by an up-tempo tune like What A Difference A Day Makes, where the walking bass and solid swing drums propel the music forward with just the odd tasteful flourish to contribute to the action. On this tune Melito gives us a melodic drum solo that gradually complicates the rhythm until we are not sure what happened to the downbeat, but then McKenna effortlessly jumps in with the melody and it’s off to the end. This is another superb release from the Canadian Cellar Live label which has been producing exciting recordings since 2001. Ted Parkinson 42 | November 2020 thewholenote.com

How to Say Sorry and Other Lessons Fawn Fritzen; David Restivo Chronograph Records CR-081 (chronographrecords.com/releases) ! Canada bristles with artistry from coast to coast to coast. Still, you cannot but be awed by this one from Yukon’s own. The inimitable Fawn Fritzen is a wonderfully seductive vocalist and a superb lyricist who writes not with a pencil but rather with the raw nerve endings of her very fingers. We experience her emotional musicality throughout the repertoire on How to Say Sorry and Other Lessons. This is wonderful songwriting, and singing, of course. Fritzen tells us: “My life was in chaos” but that she found “the right tools… Compassion, Letting Go, Grief, Healing.” She wears her heart on her proverbial sleeve through this recording. While we are struck by her candidness, we must also admire the fact that Fritzen navigates her emotions without an ounce of gratuitous sentimentality – through music that balances deep song and unfettered swing. As a result, this emotional musical journey is also buoyed throughout by a sense of recovery. I would be remiss not to recognize her co-producer and pianist, David Restivo, whose contributions cannot be overstated. This astute partnership is particularly evident on Kintsugi, a song with diaphanous, yet delicate, Japanese inflections. Bassists Doug Stephenson and John Lee; drummers Tony Ferraro and Kelby MacNayr are superb throughout. Meanwhile, when called upon to lend a helping hand to Fritzen, vocalists Melody Daichun and Laura Landsberg add superb colour and texture to Show Me Your Heart and Dragonfly to close out the recording. Raul da Gama Long Time Ago Rumble Matty Stecks & Musical Tramps Matty Stecks Music RAC-530/digital available (mattystecks.com) ! One of the main difficulties artists face is that of fully realizing their ideas. In the case of Matthew Steckler however, the Manitoban seems blessed with both the burden of an abnormally creative mind and the gift of being able to make the most of his artistic impulses. His latest experiment began life as a debut concert with a virtuosic band he meticulously assembled and later blossomed into what he describes as a conceptual research project in the stylistic marriage of jazz, pop, film score and musique concrète. Taking after his hero Charlie Chaplin, Steckler (aka Matty Stecks) goes the auteur route with his involvement in this album. He is one of two producers, writes all the material, does all the arrangements, contributes field recordings, acts as bandleader and expertly plays several instruments. Steckler particularly shines on saxophones, his Dolphy-esque phrasing as unpredictable as the music. This may be the most eclectic jazz release you hear this year. Each track could be labelled as a different genre, and one could make comparisons to artists ranging from Chaka Khan to Frank Zappa. The track list alternates between traditional structure and collective improvisations structured around field recordings provided by various band members. While at first glance this album may not appear to work as a uniform statement, what connects these pieces is the sense of adventure Steckler maintains throughout the runtime. Highly recommended. Yoshi Wall Frothing Morse Audrey Chen; Phil Minton Tour de Bras TDB904 (tourdebras. bandcamp.com/album/frothing-morse) ! Phil Minton, just turning 80, may be the world’s most creative vocalist. Elsewhere his repertoire can include The Cutty Wren, a Peasants’ Revolt song about eating policemen, and Lieber & Stoller’s Jailhouse Rock lyrics applied to a serial melody (both to be heard on the recent Ways for an Orchestra with Veryan Weston and a Bologna chamber orchestra [i disci di angelica]). If you want, however, to hear a human approximation of a tone arm bouncing across the surface of a vinyl LP of a cat screeching, Minton, the free improviser, is also your man; his duet partner, Audrey Chen, similarly in possession of titanium vocal apparatus, might very well be your woman, and Frothing Morse is the place to hear it. The two have been singing together for a decade, previously releasing both duet and quintet CDs (on Sub Rosa) and there’s a recent COVID-lockdown performance on YouTube. Recorded at an Italian festival in 2015, the single 37-minute Frothing Morse covers extraordinary ground, from madness to code, the two singers following or diverging from one another’s inspirations, whether they’re Chen’s whistling highs, abrasive choking and ringing throat-singing tones or Minton’s machine and animal impressions, yodelling, babbling and multiphonics. Their work is usually surprising, often visceral, strangely moving, but most significantly, liberating, a crash course in the sounds that can come out of humans’ mouths with barely a trace of speech, a panoply of emotion in a moment. Stuart Broomer Pedernal Susan Alcorn Quintet Relative Pitch RPR1111 (relativepitchrecords.com) ! Over the past 20 years, Susan Alcorn has emerged as one of the most creative figures in jazz and improvised music, brilliantly exploring the sonic resources of the pedal steel guitar, especially the pitch bending and shifting possibilities little explored in its country and western home. In Alcorn’s hands, the instrument is a selfcontained orchestra, able to suggest the elegance of Astor Piazzolla, the wandering mysteries of Harry Partch, the cosmic majesty of Olivier Messiaen or the raw energy of Ornette Coleman. Here Alcorn introduces her compositions for a mostly string quintet with violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Michael Formanek, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ryan Sawyer. Named for the Pedernal Mesa in New Mexico, the CD’s compositions abound in geographical references. Along with the personnel and general musical quality, it suggests another recording: Nate Wooley’s 2019 masterpiece, Columbia Icefield, on which the trumpeter debuted a quartet with Alcorn, Halvorson and Sawyer. Alcorn’s melodic and textural visions come to the fore on the title track, the extended Circular Ruins and A Night in Gdansk. There’s an affinity with Morton Feldman in the rich sustained tones, and a near twinship with Halvorson, whose pitch-bending guitar hardware can ambiguate the source of some burbling, microtonal washes of notes. The concluding Northeast Rising Sun may allude to Maryland highway signage, but the music is a playful romp, beginning with clapping accompaniment then combining a Sufi refrain with elements of an Irish community dance. It’s delightful stuff. Stuart Broomer Gebilde Yannick Chayer Small Scale Music SSM 023 (smallscalemusic.bandcamp.com) ! A dialogue from a single musician, Montreal’s Yannick Chayer has designed this CD’s ten tracks so that his soprano saxophone is constantly thewholenote.com November 2020 | 43

Volume 26 (2020- )

Volume 26 Issue 1 - September 2020
Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020
Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volume 25 Issue 9 - July / August 2020
Volume 25 Issue 8 - May / June 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)