2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 5 - February 2021

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Recordings
  • Musicians
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Recording
  • February
So, How Much Ground WOULD a ground hog hog? community arts and the Dominion Foundries end run; the vagaries of the concert hall livestreaming ban; hymns to freedom; postsecondary auditions do the COVID shuffle; and reflections on some of the ways the music somehow keeps on being made - PLUS 81 (count them!) recordings we've been listening to. Also a page 2 ask of you. Available in flipthrough format here and in print February 10.

This repertoire has been

This repertoire has been developed into an individualistic, difficult-to-classify personal genre. Here, as is customary for Hutchie, roots in, and branches from, jazz often surface, but there is so much else going on: Hutchie skilfully, imaginatively and (by and large) subtly mixes elements of electronic music, rock and contemporary composition together, all of which also nods to noise music, rap and hip-hop rhythms. Although most pieces develop from beguiling, elegant melodies, what makes them so special is Hutchie’s way with arresting textures and colours. These sonic creations simulate mental pictures of mysterious narratives evoking the work of such chroniclers and visionaries as the painter Edward Hopper or film director David Lynch, yet they are always distinctively part of Hutchie’s own soundworld. Everything comes together to add a very special grace to this music. Yet, somehow, none of it would sound quite so special if not for the vocals added on top of everything else. In this regard Unconditional Love with Blankie, I Fell for the Moon with Sarah Good and Villain with Benita Whyte make for absolutely memorable listening. Raul da Gama Fermi’s Paradox Carolyn Surrick; Ronn McFarlane Sono Luminus DSL-92244 ( ! When the Beatles’ original bassist, Stu Sutcliffe, decided to leave the group in 1961 to attend the Hamburg College of Art, the band suddenly found themselves without a bassist. Guitarist and vocalist Paul McCartney stepped up, and in short order established himself as one of the most iconic and original bassists in the history of popular music. Necessity truly is the mother of invention! I was reminded of this bit of history when listening to, and researching, the beautiful new recording, Fermi’s Paradox by Carolyn Surrick (viola da gamba) and Ronn McFarlane (lute). Gearing up for a scheduled 2020 performance tour the duo’s concertizing plans were furloughed as COVID cancellations came in fast and furious. Undeterred, Surrick and McFarlane continued to rehearse and embraced the process of playing their instruments for the sake of the music. Once again, necessity begets (re)invention. This wonderful album is a success on multiple fronts. First and foremost, it offers a gorgeously recorded, sonically supreme capture of two (and sometimes three with Jackie Moran joining in on bodhrán) of the finest traditional instrumentalists playing an exhilaratingly rich and diverse repertoire that binds together traditional Irish, English and Swedish music with Something in the Air Uncommon trumpet groupings, unusual and unique textures KEN WAXMAN Although seemingly limited in expressive textures by the trumpet’s size and construction, composers and players have steadily expanded the brass instrument’s range and adaptability during the past half century. As more have investigated the possibilities in improvised and aleatoric music, the definition of brass tone has modified. Concurrently the makeup of an acceptable ensemble connected with trumpet tones has evolved as well and each of these out-of the-ordinary outings demonstrates how musical definition can shift from session to session. Longtime partners, Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii have played in many configurations from duo to big band, but Mantle (NotTwo MW 10003-2 is unique in that they collaborate with Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez in a trio featuring the trumpeter in the role usually taken by a reed player. Throughout the nine tracks as well, it’s Tamura’s choked or splayed capillary discursions which are most aggressive, with the pianist and drummer equally complementary. Brassy flutter tonguing, open horn accelerations, half-valve effects, kazoo-like blats and inner body tube excavations are Tamura’s common strategies. Meanwhile, as on Metaphors, the pianist’s careful arpeggios and the drummer’s contrapuntal shuffles preserve linear output. An equal line of this triangular creation, Lopez often sets up narratives with pops, ruffs or clanging cymbal work. As for Fujii, as demonstrated on Straw Coat, she skillfully creates a gentle impressionistic exposition with soundboard echoes and then turns to broken-chord power to counter Tamura’s freylekhs-like brassy interjection. Other times, as on Encounter, her dynamic vibrations give impetus to a narrative dominated by Lopez’s resounding rolls and fluid paradiddles plus Tamura’s brassy screeches. Still it’s the penultimate Autumn Sky which puts the trio’s skills in boldest relief. Beginning in a balladic mode with metronomic keyboard patterns and a brass part that is muted and moderated it subsequently creates andante excitement via grainy distended brass work and kinetic piano crunches and clusters from Fujii. Another variation on the theme of timbre reorientation is Zurich Concert (Intakt CD 357, a live program where American trumpeter Jaimie Branch joins the trio of Swiss guitarist Dave Gisler for the first time. Her vigorous drive, propelled with a touch of greasy blues, easily latches onto the sensibility of the guitarist, bassist Raffaele Bossard and drummer Lionel Friedli, whose playing encompasses rock energy. The trumpeter’s foreground/background role is best illustrated on One Minute too Late. Picking up from the short, shaking and rattling track that precedes it, this tune evolves into a solid narrative of horizontal brass tones decorated with Gisler’s flanges and frails. When the guitar solo transforms into a gentling theme elaboration with both folk and jazz inflections, the timbral decorations are from Branch’s plunger tones. Meanwhile, movement is provided by a bowed bass line and cymbal crashes. Throughout the set, cadences are further informed by rock sensibility. If Gisler’s slashing frails and echoing string slides are often staccato and distorted, their origins are British hard rock atop jazz perceptions. When a groove is established coupling fretted string echoes, a double bass pulse and drum backbeats, low-pitched bass colouration joins the guitarist’s slurred fingering and the trumpeter’s brass smears to confirm this is no pop-rock CD. This maxim is further demonstrated on the smeary, scatological Better Don’t Fuck with the Drunken Sailor. A blues, it combines Gisler’s upward string shakes and stutters that could come from Led Zeppelin with Branch’s plunger mute extension which dates to Duke Ellington’s Jungle Band. The group also detours into post-modernism on Cappuccino, where the vocalized title is repeated and distorted by looping electronics and the stop-time narrative enhanced with guitar flanges and trumpet plunger growls. If loops are one way to imaginatively add originality to trumpetoriented jazz, Canadian-in-Brooklyn Steph Richards has come up with an even more outlandish statement. The nine tracks on Supersense 50 | February 2021

pieces by J.S. Bach, Duane Allman and the performers themselves. Secondly, the recording is a wonderful and inspirational testament to the importance of music. While we increasingly read about a dependence on the creature comforts of food, alcohol and Netflix to stave off pandemic-induced existential dread, it is aspirational to read Surrick’s inspiring words: She, McFarlane and Moran make music not because there is a current audience or concert tour pending but “because we can. We make music because the world needs music, our hearts need music. This is what we do in the face of isolation and despair. We are not alone.” Important words, I think, and a muchneeded 2021 optimistic counterpoint to Milton Babbitt’s oft-repeated line, “Who Cares if You Listen?” I’m sure Surrick, McFarlane, Moran and the Sono Luminus label will indeed find a caring and listening audience for Fermi’s Paradox. Andrew Scott Blues Bash! Duke Robillard & Friends Stony Plain SPCD 1423 ( ! Timelessness and veritas are the special building blocks of good art – especially the blues – because the blues is a form of music where the very nakedness of the soul is bared. It is also upon this foundation, somewhat contrarily, that a certain joyfulness is often achieved. The music of Duke Robillard has espoused these virtues for half a century and it continues to have these qualities in spades. It’s why when you’re invited to this Blues Bash with Robillard and friends, it’s an invitation you must not refuse, or else you’ll regret it. This music is dappled everywhere with Robillard’s poetic mellow, luminous – and sometimes weeping – guitar lines swinging in tandem with a magnificently rehearsed band, complete with mellifluous piano, sanctified organ, howling saxophones and topped off with two rumbling basses and a drummer playing rippling percussive grooves. The blues would be nothing if not for vocals that are cried (not sung) and there is plenty of that to cheer about here. Vocalists Chris Cote on What Can I Do and Michelle Willson on You Played On My Piano are absolutely superb and that is only a sample of the electric charge in this music. But even without the vocals, this music sings. In this regard, and apart from Robillard’s glorious guitar, it would be a travesty not to call attention (especially, though not exclusively) to Rich Lataille’s smouldering saxophone performance on Just Chillin’. Raul da Gama (Northern Spy NS 130 are each named for a specific scent created for the trumpeter by fragrance artist Sean Raspet. A scratch-and-sniff card is included in the package to see if the music reflects the smells and vice versa. Olfactory connections may be up to individual debate. More compelling is the dynamic expressed between Richards’ downplayed brass undulations, the resonating drums and strewn water tones she projects with the sensitive accompaniment provided by Americans, pianist Jason Moran, bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Stroked internal strings and stopped keys from the piano, languid double bass strokes and drum-top buzzes remain atmospherically low key and purposeful, as mewling and trilling trumpet splutters create contrapuntal theme extrapolations. That makes tracks like Canopy and Metal Mouth, where Richards unexpectedly exhales strident bursts of staccato snarls, stand out. Her splayed textures, plunger asides and muted slurs are expressively bright or gritty as the situation demands. Overall, the few instances of reveille-like bugling or lively brassy buzzing are secondary to the comprehensive integration of brass, string and percussion timbres. Like quality perfume, Supersense makes its presence felt through subtlety and understatement. In the right hands and mouth, trumpet tones also ally or contrast with experimental vocals and electronics, as well as instrumental techniques. That’s what happens on Don’t Worry Be Happy (Intrication Tri 002 as veteran Austrian brass experimenter Franz Hautzinger evokes his strained flutters alongside out-of-theordinary contributions from a trio of French players: percussionist Thierry Waziniak, guitarist Pascal Bréchet and the clarinet and voice of Isabelle Duthoit. There are times, as on Sables symphoniques, for instance, when Hautzinger’s growls and gurgles are the mirror image of Duthoit’s yelping shrieks and burbling trills, but that’s after his horizontal bites have established brass identity. More commonly, the interaction involves unearthing blurry or bellicose brass timbres from unexpected places to work alongside shrill reed multiphonics, as well as dissected string flanges and ratcheting percussion, all of which owe as much to electronic processing as acoustic qualities. This is particularly noticeable on Dans le ventre de la baleine, where irregular drum chops and jangling guitar runs are further distended with on/off voltage shakes, as high-pitched trumpet peeps and reed trills preserve the narrative movement. Moving from discursive to distinct sequences with knife-sharp guitar whines, percussion buzzing, panting vocalese and blurry trumpet variations, the program is resolved at midpoint with the extended and concept-defining Souffle hybride. With electronic wave forms soaring throughout, the sound field becomes louder as the narrative intensifies with diffuse guitar twangs and drum clip clops. Duthoit and Hautzinger construct a melded duet from clarinet chicken clucking and half-valve barks. Vocal gurgles and retches alongside back-and-forth brass vamps finally relax the track into narrative coherence. Using a similar strategy and instrumentation, but with acoustic intonation, is Brittle Feebling (Humbler 006 by a quartet of Bay Area players: trumpeter Tom Djll, Kyle Bruckmann on oboe and English horn, koto player Kanoko Nishi-Smith and Jacob Felix Heule using only a floor tom. Acoustic is merely one facet of these reductionist improvisations however, since expected tones are eschewed for the most part. The minimalist interface is adhered to so closely in fact, that it’s often impossible to attribute a single tone to one identifiable instrument. For the most part, koto strokes are intermittent, with short hammer-like clanks as present as strumming. Rarely harmonized, Bruckmann and Djll constantly overblow with squealing whines from the reeds and bell-against-mike metallic squeals from the trumpet. Underscoring this are concentrated abrasions from the floor tom that become shaking drones that sometimes replicate hurdy-gurdy continuum. Although there are brief tuneful hints emanating from the reedist’s and trumpeter’s usually dissonant narratives, the horns and percussion eventually meld into a massive blare that dominates the entire track. This density is only lessened when thin koto string plinks are gradually revealed. Careful listening though, confirms that timbral striations from the instruments during the performances mean the collective result is as fluid as it is brittle. There are plenty of roles for trumpets in conventional ensembles. Yet each of these tone-explorers – and the groups in which they play – outlines other ways to use the brass instrument’s properties. February 2021 | 51

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