7 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 6 - March and April 2021

  • Text
  • Contemporary
  • Orchestra
  • Album
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
  • Ensemble
  • Jazz
  • Composer
  • April
  • Musical
96 recordings (count’em) reviewed in this issue – the most ever – with 25 new titles added to the DISCoveries Online Listening Room (also a new high). And up front: Women From Space deliver a festival by holograph; Morgan Paige Melbourne’s one-take pianism; New Orleans’ Music Box Village as inspiration for musical playground building; the “from limbo to grey zone” inconsistencies of live arts lockdowns; all this and more here and in print commencing March 19 2021.


and formation and conception. The Lina Allemano Four’s Vegetables is the sixth CD by a band that’s been together since 2005 without a change in personnel, still made up of alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. Allemano’s compositions are touchstones, brief but distinctive rhythmic and melodic patterns that shape some of the patterns of development, but the group is tied together by a telepathic understanding of one another’s spontaneous processes. On Brussel Sprouts, Maybe Cabbages, it’s hard to draw a line between composition and improvisation in West’s dancelike repeating figure, even more so when he and Allemano happily land on exactly the same spot. Much of the music is conversational collective improvisation, whether it’s West’s whispered lyricism, Allemano’s exploration of mutating timbres, Downing’s spontaneous counter melodies or Fraser’s creative rhythmic chatter. Then there are the inspirations. I’m not sure how one might make sonic distinctions between Onions, Champignons and Leafy Greens, but I know all three are organic and their precise forms vary from any one to another, functioning as metaphor for the group’s intertwined creative evolution. A bassist may be the least conspicuous member of a band, usually the quietest, confined to a fundamental role, and often the last to solo. Bassist-composer Pete Johnston, however, stands out as his See Through 4’s one consistent element. Last year, the quartet – all first-rank Toronto musicians – released False Ghosts, Minor Fears. A year later, there’s another CD, but the other members have changed; while roles remain the same, the lead instruments have changed too. The place accorded saxophonist Karen Ng now belongs to trumpeter Lina Allemano; the chordal element is no longer Marilyn Lerner’s piano but Michael Davidson’s vibraphone; drummer Jake Oelrichs replaces Nick Fraser. There’s little change in quality, but there’s a completely different collective sound, with trumpet and vibraphone bringing a brighter sonority, even a certain brashness. Those “permanent moving parts” are also the building blocks of Johnston’s evocative compositions. True to its title, Weathering Teenage Hopes is a study in evolution, Allemano’s melancholy trumpet initially accompanied by Johnston’s empathetic bass alone; Davidson eventually enters, the vibraphone’s bell-like brightness carrying the piece and the band to a certain comfortable groove, which continues right down to Allemano’s ebullient bursts and wandering, scintillating lines. Other pieces may eschew such narrative development, but Johnston’s compositions seem knitted from experience, expressing ambiguous states of mind, here conveniently named, whether it’s Everything Happens Once, Possible Daylight Dreams or the tone painting of Imperfect Sunlit Room. Allemano, Davidson and Oelrichs are here to provide colour, bringing each piece to life, but the forms and their patterns of development are definitely Johnston’s department. Stuart Broomer Proof BLOOP Lumo Records ( ! An awkward name for adroit innovators, BLOOP is actually Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano extending her horn’s timbres with mutes, percussion and whistling as well as having them live-processed with effects by Mike Smith. Playful, pugnacious and profound, the eight improvisations multiply and mulch brass textures so that Allemano often seems to be playing more than one horn simultaneously, with a singular mid-range narrative and at least one other tone squeaking and peeping at elevated pitches. Below and beside this are percussion additions created by her maracas-like shakes, cow bell raps, bolo-bar-like smacks and synthesized rumbles, which are concurrently inflated electronically in real time. The trumpet bell shoved against the mic or metal, plus mouthpiece sucking and tongue pops, add to the jolting progressive impact. Digging deep into the horn’s body tube to produce growls and whines as on Recanting or propelling fluid melodies on tracks such as Actual Bloop, Allemano never really creates alone. Palimpsest-like, grainy processed pitches are always present, undulating below the narrative surface at the edge of hearing. She can dip to Taps-like ennui at points or inflate notes balloon-like to pressurized burbles, but she – and Smith – never lose the thread of communicative connections. Want Proof of this local trumpeter’s skill as a soloist? You’d do well to investigate BLOOP. Ken Waxman Reflections of the Invisible World Colin Fisher Halocline Trance HTRA017 ( ! Colin Fisher has been a dynamic and industrious part of the Canadian music community for 20 years. He is a multiinstrumentalist with remarkable facility on saxophone, guitar, drums, electronics and other musical objects. With Brandon Valdivia he formed Not the Wind, Not the Flag, fronts the Colin Fisher Quartet and has played in many other groups and produced solo projects like his Gardens of the Unknowing. The new vinyl and digital-only release, Reflections of the Invisible World, is another solo project with Fisher playing guitar, saxophone and electronics. Each of the seven pieces creates its own sonic environment and the tone and architecture is determined by the structure of the electronic sounds. The guitar and saxophone performances waft amongst the walls and corridors of those sounds which are sometimes melodic, other times primarily rhythmic. Salient Charm begins with a pulsing rhythm which develops into wafting, ephemeral melodies where the saxophone is barely discernible as a colour. Double Image has a moody, noir vibe with some edgy background sounds, while Fisher’s tenor saxophone plays great jazzy longer tones with just a touch of vibrato and eventually works into some full-blown wailing. It could be an updated Blade Runner soundtrack, though more experimental than Hollywood usually ventures. The sounds and shapes in Fisher’s album drift between ambient and arresting with each “reflection” offering its unique glimpse of another “invisible” world. Ted Parkinson Kind Mind Josh Cole Independent ( album/kind-mind) ! Kind Mind is Josh Cole (bass), Karen Ng (alto saxophone) and Michael Davidson (vibraphone). Recorded live on January 4, 2020 at the Open Waters Festival in Halifax, the music wastes no time getting straight to the point. The opening track, Inside Voices, begins when you press play. There is no prolonged silence and no gradual introduction of each musical element. There is Cole alone for exactly a second, and then the ensemble takes off. One thing that stood out for me is how effectively space and subtlety are used throughout the duration of this project. Despite being a trio, there are long stretches where only one or two instruments can be heard simultaneously. Phrases often seem deliberately tentative, and exclamations sometimes evaporate into question marks. Part of this phenomenon comes from impeccable listening on the part of all three players. The sparsity seems even more intentional when you hear the end of each idea, as the musicians step aside, allowing the person behind them to take centre stage. Karen Ng, especially, proves to be a master of restraint, 46 | March and April 2021

eally only contributing texturally at many points, and her astonishing timing is really the adhesive that makes this recording so seamless. The group’s use of space allows for their improvisations to possess distinctive shape and structure, so that when Kind Mind goes full throttle the element of surprise is on their side. Yoshi Maclear Wall Surfboard Brandi Disterheft Justin Time JTR 8626-2 ( ! The theme of bassist/vocalist Brandi Disterheft’s fifth album as a leader, Surfboard, is ostensibly Brazilian jazz, but this writer finds the recording’s second underlying theme to be a love note to New York City. This could be a projection on my part, but hear me out, as it nonetheless provides an interesting lens through which to listen. Disterheft, special guest drummer Portinho, and pianist Klaus Mueller are all transplants to this “jazz mecca.” The move is a logical choice for many musicians, in this case Disterheft hailing from Canada, Mueller from Germany (via Asia and South America), and Portinho leaving Brazil in the 70s for the U.S. The second featured guest, Memphis born saxophone legend George Coleman, who made a name for himself playing with B.B. King, Ray Charles and later Miles Davis, is a veteran New York resident. Portinho, representing all things Brazil, and Coleman being an ambassador for the New York side of things, give Surfboard a sense of balance that allows it to contain 14 unique tracks without ever becoming monotonous. Its title work, an upbeat piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim, is balanced by an interlude to the rhapsodic Coup De Foudre, which continues the Brazilian theme and introduces Coleman’s playing. Coleman shines on the fourth track My Foolish Heart, which continues the theme of alternating straighteighths numbers with swung ones. These alternating themes curate a unique album that’s “radio friendly” while maintaining its artistic integrity. Sam Dickinson Relive the Moment Larnell Lewis Independent LLM 002 ( ! Born and raised here in Toronto, internationally famed drummer Larnell Lewis has released a scintillatingly snazzy new album of funk and neo-soul goodness that has the power to bring any listener right out of the day-to-day rut brought on by everything that’s going on in the world right now. Featuring legends such as fellow Snarky Puppy band members Mark Lettieri and Shaun Martin, as well as renowned names like Robi Botos and Rich Brown, the album has a star-studded lineup that carries Lewis’ compositions to new heights. The record acts as a “reimagining of six compositions from [his] debut album In The Moment,” in Lewis’ own words, with most pieces having updated drum tracks recorded and only one composition being completely new. Right off the bat, the first track, Rejoice, starts the listener off on a funk-filled journey with Andrew Stewart’s catchy bass line and Lettieri’s soulful guitar riffs taking us to a higher musical dimension. No Access takes a different turn, diving full force into modern jazz with soaring trumpet melodies courtesy of William Sperandei and Botos’ pianistic skills being brought clearly to the forefront throughout the fast-paced piece. Closing out the album is the aforementioned new composition, The Forgotten Ones, a piece that is essentially one long drum solo showcasing the drummer’s percussive talents and highlighting an Afro-Caribbean drum groove that serves as a fitting end to a stunning collection of compositions. Kati Kiilaspea Bridges Jesse Ryan FWE Culture ( ! People call upon music for a multitude of reasons. Those reasons can take the form of motivation, social fulfillment, spirituality, intellectual stimulation and/ or therapy. Trinidadian-born Toronto saxophonist Jesse Ryan’s debut recording as a leader can serve all of these purposes. As far as I’m concerned, music doesn’t get much more mood-enhancing than this. First and foremost, Ryan’s compositions are consistently melodious, meticulous and memorable. Perhaps too consistently, as singling out a highlight has proven to be a difficult undertaking. The music is never challenging per se, but Ryan shows an incredible range as a writer and evokes a variety of moods throughout. Each track is well thought out, and the amount of labour that went into the arranging is quite evident. The unison lines written for the rhythm section are a great touch, as they provide each passage with an extra layer of vitality. Overall, I find that the rhythm section is the main driving force behind what makes this music so mesmerizing. There are three guitarists on the record, each with distinct musical personalities that complement Ryan’s sound perfectly, in different ways. Vocalist Joanna Majoko also shines, especially her harmonizations on Zambian Offertory. Ryan’s debut features an incredible roster, showcases his ingenious approach to songwriting and is profoundly enjoyable. It is everything a debut should be. Yoshi Maclear Wall Arancina David Restivo Trio Chronograph Records CR-082 ( arancina) ! Arancina is jazz pianist and composer David Restivo’s album about “meditations on home” and includes stops in Italy (Sicilian Suite), Nova Scotia (Raven’s Wing) and more metaphoric inspirations like Baby Steps (based loosely on Coltrane’s Giant Steps) and It’s You or No One (a standard which showcases his “bebop roots”). There are also two songs co-written with Fawn Fritzen (and featuring her exquisite vocals). Kintsugi and Bittersweet Goodbye originally appeared on Fritzen’s own release, How to Say Sorry and Other Lessons. Arancina’s strengths include its originality, diversity of the works and the supportive musical family Restivo has collected to perform. Some highlights include Sicilian Suite which has four movements exemplifying different scenes inspired by travelling through that area: Train to Catania begins with a lilting and circular melody and works into some fast and nuanced keyboard gymnastics, as if the train is picking up speed. It then has a rest stop with a thoughtful bass solo from Jim Vivian before returning to the melody. Palermo Street Scenes does a great job of reflecting the busy bustle of an urban centre and begins and ends with invigorating drum solos from Alyssa Falk. Kintsugi – the Japanese word for repairing pottery – is a beautiful meditation which delicately and poetically extends that image to describe a failing relationship and hope for March and April 2021 | 47

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