7 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 6 - March and April 2021

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  • Contemporary
  • Orchestra
  • Album
  • Toronto
  • Quartet
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  • Jazz
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  • 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.

an artful rebuilding of

an artful rebuilding of love. Restivo balances a fine jazzy solo with an accompaniment that throws in some subtle pop licks; and Restivo even provides a nice harmony vocal part. Arancina is an Italian snack which can include different combinations of ingredients, so it is an apt metaphor for this compelling collection of music and musicians. Ted Parkinson Dreaming: The Prague Sessions Allan Gilliland James Campbell; PJ Perry; Chris Andrew; Neil Swainson; Dave Laing; Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra; Raymond Baril Bent River Records BRR-202001CD ( ! Approaching through-composed music with an improviser’s bent of mind can prove to be quite a daunting task, especially when composer and improvisers are separate entities. Allan Gilliland is, however, eminently qualified to make this work with first-hand knowledge of both aspects of the musical process. This he certainly does on Dreaming: The Prague Sessions, featuring a Canadian quintet and the Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra. Dreaming of the Masters I and Dreaming of the Masters IV suggest that Gilliland is drawn to the heritage of jazz music from New Orleans Second Line to swing and the legendary idiom of bebop. But these compositions are much more than trace elements of historic African American music melded together with orchestral music. Gilliland also makes clever use of contrafacts in Dreaming I, for instance, and he also goes further in Dreaming IV by building into that composition some very challenging rhythmic variations. While Gilliland had access to an orchestra of conservatory-trained musicians adept at reading, he also landed in Prague with a highly literate Canadian jazz quintet comprising clarinetist James Campbell, saxophonist PJ Perry, pianist Chris Andrew, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Dave Laing. Both quintet and orchestra seem made for each other. The result is thoughtful, melodic soloing bolstered by superb ensemble playing. A considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation, of exploration, individuality and tradition are also impressively maintained throughout. Raul da Gama The Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra – Live at the BPC JCA Orchestra; String Theory Trio JCA Recordings JCA1805 ( ! Founded in 1985, the Jazz Composers Alliance (JCA) Orchestra feeds off the inspirational energy of its founder and director, Darrell Katz. However, over the years it has also played host to an impressive roster of (other) composers from Muhal Richard Abrams to Wayne Horvitz, thus earning itself an impressive reputation for growing and enhancing the art of orchestral jazz music. This live recording from the Berklee Performance Center features repertoire that is an extraordinary testament to the lengths to which this collective will go to bring each contemporary large-ensemble work to life, while blurring boundaries between genres and challenging its musicians to interiorize music with a view to expressing what they play with idiomatic grace and power. The performance is bookended by two compositions by Mimi Rabson: Romanople a mesmerizing and rhythmically challenging tale of the two cultures of Rome – Latin and Byzantine – and the rhapsodic Super Eyes – Private Heroes, which closes the set. Meanwhile, more magical moments come to life during each of the works in between; David Harris’ inspirational melding of jazz and the sounds of a gamelan orchestra on The Latest; Bob Pilkington’s The Sixth Snake that marks his 60th birthday, Japanese Kanrekistyle; Harris’ mystical Orange, Yellow, Blue which pays tribute to composer and revolutionary conductor Butch Morris; and Katz’s reworking of his iconic composition A Wallflower in the Amazon, a remarkable musical setting of the late Paula Tatarunis’ poem, eloquently sung, aria-like, by Rebecca Shrimpton. A rather compelling album indeed. Raul da Gama Togetherness Music For 16 Musicians Alexander Hawkins Intakt CD361 ( ! A six-part work composed by British pianist Alexander Hawkins, Togetherness Music synthesizes multiple methodologies, from free improvisation to orchestral composition, with Aaron Holloway-Nahum conducting an ensemble that includes the string quintet Riot Ensemble, several improvising soloists of note and a further assortment of strings, winds, percussion and electronics. A distinguished improviser himself, Hawkins appreciates the distinct qualities of his soloists, sometimes matching complex, varied improvisations against clarifying structural elements. The opening movement, Indistinguishable from Magic, begins with one of Evan Parker’s spectacular soprano saxophone solos, combining circular breathing with multiphonics to suggest a flock of birds in a dome. He’s eventually joined by a cluster of electronics and strings that gradually ascend in pitch, creating tremendous tension. Sea No Shore foregrounds the varied timbres and attacks of percussionist Mark Sanders and trumpeter Percy Pursglove with a series of brief and melodic string figures that later reappear fully developed in Ensemble Equals Together. Hawkins wittily plays with expectations in Leaving the Classroom of a Beloved Teacher, setting his own kinetic piano improvisation against a wobbling “walking bass” with uneven rhythms and spontaneously determined pitches played by the Riot Ensemble with additional bass and cello. The composed materials of Ensemble Equals Together return in the concluding segment, layered with improvisations. Compositions melding diffuse methodologies are increasingly common, but Hawkins’ effort is a fully realized work, a celebration of possibilities by a musician versed in diverse musical dialects who is finding new ground in the mix. Stuart Broomer Goebbels/Glass/Radigue Erwan Keravec Buda Musique cd 860368 ( ! Having unshackled Breton bagpipes from its role in traditional music by creating settings for choreographers and dancers, improvising alongside free players and interpreting notated sounds, Erwan Keravec takes the next step and commissions works for solo bagpipe from modern composers. This CD preserves his newest iterations as the French innovator premieres dedicated originals from German composer Heiner Goebbels (N°20/58); French composer Éliane Radigue (OCCAM OCEAN OCCAM XXVII); and recasts for bagpipes American composer Philip Glass’ piano continuum Two Pages. Goebbels’ piece is the most challenging since it was recorded outdoors with Keravec’s stridently pitched drones and eerie chanter whistles sharing space with, and reacting to, aleatoric insertions of pouring rain and thunder claps. As focused bagpipe variations trill, the percussive external forces are solidly subsumed by Keravec’s shaking drone. 48 | March and April 2021

Bagpipe buzzing is omnipresent on Radigue’s extended composition as well, since the initial crackling textures are soon replaced by a sturdy drone which undulates without pause, until a brief final transformation into a more distant dissident motif. Glass’ repetitive theme is craftily adapted to bagpipes with Keravec using the properties of the instrument’s airtight bag to continuously echo the note pattern. Eventually, by also emphasizing the bottom drone, he enlivens the initial theme with fiddle-like sweeps, adding kinetics to minimalism. Creating a unique and compelling solo recital, the bagpiper confirms the 21st-century shibboleth that any instrument can actually perform any type of music. Ken Waxman Prickly Tenacity Sublime Sensations; Serracapriola - Live Klaus Treuheit Trio with Lou Grassi Independent KPMP 2020 CDD ( ! The physical qualities of time – that indefinite, continuous progress of existence from past to future – seem ever-present in the conception and execution of the art of Klaus Treuheit. You hear it in the sound and silent spaces of his soundscapes, as the black dots of the page leap and gambol in linear and elliptical arcs, propelled forever forward. As a highly imaginative thinker, Treuheit utilizes form and space to innovatively develop musical architecture seemingly created in spectral dimensions. Sound also has a natural momentum in Treuheit’s world; dynamism seems to grow out of his atomic pianistic pulses. All of this is superbly reflected in the music of Prickly Tenacity/Sublime Sensations and Serracapriola - Live, a double album he shares with the deeply empathetic percussion-colourist Lou Grassi, who sounds as if he has a similar philosophical bent of mind. Treuheit is also supported on Prickly Tenacity/Sublime Sensations (the first of the two discs) by Georg Wissel who is known to be a master of sculpting compressed air by means of reeds and other devices. Grassi plays drums, cymbals and miscellaneous percussion on this trio disc. The repertoire here is split between the six movements constituting Prickly Tenacity, followed by four sections that form Sublime Sensations. A kind of invisible propulsive force shapes the massive architecture of the music. Grassi and Treuheit return to perform an extended, live duet in Serracapriola (disc two). This improvised musical dialogue, is created in the spur of the moment by two like-minded artists. Grassi bends and shapes time with sticks, mallets and brushes, alternately caressing the skins and stirring up moments of rumble and thunder on a myriad of drums and orchestral timpani, his phrases often punctuated by the sizzle and swishing of cymbals. Treuheit joins in the proceedings on an organ producing cascades of tumbling arpeggios, great wheezing, thumping chords and short stabbing gestures which punctuate the music. Together, the musicians challenge us to listen, with wide-open ears, to music that references the past, but is rooted in the moment, while all the time charging relentlessly into the future. This is truly impactful and memorable music by Grassi and Treuheit (with Wissel’s contributions on disc one). It is an idiomatic musical palimpsest; a triumph of time created with uncommon musicality and delivered in performances of monolithic, yet superbly dynamic power. Raul da Gama Molecular James Brandon Lewis Quartet Intakt CD 350 ( ! With musical impulses directed towards both exploratory improvisation and the modern mainstream, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis seems destined to be one of jazz’s defining musicians during the next decade. On Molecular, the Buffalo-born saxophonist’s 11 originals work within the standard quartet configuration of piano (Aruán Ortiz), bass (Brad Jones) and the percussion of his longtime associate Chad Taylor, following the double helix concept expressed in varied rhythms and harmonies. More esoteric in theory than practice, frequent walking bass lines and drum backbeat keep the tunes ambulatory and chromatic, while only on one tune does a tinge of Ortiz’s Cuban background affect his comping. What’s more, Lewis’ reed excursions usually remain as flutter tongued sheets of sound. with smears and vibrations extending the melodies. Though many tunes flourish with a steady groove and recapped heads, the composer also displays his command of atmospheric and mercurial writing. In fact, An Anguish Departed is the most outside track, with Ortiz kinetically smashing bottom-pitched notes while swirling elevated tones, Jones projecting isolated buzzes, Taylor popping rebounds with Lewis shrieking split tones ricocheting from doits to scoops with plenty of echoes. More restrained in development, Helix also stands out since its powerful theme stretches far enough to allow for defining solo breaks from each quartet member. Swinging, sensible and stropping, Molecular is one definition of high-quality contemporary jazz, showcasing a quartet of players whose careers should be followed from now on. Ken Waxman POT POURRI Ayelet Rose Gottlieb – 13 Lunar Meditations: Summoning the Witches Ayelet Rose Gottlieb; Jay Clayton; Choeur Luna; DB Boyko Orchard of Pomegranites ( ! Jerusalemborn, Montrealbased composer and vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s latest release is a landmark, femalecentric project with breathtaking scope. Gottlieb approached over 20 women and girls from around the world, and asked them to contribute their poetry, with a loose theme of the moon as a female symbol. Co-producers Gottlieb and DB Boyko have also included an improvisational choir and the talents of acclaimed free-jazz vocalist/educator Jay Clayton. With poetic and musical contributions from nine different countries, this compelling project is an acoustic exploration focusing on the moon and our relationship to it. Gottlieb has said, “The moon speaks to the universal and to the intimate female presence.” Boyko also serves as conductor here, and the double LP was expertly recorded by Padraig Buttner-Schnirer. The impressive musicians include Eylem Basaldi on Turkish violin, Aram Bajakian on guitar, Stéphane Diamantakiou on acoustic bass and Ivan Bamford on drums. The improvisational Choeur Luna is comprised of a number of guest voices in combination with the Joker Choir, Elements Choir and Choeur Maha. Of the 13 works, first up is Lotte and the Moon, with poetry by New Zealand’s Anna Smaill, in which Gottlieb and Clayton negotiate their entwined voices around quirky, soulful, exotic motifs and mesmerizing percussion work. A true highlight is Venus and the Moon, with poetry by Australia’s Bes Davies. A lilting melody, Gottlieb’s delightful vocal, a stirring bass solo by Diamantakiou and some sweet spoken words make this track highly memorable. Patience, with poetry by Turkey’s Sems-i Tebrizi, evokes visceral images of jinn moving through skeleton-like trees, while spirits and desires form out of mist and moonglow. Moon Over Gaza/Almost Summer/I Come From There, with poetry by Israelis and Palestinians, is a groovy, bop-ish, irresistible, three-movement piece, in which Clayton shines. The song cycle is punctuated by tasty March and April 2021 | 49

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