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Volume 26 Issue 7 - May and June 2021

  • Text
  • Musical
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  • Toronto
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  • Jazz
  • Classical
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Meet some makers (of musical things) - a live filmed operatic premiere of a Handel oratorio?; 20 years of Summer Music in the Garden, short documentary film A Concerto is a Conversation; choirs Zooming in to keep connection live; a watershed moment for bridging the opera/musical theatre divide; and more than 100 recordings listened to and reviewed since the last time.

George Lewis: The

George Lewis: The Recombinant Trilogy Claire Chase; Seth Parker Woods; Dana Jessen New Focus Recordings (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! Few musicians have explored the relations between instrumental music and computer programming with the creative zeal of George Lewis, from Rainbow Family, the recently released IRCAM works from 1984 (Carrier Records), to his various interactive works with his Voyager program. His Recombinant Trilogy shifts from works employing improvisation to compositions that apply “interactive digital delays, spatialization and timbre transformation to transform the acoustic sounds of the instrument into multiple digitally created sonic personalities.” Each of the three pieces combines a soloist with computerized electronics, in the process creating a kind of malleable ensemble that achieves often startling effects within seemingly acoustic timbres, including parallel microtonal lines. Materials are reworked out of sequence, liberating time and continuity in the process. The opening Emergent (2014), performed by Claire Chase, flute, and Levy Lorenzo, electronics, is the sunniest of the three, exploiting and expanding the flute’s mimetic powers to summon up flocks of birds that sing, soar and swoop. Not Alone (2014- 15), with cellist Seth Parker Woods operating electronics as well, pushes the cello well beyond its typical sonic contour, pressing far into violin, contrabass and vocal arenas. For sheer evocative power, Seismologic (2017), performed by Dana Jessen on bassoon and Eli Stine on electronics, stands out, magnifying both the bassoon’s range and Jessen’s extended techniques to create an underground labyrinth of menacing roars, Dopplereffect turns and sudden haunted choirs. As with his earlier interactions with improvisers, Lewis’ computer compositions effectively extend music’s expressive range in fascinating ways. Stuart Broomer Douglas Boyce – The Hunt by Night counter)induction; Ieva Jokubaviciute; Schuyler Slack; Trio Cavatina New Focus Recordings FCR 278 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! Douglas Boyce’s erudite liner notes may make you reach for a dictionary. If I read him right, chamber music is no longer mere comfortable entertainment for the well-heeled; it provides contemporary humankind with an escape from time’s clutches, through ritual provided by “music’s hierophants” (the priesthood of composer/ performers). Not sure about that, but let’s turn to the music itself. Boyce writes lively, sometimes jarring and jagged lines, demanding for clergy and congregation alike. The title track was already released by counter)induction (Boyce is a founding member), reviewed last issue. It’s terrific to have a broad collection of his music to compare to that exhilarating jaunt. Quintet l’homme armé references the cantus firmus Guillaume Dufay used in his eponymous Mass; extra marks if you can sing that melody, but even so, you’ll still need some imagination to find a connection between it and this mysterious descendant; I believe I hear the echoes, but I won’t bet the house. Piano Quartet No.2 involves intricate play with rhythmic blocks. There’s a chancy leeway to how the piece comes together, so this version is just one of the ways it might go. The longest track, and prize-winner for me, Sails Knife-bright in a Seasonal Wind is dedicated to Boyce’s young son. This whimsical trialogue between violin, guitar and percussion progresses from halting introductions, through a wacky little jig, and thence into the mystery world of a child’s deep slumber. Time keeps passing, but the listener feels it suspended for the duration. Fantastic playing by the many participants. Clean crisp recording values too. Read and decipher the liner notes, if you can. Call it value added: I learned some arcane words, like apodeictic. As for the runes in the margins, no clue. Max Christie Anthony Girard – Éloge de la candeur Jean-Pierre Arnaud; Geneviève Girard; Patrice Kirchhoff CiAR CC 004 (ciar.e-monsite.com) ! Released as a part of the “Albert-Roussel International Festival” collection, Éloge de la candeur by Anthony Girard is an offering of his works for oboe. The title piece for oboe and piano is a floating dreamscape of colours and emotions. With the use of ascending lines and the high register of the oboe, this piece uses a range of colours that seem to be influenced by the modern French school. Very close in affect to the Sonate pour hautbois et piano by Dutilleux, Éloge de la candeur paints an inspiring scene of serenity and purity in a dreamlike atmosphere. Apothéose de la mélancolie uses the darker timbre of the English horn, as well as its often neglected higher range, to paint the haunting, melancholic mood. Girard has the English horn and piano in a dialogue of tonal colours and expression. Epilogue en trio for flute, oboe and piano is a stark contrast to the previous works. There is an energetic playfulness throughout, exploring different textures of articulation, voicing and range of all three instruments. Onze pièces brèves for oboe and piano are 11 quick movements showing the technical possibilities of the instrument. Most lasting no more than 30 seconds, these short pieces are energetic and dissonant compared to Girard’s other writing for the oboe. Overall, this collection of works by Girard is an inspiring addition to the oboist’s repertoire. This album was beautifully interpreted by Jean-Pierre Arnaud, former English horn soloist of the Paris Opera Orchestra, as well as pianist Geneviève Girard and flutist of the National Orchestra of France, Patrice Kirchhoff. Melissa Scott Sid Richardson – Borne by a Wind Various Artists New Focus Recordings FCR285 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue) ! Sid Richardson has an eloquent answer to the question: “How do you make art?” He comes together with poet Nathaniel Mackey and others to create this music. The black dots leap off the page entwined with Mackey’s lyrical recitations and the sound of horns, percussion and bass performed by the Deviant Septet. The searing heat of an artful sirocco, titled Red Wind, begins a memorable disc of Richardson’s music. The repertoire of Borne by a Wind features three other works by Richardson. There is no sleep so deep is a gentle, reassuring work that gets a suitably sensitive performance from pianist Conrad Tao, whose fingers seem to caress the notes of the melody. LUNE follows with the mystical high and lonesome wail of Lilit Hartunian’s violin. It is a brilliantly conceived tone poem that soars skyward, evocative of a crepuscular musical event under a cloudless celestial canopy. Richardson’s music is highly imaginative and reflects his singularly eclectic taste. The curved lenses and mirrors of a myriad of contemporary styles and movements in the arts have been telescoped into these works. The glue is, of course, Richardson’s spectral voice, somewhat reminiscent of Gérard Grisey and Kaija Saariaho. These uncanny parallels are, perhaps, most discernable in Astrolabe where the Da Capo Chamber Players’ performance is interwoven with Walt Whitman’s and Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry, the whispered climax of which brings this remarkable disc to a dramatic end. Raul da Gama 44 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

That Which Has Remained …That which Will Emerge Lukas Ligeti Col Legno WWE 1CD-20452 (col-legno.com) ! Described as a meditation on aural memory, this CD presents the electroacoustic sound installation percussionist Lukas Ligeti created for Warsaw’s POLIN Museum. Designed to comment on Polish Jewish life, the project weaves locally recorded interviews and songs in Polish, English and Yiddish triggered and mixed by Ligeti’s Marimba Lumina (MIDI) with improvisations suggested by those recordings by clarinetist Paweł Szamburski, violinist/ violist Patryk Zakrocki, cellist Mikołaj Pałosz, soprano Barbara Kinga Majewska plus Wojtek Kurek’s drums and synthesizer. Juxtaposing folk songs with instruments means that the often melancholy, sometimes freylekhs melodies, suggest responses that range from stropping string thrusts and barbed reed flutters to sequences which expand on klezmer and pre-War cabaret tunes. Majewska’s bel canto lyricism is most effective in unadorned recitations or personalizing familiar tunes. Modernism isn’t pushed aside for nostalgia though, as sections find her ululating vocals framed by clanking percussion vibrations. The keenest musical commentary is by inference on the connected City of the Damned and Elusive Counterpoint. With thick drum beats and pressurized string stops alongside the snatch of a Yiddish song, Warsaw’s pre-Holocaust Jewish ghetto and its destruction are suggested by City of the Damned. Harsh spiccato sweeps from the strings are notable in Elusive Counterpoint. The sorrowful exposition gradually fades to ghostly echoes as the Yiddish tune becomes fainter subtly questioning what contemporary life holds for Jews in Poland. Lacking the interactive element possible in the museum’s spatial atmosphere, the disc is still a superlative listening experience. Ken Waxman JAZZ AND IMPROVISED No Bounds Caity Gyorgy Independent (caitygyorgy.bandcamp.com/ album/no-bounds) ! While having a beautiful voice is plenty to recommend any singer, also knowing how to use it in the myriad ways that Caity Gyorgy does puts her high up the list of young singers to watch. Although the debate about what is and isn’t jazz is an old and often tedious one, it becomes especially tricky to nail it down when it comes to vocalists. Is covering standards enough to call yourself a jazz singer? Well, that’s all moot when it comes to Gyorgy because she is unmistakably a jazzer. Just head over to her Instagram account, @liftaday, if you want to see what I’m talking about. There she posts videos of herself doing lifts – i.e. singing note-for-note – solos of jazz giant instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Oscar Peterson and even Charlie Parker. She’s posted 180 videos since 2018! It would be an impressive accomplishment for a mature singer but for someone only 22 years old, it’s mind-blowing. As well, her improv skills – the attribute that seals the deal for jazz credentials – are undeniable and on full display throughout her debut release, whether soloing over choruses or trading fours with her band members: Jocelyn Gould, guitar, Thomas Hainbuch, bass, and Jacob Wutzke, drums. But Gyorgy isn’t all technique and prowess; she also has a ton of musicality and heart. These shine through on the songs she’s written herself like Postage Due which has a cute 60s vibe and Undefined, the only ballad on the album. Despite the serious skills Gyorgy possesses she never gets too heavy and the overall feel of No Bounds is upbeat, warm and utterly charming. Cathy Riches Dream Logic Sarah Jerrom Three Pines Records TPR-002 (sarahjerrom.com) ! With the release of her latest recording, Sarah Jerrom has reminded us that she is one of the most interesting, talented and creative vocalist/ composers on the scene today. All of the 13 compositions on the CD were written by Jerrom, except for two (Illusions and Plastic Stuff) by ensemble member and gifted guitarist, Harley Card. Jerrom is also featured on piano and, in addition to Card, is joined by the uber-skilled Rob McBride on bass, Jeff Luciani on drums/percussion and Joe Lipinski (who also co-produced and engineered this project brilliantly) on acoustic guitar/vocals. The opening salvo, Snowblind, has a silky, languid opening, featuring Jerrom’s pitchperfect, clear tone – reminiscent of the great Jackie Cain or Norma Winstone. Cleverly arranged group vocals join in, followed by Card holding forth on an exquisite solo, rife with emotional and musical colours. An intriguing inclusion is Accolade Parade. Percussive and noir-ish, it deftly explores the desire for recognition – earned or not – and Jerrom shows herself to be a fine pianist on this harmonically dazzling tune. She also displays her vocal and compositional versatility on this well-written track. All is punctuated by the fine work of McBride and Luciani, who drives the ensemble down the pike with pumpitude to spare. A highlight of the recording is the poetic, sultry, diatonic Fata Morgana. Again Jerrom dons another vocal guise with the deft use of her warm, lower register and her fine time feel. Card – this time on electric guitar – adopts a free, Bill Frisell-ish motif, set against the throbbing percussion of Luciani and the dynamic, soul-stirring bass of McBride. Another standout is Fergus – an unselfconscious, swinging, bittersweet love song – elegant in its simplicity and mysterious in its meaning. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Into the Daybreak Mike Freedman Independent (mikefreedman.com) ! A very welcome and positive pickme-up to balance out these grayer times, local Toronto guitarist Mike Freedman’s latest release (and debut as a bandleader) is a rhythmically and melodically pleasing album that you would be hard pressed not to want to dance or at least tap along to. Spanning and mixing genres from Latin to blues and jazz to R&B, this record would be a great addition to the collection of listeners who tend to lean towards a classic sound or are looking for a modern take on the genre. All pieces are penned by Freedman himself and are given life by a sublime backing band with well-known names such as Chris Gale on tenor saxophone, Kobi Hass on bass and Jeremy Ledbetter on piano. Samba on the Sand is definitely a standout on the album, a Latin-flavoured piece with thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 45

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