Views
4 months ago

Volume 26 Issue 7 - May and June 2021

  • Text
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Composer
  • Recording
  • Toronto
  • Musicians
  • Album
  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Recordings
  • Volume
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.

scintillating rhythms

scintillating rhythms provided by drummer Max Senitt and a unique combination of melodica and guitar that creates a warm and distinctly Brazilian undertone to the tune. In Lamentation Revelation, focus is put on the interplay between distinctive piano chords, a smooth and quite funky bass line as well as Freedman’s mellow riffs forming a sultry R&B-flavoured whole. The title track manages to capture the exact essence of positivity, regeneration and awakening that each day brings; the driving rhythms and uplifting melodic progressions all contribute to maintaining this feeling throughout the piece. Kati Kiilaspea Entièrement unanimes Klaxon Gueule Ambiances Magnétique AM 259 CD (actuellecd.com) ! While this session may at first appear to be a traditional guitar (Bernard Falaise), electric bass (Alexandre St-Onge) and drums (Michel F Côté) creation by Montreal’s Klaxon Gueule, the addition of synthesizers and a computer means it relates as much to metaphysics as to music. That’s because programming alters the sound of each instrument, blending timbres into a pointillist creation that brings in palimpsest inferences along with forefront textures. A track such as Continuum indifférencié for instance, features a programmed continuum with concentrated buzzing that moves the solid exposition forward as singular string slides, piano clicks and drum ruffs are interjected throughout. In contrast, la mort comme victoire malgré nous finds voltage impulses resembling a harmonized string section moving slowly across the sound field as video-game-like noise scraping and pingponging electron ratchets gradually force the exposition to more elevated pitches. Although aggregate tremolo reverb frequently makes ascribing (m)any textures to individual instruments futile, enough timbral invention remains to negate any thoughts of musical AI. Singular guitar plucks peer from among near-opaque organ-like washes on Société Perpendiculaire and a faux-C&W guitar twang pushes against hard drum backbeats on toute la glu. During the CD’s dozen selections, the trio members repeatedly prove that their mixture of voltage oscillations and instrumental techniques can create a unique sonic landscape that is as entrancing as it is expressive. Ken Waxman Live from Frankie’s & the Yardbird Al Muirhead Quintet Chronograph Records CR082 (chronographrecords.com/releases) ! There is an eloquent maxim in many musical discussions that “improvised music ought to sound written and written music should sound improvised.” In a similar vein I would argue that most studio jazz recordings benefit from a live energy, and most live recordings can sound as polished as their studio counterparts when well executed. The Al Muirhead Quintet strikes this balance beautifully on Live From Frankie’s & the Yardbird, performing a collection of jazz standards, one Muirhead original and Jimmy Giuffre’s Four Brothers; hardly a standard, but part of the jazz lexicon nonetheless. The album comes to a brief midway pause with the vocal Intermission Song, a showbiz-style way to end sets that only someone with Muirhead’s long connection to the music could pull off in such a fun and endearing manner. The recording features Muirhead on bass trumpet and trumpet, Kelly Jefferson on tenor saxophone, veteran bassist Neil Swainson and differing guitarists and drummers for each venue. Reg Schwager and Jesse Cahill round out the band in Vancouver, with Jim Head and Ted Warren playing the Edmonton hit. The recording has a stunningly unified sound despite these personnel and venue changes, evidenced by the two contrasting versions of Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness. I recommend this album as a great example of Canadian jazz in a nutshell: easy to listen to, but far from devoid of depth. Sam Dickinson Entering Utopia TuneTown Three Pines Records TPR-001 (tunetownjazz.com) ! A plethora of situations resemble utopia when compared to the pandemic conditions we currently find ourselves in, but TuneTown’s latest release Entering Utopia could bring a listener in that kind of positive direction even under normal circumstances. This is true musically, and makes sense in the greater timeline as well, being recorded at the same session as the trio’s previous release There From Here. This album is my second review this month to prominently feature saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, and his grounded approach across genres is simultaneously unique and authentic. I know of his comrades Artie Roth on the bass and drummer Ernesto Cervini from their ample work with other projects, but TuneTown gives them unique space and freedom by removing a chordal instrument from the equation. This leaves the rhythm section more room for exposed harmonic and percussive moments, like Roth’s informative double stops on Layla Tov, and Cervini’s intro to Hello, Today, the album’s opener that introduces the band one member at a time. Performing together for more than a decade and a half has given the group a very cohesive sound, bringing a sense of unity to this album as it traverses originals, free improvisations and even a Charlie Parker blues. Entering Utopia gives listeners an excellent earful of what to expect when we next hear TuneTown in person. Sam Dickinson This Song Is New Lorne Lofsky Modica Music (modicamusic.com) ! The late Ed Bickert set the model: Toronto’s most distinguished jazz guitarists tend to be self-effacing, blending in, enhancing the music of which they’re a part, rarely assuming the foreground. It’s certainly true of Lorne Lofsky (and Reg Schwager, for another). Lofsky spent eight years co-leading a quartet with Bickert and a few years in Oscar Peterson’s quartet, but his last recording under his own name was Bill, Please, released in 1994, before his term with Peterson. This Song Is New presents Lofsky in a quartet with longtime associates playing five of his compositions, as well as two modern jazz standards that establish his frame of reference. The opening Seven Steps to Heaven, associated with its co-composer Miles Davis, suggests Lofsky’s biases: his strongest associations are with the subtle explorations, harmonic and melodic, of musicians like Bill Evans and Jim Hall, articulated with a beautifully even, glassy electric guitar sound. It’s even more pointed on his own compositions, like the ballad The Time Being, on which tenor saxophonist Kirk MacDonald finds a lightly metallic sound that perfectly embraces the melody. The bouncy Live from the Apollo has an extended trio segment in which Lofsky, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Barry Romberg develop an intimate three-way dialogue, while the title track encapsulates the delicately nuanced nocturne of which Lofsky is a master. At its best, it’s music to savour. One hopes Lofsky doesn’t wait 27 years to release another recording. Stuart Broomer 46 | May and June 2021 thewholenote.com

Wrongs Dan Pitt Quintet Dan Pitt Music DP003 (dan-pitt.com) ! The tracks on Wrongs, from the Dan Pitt Quintet, are moody and textured as they move forward through shifting soundscapes that are intense and intriguing. Pitt, a guitarist/composer living in Toronto, has put together a cohesive and talented group including bassist Alex Fournier and drummer Nick Fraser from his trio. The addition of Naomi McCarroll-Butler on alto sax and bass clarinet, and Patrick Smith on tenor and soprano saxophones, creates some fabulous textures. For example, on Shadows Loom, the bass clarinet and tenor sax combine organically for a nice mid-range opening harmony; then we have a nuanced bass clarinet solo followed by Smith’s wailing tenor with a few multiphonics thrown in. The piece ends with a blistering and over-driven guitar solo by Pitt. Wrongs’ tracks evolve from one mood and collection of sounds to another which makes the listening experience a series of discoveries. Hunter’s Dream begins with a long, bowed bass intro, What Is opens with a whimsical guitar solo. Wrongs starts with a funky and off-kilter guitar and closed hi-hat/snare rhythm which persists under a bowed bass and sax/clarinet riff. Soon Pitt has changed to an ostinato pattern, Fraser is propulsively swirling through his entire kit and Smith is tearing through another terrific and intense solo. And then sudden quiet and introspection, before building towards its kinetic, yet tight ending. Pitt’s seven compositions are inventive and subtle; they, along with the quintet’s superb musicianship, make Wrongs so very right! Ted Parkinson Night Cravings Matty Stecks & Persiflage (persiflage.bandcamp.com) ! It was Thelonious Monk who once said “a genius is the one most like himself.” In my eyes, that’s the goal: to acquire a distinct sound. Playing with technical prowess is impressive on its own, but knowing all the notes is only half the battle. It’s what you do with said notes that defines your artistry. Saxophonist Matt Steckler and his quintet Persiflage certainly exhibit an immense command of their sound on this latest effort. As he often does, Matty Stecks beautifully showcases the sheer range and breadth of his compositional talents. Not only are his melodies ingenious and wonderfully complex, but the way he manipulates form in each composition makes for a consistently exhilarating listen. There seems to be a curve ball thrown around every corner. I find myself particularly blown away by my initial listen of Agriturismo. The tune kicks off with a slightly disconcerting march, reminiscent of Henry Threadgill. Once a natural climax is reached, they hastily dissolve into a guitar/drum duet, which transitions seamlessly into an open trombone/bass improvisation and saxophone solo. The textures accomplished on this album are something else, which can be largely attributed both to the group’s general attentiveness and specifically the Herculean efforts of percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Persiflage is simply an astounding band, and the results on this recording speak for themselves. Yoshi Maclear Wall Facets Hafez Modirzadeh Pi Recordings (pirecordings.com) ! Hafez Modirzadeh, an American composer and saxophonist, has a musical vision he calls “chromodal” merging modal Persian music and the harmonic language of jazz as embodied in the work of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Here he’s created a series of pieces, Facets, combining his own and others’ works, in which eight of the piano’s keys have been lowered in specific pitch values, creating an available series of microtones and radically altering the piano’s resonance. The 18 pieces heard here have been divided equally among three pianists who readily blur composed and improvised musics: Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey and Craig Taborn. Modirzadeh joins in on tenor saxophone on ten pieces. No description can account for the numerous variations in approach or the strangely playful eeriness and structured refractions that arise. Facet 33 Tides achieves a strange, limpid and previously unknown, watery beauty. Facet 34 Defracted has Davis improvising on two Monk compositions, Ask Me Now and Pannonica, each performed later by the duo of Modirzadeh and Taborn. Facet 39 Mato Paho is a superb reverie by Modirzadeh and Sorey in which the strange colouring of pitches transforms the initial mood, while Davis makes Facet 31 Woke an epic of transforming approaches. In Facet 32 Black Pearl, Modirzadeh creates a variation on Bach’s Goldberg Variation No.25. As novel as this wedding of cultures might seem, there’s real substance here, combining rich and related inheritances in ways that underline distinctions and highlight concordances. Stuart Broomer Lost Within You Franco Ambrosetti Band Unit Records UTR 4970 (unitrecords.com/ releases) ! World-renowned Swiss trumpeter and flugelhornist Franco Ambrosetti has released a sultry and smooth collection of jazz ballads that take you to a faraway musical world into which it’s easy to escape in these trying times. The flowing and pleasant notes that the gifted musician conjures from his golden horn perfectly mimic and showcase his “refined and poised” nature and beautifully simplistic yet poignant approach to making music come alive. Supported by a sublime backing band featuring equally famed names such as John Scofield on guitar and Scott Colley on bass, Ambrosetti’s own tunes as well as classics by Horace Silver and Miles Davis, among others, are taken to new heights. The record opens with Silver’s jazz standard Peace, a song that positively makes you sway along as Scofield’s melodious riffs and a softly soaring horn tune layered over Renee Rosnes’ mellow chords on the keys take you on a velvety musical journey. Silli in the Sky is a Latin-flavoured piece lovingly written about Ambrosetti’s actress wife; Jack DeJohnette’s quietly sizzling drum groove combined with lovely guitar and horn solos add just the right amount of edge to give a fiery undertone to the tune. Closing out the album is You Taught My Heart to Sing, tinged with slight melancholy but just the right amount of movement in the more up-tempo parts of the song to convey hope, ending it all on a positive and warm note. Kati Kiilaspea Maquishti Patricia Brennan Valley of Search VOS 005 (valleyofsearch.com) ! Making a convincing statement without raising your voice is the mark of a sophisticated conversationalist. With solo vibraphone and marimba, New York’s Patricia Brennan expresses the same concept on compositions and improvisations which rarely rise past hushed tones and evolve languidly. Additional torque comes from the judicious use of electronic effects. This is all done so subtly though that those few instances in which the squeaky wave forms are obvious are no more disruption to thewholenote.com May and June 2021 | 47

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)