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Volume 27 Issue 1 - September / October 2021

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Quartet
  • Symphony
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • September
  • October
Blue pages and orange shirts; R. Murray Schafer's complex legacy, stirrings of life on the live concert scene; and the Bookshelf is back. This and much more. Print to follow. Welcome back from endless summer, one and all.

is Coldplay’s Fix You;

is Coldplay’s Fix You; Naylor’s smooth alto vocals in combination with a flowing piano melody and a subtle but poignant bass line make the song take on a slightly more melancholy and softer tone than the original version. Naylor’s own I’ll Be Loving You pops out; a Latin-flavoured tune that does a great job of not only showcasing another side of her musical taste but also gets the listener grooving along in their seat. A truly outstanding track is Bowie’s Space Oddity, where a mellow piano line and an almost counter melody played on upright bass overlaid by chords on the Fender Rhodes make for a unique flavour given to the classic song. Kati Kiilaspea All or Nothing Trineice Robinson 4RM 4RM-20210806 (trineicerobinson.com) ! Trineice Robinson has established herself as an esteemed educator and author. Now with the release of her long-awaited debut she’s finally getting the chance to establish herself as a vocalist, telling her story and journey through music. One of Robinson’s missions as an educator has been to bring back to the forefront Black music traditions that have fallen to the background within the vocal music realm and this album does a fantastic job at not only showcasing Black jazz, soul and R&B artists who have been instrumental in advancing those genres but also shining a spotlight on current famed musicians, with a renowned lineup of all Black artists in her backing band. Robinson’s soulful and powerful vocals take us on a journey through multi-genre staples such as Footprints by Wayne Shorter, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye and You Know Who (I Mean You) by Thelonious Monk, while adding a unique flavour to each piece, making them her own. Interspersed within these tributes are original compositions, of note being the gospel-inspired piece Let It Shine, in which her own daughters lend their voices, creating a humble and heartwarming whole. Robinson skilfully crosses genres throughout the album, creating a delicious jambalaya reflecting what she states about finding her own place within the musical realm, “when you understand how ingredients are used in a dish, you can create whatever dish you want.” All in all, a strong and promising debut album. Kati Kiilaspea Nate Wooley – Mutual Aid Music Nate Wooley; Joshua Modney; Ingrid Laubrock; Mariel Roberts; Matt Moran; Russell Greenberg; Sylvie Courvoisier; Cory Smythe Pleasure of the Text Records POTTR1309 (pleasureofthetext.com) ! Trumpeter, composer, conceptualist, Nate Wooley is a major figure in current free jazz and improvised music, consistently focused on issues of meaning. This latest work is an outgrowth of Battle Pieces, a quartet project begun in 2014 in which one member acts as improvising soloist while the other members choose from Wooley’s supplied materials to develop the work. Mutual Aid Music extends this method for surmounting the usual alternatives of composition/improvisation, doubling the quartet with four more musicians chosen from the New York contemporary music community. The eight musicians play eight “concertos”: in each, one musician has a primary score; one improvises throughout, based on the other seven’s input; others freely adapt secondary materials that have been individually assigned. Surmounting Wooley’s complex methodology is a singular purpose: “It asks the musicians… to ask themselves, in each moment, how that gift will affect the community (ensemble) of which they are currently a member.” Wooley the conceptualist has effectively made each musician responsible for a work’s outcome in how they choose to make each transaction collectively meaningful. Clearly the work depends on its community of stellar musicians – saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, pianists Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe, percussionists Matt Moran and Russell Greenberg, violinist Joshua Modney and cellist Mariel Roberts – but the results are always remarkable, sometimes astonishing, everyone engaged in making the richest, most expressive, organized and communicative music possible. Beyond category in its structure and immediacy, this feels as much like a success for listeners as the composer and ensemble. Stuart Broomer In Harmony Roy Hargrove; Mulgrew Miller Resonance Records HCD-2060 (resonancerecords.org) ! In Harmony is a gorgeous time capsule displaying two performers at the top of their game and providing a sublime reading of jazz standards in two intimate live sessions. This album is made even more poignant by the deaths of both musicians at relatively young ages: Mulgrew Miller was 57 when he died of a stroke in 2013 and Roy Hargrove was only 49 when he passed away in 2018. Fortunately for jazz history and for us, these two concerts (Kaufman Music Center, New York, January 15, 2006 and Lafayette College, Easton PA, November 9, 2007) were recorded by Hargrove’s manager, Larry Clothier. The recordings have now been released by Resonance Records in a limited edition LP format and as a two-CD set. The package includes a thick booklet containing an essay on the musicians and these two concerts, several colour photos and interviews and statements by several prominent jazz musicians. Hargrove can be bright and crisp with a Miles Davis feel, but also soulful and he plays bop and post-bop lines which makes him the complete jazz trumpet player. Miller has a more subtle style which has many influences (including Oscar Peterson who inspired him to learn jazz). He can play a solid yet sophisticated accompaniment, perform an elegant solo with complex lines that seem effortless, and add some angular blues licks on Monk’s Tune. These two concerts are even more impressive because although Hargrove and Miller had played together in the past, this was their first (and second) time performing as a duet and the concerts were put together very quickly (but of course, that’s the jazz thing to do). They sound sophisticated and completely at ease with each other, exchanging ideas, joking around in tunes like Fungii Mama, and generally paying an inspired homage to the tradition. Ted Parkinson Prayerful Thoughts (covid time improvisations) Paul Pacanowski Independent (paulpacanowski.com) ! Polish born Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist jazz/classical performer/ composer Paul Pacanowski is inspirational in his 57-minute solo “covid-time improvisations.” Home recording has become more popular for musicians during COVID. As he writes on the CD cover, he would play improvs in his basement studio late at night to lift his COVID-time spirits until it “dawned” on him to record his work at home. He plays all the instruments in eight tracks/sections, each introduced by a short musical wavelike undulation, all joined together as one long work. Pacanowski’s piano expertise drives the improvisations. Calming, repetitive 1. undulation leads to reflective jazz-flavoured slow 2. piano with long phrases, shifting tonalities, conversational high and low pitch runs and 48 | September and October 2021 thewholenote.com

detached notes. From calm to faster intense moments, a shift to major tonality closer to the end creates a happier hopeful feel of COVID ending. Two other piano-only tracks are included. Pacanowski takes a memorable musical leap to improvise with himself playing on other instruments. In 8. flute/piano, he breathes life into dramatic high, held-flute notes, detached sections and energetic, almost new-music sounds, as his piano mimics and supports in modern jazz at its very best. More jazz with a brief atonal section in alto saxophone and piano stylings in 14. alto sax/ piano. He plays clarinet, keys and piano harp elsewhere. Pacanowski’s well-thought-out “homemade” jazzy compositions and improvisations make for a great release to listen to, both upfront and as background music. Tiina Kiik Koki Solo Natsuki Tamura Libra Records 101-066 (librarecords.com) ! Executive produced by the incomparable Satoko Fujii and recorded in Natsuki Tamura’s own home, Koki Solo is a collection of improvisations that equally showcase Tamura’s decades of playing experience and his boundless curiosity. He breaks with conventions of instrumentation and form with admirable enthusiasm and assurance. Beyond his typical innovations on the trumpet, he also experiments with piano, voice and even cookware from his kitchen. While he admittedly doesn’t have anywhere near the same mastery on instruments other than trumpet, it doesn’t stop him from doing amazing work. For example, during his piano improvising on Bora, Tamura’s patient drone in his left hand engages in compelling dialogues with both the open melodicism of his right hand and his arresting vocal exclamations. Similarly, on Karugamo, the detailed, textural tour through the contents of his kitchen gradually evolves into a rhythmical call-and-response with his forcefully enunciated syllables. Regardless of the various unfamiliar waters Tamura dips his toes into, he is the definition of a master improviser, and that translates to everything he does. Not a single phrase he plays or utters is an afterthought, or a throwaway. Every note is imbued with feeling and meaning and he expertly uses space to punctuate and emphasize. Fujii’s spotless production complements Tamura’s style perfectly, ensuring there is nary a detail in the music that sounds insignificant. An abundance of tangible passion can be felt in the performance of Koki Solo, and it’s infectious. Yoshi Maclear Wall POT POURRI Armenian Songs for Children Isabel Bayrakdarian Avie AV2449 (naxosdirect.com/search/ av2449) ! A tribute to Isabel Bayrakdarian’s personal heritage, this collection of songs plays like a musical kaleidoscope – everchanging reflective melodies are connected to beautiful and simple forms, creating a magical sonic space. The 29 tracks are comprised of compositions by Armenian composer and musicologist Gomidas Vartabed (aka Komitas) and his students Parsegh Ganatchian and Mihran Toumajan, as well as some traditional songs. One should not be deceived by the fairly slow tempos, there is plenty of movement here – swinging, rocking, bouncing, clapping. A wooden horse and a monkey hang around, and a scarecrow and a nightingale make friends. On the deeper level, there is much longing and sorrow connected to dreams and memories of the Armenian nation and their history. The melodies of these songs are beautiful, sometimes playful, often poignant. The arrangements are sparse, creating an abundance of space for breath and colour. Some of these songs have been sung through five generations of Bayrakdarian’s family and one cannot help but feel the sense of intimacy and immediacy that comes from the weight of life experiences. Bayrakdarian is phenomenal in conveying the emotional context of these songs. Her voice is willowy and soothing at the same time and she is quite successful in combining the embellishments of folk idioms with the clarity of classical expression. The accompanying ensemble – Ellie Choate (harp), Ray Furuta (flute) and Ruben Harutyunyan (duduk) – has an understated elegance to it, allowing the intensity of Bayrakdarian’s voice to come through. Ivana Popovic Hourglass Murray McLauchlan True North Records TND777 (truenorthrecords.com) ! Murray McLauchlan, celebrated singer-songwriter and recipient of the Order of Canada, has turned to such issues as privilege and racism on his 20th album, Hourglass. Its pointed songs speak sincerely and directly to issues of greed and prejudice that make so many lives unliveable. These are folk-style, gentle and homey songs, sometimes nearly whispered, although I think McLauchlan’s vocal mid- and upperranges are just fine! His acoustic guitar work, Burke Carroll’s steel guitar and other instruments are always reliable. Indeed, nothing on this album is overcomplicated and some of the songs would attract the interest of both children and parents. I particularly like the title track, which emphasizes the urgency of current problems: “But I see the sand run out through the hourglass, I swear I don’t remember it ever ran so fast.” Here lyrics and melody, guitar accompaniment and the steel overlay come together especially well. Lying By the Sea I find the most moving song. It is based on the tragic media image of a refugee boy fleeing the Middle East who drowned and washed up on shore. America, with a beautiful steel guitar introduction, is a plea to the USA that could also apply in Canada: “Now you’re in your separate rooms, And all the doors are locked.” Finally, I Live on a White Cloud and Shining City on a Hill are songs reminding us of our obliviousness – to racism and to reality itself. Roger Knox Dressed in Borrowed Light Clara Engel Independent (claraengel.bandcamp.com) ! Songwriter Clara Engel has been busy during the pandemic, completing two collections of songs entirely selfproduced while at home, based on lyrics that read like extended poetry and dressed in an album cover featuring Engel’s original artwork. In Dressed In Borrowed Light, dark, evocative themes of cycles of life, loss and nature float atop rhythmic drone-like melodies that leave plenty of room for the poetry to come through. This is a performance much like one might find at a poetry reading or meditative retreat, and a collection of guests adds an assortment of instrumental sounds that provide some additional ethereal qualities, bringing to the album a meditative, folklike feel. Musical arrangements include Engel on vocals and a collection of instruments such as shruti box, gusli, lap steel and morin khuur (Mongolian horse-head fiddle), which delicately add colour to the songs. A shorter album than some, it’s six tracks flow gently as a collection of spoken word set to music. From one poem to the next it makes a soft landing, belying some of the darker themes of the lyrics. Cheryl Ockrant thewholenote.com September and October 2021 | 49

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