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Volume 27 Issue 2 - November 2021

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  • November
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • December
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Album
  • Quartet
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Live events on the up and up while creative live-and livestreamed hybrids continue to shine. October All-star Sondheim's Follies at Koerner Hall headlines the resurgence; Zoprana Sadiq brings MixTape to Crow's Theatre; Stewart Goodyear and Jan Lisiecki bring piano virtuosity back indoors; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's J-S Vallee in action; TSO finds itself looking at 60 percent capacities ahead of schedule. All this and more as we we complete our COVID-13 -- a baker's dozen of issues since March 2020. Available here in flipthrough, and on stands commencing this weekend.

Mary LaRose, a

Mary LaRose, a remarkable artist in her own right, captures all of Dolphy’s character and artistry into an eerily prescient vocal album featuring prominent – and lesserknown – repertoire from Dolphy’s unique canon, adding lyrics, brilliantly executed polyphonic vocalese and singing throughout. Another striking aspect of this music is the sensuality of sonority, confirming without question that Dolphy was an absolute master of orchestral language with a subtlety of timbre. Jeff Lederer’s arrangements of the charts on Out Here capture the majesty of Dolphy’s music revelling in its extravagance, while the group comprising cellist Tomeka Reid, vibraphonist Patricia Brennan, bassist Nick Dunston and drummer Matt Wilson deliver strongly committed, full-blooded performances. But make no mistake, this recording is launched into the stratosphere by the high jinks and vocalastics of LaRose. Her visionary aesthetic and idiomatic performance is behind the kinetic energy of the album’s most memorable songs: Gazzelloni and Music Matador, the latter featuring trombonist Jimmy Bosch and percussionist Bobby Sanabria. Warm Canto – with its clarinet choir, including Isaiah Johnson and Cameron Jones, lifting aloft LaRose’s contrapuntal vocals – is the album’s crowning glory. Raul da Gama Slowly – Song for Keith Jarrett Noah Haidu; Buster Williams; Billy Hart Sunnyside Communications SSC 1596 (noahhaidu.com) ! Few pianists in contemporary jazz have dominated the concert grand piano like Keith Jarrett, an artist of the first order, who was riveting in solo performance and similarly thrilling with his longstanding trio, comprising bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The death of Peacock and the pianist’s rapidly declining health have meant that the world will be deprived of one of the greatest, most versatile performing artists in recent memory. To pay homage to someone with such an outsize artistic personality would seem to be an enormous challenge, the task made even more daunting because of the choice to show respect for Jarrett by playing in a trio format. But not so much for the prodigious piano virtuoso Noah Haidu, who could not have picked better musicians for this venture than venerable bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart. Haidu attempts to retain the emotional intensity and depth of characterization of Jarrett’s work, without emulating his idol on the album Slowly. To do otherwise would have been ill-advised given the distinctive nature of Jarrett’s improvisatory playing. Rather, Haidu impresses with a more discursive style featuring idiosyncratic pitching and a tone that seems to evaporate in short transcendent phrases. The repertoire is wisely chosen and the album includes the appropriate and thematic Air Dancing, a balletic composition by Williams; Lorca, an elegiac piece by Hart; and Haidu’s eloquent composition Slowly. The album’s apogee is Jarrett’s wistful composition Rainbow. Raul da Gama Piano Music Satoko Fujii Libra Records 201-067 (librarecords.com) ! Prolific Japanese avant-garde pianist and composer Satoko Fujii has shown yet again on her newest release that she continues to push the boundaries of jazz to new limits. The listener is taken on a peaceful yet eerie journey through an ethereal and transcendent soundscape unlike any other. Both pieces are penned and mixed by Fujii herself, showcasing her behind-the-scenes skills as well as her thorough involvement in both the performative and editorial aspects of the record. For anyone who wants to take in a full musical experience that tells a true and almost lifelike story of its own, this album is a great pick. The almost-19-minute-long opening track Shiroku is slow to unfold but allows the listener to immerse themself fully and take on an almost meditative state, following the smooth ebbs and flows, crescendos and decrescendos of the music. What makes the compositional aspect of the record unique is the fact that both pieces are made up entirely of one-to-two-minute-long recordings on the prepared piano that have been forged together and overlayed seamlessly, creating a sonorous landscape for the ears. Fujii calls the result of this technique a “sound collage,” something new to her and which she describes as making music “like building with Legos.” The album closes with Fuwarito, a slightly livelier piece that has shorter melodic and rhythmic phrases that lend a slight note of positivity and brightness to the music. Kati Kiilaspea Sunday at De Ruimte Marta Warelis; Frank Rosaly; Aaron Lumley; John Dikeman Tracatta/Doek RAW 868 (doekraw.bandcamp.com/album) ! Maintaining its reputation as a haven for exploratory musicians is Amsterdam, where this intense but informal improvisational session was recorded. None of the now-resident players are Dutch. Demonstrative tenor saxophonist John Dikeman and spartanly rhythmic drummer Frank Rosaly are Americans; inventive pianist Marta Warelis is Polish; and propulsive bassist Aaron Lumley is Canadian. Alternately pensive and passionate, the quartet cannily constructs the four improvisations with fluid integration and without obdurate showiness. That means that each time the saxophonist launches a paroxysm of fragmented cries, tongue slaps and other extended tendencies, the pianist’s fleet patterning and the bassist’s fluid pumps decompress the exposition into sonic blends. With Rosaly mostly limiting himself to rim shots, delicate shuffles or cymbal scratches, this contrapuntal procedure plays out throughout, most spectacularly on the lengthy Masquerade Charade. Resonating from atmospheric bass-string drones and single-note keyboard clips, by the track’s midpoint the moderated emphasis is challenged by Dikeman’s tone smears, note spears and hoarse sputters, until Lumley’s stinging stops and Warelis’ dynamic cascades connect each player’s lines into a joyously squirming finale. Dikeman’s skill at distinctively shattering complacency with reed bites, honks and kinetic yelps is never limited by the pianist’s cerebral interpretations, frequent doubling by the bassist’s metronomic pulls or string sweeps, or the occasional bell clatter from Rosaly. Yet the cohesive program that arises from this constant push-pull defines the quartet’s dramatically realized strategy. It also substantiates the Netherlands’ appeal to foreign players. Ken Waxman Cool With That East Axis ESP-Disk 5064 (espdisk.com) ! Created by committed improvisers, this CD is one that won’t frighten those who shy away from free music. While engagement is present, alienating 50 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

pressure is omitted. Strength isn’t missing, but is so much part of the New York quartet’s DNA that it doesn’t need to be emphasized. Drummer Gerald Cleaver’s powerful and elastic beat and pianist Matthew Shipp’s spidery pecks or cultivated patterning are guiding factors here. Bassist Kevin Ray’s pinpointed plucks move the program forward without demanding attention, while Allen Lowe operates in chameleonic fashion, alternately mellow or biting on tenor saxophone and smooth or raucous on alto. Often harmonized by Lowe and Shipp, buoyed with straight-ahead rhythms from the others, themes swirl, splatter and slide as on the title track where Shipp’s singlenote comping moves between Basie and Monk. Similarly, Lowe channels Sonny Rollins’ intensity and Lee Konitz’s invention depending on his chosen horn. These bolts between staccato timbre fanning and affable tonal exposition are most obvious on the final track. At 28 minutes, almost double any other, One offers space for the rhythm section’s only solos plus distinct transitions. Spurred by a drum backbeat, the initial metronomic swing encompassing reed bites and glossolalia allows everyone to trade breaks later, and in the final sequence descends to a sophisticated march with slurring saxophone lines and keyboard bounces. Play this CD for anyone and that person will probably confirm he or she is Cool With That. Ken Waxman Light and Dance Judson Trio RogueArt ROG-0112 (roguart.com) ! Taking advantage of the unique textures available with unusual instrumentation, members of the Judson Trio stretch the connective limits during this two-CD set of one live concert and a studio date. Following a five-year partnership, Paris-based bassist Joëlle Léandre, New York violist Matt Maneri and drummer/percussionist Gerald Cleaver can perfect searing or subdued improvisations with sonic understanding. Except for the drummer’s crunching kitexercising on the final selection, tracks pulsate fluidly since none of the players stick to standard forms. Besides refracting creaky spiccato scratches, Maneri’s pizzicato strums create mid-range continuum. Léandre’s command of connective pressure is a given, but she also expresses pointillist expositions with the speed and malleability of a small fiddle. Colourist Cleaver’s accompaniment is expressed with cymbal clanks, gong-like resonation, pointed ruffs or drum top spanks. Frequently moving in three-layered narratives or broken-octave elaboration, the trio’s musical cooperation is expressed most succinctly on the live Wild Lightness #4. After the bassist’s singular string plucks state the theme, Maneri’s string scordatura counters with widened strokes. Directly transformed into squeaky below-the-bridge scratches, his unique tones intersect with Léandre’s sul tasto narrative elaborations and are decorated with Cleaver’s bell-tree-shaking tinctures. Light and Dance is dedicated to exposing all the obvious, hidden and expanded textures available from the interactions of the three players’ instruments during all 18 tracks. If equivalent pliable concepts were expressed by governments, irritants like trade wars and Brexit could likely be avoided. Ken Waxman 17 Days in December – Solo Improvisations for Acoustic & Electric Harp Jacqueline Kerrod Orenda Records 0093 (jacquelinekerrod.com) ! Many people think of original music in a hierarchical sense, looking down on pure improvisation as something that doesn’t require mastery or discipline. One listen to Jacqueline Kerrod’s solo harp debut will serve as an epiphany for those cynics. In fact, I found myself awestruck by Kerrod’s seemingly limitless expressive range. 17 Days was recorded in the format of a musical diary, comprising one-take improvisations on consecutive days in the month of December. In the liner notes, Kerrod stresses the importance of simplicity in her approach and letting the music “be what it want[s] to be.” As a result of this philosophy, each piece takes on its own distinct shape, and yet the entire tracklist is held together by Kerrod’s improvisational identity. The combination of patience and inventive musical vocabulary results in a sound that is entirely unique to her and there is a consistent logic to the myriad enveloping soundscapes and intricate shapes that she creates. The music is never predictable, but even when switching from glitchy electroacoustic moments to warmer, familiar tones, it never feels disjointed or arbitrary. Kerrod’s tremolos, kinetic phrasing and rhythmic jabs enable her to get incredible mileage out of even the smallest ideas. The tracks fit together beautifully, despite not being sequenced in chronological order, a testament to how fully fleshed-out these spontaneous compositions are. Yoshi Maclear Wall Eberhard Lyle Mays Independent (lylemays.com) The Music Of Lyle Mays – Compositions, Transcriptions and Musical Transformations Transcribed and edited by Pierre Piscitelli (lylemays.com; pierrepiscitelli.com) ! Lyle Mays is best known for his groundbreaking work as co-composer, arranger and keyboardist with the Pat Metheny Group. During his 30-plus years at the guitarist’s side, Mays co-created a new sound and language of jazz and improvised music, incorporating contemporary technology and elements drawn from classical, traditional jazz, rock and Brazilian music. Perhaps lesser known, but no less significant, is his work as a solo artist. Through his six previous releases, Mays explored different facets of his music and musicality, ranging from solo improvisation to small group and larger ensemble settings. In the wake of his passing in the winter of 2020, we now have the gift of one final posthumous recording, Eberhard, a 13-minute multi-section work dedicated to his close colleague, German bassist/composer Eberhard Weber, released as a single-track album. A ruminative marimba ostinato played by Wade Culbreath opens the piece, setting the stage for Mays’ reflective piano melody; he is joined in turn by Jimmy Johnson on electric bass and Aubrey Johnson with an exquisite wordless vocal. Gradually, Mays then builds a masterful solo over woodwinds and background vocals. (Bassist Steve Rodby, percussionists Alex Acuña and Jimmy Branly, guitarist Bill Frisell, keyboardist Mitchel Forman and a cello section also augment the excellent ensemble.) A riveting vocal section (Johnson plus Rosana and Gary Eckert) builds to a captivating, emotional climax that soars on Bob Sheppard’s dramatic tenor saxophone solo. A recapitulation of the introduction completes the piece, leaving the listener with the feeling of having experienced an incredible musical journey. Eberhard is a bold, majestic masterpiece, both a summation of a remarkable career and a glimpse into where Mays might have ventured musically in the years ahead. Concurrently, the Lyle Mays Estate, in conjunction with editor Pierre Piscitelli, has released The Music Of Lyle Mays, a comprehensive songbook covering his output as a solo artist, as well as previously unpublished material that he recorded with Pat Metheny. Piscitelli, a New York-based arranger/multiinstrumentalist, worked closely with Mays to ensure that the music was represented thewholenote.com November 2021 | 51

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