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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.

ackdrop of double bass

ackdrop of double bass plucks. Unlike Bley’s agitated minimalist asides, Swallow’s only solo is on Divided Man, and even there shares space with mid-range clarinet breaths. With those antecedents, the ten-minute The Five Ways seems like a swing session. Double bass bounces and low-pitched piano colouration introduce the piece which goes through numerous transitions. A piano crescendo introduces three-part modulations that lead to sprightly storytelling from Giuffre, with the track finally climaxing with a high-pitched reed slur, almost replicating the one which began the album. Malleability and volume may have predisposed Swallow’s shift to the five-string electric bass guitar in the early 1970s, and at 81 he’s still playing in a more audible, but just as tasteful fashion. On Eightfold Path (Little (i) music littleimusic.com) he’s part of the Sunwatcher Quartet. Leader, tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, and the other players, organist/pianist Jamie Saft and drummer Matt Wilson, are two or three decades younger than the bassist. No matter, Swallow’s echoing frails provide these tracks with bedrock, and all put a 21st-century sheen on soul jazz. Boisterous, where Giuffre’s sound was muted, most tracks pulsate with jumping organ runs coupled with the saxophonist’s energetic cries and split tones that mate Albert Ayler and Lockjaw Davis. With the drummer’s rugged shuffles or backbeats, the few piano-accompanied ballads like Right Effort also find Lederer flutter tonguing changes that are both mellow and barbed. More typical are tunes such as Right Resolve where saxophone honks and bass guitar pops glue the bottom alongside Saft’s herky-jerky tremors, creating a bluesy afterimage. Add in Wilson’s stop-time drumming and the image presented is of a good-time after-hours party somehow interrupted by austere free jazz multiphonics. That’s also why Right Action stands out with post-modern insouciance. Using Swallow’s continuous patterns Eberhard, Lyle Mays’ 13-minute tribute to Eberhard Weber, was recorded in the months before Mays’ death in 2020 and features Lyle on piano and synthesizers along with Bill Frisell, Bob Sheppard, Steve Rodby, Jimmy Johnson, Mitchel Forman, Alex Acuña, Jimmy Branly, Wade Culbreath, Aubrey Johnson, Rosana Eckert, Gary Eckert, and more. Composed, Arranged and Produced by Lyle Mays “What an incredible honour to find out that Lyle created a last masterpiece and named it “Eberhard”... It is impossible to express my thankfulness and gratitude...” - Eberhard Weber Available on all streaming services. Vinyl, CDs, and digital downloads available at www.lylemays.com as rhythmic glue, Wilson’s tambourine-on-hi-hat-splashes take on a Latin tinge while the saxophonist’s extended altissimo screams seem to relate as much to pioneering rock’n’roll tenor saxist Big Jay McNeely as to free jazz proponents like Ayler. Like Swallow, Barry Altschul had been germane to Bley’s trio music, but over the years he’s worked with numerous other advanced musicians. Now 78, Long Tall Sunshine (NotTwo MW 1012-2 nottwo.com) by his 3DOM Factor features his compositions played by the drummer plus saxophonist/clarinetist Jon Irabagon and bassist Joe Fonda, whose broad woody strokes open this live set. Energy music of the highest order, there’s delicacy here as well as dissonance. These attributes also emanate from the drummer, who on the eponymous first track and especially the final, Martin’s Stew, projects solos that thunder with taste. Pounding rim shots, clanking cymbals and bass drum rumbles cement the beat without unnecessary volume and quickly lock in with Fonda’s logical pumps and arco asides. Outlining and recapping the theme here and elsewhere, Irabagon races through a compendium of staccato squawks, yelping bites and altissimo burbles. His a cappella deconstruction of the title tune with foghorn-like honks, key percussion and strangled yelps is like aural sleight of hand. Extended techniques appear almost before you realize it and they ease into a more standard playing before the finale. Irabagon’s ability to source phrase after phrase and tone after tone in expanding and extended fashion is complemented by Altschul’s composition. As outside as they become with reed split tones, percussion splatters and weighty string slithering, a kernel of melody is referred to on and off. Fragmented quotes from disguised modern jazz classics lurk just below the surface and are heard in the saxophonist’s theme statements and asides. During Bley’s 1990s tenure at the NEC, one student who stood out was Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, whose first American disc in 1996 was a duo with Bley. Now involved with ensembles ranging from duos to big bands, you can sense the Canadian pianist’s influence and how Fujii evolved from it when she heads a trio. Moon on the Lake (Libra Records 203-065 librarecords.com) with her Tokyo Trio is completed by bassist/cellist Takashi Sugawa and drummer Ittetsu Takemura. Taking from both the mainstream and the avant garde, she allows ideas to squirm along the piano keys and sometimes dips inside the frame to pluck the strings for added resonance. Quick to feature her partners, she plays percussively to match Takemura’s clanking rolls and whistling ruffs or slowly, chords to extract the proper colours alongside temple bell-like cymbal vibration, or the trembling pulls of Sugawa’s formalist arco work. While the title – and final – tune is quiet and romantic, individual internal string plucks and a dry processional pace prevents it from sinking into sentimentality. Keep Running, and especially the extended Aspiration on the other hand, are progressively dissonant. Beginning with spinning drum top raps, then press rolls, the former tune gains its broken chord shape as the pianist pounds out kinetic patterns with one hand and relaxed fingering with the other. The narrative climaxes with rifleshot-like pops from the drummer. Aspiration sums up both sides of her keyboard personality. From slow and stately her chording works up to florid impressionism and then relaxes into low-pitched shakes mated with the cello’s mournful interlocution. Later, barely there cymbal shuffles and rim shots accelerate to woody thumps and pumps as Fujii’s stopped piano keys unearth a spreading metronomic rhythm. Reaching a crescendo of allegro key pummeling seconded by metallic percussion rattles and rugged bass string plucks, the piece sinks back to its lento beginning framed with single piano notes. Unlike others, there will never be a Bley school of improvisation. Yet musicians like Fujii continue to build on his ideas and guidance and many of his associates are still producing notable advanced music. 54 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES It seems so long ago that the world was introduced to The Three Tenors. It has been 30 years since the concert starring three great tenors of the day made entertainment history. The original concept was to have a concert of popular opera arias sung by a lone artist. How the simple idea developed into The Three Tenors – José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti – singing before a capacity audience in the site of the old Roman baths of Caracalla is told here in a brilliant, informative bonus feature, supplementing the original concert footage. The documentary, From Caracalla to the World, lets us into the evolution of the three-man show – actually four men including conductor Zubin Mehta. After that first performance, as seen on this disc, their impresario offered the show to record companies who declined, arguing that the “songs” were too old and the public would not be interested. Only Decca saw the future and immediately signed them. The documentary is 88 minutes in duration including contemporary videos of the principals and other familiar faces and names as they were 30 years ago; also, the plans for and scenes from the subsequent 1994 concert in Los Angeles that was the most watched musical event in history. More than one and a half billion viewers watched the concert via 100 national television networks. It’s all there and more in the revealing documentary. In the concert itself there are 15 arias plus an extended 20-minute medley. The arias and songs are familiar or soon will be. Rather than pick and choose I listened and watched right through as each singer came and sang his heart out whether it be an aria or a song or a familiar piece and then left the stage to await his next turn. Not once was there the slightest inclination to skip ahead. Track 14 is an entertaining medley of a variety of material, romantic, sentimental, recognizable songs like Amapola, O Sole Mio and from Broadway like Maria, Memory, Tonight, La vie en rose. Each tenor and Mehta is clearly having a contagiously good time shared by those in the audience. The Original Three Tenors in Concert, Rome 1990 plus a new documentary (C major 758804 Blu-ray video naxosdirect.com/ search/758804). SOMM has issued a collection of eight recordings made by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. Only one of these performances has been issued previously, by Columbia, on CD. In 1946 Szell became only the fourth music director of the orchestra since its founding in 1918. He took the appointment promising to transform the orchestra, as excellent as it was, into one of the finest in the land. He succeeded. On the second disc of the two-CD set there are stirring performances of four favourites from his repertoire: Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Variations on a Theme by Haydn (previously released); Schumann’ Symphony No. 4 in D Minor; then Stravinsky’s 1919 suite from The Firebird. These stereo recordings were made in the Masonic Auditorium in Cleveland in October, 1955 and sound as fresh and real as yesterday – flawless and excitingly present. The first starts off with Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3, then Smetana’s The Moldau and from Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks all New Release/ Nouveauté 11.05.2021 www.leaf-music.ca thewholenote.com November 2021 | 55

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