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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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  • Thewholenote.com
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.

from Christmas Eve,

from Christmas Eve, 1954. These are monaural recordings that are sonically a few notches down from the second disc, but still exemplary music making from the podium. The fourth work is from the same stereo sessions as all the items on the second disc, an exuberant Mozart Symphony No.39 K543. The stereo recordings in this set are sonically exemplary thanks to the producer and restorer Lani Spahr, himself an oboist whose restorations are to be heard on many labels. George Szell – The Forgotten Recordings (Ariadne 5011-2 2CDs naxosdirect.com/search/ ariadne+5011-2) On the evening of October 12, 1986 the audience in Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall heard the State Symphony Orchestra of USSR conducted by Yevgeni Svetlanov. The highlight of that concert was surely the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, played by the husband and wife duo of Oleg Kagan, violin and Natalia Gutman, cello. The Double Concerto is a particular favourite, so I am familiar with many of the recordings and after enjoying this new release of that very concert performance it is quite clear, at least to me, that this is one of the most sensitive, where appropriate, and one of the boldest. Kagan and Gutman, two of the finest Russian musicians of all time, were wisely selected for the orchestra’s international world tour. The interplay between them often has an elegance not to be heard elsewhere. Svetlanov’s crack touring orchestra supports them perfectly and ever so gently where called for. Kagan was a most highly rated and respected violinist and chamber music musician and was often heard with Sviatoslav Richter and other virtuosi. He died in Munich in 1990. Gutman plays on and is one of the world’s most esteemed musicians, often referred to as “The Queen of the Cello.” She is also to be heard in the other work on this CD. It is the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1 in E-flat Major Op.107 played by Gutman with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Alexander Lazariev. The performance is from January 26, 1980 in Amsterdam, predating the above by six years. Gutman made an amazing reputation for her performances of this concerto which she also recorded a few times. This live performance demonstrates her authority and electrifying musicality. Legendary Treasures: Oleg Kagan & Natalia Gutman Live, Vol.1 (Doremi DHR-8120 naxosdirect.com/search/dhr-8120). Edmund Kurtz was one of the most accomplished cellists of the 20th century. He was born in St. Petersburg in 1908. The family moved to Germany in 1917. He debuted in Rome in 1924 and Berlin in 1925. After solo concerts throughout Europe he became principal cellist in the Bremen Opera House then principal cellist in the Prague German Opera Orchestra under George Szell. Kurtz emigrated to the United States and became first cello in the Chicago Symphony. He was also part of the Spivakovsky Trio with brothers Tossy and Jascha. He resigned from the orchestra in 1944 to pursue a solo career. In 1945 Toscanini chose Kurtz for the Dvořák Cello Concerto. He made recordings with William Kapell and Artur Balsam and others and gave many premieres including the first American performance of the Khachaturian concerto under Koussevitzky. Kurtz’s playing was notable for a creamy, lush sound, focused and authoritative. The very first notes out of your speakers will confirm all the above and continue to do so through these three cello sonatas: Prokofiev’s C Major Op.119 and Chopin’s G Minor, Op.65, are both accompanied by Artur Balsam; then the infamously difficult Kodály Sonata for Solo Cello, Op.8 that Kurtz makes sound engaging and effortless. Legendary Treasures: Edmund Kurtz, Volume 1 (Doremi DHR-8109 naxosdirect.com/search/dhr-8109). OTHER FINE VINTAGES From the Heart & Soul Dianne Brooks Panda Digital (pandadigital.com) ! Take my hand, won’t you, as we journey back to a golden era in Toronto’s musical history when session work was plentiful, television shows hired actual live bands and club gigs were multiple-night affairs. It’s a time spoken of with misty-eyed fondness by older musicians and singers struggling to make a living in music these days. Dianne Brooks was at the centre of it all as a first-call studio singer and versatile lead and backing vocalist. Brooks recorded and toured with a long list of top performers of the day such as Thad Jones, Count Basie, Dusty Springfield and Anne Murray and was also a member of the legendary 16-piece group, Dr. Music, led by the equally legendary keyboardist, Doug Riley. It’s the late singer’s solo musical ventures in R&B and jazz, however, that are represented on this new release by producer Andrew Melzer. New to the Listening Room "Stimme aus der Ferne" - A Voice From the Distance Andrea Botticelli 40 Sound Visionaries Christina Petrowska Quilico 42 Retro Americana Christina Petrowska Quilico 42 With Malice Toward None Apollo Chamber Players 44 The Planets & Humanity Piano Reflections Tanya Ekanayaka 45 Off the Carousel June Garber 49 A Prayer For Lester Bowie David Sanford Big Band 49 17 Days in December Jacqueline Kerrod 51 Baked Cafe Glenn Chatten 52 On My Way to You Shirley Eikhard 52 SUBA Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita 53 Read the reviews here, then visit thewholenote.com/listening 56 | November 2021 thewholenote.com

Melzer is a songwriter, musician and engineer who unearthed recordings from 1983 of Brooks’ live gig at George’s Spaghetti House, a hub for jazz in Toronto back in the day. Three tracks are included here – two of which are Gershwin standards – that feature Riley on piano, Tom Szczesniak on bass and Bob McLaren on drums. The first five tracks on the album were from two different sessions in L.A. from 1978 and 1980 and are very much of the era. A pop/R&B blend, they showcase the singer’s strong vocals and the keyboards of Grammy Award-winner, Don Grusin. My favourite of the five is Brooks’ funky take on Paul McCartney’s I’m Carrying. If you’re a fan of Brooks, or even looking for a little nostalgia trip, add From the Heart & Soul to your collection. Cathy Riches Comes Love (Lost Session 1960) Sheila Jordan Capri Records 74164-2 (caprirecords.com) ! At age 92, iconic jazz vocalist, composer and NEA Jazz Master, Sheila Jordan has just released a lost treasure – capturing the young artist prior to her notable 1963 Blue Note Records debut, Portrait of Sheila. Originally recorded on June 10, 1960 in NYC, this gem has been insightfully produced for a contemporary jazz audience by Thomas Burns. Sadly, Jordan has no clear recollection of the record date itself, or the personnel, but it’s likely that it includes members of her then-trio of John Knapp or Herbie Nichols on piano, Ziggy Willman on drums and bassists Gene Perlman or Steve Swallow (with whom she later developed her trademark vocal bop and bass duo). Throughout the recording, Jordan’s warm, engaging voice resonates with youth, but is also imbued with a certain melancholy worldliness, as well as the superb vocal technique for which she would become known. On Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got that Swing, Jordan bops and bobs and weaves her way through the gauntlet with tight, supple accompaniment from her trio. The inclusion of Wolf and Landesman’s Ballad of the Sad Young Men is an eccentric choice for this collection, but Jordan more than compensates for her possible naïveté, with her incredible empathy, heart and soul. Another treat on this fine project includes a laudable vocal jazz version of Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s Sleeping Bee – performed here with the original verse, segueing into a lilting, swinging arrangement. Jordan’s interpretation of Rogers and Hart’s Glad to be Unhappy is also a triumph, as well as a masterclass in how to perform a ballad with integrity and creativity, while fully utilizing the colours and timbre of the vocal instrument as well as collaborating (sans ego) with the other musicians. Magnificent! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke The Alchemist Scott Reeves Quintet Origin Records ORIGIN 82826 (originarts.com) ! During the COVID shutdown, highly regarded NYC-based multi-instrumentalist, composer and jazz educator, Scott Reeves, began to plumb the depths of his own archives and discovered a rare artifact – a previously un-released “live” recording featuring his never-recorded quintet, originally presented in concert at Harlem’s City College of New York in May of 2005. It was with the magic and skill of recording/mixing engineer Brian Montgomery that audio problems were solved, and this new CD (originally meant only as an archival recording) was rescued from oblivion. The album features five original compositions by Reeves, who also performs here on alto flugelhorn, the archaic alto valve trombone and electronics. The skilled quintet includes Russ Spiegel on guitar, Mike Holober on keyboards, bassist Howard Britz and drummer Andy Watson. The opener is the sinuous, exotic New Bamboo. Written around an ancient Turco-Greek-inspired Phrygian vamp, this timeless composition invokes our primal emotions and also embraces contemporary spontaneity with the brilliant soloing of Holober and cosmic symmetry of all the players. The gorgeous Shapeshifter utilizes Gil Evans-ish, 12-tone modalities to explore the sonic relationships between the musicians, their instruments and the ensemble itself. The title track is outstanding – a funky-cool, incendiary device, dedicated to Miles Davis, whom Reeves has dubbed “the master alchemist of space and time.” Holober and Watson shine on this very au courant-sounding track, that could have easily been recorded last night and Reeves’ use of electronics is tasteful and musical. Especially magical is the sumptuous ballad, Remembrances. Reeves’ work on the alto flugelhorn is absolutely stunning and incredibly evocative – as is the inspired soloing of Spiegel on guitar. A masterful jazz recording in every sense! Lesley Mitchell-Clarke thewholenote.com November 2021 | 57

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