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Volume 27 Issue 3 - December 2021 / January 2022

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  • December
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Many Happy Returns: the rebirth of Massey Hall -- from venue to hub; music theatre's re-emergence from postponement limbo; pianist Vikingur Ólafsson's return visit to to "Glenn Gould's hometown"; guest writer music librarian Gary Corrin is back from his post behind the scenes in the TSO library; Music for Change returns to 21C; and here we all are again! Welcome back. Fingers crossed, here we go.

Northscapes Ieva

Northscapes Ieva Jokubaviciute Sono Luminus DSL-92251 (sonoluminus.com) ! In a release of 21st-century piano music by Lithuanian Ieva Jokubaviciute, aptly titled Northscapes, we receive a selection of ethereal sonic planes all evoking the majesty of nature’s expanse. Jokubaviciute handles each piece with a delicate touch and an inspired approach to phrasing – attributes that are necessary to reveal the wonderful poetic characteristics of each piece. With each composer being from Nordic or Baltic countries, the overall atmosphere is one of a stark, and yet endlessly colourful, depiction of engulfing northern panoramas. Whether whirling through the unrelenting chroma-glow of Lasse Thoresen’s Invocation of Pristine Light, taking pause in the crafty expressiveness of Bent Sørensen’s Nocturnes, or sinking into the dreamworld of Kaija Saariaho’s well-known Prelude, each work connects landscape to psychological enchantment. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Scape transports the listener into this psycho-geographical state with brilliance and ease. The innovative approach to the piano in her piece shifts the mind from the immediate to a vast apocryphal arena. This allows the sonic experience to travel much deeper than mere surfacelevel representations of nature scenes. When listening to this disc, one begins to wander among geographies of the mind – realms that haunt and comfort, obfuscate but also reassure. For an experience that will transport ear and mind, listen to Northscapes. Adam Scime Count to Five Recap w/Transit New Music Innova (innova.mu) ! The story begins with four New Jersey middle schoolers Arlene Acevedo, Alexis Carter, Tiahna Sterlin and Aline Vasquez who began studying percussion with Joe Bergen, a member of the Mantra Percussion ensemble. Then in 2020 at ages 19 and 20 they formed Recap, a professional percussion quartet of BIPOC women.Recap seeks to reevaluate the white-male-dominated world of percussion within the contemporary classical music scene. As Acevedo said, “We’re young women of colour doing this... and you can too!” The results are impressive and they’ve now released an exciting debut album. Count to Five features six works, one each by Angélica Negrón, Allison Loggins- Hull, Ellen Reid, Lesley Flanigan, Mary Kouyoumdjian and Caroline Shaw. Puerto Rican composer Negrón’s surreal Count to Five opens the album. In it, everyday objects like shuffled playing cards, squeezed bubble wrap, dragged chairs and bowed and tapped wine glasses create an intimate sonic atmosphere interrupted by prerecorded children’s and other sounds; a harmonica note is incessantly repeated. And yes, the performers count to five, whispering. Another highlight is New York experimental musician and composer Flanigan’s impressive Hedera which draws from another experimental music lineage, perhaps more Laurie Anderson than John Cage. Hedera features Flanigan’s multitrack vocalise, supported by Recap’s tonally ever-modulating bass drum and tom-tom swells. For 20 minutes, their pulsing 16th-note waves propel the work which increases in density and emotional intensity while Flanigan’s voice builds into a massive choir. In the end the drums and choir float away like clouds on a hot summer’s day. Andrew Timar Plays Well With Others Loadbang New Focus Recordings FCR307 (newfocusrecordings.com) ! The brass and woodwind ensemble, loadbang, explores what appears to the harmonious nature of humanity on Plays Well With Others, aptly titled because the quartet is expanded, joined in this odyssey by a 12-person string section plus piano. The result is an extravagantly sumptuous sound-world. The airy sculpting of this music by the horns dwells in an exquisitely dramatic recitation by Jeffery Gavett together with Andy Kozar (trumpet), William Lang (trombone) and Adrian Sandi (bass clarinet), and orchestral accompaniment. Loadbang performs this avant-garde repertoire with architectural authority and elegant rhetoric. There are ink-dark, gossamer whispers and deep growls on Taylor Brook’s Tarantism and the work progresses with long-limbed elegance, as if spinning a beguiling web with the (principal) tarantula character. Riven, by Heather Stebbins, pulsates with appropriate irregularity before it shatters along its elliptical harmonic grain. Eve Beglarian’s You See Where This is Going, with its narration of a surreal poem, sees strings, piano and horns entwining until the work is twisted into a powerful musical edifice. Reiko Füting’s Mo(nu)ment for C/ Palimpsest returns us to the dark world of terrorism made more sinister by the hushed performance. Scott Wollschleger’s CVS offers another sinister take on socio-political extremism. All of this leads to the dynamic sound-palette of Paula Matthusen’s Such Is Now the Necessity – a most appropriate finale to this hypnotic repertoire. Anyone reacting well to the mystery and surprise of music will certainly take this disc to heart. Raul da Gama JAZZ AND IMPROVISED On A Mountain Shannon Gunn; Renee Rosnes; Neil Swainson; Billy Drummond; Brad Turner; Pat LaBarbera Cellar Music CM052001 (cellarlive.com) ! With last year’s untimely loss of gifted jazz vocalist, composer and dedicated jazz educator, Shannon Gunn, a painful shockwave passed through the Canadian jazz community. Gunn was well respected and loved as a kind, generous and inspired musical force, and with the release of this never-before-heard 2002 recording, her significance as an artist is clear. For the project, Gunn surrounded herself with dear friends and Canada’s most skilled musicians, including producer/pianist/composer Renee Rosnes, bassist Neil Swainson, drummer Billy Drummond, trumpeter/arranger Brad Turner and tenorist Pat LaBarbera. The program features a tasty selection of original tunes, as well as contributions from Tom Jobim, Cole Porter, Carla Bley and Renee Rosnes. First up is the haunting Gunn composition, From You. Her sumptuous voice is so warm and rife with emotion – reminiscent of the great Irene Kral. Rosnes’ sensitive and harmonically sophisticated solo is a thing of beauty, as is the trio work, and the perfect complement to Gunn’s vocal. A standout is Carla’s Blues by the eminent Carla Bley and jazz vocalist Norma Winstone. The arrangement (by Gunn’s partner, Brian Dickinson) is dynamic and energizing – the solos by Turner and LaBarbera are both swinging and exquisite and Drummond’s taste, skill and rock-solid rhythmic sensibility propel everything. Another stunner is Lerner and Loewe’s classic, I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face, featuring a duet between Gunn’s rich alto voice and Swainson’s nimble, sonorous bass. Gunn’s original On a Mountain, transports the listener to a mystical musical precipice. The beautifully arranged closer is Porter’s Everything I Love, which is quite appropriate, as it expresses not only my feelings about this CD, but the fact that Gunn herself was all about everything that we love. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke 46 | December 2021 thewholenote.com

Songbook Dizzy & Fay (Amanda Walther; Mark Lalama) Independent (dizzyandfay.com) ! The dozen intriguing, piano/ voice duo tunes here were all composed by Dizzy and Fay, and were produced, mixed and mastered by Dizzy. “Fay” is actually the alter ego of JUNO nominee and multiple awardwinning singer/songwriter/composer Amanda Walther (familiar to many as half of the folk/roots duo Dala) and “Dizzy” is in reality, noted Canadian singer/songwriter/pianist/accordionist/producer and in-demand-performer, Mark Lalama. When Lalama and Walther met on tour, the timeline of their mutual creativity began energizing! Walther’s dusky, sensual, pitch-perfect voice (bringing to mind Julie London) is the ideal companion for Lalama’s sensitive piano work. The opening track, Maybe Someday, inspires cinematic images of a lonely and blue lady, perched on a lone bar stool at 2am, with a final martini in hand. There are many lovely and potent musical baubles presented here, all elegantly crafted into a compelling genre and infused with compositional talent. Make no mistake – Dizzy and Fay are highly musical tunesmiths and storytellers. Of particular beauty are Ordinary Love, replete with a moving lyric and delicious chord changes; the sweet and innocent love song Walk Me Home, which opens with a stunner of a piano solo; the sexy-cool (and a cappella) Boom and the evocative Gravity which has such a visual element, bolstered by a beautiful melodic line and lyric, that it is really a hit song looking for a film. The closer of this exquisite recording, Paris Rain, is somehow both steeped in nostalgia and breathtakingly contemporary – which could also be said of every perfectly presented, emotionally charged track here. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Augmented Reality Benjamin Deschamps MCM MCM053 (benjamindeschamps.com/ en) ! Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and arranger Benjamin Deschamps has been very active in the Canadian jazz scene, collaborating with groups such as the Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal and JazzLab Orchestra (Effendi). He has also led his own groups, from trios to the sextet on this offering, and released several albums. Augmented Reality is an assured and swinging jazz album with a modern sound, clever tunes and impeccable musicianship. The opening tune, Unfinished Business, is a terrific and intelligent scorcher which begins with a four-note, ostinato, tenor sax riff that is underpinned by the funky drums and then joined by trombone and the rest of the ensemble. The piece works through a hopping piano solo from Charles Trudel, then an assured sax solo from Deschamps as the energy builds. The band cuts out and we are left with the ostinato played on the Wurlitzer, joined by bass and guitar with a vibrant drum solo (from Al Bourgeois) over top. The piece finishes with everyone intensely playing the riff. The title tune opens with a fuzz-rock, rhythm-section riff, then the ensemble plays an elegant melody which leads into a number of excellent solos over a fuzz guitar-infused background. The slower Healing Chant: The Resurrection begins with a beautiful bass clarinet line that turns into a duet with trombone (Jean-Nicolas Trottier), then moves into an exquisitely lyrical guitar solo from Nicolas Ferron. Augmented Reality is an excellent album which combines superb performances from all musicians with a range of intelligent and varied compositions from Deschamps. It both swings and rocks. Ted Parkinson Worldview Avataar InSound Records IS005 (sundarmusic.com) ! Award-winning Toronto world-jazz group Avataar is led by the multiple Juno-nominated saxophonist, bansurist, vocalist and composer Sundar Viswanathan who writes all the band’s charts. On Worldview he’s supported by an all-star ensemble including Michael Occhipinti (electric guitar), Justin Gray (bass), Todd Pentney (piano, synth, Rhodes), Aaron Lightstone (oud), Ravi Naimpally (tabla) and Max Senitt (drums & percussion). Felicity Williams’ tasty vocal top lines are very effective in adding human colour and harmony to the instrumentals. Her strawcoloured diaphanous soprano elevates Innocents (12/14/12), Blue As It Ever Was and the other tracks she’s featured on. Viswanathan’s vision for the album “is a musical commentary on the state of our world, on the pandemic, and on the inability of our leaders to lead with integrity, honesty, and compassion.” Several tracks including Song Song, Little Kurdi (for Alan Kurdi) and A Safe Space For Children (For All) were inspired not only by childhood nostalgia and saudade but also by “the honesty and fragility of children faced by a world of uncertainty and confusion created by adults.” While Worldview is embedded in a framework of contemporary jazz and its musical What we're listening to this month: thewholenote.com/listening La Grazia Delle Donne Ensemble la Cigale and Myriam Leblanc This is a collection of wonderful works by female composers of the Baroque era. Soprano Myriam Leblanc joins the ensemble with her warm voice. Scarlatti: Essercizi per garvicembalo Hank Knox Knox’s recording highlights Scarlatti’s technically demanding work composed with the intent of a study in technique, resulting in a spectacular showcase of virtuosic performance. Bach au Pardessus de viole Mélisande Corriveau ; Eric Milnes This album revisits various of the composer’s sonatas in the rare but no less authentic colors of the pardessus de viole. New Jewish Music, Vol. 3 Azrieli Music Prizes Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and Lorraine Vaillancourt This beautiful album features world premiere of the winning composers of the 2020 edition of Azrieli Music Prizes interpreted by Nouvel ensemble Moderne. thewholenote.com December 2021 | 47

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