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Volume 27 Issue 3 - December 2021 / January 2022

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  • December
  • Quartet
  • Jazz
  • January
  • Musical
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
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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.

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overheating. The more than 40 minute Yokohama Iseazaki Town gives the quartet its greatest scope, as vibrating split tones pass from one horn to another with percussion crunches keeping the exposition chromatic. Takagi’s hardened flutters and yowling vibrations may make the greatest impression, but Kongo’s alto saxophone bites are emphasized as well. Although space exists for clarion clarinet puffs and transverse flute trilling, it’s the largest horn’s foghorn honks and tongue-slaps that prevent any extraneous prettiness seeping into the duets. Still, with canny use of counterpoint and careful layering of horn tones backed by sprawling drum raps, the feeling of control is always maintained along with the confirmation of how the balancing act between expression and connection is maintained. Takagi’s former duo partner, percussionist Sabu Toyozumi (b.1943) continues playing free music as he has since the mid-1960s. Recently he’s formed a partnership with American alto saxophonist Rick Countryman, with Misaki Castle Tower (Chap Chap Records CPCD-0190 chapchapmusic.com) the most recent session. It’s fitting that one track is entitled Ode to Kaoru Abe since the saxophonist who overdosed at 29 in 1978 is a Charlie Parker-like free jazz avatar in Japan. While the healthy duo’s homage is strictly musical, Countryman’s spiralling tones, modulated squeaks and brittle reed interjections are aptly seconded by Toyozumi’s hard ruffs and cymbal pops. Segues into shaking flattement, renal snarls and multiphonics characterize the saxophonist’s playing on other tracks and the drummer responds with positioned nerve beats, complementary rim shots and restrained press rolls. Hushed tone elaborations, during which Countryman moves pitch upwards with every subsequent breath, distinguish the concluding Myths of Modernization from the preceding tracks. But the saxophonist’s ability to snake between clarion peeps and muddy smears when not eviscerating horn textures, remains. The summation comes on that track, as articulated reed squeezes and stops meet irregular drum bops and ruffs. Although they play the same instrument as Takayanagi, the sounds from Taku Sugimoto (electric guitar) and Takashi Masubuchi (acoustic guitar) on Live at Otooto & Permian (Confront Core Series core 16 confrontrecordings.com/core-series) reflects a new minimalist genre of Japanese improvisation. Called Onkyo, which loosely translates as quiet noise, it’s as introspective as free jazz is brash. Through a sophisticated use of voltage drones, string percussion and harmonic transformation, these two guitarists prevent the five selections recorded at two Tokyo clubs from being bloodless. With the electric guitar projecting a buzzing undercurrent, harsh jabs, bottleneck-like twangs and inverted strums inject rhythmic and harmonic transformation into the tracks even as the narratives unroll horizontally. While the gradual evolution is rigid, there are sequences as on At Permian II, where repetitive undulations from both join singular cells into a distant melody. Plus, by moving patterns between guitarists, the duo ensures that neither droning continuum nor singular string prods predominate, making sound transformation as logical as it is unforced. Too often Western listeners think of unconventional Japanese music as foreign, frightening and impenetrable. As these sessions show there’s actually much to explore and appreciate with close listening. Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES Many years ago, I chatted with members of the Juilliard String Quartet in Toronto when they were engaged to play at the recently opened North York Centre for the Performing Arts. I asked which of them was considered the “head of the quartet”? They each replied that they were all equally involved and responsible for decisions of repertoire and performance. Perhaps this is the secret to their excellence and longevity, that they all feel they are equal contributors. The Juilliard String Quartet was neither composed of students nor members of the faculty of the elite New York conservatory, but rather founded at the instigation of William Schuman, American composer and president of the Juilliard School. His wish was to form a quartet that would “play the standard repertoire with the sense of excitement and discovery and play new works with a reverence usually reserved for the classics.” Schuman found a kindred spirit in the young violinist, Robert Mann, who brought with him two former Juilliard classmates, cellist Arthur Winograd and violinist Robert Koff. They found their fourth member, Raphael Hillyer, in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Hillyer enthusiastically switched from violin to viola to complete the ensemble. This original Juilliard String Quartet gave their first public performance in 1947 in Tanglewood, introduced by the Boston Symphony’s Serge Koussevitzky. The sound of these recordings, made by Columbia in the early years of the quartet from 1949 to 1956, is remarkably immediate and strikingly fresh. Some of the works may be new to a few collectors but every opus on these 16 well-chosen recordings enjoys an outstanding performance. The repertoire, featuring the Juilliard and a number of their colleagues, is as Schuman envisioned, including, not unexpectedly, two works of his own. Here are all the works to be heard on these 16 CDs in the order in which they appear. Notice that this is not a potpourri of the usual repertoire of best-loved pieces but includes performances of many compositions that were new then. The opening work is Darius Milhaud’s Cantate de l’enfant et de la mere, Op.185 with text by the Belgian poet Maurice Carême. It is for speaker, piano and string quartet and had premiered in Brussels in 1938 with the Pro Arte Quartet and the composer’s wife Madeleine as speaker. Columbia made this recording two days before Christmas in 1949 in New York with Madeleine, pianist Leonid Hambro and the Juilliard all directed by Milhaud himself. A second Milhaud opus is The Household Muse, a collection of five pleasant piano pieces each lasting less than two minutes, played by Milhaud and recorded in 1945. The complete Bartók String Quartets. The set that drew attention worldwide was the premiere recording of the complete string quartets by the recently deceased Béla Bartók. The Juilliard gave the first public performance of the complete cycle in 1949. Present in the audience were Dmitri Shostakovich and Columbia’s legendary producer Goddard Lieberson, who shortly afterward went on to make these recordings. This was no small event as the “Bartók Scene” was where it “was at.” I had not heard the complete cycle for some time and listening and paying attention, not only the intensity of the performances but the body of sound and the feeling of the players being right there, is captivating. The next works are Berg’s Lyric Suite and Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major. For Aaron Copland’s Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String 54 | December 2021 thewholenote.com

OTHER FINE VINTAGES After Hours 1966 Norm Amadio Trio + Tommy Ambrose Panda Digital PDCD0291 (pandadigital.com) Quartet the Juilliard is joined by David Oppenheim and pianist Hambro. A composer named Ellis Kohs (1916-2000) is represented by his Chamber Concerto for Viola and String Quartet, with Ferenc Molnar solo viola. The abovementioned Schuman’s String Quartet No.4 is follow by Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto a Tre for clarinet, violin and cello with Mitchell Lurie, Eudice Shapiro and Victor Gottlieb. The complete string quartets of Arnold Schoenberg are followed by Anton Webern’s Three Movements for String Quartet and Alban Berg’s String Quartet No.3. Mann recalls an encounter with Arnold Schoenberg after a session when they were recording his four string quartets: “After we finished… we waited anxiously. He was silent for a while. Eventually he said with a smile ‘I really must admit that you played it in a way I never conceived it… but you know, I like how you play it so much that I’m not going to say a word about how I think, because I want you to keep playing in that manner.’” These recordings from 1951-52 comprise three discs in this box set. Reading lists like this one can surely become tiresome to the reader but I can assure you that listening to all these works, not in one sitting of course, was a pleasure. These are fine performances meeting Schuman’s original ideals quoted above. But wait, there’s more… More American music from Leon Kirchner (String Quartet No.1) played by the American Art Quartet. Then we return to the Juilliard themselves with Irving Fine’s String Quartet, Peter Mennin’s String Quartet No.2 and Andrew Imbrie’s String Quartet No.1. And then, at last, Mozart – String Quartet No.20 K499 and No.21 K575, providing a breath of fresh air and respite from the somewhat craggy modernism that dominates the discs. But after that refreshing pause we’re back in the thick of the 20th century with Virgil Thomson’s String Quartet No.2 and our old friend William Schuman’s piano cycle, Voyage, in five movements played by Beverage Webster. The penultimate disc features Alexei Haieff’s String Quartet No.1 and Samuel Barber’s Hermit Songs Op.29 sung by the incomparable Leontyne Price accompanied by the composer on piano. Columbia/Sony wraps up this collection with the Lukas Foss String Quartet No.1 with the American Art Quartet and finishes with the Juilliard performing William Bergsma’s String Quartet No.3. Juilliard String Quartet – The Early Columbia Recordings 1949-1956 (Sony Classical 194398311029 16 CDs, amazon.com/Early-Columbia- Recordings-Various-Artists/dp/B08YLZW1YY) ! A stalwart of the Toronto jazz and live music community, the late Norm Amadio is captured here on After Hours 1966 in the kind of fine form that hundreds of musicians locally and such visiting American players as Stan Getz and Coleman Hawkins (among many others) experienced when working with Amadio on the bandstands and jam sessions of any number of Toronto clubs over the numerous decades of his storied career. Capturing some of the long ornamented piano lines and furious comping that made him a bebop soloist and accompanist of choice for so many, Amadio is joined on this recording by bassist Bob Price and drummer Stan Perry, occasionally in support of vocalist (and longtime Amadio collaborator) Tommy Ambrose. The compositions, all of which were written by Andrew Meltzer (including one with lyrics by journalist and Order of Canada Member George Jonas), all move harmonically and melodically like standards, that is to say the music of the gilded fraternity of tunesmiths who wrote for the Broadway stage, that jazz musicians love to perform and extemporize upon. Accordingly, everyone here plays beautifully and in a relaxed manner that imbues a sense of intimacy and familiarly. For Melzer, this release is a dream that dates back to when he was a 60-year-old songwriter in conversation with Amadio about doing this recording on the stage of Toronto’s The Cellar club. For the rest of us, this album is a welcome addition to our collection of great Toronto jazz from yesteryear and a testament to Amadio’s amazing musicianship. Andrew Scott New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited Albert Ayler ezz-thetics 1118 (hathut.com) ! A movie soundtrack that’s as acclaimed as the film for which it was conceived, 1964’s New York Eye and Ear Control has maintained its reputation for both the distinctive quality of Toronto artist/pianist Michael Snow’s experimental film, and the unique ensemble which improvised its soundtrack. Following Snow’s instructions to create an improvised score, New York’s top free jazz players of the time – cornetist/trumpeter Don Cherry, trombonist Roswell Rudd, alto saxophonist John Tchicai, tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray – rose to the challenge. Part of the disc’s longstanding appeal is the unfiltered reed extensions from Ayler, who emerges as first among equals in the group, even though it’s one of the saxophonist’s few non-leadership sessions. Although free jazz at its freest, the tracks’ sounds aren’t formless, with the nephritic honks of Ayler’s saxophone serving as thematic leitmotif throughout. Other than that, the sound narrative is expressed by contrasting guttural snarls and low-pitched bites from Ayler, sometimes seconded by Tchicai’s snaky split tones, while Cherry’s shrill rips and flutters propel melodic and linear interludes. Rudd’s smeary triplets are heard sparingly, most conspicuously on A Y in an up-and-down duet with Peacock, whose systematic rhythmic thumps likewise stay in the background. Not Murray, whose drum rolls and ruffs frequently punctuate the ongoing group narratives. Balanced experimentation like the film, the session confirms its structure when Ayler ends it by recapping the subterranean growl which begins the program. Ken Waxman thewholenote.com December 2021 | 55

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