1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.

Adam Roberts – Bell

Adam Roberts – Bell Threads andPlay; Hannah Lash; Bearthoven; Erik Behr; JACK Quartet New Focus Recordings FCR312 ( ! American composer Adam Roberts delivers a selection of his chamber music demonstrating an expressive compositional voice and creating engaging instrumental spaces. Roberts’ approach is focused with a brave sense of acoustic adventurousness and, using top-notch ensembles and soloists, this release enraptures ear and mind. Whether through timbral exploration or enchanting stasis, Roberts has a propensity to secure his structures with a continuous and recognizable motif while shifting focus toward other musical narratives. The result is one of clever design and intent: the music unfolds with an initial sense of random moments, but is grounded by carefully constructed and recognizable gestural frameworks. The disc begins with Shift Differential, an excited and energetic duet for violin and viola performed by andPlay. Roberts experiments with many successful timbral spaces that create momentum through constantly evolving, almost improvisatory, passages. Next, the Oboe Quartet performed by soloist Erik Behr and the JACK Quartet, shows Roberts’ more lyrical side in a work that is decidedly classical in its fast-slow-fast form. The gem on the disc is a piece titled Rounds for solo harp, performed by Hannah Lash. Cascading apparitions of sound permeate amid gentle clusters and multi-layered auras. Lash’s performance is stunning, with a musicality that is rare and captivating. Happy/ Angry Music, a trio performed by Bearthoven, draws upon polystylistic material and utilizes repetition to propel the music forward. Lastly, Bell Threads, a work for solo viola performed by Hannah Levinson, produces a sinuous and mysterious soundworld that is unique on the disc. This haunting work is the perfect bookend to a truly impressive collection of chamber works. Adam Scime Forward Music Project 2.0 – in this skin Amanda Gookin Bright Shiny Things BSTC 0156 ( ! Having enjoyed the first release of cellist Amanda Gookin’s Forward Music Project 1.0, I was richly rewarded by its sequel. From the front cover, with a photo of Gookin perilously close to cutting her own tongue with a pair of scissors, we know this CD means business. “… in this visceral journey towards radical expression… This flesh is where we live… We are powerful in this skin.” In this second installment of FMP, four more composers are invited, not as guests, but as the key tellers of the layers and complexities of women’s stories, each in their own way. Gookin takes each one as a precious gift, playing them with perfection and ferocity that makes clear her undeniable belief and dedication to every word. Translated sonically through her cello and her own vocals, with occasional added voices and electronics, there is simply no track to be missed. Paola Perstini’s To Tell A Story was in itself a fascinating journey of how the power of storytelling can be misused and appropriated, with sound artist Sxip Shirey’s backdrop of an 1983 interview with Susan Sontag creating brilliant sonic graffiti. Not only executed with stunning prowess, Gookin’s dedication to each composer’s voice channels the direct, hard-hitting messages of the compositions, her virtuosity powerfully propelling them even further, reminding us that these are all our stories to be told. She delivers them with authenticity, never taking over. This is not an ego project. This is cello playing at its height; delivering art. Forward Music Project is an undertaking that continues to leave me breathless. Cheryl Ockrant Wild At Heart Pauline Kim Harris Sono Luminus DSL-92253 ( ! The second release in Pauline Harris’ Chaconne Project, this album explores interconnections between time, individual worlds and music. According to Harris, each commissioned composition is a reincarnation of J.S. Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin and each composer has expressed their unique individual connection to this piece. The music on this album is wild in the best sense of the word – an uninhibited violin wonderland of extended techniques, powerful, ingenious and enterprising. There are no memorable melodies here but instead a universe made of fragments, textures and gestures, all centered around Chaconne. The depth of sound is astonishing and Harris’ violin is so sonorous that one feels an incredible sense of expansion listening to this album. Harris has impeccable command of her instrument. She is an artist with a wild imagination, great stamina and extraordinary control. The opening piece, Yoon-Ji Lee’s Shakonn, is a volcano of sound and energy built over a held bass note, pulling Chaconne apart and transforming it. Morsels by Elizabeth Hoffman follows, a web of lovely harmonics that create both the rhythms and textures. Sequences of single gestures are juxtaposed with empty spaces, forming delicate balances. Annie Gosfield’s Long Waves and Random Pulses has a powerful energy and occasional Gypsy flavour. Using extensive research of jammed radio signals as a foundation, Gosfield alternates whirls of notes with a ghostly noise to build the mystery. The album closes with a grand C-H-A-C-O- N-N-E, John King’s composition that explores the form to the extreme through sequences that move from complex to simple. An imaginative and highly recommended album. Ivana Popovic Richard Bissill – Panoply Artists from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Three Worlds Records TWR0011 ( ! The opening two-minute Philharmonic Fanfare for brass and percussion, commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, boisterously heralds this CD’s many forthcoming pleasures. Richard Bissill, former LPO principal horn and longtime professor at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, enlisted students and fellow faculty members to perform the music recorded here, all composed between 2001 and 2016. Bissill himself appears in his eight-minute Trio for horn, violin and piano, two warmly lyrical sections embracing a graceful, lively scherzando. Episodically varying tempi and moods make the nine-minute Twisted Elegy for flute, viola and harp much more “twisted” than “elegiac.” Bissill’s ten-minute Sirens for violin and piano vividly evokes the mythical temptresses with music that’s playful, sensuous and urgently seductive. There are two 15-minute, three-movement pieces. The jazz-tinted Triangulation achieves heightened impact through its unusual textures – dense and gritty – produced by seven bassoons and one contrabassoon. Panoply for flute and piano, with its quicksilver first movement, languid, Debussyinflected central movement and theatrical finale, is a fresh, delectable addition to the flute repertoire. The 12-minute The Magnificent Seventh for eight horns, piano, bass and drums, based on the interval of a minor seventh, moves from fanfares and busy syncopations to a slow, bluesy middle section before the piece, and the CD, ends in a burst of triumph. Bissill’s inventively varied, thoroughly 48 | February 2022

engaging music – “progressive-conservative” in the best sense – deserves widespread exposure to international audiences. Recommended! Michael Schulman Sara Schoenbeck Sara Schoenbeck; Harris Eisenstadt; Roscoe Mitchell; Mark Dresser; Peggy Lee et al Pyroclastic Records PR 16 ( ! As a pioneer of contemporary bassoon, Sara Schoenbeck’s selftitled album of duet collaborations reads almost like a list of party invitees who just happen to be the who’s who of modern improvisers. Longtime friendships and musical partnerships culminate in a colourful quilt as Schoenbeck travels to recording studios across North America during a global pandemic to reach each collaborator. While her pairings are unique and intimately connected with each artist, Schoenbeck shares that her “deepest musical relationship is with the bassoon itself, the kernel of [her] inspiration.” It might be obvious by now, but it is worth noting that no more important a relationship can be intensified than an artist with their instrument during a pandemic, and each collaboration shines a spotlight on Schoenbeck’s skillful microtonal and multiphonic explorations. Long, arcing tones of bending, creaking, edgy vocalizations and melodic expressions are showcased across a wide and beautiful canvas of both scored and improvised duets. The haunting and beautiful Lullaby with improvising guitar legend Nels Cline is soaked with a darkly sublime blend of bassoon and ambient electronic extensions that at times feels like one voice, where Suspend A Bridge, with cellist Peggy Lee, seesaws a fine balance between intertwined harmonies and vast textural space. The Sand Dune Trilogy, with Nicole Mitchell on flute, seductively reminds us of Schoenbeck’s symphonic past while simultaneously teasing it apart. Other collaborators include Harris Eisenstadt, Roscoe Mitchell, Mark Dresser, Matt Mitchell and Wayne Horvitz. The closing track, Robin Holcomb’s Sugar, is a beautiful and unexpected finale – but then, parties do sometimes end with the most interesting, quiet conversations. Cheryl Ockrant JAZZ AND IMPROVISED You Are the Light and the Way Alex Bird and the Jazz Mavericks Independent ( ! Award-winning singer-songwriter Alex Bird has done it again on his newest release, showcasing his vocal prowess as well as great compositional skills. Along with pianist and songwriting partner-in-crime Ewen Farncombe, the pair has penned 12 new tracks with string and horn arrangements courtesy of the latter. Backed by the stellar Jazz Mavericks and several guest musicians this time around, Bird’s sound has grown to newer and greater heights with this record. This album would be a valuable addition to the collection of any jazz lover who’s looking to dive into the deeper and darker crevices of the genre. The album starts off with the sultry title track You Are The Light and the Way, bringing the listener on a journey through the intriguingly seedy underbelly of the jazz world where the traditional and raunchy merge. The unique theme that carries throughout the record is a musical “path that blends the light and dark” in a way that holds the attention of the listener to the last note. From melancholy songs such as Way Back Home to positively toe-tapping pieces such as Old Soul and Back To You, Bird and the Mavericks bring a scintillating spark and charm that liven up these dreary winter days. This golden-voiced vocalist, reminiscent of Sinatra and Elling, brings the album to a close with the touching Honey Bee Lullaby, a promise of much more to come from this young talent in the near future. Kati Kiilaspea Mantra Dave Young Modica Music ( ! Renowned and celebrated Juno Award-winning bassist, Dave Young, has outdone himself again and created a mellow and oh-sopleasing vibe on his latest release. Assembling a nothing-short-of-stellar group of musicians featuring the likes of Kevin Turcotte, Reg Schwager and Terry Clarke, Young’s elegant and nimble bass playing is supported brilliantly by the backing band while allowing each musician their rightful place in the spotlight as well. Having penned over half of the tracks himself, Young’s compositional talents are also showcased in a great manner throughout the album. Each track crosses genres seamlessly, with the band “elastically stretching through different feels and styles and always snapping back into simple but precise grooves.” That’s where Young’s magic lies, in his uncomplicated melodies and chord progressions while maintaining a spot-on rhythm and great attention to detail and accuracy; the combination of which creates a satisfying and pleasurable musical whole. A standout track is The Gypsy, featuring a unique alto saxophone, trumpet and guitar melody and solos layered over a constantly moving bass line and scintillating drum beats. Ode to the Southwest brings forth the vintage sound of Ewen Farncombe’s Hammond B3 underpinning a mellow and effortless guitar line by Schwager. Closing out the album is Myako’s Waltz, a beautiful swing-flavoured piece that leaves the listener with a feeling of hope and positivity. Any listener with a particular soft spot for the traditional is bound to fall in love with this record. Kati Kiilaspea Not This Room Roddy Ellias Free Spirit Ensemble featuring Kellylee Evans Independent ( ! With this latest recording, eminent guitarist Roddy Ellias shines not only as a gifted musician, but as a fine and facile composer and arranger. Every song in this collection was written by Elias, and the compelling, and often haunting lyrics were written by noted Canadian poetess Sandra Nicholls. Both the music and lyrics here require the participation of very special artists, and joining Elias on this deeply personal project is the inspired vocalist and lyrical interpreter, Kellylee Evans, as well as a lineup of skilled musicians, including Ellias on acoustic steel string guitar, Marc Copland on piano, Justin Orok on nylon string guitar, Chris Pond on bass, Jose Garcia on percussion, Petr Cancura on reeds and mandolin, Guy Pelletier on flute, Richard Page on bass clarinet and Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba. Evans’ emotional intelligence permeates the stunning title track, and beckons the listener to participate in the journey ahead. As the tune segues into a more rhythmic section, the ensemble playing, including Garcia’s subtle and driving percussion, is nothing short of breathtaking. These artists are clearly listening to each other and are creating every musical nuance in synchronicity – like a single-celled being, Of special note is the moving and February 2022 | 49

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