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.

thought-provoking Draw

thought-provoking Draw Me a Circle, in which Evans’ warm and sinuous voice effortlessly scales the pure notes of her upper register, diving into her cello-like tones (the perfect complement for Martel’s gamba). Other gems include the stark and mystical Blood and Bone and the haunting, Middle Eastern-modality-infused Suddenly. The touching and uplifting Prayer is the perfect closer for this evocative project of nearly unbearable beauty and fragility. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke News Blues Greg Amirault; Steve Amirault; Adrian Vedady; Jim Doxas CUPFA GGA002 ( ! For his third release as a leader, Montreal-based guitarist/composer/ producer Greg Amirault has brought forth an intimate, swinging, potent recording – comprised of seven of his own wellconstructed tunes, as well as two tasty standards (both arranged in gorgeous solo guitar formats). He is also joined here by longtime collaborators, including his ubertalented brother Steve Amirault on piano, the deft Adrian Vedady on bass and Jim Doxas on drums. The title track – a sassy, up-tempo blues – features superb soloing from Greg on guitar, while the rest of the rhythm session cooks like an incendiary device as Steve performs a consummate solo, utilizing his ridiculous chops and musical pumpitude. A true standout is Sweet Way (a tip of the hat to Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way), which is a groovy 5/4 cooker that brings to mind the Mundell Lowe-esque L.A. guitar sound of the late 1950s, replete with a contemporized perspective. Doxas drives everyone down the pike with an unwavering urgency – always making the right percussive choice – always listening and enhancing. Also intriguing is the sweet, folk-inspired Song for Nova Scotia – a heartwarming divergence, celebrating the Amirault brothers’ Yarmouth roots. Steve’s melodica and Greg’s guitar solo are perfect in their pristine simplicity. Other highlights include the bittersweet ballad, Meeting the Master, which is dedicated to the memory of the late, great John Abercrombie, featuring a moving and facile bass solo from Vedady and a solo guitar performance of Tad Dameron’s rarely performed classic, If You Could See Me Now. Greg’s brilliant interpretation invokes a hint of Jim Hall, and captures both the longing and hopefulness of the timeless lyric in a performance to remind us that Amirault is one of the most significant jazz guitarists/ composers on the scene today. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke From the Astral Oli Astral (Oliver Grenier Bédard; Frédéric Alarie; William Regnier) Multiple Chord Music ( ! The word “astral” in the title of the album, the name of the ensemble and the role of electronic instruments played by two musicians from the trio may lead to the assumption that the music that ensues fuses the spacey and the terrestrial. In reality, this music is far more profound. It is as if Oli Astral – guitarist Olivier Grenier Bédard (aka Oli Astral), bassist Frédéric Alarie and drummer William Régnier – lean into a theosophical belief, dwelling in an ethereal region comprising their sound world, where each of their artistic auras melds into music. It is a lofty ideal, but Oli Astral makes good on that extra-terrestrial promise. The repertoire on From the Astral comes from a place of considerable imagination and intuition. The six songs are woven from elements created by the guitarist’s MIDI controllers and digital audio processing techniques as well as the bassist’s modular synthesizers that retain the feel of orchestral textures. Add the palette that the drummer’s percussion colours create and you have rhythmic frescoes onto which are projected a poignant musical artwork with purity of tone where jazz guitar meets the electronic realm. The music of From the Astral also suggests that this trio’s inspiration lies at the juxtaposition of jazz and neoclassicism. The idiomatic adaptation of what ensues from those imaginary crossroads is altogether atmospheric, best experienced on charts such as L’envoi and Spectre Sonore. Raul da Gama The History of Us Carn Davidson 9 Three Pines Records TPR-005 ( carndavidson9) ! The History of Us is the latest studio album from the Carn Davidson 9, and the third since the group’s inception in 2010. The 50-minutesworth of music heard on this disc stands on its own enough to pique the interest of any jazz fan, and behind the excellent compositions, solos and interplay, lies much personal inspiration. Listeners are treated to multi-movement suites by both of the group’s namesake members, William Carn and Tara Davidson, sandwiched around the brief but poignant Goodbye Old Friend, a tribute to their late feline Murphy – namesake to their last release in 2017. Both suites heard on the album utilise personal narratives from Carn and Davidson’s lives. Carn’s Finding Home Suite documents his parents’ migration from Hong Kong to Canada, and Davidson’s Suite 1985 is described as “a collection of love letters to her family.” Alongside these non-musical themes, there is an ever-present balance between composition and improvisation. After first hearing the Finding Home Suite, I was craving more improvisation amidst the composed notes. But this ratio is definitely a creative choice, and a valid one given the quality of the writing. Each member of the nonet is an excellent soloist as well as a great section player, and Kevin Turcotte exemplifies this perfectly, soloing on the first movement of both suites. The album has a superb flow to it, and benefits from being recorded exceptionally well too. I recommend The History of Us for casual listeners and diehard jazz fans alike! Sam Dickinson Genius Loci North Jeannette Lambert; Reg Schwager; Michel Lambert Independent ( ! I enjoy reviewing more abstract music, as I rarely run out of things to discuss. This applies to subtler and more ambient projects, as well as more boisterous spontaneous improvisations. This is why I was excited to have Montreal vocalist Jeannette Lambert’s Genius Loci North grace my desk. Lambert, her brother Reg Schwager on guitar, and husband Michel Lambert on percussion, all have a knack for playing improvised music that is both creative and mature. There is a genuineness to their interactions as a group that allows the smoother moments to sound fresh and the more angular offerings to remain inobtrusive. While the recording is made up of 15 individual tracks, they flow naturally into one another and give the entirety of the album an undulating feel. This leaves an untrained listener with a lengthy but interesting meditation, while maintaining enough ebbs and flows to keep even the most expert set of ears enthralled. Lambert’s vocals sound simple and pure enough to emphasize the poetry she has written, but the way she shapes her pitch over Schwager’s chordal textures is virtuosic as well. The same can be said of Michel Lambert’s percussion, which seamlessly traverses grooves and out-of-time textures. To know that most of these tracks were 50 | February 2022

ecorded in one take, moments after the words had been written, is another testament to the creative ability of these players. While far from being “straight ahead,” Genius Loci North offers something interesting for all listeners. Sam Dickinson Glow François Carrier; Diego Caicedo; Pablo Schvarzman; Michel Lambert Colya Koo Music ( ! While two Canadians and two South Americans meeting in a Barcelona bar has all the elements of a shaggy dog story, that’s what happened with Glow; although instead of a punchline what we get here is a session of superior improvised music. Canadians, alto saxophonist François Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert, along with Colombian guitarist Diego Caicedo and Argentinean Pablo Schvarzman, who employs guitar and electronics, both now Spanish residents, operate as one unit during the CD’s five tracks. Emphasizing voltage extensions throughout, not only do the guitarists project expected twangs, frails and strums, but Schvarzman’s electronics also produce an undulating drone as well as throbbing vibrations which frequently mirror double bass sluices. Lambert’s irregular drum patterning is used for coloration not rhythmic pulse, which leaves performances twisted every which way by Carrier and Caicedo. Hammering or picking his strings, the guitarist moves from reflective accompaniment to brittle adagio shakes. The saxophonist doesn’t play standard licks but overlays each track with a variety of effects from screaming fragmented bites to harsh breathy honks and slurs. Unique tropes evolve throughout to establish collective equilibrium. This is aptly demonstrated when the set climaxes with Heart Core, the penultimate track. Repeated string ratcheting strokes coupled with reed motifs soaring from dyspeptic scoops to bagpipe-like drones to staccato tongue flutters, reach such a point of pressurized intensity that they seem unstoppable, but quickly and easily downturn to relaxed timbres later on. Glow is no joke just fine exploratory music. Ken Waxman Spring 2021 René Lussier; Erick d’Orion; Robbie Kuster; Martin Tétreault Victo CD 134 ( ! The Victo record label is almost as venerable as the Victoriaville, Quebec FIMAV festival that gave it birth, and this disc is a signal moment in the history of both. The performance comes from the May 2021 festival, a hardy, insistent edition with a Quebec focus following the pandemiccancelled 2020 festival. The recording marks the label’s 35th anniversary with special significance: the first recording issued was a guitar duet that also featured René Lussier, then in the company of Fred Frith. In keeping with the festival’s ideal of musique actuel, current music, this resists classification, a collective improvisational, combining Lussier’s electric guitar and daxophone (a bowed, fretted instrument), Robbie Kuster’s drums, Érick d’Orion’s computer and electronics and Martin Tétreault’s turntables. It blurs categories of electronic music, free jazz and anarcho-rock, the latter sometimes suggested by Kuster’s steady beat anchoring disparate elements. The music’s aim is neither clarity nor easy consumption; its strengths are in its vision, energy and a palpable sense of resistance. Lussier’s guitar is often the central voice, hard-edged, icy, sometimes distorted, at times limpidly lyrical. He can supply a focal element whether creating a keening, electric wail or shifting to the barely amplified wandering of L’avant dernière. L’autre, a nine-minute segment near the temporal centre of the work, develops mysterious and distinct layers and events that are almost sculpturally arrayed in the sound field, the seemingly independent parts ultimately evolving into part of a collective vision. Stuart Broomer Knotted Threads Yves Charuest; Benedict Taylor Tour de Bras tdb 90048/Inexhaustible Editions ie040 ( ! Montreal-based alto saxophonist Yves Charuest is a free improviser of the highest order, a musician of rare depth and originality. During a sixmonth residency in London in 2017, he heard English violist Benedict Taylor, felt an immediate affinity and soon began a collaboration that joins two of the closest listeners in improvised music. In 2019, Charuest arranged some Montreal performances for the duo and dancer Alanna Kraaijiveld, during which time he and Taylor recorded Knotted Threads. There are innate difficulties in describing any music, but the problems compound with free improvisation. While one is free to say almost anything, finding something relevant is a challenge. Charuest and Taylor, generously, provide an ideal metaphor for their work: a series of titles taken from arcane knots used by fishermen, sailors and craftsmen for centuries, thereby highlighting both the practice and goal of their special idiom. Each is a virtuoso of extended as well as conventional techniques, each an explorer of sonority, attacks and decays – to the extent that their sounds, like their pitch ranges, intersect. Gauzy and gritty harmonics, whether bowed or blown; percussive knocks, whether plucked string or struck keypad; subtle shifts in dynamics or sudden glissandi: they all intertwine in myriad ways, whether designated as Ossel Hitch, Round Lashing, Poldo Tackle or Bimini Twist. There are moments when the whole voyage is revealed. On Chain Sinnet, the viola sounds like a rope stretching against a gunwale, the saxophone like gulls, landed in the bow – yet all of it human, rope and gull crying as one. It’s an hour of music with the precision and gravitas of several chapters of Homer’s Odyssey or Moby Dick. Stuart Broomer You Can’t Take It With You Chet Doxas Whirlwind Recordings WW4778 ( ! You Can’t Take It with You is a creative and swinging drummerless offering from Montreal-born New York-based saxophonist, Chet Doxas. Doxas’ tenure in NYC has led him to play with the who’s who of American musicians, including a long-term collaboration with Steve Swallow and Carla Bley, who encouraged Doxas to put together this trio project over conversations during a European tour. Pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Thomas Morgan are perfectly suited for the ten original pieces Doxas penned for the recording, which comes as no surprise given their individual reputations for making creative yet grounded music. The album’s title track is almost bluesy in nature, making it a perfect introduction to this often abstract but always grooving recording. I was surprised to read that its inspiration comes from compositions by Count Basie, but this makes sense after a second listen. The following track Lodestar also takes its inspiration from a source I didn’t immediately recognize; saxophone legend February 2022 | 51

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