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.

Lester Young. Tributes

Lester Young. Tributes of this sort are often penned in a heavy-handed manner, so I very much appreciate Doxas using influences as jumping off points rather than strict rules. The theme of obscuring influences permeates the entire album and feels apropos given the manner in which these three musicians improvise. Doxas’ compositions are detailed enough to unify the album’s sound, but openended enough to allow these unique improvisers to shine. This makes You Can’t Take It with You entertaining to listen to over and over again. Sam Dickinson Erlebnisse. Noam Lemish Independent ( ! In these times of reworked, remade and rebooted albums, movies and musicals, it is truly refreshing to encounter a CD of improvised music where each track has been recorded once… period. Noam Lemish’s debut solo album, Erlebnisse, is an engaging example of this. Toronto-based Lemish wears many hats, traversing diverse musical boundaries and incorporating numerous musical traditions into his art. A jazz pianist, pedagogue, composer, ensemble leader/director and accompanist, he is clearly a musician who happily defies categorization. Erlebnisse is a word/concept in German that means “deeply felt experiences.” What Lemish offers us on 16 tracks – each one an Erlebnis – is indeed an array of deeply felt experiences conveyed to us through the medium of music with all of its evocative powers on display. And, as Lemish explained to me, with “little interference from our meaning-making mind.” Listening to this extraordinary CD – one would be well-advised to do so, repeatedly, as an uninterrupted whole (preferably with a glass of red wine in hand) – Lemish takes us along on his soul-baring, improvisational journey, which is nothing short of stunning (and which may even feel a touch voyeuristic for the listener, given the deeply felt depths that he plumbs). Infused with elements of jazz, classical and Middle Eastern music, Jewish folk and Israeli popular song, Lemish’s extemporizations are at times poignant, propulsive, yearning, melancholic, contemplative and quixotic. And they are masterful. Erlebnisse is improvisation at its most inventive and intimate! Sharna Searle Shifting Sands Don Macdonald ( shifting-sands) ! Awardwinning Canadian composer/ performer/educator, Don Macdonald, composed, produced and performs/improvises on violin on his nine original jazz works here. His unique orchestration adds violin and mandolin to a traditional jazz rhythm section – guitar, piano, acoustic bass, drums—performed by predominately Canadian musicians. Each tune is jazz based, yet intriguing touches from other musical influences and the instrumentation makes these jazz fusion sounds appealing to all music lovers. Opening track Shifting Sands is so very happy and sets the musical stage. Pianist Dave Restivo’s quiet piano intro leads to a faster groove. Great full-band jazz to pop sounds, especially when guitarist Mike Rud’s solo contrasts with Macdonald’s violin high pitches. Dali’s Hourglass is darker, with contrapuntal detached piano chord opening until violin lead begins – a little bit of everything jazz with touches of minimalism in repeated lines. In Bayou, drummer Steven Parish’s solo opening sets up a Cajun groove in this tightly performed modern take on the familiar New Orleans style. Dreams of Ozymandias is slow and moody with closeknit instrumental conversations and underlying subtle rhythms. Four diverse tracks follow until the “sands shift” back to happy in the closing Homecoming with its fun, funky and florid party-time music. Bassists Rob Fahie and Jill McKenna, and mandolinists Dylan Ferris and Boston-based Jason Anick, also perform on select tracks. This is a must-listen-to joyous release. Macdonald’s virtuosic works and violin playing never disappoint. All the stellar musicians play exuberantly, with care and respect. Tiina Kiik Together Song Avi Granite; Daniel Carter Pet Mantis Records PMR013 ( ! Through three pieces of varying length, multiinstrumentalist Daniel Carter (flute, clarinet, trumpet, tenor saxophone) and electric guitarist Avi Granite demonstrate the value of patience in a purely improvisational setting. This isn’t to say that more kinetic free-form music with a shorter attention span isn’t a compelling alternative approach, but Carter and Granite’s musical relationship is a thing of beauty. They not only seem to be listening closely to one other, they’re in perpetual dialogue concerning the ultimate destination of the form itself. It’s not just about finishing each other’s sentences, it’s about taking an idea and expanding upon it in a manner that opens up new possibilities. Carter and Granite both accompany in a way that feels far more like amplification than mere coexistence. Granite’s rhythmic reflexes constantly provide the context and environment in which Carter’s vignettes thrive. On the other hand, the intent and clarity of Carter’s own articulation gives the overall work a sense of unrelenting movement. Each piece feels like it’s constantly developing, and yet perhaps the characteristic that best defines this album is space. Rather than trying to continually build upon each passage until they hit a plateau, Carter and Granite opt to meditate on their surroundings, letting the music naturally mature rather than forcing a progression. In art, there are few things more inspiring than a creative bond this powerful. Yoshi Maclear Wall Zephyr Steph Richards Relative Pitch Records RPR 1132 ( ! Dedicated to exploring an instrument’s every niche and extended technique is Canadianin-California trumpeter/flugelhornist Steph Richards, joined by percussive pianist Joshua White with a similar aim here. In the form of three multitrack suites, the two explore visceral episodes that go beyond brass, wood, strings, air and pressure. As Richards slides from one emphasized tone to another, she sometimes augments the output by plunging her bell into a watery vessel. The moist results add distinctive tinges to muted plunger tones. Sacred Sea expresses that in its most extended form when mated with broken-octave blowing reflecting outward after being aimed at piano innards. White’s string preparations jangle sympathetically there. But elsewhere with pedal extensions, slaps against the instrument’s wood and keyboard clips and arpeggios that are inclined more towards stride than solemnity, his accompaniment is dynamic as well as linear. Half-valve effects and rippling smears during all of the Northern Lights suite allow Richards to alternately advance greasy snarls and lyrical slides, finally culminating in handmuted gutbucket tones that squeak upwards 52 | February 2022

on top of keyboard rumbles. However, no matter how experimental the brass-keyboard duets appear to be, during the set of Sequoia tunes and elsewhere, a feeling of joyous balance remains. With her clarion peeps sounding as if they’re from a piccolo trumpet, it seems a riff based on Largo al Factotum is being sounded. Zephyr may be a gentle breeze but the blowing here offers a lot more than that. Ken Waxman What Is There To Say Cory Weeds with Strings Cellar Music CM110620 ( ! So much classical and contemporary music features strings in orchestras, quartets and many other formats. When added into other genres the “string sound” can become a delicious addition to a country, pop or jazz recording (think of Frank Sinatra performing arrangements by Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins). The Charlie Parker with Strings recordings are a milestone in jazz and were his best-selling albums. Cory Weeds’ What is There to Say continues this tradition by pairing a jazz quartet with an 11-piece string section playing standards and three Weeds originals (Waltz for Someone Special, Alana Marie and Love is Wild). The overall sound and performances here are exquisite. Phil Dwyer must be commended for creating such engaging and articulate arrangements and playing some great piano as well. Weeds is well known as a producer and all round jazz entrepreneur (his good work includes founding and managing Cellar Live) but primarily he is an excellent saxophone player with many albums to his credit as leader. Throughout What is There to Say? Weeds illustrates how playing the melody, with his full and assured tone, is perfect in some spots while in others (like the moderately up-tempo There’s A Boat Leavin’ Soon for New York, or trading fours with Dwyer at the end of Love Is Wild), some great bop lines add zest to the proceedings. So really, What is There to Say? except, listen to this album for its elegance, fine performances and solid groove. Ted Parkinson Lorraine’s Lullabye Anthony Wonsey Cellar Music CM012421 ( ! Pianist Anthony Wonsey’s style consists equally of tastefulness and invention. His renditions of Richard Rodgers’ I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and It Might as Well be Spring are full of tunefulness and clarity, while still maintaining a distinctive group sound. In particular, the way in which he plays around with groove and contour alongside drummer Chris Beck gives these classics a reinvigoration seldom seen elsewhere. The central fulcrum of this album, however, is Wonsey’s own composing, in which he establishes his abilities as both a consummate songwriter and attentive facilitator of his rhythm section. The harmony itself is shimmering with assuring familiarity and yet there is an element of unpredictability that entices the listener. Rhythmically, the penmanship and improvisation seem to inform one another. On Blacker Black’s Revenge, Wonsey and bassist Dmitri Kolesnik’s phrasings are conversational yet serpentine, starting as abruptly as they finish, while seamlessly leading back to the primary motif. Wonsey’s own playing possesses key characteristics of control and range. More often than not his solos have the feeling of ease, leaving enough room to punctuate lines and accentuating the rhythmic pocket. His undying commitment to the cohesiveness of his ensemble makes those rare moments when he takes flight (see: Do You Remember Me) notably more impactful. Every track on here is golden. Yoshi Maclear Wall Equanimity – A Futuristic Jazz Tale Viktor Haraszti (ViO) ViO Music VM-0001-CD ( ! ViO is the alter ego project of multiinstrumentalist Viktor Haraszti, in which he seeks complete creative liberation from jazz conventions. On ViO’s latest album, which self-categorizes as a “futuristic jazz tale,” it is safe to say that Haraszti realizes his vision, both in ambition and execution. Unlike ViO’s prior work, this is undeniably a Haraszti solo effort. With the exception of three spoken word passages courtesy of Lisa Marie Simmons, and occasional percussion courtesy of Dave King and Marshall Curtly, every single aspect of this music is dictated by Haraszti. He plays every instrument (one of his favourite moves being layering multiple reed instruments to create harmonic lattices), is responsible for the rich production, and composes/arranges each second of music. The stylistic qualities of Equanimity vary from enveloping ambient passages to solemn contemplations that soundtrack Simmons’ words while also giving them context. Between the heavier moments of the suite lie surprising instances of levity. Chapter Five is a change in pace and mood that I hadn’t realized the music needed. It retains the compelling spectacle of prior tracks, but creates an atmosphere of hopefulness by taking a turn into danceable territory. Haraszti introduces elements one by one throughout this masterfully paced experience, including successful flirtations with electronics, giving the overall sonic palette a new, unexpected dimension. The climactic Chapter Seven even borders on electro-pop at times. Yoshi Maclear Wall Architecture of Storms Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows Soundspore Records SS202101 ( ! I’ve been a fan of the Le Boeuf brothers (Remy and Pascal) since their concert at the Kitchener/ Waterloo Jazz Room in 2017. Their music combines composed and improvised sections where the orchestration is as compelling as individual soloists. In 2019 Remy Le Boeuf released Assembly of Shadows which contained seven of his compositions for a big band. In 2021 Le Boeuf released Architecture of Storms billed (slightly confusingly) as Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows, signifying the connection between the two albums and the importance of the ensemble. In fact, four of these tracks were recorded in 2019 during the Assembly of Shadows sessions and three were recorded in 2021. Architecture of Storms is, again, an exciting contemporary big band album. Le Boeuf’s compositions are complex and utilize the full palette offered by almost 30 excellent musicians. Repeated listenings are rewarded by the mood changes, shifting melodies and invigorating solos over ostinatos and nuanced brass and woodwind orchestrations. This album includes an expansive arrangement of the Bon Iver song Minnesota, WI and The Melancholy Architecture of Storms is sung by Julia Easterlin with lyrics by the poet Sara Pirkle. With both Assembly of Shadows and The Architecture of Storms Le Boeuf has shown imaginative composition skills and should be commended for producing such a large collaborative work during a pandemic. Ted Parkinson February 2022 | 53

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