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.

A Love Sonnet for Billie

A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday Wadada Leo Smith; Jack DeJohnette; Vijay Iyer TUM Records TUM CD 060 ( The Chicago Symphonies Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet TUM Records TUM Box 004 ( ! Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most important artists of his generation. Although functionally a trumpeter, his real instrument is his far-reaching compositions, the artistry of which is subsumed in worlds that are aural and visual. Moreover the eloquent narratives that propel the elasticized rhythmic units that make up his iconic Ankhrasmation Symbol Language are so intensely and eloquently poetic that a literary dimension may also be ascribed to his musical art. Smith rose to eminence when he became a very early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), founded in Chicago by Muhal Richard Abrams. Then, with reeds master Anthony Braxton and violinist Leroy Jenkins, Smith began to create music that soared, outward bound. It began with his concept of rhythm units born of a belief that every musician participating in a musical excursion was a singular inventor in the congregate setting of ensemble music. This led to a musical canon that grew spectacularly with every new work. More than 50 albums later and celebrating his 80th year around the sun, Smith has led various ensembles to produce three new releases – the 3-CD solo Trumpet, Sacred Ceremonies with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell (reviewed by Ken Waxman in The WholeNote Vol.27/1) and the 4-CD The Chicago Symphonies with Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet included below – plus a single album that brings together drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Vijay Iyer in a unique collaboration titled A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday. Each of the members of this latter trio brought pieces to explore during this musical encounter. The uniqueness of Smith’s art is in what might be referred to as the small print – the intimate moments that only a genuine artist understands and has the ability to inspire in others. We experience majesty in his The A.D. Opera: A Long Vision with Imagination, Creativity and Fire, a dance opera (For Anthony Davis). Iyer’s Time No.1 and DeJohnette’s Song for World Forgiveness are also impressive. Throughout the album phrases are tellingly placed, every colour skilfully applied, whether with a subtle smudge of the thumb or the bolder stroke of the brush. The Chicago Symphonies box set comprises four separate extended works of epic length. Each symphonic work is unique; Black History lessons told in song. The significance and matchless nature of each orchestral work expresses the birth pangs and often painful nature of the African-American in history from Lincoln to Obama, steeped – and expressed – in the Blues. It is impeccably performed by Smith with Jack DeJohnette and Henry Threadgill, a titan of music expressed in woodwinds and reeds, together with bassist John Lindberg. Saxophonist Jonathon Haffner replaces Threadgill on Symphony No. 4. Each work is rendered with ruminative prayerfulness and unforced rhetoric. You’ll hear throughout – especially on Symphony No. 2 – the kind of textural complexity, intuitive pacing and abstract brilliance of melody, harmony and rhythm, grounded in piercing sunbursts of luminosity, that takes your breath away. Raul da Gama …and then there’s this Artifacts: Tomeka Reid; Nicole Mitchell; Mike Reed Astral Spirits AS129 ( ! The musical density and raw vibrancy, of the work by Artifacts – cellist Tomeka Reid, flutist Nicole Mitchell and drummer Mike Reed – often sounds as if it has sprung into being from a point before time as we know it, as well as from a future way beyond time. It evokes elemental human or natural forces from the rhythm of the natural world, sculpted in short and long inventions, by the joyously pendulous swing of time. …and then there’s this owes much to being formed in the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians. Black to the Future Afrofuturism is in the spine of the trio’s wondrously dark, vivacious musical palette. Homage is duly paid to Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell on Soprano Song and No Side Effects. The rest of the music comprises originals by the trio – Reid, Mitchell and Reed – and is made in the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic image of gleanings from (to coin a phrase) the Tao of AACM, But each song embodies the unique personality of the composer and the collective Reid’s voice is loose, joyously effusive, and redolent of soaring pizzicato leaps and capricious arco shrieks. Mitchell’s is magical, more tightly informed but with a similar depth of feeling and abounding in contrapuntal vigour and strange harmonies. Reed is a percussion colourist par excellence, tempering the rattle of drum skins with provocative hissing of cymbals. In Response, Blessed and Pleasure Palace are the album’s high points. Raul da Gama POT POURRI Some Comfort Here Charlotte Moore; Mark Camilleri Independent ( album/0BnDapG1mPFfKfCUZhwLfI) ! If, like me, you know Charlotte Moore as one of Canada’s top musical theatre performers, this new album is a fun window on another side of her performing personality. And yet, though the songs are more pop than theatre, they still display her signature ability to get to the essence of a song – making it seem she is making up both words and music on the spot. The intimacy created by this ability is inviting and the choice of often wistfully melancholic songs of love and friendship from Joni Mitchell’s Help Me (I think I’m falling in love again) to Tom Waits’ Rainbow Sleeves and Old Friend (from the musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road), is cathartic listening material after almost two years of living through this seemingly unending pandemic. Moore also lets loose in a couple of much more lighthearted jazzy numbers that suit her voice brilliantly: Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida’s 2006 hit All I Can Do, and the 1932 classic Hummin’ to Myself (Sammy Fain et al). Moore’s voice is at its best when relaxed in her lower register where tears and laughter can hover near the surface. When she aims higher into a belt her voice loses some of its rich quality and yet the very rawness of this “almost live-to-tape” recording of Moore’s voice backed by the masterful piano of Mark Camilleri is attractive and pulls us into the mix offered up of tears, hope and laughter. Jennifer Parr Canadiana Canadian Brass Linus Entertainment 270596 ( ! One of the most iconic instrumental ensembles in Canada has just released its tribute to fellow Canadian musical 54 | February 2022

icons, Canadiana. Given the theme, it’s unsurprising that the covers should include Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn. What is surprising – and entertaining – is the presence of songs by Drake, Shawn Mendes and even EDM artist, Deadmau5. Although the Canadian Brass is an incredibly prolific ensemble, having released 137 recordings since its inception in 1970, there’s been a hiatus of several years since their previous CD. The driving force behind Canadiana is trumpeter Brandon Ridenour who first joined the Brass when he was just 20 years old. He moved on to other projects and a successful solo career before returning in 2019 and conceiving, co-producing and writing all the arrangements for this project. Recorded during the pandemic, with the musicians working individually in their home studios, the album is a marvel of engineering and mastering. Canadiana fittingly opens with Je Me Souviens, the song by Lara Fabian which became a Quebec anthem of sorts, and the mix of melancholy and triumph of the original are captured here. The standout tracks for me are the surprisingly gorgeous Deadmau5 song I Remember (I’ll take tuba over a drum track any day), the playful Best Part by Daniel Caesar (the young R&B singersongwriter is being hailed as the Next Big Canadian Thing) and Rush’s Overture 2112, which is a complete gas. This version of Shawn Mendes’s hit Senorita just makes me wish piccolo trumpet was used all the time in pop music. Although additional instruments like percussion and electric guitar were enlisted to beef up the brass on a few of the tracks, the closing tribute to Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah, relies sparingly and beautifully on just brass. Cathy Riches Libre Jesse Cook Coach House Music ( Uprooted Matt Sellick and friends Independent ( ! Two Canadian guitarists, renowned for their flamenco-based music that incorporates other musical influences, both have exciting new releases. My online research shows that flamenco guitar music originated in Spain and is comprised of singing, dancing, guitar and percussive rhythms enhanced by hand claps, foot stomping and the like. Musician/ composer/producer Jesse Cook performs his Spanish guitar stylings with amazing Algerian multi-instrumentalist Fethi Nadjem, modern trap rhythms and 808 beats in ten tracks, exploring new sounds based in flamenco tradition with touches of jazz, pop and world music. Seven tracks are composed by Cook. Number 5 has the repeated distant spoken words “number five” as Cook’s mellow single line guitar transforms into virtuosic melody with runs. Nadjem’s entry adds a different colour to the guitar lines leading to tight violin and guitar improvisations above the rhythms. Love the traditional palmas hand-clapping rhythms with the guitar/violin playing in the upbeat Jaleo. The title track has more radio-friendly tonal singalong guitar above simpler drum grooves. Three Cook/Nadjem co-compositions here include Hey! featuring more rock music sentiments with flamenco flourishes, dance-along rhythm grooves and ascending violin lines. Guest performers also appear on select tracks. Cook’s and Nadjem’s sky-high precise conversational playing, and Cook’s musicianship and technical/ production expertise, make for outstanding original music. Younger flamenco guitarist/composer Matt Sellick’s fourth solo album is also superb. Having moved – aka uprooted – to Toronto from Thunder Bay, Sellick builds on his own original intense flamenco sound in collaboration with some of his favourite Toronto musicians here, including Jesse Cook with whom he tours internationally. Sellick plays solo on the opening Quiet World highlighted by technically challenging fast runs with slight spaces between phrases, as if two musicians were playing. Upbeat High Park is a happy-fast flamenco guitar walk/ dance in the park grounded by electric bass (Dan Minchom) and rhythmic cajón and palmas (Matias Recharte). Cook is featured on Soot and his characteristic guitar strums and fast melodious solo lines add his personal touch to Sellick’s rocking earworm flamenco sound. Full-band sound is surprisingly created with just Sellick’s guitar and Marito Marques’ percussion in the faster duet Going Home. Colourful high- and low-pitched guitar alternating melodic phrases and strums above drums build intensity to the accented closing. Saxophonist Chelsea McBride is also featured on one track. Thank you to Jesse Cook and Matt Sellick for admirably expanding and recording their uplifting flamenco guitar sounds during these difficult COVID pandemic times. Tiina Kiik Something in the Air For Many Advanced Improvisers All Roads Lead to Berlin KEN WAXMAN When Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano recently set up shop part of the year in Berlin it wasn’t much of a surprise. She joined other musicians from Canada and around the world who have made the German capital arguably second only to New York as a place to perform creative music. Cheaper living accommodations and efficient travel links to other areas of Europe are part of the appeal. So is the welcome given to new ideas in all the arts. Whether COVID, gentrification and evolving political currents will change this, as it did for Paris in the 1920s, is an open question. But right now, the situation remains stable. Manchester, England’s loss was Berlin’s gain years ago when pianist Julie Sassoon moved across the channel. Voyages (Jazzwerkstatt JW 218 is an ample exhibition of her talents as player and composer. With her quartet of Dutch saxophonist/clarinetist Lothar Ohlmeier, Austrian drummer Rudi Fischerlehner and German bassist Meinrad Kneer, the half-dozen tracks reflect moods from buoyant to bleak. The first adjective introduces the set on Missed Calls as stop-time pulses from the bassist and drummer undergird Ohlmeier’s snarly then stuttering tones, as the pianist’s rolling glissandi boost intensity that eventually turns to moderated and impressionistic vamps. Cymbal etching and reed whistles confirm the second sentiment on Jerusalem, as a buzzing February 2022 | 55

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