1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 5 | March 4 - April 15, 2022

"Hard to watch and impossible to ignore"--on the Russian invasion of Ukraine; Tafelmusik goes live again in a tribute to Jeanne Lamon; TSO MD reunion as Centennial Countdown kicks off; PASS=Performing Arts Sunday Series at the Hamilton Conservatory of the Arts ...; crosstown to the TRANZAC, Matthew Fava on the move; all this and more ....


MAINLY CLUBS, MOSTLY JAZZ The Tranzac Hybrid music shows (in-person as well as on YouTube) will continue, at least for the next month and perhaps longer. As an example, the series Bluegrass Thursdays restarts with Strangetooth, followed by Masaru on March 3. The bands CHANDRA, New Chance and Motorists take the stage March 5, while Porchcouch and Meredith Moon and the Layrite Boys play on March 6. In-person performances: after nearly two years, the Tranzac officially reopened for in-person shows at 50% capacity on Tuesday, March 1 with the improvisation-centred new band Pukeylips. Check the website for all its COVID policy details. And for fans of Against the Grain Theatre’s cheeky Opera Pub, who have been waiting for ages for the announcement of the return of its fun monthly events, starting April 7 they’ll be able once more to enjoy Opera Pub night with a pint at the Main Hall’s newly refurbed bar. That’s merely the tip of the iceberg. I just checked the Tranzac calendar and see only five days in all of March which are dark; some evenings sport three separate concerts. Scrolling through the calendar to the fall reveals consistently dense listings suggesting a deeply engaged music community. That engagement extends to leading Toronto experimental music event producer Tad Michalak. Under his Burn Down the Capital moniker, he is presenting a double album release in the Main Hall featuring Picastro, plus Fortunato Durutti Marinetti on March 26. Residencies: Holy Oak Family Singers, the Toronto band which adds its bespoke spin to the North American vernacular songbook, is in the process of organizing a monthly residency in the Southern Cross Lounge, dates TBA. A new Tranzac initiative (for which it received a project grant) – the Queer Music Series – is tentatively pencilled in to launch this spring. Several other series are also in the works. Circling Back I asked Fava about the blooming of community support at the Tranzac amid the crushing difficulties surrounding music performance, especially for venues, during the last two years. “Even though this is just the beginning of my arrival at the Tranzac, one significant story that already caught my attention is that they’ve survived the extreme uncertainties of the pandemic. And a big part of that success is the massive rallying of support of music community members volunteering to work in the Club. This included generous donations and in-kind work in order to make some of the necessary changes internally to the building. The ,000 GoFundMe goal, which we’re well on our way to meeting, is also a really impressive performance. “Taken together, these successes, I feel, are really important to the community the Tranzac serves and a deep source of inspiration for me. It’s yet another compelling reason I felt excited about taking on this work.” Andrew Timar is a Toronto musician and music writer. He can be contacted at Rudder or not, here we come! COLIN STORY On the evening of Sunday, February 13, a friend and I met for dinner at a popular Italian restaurant at Bloor and Lansdowne. As we were seated, a glance at a muted, wallmounted television informed us that our incipient pasta consumption coincided with something called the Super Bowl. As members of overlapping artistic communities in Toronto, we were, perhaps predictably, caught unawares. Like us, most of the restaurant’s clientele was more interested in tagliatelle than touchdowns, and the volume stayed off – at least until the halftime show. Suddenly, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and a host of other performers took the field. A glance at the menu revealed a surprising throwback drink: an espresso martini. From a neighbouring table, a conversation drifted over, bemoaning the quality of the new Sex and the City show. It was official: we were back in the 2000s. Nostalgia is just like it used to be! As we haltingly lurch towards postcovidity, it is understandable that, in our shared social spaces, we’re looking back to even the recent past with fond nostalgia. In Toronto’s clubs in March, this phenomenon is also taking place. On March 27, 28 and 29, for example, the American band Rudder takes the stage at The Rex. For those of us who were in music school in the late 2000s, Rudder – whose eponymous debut album was released in 2007 – will likely be a familiar name. For those of you who didn’t waste your youth learning how to play lacklustre eighth-note lines over I’ve Got Rhythm – at least not in that decade – Rudder is an instrumental four-piece, comprising saxophonist Chris Cheek, keyboardist Henry Hey, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Keith Carlock. Musically, Rudder is something of a jazz musician’s take on a jam band, with priority given to original compositions over standards, backbeat over swing, and group dynamics over individual instrumental athleticism. To fully understand the place of groups like Rudder in the psyche of music students of a particular age, a bit of musicological context seems necessary. Since funk’s emergence in the 1960s and 70s, there has always been crossover between funk and jazz. (Even the 26 | February 2022 26 | March 4 – April 15, 2022

Rudder There is no way that anyone can be a great jazz musician playing along to funk or rock rhythms. It just ain’t gonna happen. Wynton Marsalis basic premise of these two musical styles as discrete genres is somewhat reductive, but for our purposes, we’ll maintain the distinction.) The fusion of jazz and funk begins in the late 1960s and early 1970s: albums such as Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way (1969), Bitches Brew (1970), On the Corner (1972), and Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters (1973), stand out as foundational recordings of the genre. The canonization of swing From the beginning, however, there was also a sense that with funk the chamber-music ethos of bebop-based jazz had been abandoned in favour of blatant commercialism. While the popularity of fusion only grew throughout the 1970s and 80s, coincidentally or not, this period also marked the beginning of the proliferation of jazz studies programs in post-secondary institutions. As jazz education became formalized, canonization followed. At the centre of canonization is a simple question with a complex answer: what is jazz? To this day, the core skills that most jazz programs teach tend to be derived from bebop, and roughly adhere to the period of 1945 to 1965. Swing is prioritized over backbeat, the melodic minor scale is prioritized over the pentatonic minor and standards are prioritized over vamp-based originals. “What I object to is the abandonment of the swing rhythm that is essential to jazz,” opines Wynton Marsalis, a musician whose principal position at Jazz at Lincoln Center has conferred on him the mantle of pedagogical authority. “There is no way that anyone can be a great jazz musician playing along to funk or rock rhythms. It just ain’t gonna happen.” Marsalis, certainly, has the credentials to stand behind his claims, but, for many musicians in jazz programs – certainly for those who were born well after the mainstream breakthrough of rock, funk and hip-hop – fusion often represents an honest concatenation of their genuine musical interests. While the sounds of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis transcriptions abound from individual jazz program practice rooms, it is often, trust me, the sounds of fusion that can be heard through the doors to group rehearsal rooms, especially late at night. continues to page 35 March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 27

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