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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 ....

Moments Alyssa Giammaria

Moments Alyssa Giammaria w/Evan Dalling; Christian Antonacci; Nick Adema; Jen Lo; Leighton McKinley Harrell; Jacob Slous Independent (alyssagiammaria.com) ! Alyssa Giammaria’s debut album Moments is a perfect sonic getaway from the restless pace and the noise of our daily lives. This concept album tells a story of an inner journey, at a peaceful pace and with an array of subtle emotions. Vocalist Giammaria is the full author of this 28-minute EP – in addition to composing, she also wrote the lyrics and arrangements for all the songs. Giammaria is currently enrolled in the master’s program at the University of Toronto for jazz voice performance and the accompanying band features a talented crew made up of fellow students from the same university. The album certainly has a youthful energy, driven by engaging rhythms, but there is also a thoughtful depth to both music and lyrics. Giammaria’s voice is airy and bright, effortlessly soaring and illuminating the space just outside the meaning of the words. She combines jazz with musical theatre and classical music elements which, coupled with classy arrangements, produces a recognizably unique overall sound. Nothing seems rushed, and everything is expressed in elegant and slightly understated ways. The accompanying band, consisting of three horns, piano, bass and drums, has a nice synergy and supports the vocal lines wonderfully. All are also engaging soloists in their own right. Watch for bassist Leighton McKinley Harrell’s mesmerizing opening solo in For Myself and Jen Lo’s sophisticated piano playing in Understand. Excellent debut album, highly recommended. Ivana Popovic Boomslang Rich Halley; Dan Clucas; Clyde Reed; Carson Halley Pine Eagle Records 014 (richhalley.com) ! Oregon-based tenor saxophonist Rich Halley is known as a great bandleader who has been churning out records for the past couple of decades. This latest release features a collaboration with acclaimed musicians Dan Clucas on cornet, Clyde Reed on bass and Carson Halley on drums; making for an engaging and energetic set of tunes. The album is all originals, penned by Halley himself and along with his band members. Bold and intriguing, this musical journey is sure to catch the attention of any jazz fan, new or old. Corroboration opens the record with a unique saxophone and cornet interplay, something that isn’t heard too often and thus instantly reels in the listener. A lively bass line underpinned with a tight rhythmic groove sneaks in and the result is a tune you just can’t resist moving along with. Northern Plains is noteworthy as well for its tribute to First Nations music, the melody reminiscent of their chants and singing style and with the distinctive drum sound a constant in the background. Situational leads us into a more interpretive side of the record, where Halley showcases his talent of being able to mix a free-form style with what could be called a classic jazz sound. It’s an interesting balance and mix of sub-genres that captivates the listener and leaves them wanting more. For the connoisseur of jazz looking for something to freshen up their collection, this album is definitely it. Kati Kiilaspea Pittsburgh Matthew Stevens Whirlwind Recordings WR4779 (mattstevensmusic.com) ! Toronto-born, New York-based guitarist Matthew Stevens might be familiar to many as playing an instrumental part in creating the distinctive sound on several records by Esperanza Spalding. On his third solo release, Stevens manages to yet again carry over a completely unique sound to a set of all original tunes, penned by himself. The album is captivating in the way that it’s all acoustic, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere where the listener can almost imagine what the musician had in mind while composing these pieces. You could absolutely say the album is an entire soundscape, with each song calling forth images of different landscapes and experiences. Stevens mentions that “playing acoustic is a great way to develop a touch and a connection to an instrument” and that connection as well as the exploration of it is very apparent throughout this entire album. Each tune tells its own short story, whether it be more interpretive as heard on Northern Touch, a little more folksy and tranquil as showcased in Foreign Ghosts or altogether energetic like Blue Blues. Although Stevens credits taking inspiration from greats such as Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin who have been known to do a lot of acoustic exploration, the sound on this record is completely his own; being able to create such a niche for yourself is the mark of a true musician. A picturesque and pleasing whole, this record is a true gem. Kati Kiilaspea Were We Where We Were Michael Formanek Drome Trio Circular File Records CFCD 2922002202 (michaelformanekdrometrio.bandcamp. com) ! Making the most of a new trio configuration, New York bassist Michael Formanek calls on local drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and Montrealerin-Manhattan Chet Doxas playing tenor/soprano saxophones and clarinet, to skillfully interpret four of his extended compositions. Avoiding sameness is the result of canny arrangements by Formanek, who has written and performed in many ensembles of various sizes over the years. Each track features one or another of Doxas’ reeds. For example, Never Odd or Even initially contrasts speedy clarinet trills with thickened double bass thumps. Then, as the pliable theme vibrates with additional energy from sul tasto string buzzes and cymbal vibrations, tenor saxophone scoops and flattement maintain the triple balance. Recurring clarinet flutters return to introduce a rhythm-sectiondriven swing groove which defines the tune’s last section. Furthermore, while the fluid rhythm which characterizes both versions of Tattarrattat may be projected using Sperrazza’s popping press rolls and the bassist’s guitar-like strums, it’s the soprano saxophonist’s flutter-tongued twists, sometimes advanced a cappella, that fully personify the tunes. With a range that encompasses sweetened glissandi, slurping vibrations and fragmented split tones, Doxas’ dedicated reed individualism helps make the compositions stand out. These and others evolve linearly and confirm Formanek’s highquality musical concepts. Although each Drome Trio member gets some solo space on this, its fine first disc, perhaps next time out more, shorter tracks could create distinctive showpieces for each player. Ken Waxman Concert note: The Michael Formanek Drome Trio is scheduled to perform for four nights in Toronto at the Rex, March 23 to 26. Route 84 Quarantine Blues Joe McPhee Corbett vs Dempsey CvsD CD 081 (corbettvsdempsey.com) ! An engaged improviser for about 55 years, tenor saxophonist Joe McPhee adapted to COVID-19 restrictions 54 | March 4 – April 15, 2022 thewholenote.com

in characteristic fashion. He recorded these individualistic tracks at night over a two-week period within a closet in his Poughkeepsie home. Unconstrained by claustrophobia, McPhee’s tracks are as radical as those on his other discs. Besides thematic riffs he adds extended reed techniques encompassing overblowing cries, dedicated multiphonics, doits and flattement, as well as speechifying and singing phrases associated with the Black Liberation Movement and the career of Charles Mingus. Twisting in and out of Mingus’ Self Portrait in Three Colors, he salutes the exploratory bassist/composer with fragmented bites and scooping squawks on two other tracks. He references Joni Mitchell and Carla Bley melodies during other intense improvisations and adds the percussive sounds of water splashing on a pie plate in a salute to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Expressing humour brought out by the pandemic, he inserts recordings of cars motoring on the actual freeway during the title track, which tweaks the 12-bar blues form. On it he also manages to simultaneously project two separate circling saxophone lines, one of which maintains the melody while the other becomes gradually louder as it fragments and hammers out sharp variations on variations. Elsewhere, other interpretations are lyrical and balladic. Overall the impression taken from this disc is that in responding musically to the pandemic’s limitations, McPhee uses it astutely as he has assimilated other stimuli throughout his remarkable career. Ken Waxman Love for Connoisseurs Angela Verbrugge Independent (angelasjazz.com) ! Although a relative newcomer to jazz, enchanting and witty vocalist/ composer/lyricist Angela Verbrugge has already received numerous accolades. Verbrugge has created a vibrant presence internationally, performing at the world’s finest boîtes, concerts and festivals. Her latest offering was three years in development and features 12 original tunes (some written in collaboration with Ray Gallon, Ken Fowser, Neal Miner, Saul Berson, Nick Hempton and Miles Black). Joining Verbrugge (who also wears the producer’s hat here) are noted Vancouver jazz artists Dave Say on saxophones, Miles Black on piano, Jodi Proznick on bass and Joel Fountain on drums. The original title track is a classic swinger, replete with witty lyrics, harkening back to Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, Dorothy Fields and even Dave Frishberg, and Say’s warm, saxophone sound is the perfect complement to Verbrugge’s mellifluous vocal style. Enough’s Enough is a special, bebop-ish treat, co-written with Gallon and reminiscent of the great Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Fountain tastefully urges the tune along, utilizing an array of tasty bop modalities. The sensual Je Ne Veux Pas Te Dire Bonsoir (I Don’t Want to Say Goodnight) is rendered here in perfect, sibilant French. Black manifests the mood with his exquisite, stylistic choices – superbly framing Verbrugge’s diaphanous and romantic vocal. Other must-listens on this excellent vocal jazz project include Jive Turkey – rife with infectious lyrics and a lilting, cheeky Latin arrangement. Verbrugge’s charming trading of fours with Say are the icing on the jazz cake, and the closer, Maybe Now’s the Time (co-written with Black), is a clever tip of the hat to the great Charlie Parker tune. Proznick lays it down on bass with taste and a ridiculous, rich sound – seemingly channelling aspects of the late, great bassists Ray Brown, Leroy Vinnegar or Red Mitchell. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke My Astorian Queen – 25 Years on the New York Jazz Scene Martin Wind Quintet Laika Records 35103912 (laika-records.com) Air Martin Wind New York Bass Quartet Laika Records 35104002 (laika-records.com) ! German-born first-call New York City-based Martin Wind arrived in his chosen home town more than 25 years ago. It wasn’t long before the talented young artist and his warm, fat sound, rock solid sense of time, intensity and excellent taste became the bassist of preference for an array of top jazz artists, bandleaders and Broadway conductors. Despite the global pandemic, he has created and released two brilliant, new recording projects in quick succession for the noted German label, Laika Records. My Astorian Queen, is a love letter to the adrenalin-churning, crazy roller coaster ride that is New York City. The CD features Wind’s longtime collaborators, pianist/composer Bill Mays, saxophonist/trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson and drummer Matt Wilson all digging in to a delightful smorgasbord of Wind’s original, biographically infused compositions as well as classic tunes associated with The Big Apple and its colourful denizens. Thad Jones’ Mean What You Say represents a high point in Wind’s career, the time when he was first invited to play in the world famous Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra). Wind’s solid and sinuous bass line propels the tune. Mays’ unmistakeable, lyrical, perfect touch and adventurous spirit are showcased here and Robinson also shines on well-crafted trumpet and sax solos. Wind’s haunting original ballad, Solitude, is a sometimes stark reflection on the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how that seemingly un-ending isolation also stimulated generalized homesickness and longing for far-away friends and family – or just a place where you belong and feel safe. Of special note is a thoroughly delightful arrangement of the Brazilian standard, È Preciso Perduar and Wind’s stunning original title track. My Astorian Queen references his arrival in NYC, and a lovely young lady named Maria who invited him to share her quaint Astoria pad until he found his way. As the fates would have it, that lovely young lady eventually became Wind’s wife! Air features the dynamic New York Bass Quartet (Martin Wind, Gregg August, Jordan Frazier and Sam Suggs) in an eclectic program. Special guests include Matt Wilson on drums and percussion, Lenny White on drums and Gary Versace on piano, organ and accordion. This beautifully recorded project begins with J.S. Bach’s Air rendered here in a sumptuous bass quartet arrangement. It is difficult enough to capture every essence of an acoustic bass in the studio and here it has been done four times! Each bass has its own timbre, expression and innate sound – just as one would expect to hear from four human voice boxes. Next up is (Give me some) G-String, which is a Wind original as well as a tasty musical confection. The bass lines are almost whimsical at times, reflecting Wind’s dry sense of humour. Eventually, the funkadelic White and Versace (B3) jump into the soulful mix, driving the ensemble into some fabulous tight, harmonic sequences, culminating in an arco-gasm never before created by a jazz bass quartet. A triumph. Of spectacular beauty is the gorgeously arranged Beatles Medley, replete with some of Lennon and McCartney’s most lyrical compositions. A true standout is Wind’s arrangement of Joe Zawinul’s Birdland – replacing electronica with acoustica – utilizing those organic bass notes that can be felt in your solar plexus. Also stunning is Charlie Haden’s Silence, arranged here with sonorous tones creating a spiritual aura and Pat Metheny’s Tell Her You Saw Me, a cinematic arrangement in search of a movie. The fitting closer, a contemporary trio version of Air, perfectly parenthesizes this deeply moving and awe-inspiring recording. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke thewholenote.com March 4 – April 15, 2022 | 55

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