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Volume 27 Issue 6 | April 15 - May 27, 2022

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  • Thewholenotecom
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Vol 27 No. 6. Here’s some of it: “Growing up in a house full of riches” – the Kanneh-Masons; “As if the music knows what it is doing” – J.S. Bach; “Better experienced than described” – Women from Space; “Stories set in prehistoric times are notoriously difficult to pull off without invoking nervous laughter” – Orphan Song; “To this day when I look at an audience, there’s some part of me that sees a whole bunch of friendly teddy bears wearing bow-ties” – Boris Brott. …. etc

Slow, Quiet Music – In

Slow, Quiet Music – In Search of Electric Happiness Instruments of Happiness Redshift Records TK 497 (redshiftrecords.org) ! Formed in 2014, Instruments of Happiness is an ensemble of varying numbers of guitarists, from four to 100. Here the four electric guitarists – artistic director Tim Brady, Jonathan Barriault, Simon Duchesne and Francis Brunet-Turcotte – perform four commissions by Canadian composers. As the liner notes explain, each was asked to write a 14-minute piece reflecting the project concept, synchronized by stopwatches, with the performers placed far apart in a large reverberant space. Originally performed in a church, this was recorded on a large concert stage with great production quality. Sideways, by Louise Campbell, opens with repeated notes, establishing the clear sonic sense of the widely placed guitarists. Added guitar slides produce an eerie contrast. Mid-piece intensity with sudden low pitches, faster short melodic lines, washes and electric effects return sideways to closing slow-wash fade. Rose Bolton’s Nine kinds of joy features low-pitched held notes, washes, contrasting repeated string notes and slight subtle dynamic variability creating numerous kinds of calming musical joy. Love the unexpected next idea in Andrew Noseworthy’s tightly orchestrated Traps, taboos, tradition in sections with extended guitar effects like slides, plucks, bangs, crashes, rubs and waah waahs separated by brief silent spaces. Lots to listen to in Andrew Staniland’s Notre Dame is burning with the low intense held note drones building in intensity like a slowmoving fire and contrasting comforting higher notes. Performances are superb, creating a new contemporary wall of electric guitar sounds! Tiina Kiik Primavera II: the rabbits Matt Haimovitz PentaTone Oxingale Series (pentatonemusic.com/product/oxingalepresents-primavera-ii-the-rabbits) ! The aweinspiring Primavera Project, co-directed by Matt Haimovitz and Dr. Jeffrianne Young, explores the influence and inspiration of music and art. Its six-release series is comprised of 81 world premiere solo cello compositions commissioned for Haimovitz. Each composer was asked to respond to Sandro Botticelli’s enigmatic painting, Primavera, and the prophetic large-scale triptych, Primavera 2020, by world-renowned contemporary artist Charline von Heyl. This second release Primavera II: the rabbits takes its name from the rabbit trilogy motive in von Heyl’s visuals. Haimovitz’s arrangement of Josquin des Prez’s Kyrie (from Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae) opens. His conversational four-part contrapuntal playing ranges from moving, to dark singing tone colour above full harmonic chords. This is followed by 13 new works, each lasting under ten minutes. It is so fascinating to hear each composer’s own musical perception of the visuals. For example, Missy Mazzoli’s Beyond the Order of Things (after Josquin) has a contemporary orchestral storytelling sound with rhythms, pitch slides, fast runs and sudden atonal held notes. Tomeka Reid’s energetic Volplaning is an intense response to the paintings. Sudden loud single-line phrases and rhythmic detached notes add to the running and bouncing rabbit sensibility. Gordon Getty’s Spring Song is a slow, calming Romantic-style-influenced work, clocking in under the two-minute mark. Plucks, repeated notes and upbeat rock strings have the rabbits bopping in a bar in David Balakrishnan’s Theme and Variants. Haimovitz understands and interprets each diverse work, playing all lines in stunningly beautiful, must-listen-to passionate performances. Tiina Kiik Cage Quartetski Ambiances Magnétiques (actuellecd.com) ! In the last years of his prolific creative life, iconic experimental composer John Cage (1912-1992) composed some 40 number pieces. For titles, he coined a unique system in which numbers indicate the number of performers or the number of instrumental parts in each work. Superscripts were added when compositions shared the same number of performers. Cage’s notation of these pieces features two time-based categories: fixed and flexible “time brackets.” Fixed-time brackets indicate when the musician/s should precisely begin and end a tonal event. Flexible-time brackets however, allow musicians choice in the matter, admitting into the performance, a) chance and b) the anarchic harmony of sounds and silences simply co-existing, two key Cagean notions. Both works on this album belong to that corpus. One 7 , “For any pitched instrument able to play sustained notes,” is the seventh piece in a series of compositions for one musician. Except, in this performance the polished Montreal group Quartetski have decided to interpret the open score with all four member musicians: Isaiah Ceccarelli (percussion, synthesizer), Bernard Falaise (electric guitar), Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, synthesizer) and Pierre-Yves Martel (electric bass, sine waves). Four 6 , also for unspecified forces, also lasts a leisurely half hour. The four musicians are asked to “Choose 12 different sounds with fixed characteristics (amplitude, overtone structure, etc.)” producing a mellower soundscape than the dramatic musical moments generated in One 7 . Quartetski’s nuanced realization of these two autumnal Cage works admirably animates the scores, imbuing individual character which belies their apparent abstract appearance. Marked by attention to timbral richness well-represented by this refined recording, the quartet displays a spirit of sonic discovery that’s aurally refreshing while respecting the composer’s musical aesthetics. Andrew Timar JAZZ AND IMPROVISED Late Night Sean Fife Quartet Cellar Music CM082021 (cellarlive.com) ! New York-based Canadian pianist Sean Fyfe has had a passion for the piano since he was just five years old and his prolific talent is highlighted very well on his newest release. The album is chock full of originals written by Fyfe himself and features talented musicians Sam Kirmayer on guitar, Adrian Vedady on bass and Andre White on drums, breathing life into each of the pieces and shining a spotlight on Fyfe’s compositional prowess. A mellow yet energetic record that complements a relaxing night in, this would be a fantastic addition to any jazz lover’s collection. Title track Late Night paints a picture in the listener’s mind of a smoky and dimly lit jazz club through an intriguing piano and guitar melody underpinned by a toe-tapping drum shuffle and rhythmic groove. Little Pants brings a bluesy flavour to the mix, featuring a stepping bass line that keeps the momentum going as well as soulful solos and riffs that truly showcase the immense musical talent of each musician in the quartet. Throughout the record, a hark back to an era of jazz classics is apparent, with Fyfe’s style reflecting greats such as Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and McCoy Tyner. Validation finishes off the album with a finger-snapping, rhythmically driven piece that perhaps serves as a tantalizing preview of what more is to come from Fyfe in the future. Kati Kiilaspea 52 | April 15 - May 27, 2022 thewholenote.com

March Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-035 (tomasfujiwara.com) ! Brooklyn-based drummer Tomas Fujiwara is known for his progressive compositions, unique rhythmic grooves and “nuanced drumming.” This release does a formidable job at showcasing his modernistic compositional style through both the distinctive instrumental setup and captivating melodies layered on top of catchy beats. The band’s name says it all. Triple Double refers to the interesting instrument groupings used: two horns, two guitars and two drum kits. It’s described as “wandering through a hall of mirrors” because, depending on the listener’s interpretation, you could either hear three duos that work in tandem or pairs of instruments that explore their own melodic and rhythmic niches throughout, which makes for a truly immersive auditory experience. All pieces are penned by Fujiwara himself or in collaboration with fellow drummer Gerald Cleaver. Pack Up, Coming for You starts off the album with a driving drum groove, soaring horn melody and bold guitar riffs that give the listener a shock of energy right off the bat. Life Only Gets More features elements of traditional jazz, as is heard in the more laidback shuffle beat and jazz guitar tone, mixed with modern bits such as an interpretive drum solo and dissonance within the melody. Silhouettes in Smoke truly gives off a hazy and mysterious vibe through a mellow and meandering cornet riff layered overtop circular guitar lines. This record is great for anyone looking to experience a well-balanced mix of the old and the new. Kati Kiilaspea Källtorp Sessions Volume 2 Ståhls Trio Moserobie MMP CD 126 (moserobie.com) ! Balancing on the firm underpinning of knowing strokes from Canadian-in- Stockholm bassist Joe Williamson is this eight-track bagatelle from Swedish vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl’s trio. Joined by Colombian drummer Christopher Cantillo, the group-composed tracks are thoroughly contemporary, but due to the vibist’s logical progressions and airy, open swing, encompass both Lionel Hampton-style pulsations and Cal Tjader-like nuances. Even a couple of tracks where Ståhl plays silvery soprano saxophone trills as well as vibes, and trombonist Mats Äleklint propels gutbucket slurs into the mix, the enhanced density doesn’t exceed harmonic intensity. Williamson’s string suppleness also means that a balladic interlude like Guldkort is marked with expressive well-paced thumps; while faster tunes are propelled with torqued intensity that cunningly backs up freeform group improvisations such as I-Land Du Välsignade. Despite Cantillo wielding a thunder sheet and the vibes’ metal bars resonating at an allegro tempo during that track, the bassist’s contrapuntal andante pulse prevents any narrative imbalance. Later on, the bassist goads the other two to a harmonized finale. Occasionally introducing the themes with pressurized stops or a walking bass line, Williamson’s sly pulses comprehensively fit in with whatever drum crunches or airy vibe timbres are rolled onto the program. Convincing in having achieved exactly what they set out to do on this disc, the Ståhls threesome also confirm the benefits of international musical cooperation. The result makes one interested in seeking out Volume One. Ken Waxman Celebration Alan Silva; Itaru Oki; Makoto Sato; Richard Comte Nunc Records Nunc.027 (nunc-nunc.com) ! A bittersweet celebration; while this 2019 Paris concert honoured the 80th birthday of U.S. expatriate keyboardist Alan Silva, it was also the final recording for Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki (1941-2020), who, like Silva, was a longtime member of the Gallic creative music scene. During this three-part free improvisation, Silva uses the smears, swells and echoes from his keyboard to accompany Oki’s sophisticated command of his brass instrument that ranges from strained high pitches to half-valve guttural effects, all the while preserving the tune’s melodic kernel. Percussionist Makoto Sato, another Japanese expat, adds unobtrusive clip-clop accents to the action, while French guitarist Richard Comte strums connective lines for all, when not briefly disrupting the interface with pointed string stabs or jagged power chords. On top of the pulsating drums-tremolo keyboard continuum, Oki’s muted harmonies and portamento grace notes take up the greatest part of his expression. But sudden dog-whistle squeals, and the introduction to the improvisation’s second section, where he appears to be huffing textures from a combination of plastic trumpet and harmonica, demonstrate his blazing individuality. Integration of that unique tone and his subsequent smeared triplets into that balanced narrative also confirm the scope of the quartet’s creative free jazz. Silva, Sato and Comte continue making individual free music in other contexts. While Oki can’t anymore, this disc properly celebrates his reciprocal skill working with seasoned players of similar invention. Ken Waxman The Lights are Always On Lynne Arriale; Jasper Somsen; E.J. Strickland Challenge Records CR73532 (lynnearriale.com) ! With her 16th album, jazz pianist/ composer/educator Lynn Arriale has once again underscored exactly why she is considered to be one of the most creative, technically skilled and emotionally facile jazz artists on the globe. All of the material here was penned by Arriale, and her inspiration was born out of the horrendous world events that have taken place during the past two years, as well as the massive contributions left by the evolved souls who have existed on our blue orb as healers, truth-tellers and defenders of human rights. First up is March On, which was directly inspired by the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. The composition is loaded with dynamic, insistent chordal statements. Arialle’s powerful rhythmic integrity and innovating improvisations drive this compelling anthem. Jasper Somsen’s lyrical bass solo generates beauty and peace while E.J. Strickland’s creative and dynamic-filled drumming seals the deal. The title track is taken from a quote by dedicated physician, Dr. Prakash Gada, and in Arriale’s words, “There is always reason to believe in that light; the inherent goodness of people…” In this performance, Arriale’s musicianship is such a conduit of pure, undiluted feelings that it’s as if she reaches out directly into one’s heart and mind. Other stellar tracks include Sisters, which celebrates the struggle for gender equality and Honor, which is dedicated to Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman – a truth teller, whose testimony exposed some of Trump’s heinous and illegal activities. Of special beauty are The Notorious RBG, in honour of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the spiritually uplifting Walk in My Shoes, composed in recognition of legendary Civil Rights advocate and U.S. Politician John Lewis. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke thewholenote.com April 15 - May 27, 2022 | 53

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