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Volume 28 Issue 1 | September 20 - November 8, 2022

  • Text
  • Thewholenotecom
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Violin
  • Composer
  • Orchestra
  • October
  • November
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Our 28th season in print! “And Now, Back to Live Action”; a symphonic-sized listings section, compared to last season; clubs “On the move” ; FuturesStops Festival and Nuit Blanche; “Pianistic high-wire acts”; Season announcements include full-sized choral works like Mendelssohn’s Elijah; “Icons, innovators and renegades” pulling out all the stops.

as a memorable detour

as a memorable detour from more prominent ideas while never being reduced to a mere conduit from point A to point B. Yoshi Maclear Wall Live in Paris (Radio France Recordings 1983-1984) Chet Baker Trio Elemental Music 5990442 (elemental-music.com) ! In 1952, near his career’s beginnings, Chet Baker became an instant star playing cool jazz with the Gerry Mulligan quartet. It was the opposite of everything that then characterized modern jazz: glacially slow, meticulously arranged, almost improvisation-free. Thirty years later, just a few years before his death, Baker was still playing a kind of cool jazz, but it was frequently fast, with extended improvisation. Available as three LPs or two CDs, Live in Paris presents two concert recordings, each featuring Baker’s preferred instrumentation, a chamber jazz trio of trumpet, piano and acoustic bass. The first concert, from L’Esplanade De La Défense, focuses on the Great American Songbook. It’s the ballads that stand out, with stellar instrumental performances of Easy Living and Stella by Starlight, the rhapsodic accompaniment by pianist Michel Graillier (his fluid harmonic invention resembles Bill Evans’) and bassist Dominique Lamerle feeding Baker’s lyrical gift. Episodes of Baker’s scat singing, while mimicking the fluid detail of his trumpet playing, detract from two up-tempo performances. The much longer club session from Le Petit Opportun is much more consistent, with Baker foregoing singing and popular songs to concentrate on East Coast hard bop anthems – e.g., Hank Mobley’s Funk in Deep Freeze, Horace Silver’s Strollin’, Richard Carpenter’s Walkin’ – pieces that take on new character with the chamber jazz dynamics and the more forceful bass playing of Riccardo Del Fra, further propelling Baker and Graillier. A 19-minute (the improvisations really are extended) treatment of Brazilian composer Rique Pantoja’s Arbor Way is another highlight. Stuart Broomer POT POURRI Cat’s Cradle Arnab Chakrabarty Independent (arnabchakrabarty. bandcamp.com/releases) ! Musicians from around the globe have chosen to make Toronto home ever since the days it was colloquially tagged for hogs and muddy streets. Virtuoso sarod player Arnab Chakrabarty, a representative of the venerable Hindustani raga classical music tradition, is a relatively recent and welcome addition to the ranks of Toronto-area music professionals. No novice, over the last two decades Chakrabarty has played hundreds of concerts on stages around the world. Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that Chakrabarty is “known both for his emotive virtuosity and cerebral approach,” believing not in “simplifying music to cater to popular tastes as much as revelling in ‘manipulating the operative rules of the ragas to create interesting expressions.’” Chakrabarty aims to make classical raga performance accessible to today’s audiences without compromising its fundamentals. And his third full-length album Cat’s Cradle, featuring sarod renderings of five classical ragas, reflects this balanced approach. Eschewing flamboyant ornamental passagework, he rather focuses on the core values of the raga at hand which come to life in the alap, the introductory melodic improvisation. The gat, a melody set in a specific raga and tala (time cycle) the latter rendered on the tabla, follows. On this album the gats are Chakrabarty’s compositions. They in turn inspire improvisation, the outcome of a spirited dialogue between set rules and the musician’s imagination freed up. Cat’s Cradle gives full scope to Chakrabarty’s in-depth understanding and imaginative exploration of each raga complex, plumbing their signature phrases and emotional tenor while never losing sight of the rich Hindustani traditions of raga performance practice. Andrew Timar Vessel Gamelan Pacifica Independent 002 (gamelanpacifica.org) ! Led by composer Jarrad Powell, for over 40 years Seattle’s Gamelan Pacifica has been one of the few ensembles specializing in the intersection of Southcentral Javanese gamelan and international experimental music. Its new release Vessel extends that approach in new directions, bookended by two works by group musician and composer Stephen Fandrich. Laras Chopin and Difference both evoke a sound world of electronic clusters, or perhaps of bowed glass bowls, supported by occasional powerful bass tones. Yet Fandrich creates that soundscape using mostly acoustic sounds coaxed from bowed metal gamelan instruments, deep gongs, and a piano played with an electromagnetic bow. The effect is magical. Fandrich’s Iron Tears explores regions between the Western harmonies rendered by the Del Sol string quartet and indigenous gamelan tunings. They’re allowed to interweave for 12 minutes before cadencing in a surprising A Major chord. Powell’s Tsuki features the brilliant Javanese-inflected singing by Jessika Kenney of an English text by Zen Master Doĝen urging us toward direct experience, the path to spiritual awakening. In her challenging work Scar, composer Kenney aims to “unlearn Javanese vocal timbres and melodic patterns without relearning centering whiteness.” She explains the work is a “prayer which intends to reject the violence of white imperial privilege, and also to unlearn [the] Javanese vocal tradition” in which she is so fluent. Finally, Ketawang Panembah by Darsono Hadirahardjo features an emotional rebab (2-string bowed lute) solo masterfully played by Jesse Snyder. Originally meant to evoke a prayer for divine blessing, this moving music – and much of the album – reminds us of the healing power of music in dark times. Andrew Timar Shanties! Live La Nef; Chor Leoni Leaf Music NEF0003 (chorleoni.org/ product/shanties-live/) ! There could be nothing more eminently singable and danceable than sea shanties – those apparently unforgettable work songs from the 19th century. Fortuitously – perhaps even providentially 66 | September 20 - November 8, 2022 thewholenote.com

– proud Canadians (particularly of the Scottish diaspora) continue to keep the cultural flame of the shanty alive. There is much to choose from; shanties – creations of the peripatetic merchant mariner – grew out of the French “chanter” fused into boisterous barn-dancing songs, merrily sung by British mariners into a pint of lager across the ocean to North America. Many have made it to this outstanding live recording. Two celebrated traditional music groups – Montreal’s La Nef and Vancouver’s Junonominated Chor Leoni, came together for a one-night-only performance of brand new arrangements of these work songs on the resplendent Shanties! Live. It would be a minor travesty to suggest that all praise for this performance accrues to members of La Nef, albeit the fact that the ensemble’s fame is owed to their iconic soundtrack for Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed video game. The participation of the iconic Chor Leoni has – together with arrangements by Seán Dagher and the Chor directed by Erick Lichte – turned this rare collaboration into something truly special. Rip-roaring shanties such as Haul on the Bowline and the stomach-churning Stormalong John provide thrill-a-minute excitement. Meanwhile the profound beauty of Lowlands Away, Shallow Brown and Le 31 du mois d’août, and the sublime fidelity of the recording make this classic sea shanties disc truly spectacular. Raul da Gama Three Corners Hypnosis Negative (instagram.com/hypnosis.negative) ! Hypnosis Negative is a collaboration between Canadian Robert Alan Mackie (violin) and Estonian Katariina Tirmaste (flute, jawharp). The duo explores the roots of dance in their modern original interpretations of international and traditional repetitive dance music with inherent trance-like “hypnotic” listening and movement qualities. The ten-track debut release includes their modern renditions of some Estonian dance tunes they found in folk music archives, which I appreciate as a Canadian musician of Estonian parents. The first track – Hi (Mardi Tandi Polka), and last track – Bye (Kuldimuna Lõikaja) – are each under 50 seconds, opening and closing the release with two shorter version repetitive rhythmic and melodic Estonian polka interpretations. Track 2, Buffalo Gals, (Kuldimuna Lõikaja), from the “common repertoire” Estonia, is its longer version. This upbeat rendition has many melodic repetitions with flute harmonies, quasi atonality and a waltz midstream, with a legato violin countermelody to an abrupt “time to stop dancing” accented ending. Guest percussionist is Juan de la Fuente Alcón. His subtle background beats in the calming waltz Sõrmõlugu from Estonian Jaan Palu’s repertoire, support high-pitched flute, violin held notes and astoundingly tight lyrical unison instrumental passages. Three southeastern United States square dance interpretations show a surprising traditional folk-dance similarity to them. There are Spanish cultural flavours with tight violin and flute playing over percussion grooves in the more contemporary sounding Cantiga 181 by Alfonso X El Sabio. Hypnosis Negative is creating a brilliant traditional music future here, both on and off the dance floor! Tiina Kiik Something in the Air The Timeless Appeal of Large-ish Ensemble Music KEN WAXMAN They were supposed to have vanished when singers replaced big bands and become anachronisms once rock music combos became the de facto performance configuration. Yet large ensembles never went away. The challenge of blending multiple instrumental colours still fascinates composers and players of both notated and improvised music. Producing the proper balance between those two motifs, while taking advantage of every timbre produced by a large group of musicians is what characterizes the following CDs. Using the 14-member Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Norwegian bassist Ole Morton Vågan created Plastic Wave (Odin Records ODINLP 9578 odinrecords.bandcamp.com), a 2CD meditation on modern challenges and promises. Although the brief recitations by a poet are lost on non-Norwegian speakers, the compositions stand on their own. Taking advantage of the soprano tessitura of vocalist Sofia Jernberg, Vågan’s arrangements often blend her wordless lyricism with brassy fissures or placid reed tones. But groove is never sacrificed for gentleness. Throughout motifs, which suggest Charles Mingus at his bluesiest and Henry Mancini at his jazziest, are driven by Ståle Storløkken’s Hammond organ pumps, Kjetil Møster’s and Espen Reinertsen’s tenor saxophone vamps and Vågan’s own double bass stops. Tracks such as Critical Mass Distraction are notable for their unified polyphony, as the piece advances due to contributions from trumpeter Eivind Lønning’s shakes and triplets and violinist Ola Kvernberg’s barbed glissandi. Meanwhile, drummers Gard Nilssen and Håkon Johansen’s pops and rebounds emphasize the tune’s spikiness, confirmed by a coda of heightened brassiness. Extended or briefer tracks accentuate the unforced swing that underlies the program. Two of the more notable are Pickaboogaloo and the title track; moving along with double bass thumps and drum backbeats the former maintaining a funk tempo projected by contrapuntal reed and brass riffs. Soon though, a wailing plunger interlude from trombonist Øyvind Brække, paced by double time organ smears introduces a stop-time variant that matches portamento brass flutters and honks from the group’s four-person reed section, sliding from that dissonate interlude to a coordinated finale. Plastic Wave confirms tone construction. Gradually building up from unified voice, brass and reed expressions, Oscar Grønberg’s piano tinkles precede an arrangement that alternates intermittent drum beats, brass tongue sucking and puffs from Eirik Hegdal’s baritone saxophone with the layered harmonies of the introduction. Another double bassist, Benjamin Duboc of Paris, composed and directed an even more ambitious project. Entitled Volumes II – Fiction Musicale et Chorégraphique – Création pour Grand Orchestre et Corps Actants (Dark Tree DT 15 darktree-records.com), Duboc’s Ensemble thewholenote.com September 20 - November 8, 2022 | 67

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