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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.

ut expandable,

ut expandable, repertoire. Here that notion has grown from a single studio session and a piano trio to nearly four hours with brilliant saxophonist Greg Osby joining Sorey, pianist Andrew Diehl (the star of Mesmerism) and bassist Russell Hall, recorded over three nights at New York’s Jazz Gallery. It’s a mode that’s rarely heard on record (where composer royalties are an issue), though it’s the lifeblood of the jazz club, a concentrated dialogue around a common repertoire, though here broader than usual. Its thematic bases include American Songbook titles (Cole Porter’s Night and Day, Van Heusen and Burke’s It Could Happen to You) to earlier jazz forms (Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz, Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge) to bop and free jazz (Thelonious Monk’s Ask Me Now to Andrew Hill’s Ashes and Ornette Coleman’s Mob Job), several heard in different forms from different nights. The performances brim with life. Osby is central here, whether broadly lyrical or pressing toward expressionist intensity, generating continuous lines that accommodate themselves to the varied material but have a life of their own. This celebrates the core jazz experience, a small group exploring the melodic and harmonic possibilities, the expressive resonances and collective meanings of a song at length (20 minutes in the case of Three Little Words). It’s a contemporary embodiment of a great tradition. Stuart Broomer Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams Satoko Fujii Libra Records 209-071 ( ! Hyaku, One Hundred Dreams is pianist/composer Satoko Fujii’s 100th CD as leader and a fitting celebration of her remarkable career, launched in 1996 with duets with Paul Bley. Among images of her first 99 works, South Wind, the fourth, leaps out, its title track figuring significantly for me during 20 years of teaching jazz history. Based on an Okinawan mode, it combines dramatic energy and pacific beauty, embodying what jazz has increasingly become, an inclusivist art alive to local dialects and the possibility of global values. The contrasts, too, are dramatic, reflecting how much has changed. South Wind’s big band was conventional, with sections of trumpets, trombones, reeds and rhythm instruments, with Fujii the sole woman among 15 musicians; Hyaku is a nonet with individual emphases on both instruments and musicians, its ensemble almost evenly split between women and men. Further, Hyaku’s five-part suite blurs composed and improvised components. From its beginning, Hyaku introduces essential qualities in Fujii’s music, the subtly organic shape of her initial piano figures, the landscape-like incidental percussion, the dream-like flow state and an undercurrent of welling energy. Each movement will extend a continuum with what has gone before, theme statements, improvised solos and ensemble passages achieving rare homogeneity. Each member of a brilliant ensemble will appear in the foreground, from trumpeters Wadada Leo Smith and Natsuki Tamura through bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck, tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, electronic musician Ikue Mori and bassist Brandon Lopez to drummers Tom Rainey and Chris Corsano. Stuart Broomer Unstuck in Time: The Kurt Vonnegut Suite Jason Yeager Septet w/Miguel Zenón Sunnyside Records SSC 1672 ( unstuck-in-time-the-kurt-vonnegut-suite) ! Kurt Vonnegut was a satirist, science fiction writer and outsized personality who is still quoted and revered long after his death. The pianist and composer Jason Yeager has been a huge fan for years and had composed several jazz pieces inspired by Vonnegut’s writing. Unstuck in Time (named after Billy Pilgrim’s condition in Slaughterhouse-Five) is a compilation of these pieces released to honour the author’s 100th birthday. All the works are lively, build off Vonnegut’s idiosyncratic narratives and characters and utilize Yeager’s septet which, in addition to the rhythm section, contains combinations of saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone and vibraphone. Blues for Billy Pilgrim has a wistful feeling, with a Thelonious Monk-like melody with a rowdy trumpet solo. Bokonon opens with a delightful hip-hop vibe and features a vivacious staccato alto sax performance by Miguel Zenón. Kilgore’s Creed begins with the band chanting (from the novel Timequake) “You were sick, but now you are well again and there’s work to do” before working into a jazz polka rhythm, overlaid with excellent ensemble playing and solos. Unstuck in Time is everything Vonnegut would have loved: eclectic and sensitive compositions and performances that show how jazz can have a lot of fun while paying homage to an artistic hero. Ted Parkinson Heyday RJ LeBlanc MCM; Bent River Records; Diese Onze Records ( ! The embodiment of smoothness, Heyday has the fluidity of a living organism, with nary a transition feeling contrived and a staggering level of sonic detail. Into The Sun is a composition that takes calculated risks while never coming across as arrogant. Each metre and tempo change is seamless, without clear delineations necessary in terms of solo sections versus premeditated grooves. In the track’s third and fourth minutes, the synth ostinato slows to a halt, but the momentum of the music isn’t compromised, as it either punctuates a backdrop of thunderous percussion or brings the song to a close. Montreal bassist RJ LeBlanc as a session leader is dazzlingly adept at precisely that: taking one simple musical element and finding a thousand different uses for it. In a less overt way, the way LeBlanc incorporates harmonics on his bass in the mesmerizing emotional core track Chanson pour Marguerite is quite fascinating. Extended passages employing harmonics are used in the beginning as a means of introducing the primary melodic figure, used as an interlude connecting sections, and then underneath the guitar (Nicolas Ferron) to create a climatically uplifting ambient soundscape. Meanwhile, this album perhaps shines brightest when LeBlanc brings along the entire ensemble, with Saturnales in particular being a dizzyingly dense achievement of married sound. The track, like the album itself, is an exploration of ingenuity and how invigorating it can be to have friends to realize your ideas. Yoshi Maclear Wall Songwriter Alex Bird; Ewen Farncombe Independent ( ! Alex Bird doesn’t need an accompanist. With a single phrase, the directness of his voice conveys so much emotional information, that even the most silent seconds have an unshakeable sense of fulfillment to them. Pianist Ewen Farncombe, knowing this, gives Bird plenty of voids to work with. There’s an endearing ebb and flow to their tandem, like the cordial exchange of shared dance, a conversation, a flurry of interjections or two shopping carts gracefully rolling across 66 | February & March, 2023

a lot. There are moments where each musician almost sounds like they’re crafting an independent piece. Such is the case in the closing minute of Symphony of Love, with Bird’s loose reframing of the melody evasively circling around Farncombe’s increasingly zestful comping. There are magical moments where each musician sounds like they’re completing the other’s ideas before they’re conceived. Such is the case in the closing minute of the aptly titled I’ll Go Where You Lead, with Farncombe’s thoroughly intentional calls concerning how the beginnings of each phrase coincide with Bird’s. Fact is, there are magical moments everywhere to be had on this album, because Bird is in control of his songwriting craft and Farncombe is as adaptable and willing an accompanist as they come. Bird’s vocals may not need an accompanist to make profoundly interesting and layered music, but Farncombe expands what is possible in that regard. The sum here far exceeds its parts. Yoshi Maclear Wall POT POURRI Hooked Dizzy & Fay Independent ( ! Dizzy & Fay are at it again. With Hooked, their second release in just two years (thanks lockdowns!), the duo (keyboardist, songwriter, arranger and producer Mark Lalama and Juno-nominated singer and songwriter Amanda Walther) continues to build its persona, reminiscent of smoky jazz clubs, late nights and one too many martinis. Hooked ventures beyond the duo and their considerable playing and singing skills though, with arrangements rich with woodwinds (Johnny Johnson) horns (William Carn and Jason Logue) drums (Davide DiRenzo) and bass (Rich Moore). The City of Prague Philharmonic even makes a couple of appearances and Drew Jurecka’s orchestrations on those tracks really shine. As great as all of those accoutrements are, what draws us in most is the songwriting. Inspired by the Great American Songbook, Lalama and Walther have given us a set of songs that are both lyrically and musically strong and stylized, yet heartfelt. Themes of love and longing dominate but no modern album is complete, it seems, without at least one song about the pandemic and I’m Alright elegantly shrugs it all off while Good News cleverly evokes the strange mix of ennui, despair and coziness many of us felt. Hooked is playful and cool but will break your heart if you let it. (The duo’s virtual world, the Dizzy & Fay Speakeasy, complete with tour dates and merch, can be explored at Cathy Riches Concert note: Dizzy & Fay perform in Toronto at Reid’s Distillery on February 8 and again on March 8, and then can be heard in Kingston March 9 (Next Church), Ottawa March 10 (Options Jazz Lounge) and London March 12 (Aeolian Hall). Song Sheku Kanneh-Mason Decca B0036196-02 ( en/artists/sheku-kanneh-mason) ! Since winning BBC Young Musician in 2017 cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has been much in demand from every musical quarter, traversing a road to glory, the envy of many musicians, some twice – even three times – his age. It is now safe to say that the music world is Kanneh- Mason’s oyster, albeit with room to spare for all his über-gifted siblings. But the cellist has – to all intents and purposes – pride of place in music’s rarefied realm. His Shostakovich First Cello Concerto unearthed real depth. From evidence of his various Decca recordings he seems to have soaked up every experience in the glitz and gush of what you might call his formative years. At the time of reviewing Song, with its repertoire culled from the classical and the popular, and from secular and sacred pieces, Kanneh-Mason is set to perform his interpretation of Elgar’s monumental Cello Concerto in E Minor Op.85 – a work long held out of bounds because of Jacqueline du Pré’s iconic 1962 recording – with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. (Unfortunately, that will have taken place by time of publication.) However, Song amplifies the truth that Kanneh-Mason may have inherited Du Pré’s crown. The freshly radiant interpretation of Beethoven’s Variations on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen, Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words (both also feature his brilliant pianistsister, Isata), Stravinsky’s Chanson russe and Bach’s sacred music are spectacular. But Same Boat, a song composed by Kanneh-Mason (with vocalist Zak Abel) is the album’s apogee. In this simple song lies notice of Kanneh- Mason’s glowing compositional genius. Raul da Gama My America 2: Destinations Jim Self; Various Artists Basset Hound Music ( ! Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no access to media for the past 40 years, you have heard the tuba playing of Jim Self. A legendary fixture in Hollywood recording studios, he has performed on countless sessions for film and television and is probably best known for his performance as the “Voice of the Mothership” from Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And all the while, Self has maintained an impressive “live” career in many groups, including the Los Angeles Opera, the Hollywood Bowl Symphony, as a jazz musician and a celebrated tuba soloist. His latest solo release, My America 2: Destinations (a sequel to My America released 20 years ago) is a jazzy romp through places in the USA that have been important to him throughout his long career. (As the cover states: “We hold these tunes to be SELF-evident.” Cute.) It goes without saying that Self’s solo tuba playing is amazing and his backup band made up of top LA studio musicians is as tight as one would expect, but what makes this album memorable are the arrangements by his longtime friend, Kim Scharnberg. His eclectic, inventive writing, his creative scoring (and, of course, Self’s stellar tuba playing) will have me returning to this disc time and time again. Scott Irvine i’d Love to Turn… John Oswald fony ( id-love-to-turn) ! Prolific Canadian composer/ performer John Oswald is back with an illustrious, boundary-crashing release, dedicated to Phil Strong. Four main tracks are online streaming, with additional five bonus tracks. videos and main track PDF scores for downloading. The main four tracks are Oswald’s selfdescribed plunderphonic Rascali Klepitoire/ hybrids combining elements from liveperformance recordings with studio-based additions and plunderphonic transformations, primarily focused on music he discovered in the mid-1960s. Fee Fie Foe Fum is complex, surprisingly easy listening based on the 1966 pop hit, and Oswald’s research between Frank Zappa’s first album release February & March, 2023 | 67

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