7 months ago

Volume 28 Issue 5 | April & May 2023

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April and May is Canary Time in the world of WholeNote -- the time when choirs in larger than usual numbers refresh the info in our online "Who's Who" to inform prospective choristers and audiences what they have to offer. Also inside: There's a new New Wave to catch at Esprit; Toronto Bach Festival no 6 includes a Kafeehaus; another new small venue on the "Soft Seat Beat" (we assume the seats are soft!); an ever-so Musically Theatrical spring. And more.

an antidote to this

an antidote to this phenomenon, I now make a point to absorb albums in their entirety at least once or twice before reading any liner notes or one sheets. With Atlas by Zimbabwe-born Torontobased guitarist Matt Greenwood, all written material pertaining to it felt more like an affirmation than a barrage of new info. This is not because Greenwood wears his influences on his sleeve, or that any of his music falls short of unique, but more that it profoundly resonates with this writer’s musical tastes. Contemporary guitar in the 2020s can resemble anything from futuristic effects and textures to a neo-traditional renaissance of aesthetics from the 1950s and 60s. I can appreciate either of these extremes, which are far from mutually exclusive, but it is refreshing to hear a modern mélange of influences from across the board in Greenwood’s playing and writing. Atlas’ opening and closing tracks Constellations and Commitment are tasteful vignettes that bookend the album, adding a sense of continuity when listening from start to finish. While the recording has the arching flow of a great concept album, each of its original tracks function on their own too. Dehyah and the album’s title track are cerebral yet heartfelt, and ballads like From Sunshine and Campfire Ghosts are unique enough to remain neighbours on the tracklist without sounding redundant. This album is an awesome offering of art for art’s sake, eschewing causes and homages in favour of focused, sophisticated, contemporary playing. Have a listen; I trust you will find Atlas as refreshing as I do. Sam Dickinson The Sixth Decade from Paris to Paris The Art Ensemble of Chicago RogueArt ROG-0123 ( ! After almost a decade of evolution in their hometown, The Art Ensemble of Chicago arrived in Paris in 1969, their combination of free jazz and theatricality (their slogan – Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future) was greeted as the embodiment of the incendiary protests that had rocked the city in the previous year. The band was welcomed with frequent performances and multiple recording offers. Five decades later most of the original members – saxophonist Joseph Jarman, trumpeter Lester Bowie and bassist Malachi Favors – are deceased. Only multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye remain. They’ve chosen to reinvigorate the band’s legacy by expanding it with a substantial number of young musicians and an even broader musical lexicon, entering their sixth decade with a 20-member ensemble for this 100-minute Paris concert from 2020. It’s alive with potent moments, including brilliant individual instrumental performances from Mitchell and Moye, trumpeter Hugh Ragin, flutist Nicole Mitchell, cellist Tomeka Reid and trombonist Simon Sieger. True to the band’s history, however, it continues to press the envelope – musically, lyrically and culturally. The ensemble includes chamber musicians who can execute Mitchell’s Webern-esque scores; a mixed improvising ensemble that suggests Tibetan ritual music; and three percussionists and three bassists who can launch a polyrhythmic maelstrom. There is also a self-explanatory track called Funky AECO. There are concert vocalists and the spoken word calls to consciousness of Moor Mother, activistorator with such groups as Sons of Kemet and Irreversible Entanglements. Mitchell and Moye have made of their longstanding collaboration a gift to contemporaneity and the possibilities of the future. It’s as much about that promise as it is a platform for two celebrated senior warriors of music. Stuart Broomer Si tu partais Trio Derome Guilbeault Tanguay ambiences magnetiques AM 272 CD ( ! Saxophonist/ flutist/vocalist Jean Derome, bassist Normand Guilbeault and drummer Pierre Tanguay have been playing together as a trio for over 20 years, embracing a broad repertoire and becoming an essential component of Canadian jazz in the process. Here they play 11 compositions, handily supplying dates to mark the range from 1917 (The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s Tiger Rag) to 1963 (Eric Dolphy’s Iron Man). Throughout, the trio is polished and intense, engaging, yet fully engaged. On the first track, Ornette Coleman’s The Disguise, Derome manages to be at least as buoyantly joyous as Coleman himself might have been, while Guilbeault and Tanguay provide ideal support, balancing intensity and lilt. Love Me or Leave Me, a standard, is fused with Lennie Tristano’s variant, the boppish Leave Me. On Sy Oliver’s ‘Taint What You Do, Derome’s vocal, rich in comic inflection, frames a virtuosic duet of bass and drums. While Derome is not a great singer in any conventional sense, there’s a special combination of musicality and wit at work here that illuminates the performance of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, achieving a consummate elegance in the contrast between the rough-hewn vocal and the refined invention of the instrumentalists. An anthology of recordings from Jelly Roll Morton to Anthony Braxton can serve as an excellent introduction to jazz, but this might serve as well: Trio Derome Guilbeault Tanguay fully share the abundant joy that they take in adding their own spontaneous dimensions to this far-flung repertoire. Stuart Broomer The New Syntax Matthew Shipp; Mark Helias RogueArt ROG-0124 ( ! Pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist Mark Helias are distinguished veterans of the New York City free jazz community, and this program of improvised duets is the embodiment of both their craft and their commitment. The very match of their instruments might suggest a contrast between the florid and fundamental, but that couldn’t be further from the reality. A few years ago, Shipp published an essay on “Black Mystery School Pianists” linking Thelonious Monk with a handful of other, mostly African-American musicians such as Randy Weston, Cecil Taylor and Andrew Hill, pointing to their rhythmic complexity and layering of harmonic systems. Shipp himself might be considered a member: here his rhythmic insistence and chorded density often conjoin with Helias to create music that’s both forceful and precise. At other times, the surgical precision of Shipp’s runs can suggest Bud Powell. Even gentler passages are often arrived at through passages of combined rhythmic force, witness Psychic Ladder or Acoustic Electric, in which taut figures give way to a spare lyricism. Conversely, Bridge to Loka moves from random dialogue to rhythmic unison. The effect can resemble shifting weather patterns, sunshine breaking through storm clouds and vice versa. The most lyrical moments, like The Mystic Garden, arise when Shipp’s melodic probes combine with Helias’s arco passages in a cello register, while The New Syntax has the two matching one another’s patterns so closely that they might be reading a score. It’s music that’s as consistently rewarding as it is demanding. Stuart Broomer Sun Ra’s Journey featuring Marshall Allen Tyler Mitchell Octet Cellar Music CMSLF001 ( ! Sun Ra (born Herman Poole Blount) was a jazz composer, keyboard player and bandleader who was active from the 74 | April & May, 2023

1950s to the 1980s. He was known for his claims of being an alien and many mystical allusions about space and time which could also be viewed as commentary on world politics and race. Sun Ra’s music included the history of jazz (ragtime, swing, fusion etc.) and many avant-garde elements. I was lucky enough to see him live in Toronto in the 80s and can confirm that each performance was an event. He combined melodic jazz tunes with great ensemble playing and solos that often went outside the traditional jazz sound; he also introduced synthesizers to provide some “other worldly” sonics. Both Tyler Mitchell and Marshall Allen played with Sun Ra for many years and Sun Ra’s Journey is a homage to their bandleader and his music. Care Free is a very swinging opener which showcases some excellent trumpet work from Giveton Gelin. Free Ballad begins with electronic sounds and works into a gorgeous alto sax solo from Allen that swoops between tonal and experimental. Sun Ra’s Journey is a delightful album that celebrates Sun Ra’s legacy by proving it is still alive and inspiring. Ted Parkinson Unwalled François Carrier; Alexander von Schlippenbach; John Edwards; Michel Lambert Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 22/2022 ( ! What an incredible ensemble. Altoist François Carrier is a tornado of concepts, ideas and interjections that refuses to cease, providing galvanizing directionality to the music. Drummer Michel Lambert provides textural structures and contrapuntal formations that expand skyward while building laterally. Living legend pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is a maestro and a master, who injects the music with adrenaline shots into every orifice, while weaving improvisational narratives one can almost tangibly see. Bassist John Edwards cannot help constantly being at the right place, at the right time, armed with thunderbolts of his own. What makes Unwalled flourish as a descriptor of this music, is that everybody seems to consider themselves a percussionist. Halfway through the title track, Edwards challenges the listener to guess whether he or Lambert are hitting things, with an incredible display of tuneful string-slapping that multiplies in density. Later on, Schlippenbach seems to predict Lambert’s lines before they’re played, while simultaneously opening and closing the door for Carrier to provide a rebuttal. The never-ending means Carrier finds to manipulate note duration is probably the most infectiously danceable aspect of this album. Who’s making the warbly glitchin-the-matrix sounds on Open End feels as relevant as how they’re being made. The functional roles society assigns to specific instruments may be insurmountable parameters for most, but this marvellous group refuses to acknowledge their existence. Yoshi Maclear Wall POT POURRI Both Sides of Joni Janiece Jaffe; Monika Herzig Acme Records JM001 ( ! There is no question that Joni Mitchell is a member of a small coterie of artists who have contributed to the very ethos of 21st century music itself (in all of its splendid diversity). Mitchell’s synesthesiac blendings of unconventional melodies, chordal structures and contemporary poetry have touched our hearts and minds, and it’s the eclectic nature of Mitchell’s work that has lent itself to a variety of tributes. With this posthumous release from award-winning vocalist Janiece Jaffe and pianist/arranger Monika Herzig, Mitchell’s work is interpreted with a fresh, jazz-oriented perspective, which includes stalwart performances from noted jazz artists Greg Ward on saxophone, Jeremy Allen on bass, Carolyn Dutton on violin and Cassius Goens on drums. Included in this compelling recording are Herzig’s innovative arrangements of Mitchell’s most commercially successful songs, as well as some lesser-performed gems. First up is Help Me, which features a melodious, a cappella sax intro which then segues into a rhythmic, swinging musical tapestry replete with stunningly beautiful multi-track vocals from Jaffe. Jaffe’s voice is a delight to the ear. Her clear, pitch-perfect tones embrace the melody and charge it with meaning and Goens’ relentless drums and Ward’s improvisational choices propel this superb track. The title track is rife with emotional content – exploring the nature of hindsight and regret, and Mitchell’s melancholy River (from Blue) has been cleverly arranged by Herzig. My Old Man is a total delight, warm and ebullient with well-chosen chord substitutions, fully embracing jazz motifs and featuring a solid electric bass solo from Peter Kienle and lighter-than-air soprano work from Ward. The Hissing of Summer Lawns is a triumph in every way – transporting Mitchell’s intent to a whole new dimension of free jazz featuring an energizing piano solo by Herzig. Also of special note is The Circle Game – presented here with a profound innocence and pristine vocal. Although Jaffe died suddenly prior to this release, her vision and musicality will be celebrated with extensive tours in the U.S. and Europe featuring New York City chanteuse Alexis Cole. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Absence of You Tina Hartt Independent ( ! The instrumentation hooks you, the arrangements reel you in and Tina Hartt’s passionate performance catches you. Trust Your Heart is an arresting original composition, with Jonathan D. Lewis’ wistful strings cascading over Hartt’s evocative lyricism; equal parts yearnful and triumphant. The relationship between form and substance shines through in every note Hartt sings. Every once in a while, when the band employs silence or coordinates hits for emphasis, Hartt shapes her phrases in a way where profundity takes center stage. In lines like “I can’t touch but I can dream” from I Can Look but I Can’t Touch, that hesitation adds an exclamation point to the echo effect the music creates, bringing the idea home with great clarity. Aside from Hartt’s consistent ingenuity as a vocalist and limitless creativity, this album is tied together by how incredible it sounds. Credit is due to Steve Dierkens for the mixing, because it adds a great feeling of intimacy and closeness to the album. There are no effects imposed on any musicians present and yet the sound is recorded with startling detail. Every element of the music feels like the most prominent aspect at any given moment, and it is this kind of clarity that lends to Hartt’s voice perfectly. From the very first track to the end, there is a singular directness of Hartt’s approach to her music, and the effectiveness of said approach cannot be overstated. Yoshi Maclear Wall Wildwood Harry Bartlett Trio Independent ( ! Harry Bartlett, an accomplished jazz guitarist and composer with a music degree from the University of Toronto, has played in festivals and venues across Canada and has also toured public schools to provide improvisation workshops. Although currenting living and playing in Toronto, he grew up in the Pacific Northwest and the music for Wildwood was composed April & May, 2023 | 75

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