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Volume 28 Issue 6 | Summer 2023

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  • Festival
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Orchestra
  • Theatre
  • Fallsview
  • Choir
  • August
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Fast start to the summer and it just keeps going: Luminato walks with Little Amal; the Historical Organ Society comes to town; composer Carmen Braden is keeping busy; Phil Nimmons turns 100; TSM's metamorphosis; and check out live links in ads, listings and our easy surfing directory of summer festivals. See you August 30 for Volume 29 no.1

its many pauses.

its many pauses. Laubrock herself is in charge of the most overt sonic elements, such as shouldering the entire production and compositional loads, along with her reed work resonating strongly throughout the holistic auditory experience. She leads a six-piece band that consists of two-thirds stringed instruments, which allows for a unique textural and dynamic palette. The group makes the most of this range, and are selective in how they layer musical elements, which leads to an unpredictable aspect that complements the complexity of Laubrock’s melodic phrasings. The composition Afterglow wouldn’t have the same arresting air of mystery about it if the entire ensemble was ever playing at once; the decision to centre the piece around a string trio of Tomeka Reid, Mazz Swift and Michael Formanek lends it its structural intrigue. In this sense the music is never afraid to interrupt itself, because rather than the more traditional slow build from the swelling bowed passages, the guitar, saxophone and drums take turns interjecting. This creates an effect of dialogue or commentary, and this interactivity between interlocutors paints a setting of controlled disarray. Contrast can be equally engaging as uniformity, and it’s the ability to seamlessly phase between these two states that makes this such a refreshing group. Yoshi Maclear Wall Dance Of The Mystic Bliss Michael Blake’s Chroma Nova P&M Records P&M-CD001 ( ! This is different story of Two Michaels, in a much happier context. All tracks here were composed and performed by Vancouveritein-New York saxophonist/flutist Michael Blake to meld his distinctive Jazz lines with input from a three-person Brazilian percussion section. The tunes also feature a four-person string section, including fellow Canadian expat bassist Michael Bates. Consciously avoiding exoticism for its own sake, despite the use of such ethnic instruments as cajón, pandeiro, zabumba drum and berimbau, the music is anchored by a fluid rhythmic emphasis including Bates’ steadying pumps. Sometimes the strings are harmonized with the inflated percussion crunches. At other times, guitarist Guilherme Monteiro projects buzzing rock-like flanges; violinist Skye Steele or cellist Chris Hoffman produces sweeping blues emphasis or Europeanized lyricism; and Blake pivots from doubletongued saxophone stops and slurs to horizontal flute peeps that are in turn, pointed, polished and powerful. Because of the repeated drum thumps and staccato string shake, tracks like Sagra suggest a South American hoedown. But segmented reed stops and scoops retain a sophisticated improvisational emphasis. Others, such as Little Demons mate mid-point arching guitar frails with penetrating saxophone split tones and staccato string section shakes for stoptime variations. Conceived as an homage to his late mother, who was both a dancer and a gardener, Blake’s Dance of the Mystic Bliss appropriately presents musical textures that have elements of both sprouting and syncopation. Ken Waxman ThirtyNine FiftyFive C/W|N Acheulian handaxe AHA 2202 ( ! Creatively exploring timbres extracted from instruments stretched to their expected limits during a playing time of almost 40 minutes (see title), the Köln-based C/W|N trio dynamically formulates a languid exposition with linear asides. Slovenian pianist Dušica Cajlan concentrates on pointillist keyboard strokes, intermittent silences and echoing throbs on tightly wound internal strings; Austrian Georg Wissel tongue-slaps and squeaks augmented and gurgling split tones from deep inside his alto saxophone’s body; and German Etienne Nillesen eschews a regularized pulse for pinpointed slaps, rubs and whirls from the top and sides of his single extended snare drum. Although the potential for musical discombobulation seems maximized, individual tone exploration evolves as realized tonal investigation, not grandstanding. Each improviser is able to sense others’ procedures with near clairvoyance. That means no matter how many instances of keyboard comping, radical percussion cranks or strained reed overblowing are heard they never have a singular function. Instead, an equivalent intermittent and understated continuum is simultaneously generated by the others. Taken together each technical instrumental prod is eventually interlaced into a slow moving transformative sequence that also underlines quiet but robust ensemble work. While exposing unexpected variants of each instrument’s range C/W|N eventually creates a program of profound horizontal association. Ken Waxman The Way to You (violin jazz) Sara Caswell Anzic Records ANZ-0085-02 ( ! Grammynominated violinist/ composer Sara Caswell has had a fruitful performing career, but it took close to 17 years for her third solo album to emerge. The Way to You is a collection of original compositions, thoughtful arrangements and magnificent collaborations. Caswell has joined forces with her longtime musical collaborators – Jesse Lewis (guitar), Ike Sturm (bass), Jared Schonig (drums) and Chris Dingman (vibraphone) – creating a musical synergy that can only come from familiarity and deep connection. The album has a tranquil atmosphere and compositions are mostly within the realm of ballads, which puts light on the polished ensemble performance. Caswell is undoubtedly a queen of ballads. Her improvisations are poised, stylish and unhurried, her tone light, fluid, resonant. On this album she plays both violin and hardanger d’amore (5-string Norwegian fiddle), creating an array of beautiful colours. Caswell is at her most powerful when improvising on the vocal lines – her ability to convey the emotions behind the lyrics is remarkable. This is most obvious in On My Way to You, an arrangement of Michel Legrand’s 1988 ballad. O Que Tinha De Ser, the quartet’s version of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes’ composition, is dark and sultry and the longing hardanger’s melodies go straight to the heart. Caswell’s original collaborative compositions Warren’s Way, Last Call and Spinning, inspired by the things of life – nature, love and bicycles – are great additions to the classics. Ivana Popovic Uptown on Mardi Gras Day Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra Troubadour Jazz Records TJR02062023 ( ! The latest release by renowned American jazz trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis (grandson of Ellis Sr. and brother to Wynton, Branford and Jason) is a fun, tootin’ good time that will get every listener’s toes tapping and shoulders shaking. Born and raised in New Orleans, it’s no surprise that Marsalis has gone all out on this latest musical venture, focusing on the festivities and feelings gleaned from Mardi Gras Day. Featuring the all-star Uptown Jazz Orchestra 72 | Summer 2023

providing fabulous backup on each tune, this makes for perfect accompaniment to the fresh spring days that are now upon us. The album features both iconic jazz classics with a renewed honky tonky flavour and new originals penned by Marsalis himself. The spirited nature of this record is positively contagious, filling the soul with joy and happiness right from the first track. Of special note is Carnival Time, starting off the album with a rhythmic “get up and go” feeling, featuring fantastic percussive work by Herlin Riley, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Alexey Marti. What really makes this album is the remarkable brass talent that adds just that extra little touch to each piece. Punchy, tight horn riffs layered over soaring flute and sax solos along with an unmistakably funky bass line are what forms this musical journey into a perfect whole, rounding out the New Orleans sound yet also bringing in a bit of a new flavour and spark. For those jazz aficionados looking for an extra spring in their step, this record is a perfect addition to the collection. Kati Kiilaspea The Harlem Suite Jacques Schwarz-Bart Ropeadope Records rad-699 ( ! This album – The Harlem Suite – may suggest that Jacques Schwarz- Bart, and that firebreathing dragon of his saxophone may have rolled up his Guadeloupean zouk and Gwo-ka music (at least for now). But a few bars into the opening chart Sun Salutation, you realize that you can never take the spellbinding rhythms of Guadeloupe out of the iconic Guadeloupean. Indeed, the melody, laced with the pulsating zouk-chiré rhythms, comes forth from Schwarz-Bart’s saxophone like tongues of fire. His music virtually “sings” as it grooves to jazz, the very echo and heartbeat of Harlem. To anyone unfamiliar with the work of Schwarz-Bart, do not let the francophone name fool you. Behind it is an Antillean with an African soul, a Guadeloupean with spirits dancing in the flesh. This makes for a very potent mix in his music. His tribute to the jazz masters and the musical heritage of Harlem constantly inveigles; often elegiac – such as in the mystical impression of Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly, voiced by the wraith-like Malika Tirolien, while the moon seems to cast a carnival spirit on John Coltrane’s Equinox. Shadows and light dapple From Goré to Harlem. Everyone has a role to play everywhere, as Schwarz-Bart leads a proverbially fired-up beguine vidé carnival band. Each piece of music swings pendulously. The questing Dreaming of Freedom, voiced by Stephanie McKay, soars into its celestial dénouement. Raul da Gama Stage & Screen John Pizzarelli Palmetto Records JOPI01 (propermusic. com/label/p/palmetto-records.html) ! There can be no question that guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarrelli, as the son of the late, iconic guitarist Bucky, was born with special musical DNA… and for the past 40 years plus, Pizzarelli the younger has honed his craft and performed to soldout concert halls and venues throughout the world. Joining him on a new project that pays tribute to a dozen compositions that have been presented on both stage and screen, are his intuitive collaborators Isaiah Thompson on piano and Michael Karn on bass. The opening salvo, Too Close for Comfort is a jaunty, swinging take from the 1956 Broadway hit Mr. Wonderful that showcases Pizzarelli’s impossibly pure vocal instrument, as well as his gorgeous intonation. A snappy, sinuous piano solo from Thompson and a fine unison voice/guitar scat section are the icing on the proverbial cake. Another choice, up-tempo track is I Want to Be Happy, where prodigious 7-string guitar technique takes one’s breath away and Karn renders a facile “in the pocket” solo. Bernstein’s Some Other Time from On the Town is performed as a pristine guitar solo that plucks our heart strings all-thewhile weaving melodic and lyrical magic. Other delights include Pizzarelli’s percolating arrangement of Just in Time from Comden and Green’s Bells Are Ringing, and the Oklahoma Suite, which is the lovely synthesis of three tunes from the beloved American musical. Closing the set is a gleaming gem: As Time Goes By, which is authentically performed with a fully restored verse. A stellar collection, lovingly drawn from our shared art forms of music, theatre and film. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke JAZZ FROM THE ARCHIVES For Jemeel – Fire from the Road Steve Swell’s Fire Into Music RogueArt ROG0126 ( ! Emerging in the 1970s, Chicagoborn alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc was a firebrand of free jazz, his work characterized by original phrasing, emotional immediacy and unwavering commitment to musical liberation. In 2004 the younger trombonist Steve Swell put together a New York dream band with Moondoc, bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake (the latter two a definitive rhythm section for rugged extended improvisation) for a tour ranging from the U.S. Midwest to the West Coast and then through Canada. Moondoc died in 2020, after a lifetime plagued by sickle-cell anaemia, just as the group planned a reunion recording; in lieu of that, Swell assembled this three-CD, three-hour set from 2004-5 concerts. Moondoc’s command is apparent on Space Cowboys, his style deeply rooted in essential bop and blues sources, but they are pressed into his own distinctive lines. Swell combines all the bends, smears and raw and celebratory bleats of generations of jazz trombonists. Junka Nu, from the 2005 Guelph Jazz Festival, moves with an Afro-Caribbean lilt, combining twisting, expressive lines with a dancing rhythm, creating a compound space that marks the special possibilities of free jazz. It’s a quality maintained here by Parker and Drake, whose compound rhythms are at once determined and celebratory. It’s rare to find documentation of this scale appearing for a band that wasn’t famous, but this is rare work with a consistent, incendiary power, a tribute to the band as well as to Moondoc. Stuart Broomer Treasures Bill Evans Elemental Music 5990444 ( Blue Room Chet Baker Jazz Detective DDJD-008 ( ! Bill Evans and Chet Baker had much in common. Both born in 1929, they were great lyric talents. Both achieved tremendous acclaim, and both suffered the ravages of heroin addiction, contributing to Evans’ death in 1981, Baker’s in 1988. Baker had known stardom and decline before Evans emerged in 1958, and they were very different musicians, Evans a meticulous student of complex harmony, Baker a “natural” who could travel fluently through chord progressions without naming them. These boxsets, available on CD or LP, present aspects of their individual European careers, Evans a visitor, Baker a long-time resident. Treasures packs a few facets of Evans’ career into visits to Denmark. It initially presents him in 1965 in his favoured trio format, a conversational form here completed Summer 2023 | 73

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