04_Jazz_02_Red_Garland.jpgSwingin’ on the Korner
Red Garland Trio
Elemental Records 5990426
(elemental-music.com)

Red Garland brought an electric brightness to the piano, whether playing block chords or scintillating runs; Philly Joe Jones, a polyrhythmic master, was perhaps the most explosive drummer in jazz history. They were key parts of one of the greatest bands in that history, Miles Davis’ mid-50s quintet, until Davis fired them in 1958 for unreliability. This two-CD set catches the two of them nearly 20 years later during a week in December 1977 at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, anchored by the fine bassist Leroy Vinnegar, a worthy partner. Garland had gone through stretches of retirement by then, and Jones was less prominent than when he propelled many of hard bop’s greatest records, but if they were supposed to go gently into that good night, the two hadn’t gotten the message. The genre never burned more brightly.

The music is almost entirely standards, drawn from Garland’s vast repertoire, including a sweetly balladic rendition of the obscure If I’m Lucky, a signature swinging arrangement of Billy Boy and a soulful version of Bags’ Groove that celebrates Garland’s mastery of blues. Familiarity feeds the trio’s fervour: this is joyous, raw music, touching, even reckless. Sometimes subtle, Garland can match Jones for sheer ferocious energy; Jones creates wild oblique patterns with thundering drums, building complex, melodic solos against a beat that’s only implied.

The set includes extensive interviews and memories of Garland from some noted critics and musicians: it’s the first such tribute to a pianist who deserves far more attention.

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04_Jazz_03_Subtle_Lip_Can.jpgReflective Drime
Subtle Lip Can
Drip Audio DA01030 (dripaudio.com)

Featuring music as off-centre as its name, Subtle Lip Can has created a fascinating CD of heavy metal, as if instead of headbanging, that term described subtly abrasive instrumental techniques expanded by electronics. Consisting of vio-linist Josh Zubot, guitarist Bernard Falaise and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli, the members of the Montreal-based trio add jazz-like improv and suspended minimalism to ten tracks which otherwise are rife with industrial clamors and the blaring drones found in rock music.

Improvisers above all, the trio members’ skillfully abrasive textures are unique and frequently unattributable. Ceccarelli’s beats relate as often to tuned gamelan orchestra resonations or intermittent percussion pulses as to unyielding steady timekeeping. Meanwhile the preparation and processes appended by the string players mask their instruments’ imme-diate identity as well as appending reed-like vibratos and electronic oscillations to the program.

To get an idea of the trio’s range compare Shuffle Stomp and Fliver Shame which follow one another on the disc. With a sound midway between a gas explosion and a runaway train, the first soars as it cunningly utilizes guitar reverb and flanges to animate the drummers’ named shuffle beat. The latter tune builds its microtonal narrative from wetted-finger slides across drum tops meeting spiccato plinks and scrubs from the strings. Spacey sideband delays presage a movie soundtrack-like theme on a track like Toss Filler Here, climaxing with a pleasant melody that eventually erupts from sluicing fiddle jumps, popping vibes-like reverberations and clacking percussion accents. As machine-processed abrasions and acoustic calmness echo through Reflective Drime, the trio reaches a gripping conclusion with the final Too Pins Over. Consisting of Lyricon-like peeps and processed tremolo lines, no particular instrument predominates so that the opaque spellbinding drone appears unyielding and infinite until without warning it halts.
Overall, the improvisers who make up Subtle Lip Can create music that’s as inimitable as the band’s name.


04_Jazz_04_LiteraCD003.jpgLiteral Lateral
Crofts - Adams - Pearse + Hemingway
SuddenlyLISTEN (suddenlylisten.com)

Review

Adding just enough emphasis to boost this free-flowing program to an elevated plane is American drummer Gerry Hemingway. That’s because the monumental sound infrastructure already launched by the Halifax-based trio of pianist Tim Crofts, cellist Norman Adams and bassist Lukas Pearce needs only supplementary foundation work not rococo decorations. One of the most in-demand percussionists internationally, conversant in jazz, notated and free music, Hemingway arrives with the appropriate tools, knowing exactly when either earth-moving crunches or subdued tapping is appropriate. Pillars of suddenlyLISTEN, the Nova Scotia capital’s creative music hub, Crofts, Adams and Pearce have played with many non-Maritimers developing a distinctive sound.

On Literal Laterals nine tracks the string players are so assured that on a track such as Pre-Reveal the expected chordal textures are boosted by others which sound as if they’re being powerfully strummed from a 12-string guitar or finessed by Delta bottleneck picking. Meantime Hemingway angles cymbal clanks and Pearce thumps a low-pitched ostinato beside them. The bassist’s pizzicato double stops, col legno pops or spiccato pulses consistently add nec-essary ballast to many tracks, especially on Shard Work that begins with such a deep-seated string buzz that it could be a blast from a tuba. Urged to a buoyant clip by bell-hammering, that performance also includes a full-out swing sec-tion initiated by the pianist and underlined by poised cello sweeps.

Nevertheless passages that resemble angular modern jazz are no more prominent than what could be seen as through-composed New Music motifs. Many compositional and improvisational sequences are pressed into use throughout to ensure the music flows appropriately and chromatically. In fact Beacon vs Lure, the CD’s longest and most defining track, wraps those influences into an interface that also finds space for atonal, electro-acoustic buzzes and whistles, rumbling piano glissandi plus a smoothly romantic cello line. Building to a crescendo of crossing and echoing tones, Crofts’ steeplechasing across the keys leads to a narrowed satisfying conclusion.

Literal Lateral could be the most winning American-Maritime connection since the United Empire Loyalists moved north more than two centuries ago.

Concert Note: Crofts - Adams - Pearse + Hemingway are at The Rex April 5.

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Nested Boxing

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Major improvisers from elsewhere frequently play Toronto, but not as often do they appear with an all-star lineup. That’s what happens on April 29 when alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s Snakeoil is in concert at the Music Gallery. Berne, who has been on the cutting edge of advanced jazz for 30-odd years, arrives with three younger players who have distinguished themselves on the New York scene: fellow reedist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. This being the 21st century and past the age of consistently working groups, each – including Berne – is involved in many other projects.

Waxman_01_T-Duality.jpgAs one instance of sampling skills in another context, consider T-Duality (Auand Records AU 9041 auand.com). Although leader, erudite Italian drummer Ananda Gari wrote all seven tracks, he’s backed by three Americans: bassist Michael Formanek, guitarist Rez Abbasi and Berne. Confident enough of his skills that he confines his solo fireworks to Fields – which include no drum bludgeoning but many ratamacue slaps plus refined cymbal clatter – Gari frames the others’ playing with supportive beats. Additionally egged on by Formanek’s buzzing bass line, frontliners Abbasi and Berne carve unique geometric patterns out of the drummer’s compositions. Capable of harsh double-stopping runs, the guitarist’s ringing lines are more often fully developed harmonically such as on Last Drops, where when twinned with Berne’s glissandi they could be setting up I Cover the Waterfront. However, Gari’s Mylar pressure plus the saxman’s twittering slides confirm that this isn’t the familiar ballad. Berne’s cascading puffs also colour the stop-time Never Late when his lowing brightness pulls out the theme atop Formanek’s strummed bass lines. Clattering drum ruffs plus walking bass clobbers set up Don’t Forget to Pet Your Cat, as a blues, until Berne’s plush mellowness knifes upwards to poignant screech tones, with the theme tossed back and forth between reed bites and linear horn-like motions from the guitarist. Then on the extended Are You Kidding Me the alto man distends and deconstructs the theme with riffing melismatic slurs and tonal sky rockets, urged on by Gari’s hard thumps and crying string bends.

Waxman_02_Orphic_Machine.jpgBerne isn’t Snakeoil’s only attraction however. Drummer Smith is at home in genres from ProgRock to melodic jazz. One facet of his talent is aptly demonstrated on Orphic Machine (BAG Productions BAG 007 bagproductionrecords.com), where his subtle yet driving rhythms underline the music clarinetist Ben Goldberg composed to interpret ten of Allen Grossman’s poems. With a driving nine-piece band amplifying violinist Carla Kihlstedt’s verbalization of the poetry, Smith’s responses are generic to mood maintenance. His heavy beat matched with Greg Cohen’s bass on the title tune casts into bolder relief pianist Myra Melford’s gorgeously constructed piano intro which provokes the harmonic melding of lyrical clarinet breaths and the words’ skewed imagery. Meanwhile, his slide from the opening martial beat which confirms the solipsistic words of Immortality (“the function of poetry is to obtain for everyone one kind of success”) to repetitive judicious taps, provides a contrast to the violin’s and piano’s vocal backing and a framework within which Rob Sudduth’s tough tenor saxophone and Goldberg’s melancholy clarinet echo one another’s lines. In the meantime Smith’s crackling cymbal rhythms on one hand and suggestions of conga resonation on the other during What Was That, confirm the cool jazz mood otherwise expressed by Ron Miles’ lyrical muted trumpet and the clarinetist’s reed slides. Of course Goldberg’s arrangements and the others’ contributions are as responsible for the CD’s achievement as Smith. How else to explain the exhilaration that results from a piece like Care? Mixing Kihlstedt’s high-pitched vocalization with rugged twangs from guitarist Nels Cline plus matching vibes resonation with Goldberg’s swing era-like trills expands the piece to such an extent that the exposition splits into parallel lines. Cascading horn pumps provide the rhythm; connective strings the melody; and additional shading comes from Kenny Wollesen’s chime ringing. Nonetheless, cementing the parts together is Smith’s unforced beat.

Waxman_03_Sonic_Halo.jpgWith Berne and Noriega, pianist Mitchell demonstrates his skill working with two powerful reed voices and he fulfills a similar function on Sonic Halo (Challenge Records CR 73370 challengerecords.com). Here though it’s Tineke Postma from the Netherlands and American Greg Osby, both playing alto and soprano saxophones, with bassist Linda Oh and drummer Dan Weiss completing the quintet. Modern mainstream, the compositions are divided between the two horn players who likewise have similar tones. With perceptive intensity and moderated timbres, the pianist seconds both saxophonists, feeding them peppy phrases or comping decisively to extend the dynamic flow. The pattern is set on tunes such as Source Code where Mitchell’s outpouring of measured timbres underlines the initial duple-metre expansion from the soprano saxophone, and keeps the theme grounded as the alto saxophone adds an edgy slant. Operating from his instrument’s lowest register, the pianist’s perceptive swing reintroduces and reinforces the head even as reeds double tongue and drums crash. His polished harmonies don’t stand in the way of Mitchell contributing a hard-hitting pulse that locks in with Weiss’ roughest ruffs on Nine Times a Night. His heightened cross chords and the drummer’s hard rolls put into starker relief how the upfront horns vibrate the high-pitched theme in unison, moving chromatically a half step apart. Other tracks such as Melo are pleasant interludes with walking bass, rattling drums and swelling piano tones introducing an effervescent tune eventually toughened by sharp soprano bites. Glissandi and note torrents characterize Pleasant Affliction, the concluding piece which gives Mitchell the most scope to range over the keyboard with sparkling intensity, but never to the extent that Postma or Osby are overshadowed or outplayed. The ending links one altoist’s warm flutter tonguing with the piano’s key-clicking echoes.

Waxman_04_Skiki.jpgBesides seconding Berne as clarinetist in Snakeoil, Noriega has distinguished himself in larger bands such as pianist Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra New York. On Shiki (Libra Records 215-036), his lead alto saxophone work helps direct the ever-shifting background that the pianist has arranged for her sophisticated compositions. It’s he who likely participates in the reed slurs and brass mouthpiece kisses that characterize Gen Himmel, a melancholy tune Fujii wrote honouring a deceased bassist, which is otherwise driven by quasi-military pacing from drummer Aaron Alexander and funeral cries from trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, who, along with Fujii, was the bassist’s band mate. Although no soloists are listed, it’s likely Tamura, playing an open horn, fellow trumpeter Herb Robertson, muted, and the modern gutbucket style of trombonist Joe Fiedler who are the soloists on the title tune, a multi-part, 36-minute opus. Weaving among swelling reed buzzes and brass whimpers, the soloists, including tough snorts from tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Ellery Eskelin echo and compound passing tones until place-marking crescendos are reached. With Alexander’s chunky and hard-hitting beats and Stomu Takeishi’s sometime slap-bass accents providing unvarnished swing beneath them, space is left for almost-vocalized trombone slur, plunger trumpet blasts and corkscrew vibrations from one of the saxophonists. With the sequences knit into undulating whole cloth by Fujii’s talents, the track finally subsides into a balladic mode led by Andy Laster’s baritone saxophone plus tremolo grace notes from the seven brass players. Warming and downshifting textures finally usher in a finale of balanced grace notes.

Each member of Snakeoil has been proven to be a distinct stylist in different circumstances. Seeing them interact should be fascinating and instructive.

Concert Note: Tim Berne’s Snakeoil with Oscar Noriega, Matt Mitchell and Ches Smith appear at the Music Galley April 29. Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston are at the same venue April 24.


Broomer_01_Reg_Schwager.jpgPerfection isn’t usually in the equation for jazz recordings, but guitarist Reg Schwager’sDelphinus (Rant 1447, nette.ca/jazzfromrant) comes very close, with a balance of polish, spontaneity and depth of expression. Schwager draws much of his inspiration from Northern climes (the same that feed the aesthetic of ECM records), evident on the opening Resolute (named for the Nunavut town) and the title track (named for a Northern constellation) and reaching its apotheosis on The Lonesome Scenes of Winter, a stunning treatment of a strongly modal folk ballad. Schwager’s music is filled with the crystalline clarity and bright highs of sunlight glancing off ice and starlight far from cities, and it extends to the rest of his quartet, pianist Don Thompson, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Michel Lambert, a group that can move comfortably from Jerome Kern’s They Didn’t Believe Me to the free jazz of Schwager’s Four Eyes.

Broomer_02_cluttertones_ordinary_joy_001.jpgBassist Rob Clutton stands out for the breadth of his affiliations, working regularly from the mainstream (pianist Steve Koven’s trio) through free jazz (Drumheller) to experimental electronica (Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot). He’s also a highly creative bandleader when he assumes the role, amalgamating elements of free improvisation, electronica and folk music. They’re all evident on The Cluttertones’ Ordinary Joy (Healing Power Records HPR#30 healingpowertoronto.bandcamp.com), sometimes on a single track. Working with longtime associates Allemano on trumpet; Ryan Driver on analog synthesizer, piano and voice (a reedy high tenor reminiscent of Robert Wyatt’s); and Tim Posgate on guitar and banjo, Clutton composes pieces that begin with the improbable and sometimes approach the uncanny, strange states of musical mind in which the heterodox elements seem to tune calmly to a new standard. The nine-minute Agosto is a fine example, Clutton’s warm, springy, lyrical pizzicato blending through and linking the divergent impulses of banjo, trumpet and synth.

Review

Broomer_03_EvidenceTheloniousMonk_MonkWork.jpgMonk WorkÉvidence (Ambiances Magnétiques AM 218 ambiancesmagnetiques.com). The compositions of Thelonious Monk represent a unique body of work in the jazz canon, pieces that have been explored repeatedly by musicians from mainstream to avant-garde, many finding something new in Monk’s quirky puzzles of rhythm and harmony. Among the most dedicated advocates is the Quebec trio Évidence, consisting of electric bassist Pierre Cartier, saxophonist Jean Derome and drummer Pierre Tanguay who together have been exploring Monk’s music since 1985, and who in 2014 interpreted his complete works in a three-day Montreal marathon. Évidence brings its own voice to this selection, mixing and matching the familiar and obscure in Monk’s repertoire. Stylistically Évidence invokes another master, Ornette Coleman, with Derome developing a similar lyricism while the rhythm section work masterfully through the kind of flexible, sprung rhythms that distinguished Coleman’s early work. Derome plays baritone on Coming on the Hudson with a wry wit akin to Monk’s own, while Cartier maintains fluid rhythm and Tanguay sustains the mood with light, crisp, animating brushwork. Derome’s vocalic alto comes to the fore in the fine three-way dialogue of Skippy.

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Bright_Mississippi

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Jackie-ing

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Dreamland

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Broomer_04_Kirk_MacDonald.jpgKirk MacDonald is a powerhouse tenor saxophonist whose mature style matches fierce rhythmic drive with focussed emotion and the sound of controlled aggression. His latest CD, Vista Obscura (Addo Records AJR025, addorecords.com), is a career high, winner of the 2015 JUNO award for Jazz Album of the Year, Solo. It presents MacDonald with the stellar rhythm section of bassist Neil Swainson and drummer André White, veteran American pianist Harold Mabern adding a special drive to the proceedings as well as his own animated solos. The CD is largely focused around MacDonald’s effective originals, but there’s also a special dimension to the set. Every September, MacDonald and fellow tenor saxophonist Pat LaBarbera pay homage to John Coltrane’s genius at Toronto’s Rex Jazz and Blues Bar. Here MacDonald opens with an intense, faster-than-usual trip through Trane’s Lonnie’s Lament; LaBarbera joins him for three tunes here: one is a brilliant extended version of Naima, Coltrane’s best-known ballad, entirely worthy of the Coltrane legacy.

MacDonald and LaBarbera (along with Mike Murley and Perry White) have long set a standard for mainstream Toronto tenor saxophonists – as educators as well as performers – and the legacy is evident in two very different players who have recently emerged. Dave Neill and Johnny Griffith are both graduates of the Master of Jazz Performance program at the University of Toronto (where Murley teaches), and both teach at Toronto’s Humber College.


Review

Broomer 05 Daylight 001Dave Neill’s Daylight (On the Fly Records OTF112844, daveneill.ca) is marked by his distinctive, warm, round sound, thoughtful solos and compositions, developing a reflective, almost orchestral sound with his quintet. He’s used the same rhythm section since his 2008 debut, the fine combination of pianist David Braid, bassist Pat Collins and drummer Anthony Michelli, adding trombonist Terry Promane here. Neill has creatively shaped the session with four brief variations of his Thelonious Monk-like The Day Savers, played in duet with Braid and interspersed throughout the program. He also includes pieces by Promane and Braid, outstanding composers/arrangers of improvisation-friendly music. Braid’s Red Hero is a powerful, elegiac work that matches the depth of Kenny Wheeler and Gil Evans, a distinctive tradition with a strong Canadian component.

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Rogue Agent

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Short Changed

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Warrior Of Circumstance

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Review

 

Broomer 06 Johnny GriffithFor all the similarities, Johnny Griffith sounds very different on Dance with the Lady (GB Records johnnygriffith.com). He’s a more kinetic player, far less deliberate, pushing toward a raw expressionist edge, showing affinities with John Coltrane and the ancestral energies of rhythm & blues. He shares the front line with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, a star in the New York mainstream firmament. It can be risky, but it works here, with Pelt, pianist Adrean Ferrugia, bassist John Maharaj and drummer Ethan Ardelli making consistently lively, well executed music. The menacingly themed The Kuleshascope is a highlight, with Griffith pressing further and further out. 

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The Zissou Predicament

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Princess Aura Goes to Phrygia

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The Mile Walk

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01_Monica_Chapman.jpgP.S. I Love You
Monica Chapman; William Sperandei
LME Records 6 79444 20020 0 (monicachapman.net)

With P.S. I Love You, talented vocalist Monica Chapman presents an engaging collection of material that is both nostalgic and romantic, but with a discernably sensual and torrid blues sensibility. She has surrounded herself with intuitive musical collaborators, including JUNO-winning producer/pianist Bill King, whose innovative arrangements (as well as his piano work) really define this well-conceived project. Other first-call musicians include Dave Young on bass, Nathan Hiltz on guitar, Mark Kelso on drums and featured guest, William Sperandei on trumpet.

First up is Irving Berlin’s Tin Pan Alley hit, I Love a Piano, which sets the stylistic tone and is sung with the rarely performed verse, which then segues into a funky chitlin’ circuit jam, replete with a burning hot trumpet solo from Sperandei. The title track is the rarely performed Gordon Jenkins/Johnny Mercer ballad, which was most notably recorded by the incomparable Billie Holiday. In Chapman’s interpretation she has captured an appropriately ironic, bittersweet subtext while clinging to the beauty of the melodic line and lyrical intent.

Of special note is another Berlin tune, Shaking the Blues Away, which is perhaps most recognized as the four-alarm number performed by Ann Miller in MGM’s classic movie musical Easter Parade – cleverly delivered here with a spicy Louisiana roadhouse feel and lusciously languid vocals. A real treat (and slightly forward in the timeline) is Lionel Bart’s theme from the 1963 James Bond flick, From Russia with Love, which is perfectly arranged for Chapman’s luscious voice in a pure, classic jazz mode. This CD is a stunner, and a wonderful follow up to Chapman’s 2014 debut CD.

Concert Note: Monica Chapman launches P.S. I Love You at Lulu Lounge on April 24. Dinner reservations recommended.

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02_Ornette_Coleman.jpgNew Vocabulary
Ornette Coleman
System Dialing SDR #009 (systemdialingrecords.com)

Maverick as he has been throughout his career, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who personifies experimental jazz and won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2007, has released a new disc with little fanfare. Recorded in 2009, Coleman’s first CD since 2006, and first studio session since 1996, New Vocabulary doesn’t feature the acoustic two-basses-and-drums quartet with which the reedist has been touring for a decade. Instead Coleman improvises alongside trumpeter and electronic manipulator Jordan McLean, drummer Amir Ziv, and, on three of the 12 tracks, pianist Adam Holzman. Although his name is neither on the cover nor attributed on the un-credited songs, the idiosyncratic titles are classic Coleman-speak.

Just as the alto saxophonist defined free jazz in the late 1950s and jazz-funk fusion in the 1980s, he easily adapts to the centrality of processed wave forms plus chunky percussion beats. Significantly, his barbed but effervescent reed tone is as individual, staccato and pointed as ever. Accordingly, tunes such as H2O and The Idea Has No Destiny clearly demonstrate how cymbal cracks and fierce wide smacks plus disintegrating brass oscillations can lock in with reed brays. The result leads to elaborate spherical timbres that reach pressurized summits then coalesce joyously. With calculated chording, Holzman’s harmonies add another dimension. That means a track such as Value and Knowledge reaches a luminous climax that folds trumpet splats, drum corps rat-tat-tats and rubato piano lines into an infectious near dance beat. Finally, Gold is God’s Sex, the CD’s climactic last track, demonstrates how feverish keyboard tolling plus revved-up reed bites can tame washes of menacing electronics.

Since Coleman’s playing is oblique but decisively melodic, New Vocabulary is a disc that’s convivial as well as challenging. Plus it shows that Coleman’s authentic ideas can convincingly adapt to and be adopted by any number of undogmatic musicians.

 


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