01_Eliza_Pope.jpgCall Me a Fool
Eliza Pope
Independent (elizapope.com)

Review

Talented vocalist and songwriter Eliza Pope’s debut CD is a delightful potpourri of re-conceptualized Broadway show tunes, jazz standards and original compositions. The project was co-produced by Pope and yeoman keyboardist/arranger Mark Kieswetter, who also performs magnificently on the CD. To say the least, this recording is an auspicious opening salvo for an emerging artist.

Included is a soulful take on Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s 1939 Oscar-winner Over the Rainbow. Kieswetter’s contemporary chord substitutions are the perfect complement to Pope’s tasty vocal line. With facile use of her head voice, Pope soars delicately over, around and above the well-known melody, pushing it right into 2015. Also of note is the jaunty Depression-era original Where Will I Find Love, which evokes a historical mode without becoming derivative of it – no easy task! Eric St. Laurent’s well-placed acoustic guitar work is exceptional on this track, calling to mind a young Charlie Christian. Another fine original is Try, which explores a more pop-oriented aspect of Pope’s versatile vocal and writing style.

A standout is Feeling Good, penned by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for their hit Broadway show, The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd. Pope makes wonderful use of her lower register here, and resists the temptation to convert this tune into an overwrought cabaret anthem. Pope also displays her ability to swing, with a thoroughly delightful rendition of Fats Waller’s Crazy ’Bout My Baby. Noted bassist Ross MacIntyre provides the necessary backbone here, and truly shines on this groovy cooker. Of particular beauty is the gorgeous ballad Little Girl Blue, written by Rogers and Hart for the 1935 Broadway musical Jumbo and rendered by Pope with the full intent of the genius composers firmly in place.

Listen

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Video

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

For a list of writings by this author, click the name above
More from this author:

01_Red_Chamber.jpgGathering
Red Chamber
Za Discs N17 mei-han.com

Review

Red Chamber is not your typical Chinese string band. The Vancouver-based group has seriously eclectic, transcultural tastes. Led by the zheng scholar and virtuoso Mei Han, the group includes Guilian Liu on pipa, Zhimin Yu on zhongruan, daruan, and Geling Jiang on sanxian and zhongruan. They are all masters of their respective plucked Chinese string instruments.

Already well established as professional musicians in mainland China, these women sought a second home on Canada’s west coast where they have expanded both their careers – and ears. Mei Han reflects on this process of cultural awareness: “[As we] travelled around the world and collaborated with artists from a wide range of cultures, we have grown to become more open and aware.”

Gathering, their second album, exhibits influences of diverse musics discernable in the inclusion of instruments such as the tabla, djembe, dumbek and gong. Multiethnic melodic layers are also in ample evidence. The scores variously draw on Chinese, Arabic, West African, Klezmer, Greek, Turkish, Cape Breton and Métis sources, performed on Red Chamber’s Chinese plucked strings. The latter range from the brittle high-trilled notes of the pipa to bass daruan tones.

The album’s success owes much to Vancouver composers Moshe Denburg, John Oliver and Randy Raine-Reusch. They each contributed scores, exploring this transcultural terrain, which were then skillfully articulated and extended by the musicians. Just one example: while Ah Ya Zein, an Arabic love song arranged by Raine-Reusch, is culturally anchored by Gord Grdina’s moody oud expositions, it is MeiHan’s inspired mercurial zheng solo that provides the most unexpected musical thrill.

I saw Red Chamber live at Toronto’s Music Gallery in 2010. I was mightily impressed not only by the individual virtuosity of the musicians, but also by their tight ensemble and culturally inclusive repertoire. Until they grace a hall near you, this enjoyable record is the closest to a transnational musical Silk Road journey you can experience.

Listen

Madly Riding

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Dark Red Ruby

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Ah Ya Zein

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Video

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this player.

Author: Andrew Timar
For a list of writings by this author, click the name above
More from this author:

02_Purcells_Revenge.jpgPurcell’s Revenge – Sweeter Than Roses?
Concerto Caledonia; David McGuinness
Delphian DCD34161

Listening to this CD, I felt as though I’d mysteriously stumbled onto the playlist of a stranger who had searched using the keywords “Purcell, Scottish, early music, folk, crossover, James Oswald.” Anyone looking for multiple ways to reinvent Purcell and traditional tunes connected to him will find much to enjoy in the broad swath that this program cuts; but cohesive it’s not.

James Bowman makes a cameo appearance singing Sweeter Than Roses with viol consort, and Jim Moray sings a convincing and innocently folky Fairest Isle. Olivia Chaney’s singing in her wonderful arrangement of There’s not a swain on the plain reminds me of the great Maddy Prior; and Pamela Thorby does an excellent job of whistle-izing a recorder. The connection between Purcell’s New Scotch Tune for solo harpsichord and a hook harp version of the tune speaks elegantly for itself, as does a broken consort version of Purcell’s Fantazia 11, and there are a couple of delightful new pieces by Chaney and Ana Silvera.

But some of the other material left me cold, such as the revamp of Purcell’s Evening Hymn, the original of which is so gorgeous I don’t know why anyone would want to mess with it. Elsewhere there’s some very good harmonica playing, and “rock on” amplification, of which I’d have liked either more, or none. There’s much cleverness and musical delight here, but this particular “anything goes” program doesn’t quite satisfy.

 


05_Pot_Pourri_01_Zee.jpgZ [zee] 
Zeynep Ozbilen
Independent (zeynepozbilen.com)

Where would the 1969 Blood Sweat and Tears’ jazz fusion hit Spinning Wheel by Canadian singer David Clayton-Thomas receive a caliente Latin-inflected remake by Toronto bandleader and arranger Roberto Linares Brown (leaning heavily on the original influential Grammy Award-winning arrangement by Fred Lipsius), but infused with Turkish lyrics by the singer Zeynep Ozbilen? In Toronto, that’s where. Titled Donme Dolap, the song is among the delights of Z [zee].

While the individual tracks were recorded in cities emblematic of the music genres represented – Istanbul, Miami, NYC and Toronto – the album was produced, mixed and mastered in Toronto. I mention the geography and its implied cultural shifts because it accurately reflects the hybrid musical aesthetics and artistic ambitions of Ozbilen, aided by her producer and band leader Brown.

This album with the single consonant title (given the American pronunciation), is the newest project of Turkish-born, now Toronto-based singer and songsmith Zeynep Ozbilen. For over a decade she was the lead vocalist for the Latin All Stars, the first and best-known Latin group in Turkey. Her warm throaty alto is equally at home in jazz and musical standards as in Anatolian, Balkan and Ladino songs. The lyrics on Z [zee] underscore this multiculturalism, smoothly negotiating between Turkish, English and Spanish.

The skillful fingerprints of Roberto Linares Brown are all over the album too, infusing his knowledge of multiple Latin styles into skillful horn-rich arrangements and delivering understated keyboard performances. While not every song here will make it into my personal heavy rotation, the album as a whole encourages my hybrid musical heart to sing – and to kick off those winter boots and dance.

 

Author: Andrew Timar
For a list of writings by this author, click the name above
More from this author:

01_Blues_Violin.jpgThe Blues Violin
Lenny Solomon
Independent #301 (thebluesviolin.com)

After the international success of his show Bowfire, Lenny Solomon is returning to his roots with his newest release The Blues Violin. This JUNO Award-winning Toronto musician has built a solid reputation as a jazz violinist, though he has a lengthy classical and pop background. The music on this album journeys through different blues styles but that is not all – Lenny Solomon adds jazz, funk and rock elements with the craftsmanship of a mature artist. The rhythm section (Marc Ganetakos, guitar; Shelly Berger, bass; Mark Lalama, keyboards; Steve Heathcote, drums and percussion) provides a wonderful landscape for the savvy violin solos and shines in solos of their own. Greg Kolchinsky, who recorded and mixed this album, did a fine job bringing out the variety of electric violin sounds.

The recording opens and closes with lively jazz numbers - Jumpy gives a nod to the Jump Jive sound and features fluent violin solos and buoyant horns while Jojo, in addition to the impressive violin improvisations, offers the spotlight to the rhythm section. In between are mellow compositions such as Winter Tears and Slow Side into Blues (this one evocative of Stephane Grappelli’s style) and more animated ones – Half Full Blue, with its majestic opening and a rock beat, and Spooky Blues, with clear violin lines over funk guitar. Edgar’s Blues stands out for its wah-wah violin effects – the violin sound is stimulated with electronics and controlled by the movement of the player’s foot, creating an expressive tone that mimics the human voice.

Highly recommended for escaping the winter blues.

 


Back to top