06 Pot Pourri 02 The FabulistThe Fabulist
Colin Maier
Independent CMCD 002 (colinmaier.com)

Currently best known as the oboist with Quartetto Gelato, Canada’s popular classical touring ensemble, Colin Maier is a man of formidable talents that go far beyond playing the oboe. Remember the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics of 2010? Maier was the guy playing violin in the flying canoe. Having performed as an actor, dancer, stuntman, martial artist and acrobat, what first brought him to the Toronto area was a gig as a hobbit in the stage production of Lord of the Rings. The Fabulist is Maier’s second solo CD and an absolute delight on so many levels. Displaying flawless technique, Maier is not only a master of the oboe but also plays a staggering number of other instruments on this recording, including woodwinds, strings, strummed instruments, percussion and musical saw. And he also sings!

This recording is sheer fun – the choice of repertoire indicates that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet there is nothing amateurish about it at all, except in the true meaning of the word! This labour of love is evident throughout the mish-mash of genres; there are a couple of classical pieces for oboe (the beautiful Poulenc sonata and a showy movement by Pasculli). The rest is a bit of jazz, Celtic, some commissions by young Canadian composers and tunes by Richard Rogers and Cape Breton singer-songwriter Buddy MacDonald. Maier is accompanied by pianist and recording engineer Mark Camilleri, his colleagues from Quartetto Gelato and others, including himself; most remarkable is the final piece from which the CD takes its title, by Rebecca Pellett, in which Maier is literally his own orchestra, playing 13 instruments via the wonders of multi-track recording. This must have taken hours to produce, but I’ll bet it was fun!

 

If the darkness of winter is getting you down, drop everything right now and buy this CD! It is guaranteed to make you smile. To learn more about Maier, visit his website, colinmaier.com.

06 Pot Pourri 03 Matt SellickAfter Rain
Matt Sellick
Independent (itunes.apple.com/ca/album/after-rain/id930972312)

After Rain is a very interesting new CD from the Thunder Bay guitarist and composer Matt Sellick. There’s no bio or recording information included, but his Facebook page notes that he has been playing guitar since the age of eight (he’s now 20) and moved through several styles from electric to classical before developing a passion for flamenco guitar.

In the brief notes on the CD digi-pack Sellick says that he plays a flamenco guitar, uses flamenco techniques and uses flamenco song forms as the starting point for his compositions. That should give you a pretty good idea of what his music sounds like: Sellick displays a solid technical base and a good tone, and the nine pieces here are entertaining and creative, with some nice effects and interesting harmonies. Track titles include: Drink From the Fountain; Allons-y!; In the Rain; A Beautiful Day; and For Paco, presumably a tribute to Paco de Lucía, one of Sellick’s admitted influences. Callejón Aynadamar is an excellent solo track (you can watch a performance on YouTube) but the other eight tracks include rhythm and percussion backing and possibly other guitars, although it’s not clear who – if it isn’t Sellick – provides these.

Sellick is clearly a very talented and creative young musician. He admits that he doesn’t know precisely what kind of music he writes, but says that “it’s music I want to share, and I hope it’s music you will enjoy.” Well, mission accomplished!

The tracks are available for download on iTunes as noted above, or you can contact Sellick for a hard-copy:
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06 Pot Pourri 04 Monsoon MandalaMandala: The Cosmos Is Their Oyster
Monsoon
Independent (monsoon-music.com)

Another Kickstarter album success story, Monsoon’s Mandala was successfully funded through the crowdfunding platform, though there is also an OAC logo on the tri-fold’s back cover. The result is the Toronto-based group’s debut studio album, featuring assured performances captained by the sax, clarinet and bansuri (North Indian flute)-playing brothers Jonathan and Andrew Kay, and bassist Justin Gray. Leading Canadian advocates of Indo-jazz, in 2007 they organized the Toronto International Indo-Jazz Festival, the first in the nation.

The Kay brothers set the tone throughout the album with post-bop jazz modal expositions, revealing imaginative and moody compositions on which the performances hang. Their melodic solos and duos are imbued with characteristic Hindustani ornament and idiomatic gestures inherent to raga, derived from indigenous South Asian dhrupad and khyal music genres. These are aided in no small degree by Ravi Naimpally’s solid tala structures, grooves and solos on the tabla.

On the jazz side of the equation Adam Teixeira (drum set), Todd Pentney (keyboards), percussionist Derek Gray and Justin Gray on various basses securely support the Kays’ wind excursions. Justin Gray in particular shines on the evocative bass veena – a specially fabricated Canadian hybrid electric plucked bass string instrument – which in his hands swings admirably in both westward and eastward directions.

The veteran Toronto bassist and producer George Koller receives studio session producer credits; no doubt his seasoned affiliation with both jazz and Hindustani music is a key reason for the overall success of Mandala. In the end, what’s particularly notable is how gracefully all concerned integrate the North Indian and jazz elements into a refreshingly upbeat listening experience.

 

06 Pot Pourri 05 Pierre et le LoupPierre et le Loup… et le jazz
Daniel Lavoie; Amazing Keystone Big Band
Chant du Monde CME 274 2255

In a French version by Renaud de Jouvenel, arranged for orchestra by Bastien Ballaz, Jon Boutellier and Frédéric Nardin, this marvellous rendition stays loyal to Sergei Prokofiev’s wonderful musical story Peter and the Wolf while introducing listeners to big band music and the history of jazz.

The instruments you hear are different than what you’re used to – the oboe, clarinet and bassoon are replaced by saxophones for example. From Harlem to New Orleans, piano stride, free jazz, blues, bebop and jazz rock – it’s all here.

Popular Canadian singer Daniel Lavoie gives a crisp narration that quickly absorbs listeners even if they have a very limited knowledge of French. Pierre/Peter, oiseau/bird, canard/duck, chat/cat, loup/wolf, Grand-père/Grandpa, chasseurs/hunters – you’re all set. Read along in the beautiful booklet illustrated by Martin Jarrie for added comprehension.

When the story is done you’ll hear over 20 minutes of further variations on the theme. Soulful Cat, Elegy for a Duck, Grandpa’s Shuffle, to name but a few. The Amazing Keystone Big Band really is amazing.

The clarity of this recording makes it a delight to hear. This creative arrangement of a familiar tale is a welcome addition to the jazz family.

 

06 Pot Pourri 01 Canadian Brass ChinaGreat Wall of China
Canadian Brass
Opening Day ODR 7433

Having listened to recordings of the Canadian Brass for many years, I was sure that this CD would be in the same style as previous recordings. Not so. While it has all of the performance polish that is the hallmark of this group, there is a big difference. None of the music is familiar. All 18 tracks are adaptations of Chinese music. First time through I simply sat back and listened from beginning to end. In a few words: It is delightfully listenable.

Since there are no program notes, I was at a bit of a loss as to where to start to obtain information on the selections. Taking the bull by the horns, I called both Howard Cable (who wrote nine of the eighteen adaptations) and Chuck Daellenbach, the founder and tubist of the group. The selections are called “adaptations” because the original material was received as recordings on original Chinese instruments which were then adapted for performance in the brass quintet.

As Daellenbach pointed out, just as the day-to-day life in China has evolved due to Western influence, so has Chinese music. From soft melodies like The Moon Represents My Heart which features the trombone in a jazz style and a very melodic tuba passage to Catching Butterflies While Picking Tea with its definite Chinese flavour and amazing ending, or the lullaby-like sensitivity of Colourful Clouds Chasing the Moon, it’s a new musical experience. In particular, Daellenbach’s sensitive melodic tuba is a joy rarely heard. This CD should be added to the listening material for the classes of instrumental music teachers to show students the range of subtleties and colours achievable with brass instruments in the right hands.

 

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