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
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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.

 

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02_Shirley_Eikhard.jpgMy Day in the Sun
Shirley Eikhard
Independent SEM2014 (shirleyeikhard.ca)

Shirley Eikhard is one of the most significant, contemporary singer/songwriter/composers that Canada has ever produced. She has created hit songs for a variety of international artists – blurring the lines between musical genres and embracing elements of country, blues, pop and soul. Eikhard’s Grammy-winning song Something to Talk About became a megahit for the incomparable Bonnie Raitt and she has also penned material for such diverse artists as Rita Coolidge, Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris, Cher and Chet Atkins. Eikhard’s latest project, My Day in the Sun, is rife with her trademark lyrical and melodic skill. Each track is an original Eikhard composition, and a synesthetic treat – in other words, a satisfying delight for the head, heart, eyes, ears and spirit.

The Reggae/Ska-influenced opener Pray for Rain features clever multi-tracked vocals (as well as an appropriate Farfisa-like keyboard patch), and sets the stylistic tone for the entire CD on which Eikhard not only sings all the parts but also plays all the instruments. Her rich, warm, alto voice easily wraps itself around the soulful, rhythmic tracks and effortlessly imbues each song with her distinctive lyrical poetry and profound emotional content. The title track explores her very personal journey as a mature artist… a journey that has not only wended its way through a long and meaningful career, but a career that is as artistically relevant now as it has ever been. It is a joy to hear Eikhard singing in her own, authentic voice – with more than a little positivity, power and truth (elements often lacking in today’s simplistic pop tunes). Of particular note is What Could Have Been – an anthem about putting the past in perspective and moving ahead into a joyous future.

 

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06 Pot Pourri 01 Mike HerriottOff the Road
Mike Herriott; Arturo Sandoval
MHP Records MHPR1301
(mikeherriott.com)

Although perhaps best known as a classical trumpeter who extends into a number of milieus, Mike Herriott is also a multi-gifted, multi-instrumentalist who regularly acquits himself brilliantly on trumpet, French horn, trombone, electric and acoustic bass, piano, percussion and more. On Off the Road, Herriott has utilized a melange of styles, approaches and instrumentations – blurring the lines between jazz, classical, rock and Latin musics. Not quite a one-man-band, Herriott’s talented support on the CD includes percussionist Richard Moore, guitarist Sean Harkness and Canadian Brass trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos, as well as his special guest – iconic Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. Herriott contributes the bulk of the compositions here, with additional material from the eclectic likes of Pete Townsend of The Who, J. S. Bach and 18th-century composer Gottfried Reiche.

Prepare to be thrilled from the solo trumpet opener Abblasen Fanfare, through the stirring, swinging, bop-infused Dear John (a Freddie Hubbard tune, featuring Sandoval), to the final selection – Herriott’s incisive take on Bach’s Adagio, Sonata in G Minor for Solo Violin (performed on trumpet, of course!).

Other complex and challenging gems include the plaintive Stay Thirsty, My Friend (a tribute to his dear friend Alex Mitchell); the cinematic opus Home Suite Home (featuring the exceptional drumming/percussion of Moore) and the Latin cooker, Cancion de Kyra (with some face-melting guitar work from Harkness). Off the Road is not only an immense technical achievement, but the work of a deeply emotional artist clearly at the apex of his creativity and skill.

 

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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.


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