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.

 


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:
matt.sellick@gmail.com.

 

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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.

 

Author: Andrew Timar
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