11 Shostakovich 12 15Shostakovich – Symphonies 12 & 15
BBC Philharmonic; John Storgårds
Chandos CHSA5334 (chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%205334) 

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 “The Year 1917” is dedicated to the memory of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. His intention, as he described it, was to write a symphony depicting the life of Lenin, from youth to member of the new Soviet Society. In the first movement the cellos introduce the distinctive Lenin theme we hear running throughout the symphony in one form or another. Titled Revolutionary Petrograd, it begins with the lowest strings of cello and double bass and evolves into a triumph including tympani and bass drum. Very exciting indeed! The second movement is intended to portray Razliv, Lenin’s “hideout” near St. Petersburg and we hear very sombre music underpinned with a little menace. Typical of Shostakovich. The brief third movement, Aurora, is named after the Russian battle cruiser that began the October Revolution in 1917 by firing a single blank shot at the Winter Palace. The final movement, The Dawn of Humanity, depicting life after the revolution under the guidance of Lenin, its allusions to at least a dozen other well-known works making it a complex puzzle to decipher. As expected, it ends on an exultant note.

The second work is the Symphony No.15 in A Major, Op.141. Written in 1971, in many ways this lighthearted work is his most enjoyable in my opinion. As the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This final symphony opens with quotes from the theme of The Lone Ranger (from Rossini’s William Tell) which he develops through the rest of the first movement. Many other quotes throughout the work are further orchestrated and developed by Shostakovich making this a most amusing 45 minutes. The BBC Philharmonic is in fine form under the direction of John Storgårds, who is firmly at home in this repertoire. The SACD sound is outstanding.

12 ZimmermannBernd Alois Zimmermann – Recomposed
WDR Sinfonieorchester; Heinz Holliger
Wergo WER73872 (amazon.ca/dp/B0BD2CQLGT?ref_=cb_interstitial_us_ca_desktop_unrec_referrer_google_dp_dp) 

In the context of German post-war avant-garde composition, B.A. Zimmermann was an outlier. Rising out of the chaos of the Second World War, there formed in Darmstadt a radical circle of composers who sought a total break with tradition. Zimmermann reflected these influences at times, notably so in his epic opera Die Soldaten, but stubbornly left himself open to a myriad of influences throughout his career. Consequently, he was viewed with considerable suspicion by the aesthetic hard-liners. As Heinz Holliger explains in the superb program notes accompanying these recordings, “Zimmermann had no aesthetic prejudices. This was of course born of necessity, since he had chosen to earn his money as a house composer for WDR [West German Radio], and not as a piano or composition teacher.” Following the reform of the radio network in 1947, he completed approximately 100 arrangements for live broadcasts from Cologne which until now have languished in obscurity. Now at last, his finest examples in this genre are brought back to life, interspersed with selections of his own symphonic music in performances of the highest quality.

Disc One delights with a predominantly Latin disposition, opening with Zimmerman’s major ballet work from the 1950s, Alagoana. The polytonality and overt Brazilian references à la Milhaud also bring to mind the music of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s folkloristic ballets of the 1940s, though Zimmermann’s chromaticism is considerably more advanced. Lavishly orchestrated arrangements of piano pieces by Milhaud, Villa-Lobos and Casella along with Zimmermann’s own contributions in this genre maintain the bucolic mood. We return to Europe for the closing selections, concluding with Zimmermann’s hilariously parodistic suite of Rhineland Carnival Dances.

Disc Two features Zimmermann’s affinity for Eastern European music in the form of arrangements of works by Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. Two substantial Liszt selections feature the dramatic delivery of soprano Sarah Wegener. Zimmermann’s own works include Kontraste (1953), an unashamedly tonal suite of poly-stylistic dances for an imaginary ballet, a brief and breezy Concertino (1950) for piano and orchestra on a theme of Rachmaninoff, and the revised version of his substantial orchestral Konzert (1946/49) in four movements which demonstrates at this early stage of his career the lingering influence of Hindemith.

Disc Three features a grab-bag of arrangements of pleasant tunes by Smetana, Dvořák and Kodály among others. Vater and Sohn (1938), after Paul Haletski, and Edmund Nick’s Blues (1929) in particular are graced with sophisticated orchestrations. Zimmermann’s own music again bookends the disc, pairing the 1953 version of his one movement Symphony, an expressionistic work culminating in a cataclysmic march that evokes the horrors of war (he was drafted into the Wehrmacht from 1940 to 1942), and concludes with his last work for orchestra, the brooding, blues-influenced Stille und Umkehr. This ritualistic work, obsessively centred on a recurring middle D, was composed in 1970 during his stay at a psychiatric hospital. Plagued by recurring depression and rapidly deteriorating eyesight, he committed suicide later that year at the age of 52.

13 Ives ConcordCharles Ives – Concord
Phillip Bush
Neuma 169 (neumarecords.org) 

More than a century ago, a reviewer writing in Musical America described Charles Ives’ second piano sonata, Concord, as “without any doubt the most startling conglomeration of meaningless notes that we have ever seen engraved on white paper.” Completed in 1915, the piece has since come to be regarded as a remarkable example of Ives’ mature style, with each of the four movements representing American literary figures with ties to Concord, Massachusetts. Through its size, technical challenges and overall breadth it’s a far from easy composition to bring off convincingly, but American pianist Philip Bush does so admirably in this Neuma recording. 

The difficult and lengthy first two movements Emerson and Hawthorne are performed with a particular bravado, while the gentler third movement The Alcotts – an homage to the literary sisters – evokes a true sense of nostalgia. The finale, Thoreau, is the slowest movement and the use of a flute in the opening section greatly enhances the wistful, hymn-like mood. The movement ultimately builds in intensity before leading to a surprisingly serene conclusion. Once again, Bush demonstrates an impressive command of this most daunting material.

Coupled with the Concord Sonata is the set of Six Preludes for Piano Op.15 by American composer Marion Bauer written in 1922. Composed in a post-impressionist style, they form an attractive study in contrasts and are a worthy pairing with the Ives. 

Music by an established American composer and by another who perhaps deserves greater recognition – this disc should be a staple in the catalogue.

14 John CageJohn Cage – Sonatas & Interludes
Agnese Toniutti
Neuma 172 (neumarecords.org) 

On first hearing John Cage’s prepared piano, his close friend and colleague Lou Harrison is reputed to have exclaimed, “Oh dammit, I wish I’d thought of that!” With his invention Cage had created an instrument that opened the door to a new piano sound world via temporarily altering – preparing – some of the strings by strategically placing bolts, screws, rubber erasers or other objects between them. This gives each prepared string its own characteristic timbre and sound envelope, dramatically contrasting with those left unprepared.

While Bacchanale (1938-1940) was Cage’s first prepared piano composition, it took him another decade to pen his definitive work for it: the hour-long 19-movement Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48). Long viewed by the music establishment as a gimmicky outsider work, it’s become repertoire that new music pianists must reckon with. 

Italian Agnese Toniutti’s admirably sensitive Neuma Records rendition privileges rhythmic precision, a relaxed mood, in addition to a nuanced preparation of the grand piano. This produces a delightfully delicate and rich palette of dynamics, timbres and textures. I particularly enjoyed her effective evocation of a distant bass drum, buzzy gongs and the uncanny aural illusion of the sounds of a bonang and saron (respectively a gongchime and a metalophone instrument in the Javanese gamelan), interleaved with ordinary piano sounds.

There are certainly more dramatic and propulsive recorded performances of Sonatas & Interludes, such as those by (my teacher) James Tenney, Margaret Leng Tan, John Tilbury, Yuji Takahashi and others. On this album however, Toniutti makes a compelling case for a sensitive, soft-grained, quiet-leaning performance which I savoured. I think Cage would have too.

15 Lei LiangLei Liang – Hearing Landscapes/Hearing Icescapes
Lei Liang
New Focus Recordings FCR360 (newfocusrecordings.com) 

Lei Liang’s disc Hearing Landscapes/Hearing Icescapes could easily have opened with the voice of Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise as it sets off to “go where no man has ever gone before.” With a sense of deep mysticism and a philosophical and artistic leap, Liang has first pierced the celestial dome of the sky and then returned to plumb the roar of the deep. 

On the riveting works of this album the composer has created a sonic diptych that beckons the listener to traverse with him from celestial heights to oceanic depths. In the first work – Hearing Landscapes – Liang takes off from the terrestrial promontory guided by the invisible hand (brush, really) of Huang Binhong, a fin de siècle painter, whose landscapes prove inspirational. 

On the opening movement of the work the composer also gives wing to a Chinese folk song sung by the celebrated Zhu Zhonglu from Qinghai, in Northwestern China. The mournful lyric gives way to the jagged soundscape of electronics, becoming eerily speech-like at one point in the second movement, ultimately evaporating by the end of the final part of the work. 

Liang, though, is far from done and the album continues in the raspy rustling of Hearing Icescapes, constructed around field recordings made literally 300 metres below the surface of the Chuckchi Sea north of Alaska. On paper this sounds impenetrable. Nevertheless, the performance of the whole score carries its powerful physical weight, obviating the necessity of narrative clarity.

Listen to 'Hearing Landscapes/Hearing Icescapes' Now in the Listening Room

16 Steve Reich 18 MusiciansSteve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians
Colin Currie Group; Synergy Vocals
Colin Currie Records CCF0006 (colincurriegroup.com/the-music) 

Minimalist music is a late arrival. We owe Steve Reich a debt of gratitude for freeing our ears of the tired refrains of the past. And just in time. Alex Ross recently wrote that Max Richter’s exhalations “exude a gentle fatalism, a numbed acquiescence. Don’t worry, be pensive.” But where Richter’s music lulls, Reich’s stimulates. While we refer to Music for 18 Musicians as minimalist, it certainly doesn’t bear easy reductive analysis. There’s a LOT going on, and on, and on, the timing of the changes cunningly satisfying our love of regularity. Reich’s own breakdown of the piece is included in the liner notes, an additional treasure, a revelation of his process.

What to say about the playing and the production values? Both sound great in my headset, where it seems like they belong. Instruments and voices ranged about me, colours pass by on parade. I would love to hear this live, but I’d be distracted thinking about how tired the players are halfway through the 14 subparts, which run nonstop for just over an hour. I’d be envious, too, wanting to be up there working in the same groove. And no doubt I’d have a crush on at least one of the vocalists way sooner than half-way.

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 2022, Swingle-y sung by Synergy Vocals and battened down by the Colin Currie Group, there must be at LEAST 18 of them, just going for it. Put it on and forget it. Waltz through the chores and cares, in time and rhythm, see if you don’t feel better about the dusting or the sorting of the laundry. Or if you have the luxury of leisure, put it on and slip into couch-lock mode: be massaged, be refitted, recreated. Let the shifting shades and steady pulse iron out the folds in your psyche. Go about your day, propelled and sustained.

01 Emilie Claire BarlowSpark Bird
Emilie-Claire Barlow
Empress Music (emilieclairebarlow.com)

One of the first delights of many upon opening Emilie-Claire Barlow’s latest album, is the care that’s gone into the design. For those of us who yearn for the days of physical CDs and LPs, Spark Bird delivers with a full package, including charming illustrations by Caroline Brown.  

The second thing that struck me was what a happy album Spark Bird is. For a project that was mostly produced during a pandemic, one might expect a little less joy. But it seems that spending a large part of her time on the west coast of Mexico enabled Barlow to slow down, listen and be inspired by the nature around her. This gorgeous ode to our bird friends is the result. 

The opening tune, Over the Rainbow, with Barlow’s warm, flawless vocals, feels like comfort food in musical form. Drawing on the maestro of joy, Stevie Wonder, and samba-fying Bird of Beauty, is inspired.

Even the melancholic moments can be uplifting when they’re as musical as Skylark, the Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer classic. The arrangement is a masterclass in how to reharmonize interestingly without venturing too far from the original. Credit for it goes to Reg Schwager (Barlow’s long-time collaborator and guitarist) and Steve Webster (who mixed and mastered the album) as well as Barlow herself. Coldplay’s heartbreaker, O, is no less masterfully rendered, courtesy of Amanda Tosoff’s piano playing and arranging, Drew Jureka’s strings and Rachel Therrien’s haunting trumpet solo. 

It’s been five years since Barlow graced us with an album, but she’s been anything but idle. As head of her own record label, Empress Music, plus half of the duo, Bocana, that’s been steadily releasing singles, Barlow is a busy lady. So, as terrible as a worldwide health crisis is, the fact that it enabled artists to slow down, smell the roses – and listen to the birds – is something for which we can be grateful. 

02 Jane BunnettPlaying With Fire
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
Linus Entertainment 270788 (janebunnett.com) 

Innovative and consummate reed player Jane Bunnett has long been considered an unofficial Canadian Jazz Ambassador – particularly with regard to her deep relationship with Cuba and its music. The founding of Maqueque, a burning, all-female ensemble, occurred a decade ago, following a jam session in Havana with an array of talented, musician/composers and graduates of the Cuban Conservatory. The seasoned, award-winning group has travelled the world, and now includes vocalist Joanna Majoko from Zimbabwe, as well as artists from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Spain and Lebanon. Produced by Larry Cramer, this latest release is beyond stunning.

First up is Human Race (Bunnett/Grantis), a solid groove replete with a facile soprano solo from Bunnett and fine support from bassist Tailin Marrero and Donna Grantis on electric guitar. A standout track is Bud Powell’s Tempus Fugit, featuring pianist Dánae Olano as well as gymnastic vocal scat sections from Majoko and Bunnett on flute. The lighter-than-air Daniela’s Theme, composed by and featuring Olano on piano, with her sister Daniela on violin, also includes a fine group vocal accenting traditional rhythmic motifs. Turquesa/Turquoise (Bunnett/Grantis) is a percussive, vocal and lyrical tour de force replete with another fine solo/call and response between Bunnett and Majoko.

Other delights here include Marrero’s Bolero a un Sueno, a ballad of rare luminous beauty and Charles Mingus’ Jump Monk – marvellously arranged to reflect upon and celebrate Monk’s and Mingus’ mutual quirky approach. Percussionist Mary Paz is absolutely incendiary on this track. The closing title song, also written by Bunnett and Grantis, features the ensemble in a composition of complexity and multiple musical motifs, coalescing in an exuberant expression of energy, power and pure joy.

03 astrocolorMoonlighting – AstroJazz Vol.1
Amelia Recordings AML0012CD (astrocolormusic.com) 

Fittingly timed with the extraordinary events taking place in regards to space travel at the moment, this latest record by Western Canadian Music Awards Instrumental Artist of the Year, Astrocolor is a perfect spacey, otherworldly musical foray. A mellow, ear-pleasing journey is exactly what these tunes call to mind, with an additional contagious repetitive rhythmic groove that just leaves the listener wanting more. With a lineup of great musicians such as Neil James Cooke-Dallin on synths, guitar, etc., Andrew Poirier on guitar, William Farrant on bass to name a few, these original compositions are propelled to great new heights. 

Astrocolor has managed to create a completely new niche for themselves in the jazz world, “blending elements of jazz, psychedelia and electronica — …resulting in the aptly dubbed [genre] ‘AstroJazz.’” The feeling throughout the album is as if you’re straddling the border of the modern and new, the traditional and contemporary; floating in this pleasant, almost trance-like musical state of mind that you don’t want to emerge from. It’s a complete, immersive musical experience quite unlike anything else, where the psychedelia of the past meets with the technology of the here and now. “Moonlighting imagines an exploratory trip into deep space… recalling the influence of late 90s electronic acts…” through layering fantastic synthesizer melodies and programming over a traditional band setup. For those who have been itching for something completely new and unique, this is the find you’ve been looking for.

04 Redline trioUnderdog
Redline Trio
Chronograph Records CR 102 (redlinetrio.com) 

Between the self-deprecating title Underdog and the extinct Dodo bird with one leg cut off as a cover image, the message being beamed at the listeners antennae could well be: “Help! We’re stuck in the past.” In truth, however, the forward-thinking musicians of the Calgary-based Redline Trio and their celebrated British Columbia associates, present their set, tongue firmly in cheek. The only thing that this music harks back to is a kind of creativity sans gratuitous virtuosity, which is often seen as a thing of the past.

Unfolding in six short songs, each with a simply (sometimes) evocative title, is the imaginative music captured on a recording of considerable creativity. Composed by all the band members – saxophonist Mark DeJong, bassist Steve Shepard and drummer Jeff Sulima, and guests, trumpeter Brad Turner and pianist Steve Hudson – the musical stream of ideas unfolds with energy and vitality.

The Redline Trio is harmonically anchored by pianist Hudson and the horns soar with acoustically aerodynamic figures and patterns, gliding along nicely. Shifts occur through rapid changes in direction of rhythmic temperature. (Cue No Limes for Jeffery, The Waltz and the album’s pinnacle Underdog that closes the set.)

The group’s source of inspiration is certainly swing and time, and there is plenty of this reverberating throughout the recording. But the music here bodes well for the future of jazz.

Listen to 'Underdog' Now in the Listening Room

05 Andre DuchesneCh’val
André Duchesne
ambiences magnetiques AM 271 CD (actuellecd.com) 

André Duchesne, as he tends to do, manages to accomplish something resembling complete expressive purity on Ch’val. It feels like a deeply personal project, with Duchesne himself being responsible for every instrument, click, clack, whisper, wander and runaway brushstroke the listener can perceive. Guitar notes in the left channel dissolve in the mix, as if muttering something under their breath, or a notion abruptly turning into an afterthought. Freewheelin’ ride cymbal grooves in the right channel are aborted on a snare hit, the upbeat a helium balloon with a combusting string. There is a charming baldness to the all-around sonic stew, with a notable scarcity of studio effects imposed on Duchesne’s musicking, which makes every utterance completely unmistakable. 

This stripped-back approach makes this virtual rock band (as Duchesne puts it) reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time ensemble, particularly with the polyphony created by the sharp guitar and drum tones. So many sounds are in the forefront, and yet there is a beautifully intricate organization to the soundscape. The presence of transparency and humility Duchesne creates is quite sobering, allowing the entire process to be laid bare in the product. Perhaps most astonishingly, this act of constantly layering numerous takes on top of each other never compromises the music’s sense of spontaneity, and certainly doesn’t take away from the listener’s feeling of adventure on this glorious odyssey.

06 William CarnChoices
William Carn (octet)
Independent WC004 (williamcarn.com) 

This beautiful recital on Choices wraps carefully chosen instrumentation led by trombonist (and now) a singing William Carn, with elegantly played repertoire around fascinatingly atmospheric keyboards. While Carn is one of the fascinating keyboardists here, the music draws significant substance from the keyboards and bass pedals of Todd Pentney, reincarnated as producer and sound designer extraordinaire, HiFiLo.

The Toronto-based Carn is fast gaining a reputation as one of the finest virtuoso trombonists in Toronto. His reputation as a fine sight reader and an imaginative, idiomatic interpreter of music is making him a much sought after member of brass sections in small, medium and larger ensembles too. However, it is as a composer that he deserves to be much better known. 

Conceptually and thematically this album is a significant follow-up to The History of Us, a marvellous, very personal recording he produced with his saxophone-playing wife, Tara Davidson and their ensemble, Carn-Davidson 9. 

Choices reflects the thoughtful nature of Carn’s compositions. Like his previous album, some of the music often reveals a propensity for plumbing the depth of socio-political and personal passions and the need to exhale – both musically as well as emotionally. Thus, between Breathe In and Breathe Out we are treated to profound meditations on Ukraine (Heroyim Slava), discrimination (Get Up) and love (The Gift and Goodbye Old Friend). Through it all Carn and colleagues bring trademark acoustic and electronic energy and virtuosity to a hugely enjoyable program.

07 Itamar ErezMay Song
Itamar Erez Independent
Independent (itamarerez.bandcamp.com/album/may-song) 

Itamar Erez’s 2019 “pre-pandemic” CD, Mi Alegria (Spanish for “my joy”) was, indeed, a purely joyous, musical celebration. Now, with May Song, conceived and recorded amid the incessant COVID-19 lockdowns, and released in October 2022, we have Erez’s reflective response to those uncertain and unpredictable pandemic times (not that the virus is done with us, just yet). Erez characterizes the project as “emerging from darkness and doubt into lightness and joy.”

May Song is unique among Erez’s recordings, in that unlike his five previous releases, Erez, an Israeli-Canadian, world-class (and globetrotting) guitarist, pianist and composer based in Vancouver, is heard only at the piano. In addition to Erez’s focus on the keyboard, which has evolved over the last three to four years, a more improvisational approach to his music-making is also evident throughout May Song, and immediately apparent on the haunting, improvised intro of the first track, Chant. And thus begins this musical journey out of darkness.

Hourglass is pulsing and polyrhythmic, with a dynamic dialogue between piano and clarinet. Catch Me If You Can feels jaunty, expansive, optimistic, edging towards the light. You and Me, evocative and yearning, maintains a steady, forward-moving momentum with taught piano/bass/drum interplay. The deeply emotional title track is the penultimate stop, offering hopeful resolution.

Outstanding collaborators on this journey are clarinettist François Houle, bassist Jeff Gammon, Kevin Romain on drums and Chris Gestrin guesting on synths. Like Erez himself, May Song is inspired and original.

08 jacob WutzkeShow Yourself
Jacob Wutzke; Lucas Dubovic; Gentiane MG; Levi Dover; Caity Gyorgy
Independent (jacobwutzke.com) 

Show Yourself is an exciting new release from Montreal/Toronto-based drummer Jacob Wutzke. This is Wutzke’s first full-length album as a leader, and it encapsulates all the obligatory energy and excitement of a debut album in a mature and thoughtful package. 

In many ways this recording avoids the traps of being a “drummer album,” but when it does enter that realm its ample exciting musicianship will keep listeners of all persuasions entertained. Another potential snare that this album manages to circumvent is that of lengthiness. There are a mighty 11 tracks on Show Yourself, the longest being over seven minutes in duration, but the overall feeling I have after a complete listen-through is one of pleasant variety rather than longwindedness.  

Right from the starting track How do You Mean?, listeners are treated to music that is straight-ahead without hanging onto overly traditional aesthetics. This lovely contrast is reflected in Wutzke’s personnel choices for the album too, with core band members Lucas Dubovik, Gentiane MG and Levi Dover all finding common ground as a unit. Vocalist Caity Gyorgy makes an appearance on the album’s final track, a contemporary yet swinging version of the jazz standard My Shining Hour. Gyorgy also produced the album, which is a testament to the powerhouse musical and personal relationship she shares with Wutzke. 

To return to my previous “drummer comments,” this album sounds the way many drummers aspire to play: precise, yet organic. Surgical exactitude needs not sacrifice expressiveness, and Show Yourself is a perfect reminder of this. 

09 Liina AllemanoPipe Dream
Lina Allemano Four
Lumo Records LM 2023-14 (linaallemano.bandcamp.com) 

Lina Allemano’s quartet has had the same personnel since 2005 when her musical direction moved to freer climes, with Brodie West on alto saxophone. Since then, it’s served as a vehicle for Allemano’s development as both improviser and composer, revealing a gift for counterpoint and orchestration that makes creative use of bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser beyond typical rhythm section roles. The opening Banana Canon, the first of three independent compositions, is a minimalist theme, at once playful and slightly querulous, that immediately establishes the group’s distinctive personality. 

The rest of the CD is devoted to a suite called Plague Diaries, composed by Allemano in Toronto during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown. Each of the four movements is introduced by a stark unaccompanied solo, emphasizing the sense of isolation. If studies with Axel Dörner have contributed to Allemano’s development as a keen explorer of the trumpet’s secret sonic resources, her Berlin residencies may have also offered a compositional resource for the suite. Part III: Hunger and Murder, starting with a gritty arco solo from Downing, suggests the grim, desiccated 1930s work of composer Hanns Eisler. Further, the concluding Doom and Doomer, propelled by Fraser’s willfully chaotic drum solo, develops a rapid, circulating pattern against which Allemano improvises brilliantly, her solo suggesting one trapped in a labyrinth. 

There’s a consistent, collective creativity here, at once urgent and coherent, that marks this as one of the year’s most significant jazz recordings.

10 Canadian Jazz CollectiveSeptology – The Black Forest Session
Canadian Jazz Collective
HGBS Blue Records HGBSBLUE20217 (canadianjazzcollective.com) 

Canada’s improvised music scene frequently occupies a limbo between the government supported arts scenes of Europe, and the large commercial entertainment markets of the United States. That phenomenon is one of several reasons why it’s exciting to see the Canadian Jazz Collective gather success representing our fair nation locally and abroad.

Kirk MacDonald, Derrick Gardner and Virginia MacDonald are the lead voices of this formidable septet, with guitarist Lorne Lofsky contributing to both the melodic and harmonic sides of the ensemble. In the liner notes to Septology, The Black Forest Session, Lofsky mentions a 40-year history with several members of the group, namely bassist Neil Swainson and pianist Brian Dickinson, who round out the rhythm section alongside Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter. 

Septology’s eight original tracks are penned by Gardner, Lofsky and MacDonald respectively, and feature a beautiful blend of individualism and group interplay. Dig That! is a hard swinging opening track that prepares the listener for what’s to come: a steadfast commitment to the roots of this music, approached in a manner that eschews any notion of traditionalism or conservatism. 

The Time Being is a contemplative piece penned by Lofsky. This writer knows the guitarist’s other two offerings Waltz You Needn’t and Highway 9 from his 1992 self-titled album, and they’re cleverly reworked here for septet. Kirk MacDonald contributes two originals to the recording that fit the collective’s aesthetic beautifully, notably his arrangement of Shadows that keeps the rhythm section on their toes under contrapuntal horn lines. 

Alongside exploring this album at home, I have encountered it several times on local Toronto radio. Septology is receiving ample well-deserved attention, and with a second European tour approaching, this is definitely not the last you’ll be hearing of the Canadian Jazz Collective!

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