01 WheelerThough Kenny Wheeler emigrated to Britain in the 1950s, few made his ongoing contribution to jazz in Canada, from teaching at the Banff Centre and recording with the Maritime Jazz Orchestra to performing in between – and no Canadian jazz musician has been a greater stylistic influence around the world – from his distinctive leaping lines and subtly expressive pitch mutations to the spacious invention of his compositions. Wheeler passed away in September 2014 but was already in ill-health in December 2013 when he recorded Songs for Quintet (ECM 2388, ecmrecords.com). It’s typical Wheeler, here surrounded by his quintet of London regulars, the powerful tenor saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, the spare and glassy toned guitarist John Parricelli and the rhythm section of Chris Laurence and Martin France, so quietly buoyant as to be almost invisible. That’s one of the special qualities of a Wheeler performance, a kind of musical intimacy that suggests a man at home composing, playing the piano or flugelhorn, looking out the window, then suddenly illuminated by an epiphany, some confluence of memory, climate and mood, some revelation that transforms the quotidian. Wheeler’s breath and embouchure may be less secure than they once were, but that rare vision is intact throughout this CD, a final gem in a brilliant discography.

02_John_Roney.jpgIf classical music and jazz have intersected in a thousand different ways, the meeting has rarely been as comfortable as John Roney’s Preludes (Effendi FND138, effendirecords.com). In an hour-long program, the pianist blurs the lines between interpretation and improvisation, stretching the contours and harmonic vocabularies of a series of classical preludes by Bach, Gershwin, Debussy, Chopin and Scriabin, with Duke Ellington’s Prelude to a Kiss included to further the range. There’s a romantic sweep to much of the music, a passion for melody that will press a piece into another idiom. An opening prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier stretches to impressionism, a closing one to boogie-woogie. Debussy, Chopin and Scriabin have influenced the greatest jazz pianists (Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Bill Evans) to such an extent that it seems perfectly natural to hear them extended in such a fluid way.

03_The_Where.jpgIt’s been two years since Tell, the debut of Myriad 3, and the trio of pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Ernesto Cervini continues to develop a distinctive style onThe Where (Alma ACD61742, almarecords.com), fusing classical and pop elements in a traditional piano trio. The band’s identity hinges on the shared composing strengths of its members, each of whom brings an almost orchestral palette to the trio. The group’s sonic breadth is further enhanced by the band’s prodigious doubling: both Donnelly and Fortin employ synthesizers, while Cervini overdubs four woodwinds on his own der Trockner. There’s a distinctive direction evident from Donnelly’s First Flight, propelled by a rhythmic force that suggests art rock bands like King Crimson, and it’s just as palpable at the CD’s conclusion with Fortin’s looming, brooding Don’t You Think.

04_Tangent.jpgEric Dolphy was an essential catalyst in the free jazz revolution of the 1960s. A brilliant multi-reed player, he made vital contributions to the music of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus, among others, helping to shape a generation. 2014 was the 50th anniversary of his death and among the commemorations is Tangent (for Eric Dolphy) by Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble (Trio Records TRP-020, kenaldcroft.com/triorecords.asp). True to Dolphy’s innovative spirit, guitarist Aldcroft pursues his own course (only the theme of Section VI strongly suggests Dolphy’s compositions), supplying composed materials to his band who are free to initiate and combine them, extending the freedom of improvisation while developing specific ideas. The spirit of group creation is strong and the results are consistently engaging, with complex dialogues involving all concerned, including trombonist Scott Thomson, bassist Wes Neal, drummer Joe Sorbara and new arrival Karen Ng on alto saxophone. Her finest moments arise in the cool fire of Section V.

05_See_Through_Trio.jpgKaren Ng has rapidly become a significant presence at the creative edges of Toronto jazz. In 2014 she also joined See Through Trio, a project founded in 2004 that includes pianist Tania Gill and bassist Pete Johnston. Devoted to Johnston’s angular and elusive compositions, Parallel Lights (Woods and Waters Records WW008, seethroughtrio.bandcamp.com/album/parallel-lights) evokes the music of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 circa 1961, a kind of minimalist free jazz at chamber music dynamics that featured compositions by Carla Bley. In the same spirit, See Through Trio creates quietly involving, thoughtfully deliberated music. It’s a “hear through” trio, one in which every note of Ng’s light, Lee Konitz-like alto timbre and Gill and Johnston’s sparse, linear work is in sharp relief, even on the relatively animated Never the Right Angle.

06_Nouveau_Jazz_Libre_du_Quebec.jpgMontreal’s Bronze Age Records is releasing new music on vinyl LPs, part of a widening movement convinced of the medium’s sonic superiority. One of its first releases further invokes the golden age of vinyl: En Direct du Suoni per Il Popolo (Bronze Age Records, bronzeagerecords.com) presents Nouveau Jazz Libre de Québec, a descendant of Quatuor Jazz Libre de Québec, the group that combined the liberating messages of free jazz and Quebec nationalism in the mid-60s. The original band’s sole survivor, drummer Guy Thouin, combines here with saxophonists Bryan Highbloom (tenor and soprano) and guest Raymon Torchinsky (alto) to create raw, energetic free jazz with all the emotional power that marked it in the 1960s. Thouin’s machine-gun snare and restless tom-toms drive the saxophones forward, whether it’s a distinctive take on Monk’s Bemsha Swing (here reconfigured as Bemsha Swingish) or the original Theme 25ieme Avenue

About 40 years on, so-called “free jazz” and “free music” from the late 60s, 70s and early 80s doesn’t sound so revolutionary any more. The idea of improvising without chord structures or fixed rhythm has gradually seeped into most players’ consciousness, with the genre(s) now accepted as particular methods for improvisation along with bop, Dixieland and fusion. Historical perspective also means that many sessions originally recorded during that period are now being released. Some are reissues, usually with additional music added; others are newly unearthed tapes being issued for the first time. The best discs offer formerly experimental sounds whose outstanding musicianship is more of a lure than nostalgia.

Waxman 01 Frank LoweThe most spectacular physical example of this is the Frank Lowe Quartet’s Out Loud (Triple Point Records TPR 209 triplepointrecords.com). Thoroughly old school in that the release consists of two LPs, the session is brought up to date with an LP-sized 38-page booklet that puts the music into historical context, plus an internet link to video footage of the band in action. Tenor saxophonist Lowe (1943-2003) was part of the second generation of free jazzers, following vanguard revolutionaries like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, and the quartet is his working group of the time (1974) – trombonist Joseph Bowie, bassist William Parker and drummer Steve Reid. The material consists of what was going to be Lowe’s second LP plus another LP recorded live in an East Village loft adding trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah. The fascination of Out Loud is how perfectly matched improvisers are forging a group identity. Memphis-born, Lowe mixes an R&B-influenced tone that often soars into altissimo, with extended near-human cries encompassing split tone and cacophonous glossolalia. Trombonist Bowie, who produces a distinctive hunting horn-like resonance, introduces the Midwestern idea of adding small instruments like congas, balafon, whistles and harmonica plus primeval vocalization to the program. Parker’s sul ponticello asides add taut vibrancy to the improvisations; and when his power strokes lock in with Reid’s floating rumbles, they strengthen a groove that moves the improvisations chromatically. The live tracks are more bellicose and aggressive. Paced by the drummer’s irregular ruffs and rolls, however, calming solo interludes alternate with frenetic upturned yelping. Whew! – almost the only titled track – reaches a bouncing boogie-like ending, after the trumpeter’s flutter-tongued triplets extend a plunger trombone and wheezing harmonica face off. Heart-on-sleeve emotional throughout, Lowe’s tenor saxophone joins slides and slurs into a solo that’s part Coleman Hawkins’ mellow and part John Coltrane melisma on the final track. Subsequent dot-dash flutters from Bowie extend this near-mainstream context until plunger trombone tones and vocalized squeals from Lowe’s soprano shudder and shake the tune into a joyful and jagged concluding sway.

Waxman 02 Don PullenMixing joyfulness with jagged edges also characterized the playing of pianist Don Pullen (1941-1995), who in 1975 recorded Richard’s Tune (Delmark/Sackville CD2-3008 delmark.com),his first-ever solo release, in Toronto due to the suggestion of producer Bill Smith of CODA. Known for his stint in bassist Charles Mingus’ band, Virginia-born Pullen was a keyboard anomaly. Fully conversant with the clashing dynamics of the so-called “new thing,” his grounding in blues and gospel music gave even his most advanced compositions a lilting rhythm. Case in point is Big Alice, heard in two versions – the second of which is one of the CD’s two previously unreleased tracks. Almost danceable and certainly funky, the versions demonstrate the propulsion that can arise from a single keyboard. While the original mates bravura glissandi with thrusting theme variations, the alternate encompasses a harder touch that emphasizes the blues base without weakening the distinctive theme. Kadji, the other discovery, demonstrates Pullen’s mastery of pacing as he cascades a skipping childlike theme. The kinetic Song Played Backwards spills out a multitude of notes in a headlong rush, while maintaining a directed flow. Overall, the more than 15-minute Suite (Sweet Malcolm) is a major statement that demonstrates Pullen’s duality. Slithery splatters and moderato pacing bring in inferences from gospel, stride, blues and work songs, while later sharp and percussive timbres inhabit the area between Cecil Taylor-like percussiveness and Thelonious Monk-like angular diffidence. 

Waxman 03 Lacy CyclesFree Music was appreciated in many non-American places besides Toronto. In fact the 20 selections on the two-CD set Cycles (1976-80)[Emanem 5205 emanemdisc.com] were recorded in Paris, Rome, Cologne and Switzerland. Someone who created a place for the soprano saxophone in advanced jazz, Steve Lacy (1932-2004), was a master at finding new playing situations and a pioneer of solo saxophone concerts. Some of the five-part Hedges cycle for instance was recorded in concert with a dancer, and on the happy-go-lucky Rabbit the sounds of the dancer’s footfalls are audible. Otherwise the tracks are aurally descriptive, with Fox including the replication of a hunting-horn before turning to altissimo animal cries and growls and Squirrel using reed kisses to approximate animal squeaks and scurries. Others like The Ladder are self-explanatory as Lacy chromatically ascends the scale in a series of peeps, whistles and overtones. However while the logic behind using timbre-dissecting tight aviary tones to salute Albert Ayler on The Wire may be evident, the cantering sweeps that turn from a spindly line to circular breathing to a sweet melody on Tots that honours Claude Debussy may confuse some. The underlying point, as demonstrated on Wickets where Lacy appears to be vacuuming up sound from every crevice of his horn, is that the soprano saxophonist used every type of music to forge his playing.

Waxman 04 Ted DanielNot everyone had given up on New York however. Trumpeter Ted Daniel’s Energy Modules recorded Innerconnection (NoBusiness Records NBCD 72/73 nobusinessrecords.com) there in 1975. With 40 years of hindsight it’s apparent that Daniels’ quintet was not only creating its own variation of Energy Music, but was so comfortable with the idiom that it was almost a repertory band. Considering that the compositions in the repertory were by Sunny Murray, Dewey Redman, Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman, there’s little chance Wynton Marsalis will ever follow suit. Daniel crafted sophisticated arrangements so the originals fit seamlessly with the other tunes. For instance Murray’s sing-song Jiblet serves as an appropriate introduction to Redman’s Innerconnection, which is given such a furious workout by Daniel Carter’s nephritic sounding tenor sax work and drummer Tatsuya Nakamura’s vigorous slapping that the track could define energy music. While the other horns honk and cry, the trumpeter’s tone is smoother and graceful. That’s most obvious when his mellow composition Pagan Spain is performed with muted grace notes joining a reading of Coleman’s Congeniality. Cunningly Congeniality is the concluding theme following an introduction of thickened stops from bassist Richard Pierce plus Nakamura’s splatters. Unbridled buoyancy is maintained, while in the background Oliver Lake creates a seething call and response, alternating between cowbell and piccolo. The true magnum opus on the two-CD set however is Ghosts. Turing Ayler’s march-tempo dirge into an extended collective improvisation, the band emphasizes the tune’s gospel roots. Swelling in tandem, Carter’s squeaking melisma becomes the preacher as the other instruments’ sway congregation-like around his literal speaking-in-tongues solo. Crucially though, the trumpeter’s erudition is such that though the tune coarsens, space remains for his controlled comments.

Waxman 05 DunoisEuropean players had almost become avant-garde masters by this time – but with a distinctive non-Yank style. Case in point is 28 rue Dunois juillet 1982 (Fou Records FR-CD 06 fou.records.free.fr), two extended never-before-released performances by American trombonist George Lewis, guitarist Derek Bailey and saxophonist Evan Parker from the United Kingdom, and French bassist Joëlle Léandre. Like Lacy, each developed a matchless playing method that’s apparent from the first tones: Bailey outputting irregular string clanks, Parker circular breathing and Léandre warbling as she bows. To appreciate Dunois 1982’s 78 minutes of music imagine it’s an aural feature film with close-up inserts. Volcanic crescendos and whispering minimalist textures arise from the polyphony created when the slurs, smacks and scrubs brush up against one another. But also focus on each of the players, noting how individualistic patterns stay consistent as they improvise in a parallel fashion. For instance on 1ère partie/1b what would be out-of-tune licks from another guitarist are used by Bailey to angle into a duet between Parker and Lewis, where the reedist’s tones slide upwards as the trombonist blows downwards. Eventually Léandre’s taunt extrusions push the others into a mini climax of ferocious percussiveness surmounted by Lewis’ buttery tone. Almost immediately though, each player sabotages the near swing with distinctive tone substitutions leading to the improvisation creatively dissipating. By the extended 2éme partie/1 the contrapuntal improvising becomes as stimulating as a Dixieland jam, but framed more sophisticatedly. While the bassist often sardonically mocks the others by injecting high-European classical phrases, Lewis’ lowing blurts are close cousins to tailgate slurs and Bailey could be abrasively pounding banjo strings. Only Parker’s staccato tongue-shattering tones resist the comparison, but when he triggers a cascade of notes, contemporary skills and imagination are confirmed. Raucous excitement is there, but in a more minimalist fashion than in earlier music.

Many listeners may have missed out on the flowering of free music first time out. With these releases, they have a chance to catch up in an organized fashion.

If a single quality distinguishes much of what’s best in Canadian jazz it’s lyricism, a warm, singing focus on melody that links many of our best musicians, whether they choose to stay near home (Ed Bickert) or move away (Paul Bley). It’s a quality shared by three distinguished recent releases, though they differ in style and locale.

Broomer 01 Don ThompsonSome Other Spring by the Don Thompson Trio (Cornerstone 144, cornerstonerecordsinc.com) is an elegy in advance. Dedicated to Peter Appleyard, it was recorded a couple of months before his passing in July 2013, but Thompson reflects that the great vibraphonist was in his thoughts during the recording. While the multi-instrumentalist Thompson may be less well-known for his vibraphone playing than for his skills as a bassist and pianist, he’s a fine player, his work imbued with a resonant lyricism. He’s joined here by guitarist Reg Schwager and bassist Neil Swainson, comparable masters and long-time associates (for many years the three played in George Shearing’s quintet) in a program of standards and a few originals. It’s state-of-the-art chamber jazz, with superb renderings of some lesser-known pop songs, like Hoagy Carmichael’s One Morning in May, as well as classic jazz tunes like Django Reinhardt’s Nuages.

Broomer 02 Lenny BreauThere’s more great guitar playing on Lenny Breau’s LA Bootleg 1984 (Guitarchives 270201, linusentertainment.com), the first release of a club set from Donte’s in Hollywood recorded just two months before Breau’s death. Breau was a celebrated technician and his work (especially commercial recordings) sometimes suffered from pastiche, his playing marred by a clutter of classical, flamenco and country & western elements. Here there’s none of that, just intensely focused playing on familiar tunes with the empathetic support of bassist Paul Gormley and drummer Ted Hawk. Breau’s technical brilliance and harmonic invention (he was strongly influenced by pianist Bill Evans) come to the fore on ballads and up-tempo performances alike. His version of Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now is sublime, a composer’s harmonic subtlety igniting a performer’s.

Broomer 03 Marianne TrudelPianist/composer Marianne Trudel has emerged in recent years as one of Quebec’s brightest talents, a musician of considerable depth with a strong identity. La Vie Commence Ici (Justin Time JTR-8588-2 justin-time.com), a quintet date featuring British Columbia (by way of New York) trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, is her finest work to date. The instrumentation proceeds from an opening duet through mutations of the ensemble and a rich sense of timbre and voicings. At times Trudel’s material can suggest Mozart, at other times Ravel, but it seems to proceed from the title, developing a meditative depth that communicates a reverence for life. The title track demonstrates how well Trudel can orchestrate, reducing the ensemble to just Morgan Moore’s pizzicato bass for the theme, then later repeating it with a duo of bass and minimal piano. Saxophonist Jonathan Stewart and drummer Robbie Kuster contribute effectively, but Trudel’s compositions seem to find their fullest voice in Jensen’s soaring, passionate performance.

Broomer 04 Saturated colourMontreal is currently serving as an incubator for innovative jazz composition. While Trudel represents the mainstream, alto saxophonist Erik Hove (originally from Vancouver) has radical forebears, drawing on influences from the microtonal spectral harmonies of contemporary French composers Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail and the rhythmic languages of American saxophonist/composers Steve Coleman, Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton. Hove’s Chamber Ensemble on Saturated Colour (erikhovemusic.com) is an imaginative nonet mixing winds and strings and relatively traditional bass and drums with standout performances from flutist Anna Webber and violinist Josh Zubot. A tree by a pond, half-lit is evanescent, a subtle spray of high-pitched sounds, while Inner Chamber and Brain Freeze find disjunct but genuine grooves. Hove the soloist is clearly an improviser who thrives on complex support, and Hove the composer is adept at supplying it.

Broomer 05 ArrabbiataPianist/composer Félix Stüssi relocated from Switzerland to Montreal in 1998, and within a few years was leading a quintet that still includes saxophonists Alexandre Côté and Bruno Lamarche, bassist Clinton Ryder and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli. Since 2008 it’s been Félix Stüssi 5 & Ray Anderson, celebrating the American’s status as one of the trombone’s most virtuosic, creative and witty performers. On Arrabbiata (Effendi FND133, effendirecords.com), Stüssi works from a varied palette, evident immediately with Funda-Mentally, a distant relation of Tiger Rag that turns into free improvisation at the drop of a cue. His energy and humour can be reminiscent of Charles Mingus, with broad farcical nods to ancient idioms mixed with energized revisions of blues, bop and gospel. Côté and Ceccarelli provide fine moments, but it’s ultimately Anderson’s show: he can exaggerate the trombone’s traditional vocal proclivities to the point of parody while leaping registers or playing double-time bop.

Broomer 06 Samuel BlaisSamuel Blais is a young Montreal saxophonist who has come a long way since his 2008 debut CD Where to Go. He’s earned a masters in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music under the direction of saxophonist Dave Liebman, and he commemorates the relationship with Cycling (Effendi FND137), the two saxophonists getting together with bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Martin Auguste during a break in a saxophone quartet tour. It’s a loose blowing session on a batch of originals, played in a joyous spirit of mutual regard and inspiration. Blais plays baritone, alto and soprano, Liebman, tenor and soprano, and they exploit the possibilities for similarity (two sopranos on Liebman’s title tune) and difference (baritone and soprano on Blais’s Interludio Obscurio). The only familiar tune is A Taste of Honey, the modal theme leading to some inspired Coltrane-flavoured collective improvisation.   

05 Jazz 01 TurbopropTurboprop
Ernesto Cervini
Anzic Records ANZ-0047

Expanding his Turboprop quartet by adding the breezy Desmondesque alto and soprano saxophone of Tara Davidson and trombonist William Carn’s mellow harmonies, local drummer Ernesto Cervini is able to buttress still further his sophisticated arrangements of standards and originals. With wider breadth the sextet interprets lines by Charlie Parker, Keith Jarrett, Debussy and a song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in its program.

Admirable as that is, the compositions – mostly by the drummer – as well as the playing by fellow Torontonian pianist Adrean Farrugia plus New Yorkers, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and bassist Dan Loomis, are strong enough on their own to move without extra impetus. Taken as a group in fact, the speedier cover tunes are a little fluffy and the slower ones overly enervating. On the other hand, Jarrett’s The Windup, with concise jittery piano chording and this-side-of-R&B tuneful slurs from the saxes, gives the CD an appropriate bouncy finale; and the cover of Parker’s Red Cross showcasing slippery slides from Farrugia produces some of his best playing on the date.

Yet overall the originals, with Cervini’s Fear of Flying and Three Angels particular standouts, are far superior. Both are based around the breathy flutter tonguing of Frahm – whose spiky swiftness is further showcased on his own De Molen – though Cervini’s lines better integrate Frahm’s reed work within the expositions. Fear of Flying, for instance, contrasts a floating cool jazz-like head with enough tough beats from the composer to preserve a robust narrative. More sombre and ethereal, the second tune moves forward with a swinging undertow, but this flexibility never upsets its mood of profound sadness and distance. Here too the elusive balance between Frahm’s expressive soloing and the backing horn choir creates an expressively memorable narrative.

A member of many Toronto-based aggregations, Cervini demonstrates his additional skills as an arranger with this beefed-up ensemble. Notable as this CD may be, tying up the few loose ends remaining with additional work portends even higher quality sounds on future sessions and in person for this sextet.

05 Jazz 02 Barbra LicaKissing You
Barbra Lica
Independent BLM-1401C (barbralica.com)

It’s encouraging to see good, young singers emerge in the jazz realm. It’s even more encouraging to see them thrive and grow as Barbra Lica has with her second album Kissing You. That said, Lica may not satisfy jazz purists, as she has strong pop elements in her work, especially in her original material. Similar to her first album, Kissing You alternates between clever originals (eight of the 11 tracks) and imaginative reworkings of standards. Genre aside, what Lica is consistently very good at is getting a story across. Her pretty, girlish voice (shades of Stacey Kent and Blossom Dearie) is well-suited to her material. Her lyric writing amuses on the lighter songs such as Canoe (“You’re no dreamboat but you’re a really nice canoe”) and touches us on the more serious That’s What I Hate, about the end of a romance. The reworkings of the standards really stood out for me as genuinely fresh approaches, in particular on Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out of You, where the George Martinesque take gives us a renewed and charming song.

Keyboard player and arranger Lou Pomanti is in the producer’s chair and his sensitive and inventive playing is a feature of the album, along with other leading Toronto musicians such as Reg Schwager on guitar, Mark Kelso on drums, Marc Rogers on bass and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet. The ensemble is showcased brilliantly on the title track which has a sweeping, film score quality – perhaps for a film about an up-and-coming young singer…

05 Jazz 03 Selena EvangelineLeft Alone
Selena Evangeline; Bill King
Slaight Music 6 16969 997869 (selenaevangeline.com)

With the third installment of Slaight Music/7 Arts Entertainment’s excellent piano/voice duet series, renowned pianist Bill King has collaborated with a vocally stunning partner – Selena Evangeline. An auspicious debut for Evangeline, the recording is an homage to some of the greatest ladies of song, including Gladys Knight, Dinah Washington, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and contemporary artists Dianne Reeves, Anita Baker and Lizz Wright. On each track, Evangeline’s sumptuous voice has placed its own unique, interpretive stamp, and King repeatedly raises the art of vocal accompaniment to a new level of insight, depth and skill.

Evangeline’s rendering of the Dionne Warwick hit A House is Not a Home plumbs new emotional depths, and her smoky, sensuous alto easily captures and exalts in every possible nuance. Inspired phrasing, exquisite intonation and creative melodic play, the earmarks of Evangeline’s style, are evident on each and every track of this tasty sonic buffet. King is the perfect complement for Evangeline – putting into use his wide range of stylistic experience, taste and musical skill.

Of particular note are the soulful If You Don’t Know Me By Now, featuring King on piano and Hammond B3 with stirring lead and multi-track vocals from Evangeline; the haunting title track from the canon of Billie Holiday; a deeply soulful take on Gladys Knight and the Pips immortal Midnight Train to Georgia and a gorgeous re-boot of Anita Baker’s Rapture. This recording is a total delight, and if you purchase only one vocal/piano duo album in 2015 – make this one it.



05 Jazz 04 Hannah BurgeGreen River Sessions
Hannah Burgé
Independent (hannahburge.ca)

Toronto singer Hannah Burgé’s debut album Green River Sessions finds its heart in mid-to-late 20th century international jazz currents, (re)influenced as they were by bossa nova, Cuban and African musical streams. The result could be described reductively as a synthesis of jazz and world music, though the radio-ready Black Velvet has a clear rock edge enhanced by Burgé’s hard vocal tone, precise harmonies in the chorus, as well as Mark Kelso’s dynamic drumming and the fuzz electric guitar work by Tony Zorzi.

Green River Sessions was produced by the Mexican-Canadian bassist and arranger Paco Luviano, his presence manifest on the Spanish language track, De Repente. Jazz keyboard maestro Robi Botos also makes an outstanding musical contribution to the entire record. An additional guest in the ballads Be My Love and Sunshine Samba, the NYC harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens, echoes Burgé’s velvety reedy soprano with his own tastefully complementary and swinging solos. They blend remarkably with her voice.

Among my favorites on the album is Horace Silver’s bop composition Nica’s Dream. Arranged by Luviano, he craftily wraps its angular bop vocal melody with syncopated yet smooth Latin rhythms. (Following the world music-jazz thread here, it’s of interest to note that Silver, born Silva, was of Cape Verdean Portuguese descent on his father’s side and was taught its folk music when young.)

With such an auspicious debut, we’re hoping Hannah Burgé will not wait long for her follow-up record.



Back to top