02 The SenatorThe Senator – A Tribute to Tommy Banks
Hutchison Andrew Trio
Chronograph Records CR 100 (hatjazz.com)

Tommy Banks packed many accomplishments into his 81 years. He was a conductor, arranger, pianist, television personality and a member of the Canadian Senate from 2000 to 2011. The Senator is named after his political life but pays tribute to his music and how he inspired and influenced a younger generation of musicians. The members of the Hutchinson Andrew Trio (Chris Andrew, piano; Kodi Hutchinson, bass; Dave Laing, drums) all had a personal relationship to Banks, as did the “special guests” PJ Perry, Al Muirhead and Mallory Chipman, and these connections invigorate their performances. 

Highlights of the album include a bouncy version of Jig (a tune played and recorded by Banks) and Bank on It, written by Chris Andrew as a grooving bop tribute from one pianist to another. The Senator is a delightful undertaking that pays tribute to Banks› music legacy and reminds us of this important musician. It was recorded live over two nights at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton, on what would have been Banks› 85th birthday, and that adds to the sense of celebration.

03 Aline HomzyÉclipse
Aline Homzy
Elastic Recordings ER-009 (alinehomzy.com)

An award-winning Canadian violinist and composer, Aline Homzy is no stranger to the exploration of the unknown and this is precisely what she does with her debut album Éclipse. The world of Éclipse is elegant, nuanced and enigmatic, sparking a curiosity in the listener. Homzy and her Étoile Magique colleagues are set on capturing the enigma of incorporeality in their music, translating visual/physical shifts, such as movements of the celestial bodies, into an aural one. Thus we have the world built on the cosmos like textures using synths, theremin and the colours of vibraphone, creating a sonic background for our imagination. In that world, Homzy’s violin is both the guide and the explorer – her balanced sound and impeccable phrasing transversing beauty and etherealness but not shying away from bold gestures or rhythmic complexity.

In addition to the explorative elements, Éclipse is still very much rooted in the jazz violin tradition and many arrangements are within the classic jazz structure. Ten original tunes by Homzy and vibraphonist Michael Davidson cultivate the best of that tradition while leaving a mark of their own. The rest of the core ensemble, consisting of guitarist Thom Gill, bassist Dan Fortin and percussionist Marito Marques, forms a tight-knit group. Their own solos, most notably by Fortin in the only cover on the album – Charlie Parker’s Segment – are charming and engaging. With such a clear compositional direction and sophisticated performers, this album will be noted by many.

Plays Long
Drip Audio DA 02040 (dripaudio.com)

Josh Zubot Strings
Josh Zubot; Jesse Zubot; James Meger; Meredith Bates; Peggy Lee
Drip Audio DA02420 (dripaudio.com)

Emad Armoush’s Duos
Emad Armoush; Francois Houle; Jesse Zubot; JP Carter; Kenton Loewen; Marina Hasselberg
Drip Audio DA02392 (dripaudio.com)

04a Zubot LonghandDividing his time among record production, film scoring and running the Drip Audio record label, British Columbia-based violinist Jesse Zubot finds time to play music. Fittingly for someone whose productions include pop and ethnic sounds, each of these sessions features different styles. On Longhand’s Play Long, he joins guitarist Tony Wilson’s jazz-rock fusion band featuring Russell Sholberg, playing bass and musical saw, percussionist Skye Brooks and Jesse’s brother Josh Zubot on violin. When the brothers become twin Jean-Luc Pontys, expositions are torqued to arena-rock distortion, especially when Wilson’s effects pedals produce stomps and buzzing tones. A bass groove and drum backbeat contribute as well. However when the violinists match Wilson’s kalimba colouration with gentleness and folksy bounces as on The Exotic Popsicle narratives are lightened. Chicken Grease is the most notable instance of moderated fusion. Here a moderated bass solo gives way to multiple-string shudders from the violinists and chiming chords from Wilson, leading to a theme with a pop music interface, but recapped enough to emphasize jazz tradition links. 

04b Zubot StringsJosh Zubot, playing viola and violin, is the leader on Strings. Interpreting his jazz-improv compositions are cellist Peggy Lee; bassist James Meger; Meredith Bates playing violin/viola and brother Jesse on violian. Uniquely constituting this string quintet, Zubot’s arrangements include a few traditional sounding and mostly pastoral tutti themes and those ricocheting between Arcadian and avant-garde passages which divide the strings into soloists with sympathetic backing. Beach and Car is notable since it’s a suite of three separate sections in fewer than six and a half minutes. Beginning with pleasant swing it moves up the scale as a violinist’s broken-chord stops are backed by double bass thumps. Slowing to mid-range, the piece climaxes with a contrapuntal do-si-do involving the lower-pitched strings’ watery textures and the higher pitched ones’ aviary squeaks before a full band ending. Multiple tracks vibrate in tempos ranging from andante to prestissimo, with the two Explorations the freest ones, highlighting harsh bow strokes and col legno string scratches. Other tunes invoke flat line minimalism, some almost romantic formalism, while others feature the closest to a martial beat string plyers can attain. With three violinists, it’s only on Augur 44 when the others play violas, that Jesse Zubot’s contributions stand out. Turning spiccato squeaks every which way after introducing a hoedown-like theme, the other musicians then add Eastern European-like presto slides. Tension from Zubot’s string jumping doesn’t upset the narrative’s unfolding, since pressure is released first by a mellow tutti interlude and later by slapped and sliding asides from the bassist and cellist. 

04c ElectritradionJesse Zubot is one of the Vancouver players duetting with Syrian-born local Emad Armoush, who plays oud, ney, guitar and vocalizes on Electritradition. Some tracks are a little too close to ethnic music, but when Armoush partners with experienced improvisers the result is a dramatic blend of West Coast and Middle East. Zubot’s spiccato slides and buzzes seem more accompaniment than point making when he plays. More notable are duets with Kenton Loewen which refine Levantine lyrics and drum beats. Loewen’s rough accents on Talah create tandem progression with Armoush’s guitar twangs; and this toughness is intensified on Hey Free Bop as clashing ruffs make ney peeps almost swing. Clenched guitar picking on Flamenco Strut emphasizes the title’s second word as trumpeter JP Carter’s strained triplets create a Middle-Eastern blues. Equivalent brass shakes and toneless breaths on Labshi mean that Armoush’s percussive picking combines the free improv as well as the traditional music world.

String oriented, but not string exclusive, these discs confirm that unprecedented sounds are being created and recorded in British Columbia.

05 Hilario DuranCry Me a River
Hilario Durán and his Latin Jazz Big Band
Alma Records ACD90832 (almarecords.com)

A sign of a truly great musician is the ability to not only capture the attention of the listener from the first note, but also to maintain that same level of rapture throughout an entire recording. Renowned pianist Hilario Durán’s long-awaited Latin big band album does just that, it captivates and thoroughly ensnares within the sizzling melodies and rhythms of these tunes. The mix of original compositions and covers with an interesting and refreshing twinge make for an ear-pleasing whole that is as vibrantly expressive and joyful as the changing colours of the autumn leaves. 

A defining element of this album is the way in which Durán’s improvisational and genre-crossing talents are highlighted within each piece. It’s absolutely enthralling to listen to how the star pianist throws in his own flavour to well-known jazz standards such as Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia, which takes on decidedly more Latin flavour, adding a renewed element energy and passion to the classic tune. Rhythmic grooves and scorching melodies interspersed with Durán’s prolific improvisational riffs create a delicious musical potpourri that will fill the soul and body of listeners. The bandleader hops between genres and bends pieces to his will, jumping from traditional jazz to modern and even funk with the utmost ease. Featuring a roster of great musicians such as Luis Mario Ochoa on guitar, Elizabeth Rodríguez on violin and Roberto Occhipinti on bass, this is a must-have for any jazz-lover’s collection.

06 Audrey OchoaThe Head of a Mouse
Audrey Ochoa; various artists
Chronograph Records CR-103 (audreyochoa.ca)

We’re now in the midst of chillier fall weather and what better way is there to add some warmth to these colder days than by moving your body to some spicy music? Edmonton-based trombonist Audrey Ochoa’s latest release is sure to motivate you to do just that; a fiery, Latin fiesta packed into one 13-track package. This is the starlet’s fourth album as a bandleader and features a slew of all-star names, among them Sandro Dominelli on drums, Jeremiah McDade on tenor saxophone and Rachel Therrien on trumpet. Showcasing her talents as a composer, all tracks on the record are penned and arranged by Ochoa herself. 

Conceived during pandemic times, the trombonist mentions that her desire and goal for the album is for “current and future generations [to] experience [the] music as a unique musical creation that reflects the experiences of an artist during an unprecedented time.” The contrast between hope and joy, sorrow and defeat is apparent throughout the collection, with a melancholy tinge weaving its way through the melodies and rhythms. Ochoa’s compositions reflect the essence of life in general, that it has its peaks and valleys, yet they are exactly what makes us stronger in the end. In essence, the record is like a journey through the mind of a musician through the darkest of times, where new and different ways of creative expression must be found, through which the darkness is conquered and defeated.

Listen to 'The Head of a Mouse' Now in the Listening Room

07 Teri ParkerShaping the Invisible
Teri Parker; Luis Deniz; Andrew McAnsh; Mark Godfrey; Ernesto Cervini
Independent (teriparkermusic.com)

Skilled pianist/composer/arranger Teri Parker has just released a remarkable project that began as an immersive writing experience… sans any pre-conceptions, and yet rife with a wide variety of influences. With the exception of two exquisite tracks (Segment by Charlie Parker and Retrograde by British producer/vocalist James Blake), all compositions have emerged from the creative soul of Parker. As she has so succinctly said, “Music is just sound particles in the air, but it doesn’t exist until you make it exist.” Parker has assembled a fine complement here, including Luis Deniz on alto and soprano sax, Mark Godfrey on bass, Ernesto Cervini on drums and special guest Andrew McAnsh on trumpet.

The opening salvo, Becoming (inspired by Michelle Obama’s memoire), is replete with a languid, mystical intro featuring the supple Deniz and McAnsh, which gives way to a stirring and rhythmic melodic line, imbued with the sheer beauty and power of Parker’s piano. McAnsh provides a stunner of a solo here, engaging fully with the solid rhythm section. The groovy-cool Humph was written in tribute to the late bop-saxophonist Dewey Redman and masterfully lauds his eccentric style and command of his instrument. Deniz shines on alto here, and also on Desolate Places, which is a sumptuous, lilting duet between Parker and Deniz on soprano. Parker’s Segment is also a stunner, rendered here with all bop sensibilities intact, but also informed by Parker’s contemporary view, as well as her highly intuitive comping and potent soloing.

The closer of this fine recording, Strolling, is a sultry exploration, replete with a luscious solo by Parker and dynamic percussion by Cervini. Nimble bassist Godfrey is also featured, with Deniz serving as the magical glue which encircles and binds the ensemble in pure creativity.

08 Marc CopelandSomeday
Marc Copland Quartet
Inner Voice Jazz IVJ107 (marccopland.com)

This album Someday by Marc Copland is not only enigmatically entitled but is replete with music to match. Copland declares his intent right out of the gate, exploring music’s spectral nature with a gloriously wistful interpretation of Frank Churchill’s iconic song Someday My Prince Will Come, one of three standards on this album. 

The pianist twists the B-flat Major key of the song shaping the harmony from obtuse angles, setting up the narrative in gambolling, elliptical melodic lines, sharing the oblique harmonic variations with saxophonist Robin Verheyen. By the time drummer Mark Ferber stirs the proverbial soup with beautiful brush strokes and bassist Drew Gress adds a dusky rumble to the gossamer melody you know you’re in for quite the ride on this sparkling set. 

Verheyen’s song Dukish is wonderfully sprightly and receives a delightful treatment as the musicians react with seamless vibrancy. Saxophonist and pianist invite the bassist and drummer to apply rhythmic propulsion to the quick outer movements, passing lines deftly to the other musicians who know exactly when to dominate and when to lend support. 

As a composer, Copland gives us a ringside perspective on his magical writing through two other originals including the wonderfully spiralling Round She Goes. The song, propelled by a hypnotic four-note piano figure, builds in intensity as the musicians capture the urgent and plaintive power that makes Copland’s music – and this album – so ethereally beautiful.

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