01 No BoundsNo Bounds
Caity Gyorgy
Independent (caitygyorgy.bandcamp.com/album/no-bounds)

While having a beautiful voice is plenty to recommend any singer, also knowing how to use it in the myriad ways that Caity Gyorgy does puts her high up the list of young singers to watch. 

Although the debate about what is and isn’t jazz is an old and often tedious one, it becomes especially tricky to nail it down when it comes to vocalists. Is covering standards enough to call yourself a jazz singer? Well, that’s all moot when it comes to Gyorgy because she is unmistakably a jazzer. Just head over to her Instagram account, @liftaday, if you want to see what I’m talking about. There she posts videos of herself doing lifts – i.e. singing note-for-note – solos of jazz giant instrumentalists like Clifford Brown, Oscar Peterson and even Charlie Parker. She’s posted 180 videos since 2018! It would be an impressive accomplishment for a mature singer but for someone only 22 years old, it’s mind-blowing. 

As well, her improv skills – the attribute that seals the deal for jazz credentials – are undeniable and on full display throughout her debut release, whether soloing over choruses or trading fours with her band members: Jocelyn Gould, guitar, Thomas Hainbuch, bass, and Jacob Wutzke, drums.

But Gyorgy isn’t all technique and prowess; she also has a ton of musicality and heart. These shine through on the songs she’s written herself like Postage Due which has a cute 60s vibe and Undefined, the only ballad on the album.

Despite the serious skills Gyorgy possesses she never gets too heavy and the overall feel of No Bounds is upbeat, warm and utterly charming.

Listen to 'No Bounds' Now in the Listening Room

02 SarahJerrom DreamLogicDream Logic
Sarah Jerrom
Three Pines Records TPR-002 (sarahjerrom.com)

With the release of her latest recording, Sarah Jerrom has reminded us that she is one of the most  interesting, talented and creative vocalist/composers on the scene today. All of the 13 compositions on the CD were written by Jerrom, except for two (Illusions and Plastic Stuff) by ensemble member and gifted guitarist, Harley Card. Jerrom is also featured on piano and, in addition to Card, is joined by the uber-skilled Rob McBride on bass, Jeff Luciani on drums/percussion and Joe Lipinski (who also co-produced and engineered this project brilliantly) on acoustic guitar/vocals. 

The opening salvo, Snowblind, has a silky, languid opening, featuring Jerrom’s pitch-perfect, clear tone – reminiscent of the great Jackie Cain or Norma Winstone. Cleverly arranged group vocals join in, followed by Card holding forth on an exquisite solo, rife with emotional and musical colours. An intriguing inclusion is Accolade Parade. Percussive and noir-ish, it deftly explores the desire for recognition – earned or not – and Jerrom shows herself to be a fine pianist on this harmonically dazzling tune. She also displays her vocal and compositional versatility on this well-written track. All is punctuated by the fine work of McBride and Luciani, who drives the ensemble down the pike with pumpitude to spare.

A highlight of the recording is the poetic, sultry, diatonic Fata Morgana. Again Jerrom dons another vocal guise with the deft use of her warm, lower register and her fine time feel. Card – this time on electric guitar – adopts a free, Bill Frisell-ish motif, set against the throbbing percussion of Luciani and the dynamic, soul-stirring bass of McBride. Another standout is Fergus – an unselfconscious, swinging, bittersweet love song – elegant in its simplicity and mysterious in its meaning.

Listen to 'Dream Logic' Now in the Listening Room

03 Mike FreedmanInto the Daybreak
Mike Freedman
Independent (mikefreedman.com)

A very welcome and positive pick-me-up to balance out these grayer times, local Toronto guitarist Mike Freedman’s latest release (and debut as a bandleader) is a rhythmically and melodically pleasing album that you would be hard pressed not to want to dance or at least tap along to. Spanning and mixing genres from Latin to blues and jazz to R&B, this record would be a great addition to the collection of listeners who tend to lean towards a classic sound or are looking for a modern take on the genre. All pieces are penned by Freedman himself and are given life by a sublime backing band with well-known names such as Chris Gale on tenor saxophone, Kobi Hass on bass and Jeremy Ledbetter on piano. 

Samba on the Sand is definitely a standout on the album, a Latin-flavoured piece with scintillating rhythms provided by drummer Max Senitt and a unique combination of melodica and guitar that creates a warm and distinctly Brazilian undertone to the tune. In Lamentation Revelation, focus is put on the interplay between distinctive piano chords, a smooth and quite funky bass line as well as Freedman’s mellow riffs forming a sultry R&B-flavoured whole. The title track manages to capture the exact essence of positivity, regeneration and awakening that each day brings; the driving rhythms and uplifting melodic progressions all contribute to maintaining this feeling throughout the piece.

04 KlaxonCD001Entièrement unanimes
Klaxon Gueule
Ambiances Magnétique AM 259 CD (actuellecd.com)

While this session may at first appear to be a traditional guitar (Bernard Falaise), electric bass (Alexandre St-Onge) and drums (Michel F Côté) creation by Montreal’s Klaxon Gueule, the addition of synthesizers and a computer means it relates as much to metaphysics as to music. That’s because programming alters the sound of each instrument, blending timbres into a pointillist creation that brings in palimpsest inferences along with forefront textures.   

A track such as Continuum indifférencié for instance, features a programmed continuum with concentrated buzzing that moves the solid exposition forward as singular string slides, piano clicks and drum ruffs are interjected throughout. In contrast, la mort comme victoire malgré nous finds voltage impulses resembling a harmonized string section moving slowly across the sound field as video-game-like noise scraping and ping-ponging electron ratchets gradually force the exposition to more elevated pitches. Although aggregate tremolo reverb frequently makes ascribing (m)any textures to individual instruments futile, enough timbral invention remains to negate any thoughts of musical AI. Singular guitar plucks peer from among near-opaque organ-like washes on Société Perpendiculaire and a faux-C&W guitar twang pushes against hard drum backbeats on toute la glu

During the CD’s dozen selections, the trio members repeatedly prove that their mixture of voltage oscillations and instrumental techniques can create a unique sonic landscape that is as entrancing as it is expressive.

05 Al MuirheadLive from Frankie’s & the Yardbird
Al Muirhead Quintet
Chronograph Records CR082 (chronographrecords.com/releases)

There is an eloquent maxim in many musical discussions that “improvised music ought to sound written and written music should sound improvised.” In a similar vein I would argue that most studio jazz recordings benefit from a live energy, and most live recordings can sound as polished as their studio counterparts when well executed. The Al Muirhead Quintet strikes this balance beautifully on Live From Frankie’s & the Yardbird, performing a collection of jazz standards, one Muirhead original and Jimmy Giuffre’s Four Brothers; hardly a standard, but part of the jazz lexicon nonetheless. The album comes to a brief midway pause with the vocal Intermission Song, a showbiz-style way to end sets that only someone with Muirhead’s long connection to the music could pull off in such a fun and endearing manner. 

The recording features Muirhead on bass trumpet and trumpet, Kelly Jefferson on tenor saxophone, veteran bassist Neil Swainson and differing guitarists and drummers for each venue. Reg Schwager and Jesse Cahill round out the band in Vancouver, with Jim Head and Ted Warren playing the Edmonton hit. The recording has a stunningly unified sound despite these personnel and venue changes, evidenced by the two contrasting versions of Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness. I recommend this album as a great example of Canadian jazz in a nutshell: easy to listen to, but far from devoid of depth.

06 Tune TownEntering Utopia
Three Pines Records TPR-001 (tunetownjazz.com)

A plethora of situations resemble utopia when compared to the pandemic conditions we currently find ourselves in, but TuneTown’s latest release Entering Utopia could bring a listener in that kind of positive direction even under normal circumstances. This is true musically, and makes sense in the greater timeline as well, being recorded at the same session as the trio’s previous release There From Here

This album is my second review this month to prominently feature saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, and his grounded approach across genres is simultaneously unique and authentic. I know of his comrades Artie Roth on the bass and drummer Ernesto Cervini from their ample work with other projects, but TuneTown gives them unique space and freedom by removing a chordal instrument from the equation. This leaves the rhythm section more room for exposed harmonic and percussive moments, like Roth’s informative double stops on Layla Tov, and Cervini’s intro to Hello, Today, the album’s opener that introduces the band one member at a time. 

Performing together for more than a decade and a half has given the group a very cohesive sound, bringing a sense of unity to this album as it traverses originals, free improvisations and even a Charlie Parker blues. Entering Utopia gives listeners an excellent earful of what to expect when we next hear TuneTown in person.

Listen to 'Entering Utopia' Now in the Listening Room

07 Lorne LofskyThis Song Is New
Lorne Lofsky
Modica Music (modicamusic.com)

The late Ed Bickert set the model: Toronto’s most distinguished jazz guitarists tend to be self-effacing, blending in, enhancing the music of which they’re a part, rarely assuming the foreground. It’s certainly true of Lorne Lofsky (and Reg Schwager, for another). Lofsky spent eight years co-leading a quartet with Bickert and a few years in Oscar Peterson’s quartet, but his last recording under his own name was Bill, Please, released in 1994, before his term with Peterson. 

This Song Is New presents Lofsky in a quartet with longtime associates playing five of his compositions, as well as two modern jazz standards that establish his frame of reference. The opening Seven Steps to Heaven, associated with its co-composer Miles Davis, suggests Lofsky’s biases: his strongest associations are with the subtle explorations, harmonic and melodic, of musicians like Bill Evans and Jim Hall, articulated with a beautifully even, glassy electric guitar sound. It’s even more pointed on his own compositions, like the ballad The Time Being, on which tenor saxophonist Kirk MacDonald finds a lightly metallic sound that perfectly embraces the melody. The bouncy Live from the Apollo has an extended trio segment in which Lofsky, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Barry Romberg develop an intimate three-way dialogue, while the title track encapsulates the delicately nuanced nocturne of which Lofsky is a master.       

At its best, it’s music to savour. One hopes Lofsky doesn’t wait 27 years to release another recording.

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