02 SupermusiqueVoir dans le vent… 
Symon Henry; Ensemble SuperMusique
Ambiances Magnétiques AM251CD (actuellecd.com)

Symon Henry is a visual artist, poet and composer of graphic scores. His Voir dans le vent qui hurle les étoiles rire, et rire (l’un•e sans l’autre) is a hand-drawn 168-page score. The sample drawings in the CD booklet suggest minimalist landscapes as much as the heavens. There are light and heavy lines, some are gently arcing horizontals, others shoot off at sharp angles. In this live recording, the visuals were projected on screen and each of Ensemble SuperMusique’s ten musicians followed the score on individual iPads, with the work’s arranger, Danielle Palardy Roger, conducting.

The work is an immediate surprise, opening with a hive of overlapping, eerie glissandi from instruments that take a while to distinguish, strings and vernacular flutes with touches of a ratcheting bird call. As the 50-minute piece proceeds through its six movements, each develops its own density and sonic language, though frequently employing the shifting glissandi as linear representations. Rencontres adds some gritty scraping noises, and Guillaume Dostaler’s exploratory piano to the mix, while the extended Les nues continuously adds new and shifting textures.

Voir dans le vent… highlights the improvisatory invention and detailed listening of Ensemble SuperMusique, a group founded in 1998. Henry’s work emphasizes a special sectional creativity and interaction from the various woodwinds of Joane Hétu, Jean Derome and Lori Freedman and the strings of Guido Del Fabbro, violin, Rémy Bélanger de Beauport, cello, and Pierre-Yves Martel, viola de gamba and zither.

03 Carl MayotteFantosme
Carl Mayotte
Independent (carlmayotte.com)

Montreal bassist Carl Mayotte has just released his debut CD, which was co-conceived by Mayotte and the iconic Michel Cusson (UZEB). This evocative project features ten original compositions (mainly penned by Mayotte), which embrace the indelible burst of artistry and creativity from influential 1970s artists such as Weather Report, Frank Zappa, Hermeto Pascoal, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny.

Mayotte, who performs masterfully here on electric and fretless bass, has also assembled a hungry pack of young jazz lions, who perform this challenging material with boundless energy as well as technical thrills and chills. The cast includes Gabriel Cyr on electric guitar; Francis Grégoire on keyboards and synthesizers; Stéphane Chamberland on drums; Damien-Jade Cyr on tenor, alto and soprano; Jean-Pierre Zanella on alto and flute; Patrice Luneau on baritone; Remi Cormier on trumpet; Emmanuel Richard-Bordon on trombone; Luke Boivin on percussion and Raymond Gagnier on voice.

First up is the two-part suite, Le Fantosme. Part 1, Le Poltergeist, is spooky and otherworldly, with synth-infused structures and a theatrical use of voice and breathing. Part 2, Le Polisson segues into a face-melting drum solo from Chamberland, followed by a funky big band explosion, replete with a fine bass solo and a caustic, Jan Hammer-ish synth solo. Sumptuous flute work by Zanella kicks off the fast-paced O Commodoro, and the spirit of Jaco Pastorious can be felt by Mayotte’s bass work throughout this invigorating composition. Cormier’s volcanic trumpet adds incredibly, while the band morphs into a second-line influenced passage, and then back to the lilting head… sheer beauty. A stand-out is Marise – an ego-less portrait of Mayotte’s incredible skill and melodic sensibility.

04 Monicker Libr aerie cover 10iii20 1Monicker
Bug Incision bim-79 (bugincision.com)

Few international improvising ensembles get to persist after their initial meetings, but Monicker – the trio of guitarist Arthur Bull and trombonist Scott Thomson, both Canadians, and the English drummer Roger Turner – is currently enjoying a second life, with a recent Australian tour and upcoming dates in France and England. Libr’aerie documents a 2018 performance from Quebec City’s Librairie Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

There’s no easy way to describe the group’s music: any substantial segment might include the dauntingly abstract, the drolly witty and the broadly, almost physically, comic, and each dimension, among others, might be caught in the same passage. This recording is more minimalist than their previous release (Spine on Ambiances Magnétiques), with Turner reducing his kit to snare drum, cymbal and “small junk percussion,” the latter the source of the high-pitched, near-random, metallic chatter that sometimes animates this music. 

There’s a broad movement here from the abstract to the celebratory. Turner’s special momentum has roots in early jazz and similar tastes have shaped the work of his younger partners. Thomson can reflect a century of jazz trombone, from a New Orleans moan to elegant legato, but there are special moments when he combines unlikely elements, matching bebop velocity to vocalic smears. Bull often extends early blues idioms, and a rapid passage of string-bends can sound like his guitar has an elastic neck strung with elastic bands. Somehow the effect blurs into the identity of Thomson’s trombone, the result an uncanny timbral convergence.

05 Ernesto CerviniTetrahedron
Ernesto Cervini
Anzic Records ANZ-0067 (ernestocervini.com)

Ernesto Cervini, famed jazz drummer, has yet again brought together a greatly talented group of musicians on this debut release by his new venture Tetrahedron. The name is derived from the flags that indicate wind direction at airports, carrying on a theme of “flight” from Cervini’s other well-known sextet Turboprop. But more importantly, the tetrahedron is also “a three-dimensional triangle (with four sides) which seems to fit a chordless trio… recording with a fourth member and special guest.” On this album, the trio consists of Cervini, Luis Deniz on alto saxophone and Rich Brown on electric bass; with renowned guitarist Nir Felder as the “fourth.” Together, these musicians breathe life and direction into Cervini’s musical imagination and the journey that emerges from it. 

Starting off the album with a righteous bang is the track Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise. Brown’s soft and unique bass intro moves into a rhythmically complex and dancing line that is overlaid by Felder’s signature Stratocaster sound, Cervini’s equally tricky drum groove and Deniz’s smooth, melodic sax tune. Angelicus is a beautiful, slower piece composed by Vince Mendoza which had stuck with Cervini since his first year studies at the University of Toronto. Meandering throughout the album, the end track The Sneaky Two is similar to the opening track in that it leaves the listener tapping their foot, hooking into the rhythm and awaiting what the next release by this supergroup will be.

Listen to 'Tetrahedron' Now in the Listening Room

06 Peter HumOrdinary Heroes
Peter Hum
Independent (peterhum.com)

Canadian musicians, it appears, are no less exempt (than US ones), from the unpleasant vagaries of the seemingly pervasive, angst-ridden socio-political climate in the continent. We like to think that ground zero for all of this is the US, but the ripples are often felt in Canada. At least this is what pianist and composer Peter Hum seems to say as he references, in his music, numerous disturbing incidents that have left our society shaken to its core. 

Much music that makes reference to manmade tragedies is often strident in tone and utilizes disturbing dissonances to make its point, but Hum’s music doesn’t do so. The very title of the recording, Ordinary Heroes, provides an insight into Hum’s poetics and aesthetic and it is this: principally, disquiet is viewed from a perspective apposite to the violence that causes it. He evokes this in the emotion and intellect of his pianism. 

Thus we hear the voices of victims instead of perpetrators – innocent worshippers shot to death in a mosque (Tears for the Innocent), Japanese migrants imprisoned in internment camps during World War II (Ordinary Heroes) and refugees from Latin American countries, Myanmar and Syria (Safe Passage), for instance – soar in the deeply meditative pathos of melodic and harmonic conceptions.

And when rhythms are employed to bring stories to life, even in music such as Rabble Rouser, Hum does so in a manner that is artfully idiomatic.

07 Mark GodfreySquare Peg
Mark Godfrey Quintet
Independent PRAM004 (markgodfreybass.com)

Square Peg is a collection of jazz tunes bassist and composer Mark Godfrey wrote while commuting between Toronto and New York over a four-year period in his Dodge Caravan (a great vehicle for holding an upright bass). The album title could refer to how a vehicle associated with families and soccer is turned into a conduit for art and music. Many of the tunes are meditative, possibly because driving a familiar route often leads to introspection.

Highlights include the title piece which starts with a lilting melody played together by Allison Au (alto sax) and Matt Woroshyl (tenor sax) slightly in and out of sync giving it a nice edge. Then Chris Pruden plays a tinkling, arpeggiated and out-of-tempo piano solo that is quite beautiful. No Gig Today is a breezy up-tempo bossa nova tune that seems to say, “If we can’t get a gig, let’s groove on our own.” Nick Fraser’s stylish and complex drums provide the perfect jazz-samba backbeat. After a sophisticated solo by Pruden the two saxes heat things up with an unaccompanied duet break which evolves into trading eights when the rhythm section returns. This is a great tune with many nuances.

Square Peg is accessible yet sophisticated, with all musicians sounding impeccable. May I suggest slipping this CD into your car (or van) stereo system for one of those lengthy drives?

08 Heidi LaingeLet Your Honesty Shine – The Simon Project
Heidi Lange
Independent (music.apple.com)

Talented jazz vocalist and professor Heidi Lange’s newest release is a pleasant modern jazz take on famed singer-songwriter Paul Simon’s music, mixing in elements of pop and rock to create a unique whole. With current jazz greats like Mark Kieswetter on piano, Jordan O’Connor on acoustic bass, Eric St-Laurent on guitars and Ben Riley on drums, the album is a perfect soundtrack for a rainy day, for contemplation or relaxing. Lange’s voice is a balanced combination of wispiness and depth, pulling in the listener and invoking complete focus on her. 

Each track features a prominent piano melody that blends in outstandingly with Lange’s timbre and is further supported by beautiful guitar riffs, a moving, yet calming, drum rhythm and a sultry bass line. A touching version of Bridge Over Troubled Water is a definite highlight of the album, as is the unique take on Dazzling Blue and the captivating Another Galaxy. Standing out from the rest of the tracks for its upbeat tempo and slightly more driving melody and rhythm is The Boy in the Bubble, also unique for the fact that the entire band sounds the most blended here, intricacies of each instrument played out to create a cohesive but dynamic whole. This is where the listener can hear just how well these talents merge together. For longtime fans of Paul Simon’s work or for music fans interested in a modern jazz sound, this album is a definite recommendation.

Back to top