As You Near Me
James Campbell; Graham Campbell;
Afiara Quartet
Marquis MAR 451

Throughout musical history, how many eminent musicians have produced musical offspring? The number may seem surprisingly low — Leopold Mozart certainly did, as did J.S. Bach. But as for musicians like Haydn, Debussy and Dvořák, there was nobody to carry on the family tradition. Closer to home, this is clearly not the case with clarinettist James Campbell, whose son Graham is a fine guitarist and pedagogue; the two have happily joined forces on this Marquis Classics disc titled As You Near Me.

Long referred to as “Canada’s pre-eminent clarinetist and wind soloist,” James Campbell has enjoyed an international career as soloist and chamber musician for more than 35 years. His son Graham earned his music degree at Humber College and has since made a name for himself as a gifted guitarist and composer in Toronto’s music community.

This is actually the second recording father and son have produced (the first was Homemade Jam in 2003). Nevertheless, with this release, Graham’s talents as a composer are also showcased, for eight of the 16 tracks bear his name. There are many things to like about this recording, not the least of which is the eclecticism; it draws from several sources, including jazz, Latin and central European. The two Campbells are joined on certain tracks by other performers such as the Afiara String Quartet and bassists Sam McLellan and Bob Mills. James Campbell’s lyrical tone combined with the skilful guitar work (either as a solo or as accompaniment) produces an appealing sound, with the younger Campbell’s own compositions proving particularly engaging.

As You Near Me is the perfect disc for relaxing to on an autumn weekend — or for that matter, any day of the week, during any season. Recommended.

06 pot pourri 02b tangos brasileiros06 pot pourri 02a tango dreamsTango Dreams
Alexander Sevastian
Analekta AN 28767

Tangos Brasileiros –
The music of Ernesto Nazareth
Christina Petrowska Quilico
Marquis MAR 519

When you start pulling out your winter boots for another snowy march, take out your dancing shoes too, and warm up the Canadian winter with these two new releases of hot and sultry tango music played by two of Canada’s finest performers.

Accordionist Alexander Sevastian is a world-class awarding-winning performer. Many readers will recognize his fabulous work with Quartetto Gelato. In Tango Dreams, Sevastian is brilliant as he takes on the tango style. The five tangos by the late “tango nuevo” Argentinean composer/bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla are performed with sensitivity and nuance. From Uruguay, the more traditional La Cumparsita, by Gerardo Hernan Matos Rodriguez (arranged by Dmitriy Varelas) opens with a quasi-improvisational florid section which leads to a colourful harmonic and rhythmically robust performance true to the traditional tango genre. The contrasting middle section with its rubato and melodic chromaticisms makes this more of a concert work until it’s time to dance again as Sevastian shows his artistic musicianship both in melody and rhythm. The title track Tango Dreams by Raymond Luedeke is a performance of a 2002 work commissioned by fellow accordionist Joseph Petric for accordion and string trio which has been featured in various concert settings, and as a dance piece choreographed by David Earle. As the composer notes, no tango lines have been lifted from traditional tangos, yet the work oozes with the tango spirit and drive. Sevastian and Atis Bankas (violin), Anna Antropova (viola) and Jonathan Tortolano (cello) achieve a tight ensemble unit through changing stylistic motives and moods.

Equally world-renowned and the 2007 winner of the Friends of Canadian Music Award, pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico performs the tangos of Brazilian composer/pianist Ernesto Júlio de Nazareth (1863–1934) in the two-CD release Tangos Brasileiros. Touches of salon music and the romanticism of Chopin are evident in these tangos, which are quicker in tempo than their Argentinean relatives. There is so much heartfelt joy in the pianist’s performances of 24 of the composers’ piano works. In her liner notes titled “My Personal Tango Journey,” she attributes her agility in style, musicality and placement of downbeat to her years in the dance studio learning how to dance the tango. I agree completely. The famous Fon-Fon is driven by a zippy right hand melody which is partnered by a two-feet-grounded-on-the-floor pulse. The more traditional Perigoso – Tango Brasileiro is a swaying, sultry and steady performance with intriguing brief yet breathtaking silences. Most fun are the left hand low-pitched lines in Myosotis. Deep and rich in tone, they act as a perfect mate to the jovial salon music-like right hand melodies. Throughout, Petrowska Quilico’s well-contemplated rhythmic placements and gentler finger attacks create the sense of melodic spontaneity so important to tango music.

Sevastian and Petrowska Quilico are so very different in their musical instruments, attitudes and approaches to tangos yet both are worthy of an enjoyable twirl across the listening dance floor.

BroadswayBroadsway – Old Friends
Heather Bambrick; Julie Michels;
Diane Leah
Broadsway BWCD001

Three broads sing it their way: meet Broadsway, an explosively talented trio. The versatile voices of Heather Bambrick and Julie Michels are paired with acclaimed pianist/musical director Diane Leah, who in this context sings, plays and arranges exquisitely. Charmingly, the project started out by accident, when Michels, accompanied by Leah, invited Bambrick to sit in on what turned out to be a fantabulous version of Moondance (find it on YouTube!) in November of 2008. Turns out these three women have more in common than curly hair: incredible musicality, electric stage presence and, central to the group, a mutual respect and admiration for one another. Nearly five years after that first “Moondance,” they’ve turned their innate musical sisterhood into a sublime, polished cabaret act.

Likely the only group in the world to perform Puccini, Lady Gaga and Thelonious Monk in the same set, Broadsway can do seemingly anything, but most of their material comes from musical theatre and film. Highlights of this recording include Take Me or Leave Me from Rent, I Know Him So Well from Chess, a testament to songwriting genius in the Broadsway Bacharach medley and a contagiously joyous romp through the challenging Lambert, Hendricks & Ross vehicle Cloudburst. Balancing the wild spontaneity of a given moment with years of friendship, there will never be another Broadsway. And while there is no substitute to seeing these ladies in concert, this CD comes highly recommended.

—Ori Dagan

Concert Note:Broadsway performs on September 6 and 7 at the Flying Beaver Pubaret at 488 Parliament St.

Lenka Lichtenberg with Fray
Sunflower Records

Bridges - Live at Lula Lounge
Lenka Lichtenberg and Roula Said
SR CD 005

Songs for the Breathing Walls
Lenka Lichtenberg

01a lenka lichtenberg
Fray (Free), the Czech born Toronto-based singer-songwriter Lenka Lichtenberg’s breakout 2011 album, embraced the city’s world music aesthetic and its musicians. Embrace, her outstanding new production, continues to explore and expand that artistic direction.

The title lyric of the Lichtenberg song Peace Is the Only Way is a central theme of Embrace. Its refrain is the personal motto of the Israeli violinist, oud player, songwriter and peace activist Yair Dalal. A leading musician on the global world music scene his ideals and spirit, bridging Arabic and Israeli – and other – divides, permeates this album. The spirit of peaceful coexistence among loss and struggle is also present as well in the earlier CDs, the live-off-the-floor Bridges: Live at Lula Lounge and the Songs for the Breathing Walls recorded on site in the Czech Republic.

01b lichtenberg lula loungeThe main directions on Embrace are multifold: world music blendings, songs in the Yiddish theatrical tradition, klezmer instrumental touches and Jewish liturgy. It’s all skilfully linked by Lichtenberg’s effective song writing and unaffected vocals, as well as very effective yet unfussy, lush-sounding, instrumentation. Yair Dalal shares co-composition credits with Lichtenberg on the atmospheric track Perfume Road which begins with an environmental recording of birds outside the recording studio backing Dalal’s free-metre Middle Eastern-inflected oud introduction, segueing seamlessly to Lichtenberg’s crystalline singing of her own Yiddish lyrics. Also to savour: the superb performances by Lichtenberg’s band, Fray, and guest musicians comprising Toronto’s world music and jazz scene A-listers, as well as those from beyond the GTA. Album guests include the well-known Hindustani sarangi player Druba Ghosh, violinist Hugh Marsh and Kevin Turcotte on trumpet.

Some of the same material is assayed in Lichtenberg and Roula Said’s 2012 release Bridges, with many of the same musicians. The major difference here is Said’s authoritative Arabic language vocal contributions and the inclusion of songs in the Arabic lineage. I moreover enjoyed the freedom and straightforward arrangements in this live concert recorded at Toronto’s Lula Lounge, as compared with the tightly sculpted Embrace studio magic. This contrast is particularly clear in the extended open-feel instrumental solos in Bridges, giving the virtuoso musicians a change to groove and express themselves.

01c lichtenberg breathing wallsThe deeply affecting album Songs for the Breathing Walls refers to the 12 historic synagogues scattered throughout the Czech Republic whose Jewish populations were decimated by the mid-20th century Holocaust. These settings of Jewish liturgical songs reflect the varying onsite interior acoustics of the synagogues, their outside soundscapes (on track 18 Lichtenberg remarks “…birds, cars, bells…everything…”) as well as their history, intimately connected to their congregations. For instance, accompanied by a sole violin, El Maley Rachamim was recorded in a synagogue hidden within the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The personal connections are palpable in her voice: this is the place Lichtenberg’s mother and grandmothers were interned during the Second World War. The exemplary liner notes with translations of the lyrics, photos of the synagogues and notes about their history add immensely to savouring this musical experience. It’s an achievement for which Lichtenberg was honoured as Traditional Singer of the Year at the November 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Eliana Cuevas
Independent EC003

In continuing her stellar trajectory as an award-winning songwriter and vocalist (2007 — Toronto Independent Music Award for World Music Artist of the Year, 2008 — nominated Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best World Music Solo, 2009 — National Jazz Award for Latin Jazz Artist of the Year), Eliana Cuevas spent the past three years creating this dynamic and soulful fourth CD release. Her partnership with producer/pianist Jeremy Ledbetter, along with a great line-up of Latin and jazz musicians including George Koller and Mark Kelso, makes for an eclectic mix of styles performed with artistry and heart.

The vocals are rich with new experience, the musical arrangements sophisticated and savvy. From the sultry blues/torch song Lamento to the quirky, playful and humourous El Tucusito with its traditional Venezuelan joropo rhythm performed at lightning speed, she and her collaborators move deftly through a great variety of moods and tempi. The first track Estrellita is most danceable — full of joy and exuberance — and the penultimate track, Melancolía, is the jewel in the crown, evoking a wistful yet deeply powerful longing in its portrayal of the hardships of immigration. All in all, a collection of songs fairly bursting with life and energy. I can’t wait for the live show.

Concert Note: Eliana Cuevas will launch Espejo at Lula Lounge on May 15.

Momento CiufoMomento
Michael Ciufo
Acronym Records RWCD0001 (

With the release of Momento, there can be no doubt that classical/contemporary vocalist Michael Ciufo has created a stirring and memorable debut recording. His sumptuous, baritone voice is all at once controlled, crystalline and striking, and his handsome presentation is absolutely au courant. Ciufo moves seamlessly between flawless vocals in Italian, English, French and Spanish – letting loose the poetry of each evocative phrase.

Ciufo and producer Chris Bilton have assembled a literal who’s who of the Canadian music industry to perform on this impressive CD, including conductor Glenn Morley, special guest Hawksley Workman on electric guitar (enjoy his beautiful work on Oh, You Delicate Heart), George Koller on bass, Rob Piltch on guitar, Davide di Renzo on percussion, Lenny Solomon on violin, Wendy Solomon on cello, Erica Goodman on harp, Chris Bilton on piano and synthesizer programming and a host of other fine musicians.

Ciufo is expert at telling the story – creating and capturing musical and/or cinematic moments. Of particular note are the melancholy Caruso, the deeply passionate Chitarra Romana, the simply gorgeous La Chanson Des Vieux Amants and the quintessentially Italian Musica Proibita. The final track, Oh, You Delicate Heart, is a country-flavoured pop song, beautifully rendered and illustrative of this skilled vocalist’s ability to impressively adapt to a wide variety of stylistic motifs. 

A keen romantic sensibility, deadly intonation, excellent taste, high musicality and a deeply communicative approach insure that Ciufo is well on his way to international recognition – and every bit as worthy of said recognition as other internationally successful classical/pop/contemporary vocal artists (David Foster-produced and otherwise).


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