01 So Long SevenSo Long Seven
Neil Hendry; William Lamoureux; Ravi Naimpally; Tim Posgate
Independent SLS001 (solongseven.com)


The music scene in Toronto is jam-packed with talented, inventive and courageous musicians. So Long Seven, a multifaceted collective comprised of composer/banjoist Tim Posgate, composer/guitarist/mandolinist Neil Hendry, composer/tabla star Ravi Naimpally and violinist William Lamoureux, is one of our city’s cream of the musical crop. Their self-titled debut CD features eight tracks of joyous, at times complex, original tunes with melodious world music, blues, jazz, pop, symphonic, classical and folk-flavoured nuances.

Each track is composed yet features lengthy, storytelling improvisations. Highlights include Hendry’s Torch River Rail Company which opens with a tight group melodic section punctuated by brief stops followed by a touching violin improvisation. Postgate’s MSVR (My Swedish Viking Roots) rocks with his lyric and groove banjo playing and a big band group crescendo ending. Naimpally’s Aarti features special guest, South Asian singer Samidha Joglekar, soaring to lyrical and complex rhythmic heights while the ensemble creates both conversational backdrops and instrumental interludes.

There is such a positive glowing musical force driving the sound. Each performer is a star when soloing and improvising. Great production values add a live off-the-floor ambiance. Brilliant original songwriting creates a unique band sound. Yet the group’s real strength lies in each member’s ability to share and understand the importance of close ensemble listening and the intricacies of musical interplay. So Long Seven is a release that absolutely every music aficionado needs to hear over and over and over again!

02 Tango FadoTango Fado Project
Manhattan Camerata
Sorel Classics SC CD 005 (sorelmusic.org)

Created by artistic director/composer/pianist Lucia Caruso and music director/composer/guitarist Pedro H. da Silva, Manhattan Camerata is a chamber orchestra that excels in its ability to combine all styles of world and classical music to create their self-described Transclassical Music. Here along with special guests Daniel Binelli (bandoneón), Polly Ferman (tango/classical piano) and Nathalie Pires (fado singer), Argentinian tango and Portuguese fado styles are performed, combined and transformed into music that soars in astonishing lyrical emotion and rhythmic drive.

Tango and fado may differ rhythmically yet their shared lyrical and melodic styles thrive when combined. Binelli has arranged the familiar Raul Ferrao Portuguese song April in Portugal into Tango “Abril en Portugal. A mournful virtuosic violin opening leads into a joyful bandoneón, piano and orchestral tango rendition. Other successful reworkings include compositions by Astor Piazzolla and Carlos Gardel among others. But the original compositions are the highlights. Pires sings da Silva and Caruso’s Amor é Fogo with both understated remorse and a dramatic powerhouse ending. Caruso’s Tanguito Cordobés takes Bach-like fugal counterpoint into tango land with conviction. Da Silva’s Non-Absolutist Universal Anthem is a blasting mass of Latin rhythms, mind-boggling instrumental solos and orchestral bravado.

The brilliant virtuosic playing by all the performers is inspiring and captured clearly in the production. The tango/fado compositions and arrangements are surprisingly successful and never mannered in their stylistic interweaving and reworkings. Tango Fado Project is an uplifting unique listening experience.

01 Welsh GaurdsA Tribute
Band of the Welsh Guards
British Military Music Archive BMMAWG1502 (bmma.org.uk) 

This two-disc set commemorates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of The Band of the Welsh Guards. In 1915, as the British army expanded during the First World War, it was felt that Wales should be represented in the Brigade of Guards. The regiment was formed in February of that year. Soon after, when the establishment of a band was approved, the city of Cardiff helped to purchase a set of instruments, and the band began rehearsals in October. By the time of their first concert in the London Opera House on March 1, 1916, the band had already been in a studio and recorded the first six numbers of CD1. By the end of the year 1916, founding members of that band had recorded all 12 numbers on the first CD. While recording techniques have improved significantly, the audio quality is quite amazing.

While CD1 contains mostly patriotic music, CD2, recorded between 1921 and 1940, contains a variety of musical styles including several novelty numbers of the type performed by bands in the years between the wars. Such numbers as Gaiety Echoes and Wedded Whimsies certainly aren’t likely to be found in the repertoire of concert bands of 2016. One particular novelty number that used to be very popular is The Whistler and His Dog. Written by Arthur Pryor, famed trombone virtuoso of the Sousa band, it has many of the band members whistling the melody and then ends with loud barking. This CD even contains a couple of numbers by the Dance Orchestra. All in all, an excellent preservation of the musical history of the Welsh Guards.

02 Orono Cornet BandOrono Cornet Band
Orono Cornet Band
Great Canadian Town Band Festival (oronocornetband.com)

Some years ago, trombone player and old town band music fan, David Climenhage established the Great Canadian Town Band Festival in the small town of Orono, east of Toronto. While the festival no longer operates, Climenhage has now focused on another aspect of his interest in the music of the early town bands in Canada. When he got together with Toronto musician Herbert Poole they discovered that they had a common interest in the collection and restoration of old brass musical instruments. They soon decided that, since their instruments were made to produce music, not just to be admired, they should form a band.

The result is Orono Cornet Band which performs the music of the period when the instruments were built. The result is this recording with music composed between 1855 and 1890. Top flight musicians performing on period instruments, ranging from cornets to such lesser-known oddities as the ophicleide and helicon, provide a rare insight into the musical life of small town Canada before motion pictures, radio or television. Where else could you hear such works for a town dance as the Take Me Home Quickstep or the Blue Dahlia Polka Mazurka. Unfortunately, there are no program notes, and while I had never heard of any of the composers, a little research provided much information on one of them. F. H. Torrington founded the Toronto College of Music which became the first music affiliate of the University of Toronto. In 1894 he conducted the very first concert in Massey Hall. For devotees of early brass band music this recording is a must.

01 Worst Pop Band EverBlackout
Worst Pop Band Ever
Independent (wpbe.bandcamp.com/album/blackout)

The satirically named Worst Pop Band Ever (WPBE) has been crafting its eclectic blend of jazz, pop, funk, dance, soundtrack music and humour for a decade. Blackout is a fresh and successful take on a genre-hopping approach to music making that has seen a growing number of exponents in recent years. The two-keyboard mix of Dafydd Hughes and Adrean Farrugia combine with DJ LEO37’s turntables to create varied and unique textures over the rhythm section of Tim Shia and Drew Birston on drums and bass. Saxophonist Chris Gale is a powerful voice and the de facto singer in a group that doesn’t have one but certainly could.

The group grafts wide-ranging musical elements onto each other that serve to subtly or not so subtly transform the source materials. Peachy Keen features modern jazz piano comping over a reggae feel that creates a surprisingly ideal setting for Chris Gale’s soulful saxophone solo. The abrupt switch to a full-out rock groove with electronica for the tune’s ending somehow seems completely appropriate.

Satie-like chords float in from the crowd noise of Group Scene. The evocative piano melody gives way to Drew Birston’s melodic bass solo and synth textures heighten the atmosphere. Electric piano and Hammond B3 provide a classic backdrop for Adrean Farrugia’s funky Gospel. Farrugia and Gale solo exuberantly in the spirit of the tune. WPBE veers between being ironic and overt but it always wears its pop influences proudly.

02 Rebecca BinnendykSome Fun Out of Life
Rebecca Binnendyk
Alma Records RBM63052 (almarecords.com)


Emerging Canadian jazz/pop-influenced vocalist/composer Rebecca Binnendyk has fired her opening professional salvo with an impressive and eclectic collection of standards from the Great American Songbook, contemporary pop tunes and original compositions. Equally impressive are her chosen collaborators, including exceptional producer/engineer John “Beetle” Bailey and yeoman musicians of her core group, Attila Fias on piano, Kevin Laliberte on guitar, bassist Drew Birston, drummer Davide Direnzo and dynamic percussionist Rosendo “Chendy” Leon. The tasty arrangements are credited to pianist Steve Wingfield, vocalist/keyboardist Don Breithaupt and pianist/composer/arranger (and Elton John alum), Charles Cozens.

Thankfully, no gratuitous, uninformed scat singing will be found here – but what the listener will happily find is a pure, appealing vocal instrument, interesting musical choices, and a refreshingly forthright skill with the interpretation of a lyric – whether that lyric emanates from her own tunes, Tin Pan Alley or the mind of Jon Bon Jovi.

As a composer, Binnendyk contributes two gorgeous offerings here: Stars, inspired by the untimely passing of troubled music icon Amy Winehouse, and also the inspiring Live Now. Additional standouts include the zesty title track (featuring a historically correct, depression-era arrangement) and Corinne Baily Rae’s mega-hit, Put Your Records On. Presented here as a horn-infused, soulful anthem of youth and longing, this performance works – whether sung in Waterloo, Ontario or Manchester, U.K. Another gem is a moving take on Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, which features the masterful William Sperandei on trumpet.

The eloquent closer is Charlie Chaplin’s Smile – simply presented – crystalline, classic and without artifice, not unlike a mine-cut diamond solitaire.

Concert Note: Rebecca Binnendyk launches "Some Fun Out Of Life" with performances on March 18 and 19 at the Jazz Bistro.

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