02 Ron KorbEuropa
Ron Korb
Humbledragon Entertainment HD2012 (www.ronkorb.com)

Flutist Ron Korb has built an international career as a studio musician and as a solo performer; he is particularly in demand for his command of any number of flutes from non-western cultures. Europa, his 16th solo CD, features him not only as performer but also as composer. The music on each track is dedicated to a prominent European composer or compositional genre, on which it is loosely modelled. 

Korb’s affinity for Celtic music, evident on several of the tracks, makes this disc particularly appealing. The especially compelling example of his flair for it can be found on track four, Beckett’s Whisper, which he plays on a wooden Irish flute, really, he observed recently, a baroque flute without the typical D-sharp key. The warm expressiveness of his sound in this wistful, haunting melody has not gone unnoticed: it has recently been named a finalist in the International Acoustic Music Awards.

His collaborators on the disc also deserve acknowledgment: pianist Laila Biali’s distinctive musical personality blends perfectly with Korb’s, while always adding to and supporting his work. Percussionist Larry Crowe is consistently sensitive to his relationship with the other musicians. I admired his tom-tom playing in 1759, a quasi martial tribute to that watershed year in French-English relations. Winona Zelenka, whose cello playing can fill a concert hall, adjusts her sound perfectly to the intimate scale of the occasion and provides welcome contrast to the flute. It is Korb’s unique and recognizable sound, however, that is at the heart of this recording’s appeal.


01 PassionePassione
Charles Di Raimondo
Independent CDR012 (www.charlesdiraimondo.com)

In the interpretive arts, there is no substitute for life experience – although a good imagination may work for a while, ultimately only genuine, experience-driven emotion transcends the mists of time. In Charles Di Raimondo’s debut CD, not only does he display a highly trained vocal instrument of terrific scope, but he has also literally infused each song with his deeply personal engrams of a life abundantly (and no doubt passionately) lived.

Co-Producers Raimondo and Glenn Morley have created an eclectic program, highlighting Raimondo’s versatility. On the opening track, Raimundo (who also contributes lyrics, music and arrangements) wraps his rich baritone around Ennio Morricone’s theme from the cinematic masterpiece Cinema Paradiso, which sets an impressively high bar for the rest of the recording. 

Of note is a freshly reworked rendition of the contemporary classic, Time to Say Good-bye. The rock-infused production, pleasant baritone placement and double-tracked vocals result in a sumptuous, hearty version, quite unlike any of the more familiar takes from Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. The spare, emotional Caruso (Lucio Dalla) employs gorgeous acoustic guitar work as the perfect complement to Raimondo’s intensity. Also consummately performed is E Lucevan Le Stelle (from Tosca), with another breathtaking acoustic guitar solo placed against Raimundo’s fully charged vocal. Closing out the program are two more stunners: the Italian folk-inspired Mamma (Nell ‘Eterna Melodia) and the lilting and romantic Aquella Noche en Madrid – sung in Español perfecto!

This is a delightful and expertly produced recording that will no doubt be satisfying to both lovers of classical and contemporary vocal music. Although Raimondo’s debut CD may have been a while in the making, the results have been well worth the wait.


02 Orchid EnsembleLife Death Tears Dream
Orchid Ensemble
Independent OE2012 (www.orchidensemble.com)

The Juno nominated Vancouver world music trio Orchid Ensemble consists of leader, singer and erhu (Chinese violin) player Lan Tung, Yu-Chen Wang on the zheng (Chinese zither) and percussionist Jonathan Bernard. Life Death Tears Dream is the ensemble’s third CD. In it they explore several common yet paradoxical categories: West and East, ancient and modern, composed and improvised, in the end product proposing a diverse yet cohesive musical fusion of Chinese, Spanish, Taiwanese and Jewish diasporas.

Original compositions by Canadian west coast composers Mark Armanini, Moshe Denburg, Barry Truax, Lan Tung and Yawen V. Wang proudly stand beside idiomatic arrangements of ancient Chinese originals, i.e. Three Variations of Plum Blossom 梅花三弄 by Huan Yi (c. 350 CE), arr. Lan Tung (2006).

Lan Tung’s Dancing Moon 月舞 (2009) is an effective example of the Orchid Ensemble’s cultural and stylistic accommodations and of the rich palate of timbres they employ to expand the work’s sonic space. Couched in a quick, pulsing 5/4 groove the main melody is inspired by a southwestern Chinese folk song in the course of which improvisations are taken. The centrally-placed zheng solo is particularly masterful, culminating in a torrent of nine-beat cycle phases reminiscent of Indian classical music, while shifting tonalities and rhymes may have a Balkan inspiration. Lan Tung’s vocals on lyrics by a Tang dynasty poet set the narrative stage evoking an energy-filled moonlit nightscape: a celestial stream flowing through an ancient forest of clouds swirling over green mountains. It’s well worth repeated listening.


01 AvivaWhen I Arrived You Were Already There
Aviva Chernick
Independent AVGC-002

This is the solo CD debut for Aviva Chernick, who also performs as lead singer of the JUNO-nominated group Jaffa Road. Jaffa Road, like many of the other groups she performs with, explores a wide variety of world music. This recording reflects her work leading devotional music in the Jewish community, including at a number of Toronto’s temples and synagogues.

Her melodies on English and Hebrew texts are presented in a lovely, simple and accessible chant-like style. They transport the listener with a meditative and transcendent character, while the accompanying musicians on a number of exotic instruments provide more intricate and varied textures elegantly lending elements of rock, jazz and world fusion. One of the songs, Chadesh yameinu, borrows its melody with a tip of the hat to the Indian-Persian duo Ghazal.

Aviva maintains a forthright manner and purity of tone in her vocal style, as do her many notable guest singers. The relationships of breath/spirit, creativity/divinity, nature/renewal, family and community are explored on many levels in this deeply heartfelt and personal offering. The title When I Arrived You Were Already Thereis an invitation to the listener to look deeply within and return to peace.

Misguided-ManAdvice from a Misguided Man
Colin Maier
Independent CMCD001

Colin Maier is far from misguided as an artist. He is comfortable in a wide range of musical styles as is clearly evident for listeners familiar with his work as the oboist for Quartetto Gelato. In this solo project, Maier is joined by a number of special guests in an eclectic collection of music.

Maier, with pianist Allison Wiebe, is sensitive and articulate in Saint-Saëns’ Oboe Sonata. Musical puns abound in Pasculli’s take on Donizetti operas, with accordionist Alex Sevastian providing a solid accompaniment. The traditional The Pipes is arranged by Maier and Mark Camilleri for small ensemble with oboe providing a convincing bagpipe timbre. Maier creates the ambiance in his steady long tones. Rousing versions of Hilario Durán’s Song for Magdalena and the oboist’s composition Bakon showcase Maier’s ample Latin chops. Based on two contrasting Canadian folk songs, Aura Pon’s lyrical Songs of the North Woods, No.1 is simultaneously soothing and dramatic. The idiosyncratic collection of short “songs” by the composer Rebecca Pellett and lyricist Liza McLellan (Gelato’s cellist) are dispersed as tracks throughout. Everything from new music to poetry to dramatic melodies, the songs are unique twists in sound and attitude. There is nothing bland here.

Colin Maier is a multi-talented musician who plays oboe with a gorgeous tone and superimposes his sense of seriousness and humour into all he performs. You would be misguided not to listen to this release.

02-TambanavoTambanavo (Dance With Them)
Zhambai Trio
Independent n/a

The exhilarating debut CD by the Vancouver group Zhambai Trio showcases both the traditional music of the Shona culture of Zimbabwe and that of its transplanted son, Kurai Blessing Mubaiwa, the group’s leader. Mubaiwa is not only an outstanding mbira dza vadzimu (“thumb piano”), marimba, ngoma (hand drum) and hosho (maraca) player; he is an eloquent and powerful singer as well.

Joined by Canadians, world drummer extraordinaire Curtis Andrews and dancer-percussionist Navaro Franco, the Zhambai Trio’s music is deeply steeped in the traditional mbira music of Zimbabwe. The musical form is typically cyclic, while also marked throughout by evolving, interlocking, dual instrument variations. Characteristic vocal solos and choral responses are usually sung over the continuous instrumental patterns, which in the case of Chinzvenga Mutsvairo, builds into a very satisfying, densely woven, polyphonic texture. That and other tracks remind us how closely identified with the essence of music-making the voice is in much of West Africa. The expressive voices, so prominent on this CD, make a compelling case as the real stars here, despite the evident “rightness” and even virtuosity of much of the instrumental playing.

The online notes refer to the “trance-y” nature of the performance in its homeland. Traditionally sought after in Shona ceremonies, trance states are used to communicate with ancestor spirits and to offer insights to problems of community members. The lyrics on this CD however offer less dramatic, reassuring advice to youth, “you can also do what your elders can” (Chipundura). Another song urges people to get along with their grandmothers, who they rely on for comfort and warmth (Dangurangu).

While the Zhambai Trio was formed as recently as 2010, this CD is clear evidence of an infectious brand of contemporary Zimbabwean-inflected music emerging fully formed from our west coast.

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