01 Caity GyorgyNow Pronouncing
Caity Gyorgy
Independent (caitygyorgy.bandcamp.com)

Full disclosure: I know Caity Gyorgy from her time in Toronto when she was a college student. That said, whether you are previously familiar with Gyorgy and her marvellous vocal and musical abilities or you are new to her considerable talents, time listening to Now Pronouncing is indeed time well spent for jazz and vocal fans alike. 

This short recording, five songs in length, may be a manifestation of her degree-end capstone school project, but it is anything but an academic student affair. Leading a top-shelf, large-sized professional musical ensemble through a program of original compositions and arrangements, Gyorgy states a melody and lyric with aplomb and, as on Secret Safe, trades improvisatory lines with the assembled and stacked roster of horn players, demonstrating her clear mastery of the bebop and jazz language. And while I have no doubt that she is capable of singing just about anything, regardless of style or genre, how refreshing it is to hear a jazz singer be a jazz singer, foregrounding scat singing, swing, ornamented bebop vocal lines and total band leadership from out front on this fine recording. 

Backed capably by a great Toronto rhythm section of Felix Fox-Pappas (piano), Thomas Hainbuch (bass) and Jacob Wutzke (drums), Gyorgy, who has since relocated and is now showcasing her talents on the Montreal jazz scene, demonstrates why this Calgary-born singer is a talent worth watching regardless of the city in which she takes up residence.

Listen to 'Now Pronouncing' Now in the Listening Room

02 WaxwingFlicker Down
Songlines SGL1633-2 (songlines.com)

Formed in 2007, Waxwing is a co-led trio created by three veterans of the Vancouver music scene: Tony Wilson on guitar, Peggy Lee on cello and Jon Bentley on saxophones. Flicker Down is the third album from this energetic group: not just veterans of the busy Vancouver scene where they are based, individually these three players collaborate in dozens of other musical combinations from folk to jazz to classical around North America and beyond. When they reunite, each brings their best in not only their playing experience, but as equal composers and co-leaders. The result of this fine balance is exquisitely produced on this album. Already a huge fan of this trio, and though their first two albums were thoroughly enjoyable, Flicker Down is a whole other listening experience.

As improvisers, the group keeps their freshness alive with a freedom of expression and a nuanced sense of timing that decades of experience has only heightened. With several manipulated improvisations added to some tracks, this album has a more composed feel but manages to retain the creative freedom and melodic flow that the group is revered for. As cultural travellers, there is a flavour of world music mixed with jazz, folk and contemporary composition, sublimely polished with fine chamber playing. With 18 beautiful tracks there is a plethora of favourites. Montbretia Gates (1’49”), featuring guest flutist Miranda Clingwall, is one of many gems. The decisiveness of Highway of Tears – based on lyrics that concern the murder of Indigenous women – avoids sentimentality and keeps clear the social messaging. Each player’s technical execution is sheer perfection; gorgeously subtle mixing and production from Bentley only raises the bar.

03 Jonathan BauerSings & Plays
Jonathan Bauer
Slammin’ Media (jonathanbauermusic.com)

Renowned Canadian-born, New Orleans-based trumpeter Jonathan Bauer is exposing a new artistic side on this newest release – a smooth tenor voice that both rivals and adds to his talents on the horn. Featuring well-known musicians such as Mike Clement, Gerald Watkins Jr. and Ryan Hanseler, this sultry and classy album is one that any jazz lover would want in their collection. The selection of songs by classics, ranging from Henry Mancini to George Gershwin, does a great job of not only showcasing Bauer’s skills as a leader, trumpeter and now as a vocalist, but also the superb talents of the all-star lineup that backs him.

Sonorous, silky horn melodies lead the listener through staples of the genre like Days of Wine and Roses and Love is Here to Stay. For those that are familiar with the musician, the unique dark and buttery tone that he conjures out of the trumpet, almost reminiscent of the flugelhorn, is back in full force throughout the record. What makes Bauer stand out even more is the way that the happiness and bliss he pours into his instrument clearly translates into his vocals, his voice having the same soaring, joyous quality that the trumpet melodies invoke. The album is a fabulous introduction to this side of the famed artist’s talents and leaves the listener excited to hear more, both instrumentally and vocally, in the future.

04 Angela WrigleyYou Don’t Know What Love Is
Angela Wrigley Trio
Cellar Music CM051920 (cellarlive.com)

On her impressive debut offering, Alberta chanteuse, pianist and composer Angela Wrigley has come forth with a delightful recording that incorporates funky, horn-infused original compositions with tasty standards, reimagined for a contemporary audience. Joined by her fine trio members, Derek Stoll (bass/piano/organ) and Dave Lake on drums, Wrigley also welcomed percussionist Bob Fenske, saxophonist Cory Weeds, trumpeter Vince Mai and trombonist Rod Murray. This clever and appealing project was also produced by longtime jazz-focused record-label visionary Scott Morin and master saxophonist, producer, recording label owner and jazz impresario, Weeds.

The opening salvo, How Did I Get Here, is a funky original composition, in which Wrigley’s warm and soulful pipes wind themselves around this siren song of compelling lyric and melody. Mai infuses the arrangement with both sexy muted trumpet and a large, mouth-pieced Latin sound.  Another intriguing original track is Crazy Fool – a nostalgia-tinged tip of the hat to Tower of Power and other funky horn/vocal bands of the 70s and 80s. Stoll’s classic Fender Rhodes sound is as refreshing as it was back in the day.

Other standouts include Hoagy Carmichael’s moving I Get Along Without You Very Well, in which Wrigley utilizes her sweet, vulnerable upper register, while Weeds cries through his horn in delicate counterpoint; also a bluesy, B3-infused Lover Man; the superb title track, featuring pristine vocals and Stoll’s eloquent piano work; and finally Drive, where composition, performance and arrangement merge in perfect symmetry. This CD is a beautifully constructed first release that clearly establishes this talented new artist’s identity and sound.

05 John MacMurchyLive
John MacMurchy; Dan Ionescu
Independent (johnmacmurchy.bandcamp.com)

Performing music with friends in the intimacy of a celebrated studio appears to be among the greatest joys of a practicing musician. This is certainly demonstrated by woodwinds specialist John MacMurchy and guitarist Dan Ionescu. Live (at the Canterbury Music Company) allows the two musicians to probe the dark and light recesses of the art of the duo; to enter private worlds in which sadness and joy, and despair and hope, are shared in the most striking terms.  

Both MacMurchy and Ionescu express their virtuosity and evoke dramatic and psychological atmospheres in a manner so alive that the musicians seem to be looking over their shoulders, pursuing – and being pursued by – one another, each with a sense of urgency and anticipation marked by rhythm and colour. The idea of interpreting standards – extended to cover the musical topography of Brazil – is central to this disc. However, it is also clear that this is an ode to songfulness. The apogee of this record may be Ionescu’s and MacMurchy’s exquisite composition For the Love of Song.  

MacMurchy’s smoky articulation is beautifully suited to the woody tones of the clarinet, and to I’m Old Fashioned, with which he opens the disc. The warmth of his playing, breathy phrasing and softly lingering vibrato, extends to the tenor saxophone as well. Meanwhile Ionescu proves to be a perfect musical partner, his tone redolent of a luminosity that marks his single-note lines and chordal playing.

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