01 Ginzburg GeographyJewlia Eisenberg – The Ginzburg Geography
Charming Hostess
Tzadik (tzadik.com)

Acknowledging that labels and classifications of music are inelegant and confusing at the best of times, I cannot, for the life of me, begin to properly describe or compartmentalize this curious, extremely musical and compelling album: The Ginzburg Geography by Charming Hostess, a trio comprised of Jewlia Eisenberg, Cynthia Taylor and Marika Hughes. Not only is this programmatic recording interesting in its theme – exploring the lives and work of Natalia and Leone Ginzburg, Jewish anti-fascist political activists who played central roles in the Italian resistance movement – but the narrative of how this recording came to be, following the untimely death of singer and principal performer Eisenberg in 2021 at age 49, is equal parts tragic and captivating. 

Both storylines coalesce here on this fine 2022 Tzadik release that is both historical in its mining of a fascinating story of activism (combining research, creative reportage and original content creation) and historic in that it represents the final creative project of Eisenberg, a longtime respected contributor to the creative music scenes of New York and San Francisco’s Bay area. Further, as Eisenberg’s passing occurred prior to the album’s completion, it took the efforts of longtime collaborator Hughes to complete this recording consistent with Eisenberg’s original vision. 

This would be, I imagine, a difficult process not only personally, but providing a sort of musicological challenge where information on composer and creative intentions were gleaned from notes and past performances before being willed to fruition on the recording here. Classifications be damned, there is much to learn from and to like with this provocative and thoughtful new release. 

02 Ryan OliverRyan Oliver With Strings
Ryan Oliver; Bernie Senensky; Neil Swainson; Terry Clarke
Cellar Music CM102021 (cellarlive.com)

Juno-nominated, Victoria-based saxophonist, Ryan Oliver, has collaborated with a fantastic group of musicians on his latest release, making for a captivating musical voyage that any listener will want to join. The album features a group of famed musicians, with Bernie Senensky on piano, Terry Clarke on drums and rounded out by Neil Swainson on bass. What makes this album a truly unique endeavour is the string accompaniment that is present throughout each track, adding a wonderfully melodious and classy flavour to the record. Most songs were written by Oliver himself and arranged by Mark Crawford.
A soaring and sonorous string melody along with Oliver’s mellow saxophone solo lead into the first piece, The Ballad of Buffalo Bill. A slightly mysterious yet positively groovy song, this will get any listener’s toe tapping and body moving. Tango for Astor, one of the pieces not penned by Oliver, features a rhythmic, fittingly tango-esque groove from Clarke and a beautiful, pizzicato bass line played by Swainson. Eddie is an up-tempo tune with a scintillating riff in the strings underpinning a masterful saxophone line and piano solo showcasing Senensky’s talent perfectly. To close out the album, Walk Up on the Road has a bluesy and gospel flavour to it, perhaps a fitting melancholic yet positive end to this record. For anyone looking to add touch of “James Bond-esque” class and style to their night in, this is the album for you.

03 Sam KirmayerIn This Moment
Sam Kirmayer
Cellar Music CM030422 (cellarlive.com)

Sam Kirmayer, a Montreal-based jazz guitarist who has gained a lot of notoriety playing with famed musicians nationally, has been and remains one of the most in-demand sidemen within the genre. Already quite a feat on its own for someone under 35, Kirmayer can add his third and latest release to that quickly growing list of accomplishments. The prolific musician’s newest record features a track list of all new, original pieces that showcase not only his talent as a guitarist but also as a great composer. With renowned musicians such as Sean Fyfe on piano, Alec Walkington on bass and Andre White on drums, Kirmayer’s already stellar compositions reach new heights aided by this fantastic backing band. 

If there’s a common theme or element that could be pinpointed throughout the record, it would be the guitarist’s clean and precise style of playing that is just a pleasure to the ears. The Turnout features a driving bass line that keeps the song moving along at a pleasing pace, grounded by a constantly moving drum groove. Sleight of Hand takes us to a more down-tempo setting in which we hear a mellow piano riff underpinning melodious trombone and tenor saxophone solos, bringing to light Muhammad Abdul Al-Khabyyr and Al McLean’s talents on their respective instruments. Soliloquy completes the terrific album with a meandering pizzicato bass line and soaring saxophone melody, leaving the listener awaiting what this young talent will release next.

04 James BrownSong Within the Story
James Brown; Clark Johnston; Anthony Michelli; Mike Murley
NGP Records (jamesbrown.ca)

Based out of Oakville, renowned jazz guitarist James Brown has returned from a 13-year hiatus to release a much-awaited new album. And what an album it is; chock full of original tracks penned by Brown himself, and two covers of well-known Canadian folk-rock songs that he’s put a unique spin on. Helping breathe life into the pieces is an all-star lineup of musicians, featuring Clark Johnston on bass, Anthony Michelli on drums and Mike Murley on tenor saxophone. A pleasurable and relaxing musical journey, this album will appeal to jazz lovers, both old and new, looking for a modern jazz staple to add to their collection.
Igor starts off the record with a nod to classical composer Stravinsky, one of Brown’s influences in his classical guitar pursuits. Within the guitar melody are hints of phrases akin to what you’d hear in a Stravinsky piece; Brown once again masterfully mixes the musical realms of classical and jazz into one pleasant whole as he is known to do. Mbira Kids has its own unique flavour, with sections of the bass line and the rhythmic setup of the piece evoking elements of African music, “specifically those of Zimbabwe’s Shona people.” But perhaps most captivating is a beautiful and melodious cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You, closing out the album on a hopeful yet slightly melancholy note, leaving the listener to peacefully contemplate a truly satisfying and fantastic album.

Listen to 'Song Within the Story' Now in the Listening Room

05 go solog(o) sol(o)
Bernard Falaise
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 267 CD (actuellecd.com)

Using no overdubs but minimal looping and timbral effects, the seven selections on Montrealer Bernard Falaise’s solo guitar tour de force are completely improvised, while pivoting to other instrument-reflecting sounds for greater variety. The attraction of G(o) sol(o) is how Falaise – part of local bands such as Quartetski – uses all parts of his instrument to suggest wider textures while creating miniature sonic tales.

Prime instance of this is the extended 320003, where string shakes and slurred fingering means the staccato introduction on flattened strings is succeeded by bell-pealing shakes, double bass-like low-pitched resonations and organ-like tremolo pulses. These sway the exposition forward into a single line to a buzzing conclusion. Slogan, the slightly longer first track, sets the scene, as bobbing fuzztones and high-voltage shakes rumble along before splitting into pressurized sound loops on the bottom and single-string stings on the top. Both tones are audible as they intersect and slide into one another for a percussive climax.

With pointed stops and starts, Falaise uses varied motifs to define the tunes, including string rubs that drone across the sound field for warmer expositions, or pointillist below-the-bridge scratches for tougher interface. Galop does just that as well, with knob-twisting and effects-pedal-pressure launching tones every which way until all subside into a connective drone.

Sol – G in English – is the fifth note of the C Major scale. Yet G(o) sol(o) cannily treats all of the scale’s notes in a unique fashion.

07 Steve BoudreauCherished Possessions
Steve Boudreau; Adrian Vedady; Jim Doxas
Independent (steveboudreaumusic.com)

Gifted Ottawa-based pianist/composer Steve Boudreau has just released his first trio recording of primarily his own music, and has also realized his dream of recording with two of Montreal’s finest jazz musicians: bassist, Adrian Vedady and drummer, Jim Doxas. Boudreau had just completed a five-volume solo piano recording project, when he was compelled to begin this exciting trio album. There are ten intriguing tracks here – including two contributions from the diverse artists, Wayne Shorter and Björk. The recording was completed in a single remarkable day – as so many of the finest jazz recordings have also been made. The resulting energy, creativity and spontaneity are palpable in every track.

The title track is imbued with contemporary lyricism, expressed in Boudreau’s exquisite piano sound, attack and ideas. Doxas and Vedady are nothing short of luminous – engaging with each other and Boudreau on a psychic and spiritual level. Vedady’s solo here explores the many tonal colours of the bass, and Doxas impeccably uses his kit and cymbals as an extension of his emotional expression. Other stand-out tracks include Words of Hope – a sensuous, laconic ballad, filled with warmth and delicious chord progressions; For Staff Only – a Monk-ish trip into the free zone; and Rolling Oil – an up-tempo cooker where the trio shines again. Boudreau’s technical chops are quite breathtaking here, inciting every nuance to feel effortless and natural.

Of special mention is the trio’s masterful take on Shorter’s Go, framed by Doxas’ exquisite percussive choices, and the potent closer, Charlie’s Family Reunion, which captures the pure joy of making music with skilled, like-minded souls. This project is one of the finest trio jazz recordings that I have been privileged to experience in many a moon.

Listen to 'Cherished Possessions' Now in the Listening Room

08 Tom ReynoldsOpen Skies
Tom Reynolds Trio
Zsan Records (tomreynoldstrio.com)

With the release of this emotionally and spiritually profound recording, noted pianist /composer/arranger Tom Reynolds has fashioned a musical contribution of special beauty. His noted collaborators here include two uber-skilled and versatile artists: bassist George Koller and drummer Lorne Nehring. Co-produced by the trio, there are 13 original tracks – all composed and arranged by Reynolds throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The music itself is a meditation on the depth of our isolation and loss, tempered by faith in the human spirit, and in the words of Reynolds, “we wanted to contribute something hopeful and reflective of the possibilities for resilience, kindness and social change during a challenging and emotional time”.  

The program begins with Far Away Lands, a gentle, Latin-infused ballad with fine performances by the trio, and exquisite piano work from Reynolds. Next up is Butterflies – a gossamer-like work, literally calling out for a Marilyn and Alan Bergman-esque lyric!  A real stand-out is Spring Will Come, which is a jaunty and uplifting tune, replete with a superb bass solo from Koller as well as dynamic, succinct and complex drum work from Nehring. Other fine offerings include Hold On, which has some palpable Gospel-infused motifs, and Prism. The trio literally shines here – moving like a single-celled organism, reflecting the prismatic spectrum of light through their instruments. One of the most psychoactive tracks is Guidance, which has been arranged with an esoteric intro (defined by Koller’s arco work), which segues into a lilting, melodic expression of joy. Also, of special note is the deeply moving Ode to Nova Scotia, which invokes ancient spiritual presences and heady remembrances of home. The lovely title track reminds us all of the joy of life and art, the delicious taste of freedom and our deep connection to all that is.

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