Cool Yule. With almost a dozen CD’s cued up for review, and despite the fact that I have zero interest in Christmas albums, I am letting Cool Yule jump the cue because it’s by CADENCE, that irresistable a capella quartet (all music produced by the voice and body, no other instruments used). www.cadence-unplugged.com. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” fronts Kurt Samspon’s uncanny mimicry of standup-bass, encircled by the ensemble’s convincing oral brass and percussion, not to mention great part singing and harmonies. Joni Mitchell’s “River” in totally listenable version by tenor Ross Lynde doing his own arrangement and adding his own vocalese. “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” –actually written by Mel Torme–shows off the group’s virtuosity in producing vocal harmonies around tenor Aaron Jensen’s Torme-ish solo. All the usual carols and a lot of fun.
Tapestries. CHRISTINA PETROWSKA QUILICO’S latest release on the Centrediscs label features two works written with her in mind. A Concerto Cantata (1984) by George Fiala is sung by the Canadian Ukranian Opera Chorus. This is not a work I feel comfortable writing about.
I enjoyed Heather Schmidt’s Piano Concerto No. (2001). Following a majestic opening with timpani, sylvan piano runs tinkle among heraldic winds and brass. This is magical playing, very romantic and lovely, with flavours of dissonance that carry the style forward from Sibelius almost to Prokofiev, and hints towards even more modern approaches.
The Second movement is more impressionistic, ethereal and shifty. The energy in the third is quicker, moved by rhythmic impulses, percussive pushes, with a sort of martial note coming from the snares. The piano work becomes intricate and and somewhat self-involved while still ornamenting the voice of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra ably conducted by Daniel Warren.
Friday the Thirteenth. THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET play Monk. Cunieform Records. Speaks for itself—it’s Monk. Monk deconstructed, extended, and reconstructed with links to Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, and The Bean.Very groovy, wailing’,whacky, tuneful, a total relief from all that jazz that sounds like jazz. The sound is Monk, even when the arrangements are these other guys having fun. Philip Johnston, soprano saxophone; Don Davis, alto saxophone; Mike Hashim, tenor saxophone; Joel Forrester, piano; David Hofstra, bass; Richard Dworkin, drums. Pure enjoyment. Many listenings. *****
OLIVER JONES Live in Baden Switzerland featuring Reggie Johnson & Ed Thigpen. Justin Time decided to release this 1990 live concert recording. Golden Age of For Real Jazz piano combo music– rippling technique, articulate, solid, lyrical, and shapely rhythms busting out these standards, ballads, blues, gospel and a few originals. This is music you can love and respect. Jones’ piano is warm and alive, Ed Thigpen on drums, well, what can I say, and Reggie’s bass lines have authority and humour. These boys p-l-a-y when they play. Music that brings you back to gladness. ****’
Kananaskis. JOSH RAGER (piano)with Dave Watts (bass), John Fraboni (drums). Effendi, Montreal. A personal, autobiographical set of compositions (“#1 « Hayden » Is a solo piano pièce which captures the moment of the birth of my second son.”). Rager’s sophmore album pays homage to places he’s lived in central Canada and elsewhere, to Ellington, Strayhorn, and the ubiquitous saxophonist Seamus Blake. Excellent references. But the reason I like to listen to him is because he connects back to the music of serial composers such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley (who jammed on Miles Davis tunes with Chet Baker ). Simplicity, elegance, space, and a kind of reserved hypnotic groove make this album work for me. The title track, written by Dave Watts, is in the same groove. There may be attachment to people and places in this album but fortunately there is also plenty of letting go. ****
The AARON KEELE Contingent, self-published, features Keele on vocals. His voice has an interesting timbre, smooth and grainy at the same time, his style expressive but nicely controlled. Also bold: Keele leads off with “Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me,” recorded by Ray Charles. Not too bad. Keele really, really slows, smooths, and moody’s down Beck’s gritty “Lonesome tears.”Also bold—leads with his feelings—but maybe a bit too moodily blue. Same deal for “Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere, 1933), a ‘dark’ standard recorded by Tony Bennett. The musicians really shine on this one, and the originality of all the arrangement resounds here. The final cut, “Mama Waltz,” co-written by Keele and the versatile singer-songwriter David Wall is also a slow-dripper but with an interesting dissonance. A smooth, dark, bold, brew. (The ‘contingent’ consists of Rob Thaller, piano; Marc Rogers, bass; Davide DiRenzo, drums). ***