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Volume 23 Issue 5 - February 2018

Ulehla, Lichtenberg has

Ulehla, Lichtenberg has a family relationship to these songs: she grew up singing some of them. The entire album, obviously a product of great care and love, rewards multiple listens. Andrew Timar Medicine Songs Buffy Sainte-Marie True North Records TN0681 (truenorthrecords.com) !! Buffy Sainte- Marie is an iconic, award-winning, Indigenous Canadian composer, vocalist and national treasure as well as a lifelong social activist. For the past 50 years she has written and performed her unique songs of forward motion, insight and healing as “medicine” to the people – all people. Sainte-Marie describes this new recording, as “a collection of frontline songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work.” This is the fifth collaboration between talented musician Chris Birkett and Sainte-Marie. They act as co-producers here, and Birkett has deftly recorded and mixed the 13 dynamic tracks. The stirring opener, You Got to Run is co-written by Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq and features fine vocals and a relentless arrangement defined by a perfect balance between acoustic and digital instruments, propelled by skilled keyboard, bass and drum programming by Jon Levine, Max Kennedy Roach on drums and Justin Abedin on guitar – and The War Racket is an infectious/raptious and rhythmic contemporary protest song that sadly is still as pertinent now as it was 30 years ago. Standouts include the energizing Carry it On, and the charming, guitar-centric folk song Little Wheel Spin and Spin. Of special note is the final track on the CD, Alabama 3’s Power in the Blood – a wall of sound, embracing rock modalities and driving home the futility and horror of war. Sainte-Marie’s vocal instrument is as dynamic and powerful as ever, but now resounds with an even warmer tone of life experience, bringing a new musical palette to her perpetually relevant work. Lesley Mitchell-Clarke Volando Payadora Tango Ensemble Independent (payadora.com) !! Payadora Tango Ensemble has made a memorable mark on the Canadian music scene with their accomplished ensemble playing and toe tapping energetic versions of the Argentinian tango, the form the world loves to listen, play and dance to. The group – Rebekah Wolkstein (violin, vox), Branko Dzinovic (accordion), Robert Horvath (piano) and Joe Phillips (double bass) – now expands its tango horizons with a wider compositional cross section. The traditional tango is represented by the perfect performance of Adios Muchachos/I Get Ideas. The Adios portion is a more traditional performance with guest vocals by Elbio Fernandez. Then a walk on the jazzier side happens as Wolkstein sings the English words to great bass meandering explorations and piano tinklings. There are two original arrangements of Argentinian folk songs, but most fun is hearing Brahms step across the dance floor in the unique Horvath arrangement of Hungarian Dance No.1. There are three original tunes. The slow reflective opening of Drew Jurecka’s Niebla Oscura features high accordion tones against a violin melody, and lower accordion tones against piano chords. Longer phrases and mood shifts lead into a sneaky final tango piano section. Horvath’s Tavasz goes from reflective opening piano to tango. Wolkstein’s Volando is more contemporary with accordion shots, metrical piano groove and a soaring build to the final violin glissando. Each musician is a star soloist in their own right. Playing together has allowed them to develop and mature turning Payadora into a superstar group. Tiina Kiik Concert note: Payadora performs “The Death of Tango: What happened to tango after the Golden Era post 1950” on March 29 at Gallery 345. Tickets available at eventbrite.ca Inspired by Canada - Notre Pays Mireille Asselin; Amici Chamber Ensemble Marquis Classics MAR 81485 (amiciensemble.com) !! Whenever popular or folk songs are recorded in a classical arrangement and for classically trained voices, the dreaded word “crossover” raises its ugly head. But let us remember that Cantaloube orchestrated the folk songs of the Auvergne and Carmina Burana was nothing but an elaborate fake (Orff initially claimed inspiration from medieval music scores): today, both are great examples of much-beloved music from the concert stage. So it really boils down to how the song selections and arrangements are realized. Here, Serouj Kradjian’s arrangements and the playing by his colleagues in the Amici Ensemble (clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas and cellist David Hetherington) are first rate. So is the voice of and interpretation by Mireille Asselin – she truly gets the spirit of French-Canadian music, which dominates on this disc. The song selection, however, may trigger some arguments. There are many other songs in the oeuvre of Leonard Cohen beyond the vastly overexposed and horribly abused Hallelujah, that would have been a better fit. Similarly, I cannot help but wonder, if River would not have been a better choice from the vast Joni Mitchell catalogue than A Case of You. The true standouts musically are La Vieux Piano by Claude Léveillée, a Canadian composer of some of Edith Piaf’s songs, and the Huron Carol (another controversial appropriation). These two pieces truly assert the rights of folk and popular songs to be given the “full treatment” and to safely dispense with the crossover label. Robert Tomas Laila Biali Laila Biali Chronograph Records CR-060 (chronographrecords.com) ! ! The intense emotional realms that the music of Laila Biali inhabits pay tribute to the ecstatic world of Sufi poetry, the kaleidoscopic one of pop metaphors and to one where her own enduring spirit prevails. Each of the 12 songs on this disc probes joyful and profound corners, allowing us to enter into these private worlds in which ebullience and hope are conveyed in striking terms. Biali evokes dramatic and psychological atmospheres as if both Jalaluddin Rumi and David Bowie were looking over her shoulder, but with her own sense of urgency, rhythm and colour. The disc opens with the joie de vivre of Got to Love and closes with an equally exuberant version of Let’s Dance. In between, Biali evokes many-splendoured romantic images and daubs these vividly coloured recreations with a seemingly infinite array of vibrant and melancholy musical idioms – including the profound and the soaring gospel-driven. In Wind and Dolores Angel respectively, her captivating vivacity rules the roost among a stellar cast that includes vocalist Jo Lawry, drummer Larnell Lewis and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Individual listeners – depending on their familiarity with Laila Biali – will no doubt find a favourite track to latch onto here but each has its own charm. And every one of the 11 musicians’ performances – vivid and articulate – seize the attention as they exercise their skills alert to the expressive need of the 80 | February 2018 thewholenote.com

vocalist and pianist’s bold and emphatic art. Raul da Gama Black Manhattan, Vol.3 Paragon Ragtime Orchestra; Rick Benjamin New World Records 80795-2 (newworldrecords.org) !! Years ago Rick Benjamin, the conductor of the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, was thrilled to discover a rich horde of sheet music of African American composers working in New York City during the half century from the late Victorian era to the Harlem Renaissance. Searching for their recordings however, he found remarkably few examples documenting this pioneering African American music. At the roots of ragtime, jazz, period social dance, musical theatre, silent cinema and the Great American Songbook, he felt this music was being unjustly neglected. Three Black Manhattan albums later, PRO has recorded 60 pieces by 32 African American composers, using “carefully curated, new recordings of first-rate performances played from authentic scores.” Volume 3 contains theatre songs and instrumentals by 21 different composers. Some are relatively well known today (Scott Joplin), yet most have largely been relegated to music history’s back pages. If I had to pick one selection, it would be the beautifully perfect ballad Love Will Find A Way from the Broadway show Shuffle Along (1921) by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. (I had the good fortune of chatting with Blake after his solo piano recital at York University in the early 70s. It’s one of my cherished early musical memories. Mr. Blake was in his 90s. I was… younger.) It seems to me that Benjamin’s wish that his “efforts have started to close this gap in America’s cultural memory” and “enable the world to rediscover this magnificent music” is admirably served by this album. Andrew Timar Something in the Air Historical Free Music Documents Reappear on CD KEN WAXMAN Arguably the most important and least understood sound of the 20th century, Free Music, which combined jazz’s freedom with notated music’s rigour while aiming for in-the-moment creation, has now been around for almost six decades. With its advances now accepted as part of the ongoing sonic landscape, long out-of-print recordings are being reissued and reappraised for their excellence. One of the most important, The Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME)’s Karyōbin are the imaginary birds said to live in paradise (Emanem 5046 emanemdisc.com), has maintained its reputation since 1968. That’s because, like the first viewing of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, it signalled that an entirely new sound had arrived from the United Kingdom. Karyōbin is also an all-star session, featuring players who would epitomize exploratory sounds for years: soprano saxophonist Evan Parker, guitarist Derek Bailey, drummer John Stevens and bassist Dave Holland from the UK, and Canadian Kenny Wheeler, already established as one of England’s most accomplished trumpeters. Amazingly Wheeler didn’t abandon the lyrical quality he developed, and his graceful bursts easily lock in with Parker’s slinky tone, which even this early is sui generis. With Stevens patting cymbals and faintly slapping drum tops and Holland pulsating, Bailey’s metallic plinks are most discordant, although his steel-guitar-like reverb isn’t upfront until Part 3. Twanging guitar licks intensify on the subsequent tracks, but the trumpeter’s hummingbird-like flutters and the saxophonist’s perceptive breaths cleanly fit into the spaces left by the others, with the bassist’s strong pulse suggesting why he was recruited by Miles Davis. Distinctively a group effort, by the CD’s defining Part 5, broken-octave guitar licks and slowly unfolding reed vibrations complement one another as the trumpet stutters out sour notes while moving the pitch upwards. Eventually clipped guitar strokes and thin saxophone trills adumbrate and complete Stevens’ rivet cymbal, gong and snare intrusions to reach a harsh polyphonic climax. Splattered percussion crackles, lengthening airy textures from the horns and a general diminishing of tone mark Part 6 as the CD’s coda and confirmation that a new sound has germinated. Unlike the UK-identified members of the SME, American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, primarily a jazzer, became a major force in Free Jazz once he expatriated and collaborated with European players. Free for a Minute (Emanem 5210 emanemdisc.com), is a two-CD set that bookends Karyōbin, with tracks recorded by several-sized combos in 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1972. Tellingly, the nine tunes from 1965, featuring bassist Kent Carter and drummer Aldo Romano, are Carla Bley, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor compositions, as well as Lacy originals (which are the most tuneful of the lot). Bley’s Generous 1 for instance includes a walking bass line, over which the saxophonist squeezes out a melody that becomes a rhapsodic multi-note soprano showcase aided by echoing cymbals. There’s full-fledged triple interaction among string pulls, reed puffs and meandering drum beats on Lacy’s There We Were; however Taylor’s Tune 2 is the most impressive track. With bass and drums operating on slow boil, the saxophonist’s peeping and puffing provide the piece with timbral shading as it accelerates to emotive joy prodded by tongue percussion. Since most time-in at around the one-minute mark, the 13 subsequent tracks recorded as cues for the unreleased 1967 film (Free Fall) are utilitarian to the nth degree, despite the stellar lineup of Lacy, Carter, trumpeter Enrico Rava, drummer Paul Motian and vibist/pianist Karl Berger. Less than sketches and mostly consisting of drum rattles, vibes pops and reed shrills, only Cue 30 is enlivened with a pseudo-Dixieland beat, while Cue 24 and Cue 25, which together last six minutes, set up a brokenoctave challenge with graceful tweets from Rava and choked blasts from Lacy, unrolling alongside metal bar slaps from Berger and focused rolls from Motian. This set’s highpoint is CD2, with a 1966 date where six Lacy originals are played by the composer, Rava, Carter and Romano, as well as three previously unissued 1972 tracks, with a lineup of Lacy and Carter with saxophonist Steve Potts, cellist Irene Aebi and drummer Noel McGhie. Still influenced by Monk, a 1966 quartet piece like Sortie judders and jumps as scrubbing bass strings and supple drum ruffs move in pseudo-march-time as frontline tones intertwine. Ebullient and sharp, the trumpet tones gradually ascend, where they’re met by effervescent saxophone patterns. Chromatically outlining Fork New York’s theme, seconded by a purring obbligato from Rava, Lacy’s supple tone has taken on the unique colouration it would maintain until his demise. As the trumpet pitch gets peppier and brassier, it mixes with the saxophone’s lubricated contralto tone to create the equivalent of smooth spreading mustard. Subsequent contrapuntal theme elaborations don’t prevent the track from cantering to a slick and satisfying end. Content with the quintet format he would maintain for several decades, Lacy’s thewholenote.com February 2018 | 81