Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Kellylee Evans: "Nina"

This past Saturday, our writing staff had the pleasure of watching an acclaimed vocalist, Kellylee Evans, perform at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto. The concert inspired today's post, as we will be reviewing her latest release, entitled "Nina". She was born in Scarborough Ontario, however she has had a career based out of Ottawa. While studying law at Carleton University, Evans discovered jazz; as she has stated: "I got lost in the elevators of the Loeb Building and found the Music department on the ninth floor of the A tower." Since then, her career has exploded, with four releases and multiple awards, including a 2007 Smooth Jazz Award, and a 2011 Juno Award, both in the category of vocal jazz. Her latest release, "Nina", is a tribute album to the late Nina Simone. Evans was invited to France by Plus Loin Music to record the album back in 2009. The album's personnel are made up of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians including: Marvin Sewell on the guitars, François Moutin on the bass, and André Ceccarelli on the drums. Despite this, the lineup performing with Evans on her current tour include Dave Thompson on the guitar, Matthew Lima in the bass, and Giampaolo Scatozza on the drums. Some songs to note on the record are "Ain't Got No / I Got Life", "July Tree", and "Sinnerman". In addition, Evans did a wonderful job on her latest release. As well, we could not imagine a more perfect way to honour the great Nina Simone. 

Purchase: "Nina"

Kellylee Evans

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Norman McLaren: "Begone Dull Care"

For today's post, we're going to change things up a bit. We've all heard of music being made for films. This music comes in the form of original songs or orchestral scores. Though, it's kind of hard to imagine a film being made for music, with the exception of concert DVDs of course. How would this relationship even work? Films are supposed to present a visual perception, and music and sound is added to films to merely enhance our experience. However, there was a Canadian filmmaker who seems to have achieved this seemingly impossible task. So, today we will be featuring a film, rather than an album. But don't worry, this is still a jazz blog, for the film that we're reviewing is a jazz film... Intrigued yet? Well lets start off with the filmmaker. Norman McLaren was born in Scotland, however, had a career based in Canada. He was most well known as an animator, as he pioneered various techniques such as draw on animation, and pixilation. Today, we will be discussing his 1949 short "Begone Dull Care". This film is characterized by McLaren's experimentation with draw on animation as each individual strip of film is in sync with the beet of an Oscar Peterson tune. We know...Kinda hard to rap your head around; you'll be able to see for yourself bellow. However, rather than the music enhancing the film, the film in this case enhances the music, adding a whole knew element to the Peterson composition. Furthermore, we apologize if you were expecting us to feature an album today, however we felt that this film has been sitting in the National Film Board of Canada's archives for far too long. We hope you all enjoy!

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Thing Is: (Self Titled Album)

We've been talking a lot lately about jazz and its fusions with other genres. Though, when we look at jazz, we see a genre that bares its roots in the American musical tradition. With the exception of Latin music, it seems to be a rarity when we listen to jazz that has been combined with music from other cultures. Most notably, contemporary bassist Avishai Cohen has been at the forefront of this musical style. However, there is currently a Toronto based group who has been making a lot of noise with their own culturally diverse compositions. The Thing Is was formed in 2006 by Tova Kardonne, a vocalist and composer who uses this ensemble as an outlet for her music. Her compositions have been acclaimed for combining jazz with the Jewish, Balkan, and South african musical styles, respectively. The group has also attracted guest appearances from the likes of Ted Quinlan, Dave Restivo, and Bill McBirnie. Most recently, The Thing Is released their much anticipated self-titled debut album, who's personnel include Kardonne on the vocals, Graham Campbell on the guitars, Dave Atkinson on the piano, Amy Medvick on the flute, Mike Wark on the saxophones, Christian Overton on the trombone, Trevor Falls on the drums, and Chris Kettlewell on the bass. Some songs to note on the album are "Moving On", "Wonder", and "Spending Time". Furthermore, Kardonne and her octet released an absolutely fantastic debut album. Kardonne is definitely one of those musicians who we should all be watching out for as she takes Canada and the world by storm with her original and incomparable musical style. Preview some of the album via their Myspace.

The Thing Is: Myspace

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Jeff Torbert: "Urban Poultry & Other Hopes"

During the 1920s, 30s, and 40's, jazz (notably swing) was the music of young people. However, during the 1950s, rock and roll began to steel away America's youth, and by the 1960s, jazz was associated with its current connotation: "the music my parents and grandparents listen to". Though, there have been many musicians who have attempted to bring jazz back to a younger audience. Most notable of these musicians was Esbjörn Svensson, whom with his trio, composed music that helped restore jazz back to its original glory. However, it was with great sadness that Svensson tragically passed away back in 2008. Fortunately, there have been musicians who have been picking up where he left off, and one of these musicians is currently making a name for himself on the Canadian jazz scene. Nova Scotia native, Jeff Torbert, has received much acclaim for combining his intensive classical and jazz training with easy going compositions. Following his release of multiple award nominee "This Weather Honest", Torbert has done it again with "Urban Poultry & Other Hopes". The album features his sextet, whom include Torbert on the guitars, piano, and vocals; David Christenson on the bass clarinet and alto saxophone; Adam fine on the bass; Lloyd Quinton on the drums; Matt Myer on the trumpet and organ; and Kenny Talkowski on the alto and soprano saxophones. The record is characterized by relaxing grooves, instrumental pop ballads, spectacular improvisations, and a some beautifully added vocals here and there. Some songs to note on the album are "Last Bastion of No Hope", "Public Affection Number One", and "Indra's Net (Afterward)". In addition, "Urban Poultry & Other Hopes" is a fantastic sophomore release. It is definitely an unfortunate thing that jazz these days has the connotation that it has. However, thanks to musicians like Jeff Torbert, jazz is being seen in a whole knew light. So perhaps, jazz will soon have a new connotation in the future. That is, "the music everyone listens to".

Purchase: "Urban Poultry & Other Hopes"

Jeff Torbert

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Pram Trio: "Spring Tour 2011"

For today's review, we will be featuring Pram Trio and their debut release "Spring Tour 2011". Formed in 2009, the group includes Jack Bodkin on the piano, Mark Godfrey on the bass, and Richard Piasetski on the drums. Bodkin was born in Waterloo, Ontario, and started playing the piano at the age of 10. After achieving his ARCT (Associate of the Royal Conservatory in Toronto), he was inspired by Bill Evan's "Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival". He then pursued jazz performance at the University of Toronto. Raised in Southwestern Ontario, Godfrey is a graduate of both the University of Toronto jazz performance program, and the Banff Centre for the Arts Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. His career has been wonderfully well rounded, performing both jazz (as leader and sideman), and popular music with Canadian rock bands, such as Mookie and the Loyalists and The Mike Butlin Band. Also a graduate of U of T, Piasetski has been noted for his proficiency in a variety of different styles, and has had success both as a composer and lyricist. Not only does he play the drums, however he is also an established bluegrass guitar player. The album features a selection of live recordings from various venues across Ontario, as well as a CUIT 89.5 FM interview with Mark Godfrey. Some songs to note on the album are "Tunnels", "Rachel Bilson", and "Karen Michelle". Each composition is beautifully written, and they feature spectacular improvisations from all three members. Furthermore, though this album is an unofficial release, "Spring Tour 2011", gives Canada and the world a taste of what's to come from this new and talented jazz trio. The group is currently in preparations for their nationwide tour this upcoming May. Take a listen to the album bellow!

Pram Trio 

Monday, 23 April 2012

A. David MacKinnon: "The Past is a Foreign Country"

Its always interesting to look at how jazz has influenced other genres in the western musical tradition. We've discussed how jazz has been fused with prog rock, funk, and even classical music. However, these days, jazz can be heard in more contemporary genres such as hiphop, electronic, and indie music. But what exactly is indie music? Well firstly, indie stands for independent. That is, the music is produced independently from major commercial record labels or their subsidiaries. However, these days, there is a ton of music from all genres that are produced independently. So where did this "indie genre" come from?  There is no definitive answer to this. Though, many believe that the "indie genre" was created through the sound of popular indie bands. Many Canadian bands, such as The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and The FemBots, were paramount in creating this "indie" sound. As usual, were going to show you how this "indie sound" is fused with jazz by way of an example. A. David MacKinnon is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and sound engineering who rose to popularity through his membership in The FemBots. His latest release, "The Past is a Foreign Country", is completely instrumental, for MacKinnon has retired from singing. He describes the album as "the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist". However, keeping with the original FemBots sound, MacKinnon makes use of both traditional instruments and "junk instruments" (instrumental everyday items) in his compositions. Each one of his originals is completely unique in their own way, that is, there is no recurring theme heard over and over again throughout the record. Some songs to note on the album are "The Past is a Foreign Country" (title song), "March of the Hydro Towers", and "Gospel vs. Church". To conclude, MacKinnons release is absolutely fantastic. Not only does he capture the "indie sound", however he wonderfully makes use of traditional jazz influences in his compositions as well. We're very excited to see what's next for this talented artist. Take a listen to the album bellow!

Purchase: "The Past is a Foreign Country"

A. David MacKinnon

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Canaille: "Practical Men"

For today's post, we will be honouring Canaille and their latest release "Practical Men", as they bid their fair well to jazz world (at least for now). The group was formed by composer and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Strachan back in the summer of 2008. Since then, they have crossed boundaries unheard of in the world of experimental jazz. To date, Canaille has released two albums, and has been the recipient of numerous creative and academic grants. The ensemble has also been met with much critical claim. Strachan describes his music as an attempt to make creative and experimental music more accessible to everyone. So lets get into the album, shall we? The personel include: Strachan on the flute, alto sax, baritone sax, bass clarinet, and guitar; Nick Buligan on the trumpet, Jay Hay on the tenor sax, Jesse Levine on the organ and rhodes, Mike Smith on the bass, and Dan Gaucher on the drums. Each composition pushes the limits of experimentation as they take the listener on a kind of trip that was far more common during the summer of love, back in 1969. Though, Strachan's compositions are not only characterized by their unique experimentation for they put forth an original kind of beauty that is truly indescribable as well. Some songs to note on the album are "Angeer", "Practical Men" (the title song), and "Critical Path". Furthermore, we were truly saddened to hear about Canaille's extended hiatus. Though, they have left behind a legacy that they can truly call their own, which is something that is not common in contemporary music. Nevertheless, we are truly excited to see what comes next for Strachan and the gang. Take a listen to the album bellow!

Purchase: "Practical Men"