La Scena Musicale

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Letter to the Editor: Classical Radio

Dear Mr. Wah Keung Chan,

Several years ago I wrote two articles that were published in your publication. Since then, I’ve witnessed the demise of classical music on both the CBC’s TV and Radio Networks. There is now precious little in the way of classical and jazz programming on the TV airwaves. Why aren’t there any live or recorded remotes from such events as the Montréal Jazz Festival and the Festival du Lanaudiere? I have read your articles concerning the CBC Radio Two in the May and June issues of your publication. I recall stating in one of my articles that in 1992, Ms. Margaret Lyons, then a manager of CBC Radio stated: “There is too much classical music on CBC Radio!” Her statement is rapidly becoming true, much to the chagrin of classical music lovers across this country. I confess that I am becoming annoyed at what is being executed by CBC Radio management. As a result I am tuning increasingly to WNED-FM at 94.5 MHX in Buffalo, New York, as well as the various classical and jazz channels on my XM satellite radio tuner. Additionally, I have re-discovered vinyl records. This January I started employment with a new CD re-issue company in Toronto, called Heritage Choice Records, founded by Marc Berstein. The company’s mandate is to re-issue cantoral, opera and classical 78 RPM recordings onto CDs, for sale to any interested parties.

While in Montréal for the Festival du Son et Image in April, I visited Le Colisée du Livre on rue Ste. Catherine E. Their second floor is a treasure trove of old LPs. In Kingston, there is a record shop called Brian’s Record Option at 382 Princess Street. They have more classical and soundtrack records than I’ve seen in a long time. I noticed that vinyl records and vacuum tube amplifiers are making a big comeback in Montreal. I counted no less than seven high-end audio retailers. Toronto electronics retailers seem more oriented to mass-market audio and home theatre installations. I like the warmer sound of vinyl and vacuum tubes, since they evoke memories of my childhood in Montréal. During that era, I started my serious listening habits with classical music. Even though I was bitten by the rock bug for a few years, I’m now returning to classical, jazz and blues music as much of the current popular roster has no interesting material (at least, not to me). Have you ever tried ‘returning’ to vinyl? If so, beware. It can become addictive.

Also, while in Montréal for this year’s Jazz Festival, I noted that Radio Couleur-Jazz had made tremendous improvement in its transmitter coverage. I can now receive a clear signal in Point Claire, about 15 miles from the transmitter on Mount Royal. I am also pleased the CJPX's sister station CJSQ-FM is on the air in Quebec City at 92.7. In Burlington, WVPR-FM 107.9 is now all news and talk programming from NPR and the BBC. This leaves Montrealers with no over-the-air access to NPR classical programming. NPR’s program, Music Through the Night, is always a welcome relief to nighttime listeners. Toronto readers can receive this program over WNED-FM 94.5 in Buffalo, New York. I would recommend that your readers investigate the XM Satellite Radio Service, as it really fills a void left by the demise of classical and jazz programming in CBC’s Radio Two and Espace Musique.

I still look forward to each new edition of your publication. It is still an important link in coverage of jazz and classical music events in Québec and Canada.

Dwight W. Pole
Toronto, Ontario

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Friday, January 4, 2008

New Approach to Popular Free Events - First Come First Serve

The January 12th 90-minuteToronto Memorial concert for Oscar Peterson, titled "Simply the Best," will be open to the public free on a first come basis beginning at 3 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. According to the Toronto Star, the organizers decided NOT to issue tickets in order to foil scalpers, as had happened in New York for the Beverley Sills memorial, and to avoid empty seats due to ticket holders not showing up, as in the case of the Richard Bradshaw memorial in Toronto.

It's a strategic decision meant to avoid the negative consequences of ticketed free events.

For example, many of those who lined up for free tickets to the Richard Bradshaw tribute at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts did not turn up for the concert. The result: empty seats, despite the fact there were thousands of disappointed opera lovers who couldn't get tickets.

Another pitfall became apparent at the Lincoln Center memorial event for Beverly Sills, the queen of New York opera. The lineup for tickets started at 5:30 a.m. Even though they were free, scalpers had a good day pocketing money from fans who arrived after all the tickets had been given away.

There are approximately 2,500 seats at Roy Thomson Hall. About 200 will be reserved for VIP guests. It's open season on the other 2,300 seats.

CBC Radio One will broadcast the concert live at 4 p.m. while Radio Two will rebroadcast it at 8 p.m. Performers will include Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and the University of Toronto Gospel Choir, as well as Measha Brueggergosman.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Oscar Peterson has Died

Canadian Jazz legend Oscar Peterson passed away yesterday (December 23, 2007) of kidney failure in Mississauga, Ontario.

Wrote Richard Beauchamp at CJAD:

During his half-century career, he's played with such jazz giants as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins and Ella Fitzgerald...among others...and is regarded as one of the finest jazz pianists of all time.

He was born in Montreal on August 15, 1925, and was raised in Little Burgundy. He arrived in New York City -- then the jazz capital of the world -- in 1949, at the invitation of legendary jazz impresario Norman Granz.

He received numerous honours throughout his career, including the Order of Canada, and a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1997. Concordia University's named its concert hall at Loyola Campus in his honour in 1999.
He will be missed.

Give us your comments.

Visit our Oscar Peterson spotlight for the tributes.

WKC: Here is a video of Oscar Peterson found at Natasha Gauthier's blog

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Au Rayon du disque décembre 2007 / Off the Record December 2007

par / by Charles Collard, Félix-Antoine Hamel, Paul Serralheiro

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet : The Middle Picture
Firehouse 12 FH12-04-01-002
Although cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum includes a version of Miles Davis' "In A Silent Way" in this his latest album, he is far from a Davisian clone; his use of growls and all kinds of muted sounds would rather place him firmly in the post-Ellington camp. A frequent collaborator (and former student) of Anthony Braxton, Bynum explores various structures and sound textures in The Middle Picture, with help from Matt Bauder (reeds), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Jessica Pavone (viola, bass)-all members of Braxton's large ensemble as well-plus guitarist Evan O'Reilly and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. This dynamic, guitar-heavy and sometimes noisy group is also capable of beautiful moments, like the reworking of Billy Strayhorn's "Bluebird Of Delhi" from Duke Ellington's Far East Suite, and the cuban-like figure that closes the following mm(pf). The most ambitious piece here is the three-part "JP & the Boston Suburbs," which starts with a floating conversation between brass, saxophone and guitars, turns into a percussion statement by Fujiwara, then segues into a ferocious guitar interlude, with thematic interpolation by the horns. The third part ("aka Knit & Swim") has more of a Braxtonian theme. The sparser trio of Bynum, Halvorson and Fujiwara is also featured, both opening and closing this album, recommended to anyone interested in the future of jazz. (Bynum, Pavone, Halvorson and Fujiwara also form a touring collective named The Thirteenth Assembly, which will appear in town on December 6 at the Casa Del Popolo.) FAH

A Pair of Threes
Wilson/Lee/Bentley : Escondido Dreams
Drip Audio DA00206
This disc will surprise most listeners, as this is no ordinary guitar trio. From the instrumentation (guitar, cello, saxophone) to the approach to textures, form and melodies, this is a creative encounter of distinct voices on the Vancouver improvised music scene. Tony Wilson's guitar is unlike any other for its ability to go from mellow to monstrous and many shades in between, as in the delicate orientalisms of "Laxing Lizards Resume" and the growling sound-effects of "Floating Island." Cellist Peggy Lee brings her usual contemplative playing, as well as many an adventurous streak in her sound conception. Saxophonist Bentley, the youngest of the group, has a lyrical, light touch that fits in perfectly as a contrasting voice against the intensity of Wilson's keening guitar and the wizardry of Lee's cello. The melodic material can be described as musing and meditative, but comes across in a variety of tempi and forms, all boldly coloured by the different personalities of the musicians. Despite some moments of directionless meandering in the solos, there is a refreshing dose of exciting risk-taking. PS

NHØP Trio : The Unforgettable NHØP Trio Live
ACT 9464-2
No one would contest the claim that the late Danish jazzman Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen was a major voice on the bass. His passing in 2005 at age 58 was a sad loss for jazz. This disc features the bassist's trio in live settings: in Denmark in 1999 and in Germany in 2005, about a month before his sudden passing. It is nice to hear the bass take the melody as often as it does, from the opening "The Bach Piece," to "The Song is You" and "Our Love is Here to Stay." Pedersen sounds just as good on the two Scandinavian folk songs included here. As for his trio cohorts, they are accomplished musicians who can keep up with their leader, though they do not match the individuality of his voice. Having played together for the last 10 years of the bassist's life, this unit is both cohesive and tight. Guitarist Ulf Wakenius for one has some burning moments, as in his own scorching "Lines," and some imaginative solos throughout, although he gets a little predictable in spots. Drummer Jonas Johansen has a nice light way with swing, with a few surprising splashes of colour and unexpected accents along the way. PS

Yannick Rieu : Saint-Gervais
Justin Time JTR 8356-2
L'un des saxophonistes les plus remarquables du jazz d'ici, Yannick Rieu ne s'est jamais gêné pour afficher ses affinités avec les grandes figures du saxo ténor moderne, en l'occurrence John Coltrane et Sonny Rollins. Son plus récent opus, enregistré dans un club parisien en décembre dernier, s'inscrit nettement dans la lignée rollinsienne, avec un mouvement de la Freedom Suite du grand ténor - qu'il avait déjà interprétée en entier sur Sweet Geom (Les disques Victo), en 1994 - et quelques standards américains dignes du grand Sonny (I'll Never Stop Loving You, Like Someone In Love et I Hear A Rhapsody). Sobrement accompagné par le contrebassiste Nicolas Rageau et le batteur Philippe Soirat, Rieu reprend également ses compositions Following et In The Myth. On ne peut s'empêcher de penser que le saxophoniste lorgne dans son rétroviseur et même si c'est fort agréable à écouter, les fidèles du saxophoniste trouveront peu à se mettre sous la dent, ou plutôt dans l'oreille. Trois étoiles pour le répertoire, une autre demie pour la qualité de jeu. FAH

Jane Fair : Chances Are
Cellar Live Cl 033003
Difficile destin que celui de Jane Fair, saxophoniste approchant la soixantaine, dont le principal titre de gloire se résumait à un album en quintette enregistré au début des années 1970 pour le compte de la CBC. Une femme de sa génération ne pouvait percer sur son instrument, le ténor, contrairement à nombre de collègues masculins, parfois musiciens moins accomplis. Après avoir terminé ses études à Montréal, elle jouera épisodiquement en ville avant de s'exiler à Toronto où elle se consacrera à l'enseignement. Au fil des ans, elle reviendra dans la métropole pour retrouver des amis d'antan, entre autres Guy Nadon et Andrew Homzy. Après plus de 30 ans à rouler sa bosse dans l'ombre, elle refait surface avec ce CD de cinq morceaux captés en direct au Cellar de Vancouver en 2003. Élégance et grâce, selon nulle autre que Jane Bunnett, une de ses anciennes élèves. Cohérente dans son ensemble et pleine de bonnes idées musicales, la performance ne manque pas de beaux moments, notamment le dialogue improvisé avec le guitariste Bill Coon sur le standard Lazy Afternoon. La saxophoniste montre l'étendue de son expérience dans ses trois compositions originales, la première donnant son titre au disque. Pour les surprises, on cherchera peut-être ailleurs, mais ce jazz intemporel est bien ficelé, agrémenté comme il l'est par un soupçon cool de la West Coast. CC

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