|Photo: Emra Islek|
The plot is essentially about a man visiting the crypt of his deceased lover, and he goes on a regular basis and, at some point—we imagine it being one of those above-ground crypts, maybe it’s in New Orleans or whatever—it’s kind of open and he takes a look in there, and there’s an elaborate world that he climbs down into and sees. There’s a frozen lake and there’s a moon, and he keeps hearing this voice and the voice is calling him, and he wonders if that’s the voice of his lover; he’s not sure. At some point they meet, and she questions his love for her, and they have this whole back and forth." (Interview from www.jazzspeaks.org).
"The Ice Siren" is a fanciful if macabre story with quite the soundtrack. Each voice, musical and human, can be heard clearly and, while there are solos throughout, the music spends much of the time moving the narrative forward. Listen all the way through then go back and listen to the musicians before returning one more time to hear John Ellis so successfully weaving all the elements together.
For more information, go to www.johnaxsonellis.com/the-ice-siren/. To learn more about the librettist, go to www.andybragen.com.
Here's a track:
John Ellis - tenor sax/clarinet/bass clarinet
Andy Bragen - libretto
Miles Griffith and Gretchen Parlato - vocals
Marcus Rojas - tuba
Mike Moreno - guitar
Chris Dingman - vibraphone, glockenspiel, and chimes
Daniel Sadownick & Daniel Freedman - percussion
Hiroko Taguchi - violin
Olivier Manchon - violin
Todd Low - viola
Christopher Hoffman - cello
J.C. Sanford - conductor
Humber College (where Kwok earned his degree) and the results can be heard on the self-released "Windward Bound".
here) fires up the band. The sections drop out as the alto solo turns introspective then return to provide colors as the drummer solos. "Part III: A Flat Boat is a Fast Boat" is a romp, again fired by Wutzke with a solo section that offers a call-and-response for the leader (tenor sax) and Naomi McCarroll-Butler (alto sax).
Because "Windward Bound" is a story in song, one should listen all the way through to understand the arc. Yet, each track stands well on its on. Dennis Kwok makes an impressive entrance on to the stage with his Jazz Orchestra, many of whose members were fellow students at Humber College and, at least, a majority of his Tentet are members of this ensemble. Fun, rewarding, enjoyable music, filled with strong melodies as well as promise.
For more information, go to www.denniskwok.ca.
Here's the opening track:
Dennis Kwok (piccolo, alto flute, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, bassoon, soprano, alto, tenor, bari)
Naomi McCarroll-Butler (soprano, alto, flute, clarinet)
Sophia Smith (alto, flute, clarinet)
Brenden Varty (tenor, flute, clarinet)
Kyle Tarder-Stoll (tenor, flute, clarinet)
Jonathan Lau (bari, bass clarinet)
Inayat Kassam (bass trombone, tuba)
Caity Gyorgy (track 1,2,4,5,6)
Aidan Funston (guitar)
Augustine Yates (piano)
Jonathan Wielebnowski (bass)
Jacob Wutzke (drums)
Rob McConnell, opens the program; the song starts in high gear and rarely lets up, featuring rousing solos from trombonist Nick Adema, bari sax player Alex Manoukas, tenor saxophonist Geoff Claridge, and trumpeter Kaelin Murphy.
The album closes with the title track; composed by trombonist Vonne Aguda who supplies the sections with impressive harmonies and phrases, the piece also pauses for a lengthy and eventually raucous solo from Bradley-Combs as well as a lively turn by the composer. Pay attention o the rhythm section, especially the high-powered bass (Evan Grantham) and drums.
"Embargo" makes for fun and fine listening; one would not be surprised to read the names of many members of the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra in future ensembles as both performers and composers. Kudos to conductor Gordon Foote for his guidance and vision! Give this music a good listen – play it loud!
Here's an overview of the recording:
University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra "Embargo" from UofTMusic on Vimeo.
Gordon Foote: conductor
Zach Griffin: alto sax, soprano sax, flute
Griff Vona: alto sax, clarinet
Geoff Claridge: tenor sax, clarinet
Jacob Chung : tenor sax
Alex Manoukas: baritone sax, bass clarinet
Evan Dalling, Kaelin Murphy, Christian Antonacci, Ben Frost: trumpets
Nick Adema, Vonne Aguda, Kyle Orlando, Charlotte McAffee-Brunner: trombones
Charlotte Alexander, Ilinca Stafie: French horns
Anthony D’Alessandro: piano
Julien Bradley-Combs: guitar
Evan Gratham: bass
Jacob Slous: drums