A Look Back at

David Fujino
Top 10 Live Performances in 2007

Here's an alphabetized listing of my Top 10 Live Performances for 2007.

These performances are in my Top 10 because they were fresh and creative — and they all achieved real lift-off.

Lina Allemano Four & Wilbert de Joode @ St. Andrew by the Lake Anglican Church (Apr. 21)
The Lina Allemano Four improvised freely on simple song-like forms while DeJoode took an uncompromising approach to solo bass in this atypical double bill in that wooden church on Toronto Island. Trumpeter Allemano and alto saxophonist Brodie West — along with their rhythm mates — shared a fascination with tonal and rhythmic displacement, while De Joode's determined string bass solos generally eschewed note production in favour of pizzicato scrubbed textures and a scratchy, snapping tone. All-in-all, the double bill was excellent, at times difficult, and it was different.
> LMR report

Art of Jazz Orchestra + Carla Bley and Steve Swallow @ The Distillery, Toronto (Jun. 2)
This year, The Art of Jazz Series brought Carla Bley and Steve Swallow to Toronto where Bley's wry compositions — with their sudden, surprising harmonies — got a good interpretation from some of Toronto's finest sitting in The Art of Jazz Orchestra. With titles like "On the Stages in Cages", and "Awful Coffee", Bley's titles were as witty as her music. The concert was studded throughout with fine soloists like trombonist Gary Valente, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, tenor saxophonist Don Johnson, and electric bassist Steve Swallow. The organizers of The Art of Jazz series are to be commended and thanked for showcasing Carla Bley, who is one of our more original living composers in jazz.
> LMR report

Anthony Braxton & Diamond Curtain Wall Trio @ Guelph Youth Music Centre (Sep. 9)
The Guelph Festival of Jazz showcased Anthony Braxton's world of music in three ways. Braxton appeared as a philosopher of music; a conductor of his own compositions; and, in the case of the Diamond Curtain Wall Trio, as an equal opportunity player. Alongside Mary Halverson on archtop electric guitar and Taylor Ho Bynum on a whole slew of brasswinds (trumpet, cornet, fluegel, slide trumpet, etc.), plus two or three laptops, Braxton joined in with his saxophones and clarinets and caused the whole room to develop into a shimmering and astonishing curtain of sound. It was mind and spirit over matter. What was composed? What was improvised? It didn't seem to matter. Sonic vibrations were the matter. I've never heard anything quite like it.
> LMR report

Eve Egoyan (solo piano) – Alvin Curran's Inner Cities @ Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto (Oct. 20)
Noted for her technically rigorous and conceptually strong approach to the performance of New Music, it was no surprise that pianist Eve Egoyan would try something different. On the day, she'd already played sections 1 to 9 of Inner Cities over a period of three afternoon performances, and when I arrived for the 8 p.m. performance, I heard her play the concluding sections 10, 11, and 12. These compositions proved to be very American and diverse in their inner city depictions, and I kept hearing 'multitudes' — in the Walt Whitman sense — so for me, Curran's music was very much about being human in a complex time. Plus, Egoyan's high artistic purpose and firm commitment to be a servant of the music was, for me, a totally magnetic experience.
> LMR report

Kahil El'Zabar & Ethnic Heritage Ensemble @ Trane Studio, Toronto (Jun. 29 & 30)
Kahil El'Zabar, Ernest Dawkins and Corey Wilkes
The addition of trumpeter Corey Wilkes to the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble was sure good news. I'd already enjoyed his work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, so the chance to hear him with Kahil El'Zabar (voice, kalimba, drums and percussion) and Ernest Dawkins (alto and tenor saxophones) meant great music ahead. The ensemble plunked down a pliable set of African-American notes and tones in this city of staunch bop and hard bop. These guys from Chicago sure played and interplayed on "Oof (For Malachi Favors)", and on "Ornette", they brought group conversation to a lonely, medium slow blues march. Advanced blues tonalities and African rhythms and accents are the bedrock of this masterful ensemble's sound.
> LMR report

Kahil El'Zabar & Hamiet Bluiett @ Trane Studio, Toronto (Dec. 2)
This duo did what a duo's supposed to do. They took you on a trip, and along the way, kept switching roles. One moment Bluiett's baritone was in the driver's seat, high up, speaking in tongues; the next moment, Bluiett's grainy baritone was a bass line to support El'Zabar's intoning voice and cyclical kalimba rhythm. They took "Take the A Train" to new levels and always went a step beyond without losing the blues tradition. How to be advanced and relevant. How to be rooted. Their playing called up these concerns. But they just played, in a shared mood that was frequently deep blue.
> LMR report

Vijay Iyer @ Courthouse, Toronto (Jun. 3)
Pianist Vijay Iyer's compositions combine an Asian/African aesthetic with dense harmonic thinking, and the beat of an Andrew Hill. Meanwhile, Stephan Crump's lyrical bass and drummer Justin Brown's spread rhythm became a net of support for the out-of-tempo interludes and the sections which featured the full-throated and pouring alto saxophone work of Rudresh Mahanthappa. I thought Iyer's tunes had a harmonic density and a sense of chant and tone that extend some of Monk's wonderful work. Iyer's also politically aware and concerned, and in "The Big Almost" he was likely referring to George Bush's Presidential win. Contested by some.
> LMR report

Cecil Taylor Words & Solo Piano @ Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto (Jun. 1)
This solo concert by Cecil Taylor featured the quieter side of his piano playing — quick keyboard plucks, low scampering pedal tones (think "Pitter Patter Panther") and jubilant/sad tone clusters calling forth from both hands. We also heard ancestral echoes of Tatum, Waller, Duke, Monk, and Bud Powell, blended with the tonalities of Bartok and Stravinsky. Taylor's poetry proved just as individualistic and nuanced. But, finally, how ironic it was that a senior force in avant garde music actually plays functional music, music which functions as a form of spirit release.
> LMR report

The Four Horsemen Project @ Factory Theatre, Toronto (Feb. 21 – Mar. 4)
With its fluid mix of film clips, videos, dance, animation, acting, and voice, the stage at Factory Theatre throbbed with this theatricalized biography about The Four Horsemen, the sound poetry group from the 1970's based in Toronto. I really enjoyed the work of the four dancer/actors — Jennifer Dahl, Naoko Murakoshi, Graham McKelvie and Andrea Nann — who portrayed, in a non-linear way, the poems, the ideas, and personas of each of 'The Horsemen'. Of course, these members like the late (and great) poet bp nichol, as well as Steve McCaffery, Rafael Barretto-Rivera, and Paul Dutton (currently active on the new music and free jazz scene) got their due. To me, the production was all about people letting go — letting go, in a state of full creativity. Some Toronto poets felt the production lacked depth and brains and didn't convey the important ideas The Four Horsemen had about poetry. I see their point, but staged performances have a bad habit of finding their own way to express themselves. Also, staged performances are not a piece of text nor a sound score.
> LMR report

Randy Weston's African Rhythms Trio @ The Docks, Toronto (Aug. 11)
Africa — the cultural root, the source, the continuing river — was sought out in the 1950's when pianist/composer Randy Weston left Brooklyn to live and study and make music in Morocco. Tonight, this trio's African vibration was immediately pleasing, and human, and even heroic. Weston's pianistics are in the line of Monk and Duke — the piano's played like a drum, sending out its messages ("Blue Nile"). The interplay between the piano, bass, and hand drums meant an insistent calling out, an African lilt, and always the human cry and moan.
> LMR report

CD Reports

I don't have a list of 10 favourite CDs. There just aren't that many, but I do want to mention the following three from 2007.

Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (Bluebird 82876-55614-2)
Duke's compositional genius is best expressed, many feel, in his various suites which he wrote on the road. Duke Ellington's Far East Suite is recognized as one of Duke's finer suites and worthy to stand beside his great suites like New Orleans Suite, Black, Brown and Beige, The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, and Such Sweet Thunder. Tunes like "Mount Harissa" and "Ad Lib on Nippon" are Duke's personal impressions of the cultures he visited in the far east. And, of course, great artist that he is, he never descends to parody or stereotyping or throwing a koto into the sound. Also the remarkable contributions of Billy Strayhorn, Duke's alter ego in composition and orchestration, are abundantly evident. So from Ellington and Strayhorn, a beautiful piece of music and remembered experience.

Ballads Derek Bailey (Tzadak TTZ 7607)
Derek Bailey's dates are Jan. 29, 1930, to December 25, 2005. He was known as a guitarist who 'went free' in the 60s, had no hot licks, and came to feel that playing music was like spontaneous meetings with strangers. This CD seems to come back full circle and Bailey's playing ballads from The American Songbook, no less; but free jazz fans, have no fear. From "Laura" to the concluding 14th tune, "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone", this solo recording is full of Bailey's distinctive guitar — the wide intervals, serialism, and the brittle percussive attack. But for now, from the man who coined the phrase, 'non-idiomatic' free improvisation, we have these recorded ballads to remember and aspire to.

Chronicle Chicago Underground Trio (Delmark DE 573)
The live performances of the Chicago Underground Trio are a mix of live and electronically processed sounds and improvisation. They freely express the multi-heritage of Chicago free music, blues and bop, and an effective interest in open improvisation. But there's rhythm, at times a Milesian stance, a giant mbira sounding, and plenty of blues moans and tones and streaming electronics. And it's still jazz (whatever that means?)
> LMR review

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •
Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2008