Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2018 (648 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
By Grand Central Station (Independent)
Here’s a midwinter gem.
Heavy Bell is Matt Peters of Royal Canoe and Winnipeg actor/musician Tom Keenan, friends who vowed in 2009 to turn the stunningly emotional language of Canadian poet Elizabeth Smart’s 1945 long-form prose poem/novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, into a musical project.
Nearly nine years later, the pair’s combination of theatrical sensibility and multi-layered musicality has brought a 14-track song-cycle to life as a brilliantly conceived and executed chamber-pop opera, an interpolation of Smart’s work that expresses all the obsession, beauty and melancholy of her book.
These days, the book is recognized as the fictional retelling of the Canadian author’s 18-year affair with British poet George Barker, but it reads as the roiling tale of a woman for whom love subsumes all else.
The songs here rise and ebb with the tides of Smart’s story, and Peters and Keenan bring strings, horns, percussion and a nine-voice choral ensemble together (everyone is local, by the way) to impart the anticipation of desire, the pain and agony of separation and every other step in her journey of love and sadness and motherhood.
Heavy Bell will perform the album at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday, Jan. 13, before embarking on a tour to support it, but perhaps the next step in the life of By Grand Central Station… will be for Peters, Keenan and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers (whose artistic director Brent Lott created 97 Positions of the Heart, a full-length dance based on the novel, in 2012) to collaborate on a multi-disciplinary presentation.
A step in that direction has already been taken with director Sarah Constible’s creation of a ghostly, shimmering video for the Heavy Bell song Certainly, in which slow-motion footage of the WCD’s Lise McMillan is set to the swelling strings, muted horns and choral voices of Peters’ and Keenan’s tune.
★★★★ out of five
STREAM THESE: It Has Happened, Certainly, I Am Going to Have a Child
— John Kendle
Johnny Goldtooth and the Chevy Casanovas (Stony Plain Records)
Anyone who follows the Canadian independent music scene knows the name Kevin Breit.
The guitarist/multi-instrumentalist has worked on a wide range of albums as a talented sideman and also has solo releases and sets with the Sisters Euclid band.
The Johnny Goldtooth and the Chevy Casanovas project is an instrumental collection that truly reflects the curious personality of Breit in character as Goldtooth, a kind of off-the-wall session musician who finds it difficult to toe the line and instead wreaks havoc when asked to play anything straight.
The 11 tracks on offer range wildly from bluesy to corny to songs that sound like they were created for a peculiar carnival sideshow band that exists in another dimension.
That Breit can pull these all off with a kind of lightheartedness and wit is a testament to his vast talent as a player and songwriter.
From the country and western space jazz of The Knee High Fizzle to the bluesy charm of Cozy with Rosy and the spaghetti western lope of Dr. Lee Van Cleef, Breit delivers.
The addition of Breit-delivered bass clarinet, acoustic bass, organ, melodica, vibraphone and percussion into the mixes makes for a varied and entertaining listen.
There is even a bit of 1958 Buick Roadmaster horn added as a timekeeper in the odd Crime Holler. There are a few guest players on board, including some samples of bluesman Hound Dog Taylor on one track, but mostly it is Breit and his persona on full display making this a wonderfully idiosyncratic listen that fires on all cylinders of strange.
★★★ out of five
Stream these: I Got ‘Em Too, The Goldtooth Shuffle
— Jeff Monk
This album was actually originally released in 2015, but was a 2017 Juno nominee and has just had a bit of a reissue.
Mike Janzen is a Manitoba-raised pianist/composer who combines aspects of jazz, classical and folk into his music.
His arrangements have been featured with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) to glowing reviews. Nudging Forever combines a jazz trio (George Koller on bass, Larnell Lewis on drums and guest trumpeter Kevin Turcotte) with a string orchestra (with members of the Toronto Symphony).
The concept here is the eight-part daily prayer cycle of 12th- or 13th-century Benedictine monks. The eight parts of the suite move through the day from night watch to night prayer.
Predictably the music is mainly restrained and introspective, but there are lively and rhythmic sections (Matin or All Gift) and the interplay between the jazz group and the strings is imaginative and fresh.
The link to the plainsong of the concept is subtle, with the aspects of passage of time, and need for devotion is not overt. The music is simply beautiful throughout, with sensitive jazz rhythms driving this exploration of the universal awareness of the passage of time.
There are a growing number of examples of the blurring of "traditional" lines between jazz and classical music — think the WSO New Music Festival — and this album retains the integrity of both genres. I had not heard this album when it was first released, but am delighted to have caught up with it now.
★★★★ out of five
Stream these: Matin, Glimmer
— Keith Black
Nouvelle Vie: A Rediscovery of French Flute Music
This new release by Navona Records features Colorado-based flutist Michelle Batty Stanley and collaborative pianist Margaret McDonald in a program of all-French music from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The album features 12 lyrical works penned by seven composers and includes both better-known and more obscure composers.
In the latter category are pieces written for Paris Conservatory of Music final performance exams or created as smaller concert works.
They also become the backbone of this satisfying recording.
Batty Stanley brings a sense of fluid liquidity to a pair of Parisian flutist/composer Philippe Gaubert works: Madrigal and Sicilienne.
Also included is his Sonata for Piano and Flute, No. 1, that begins mysteriously during opening movement Modéré, before moving through its more eloquent central Lento, and lighter finale Allegro Moderato.
Other highlights include three selections by Alphonse Catherine: Barcarolle, Arabesque, and Sérénade mélancolique, that further showcase the duo’s simpatico partnership, with the latter work featuring lightly executed runs by the soloist.
Flute connoisseurs will also enjoy pieces by Émile Bernard, Émile Pessard, René de Boisdeffre, and Joseph-Henri Altès, with Victor-Alphonse Duvernoy’s Deux Morceaux displaying the perennially popular instrument’s full rainbow of tonal colours made possible when placed in the right hands.
★★★1/2 out of five
— Holly Harris