|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Glen Hall
Time/After Time: A Jazz Suite
Sonavista Records NO #
Audaciously taking on nothing less than a history of our sad planet, from the big bang to its potential post-apocalypse, veteran local drummer Geordie McDonald has put together a multi-faceted two-CD set that melds futuristic, multi-ethnic and contemporary improvisations.
“Time/After Time” is an instrumental parable that begins with a brief electronically propelled explosion and ends with more than 12½ minutes of McDonald’s inventive polyrhythms on drums and ancillary percussion including a bell tree, claves, oversized cymbals, woodblocks and rain sheets. The suite encompasses the skills of 18 [!] of Toronto’s top improvisers plus New York-based trombonist Roswell Rudd, whose inventive brays and slurs perfectly fit the primitive-modern CD the drummer organized.
Organized is the key word since McDonald only composed one track. The others are group improvisations or themes written by the other players such as alto saxophonist/Shuffle Demon Richard Underhill; trumpeter/Flying Bulgar David Buchbinder; baritone saxophonist/educator David Mott; and inventive flutist and bass clarinetist Glen Hall.
A perfect example of this contrapuntal concordance both in writing and playing occurs on Hall’s Tribal Survival. Accompanied by vibrating resonations from John Rudel’s congas and Rick Lazar’s doumbek, the vamping horn section plus staccato hocketing from vocalists Maryem Tollar and Sophia Grigoriadis, the trombonist splutters cross tones throughout, working up to a climax of staccato, flutter-tonguing.
Further Rudd duets that include a low-pitched, plunger-and-slurs face-off with Mott, and Buchbinder and the trombonist advancing their version of modern tailgate styles, confirm that McDonald recruited the perfect crew for this project.
-- Ken Waxman
-- For Whole Note Vol. 15 #10
July 13, 2010
Glen Hall + Glen Charles Halls
Quiet Design Records CD Alas 009
Philippe Lauzier & Pierre-Yves Martel
Ignaz Schick/Martin Tétreault
Live 33 45 78
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 191 CD
Michael Blake/Kresten Osgood
Clean Feed CF 136 CD
Extended Play: POMO Duos
By Ken Waxman
Duo playing is probably the most difficult kind of improvising. Not only must each player depend on only one other to modify or accompany his ideas, but unbridled creativity has to be muted to fit the other musician’s comfort zone. As these CDs demonstrate, skilled improvisers aren’t fazed by the challenge; but the instruments they choose are sometimes usual.
Ever since his arrival in Toronto from Winnipeg 30 years ago, reedist Glen Hall has played with top local and international musicians. A few years ago he began noticing he was being confused with pianist Glen (Charles) Halls, who had moved to the city from Edmonton. Being equally sardonic types, before Halls relocated to Alberta, the two decided to compound the confusion by recording a duo CD, Glen Hall + Glen Charles Halls Northern Dialogues Quiet Design Records CD Alas 009. Still there are as many musical as jocular reasons for doing so. With Hall alternating between breathy bass flute pressure and sprightly tenor saxophone runs, the eight tunes rage from atmospheric and meditative to rhythmic and bluesy. More formalistic than Hall, Halls often appears to be playing a fantasia, mixing legato chords with downward cascading arpeggios. With the low-frequency curvatures of his flute moderato and pointillist to complement the pianist’s comping, it’s Hall explosive saxophone tones which make the greatest impression. After adding speedy excitement to the measured and nearly opaque pianism on Astral, with Anything Blues Hall’s flutter-tonguing encourages Halls to display varied keyboard strategies including tremolo strumming.
Hall has organized the annual 416 Toronto Creative Improvisers Festival since 2001. Guests from 514 were welcomed last year, with Montreal turntablist Martin Tétreault’s sounds most unique. Live 33 45 78 Ambiances Magnétiques AM 191 CD, a duo with Berlin-based turntablist Ignaz Schick, provides examples of these jangling and ratcheting textures. Unlike hip-hoppers who use LPs to insert song snatches or scratch beats, the Canadian-German duo manipulate tone-arms and cartridges as additional sound sources, while pummeling electrified surfaces for distinctive timbres. In two suites they mix granulated rubs and rattles, sharp rugged smacks and motorized rasps with beneath-hearing-level clatter and hisses to reveal textures ranging from stallion-like whinnies to forte ostinatos replicating a dentist’s drill. By the climax of Cave 12 they create a double-counterpoint showcase. The piece weaves vinyl needle rips, frenzied buzzes, static vibrating, video-game-like clanking and near-human cries into a neat package of harmonic interface, as multi-textural as it is percussive.
Pierre-Yves Martel’s and Philippe Lauzier’s Sainct Laurens &records 06 also mix electro and acoustic timbres – and more – on their CD. Although Montrealer Lauzier confines himself to saxophone and bass clarinet, Martel, who lives in Montreal and Paris, suggests 17th Century music at points, since he plays the viola da gamba. He’s thoroughly modern elsewhere, preparing his instrument with speakers, contact mics and radios. The nine tracks range from lyrical showcases where Lauzier’s wide woodwind warbles brush up against sympathetic Renaissance-styled string vibrations; to abrasive and gritty scrapes, squeaks and flanges from Martel’s extended strings that contrast with intense, horizontal split-tones from the saxophonist. Defiantly multiphonic, the most characteristic track is Adda. It matches altissimo bass clarinet squeals with animal-like burrowing scratches plus droning oscillations from the plectrumist. Swelling into a cornucopia of stifled reed split tones and pinched string buzzes, the piece rends the sound space with both high and low-pitches before the distinctive parts meld.
Saxophonist Michael Blake’s and drummer Kresten Osgood’s Control This Clean Feed CF 136 CD has a characteristic track as well, which is as post-modern as it is traditional. Duke Ellington’s Creole Love Call is re-imagined by the Copenhagen-based percussionist’s hand-drummed ruffs, flams and back-beat bounces complementing overdubbed soprano, alto and tenor saxophone timbres from the Vancouverite-turned New Yorker. Layering his output so each reed is distinctively harmonized – and simultaneously in focus – Blake’s overall thematic variation is grainy and tough, with one horn honking, another mellow and the third always in the altissimo range. Reed work on others of the seven tracks ranges from breathy and romantic to flat-line flutters to jolly dance-like, as Osgood’s patterning encompasses bass drum whaps and cymbal rattles. In sync throughout on Elephants are Afraid of Mice, the two demonstrate how the drummer’s rim shots and press rolls don’t disrupt, but extend Blake’s variants which encompass spetrofluctuation and body-tube echoes on soprano plus dense repeated tenor saxophone trills.
Two can be the most accommodating number in music as these discs prove.
-- For Whole Note Vol. 15 #6
March 3, 2010
Revibing Giusseppi Logan
Booklet notes for Sonnavista Editions No #
“I have only improvised in my career,” avers Toronto percussionist Geordie McDonald when asked about this unique recording. “But I don’t play totally improvised music from scratch. I like to have a head that establishes the character and space in which to play.”
That’s why Montreal-born McDonald, who over a 40-year career has been involved in sonic situations as different as creating electro-acoustic music with other young experimenters; drumming in one of Neil Young’s early rock bands; and improvising advanced jazz with pianist Paul Bley; decided to record these six originals, composed and first recorded by legendary New Thing saxophonist Giuseppi Logan. “Logan was the Erik Satie of Jazz, his heads are so minimal,” explains McDonald.
Part of the wave of players who appeared in the wake of Ornette Coleman’s initial advances, Logan (born in Philadelphia in 1935), was a multi-instrumentalist – he played alto and tenor saxophone bass clarinet, flute, piano and Pakistani oboe – who in the mid-1960s made two LPs for ESP-Disk, appeared on an Impulse! album by trombonist Roswell Rudd, then vanished. Always a shadowy figure, he was recently discovered by a Christian missionary group living hand-to-mouth in New York.
Milford Graves – an avowed influence on McDonald – is a presence on Logan’s solo disks playing drums and tabla, so it only took a little persuasion from Toronto saxophonist Glen Hall – with whom McDonald worked on a CD interpreting William Burroughs’ work a decade ago – to convince the percussionist to create this notable disc.
Hall, who is featured throughout on tenor and soprano saxophones, is only one of the players “with voices of their own” favored by the percussionist. Hall has recorded with drummer William Hooker and arranger Gil Evans among others. Others McDonald recruited for this project are Len Boyd, who taught double bass to generations of students at Toronto’s Humber College as well as working with stylists as different as Duke Ellington and Bud Powell; and Mark Hundevad, an associate of such advanced players as reedist Sabir Mateen and trumpeter Raphe Malik, whose advanced skills on steel drum and vibes give this CD its distinctive title. Finally, Ritesh Das, founder of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble, who studied with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, brings his talents to “Tabla Suite”.
Listening to the track, you hear the interaction that characterizes the entire date. Although Das is pounding the tabla and chanting in a traditional manner, his textures intertwine perfectly with McDonald’s clanging cymbals and the light dusting of quivers from Hundevad’s vibes. With rhythmic tempering from Boyd’s arco sweeps, the tune evolves contrapuntally, with Hall outlining the theme, accompanied by bell shaking, scraping vibraharp notes and a final gong resonation.
Group expression asserts itself throughout, as on tracks such as “’Taneous”. Here Boyd’s thick walking bass chords and the drummer’s doubled pulses and rolls unfold in lockstep, allowing Hall’s soprano saxophone lines to modulate in a serpentine manner. When the sax man speeds up the tempo, the result is colored by Hundevad’s steel pan concussion. “Wretched Saturday” further confirms the band’s versatility, with Hall – on tenor saxophone this time – pumping out Tranesque note extensions, as the drums click, clack, rebound and roll. Elsewhere Boyd’s rhythmic impetus is so pronounced that he could be playing an electric bass, yet he can also slap and slide with equal finesse.
But why enumerate the joys of this session when you can hear it yourself? All of the musicians here may be veterans. But they’re also old enough to know better; that is how not to exactly replicate any music. Unlike recreations of the mid-century jazz repertoire by the so-called Young Lions, the members of the McDonald crew not only showcase the sounds of an unjustly neglected composer here, but they do so in a way that make the reconstituted pieces fresh sounding and well-defined.
Logan would probably like this session; you surely will.
Ken Waxman (www.jazzword.com) Toronto December 2008
April 8, 2009
Oasis of Whispers
Alien8 Alien CD59
Dont get this CD to discover how Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo operates in a jazz/improv context. Unlike bumptious rock star tourists who venture into Free Music with the subtlety of a linebacker performing ballet, Ranaldo cedes most of the space to the reeds of Torontos Glen Hall and the multi-faceted drumming of New Yorker William Hooker. Sticking to low-key, near microtonal guitar fills, plus pre-recorded interjections, the guitarist makes Oasis of Whispers fundamentally a group effort and the disc is better for it.
Conference Call, the CDs almost 16½-minute centerpiece, is the most obvious example of how his unforced stance shapes the session. Triggered Film Noir-like pre-recorded dialogue from a tough guy, a womans muffled conversation plus an infants cries are treated appropriately as sound sources, connected sonically with slurred and frailing guitar runs, powerful cymbal resonation and bell ringing and Halls multi-instrumental theatricalism. Moving among wiggling, double-tongued soprano saxophone vibrations, mouth-breathed, irregularly pitched flute overtones and some mumbling of his own, Hall brings this layered piece to its conclusion with a descending flute line.
Most of the other group compositions reflect what electronic treatments and extended techniques can provoke. Framing the saxmans repetitive reed biting, stark falsetto whistles and body tube white noise plus the drummers mallet popped cymbals and blunt bass drum pressure are buzzing wave form loops and reverberating guitar flanges.
Still, Sonny Rollins Blue Seven, featuring Ranaldos distortion pedal fills, Hookers kettle-drum-like resonation and Halls exaggerated tremolo tenor saxophone playing confirms the trios linkage to the jazz tradition, no matter how transformative the presentation.
-- Ken Waxman
July 27, 2006
Tarsier Records ACD-0501
Veteran improv warrior Glen Halls past collaborators have included arranger Gil Evans and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Renaldo. But trio_muo, a working unit since 2002, is the Ontario-based saxophonist and flutists own chamber ensemble.
As cohesive as it is flexible, the band is filled out by longtime associate, bassist Michael Morse, who shadows the reedists every move like a P.I. on a stake-out; and decades younger percussionist Joe Sorbara. Reveling in ambiguity, most composition titles relate to concepts of geometry, so as to focus the listener on the music itself, with its shifting tonal centres, free time and elastic intervals.
Appearing more formidable than they actually are, the 11 tunes take as touchstones the advances of originals like Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk, whose characteristic doubled motif echo in a couple of Hall heads. Recorded with remarkable clarity, most tracks have definite architecture, with Hall sharing space with the other two, even turning to alto flute on Vertex to melodically accompany the others improvisations. Solid and thick-toned, with a touch of sul ponticello interjections, Morse is the CDs rhythmic core, while Sorbara colors the proceedings with cymbal pings, rattling maracas, clapped drum sticks and sonorous drum rolls and bounces.
Although he reveals a plush and luxuriant bass flute tone on Big Ears, a threnody for poet Paul Haines, playing his usual tenor and soprano saxophones Halls expression is assured and unique, moving from peeping, quivering shrills on the smaller horn to undulating, territory-marking sonority on the tenor.
This is a fine effort all around.
-- Ken Waxman
January 10, 2006