Notes on A Few New CD Sounds for January by Stanley Fefferman

Tierney Sutton Band, On the Other Side. Telarc

Tierney Sutton and her band are something else. Whatever you want to say about this collaboration on her seventh album, and they say, “She is in a class by herself”, she is “a jazz icon-in-the-making,” she is the new “Ella”. Whatever they say, I say she is something else.

Comes to phrasing, Tierney uses her strong, flexible voice like an instrument, drawing you into the music rather than the story of the song. In this respect she is the ‘master’ of the unexpected, the happy coincidence. Working for the fourteenth year as part of this band, they work out musical settings are intricate and personal. The instrumental work as background, especially the percussion (Henry Trey/Kevin Axt on bass with Ray Brinker on drums), often moves to the front as a filigree among whose branches Tierney’s vocals glide like a gorgeous bird.

Many of the songs have the word ‘happy’ in the title but the point of the album is to question more than celebrate the idea that you can ever reach that state. Without question, I am definitely happy thing that Christian Jacob gets all the space he needs for his piano on “Blue Skies.” And, I am happy the Grammy nominated Tierney Sutton Band holds nothing back on this album I shall be listening to again and again.

Her band will be appearing for one night only at the Old Mill in Toronto on Thursday, January 10.

NYOC/ONJC “Selections from the 2006 National Tour.” 2 CDs, NYOC2

Approximately one-third of Canada’s professional orchestral musicians are alumni of The National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYOC), founded in 1960 to prepare young Canadian musicians for careers as professional orchestral players. Following the NYOC’s 1996 Tokyo performance, delegates of the World Youth Orchestra Conference Festival declared the NYOC as being “the best youth orchestra in the world.”

The current two-disc recording consists of selections from the NYOC’s 2006 National Tour with Jacques Lacombe as principal conductor. All the pieces are very listenable: the first one, Shostakovich’s Symphony No.1 in F Minor, Op.10, is especially apt. Written by a nineteen year old in 1925, it was an instant international success, and remains to this day in the active international repertoire. The NYOC give a good account of it’s formally classical qualities, as well as Shostakovich’s wit and deeper emotional tones.

The other works on this disc are also 20th Century, including Debussy’s La Mer, Stravinsky’s Chant du Rossignal in four movements, and the sixteen part Don Quixote, Op.35 by Richard Strauss. Here is a rich and varied offering well worth listening to.

Sir Andrew Davis, the TSO’s conductor laureate, will lead the National Youth of Canada’s Toronto concert – the last of its eight-city performances – at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday, August 10, 2008.

The Nightingale’s Rhapsody: Music for Clarinet and Strings. Jerome Summers, Clarinet, The Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra of Ottawa, Simon Streatfeild, Conductor. Cambria LC5882.

Jerome Summers, composer, conductor and clarinetist, commissioned five new works by Canadian composers that showcase the clarinet he plays in a winning way. This is Summers’ second album with ‘nightingale’ in the title, a metaphor for the clarinet coined by Brahms that aptly describes “the lyrical, yet melancholic nature of the instrument [as well as its] singing capabilities…with dramatic and humourous departures.”

Two compositions, “Romance for Clarinet and Strings”, and “Rhapsody for Clarinet, Percussion and Strings,” come from the pen of Ronald Royer. These masterful and witty pieces live up to Royer’s reputation for music that is both entertaining and imaginative. Royer has composed music performed before an audience of 20,000 people that was integrated Niagara Falls and a fireworks display. He also has written “Overture to an Unscripted Movie” which is a compression of ideas from hundreds of movie scores.

Oliver Whitehead’s music combines classical and jazz themes, music written for broadcast media and the theatre. This Juno Award winning guitarist and composer is represented here by “Pisarro Landscapes” which Summers describes as “ a superb balance of intimate whisperings and exuberant, even cheeky outbursts from the clarinet. Obviously, the composer knows me rather well!”

The disc features a new Michael Conway Baker “Clarinet Concerto” that is lyrical, melodic, and emotional, expertly crafted and orchestrated to be accessible.” Dale Reubart’s “Fantasy for Clarinet and Strings” rounds out the program with music that is strongly individualistic in a neoclassical style.

I have listened to this CD twice, and look forward to more listenings. It is pleasurable music whose charms deepen and unfurl in time.

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