2011 Juno Award Nominationed CDs: a Selection by Stanley Fefferman

Wednesday, March 16, 2011.

The Juno’s are coming this weekend. Here are a few of my words in support of win-worthy CD’s.

Armenian culture should have as many words for sadness as the Inuit people have words for snow. The sadness I am speaking of is not depression, but more like sensitivity keyed-down to a mood of  tender reflection. The Amici Ensemble, inspired by it’s newest member, pianist Serouj Kradjian, put their impeccable musicianship behind this offering of Armenian music that plays directly to our spiritual part. One track—Arno Babadjanyan’s, Trio for voice, clarinet and four cellos, sings to us in the celestial voice of mezzo-soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. All the nominated albums in the CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOLO OR CHAMBER ENSEMBLE are totally worthy, but I am putting my shoulder to the wheel for Armenian Chamber Music (Atma Classique  #: 2609 ).

Playground is Mark McLean’s 40th record since his professional debut in 1998, but his first as leader. I have listened to this album at least seven (7) times, all the way through, while driving my car, for the pleasure of its company. Playground is a beautifully produced album, not just a playlist. Mark’s sure-handed drumming always sets the pace. Kelly Jefferson’s mellow-rich-cool, Coltrane-toned sax leads the way for the first few tunes. Then David Braid’s crisp piano picks up the pace and lets in some funk. On that note the non-funkier-than guitar of guest Kevin Breit takes the album to a whole new level. And it goes on from there, adding Robi Botos on piano to the mix of tuneful, richly embroidered, and tasteful jazz, solid and totally today. I have to wonder why Playground didn’t get a nomination (independent label?) for INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR.  It should have.

My first nomination for next year’s (2012) CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOLO OR CHAMBER ENSEMBLE is guitarist Sylvie Proulx’s Sirocco.  The music is contemporary, with an affinity for Spanish, Afro-Cuban and Brazillian music, flavoured with  jazz and folk traditions from Euopean Baroque, Turkey and North Africa. Ms. Proulx’s technique and musicality are a joy to experience. Sirocco is on the Centaur Records label.

Speaking of guitar music in the category of music that stays in the mind irrespective of the Junos of this or any other year, there is IMAGES – Rob MacDonald (Guitar), Madawaska String Quartet, Peter Pavlovsky (Double Bass). The piece that stays in the mind is a percussive piece entitled Full Circle, written for solo guitar by Andrew Staniland. Images is a Rob MacDonald all-Canadian New Music composers project including Nocturne, for guitar, viola and cello by Omar Daniel, Love Song, a string sextet for guitar, double bass and string quartet by Peter Sculthorpe, and the title work Images for guitar and string quartet, composed in 2005 by Christopher William Pierce. This is a daring album, and if there were an award for MOST DARING ALBUM, Rob MacDonald would certainly deserve a nomination. Right now, the best I can do is this plug. Learn more about Images which is available at The Canadian Music Centre.

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