November 2005

Art of Time Ensemble | That Crazy American Music
November 4 & 5, 2005Harbourfront Centre TheatreToronto
Make it New
by Stanley Fefferman
Andrew Burashenko has fulfilled the Modernist dictum of Ezra Pound to “Make it New”. He took more than a dozen tunes everybody loves by composers everybody knows, invited wake-up-and-listen arrangements from half a dozen of Canada’s best (but sadly not so well known) arrangers, and performed them last night with an elite cross-over chamber/jazz quintet and girl singer.

With himself on piano, Gryphon Trio’s Roman Borys on cello, and the COC’s Ben Bowman on violin, tunes like Harold Arlen’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow” exhibited the stately balance, the rich harmonies, the baroque elegance of chamber music, and the eccentricities of new music. The jazz folk—Melissa Stylianou on vocals, Rob Piltch on guitars, Phil Dwyer on winds and reeds—fit in with the chamber groove and also let the pieces swing. A whole new kind of pleasure.

The Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen classic “Come Rain or Come Shine”, is arranged by Cameron Wallace with the opening bars plucked pizzicato by the strings and piano and develops a novel percussive personality until Melissa settles it into the familiar pleasures of the lyric song. You can feel that this blend of old and new is a success when the piece ends: the whole room comes to rest in a prolonged silence, the musicians grin at each other, and the applause bursts out.

Phil Dwyer’s arrangement of Jerome Kern’s “The Song Is You,” sounds a bit like a Poulenc sextet until you begin to hear the voice of Paul Desmond's sax coming through Phil’s horn. Phil’s arrangement of “Somewhere”, by Leonard Bernstein, contains a terminally beautiful guitar solo by Rob Piltch. Rob’s equally memorable solo on his own arrangement of Hank William’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” attains a great depth of feeling in a duo passage where Roman Borys is plucking a bass line on his cello.

Melissa Stylianou’s pure-voiced, tasteful, renditions integrated into the ensemble as if she were the voice of another instrument. I thought of Ann Sophie Von Otter’s work with Elvis Costello. The mood of the evening as a whole was soulful and still, a blending of passion and peacefulness. The instrumental “Hiccup Tango” featuring Ben Bowman giving his violin the hiccups gave us some welcome smiles and fun. More of that next time.

Melissa Stylianou
“That Crazy American Music” is the first of four concerts this season in Toronto before The Art of Time Ensemble takes “That Crazy American Music” to Moscow and Korea in the Spring. The Toronto series includes a tribute to Dmitri Shostakovitch on his Centenary, a multi media celebration of the work of Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay, and a music and dance evening focused on the work of Peggy Baker and James Kudelka. Whatever they do, it is a good bet that The Art of Time Ensemble will find a way to “Make it New”.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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