Tag Archives: Jazz


Album Review: Vivid – Daniel Arthur Trio

As the title of their debut full-length album would suggest, the music that flows from the Daniel Arthur Trio can only be described as vivid. Vibrant. Vivacious. I could go on. The fact of the matter is, it would be impossible to mistake these recent Schulich Music School graduates for sophomoric amateurs, not to mention their expanding resumé. In 2016, while still at McGill University, the trio performed at the internationally-renowned Montreal Jazz Festival, and this year have taken third place at the Conad Jazz Fest (Perugia) and a semifinalist title at the Bucharest International Jazz Competition.  Daniel Arthur, a pianist by trade and the trio’s “frontman,” was performing with the Seattle Opera while still in high school, and has played classical piano since the age of seven.

All arrangements on Vivid are of his own composition, and it’s clear from the get-go that he has an ear for the ebb and flow of the tracks. The album moves as a river might: at times still and quiet, at others roaring along, almost unhinged. Arthur’s piano may wander, but it is always brought back by Ethan Cohn’s steady bass and Eric Maillet’s clever drums. The trio members have all been formally trained as musicians, and it shines in their performances; everything is precise, even when the intricate harmonies present as hectic or loose.

The three instruments will expertly play games of tag and tug-of-war, yielding for solos and dramatic effect, but not once do they fall completely silent. When one instrument shines, the other two provide a support system to buoy it along. Their style evokes 20th century composers such as Stravinsky and Messiaen, as well as contemporary jazz musicians; a hint of Brubeck can be heard from time to time as well. 

Vivid begins with “Prelude,” a kind of amuse-bouche that does a good job of introducing the trio’s sound, letting them stretch their musical muscles. Arthur demonstrates his penchant for syncopation and time signature shifts early on in this short track, which features a hypnotic piano melody. On “DSFCA,” a frantic piano shoots out of the gate before the drums and bass kick in to send the track into a frenzy. Constantly shifting intervals, dynamics, and tempo keep the listener on their toes before the track cools down, the dynamics becoming subdued and steady rhythms taking hold.

Rolling chords introduce “Joy,” blossoming nicely with the addition of the bass being played with a bow, instead of Cohn’s usual plucking style. Maillet’s drums are added slowly, entering the flow of the rhythm seamlessly to provide a nice contrast with Cohn’s bass. Arthur’s piano then takes over, with the bass and drums now only acting as accents. While the melodies are rather repetitive, the differences in tempo and call-and-response pattern that emerges keep the track pleasant and the listener engaged. Arthur arranges the track to fall into dissonance before inserting a neat, circular resolution: the return of the initial piano melody, now a little more harried.

On “Mars Text,” bass and a higher piano melody take the spotlight, supplemented by drums and a faster piano melody, played at a lower register. The track has a bittersweet quality to it, with each instrument alternately fading in and out, each in its own world. As the track picks up, the melodies of piano, bass, and drum become intertwined, building on one another; this cyclical track is one of Arthur’s most involved compositions, and the trio perform it expertly.

The Daniel Arthur Trio also cover the greats on Vivid, paying homage to Shostakovich and Messiaen in additional tracks. While their overall performance style still has an air of youthful formality, the raw talent exhibited by these musicians cannot be denied, and this author can only hope they will continue to showcase their prowess as they carve a name for themselves in the jazz world.

Album released: July 7, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 




Goodbye & good riddance, 2016.
In all truth, this past year has been a tough one for a bunch of different reasons. Here’s hoping 2017 will be a little easier on us all.

These are our last charts for the year. The CKUT offices will be closed fromDecember 23rd until January 2nd, but our programming will continue on in its full awesomeness over the break with a couple very special holiday programs added to the mix. Hit up our website for details on our holiday programming schedule.

Happy holidays from all of us at CKUT.

We’re in the process of recapping our favourite albums from the past year on themusic blog. Check out this list of stellar jazz picks courtesy of John B, host of CKUT’s Jazz Amuck program, and keep an eye on the blog for more year-end posts this week.

ckut top 30 – december 20, 2016

1. sam shalabi & alan bishop – mother of all sinners: puppet on a string – unrock CC *
2. tasseomancy – do easy – hand drawn dracula CC
3. ylangylang – life without structure – self-released CC *
4. weyes blood – front row seat to earth – mexican summer
5. oren ambarchi – hubris – editions mego Continue reading




Five years after the release of their debut album, the Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD has made a name for themselves as one of the most versatile quartets to enter the music scene. BBNG has evolved plenty; they’ve been touring the world and working on music continuously throughout this past decade. It’s fascinating to hear the evolution unfold and witness into which directions the band is willing to venture. They demonstrate a brilliant idea of what jazz music could sound like if hip hop artists were to tackle the genre. After having covered Odd Future, J Dilla, James Blake and Flying Lotus tracks, and worked on an entire collaboration album with Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, now BADBADNOTGOOD has released their fourth solo effort appropriately named IV. This album is the band’s most confident and endearing project so far; it exhibits a style that has been crafted by inspired young artists. The production is brighter, cleaner and as engrossing as ever thanks to the talented guests featured on the project.   Continue reading

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Album Review: Nate Wooley – Argonautica

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Nate Wooley has never been afraid of bold choices.  His playing style is a constant testament to individuality and originality, earning him a position of playing the trumpet like no one else on the planet.  Wooley’s previous albums range from abstract renditions of Wynton Marsalis tunes to particularly harsh versions of free jazz with obscure multi-phonic trumpet chops juxtaposed against distorted extended techniques.  On his new album Argonautica, Wooley brings together musicians from the free jazz community and the fusion jazz scene making for a wide-ranging work encompassing valleys of space and cities of noise. Continue reading


Concert Review: Luc Ex Assemblée


Luc Ex’s Assemblée is something of a super-group that pits together voices from all over the underground music community.  Hamid Drake serves as a powerful drummer with tendencies for heavy handed grooves, whereas Ingrid Laubrock and Ab Baars trade quirky, avant-garde saxophone melodies that encompass a wide array of extended techniques.  Lux Ex himself is a powerful bassist with stage presence and natural musicality to lead any group in the right direction.  The group’s Saturday night show at this year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo festival showcased a massive dynamic range making for surprising moments throughout each of the two sets. Continue reading

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Concert Review: Wadada Leo Smith – Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival

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Wadada Leo Smith has lived and breathed the message of Suoni Per Il Popolo from the moment he began recording music.  His risk taking, forward thinking approach to composition has kept him fresh and new for decades and his ability to embed meaning within avant-garde sound is nearly unmatchable making him the ideal choice to open this year’s festival.  Seeing Wadada Leo Smith is stepping into a stream of consciousness.  From the moment the music begins to the end of the performance the room is fully under the control of Smith.  The musicians surrounding him avidly watch his hands flail around, directing the spirit of the music through the appropriate developments.  The crowd is blown away both by Smith’s unbelievable trumpet playing power and his stunning ability to play with tension in slower moving moments.  Smith’s spirit envelops all who bear witness, bringing them to specific events in his life and teaching lessons of perseverance and strength. Continue reading

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Album Review: Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

Screen shot 2016-04-08 at 1.18.16 PMEver since the world discovered Miles Davis, he was always seen knocking at the doors of musical styles not yet known. Miles, who rose to fame from the popular uproar of bebop in New York City during the 1940’s, was never content with staying in the same lane. By the end of the 1940’s Davis had introduced ‘cool jazz’ to the world with his Birth of the Cool sessions, and barely a decade later, turned the jazz community on its side again by debuting his ‘modal jazz’ style, backed by his album Kind of Blue, the success and praise of which has gained the album musical immortality. By 1967, Miles remained one of the most prominent jazz icons. However, the 60’s were ‘brewing’ and there was a huge influx of new musical styles that Miles Davis was not ignorant of. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter is quoted saying that at this time Miles was “…looking for something with more traction.”  At this point Miles was already being influenced by the R&B sounds of the decade; in addition, his soon-to-be second wife, Betty Mabry, introduced Miles to even more new sounds and fashions of the time. Miles was inspired to discard his fitted suits for the technicolor garb of the decade, and play the records of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone.  With his 1969 release of In a Silent Way, a divergent and experimental fusion album, Miles had now almost completely alienated the jazz realm with his off-beat musical reinvention. However, In a Silent Way was only a prequel to Davis’s new style. In 1970 Miles would take a huge step forward, releasing his monumental, avant-garde album Bitches BrewContinue reading

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Concert Review: Anna Webber

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In having the chance to talk to Anna Webber leading up to her performance at Café Resonance this past Monday, one of the things that struck out to me was her organized manner.  Each email sent leading up to the recording session of our interview was quickly followed by a reply from Webber and a question about the specificity of the interview.  In my experience with jazz musicians, systematically planning things out before they happen is not a common occurrence.  Perhaps the tendency for jazz musicians to haphazardly live out their lives is due to the improvisational nature of the music they play; however, the genre also leaves room for a more precise approach to songwriting.  Webber’s organizational approach to life is reflected in the meticulous way she composes her music.  From a purely visual viewpoint, Webber and her ensemble of Matt Mitchell and John Hollenbeck are bound to pages and pages of music throughout their performance.  This strategy allows the group to look at the big picture beforehand and cohesively transition from section to section truly exposing every possible combination of sound.  Continue reading


Album Review: Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

31d39fa4Esperanza Spalding is not an artist who disappoints. Nor is she predictable.

Her latest release, Emily’s D+Evolution, has shown an exceptional rebirth of creativity and innovation from the prodigal bassist/singer-songwriter. Using her jazz background as a pedestal, she constructs an intricately structured opus incorporating funk and alt-rock elements to create an experimental blend of performance art, theatre, improvisation, and classic storytelling through song.

The title, Emily’s D+Evolution, is based on Spalding’s “alter ego,” a free spirited young girl named Emily (Spalding’s middle name). Spalding sings about the world as seen through Emily’s eyes, using her as a musical muse. She claims using this alter ego gave her a fresh start to her work, a way to approach the concept of music anew. The album represents a rebirth of creativity for Spalding, a return to the childlike wonder and ingenuity. Emily’s D+Evolution opens with the lyrics, “See this pretty girl / Watch this pretty girl flow,” an immediate introduction to the muse behind the melody.

As for the artistry, Spalding does not disappoint. She has tremendous vocal talent, easily ranging multiple octaves from a honeyed alto to a soaring falsetto in one breath. Her lyrics are complex and intelligent, a mix of story, song, and spoken word poetry. The instrumentals are expertly layered, with intricate melodies and subtle key changes; at times an ebb and flow, at others an overwhelming roller coaster of emotion and rhythm.

While it is recommended to listen to Emily’s D+Evolution all the way through to get the full experience, some tracks deserve high praise. The opener, “Good Lava,” is all at once a dissonant, explosive, and seductive first track. It shocks the listener, screaming at them to pay good attention – without ever raising its voice. “Judas” provides a respite from this overwhelming sensation. Spalding’s vocals are lilting and low, fluid in tempo and rhythm; a hybrid of song and spoken word. Her bass-playing is prominently displayed, with stripped-down cymbals and accompanying electric and acoustic guitars.

“Rest In Pleasure” is intimate, and again the production has been pulled back, letting Spalding’s lyrics and vocals shine through. She is accompanied by a female call-and-response for the chorus, adding a layer of sensuality and delicacy to the track. A crescendo is present in the latter half of the song, where the volume, intensity, and instrumental layering all increase. “Ebony and Ivy” is a dead-ringer for a poetry slam performance put to music, starting out with rapid-fire, monotone lyrics that soon swing into pensive vocals and a jolting melody.

Emily’s D+Evolution ends with a peculiar track, “I Want It Now,” which apparently is an homage to Veruca Salt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. More theatre than song, it is an ending both surprising and surprisingly fitting: seeing as the muse is supposedly a young girl, the emulation of unfettered desire through a popular literary character is a perfect, though subtle, solution to end such a complex album. Overall, Emily’s D+Evolution is a piece of art, off-kilter and unhinged just enough to be unique and noteworthy. It pushes boundaries without being disorganized, and flirts with the blurred lines between performance and production in a way that leaves the listener exhilarated. Though it is unclear what paths she will pursue next, Spalding is certainly one rising star to watch closely and with great excitement.

Album released: March 4, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 



Concert Review – Linsey Wellman


The Ultimate musical challenge.  A man equipped with a saxophone and complete tonal, metric, and dynamic freedom faces off against an audience eager for entertainment.  In these situations, only the devices of music in their most basic terms are of use as any attempt at complex tonal forms or chordal progressions would be futile.  With only the notions of contrasting sound and motivic development in mind, Linsey Wellman accomplished an intrigue throughout his two 40 minute sets indicative of his immense musical prowess.  Wellman seamlessly ventured from grabbing intimacy through droning rhythm and on to violent intensity never failing to surprise the crowd at every turn.

The night began slowly.  In the quietest moments, the power of intimate simplicity drew the audience forward leaving them unaware of what noise would be next to break the silence.  With Wellman’s vast array of extended techniques in full force, every spaced-out, quite moment would only be contained in the realm of unpredictability.  There were special moments where Wellman breathed into his saxophone and the whole process of the technical setup, pressing of the key, and beginning of the vibration could be heard truly encompassing the audience in the whole musical experience.  He even used the audibility of his keys to his advantage sometimes creating some sort of meter with the clicking sounds.  Authenticity is an overused word in music in this day and age, however, there is some validity to the point that a setting that provides for complete artistic control and an emphasis on in-the-moment collective experience results in a more advanced artistic endeavor.

As the music progressed along, the emphasis on intimacy was swapped out for high intensity musical shapes.  Wellman’s use of an oscillating ostinato evoked a circular melodic shape, which was made more interesting by the variations brought forward by the ever-present extended techniques.  The linear musical pattern was accomplished through the use of fast dissension and ascension through the entire range of the instrument.  Sometimes Wellman would employ an extremely angular melody encompassing somewhat random pitches of highly varying frequency resulting in a scattered sound schematic.  By focusing on individual shapes, Wellman was able to develop his motives to their full potential in a very logical way.  After each idea had been fully explored, the transition provided much needed contrast through the shock of untouched territory.  Wellman’s mastery of musical architecture complimented his intimate quite moments quite well making it impossible for the audience to lose interest for the entirety of the experience.

With the start of the second set, Yves Charuest added his own personality into the musical pallet providing for a more communicative melodic texture.  The use of both a solo and duet set-up made the night even more impressive as Wellman proved not only his ability to entertain a room alone, but he also left enough room in his musical space for another voice.  This part of the show began quietly as most conversations do.  The spacey nature of the beginning resembles an introduction to a stranger.  There are hellos and an even spread of listening and talking as the two people obtain a sense of comfortability with each other.  Eventually the conversation reaches new territories and each person is given more space to express themselves.  With their respectful sense of rapport, Yves Charuest and Linsey Wellman were able to work together to achieve many different types of conversation ranging from a quick, idea-bouncing brainstorm to a more complete expression of feeling from both sides.

Music can come in many different forms but the basic ideas are always the same.  An artist needs multiple, contrasting ideas and each of these ideas must be developed as much as possible.  With the sheer power of his individuality, Linsey Wellman fully accomplished both of these tasks despite the absence of any pre-writing and he also managed to hold an advanced musical conversation with Yves Charuest. The result was a truly fantastic night at la Plante.


-Review by Donovan Burtan