Music reviews: Triple the pleasure with local musicians

The music industry may be in crisis, but that hasn’t stopped truly great CDs from being produced, in particular by local and Canadian artists.

Three of the best I’ve heard recently:

wmatt herskowitzMatt Herskowitz, Upstairs (Justin Time)

Pianist Matt Herskowitz—born in Albany, N.Y., a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York City and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia—has lived in Montreal for 14 years, and what a talent he is.

We heard him a few weeks ago at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill and were dazzled by his outstanding skills as he played selections from the solo album recorded there in 2011.

Matt Herskowitz is the real thing—composer, interpreter of Brubeck and Bach, the Gershwins, and Robert Schumann, just on this one CD. What runs through it all, be it jazz or classical, is his artful development, replete with cascading and rippling notes on the faster pieces, and Chopinesque romanticism on others, including two lovely originals.

Herskowitz plays with passion, as he lovingly exploits the fullness of the piano’s percussive and lyrical possibilities. His jazzed up Bach—Prelude in C Minor—is just so much fun!

wtim bradyTim Brady, Atacama: Symphonie No. 3 (ATMA)

Electric guitarist and composer Tim Brady is among the most productive—more than 100 works, 19 CDs—and idea-rich musicians on the local scene.

He is a local treasure whose work in the classical/contemporary field deserves much broader recognition, as does his latest CD, a symphony five years in the making.

It is a masterly look back at the horrific years of the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, as described in words by Chilean poet Elias Letelier, who sought refuge and lives in Canada. It is a monumental work in six movements, with 25-member choir and 10-piece orchestra, the first five each developed around a central theme with many variations.

Terror, fear and cries for freedom are evoked with varying degrees of intensity until the final movement and the release that comes with the end of the the dark nightmare. The lyrics are in Spanish, but the music is universal in its power.

wdarcy-james-argue-brooklyn-babylonDarcy James Argue’s Secret, Society Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam Records)

The first time I heard this amazing CD by Canadian-born Darcy James Argue I said to myself: Masterpiece.

With subsequent listens I am even more convinced of this CD’s value, with its broad-ranging, multi-level dynamics and wide musical sourcing and appeal.

Vancouver-born Argue created a similar buzz with his debut work, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records).

His 18-member ensemble includes innovative musicians as Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and trombonist Mike Fahie, and rising-star reed player Erica van Kleist. Argue’s cinematic vision and kinetic development in 17 parts results in an original musical excursion encompassing open vistas, Hollywoodian orchestration, and bold avant thrusts.

You never know what’s coming next and it all ties in with a delightful excursion that moves mind and soul. Each listen is a voyage of discovery, thanks to its clever, multifaceted approach.

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