These performances are under the band name
Three Metre Day, our alter ego
July 30 at the Sixth
August 13 private function
August 20 Markham Jazz Fest
November dates in San Francisco area
map to The Sixth
So we're still loving this residency at The Sixth in Parkdale
(Toronto). Very fun/ky place, great sculptures made from
scrap metal, lots of robots, something out of a golf cart,
invented instruments on the walls, and.... live music from
the world's smallest stage. There's a poster below from our
last gig there, with a bit more info
"Outstanding players and seamless as an ensemble." NOW Magazine
Art of Time presents SHOSTAKOVICH: A PORTRAIT
February 14th, 2010
(Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)
The question about Shostakovich that everyone asks, including R.H. Thompson who introduced
this evening, is—“Did he sell out to the Communist Party (that twice suppressed his music) as the
price of staying at the top of the Soviet musical heap?”
The multimedia portrait that Andrew Burashko directs surely gets it right. Burashko takes a pass
on the ‘did he or didn’t he?’ hype of political conjecture, and gets down to emotional truth in the
music. Shostakovich always stayed alive by laughing to keep from crying. In other words,
Shostakovich had the blues.
Although Shostakovich rose to be top musical dog under Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, his
music was always about staying alive through hard times. This night we enjoyed Shostakovich’s
2nd Piano Trio (1944), dedicated to the memory of his recently deceased best friend and
champion, Ivan Sollertinsky. To help himself get through the loss of his friend, Shostakovich built
the final movement of his Trio out of Jewish Klezmer music.
We also enjoyed Shostakovich’s 8th String Quartet (1960) which contains a record of his feelings
about the fiery holocaust the Allies brought down on the German city of Dresden as payback for
the Nazi holocaust. The second movement reprises the Jewish themes Shostakovich first
introduced in the 2nd Piano Trio. In both compositions, in order to stay alive by joining his
personal misery with humanity’s misery and making them both dance in his music, Shostakovich
identifies with the musical language of the seriously oppressed in his culture: like Gershwin went
to the Blues, Shostakovich went to the Jews.
The opening fugue of the 8th String Quartet, based on the composer’s four-note signature, is
disorderly, dissonant, emotionally searing. It is followed by three lyrical sections, each sustained
and disturbed by a static, obsessive drone. The second movement scherzo offers the loud, brutal
hammering of quarter notes and sforzando chords over the obsessive ostinati of Shostakovich’s
four-note signature. These figures collide with the hurtling broken chords of the ‘freygish’ Jewish
theme quoted from the 2nd Piano Trio that are cut short as the demonic waltz of the third
movement begins to cut its brutal, sardonic figures, making a mockery of suffering and
compassion alike, morphing into a muted, keening cloud of high notes that hangs like a plague
over the end of the movement.
A single high note on the Stephen Sitarski’s first violin carries over into the fourth movement like
the whine of high flying aircraft loaded with bombs that will explode in three-note bursts until the
section where the music imitates a chorus singing a Russian folksong whose title translates as “
Tormented by Harsh Captivity.” The fifth and final movement is a slow fugue that completes the
Shostakovich signature introduced at the start of the first movement and eventually the evening’s
tension fades into a quiet resolution. The magic of the music is that this grotesquerie always
skirts the verges of humour.
One might well ask, at this point, why the audience last night, oneself included, was exalted by
the performance of what has become known worldwide as Shostakovich’s most popular quartet?
Without hesitation I answer it is because the music is so obviously honest that it demands to be
heard, and because the players gave everything they had to it. Stephen Sitarski and Ben
Bowman on violins, Stephen Dann on viola, and Rachel Mercer on cello are simply the best in
the business: they served it up raw, down in the nasty, and so sweet, as Shostakovich wrote it,
and they made it come alive for us.
Andrew Burashko joined his piano to the strings of Bowman, Dann and Mercer for a rendition of
the 2nd Piano Trio that was compelling in its naked portrayal of grief, violence, and sad beauty.
Andrea Nunn went after similar qualities in her sombre, solo dance that shared the stage with the
Trio and a video/live-image mix by Peter Mettler.
The program wisely placed a chamber ensemble of thirteen stellar musicians performing
Shostakovich’s first Jazz Suite between the two ‘serious’ works, highlighting the humour and
virtuosity present in much of the composer’s work. All the magic of music-making popped up in
one cabaret moment of the “Foxtrot” when Don Rooke’s steel guitar sang Hawaiian tones and
the heads of the other musicians on the stage turned towards him and grinned as if they had
never heard anything so irresistible before. That’s it.
THE ART OF TIME ENSEMBLE
R.H. Thomson–Introduction, Peter Mettler–Film, Andrea Nann–Dance, Andrew Burashko–Piano,
Andy Ballantyne–Sax, Benjamin Bowman–Violin, James Brown–Guitar, Steven Dann–Viola,
Robin Engelman–Conductor, John Johnson–Sax, Al Kay–Trombone, Anita McAlister–Trumpet,
Rachel Mercer–Cello, Paul Otway–Trumpet, Joe Phillip–Bass, Rob Piltch–Guitar, Don
Rooke–Steel Guitar, Ryan Scott–Percussion, Stephen Sitarski–Violin, Perry White–Sax.
By ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN
If there's one thing the Henrys have learned about show business, it's
that you should always leave 'em wanting more. The elusive Toronto
band accomplishes this in the easiest possible way, by hardly ever
playing in public.
A new album is almost the only thing guaranteed to get them on stage.
Even then, the Henrys do not rush to meet their public: Wednesday's
CD-release show took place four months after Joyous Porous, the
band's fourth album, came into the world.
Pent-up demand filled the tiered and tabled space of Hugh's Room. By
the end of the set, you could almost hear the thought in most minds:
"Why don't you guys do this more often?"
The Henrys' distinctive sound is rooted in leader Don Rooke's kona
guitar, from which he can nurse everything from a voice-like slide tone to
something as dry and articulate as a kalimba. He's a speculative kind of
musician, fond of abstract ways of looking at small riffs or old-sounding
tunes. His partners share his thoughtful, follow-your-nose approach,
though in all other ways they're as independent as cats.
Jorn Andersen's drumming, like all good percussion, supplied a grid for
everyone to work with, but also shot out a stream of witty annotations,
buffing the beat smooth or nailing it with a sharp whack. Like a classical
actor, Andersen prefers clear diction to noise and commotion, which
meant a miserly hand with the cymbals and a mostly bone-dry tip to his
Rob Gusevs's organ padded around on soft paws all night, curling
through the music so subtly that you almost didn't notice how neatly it
balanced things out. John Dymond's bass came to the fore in a fine solo
late in the set, elsewhere partnering Rooke's melodic excursions without
missing a step.
Michael White lobbed his contributions in from a more distant
neighbourhood, coaxing a soulful moan from a conch shell, blowing
small fantasias on trumpet, or fooling obscurely with a pile of
spaghetti-cabled electronics. The weird stuff that eked from his rig during
Thought You'd Never Ask put a special dreamland gloss on this
The Henrys' material wandered all over the lot, skirting the blues in one
number, flirting with tango in another. Some tunes were a bit too tightly
chained to a single riff, though this mattered less when the band let go
into jams such as Rash, in which a resonator gizmo gave Rooke's kona
yet another tone of voice.
Such subtle variations would have been lost in most Toronto clubs, but
the attentive crowd and superb acoustics at Hugh's Room let them be
heard with perfect clarity. This has to be the best small room for music in