Schulich Release Radar: October 2019

Albums featuring saxophone quartet, solo organ, jazz big band, guitar duo, and more came out this month

Another month of fantastic releases from Schulich's musical community from a wide variety of artists and ensembles—scroll down to read about some selections that we particularly enjoyed!

Gang of Three - Andrés Vial (Chromatic Audio) 
Released October 4, 2019 
Listen on Bandcamp

While his previous recording project Sphereology Volume One paid tribute to jazz iconoclast Thelonious Monk, pianist Andrés Vial (current Schulich doctoral candidate and combo instructor) changed gears with the release of a trio album of original music earlier this month. Featuring bassist Dezron Douglas (returning from Sphereology) and drummer Eric McPherson, the group’s chemistry is evident from the start of Atonggaga Blues, the album’s opening odd-time romp. The ensemble takes a modern approach to the idea of a piano trio, with a wonderfully loose groove on tracks like Montaigne and the Latin-tinged Put Your Spikes In. Vial’s writing is engaging from start to finish—hopefully there’s a follow-up release!

Four Visions - Samuel Blais (Sunnyside Records) 
Released October 11, 2019
View on Sunnyside Records

The idea for Samuel Blais’ (BMus 2005) new saxophone quartet recording has been germinating for almost a decade before its release earlier this month. Having played in groups such as the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal’s saxophone quartet and the Nota Bene Sax Quartet, Blais has carried a love for the format for most of his professional life. It was during his time at the Manhattan School of Music with mentor David Liebman in 2011 that his idea to form his own saxophone quartet came to be, which features the saxophonistic cream of the crop—Blais on baritone saxophone, Liebman on soprano, Donny McCaslin on tenor, and David Binney on alto.

All members of the ensemble are also accomplished composers, and unsurprisingly, the recording features new music from all four. Of particular note is Binney’s Empty Sunbeam, which opens and closes with gorgeous chorales and features each saxophonist soloing in turn over a rhythmic ensemble backdrop. 

The album’s opener, Blaizza, is featured in the video below from the quartet’s Montreal visit in 2012. 

Art & Rhapsodie - Alcée Chriss III (ATMA Classique) 
Released October 11, 2019
View on ATMA Classique Records

Not one to come in without a splash, Alcée Chriss III (current Schulich doctoral candidate and winner of the 2017 Concours international d’orgue du Canada) recorded his debut album entirely on the Grand orgue Pierre-Béique at the Maison symphonique. Chriss' musical mastery and breadth of influences are showcased here, with the disc’s repertoire including classic organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Sergei Rachmaninoff, adaptations of jazz pianist Art Tatum’s improvisations on two jazz standards, a tribute to jazz giant John Coltrane, and pieces from pioneering organ composers Jean Guillou and Jeanne Demessieux.

Watch as Alcée tackles the album’s final piece, his own distinctive arrangement of Richard Wagner’s famous Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre, in this video from 2017: 


The Mystic Mind – Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal (Self-release) 
Released October 12, 2019
Listen online

The third release by this Canadian all-star jazz ensemble is entirely made up of a multi-movement work by trombonist Jean-Nicolas Trottier (DMus 2019). Trottier’s refined writing gives plenty of space for three top-shelf soloists—saxophonist Yannick Rieu, guitarist Sylvain Provost, and pianist Rafael Zaldivar —to shine, while still integrating their individual musical voices neatly into the overall arrangements. The big band’s wide sonic palette is on full display here, with full-band writing broken up by pieces like Daydream, which opens with a woodwind section soli before transitioning into a solo piano exploration by Zaldivar, or shorter interludes like the moody solo guitar feature Altered Recollection

Watch an album preview here, with scenes from the recording session at Montreal’s Studios Piccolo: 

Focus – Adam Cicchillitti/Steve Cowan (Analekta)  
Released October 25
View on Analekta Records

Just a year after releasing an album of Spanish guitar music, guitarists Adam Cicchillitti (DMus ‘22) and Steve Cowan (DMus ‘19) are back with a record focused on contemporary Canadian music including works by McGill alumni Harry Stafylakis (BMus 2010), José Evangelista (DMus 1984), and Jason Noble (PhD 2018). As expected in any output from these two award-winning guitarists, this new album offers impressive displays of virtuosity throughout insightful performances.  

Listen to these two long-time friends execute impressive extended guitar techniques in Choro: The Joyful Lament for Villa-Lobos, which appears as the album’s third track: 


The Etudes Project, Volume One: ICEBERG – Jenny Lin (Sono Luminus) 
Released October 25
View on Sono Luminus Records

The second album on this list to include music by composer and alumnus Harry Stafylakis, this album highlights the piano as a solo instrument through concert études by Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, György Ligeti, and Philip Glass, as well as ICEBERG New Music, a collective of ten young NYC-based composers. Pianist Jenny Lin’s effortless technique is seen throughout the recording’s wide-ranging contemporary and classic repertoire.

Are you a Schulich community member and releasing an album soon? [at] (subject: Schulich%20Release%20Radar%20Submission) (Email us to let us know).

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