Friday, 25 March 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 12 2022 - Vincent Teetsov
Spring is here, and with that return of vitality, Canada is getting back two year's worth of events that were cancelled as a result of the pandemic. In late March 2020, Grammy-nominated Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu was scheduled to play two nights at Toronto's Jazz Bistro with saxophonist Mike Murley and then singer Geneviève Marentette; followed by a show at Hamilton's Cotton Factory, alongside Terry Clarke, Reg Schwager, and Neil Swainson.
Now, at long last, Randalu will be back in North America for a string of dates. On April 1st, he will perform with bass vocalist Ain Anger and bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann at New York City's Estonian House. This performance—part of the 50th Estonian Cultural Days held by the Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters—has an emphasis on vocal pieces. It includes two compositions by composer Tõnu Kõrvits, Randalu's “Kolm ohvrikivi laulu
”, and selections from Franz Schubert's song cycle “Winterreise
” (“Winter Journey”).
Randalu will then proceed to Brooklyn, San Antonio, and finally, to the historic Heliconian Hall (35 Hazelton Avenue, M5R 2E3) in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood. This particular show, taking place on the evening of April 12th at 8:00 PM, is being organized by Estonian Music Week for their 2022 interim programming. The festival, which is a project created by Estonian Museum Canada (VEMU), is continuing the momentum generated by the successful hybrid concerts they put on in the autumn of 2021.
In contrast to Randalu's other North American shows this spring, his Toronto show will mostly consist of solo piano, with accompaniment on a few songs by Mike Murley. Once again, the festival is curating Estonian and Canadian talent like they do best. The cancelled 2020 shows aside, Randalu played with Murley back in 2019, making for a cohesive pairing that Sebastian Buccioni (EMW's Artistic and Executive Director) has called “a natural fit.”
As a band leader and member of numerous combos, including notable Canadian bands such as the Shuffle Demons and Metalwood, Murley has participated in 14 Juno Award-winning records. It's easy to see why: his approach to the sax is smooth, melodious, and responsive to all that comes his way.
The larger part of this concert will feature songs from Randalu's 2018 album ''Absence'', recorded in Provence, France. Producing the album was ECM Records founder Manfred Eicher, who has worked closely with jazz artists and contemporary Estonian classical composers alike. These artists include Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Arvo Pärt, and Erkki-Sven Tüür.
Before the concert, readers are recommended to seek out Absence
; above all, the track “Partly Clouded.” If Murley joins in on this composition live on saxophone, emulating the role of the guitar in the recording, it will be a sound to behold. This lead part harmonizes Randalu's thunderous, growling piano and goes astray vividly, like a dinghy on the open sea. Also listen to “Sisu.” The intro is meditative and airy, which is deceptive, when presented with descending chords and a tantalizing lack of resolution in the middle part of the song.
These stimulating components of Randalu's signature style have also been felt in the cinema world recently, as he contributed to the score of The Matrix Resurrections
. His playing (such as in the piece “Meeting Trinity”) added to the sinister, self aware dynamic of the film, through alternating instances of off-kilter chords and sparse, soft notes.
Kristjan Randalu's name is appearing more and more in the music world, so it's an honour that he is dedicating the concluding stop of his tour through North America to catch up with Estonian Music Week's audience.
Written by Vincent Teetsov