Elder Ones is the vehicle for the musical vision of composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, Amirtha Kidambi. This extraordinary singer is classically trained with the capacity to perform demanding 20thCentury modernist repertoire. However, the music of Elder Ones is likewise informed by, for example, John and Alice Coltrane, her study of Carnatic music, and her work with Darius Jones (with whom she will also perform as a duo during the festival). The group’s first record, Holy Science, features wordless compositions, a gamut of beguiling vocal expression that, with the deft and synthetic improvisations of bandmates Matt Nelson (saxophone), Nick Dunston (double bass), and Max Jaffe (drums, sensory percussion), swirls and intensifies in ways that are, by turns, trancelike and ecstatic. Her new compositions interleave lyrics on themes of political resistance, a most powerful invocation to reflection and action during these troubling times, and which embody the ironclad sense of purpose that underpins Kidambi’s singular music.
Drummer and composer Nick Fraser is a ubiquitous presence in Toronto’s music scenes and, while he is a consummate sideman with countless collaborators, he has always made his own composing and bandleading a priority. These efforts have included his remarkable duo with guitarist Justin Haynes and the cooperative quintet Drumheller, but have reached a new level of maturity, refinement, and international scope with his Quartet. The group has just released its third disc, Is Life Long? (Clean Feed), a beautifully modulated dance between group restraint and viciously joyful abandon. New York saxophonist Tony Malaby contributes his rich, brawny, and, above all, detailed sound to the thick string counterpoint and underpinnings of cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton, both stalwart members of Toronto’s field of creative music. Fraser’s drumming and composing speak to his deep rapport with these players, with a grace, economy, and energy that is perfectly calibrated to the needs of the group music.