This record documents a concert that embodied a set of extraordinary connections. At the heart of these connections are Christine Duncan and Jean Martin, collaborators through the already deeply intertwined projects of Jean's Barnyard Records and Christine's Element Choir, the inclusive, community-driven improvising vocal ensemble. Together, these two enterprises account for a significant quotient of the energy that drives Toronto's field of creative improvised music, and on the cold March night of this event that energy was made palpably, gloriously kinetic. But the connections don't end there. Notably, this music includes the two other projects that were feted that night separately; Barnyard was launching not only the first Element Choir record, but also a solo disc by New York bass legend, William Parker, and one by the trio of Jim Lewis, Andrew Downing, and Jean Martin. By the end of the evening, all were playing in the chancel of Christ Church Deer Park, where Choir collaborator, Eric Robertson, regularly plays the exquisite Karl Wilhelm organ. The massive sound is dominated by the Choir — fifty-strong on their debut disc — which had swelled to an unprecedented seventy voices that night. Moreover, there was the inaudible-but-inestimable contribution of Jeff Schlanger, the MusicWitness®, who painted William during the majestic solo concert that became At Somewhere There, and who was delighted to return to document these record-launch celebrations in his magical way. More than anything, this record is about the connections between all of these extraordinary artists and people — and the selfless urge, clearly shared by everyone there, to celebrate these connections through this music.
Scott Thomson, 2011
Guelph Jazz Festival - revue New York City Jazz Record
by Kurt Gottschalk
..."But the festival experience can also bring new and rare opportunities. William Parker appeared with a chorus of more than 30 singers and a small band ofJean Martin (drums), Jesse Zubot (violin), and Jim Lewis (trumpet), with Eric Robertson playing the massive pipe organ at St. George’s Anglican Church. After some initial stretching out, the Elemental Choir began to work with the band, not just as a unit but as 1/6 of a sextet. Between the natural acoustics of the room, the PA speakers set at midpoint and the organ pipes in the front and back, there was a remarkable submersion of sound. At points during the long improvisation, the instrumentalists locked into something too tight to call a groove (acoustic loop of a sort) while the choir swelled like it was Godspell. The improvising choir is the work of Christine Duncan (they have two recordings out, one including the band with Parker) employing a process not unlike Butch Morris, only using the language of choral music. Parker also played in a trio with pianist Paul Plimley and drummer Jean Martin. (Gerry Hemingway was originally scheduled to play with them but travel delays kept him from making it in time.) Plimley was impressionistic even when playing hard and Parker was in a meditative mode, repeating angular phrases. Martin, meanwhile, seeming to revel in the midst of the other two, kept fast meters. He and Plimley seemed to egg each other on, smiles on both their faces, as Parker anchored them."...