Recorded in May 2017 at Grace Church-on-the-Hill in Toronto, this album celebrates the long and fruitful musical collaboration between the estimable Canadian composer and arranger Rick Wilkins and Catherine Wilson’s Ensemble Vivant. Indeed, ten of these 13 tracks were arranged by Wilkins; the other three are his own compositions. Together, they showcase the ensemble’s always eclectic repertoire, which runs the gamut from classical to jazz, with stops along the way for ragtime, tangos, and more. Our favorites include the elegant precision of J.S. Bach’s Fugue in G Minor; the hauntingly bittersweet traditional melody Greensleeves; the dreamy romanticism on piano of Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are; the irresistible immersion into the passion and exoticism of Spain that is Ernesto Lecuona’s Andalucia; and the emotive horns, which evoke yearning and reverie in equal measure, of Wilkins’ own American Ballad. For its part, ‘the Little Tramp’s’’ Chaplin Medley wears its heart on its sleeve – subdued and poignant one moment, it is exuberant the next, before it segues into a Latin tango; but, its highlight is the wistful song Smile. Wilson (on piano) is joined by Corey Gemmell (violin), Norman Hathaway (viola), Sybil Shanahan (cello), Jim Vivian (bass), Guido Basso (flugelhorn/trumpet), Brian Barlow (drums/percussion), and Mike Murley (saxophone). The album’s companion DVD has excerpts from the concert – interspersing music with short interviews.
Review copyright © 2021 by John Arkelian