Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra The Tranzac, Toronto ON January 16

Much to my surprised delight, an improv session featuring Nick Fraser and Deep Dark United’s Tania Gill on drums and piano with an upright bassist and a manic saxophonist was the warm up for the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra. Fraser and Gill comfortably played off each other in this free jazz arrangement with tasteful contributions from the other players, though the extended bass solo to close their set dragged on. When the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra finished setting up, a short introduction led to their first piece, a collaboration between PRO composer Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip and lyricist Geoff Marshall. The complex harmonic construction of the piece was utterly fascinating, though perhaps a bit of a difficult song to open with. Kristin Mueller-Heaslip, obviously a tremendously capable vocalist, seemed to have a bit of difficulty staying in tune at first, but this was likely one of the newer numbers the band had promised to try out in this casual setting. Selecting wonderfully obscure and diverse material to reinterpret, the group tackled Toronto composer Karl Mohr’s "Elevator” to excellent effect. I actually preferred this rendition to the original; the soaring cello and violin of Adriana Pera and Alex Cheung are more suitable than keys for the song’s haunting glory and Kristin’s theatrical and operatic voice is a perfect fit. Occasionally, the vocals could become overbearing in the small room due to her powerful vibrato. With radical reinterpretations from Brian Eno to Wire and a collection of engaging originals, it was an interesting musical experience I’m eager to repeat.