Monday, July 6, 2015

Garrison Fewell - Thanks for the great music

Today Garrison Fewell left us - a great musician and a great human being, as gentle, warm and precise in his music as he was in his everyday life.

Our thoughts are with his family and close friends. He gave us some wonderful music and many great moments in life. May he rest in peace.

It is a pure coincidence that we reviewed two of his most recent albums today.

Garrison Fewell - New Earth / Inverso

By Chris Haines

The guitarist Garrison Fewell seems to have been quite busy of late with two great albums, both duos, one with Dave Burrell and the other with Alessio Alberghini, which are reviewed below. Also due out is a book the guitarist has authored called Outside Music, Inside Voices published by Saturn University Press.  The book is a collection of dialogues with leading musician-improvisers about the nature and practice of their art and what it means to them to engage with the art form of improvised music making, in an attempt to shed further light on this fascinating and at times elusive subject.

Inverso - Inverso (Floating Forest, 2015) *****

On this album Garrison Fewell pairs-up with the saxophonist Alessio Alberghini.  There are nine tracks of moderate length, which have a consistent feel to them across the album, but with enough originality and different sounds to deliver an extremely excellent set.  Alberghini uses both soprano and baritone saxes to good effect, whilst Fewell conjures up different sounds through the alternating use of bowed, prepared, percussive and more traditional methods of playing.  It is without doubt that Garrison Fewell is a fantastic improvising guitarist, and on top of that I would ascertain that he is also an excellent accompanist.  It might seem like an obvious point to make but Fewell really excels at this in his playing, and whilst it is easy to be drawn to the ingenuity of soloists, the art of accompanying is something that can be readily taken for granted.  Not only does the guitarist provide more traditional chordal or melodic contrapuntal lines, but he also delivers, with ease and a relaxed tone, supportive textures and sounds within a more avant-garde approach.  It is no wonder that Garrison Fewell was the ‘go to’ guitar player for John Tchicai later in his career when he needed someone who could play excellent straight ahead jazz and have a great understanding and ability within more ‘outside’ music. 

The interplay between the two musicians is exquisite on Inverso and the transition between more improvised passages and composed sections is very natural, as is the contrasts between tonal and atonal lines, with the music being very fluid, beautiful and serene.  This is a truly wonderful album, which contains a purity and honesty that many performances fall short of.  It can be downloaded here.

Dave Burrell & Garrison Fewell – New Earth (Creative Nation Music, 2015) ****

This album was recorded live back in 2013 and is only now seeing the light of day*.  The first track on this album Paradox of Freedom is a Dave Burrell piano piece, which is taken from a larger commissioned work about the American Civil War.  It starts with a slow left-hand boogie-woogie pattern, which moves into a parlour song type section before suddenly becoming more complex and discordant which then brings back the initial theme and a far removed and deconstructed variation of the parlour theme.  This piece is the shortest on the album at just under nine minutes.  New Earth starts with an understated guitar line from Fewell and quickly joined by the supportive piano work of Burrell, the two of them creating an open and spacious sound world where the guitar moves to providing more textured and sound based accompaniments via the use of a bow.  The Universe is the longest track with its small percussive prepared guitar sounds, which Dave Burrell brilliantly imitates on the piano in an unprepared and more traditional way.  Again both musicians create a dreamy type atmosphere, which contains more punctuated moments, and a nod toward the more bluesy beginnings of the album at the end, without bursting the bubble that they’ve created.

(*Editors note: it seems that this is not yet available, we will update this review as soon as we find out more)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eve Risser - Des Pas Sur La Neige (Clean Feed, 2015) *****

By Stef

We had a long discussion among some of our Free Jazz Collective reviewers about the innovativeness of Eve Risser's approach to music. Some of us were in total disagreement, and that is actually a situation I like, especially when discussing something as subjective as music, and something as vague as the concept of innovativeness in music, because many ideas and thoughts will make us the richer. The whole discussion can be read again here. The enthousiasts can be found here and here.

My opinion is exactly the same on this album. Eve Risser does something special, something unique, bringing a kind of musical quality that I have not heard among other pianists I admire : Matthew Shipp, Alexei Lapin, Benoît Delbecq, Agustí Fernández, Satoko Fujii, John Tilbury, Kris Davis, Magda Mayas ... to name just a few. And that "special" thing has nothing to do with her piano-playing per se, but with her approach to music.

Her approach has nothing to do with melody or harmony, but with music dynamics, with colors, with light and darkness, tenderness and power, and you don't need many notes for this. In reality, with some creativity, you can use only one note, yet attack it from various directions to create, to evoke feelings and sentiments.

She creates soundscapes in the best possible sense of the word on this solo album, with sparse notes that create an entire atmosphere of 'footsteps in the snow' - the first track - and 'footsteps in the city' - the second track. Both tracks have about the same length - fifteen minutes - yet are of a totally different nature.

On the first track, you can hear the steps, one after the other, repeatedly, lightfooted until something like the winds come in, a broad sweeping gesture over the insides of the strings with a flat object, and the remarkable thing is that she keeps the pace, does not speed up, does not broaden her number of notes, yet changes their color, as if the quality and the depth of the snow swallows the sound, mutes it, reinforces it. Any other musician would have gone much broader, but Risser doesn't. She keeps this slow pace, while increasing the intensity, adding fresh new sounds, chimelike, then maniacally and repetitively, over the already carefully painted aquarel.

On the second, you can hear single notes being repeated over a background of scrapings, repeated scratches, knocks on wood, muted keys, altered keys, single chords, but without losing the essence of the piece, with its relentless focus on some bare essentials that determine its quality. From these few notes, she keeps expanding her palette, and adding little things, contrasts and new elements that reinforce the beauty and the simplicity, but ending in the long resonance of the instrument's darkest insides.

After these two beautiful tracks comes the half hour long "La Neige Sur La Ville" (snow on the city), which starts with an almost electronic sustained note - although produced acoustically - which keeps going for a while with new sounds added on top, equally sounding to be generated by a synth. And to Risser's credit, her sense of pace is again phenomenal, as is her talent for control and restraint. It's as if light get slightly dimmed, but at a pace that you hardly notice any difference. After six minutes, the piano's wooden parts come into play, and slight touches on the keys, and her sonic universe opens like a city coming to life at daybreak, not that the sounds try to imitate the sounds of reality, but rather evoke the feelings that arise and some deeper, hidden reality, because the sounds that you hear are uncommon too, unheard before, like shadows of thoughts or expressions of feelings that remain without words, that are gentle or frightening or tender.

So what is fantastic about this? Eve Risser has a strong sonic voice, all her own, obstinate, firm, without hesitation, setting down a strong presence and full belief in what she's doing. She adores sound, and yes, bands like AMM have paved the way, and other musicians like Magda Mayas' have conducted deep explorations in the piano's sound possibilities (her "Heartland" comes highly recommended), yet I think that Risser goes even further, because of her relentless sense of pulse, that even in the most abstract moments drives the improvisation forward, and that often, even implicitly or below the surface, hammers on somewhere, just to become explicit again or to resurface some moments later, in a different sonic context, and played with other parts of the piano, yet it's there, moving the sounds forward, creating a sense of anticipation, building up tension and intensity, like a tribal trance-inducing dance, and in doing so dragging the listener into her universe, so that she or he can equally be moved and become part of this experience that is totally beyond words and that is totally unique.

If you like music, don't miss this solo piano album that is totally out of the ordinary.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up – After All Is Said (482 Music, 2015) ****

By Chris Haines

Tomas Fujiwara is back with the third The Hook Up album after last year’s trio recording Variable Bets. This time round Michael Formanek (bass) joins the group of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Brian Settles (tenor sax & flute), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).

After All Is Said starts with a free falling melodic line from the flute against a syncopated bass and drum rhythm, and some percussive delayed effects from the guitar. Just this small sound sample in itself captures the intent of the album, with the different colours of the varied instrumentation not only taking turns in coming to the fore but providing a rhythmic and multi-coloured backdrop to the proceedings as the music develops throughout. The sax & trumpet of Settles and Finlayson combine well together, at times playing unison lines which are provided a sharp and angular counterpoint by Halvorson’s guitar, which on the track Boaster’s Roast is driven along by Fujiwara’s funky beats.

Fujiwara’s judiciousness continues to be second to none, providing industrious percussive textures one minute, syncopated rhythms another and then knowing when to drop out all together to provide space and more static textures. His arrangements provide a great foil for the soloists, which allows the talents of his band mates to really thrive within the music that sounds dynamic and full of energy. 'For Tom and Gerald' is the shortest track at two minutes and is a Fujiwara drum solo, which is as defined as it is tasteful. He also starts the longest track 'Solar Wind', being joined by Brian Settles for a drum and sax duo before the rest of the group enter with syncopated melodic riffs that eventually stretch out into some freer improvised parts.

The album finishes with 'When', which starts with solo guitar sporting a riff that wouldn’t be amiss off a grunge-rock album. As the others enter the music is transported into a laid back jazz vibe, which breaks off leaving the solo trumpet before returning to close out the album. There’s a real sense of group cohesion on After All Is Said, with its seven tracks, and as a work it sits quite solidly on the ear with some intricate individual parts that blend well within this close-knit unit.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld - Never Were the Way She Was (Constellation, 2015) ****½

By Janus and Karl

Venice, August 15th, 2039

It was an awfully hot day and the putrid smell in the lagoon city was hardly bearable. Nonetheless we decided to spend a few days here to check out some record stores, see some shows at the newly established Venice Free Jazz Festival (after the decline of the Austrian scene due to the cuts in cultural subsidies after the national-conservative government came into power, most of the festival went to Northern Italy), enjoy some good food and smoke some opium.

Opium dens were all the rage after the legalization of drugs three years before. The quality of the stuff was allegedly staggering. Venice had become the Mecca for old and new hippies, there was a permissive and free atmosphere, the author’s of the beat generation enjoyed a second spring, and improvised and avant-garde music was entirely hip.

In these days we followed a certain routine: in the late afternoon we usually had some drinks at “Pirlo’s”, an excellent bar with a free jazz jukebox run by a former famous football player, before we went to our favorite den in a back road near the Bridge of Sighs. Madame Dhay, the owner, welcomed us (she did that with all the regulars) to her house, which was a rebuilt library, and ushered us to a small but luxuriously equipped cabinet for two with a top notch stereo because she knew that we liked to get high with some good music. After making ourselves comfortable we prepared our drinks. Wild Bill, a legendary 88-year-old user, told us to drink the opium since the effect was faster and more immediate. And since we have always welcomed new experiments, we added it to our usual mix of nootropics, eggnog and macaroni blended Beaujolais that we love so much. “What will we listen to today?” I asked Janus. “What about Colin Stetson’s and Sarah Neufeld’s Never Were the Way She Was? I listened to it again last week, it’s an excellent album”, he said, “straight from my favorite Stetson’s period…never understood why he then decided to have that brain-controlled oscillator implanted in his glottis and the vocal fold replaced by an anti-vibration graphite prosthesis…sure, I’ve seen him in concert a couple of months ago on the Chilean Space Station and he can easily override a razor taking off, but you know what, Karl, I think I’m getting too old for all this technological body enhancement”.

Then Janus attached his flash drive to the player, the music started floating into the room and, in combination with the drug, it hit us like a sledgehammer.

Never Were the Way She Was has a drone-like, psychedelic quality, its atmosphere reflects moments when your thoughts are whispering from far away, and all you perceive are their echoes. Yet, the music is clearly structured and has a calming effect without being ambient.

Stetson, the saxophone virtuoso and extensive circular breather from Montreal, hovers over the sax keys, creating ostinato riffs in a Steve Reichian minimal music way while Neufeld juxtaposes long elegant violin lines. It’s a spacious sound that reminds of soft, velvet sonic mountains and listening to the jagged little peaks and valleys made us sink even deeper into our own dream world. Neufeld, who also worked with Arcade Fire, and Stetson create the illusion that their instrument have become one, that they have melted into a huge drone device - especially on the key track “With the Dark Hug of Time”, when Stetson’s hammering fingers on the keys underline the melody with a percussive effect that sounds like a kick drum. Pyretic and warm tracks as “The rest of us”, where Stetson definitely sounds as anything but a baritone saxophone (a synth, a drum, a distorted theremin), prove just one more time how he can achieve – alone or in any other combination – the perfect mix of lyricism and tension, enchantment and exploration, being listenable but never predictable.

And, as usual with Colin Stetson, all songs are recorded live with no overdubs. At least this is what happened at the time when this work was recorded.

For hours we just laid back and let the music take us away. It was beautiful.

Never Were the Way She Was is available as an LP (180 g vinyl), CD and as a download. You can buy it from the label

Watch them playing “With the Dark Hug of Time” live here:

(when YouTube hadn’t still been discarded and got ahead of music neural dissemination)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tripes - Suicide Jazz (COAX Records, 2015) ***½

Tripes is a French jazz trio, formed by Jean-Brice Godet (clarinet), Julien Chamla (drums) and Marco Quaresimin (double bass). Calling themselves a "jazzsuicide" trio, they fuse trance and alternative rock music style to improvised jazz, with interesting results.

 Their album "Suicide Jazz," is comprised of two long tracks, each over 19 minutes in length. On both tracks, the clarinet establishes a theme, done repetitively, allowing the bass and drums to provide counterpoint, developing the repetition into a hypnotic environment that becomes the basis for their improvisations. "Why tripes?" has Godet and Chamia playing off one another, clarinet initiating the call, drums in response, each throwing back and forth their own rhythm. Moving into another theme, Godet recalls Scalsis in his playing, clear and concise, as Chamla and Quaresimin destroys the trance with a barrage of frenetic playing, drums and bass scorching the sonic landscape, then receding back into yet another repetitive theme. 

"Omnia Vanitas" Godet again establishes a theme, only here Quaresimin joins in a few minutes in, echoing Godet. Chamla provides a tapping rhythm, and the others fall in place, Godet slightly varying the notes, as if doing scales. It has an engagingly funky swing that, done over and over a lengthy time, establishes its own trance like environment. Chamla and Quaresimin take over, with a deep, bottom heavy groove, and Godet provides a counterpoint, reintroducing the main theme of the track. Towards the end, Godet's circling notes become more complex, and the rhythm becomes slightly faster, Chamla, driving the theme home. 

"Suicide Jazz" is a fine debut by this Parisian trio, using repetition as a starting point for their complex series of improvisations and rhythms, creating a very listenable soundscape that is hypnotic and engaging.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

GOING II "Machinery" (Silentwater, 2015) ****½

Reviewed by Joe

This is one of those very special records, although this may be a 4.5 star review, there's no doubt it's a five star listen. This is a record that crosses many boundaries and certainly guaranteed to make you not only sit up and listen but also rock around the room (if played loud enough). GOING a Belgian based group, has a skeletal line up which packs a big punch, 2 drummers, Joao Lobo and Mathieu Calleja, and 2 keyboards/synths/objects (and plenty of effects) are Giovanni Di Domenico and Pak Yan Lau. The sound that they come up with could be loosely post-rock, but also closely allied to improvised music (sound wise). To top that off they have a description on their website describing themselves as a "[..] psychedelic groove band".

The album consists of two beautifully organised pieces. The first side/track "Red Machinery" develops slowly from sparse drums and keyboard sounds into repetitive figures and a complex interlocking groove. The combinations of rhythmic patterns are at the heart of this composition, the melodic seed is simple but varies slightly to blend into (and with) the various patterns. You could 'think' of Chicago group 'Tortoise' for a reference, GOING tap into the same area, overlapping rhythms and rock beats, mixing some great experimental sounds and repetitive riffs, its a delightful combination and very addictive!

The second piece "Blue Machinery", has a slightly harder edge. Its brooding atmosphere and constant recurring single note pattern give this a urgent edgy quality. One feels the piece may brake, at any moment, into a up-tempo groove, but the group hold the music back in a way to produce tension. Minimal solo lines give the track just the right balance between a groove and melody, allowing the music to evolve naturally.

The clever combination of two keyboards/effects and two drummers really gives the music plenty of space, and the lack of a bass to drive the group is actually what gives it the group its pure sound. There are plenty of details to hear within the recording due to this combination and the different paths taken by each instrumentalist. There are no real soloists, just co-operative group made music.      

This is a vinyl release, with one track per side, although it's possible to buy a digital version. I received the music on sound-files and I have to say that it seemed (in my humble opinion) a great medium to host this excellent music, as I found myself listening to the two tracks as one long evolving piece.  

This is certainly a highly recommended release, and easily accessible to many people interested in either jazz, rock, electronica and the minimalism of post Steve Reich's world. Anyone interested should quickly head over to their website as this is a limited edition of 300 odd copies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Secret Keeper - Emerge (Intakt, 2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

The concert for Secret Keeper's latest recording Emerge was at the Cornelia Street Cafe - and down in the cozy basement club space, it felt a bit like being in on a well kept secret itself. It was an intimate show as the duo of guitarist Mary Halvorson and bassist Stephen Crump captivated the attentive crowd for the evening.

Emerge is the pair's second recording under the name Secret Keeper and it is a another great example of their sympathetic and telepathic playing. The duo delivers composed and intricate melodies, with nice balanced counter motions, but they also surprise by suddenly throwing caution to the wind and diving into some aggressive passages.

The opener "What'll I Do" begins tentatively, Crump provides a loose foundation and Halvorson slowly drops musical pieces into place. They are building up to something: the squiggles of guitar and the bass runs become stronger and the music denser as the track continues. 'Emerge' starts big with vibrant chords and melody from the guitar and deep sells from the bass and 'In Time You Yell', things become agitated and the playing heavier. Halvorson leans on her inner rocker and uses power chords and purposeful slashing strumming before quickly pivoting to pointy arpeggiated lines and unusual chord voicings. Meanwhile Crump is a often a grounding element, providing a base that sometimes just cracks wide open.

This is a keeper of an album, literally dripping with atmosphere.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Songs for the people of Greece

By Stef

I am not sure what is going to happen in Greece. As an outsider, it's possible to understand the positions of the various parties involved and equally impossible to understand the positions of the various parties involved, but the thing is that the people of Greece are caught in a major situation they never expected or wanted. Hence an overview of some fine Greek musicians, to give them and their listeners a boost of confidence, because creativity will always win, and we'll have a closer look at this now.

Earlier this year, Paul already reviewed the Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet's excellent "Afterimage", but here is some more, and it must be said, the overall tone of the music is often not very joyful, and interestingly enough many of the musicians live outside of their Greek homeland. Nevertheless, these are all songs for the people of Greece.

Tania Giannouli Ensemble‏ - Transcendence (Rattle, 2015)

Greek pianist and composer Tania Giannouli is accompanied on this album by Guido De Flaviis on saxophone, Alexandros Botinis on cello, Solis Barki on percussion and idiophones and Giannis Notaras as a guest on percussion. The music could be a soundtrack, full of romantic sentiments, but without overdoing it, with an aesthetic that could be compared to many ECM albums: accessible, beyond genre, wonderfully performed and produced.

Giannouli mines deeply in the sounds of the Mediterrean and of various musical styles, using dramatic nature evocations as in "The Sea", folk elements as in "Sun Dance", modern composition as in "Mad World", or very unique sounds as in "Faster Than Wear".

An album with lots of rich ideas, a great variety of approaches yet miraculously coherent in its end result.

Mohammad - Segondè Saleco (Antifrost, 2015)

Some two years ago we reviewed their "Som Sakrifis" album by this Greek chamber doom trio, consisting of Nikos Veliotis on cello, Coti on bass and Ilios on oscillators. Now they deepen their specific and unique sound of experimental somber music, nothing to cheer you up, if not for the superb quality of the music itself, its intercultural source material and avant-garde delivery. We have the guest appearance of Erifyli Giannakopoulou on vocals on one track. This is a limited edition LP or CD and the last album of the trilogy.

Martin Küchen, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga ‎– Bauchredner (Cathnor, 2015)

Another "open ears" album is this duet between Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen and Greek zither-player Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga. The German title refers to the art of ventriloquism, or speaking without physical evidence for it apart from sound, but when you add the three titles of the album "Bauchredner und Rufer im Moor" (ventriloquist and shouter in the marshes), you get the title of a Paul Klee painting from 1923 (see below). As you can expect from such an ominous title, there is much loneliness and desolation to be heard on the album, with sometimes shrieking electronic backdrops laying the foundation for the more human and warm, but devastating saxophone. The end result is a fascinating electroacoustic soundscape, combining the contrasting notions of exclusion and openness, of artificiality and authenticity. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Zenjungle & Tunedin52 - Tales From Urban (Zentune, 2014) 

Zenjungle and Tunedin52 are the artist names of Irish guitarist John Daly (baritone and acoustic guitar, ebow, percussion, noises, glitches, loops, field recordings) and Greek sax-player Phil Gardelis (tenor and soprano saxophones, loops, noises, synths, voice, field recordings). They call their music ambient jazz, and that's what it sounds like. A sad sax sings and wails over a backdrop of electronic guitar-sounds, reinforced by real ambient pieces where every-day life seeps in.

The music itself has a strong linear and horizontal development, with slow changes in atmosphere and overall feel. This is mood music that may seem too easy at moments, but, well ... in a certain mood, this may be exactly what you want to hear.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.

Rank Ensemble - Papilio Noblei featuing Elena Kakaliagou (Leo, 2014)

A beautiful minimalist electroacoustic album by a Finnish ensemble, but featuring Elena Kakaliagou on French horn and voice, with music shifting between free improvisation and noise. It is daring music, on which the instruments are often hard to identify, except on the long Weitersfeld, on which Kakaliagou's horn sounds as you might wish to hear it and beyond : moaning, sad, ecstatic, generous.

The other band members are Solmund Nystabakk on guitar and voice, Saara Rautio on harp, ukelele, spring drum, and James Andean on piano, electronics, flute, melodica.

Yannis Kyriakides & Andy Moor - A Life Is A Billion Heartbeats (Unsounds, 2014)

This is the second collaboration between Greek sound artist Yannis Kyriakides and Andy Moor to explore and mine "the rich and mysterious terrain of Greek rebetika music from the early 20th century". Rebetika are Greek urban folk songs which are here performed and transformed on guitar and electronics, resulting in a strange world of rhythmic soundscapes, with dry guitar, whistling electronics and sprinkles of ambient sounds, all brought with a kind of wonder and pleasure of discovery. The music is very hard to pigeon-hole, because of its chamber-like intimacy combined with the electronics, but is more than worth listening to.

Costis Drygianakis - Invisible And Hidden (No Label, 2015)

Costis Drygianakis is a composer of mainly experimental music, and sound collages, and a teacher of music. His vision of music seems close to its most basic definition of 'organised sound', and within this juxtaposition of 'found sounds' and 'created sounds' an interesting tension arises, including through the electronic alteration of both.

The music is uncommon, but not unwelcoming, something that will disturb and destabilise at times including the sounds of violence and shooting, yet that can be listened to. Participants on the album include Elena Kakaliagou on French horn, Christos Kaltis on bass, Nikos Veliotis on cello, Christos Chondropoulos on percussion, Corinna Triantafyllidis on electronics, Manos Michaelides on pipe and percussion, Lilly Varaklioti on vocals Nicolas Malevitsis 'makes' noise.

Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico - Songs of Thessaloniki (ECM, 2015)

I'm not sure any other label could have produced this album but ECM. Savina Yannatou sings folk songs of Thessaloniki, in the north of the country, as you may have guessed from the title. The production is as you can expect from ECM, absolutely spotless, and the band is ideal to give the music a value which is more universal and genre-defying. The band is Kostas Vomvolos on qanun and accordion, Yannis Alexandris on oud and guitar, Kyriakos Gouventas on violin, Harris Lambrakis on nay, Michalis Siganidis on double bass, and Kostas Theodorou on percussion. The band is great, and Savina Yannatou's voice is angelic : subtle, moving and with an exceptional clarity.

Some compositions sound familiar, such as the sephardic "A La Scola Del Allianza", but I guess that's inherent in folk songs that melodies migrate across cultures and geographies. Many of the songs stem for other places than Greece itself, with influences from Armenia, Turkey and Slavic countries, which is not surprising, as Thessaloniki is a multicultural port on the Mediterranean.

Jazz fans: listen to this with open ears, but maybe this is something the rest of the family will for once also appreciate.

In sum, apart from some albums, there is nothing typically Greek to be found in the music itself, apart from its openness to the world, its inclusion and infusion of cultural elements from across the border, and a great sense of "voice", creativity and adventure. And these will always be winning characteristics.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

François Carrier & Michel Lambert - Io (FMR, 2015) ****½

By Stef

After Kathmandu (2007), Nada (2009) and Shores And Ditches (2013), this is the fourth duo album of François Carrier on alto and Michel Lambert on drums. On top of that, they have performed numerous times in various line-ups and albums, so no wonder they sound almost like one person.

The good thing is that these guys get better all the time, focusing on their incredible strength of sympathetic, empathetic and telepatic interplay, letting the music grow organically, as if the music determines its own destiny and the musicians just help to move it forward, and last but not least because of their energetic lyricism that I have mentioned in earlier reviews. Even if this is 'only' a duo setting, this is music that is expansive, meant to conjure up universal feelings of space and humanity and joy. And the great thing is that this is what you feel when listening to it. The music can be agonizing, as on some pieces of the lengthy title track when Carrier screams his heart out, or just playful as on "Mock Sun" when the melody almost turns classical folksy. Just to illustrate the quality of the improvisations, each track has phrases and moments that keep the improvisation focused, but each track also has phrases and melody lines that would make non-improvising composers jealous. That good.

So what has changed with the previous albums? I think the performance is even more direct, rawer and in that sense also more authentic. I also believe that they give themselves more time to develop and grow their instant compositions, in contrast to the shorter pieces on Nada. Carrier's use of the Chinese horn on "Big Bounce" takes us back to his admiration for Dewey Redman. Lambert's drumming is also at a very high level, just listen to "Albedo" to get an idea of how pulse and rhythm can sound different and propulsing the improvisation forward, how power and subtlety can be combined.

There is a kind of simplicity in it all that makes it doubly attractive. They find no need to complicate things, to demonstrate anything whatsoever, to create novelty per se, to put the musicians center stage. The real star here is the music, in all its freedom and beauty.

PS - I wish I could show you some Youtube video with both artists, but the only ones I could find where with larger line-ups.