True, it's getting out of hand, all these excessively abundant CD boxes of modern jazz bands. It started, surprisingly, but then also not, with a 12-CD box for the Vandermark 5. This leads to the reviewer's dilemma : before you have listened to all CDs, and again, and again, ... sufficiently to form an opinion and give some advice to potentially interested listeners, the year has passed and the news value of the review has become nil. So you write nothing about it, despite its musical value. Or you write about it, knowing that you haven't had time to properly appreciate (or hate) the album.
Recently, in a wave of total commercial madness, Ayler Records started releasing boxes with everything-that-was-ever-recorded-by-a-musician-but-that-no-other-label-had-the-guts-to-release. The first in the row was the Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut box. The second is this François Carrier box. The regular readers of this blog will in the meantime know that I have a very high esteem for François Carrier, not only as a saxophonist, but also for his musical vision and sense of spiritual adventure. So, I do not want to make the same mistake as with the Vandermark 5 "Alchemia" box (get it, each of the twelve discs is worth having).
So, about the François Carrier box, to which I have only listened once ... Enough to form an opinion? Probably not. Enough to generate interest among the potentially interested? Surely!
The problems with boxes is that they are not very discriminating : they kind of accept all performances on an equal footing, regardless of inspiration, delivery or sound quality. Often a little more selectiveness would be good for the listener, but on the other hand, the tastes and pleasures of listeners are so personal that opinions will diverge largely on what is good and what is not.
CD-1 - Great Love, with Dewey Redman, Ron Séguin on bass and Michel Lambert on drums. Dewey Redman only performs on one of the tracks, but he is absolutey great, the way we like him. Warm-toned, creative, shouting through his horn, combining pleasure and pain in a Coltrane-influenced yet also in his own personal style. We dearly miss him. And it's great to hear him again. Kudos also to the rest of the band for the great performance.
CD-2 - Dance, with Michel Lambert - a live duo performance, with a sound quality which could have been better, yet offering quite some interesting moments of interaction and musical ideas;
CD-3 - Far North, with Michel Lambert on drums and Pierre Côté on bass. Quite good. The bass adds warmth and pulse, the longer tracks offer great room and space for expansive soloing. Carrier is very Coltrane-like in his approach to music : spiritual and earthly at the same time, rhythmic and lyrical (although a little less exuberant, more meditative).
CD 4 - Kala, with Michel Lambert and Pierre Côté : absolutely excellent, beautiful, inspired, lyrical, deep, spiritual. If you only want one disc out of the seven, choose this one. In my eyes a five star quotation.
CD-5 - Unfolded, with Michel Lambert. Again a live duo setting. The tracks are shorter, leading to more focused playing and quite some intensity at times. Lambert is as important as Carrier in delivering the goods, knowing what to play, how to push the saxophonist forward, when to play, and when to stop playing. The music is excellent. If you want a second CD from the box, choose this one.
CD-6 - Soulful South, Part 1, with Sonny Greenwich on guitar, Michel Lambert on drums, Michel Donato on bass. A great try-out, but with insufficient results, insufficient coherence and focus. Somehow it just doesn't match and the recording quality is not ideal.
CD-7 Soulful South, Part 2, with the same band. Sound quality is a little better, the sax trio sounds great, the guitar is a little more integrated than on album six, and it works well now, with the sax defining the atmosphere and thematic developments. On the last track the guitar takes the lead, and I'm sorry to say it, but it does not lead to great music. Drum and bass try to follow as well as possible, but nothing really worthwhile emerges, even not when Carrier enters the tune halfway the track.
I love Carrier's musical approach and playing. And if you don't know his music, there are better CDs to start with (look for them in my "Overview Of All CD Reviews"), but if you like small ensemble jazz and lyrical creativity, this one is worth downloading. And I apologize beforehand for the superficial listening and review.
Download from Ayler Records.