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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Joëlle Léandre & Quentin Sirjacq - Out Of Nowhere (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2008) ****½

The title "Out Of Nowhere" says it all, on these eleven tracks, French bassist Joëlle Léandre and fellow countryman Quentin Sirjacq on piano conjure up intimistic avant-garde music out of nowhere. Sure, you could argue that Léandre's long-standing experience must have an influence on what she brings, and that's true only to a point. You do recognize her voice on bass, and with even more certainty her real voice when she sings/shouts (luckily only on one track, "Ruins", interestingly also the highlight of the album), but on the other hand she always tries to reinvent herself, as she does here, playing relatively fresh, more romantic than we've heard her before, accomodating young pianist Sirjacq, who is her student at Mills College in California, and who does sound a little intimidated at times. And that's possibly the nice part about this music. Both musicians do make an effort to meet half-way, even if their natural styles are radically different. Sirjacq's playing is impressionistic and sparse, he does not need many notes to create a captivating musical environment, which leaves lots of open space for Léandre to accentuate, deepen and contrast. She is much more daring than he is, understandably, adding the raw tones of her bowed improvisations sometimes like a knife cutting through lace, yet also sometimes sensitively and hypnotically laying a solid single tone foundation for the high piano tones, or adding a weeping arco melody over the intimistic piano chords. The contrast and the synergetic effect are both working well and superbly delivered. All the improvisations have a different character and approach, leading to a wealth of ideas, sentiments and styles, yet all fitting really well in the album's overall unity. Léandre keeps amazing me, and Sirjacq has a great future in front of him. Strongly recommended.

Listen to an excerpt from "The Call"

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