Recorded in Hasparren, in the French basque county, we find two of the country's most eloquent free improvisers in a fantastic duo album. Daunik Lazro is on baritone sax and Joëlle Léandre on bass.
Their music is a sheer delight. It is subtle, nuanced, powerful and sensitive, flowing in the most natural kind of way, together in the same direction.
The opening track starts with bowed bass, quietly and with pulse. Lazro joins and makes his notes shimmer lightly above the restrained beauty of Léandre's playing, sustaining his high notes at times, going to the lower registers when Léandre takes a more prominent role. They don't dialogue, they don't battle, they just move together, carefully, cautiously, revelling in the sonic universe they create, an improvisation which should never stop if you ask me.
The second track continues in the set mood, but tension creeps in, and with tension also volume. The two musicians stay close to one tonal center in their sustained, rhythmic phrases, almost drone-like, and while keeping the intensity, the timbre changes to more accentuated sounds, until the improvisation implodes. The continuity is replaced by a hefty dialogue of short bursts of sound from each instrument, and out of this splintered glass beauty emerges again, in long stretched tones, in the higher register, as an intro for Léandre to start a vocal incantation, and deep supporting bluesy phrases by Lazro.
The next track is more complex, with Léandre creating a kind of a weird pattern that is repetitive yet without obvious structure, alternating pizzi and arco, accompanied by sonic bursts or long phrases by Lazro, but then things calm down and both musicians find themselves in quiet and calm.
Then Lazro takes the lead. Incredibly high-pitched tones are alternated by deep ones, again full of resonance and vibration, a long solo intro of intense beauty, then Léandre joins, strumming a single chord, making it resonate too, keeping the open space that Lazro created, then the intensity increases when arco and baritone start to push each other forward, getting agitated, getting excited, arguing, screaming, growling, until the flow is found again, and Léandre demonstrates her fantastic skills on arco, full of deep emotions, almost classical in the purity of its sound, and Lazro echoes some phrases, at a distance, leaving center-stage to the bass, and then the sounds quiet down, together.
On the fifth track, Léandre plays solo, demonstrating her unique skill of free improvisation while maintaining an uncanny focus and sensitivity, demonstrating what one single bass can sound like, at moments beyond belief when pizzi and arco interchange rapidly, when various sounds escape from the instrument almost as a full band. It's only six minutes, yet it's phenomenal.
The last track is again an intense dialogue of like-minded musicians, reacting and creating as if in with one voice, giving space to each other while interacting at the same time, shifting from raw interplay to quiet meditative moments in a heartbeat, turning their duet into plaintive wailing, ....
Beautiful, beautiful ... and rich.
Can be purchased at InstantJazz.