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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

François Carrier - Glow (FMR, 2021) & François Carrier - Japan Suite (NoBusiness, 2020) ****

 By Stef Gijssels

We're a little behind with our reviews of music by Canadian altoist François Carrier, and not because he has not produced interesting material, but just because of the sheer amount of music that is being released these days. As through his entire discography, Carrier's soulmate Michel Lambert plays drums on this album too. Both artists have a very strong common vision on music, and their interaction is almost seamless. Both are lyricists on their respective instruments. 

They are here in the somewhat unexpected company of Diego Caicedo and Pablo Schvarzman on electric guitar and the latter also on electronics. Diego Caicedo is a Colombian guitarist who started his formal training at the age of thirteen, after which he studied music theory and composition, moving later to Barcelona to study jazz history, and improvised music. Pablo Schvarzman is from Argentina, with a background in more mainstream guitar. Both musicians are also explorers of noise, electronics and alternative angles to defy musical genres. 

The collaboration is excellent. The quartet offer a wonderful mixture of abrasive and raw interactions with rare moments of lyricism, as on "Wilderness" (when Carrier suddenly interjects beautiful melodic phrases to the mix.) The music is otherwise nervous, agitated, with short bursts of sound creating a dense and often violent sonic wall, full of anxiety and distress. Despite the improvisation, the voice of the music is quite coherent, and the intensity with which the four musicians engage is possibly its greatest strength. There is no restraint, no crowd-pleasing niceties, but the full force of four musicians who perform on the same high plane of energetic power. 

The music was recorded live at Soda Acústic in Barcelona, Spain, June 5, 2019. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

François Carrier - Japan Suite (NoBusiness, 2020)

This album was also recorded live in Japan in December 2019 but released earlier. The band consists of François Carrier and Masayo Koketsu on alto saxophone, Daisuke Fuwa on double-bass, and Takashi Itani on drums & percussion. Fuwa is the founder of the "Shibusashirazu Orchestra" of which we reviewed an album in 2016. Takashi Itani we know from his various collaborations with Satoko Fujii. 

The music is gentler than on "Glow", not only by the instruments used, but also by the inspiration for their improvisations coming directly from nature. The titles refer to flowers, birds, the wind, the moon, falling leaves, ...

The lead sound comes from the interaction of the two altos, a rare combination that actually works quite well in this context. We know Masayo Koketsu from her collaboration with Lao Dan on "Burning Bookshop", and her skills on the instrument are excellent, as are her musical ideas. Together, they create a wonderful mixture of lyricism and exploration, fully and functionally supported by Fuwa and Itani, whose presence is mostly in the service of the soloists, even if one track, "Town Ogose", is introduced and designed by Fuwa's bass. 

The result is a varied, rich and interesting album. Sometimes the interaction is a little tentative on Koketsu's side, possibly out of respect for Carrier, and it's good to hear all hell break loose in "Citron". 

Carrier keeps delivering high quality music, opening his musical range to other influences and sounds without relinquishing his strong voice on the alto. Koketsu is a musician with strong potential, and a real discovery. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp