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Monday, October 30, 2023

François Carrier Ensemble feat. Mat Maneri, Tomasz Stańko, Gary Peacock & Michel Lambert - Openness (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

In the first month of our existence, somewhere early 2007, we reviewed "Happening" (2006), a double CD by François Carrier (alto and soprano), Mat Maneri (viola), Michel Lambert (drums) and Pierre Côté (double bass), recorded in Montréal on at the Gesù Theater on April 8, 2005. One year later, they met again, but with the great Tomasz Stańko flying over from Poland, and the equally great Gary Peacock on bass. Carrier and Lambert already released an album with Gary Peacock before ("Travelling Lights" (2004)), but never with the great Polish trumpeter. Apparently, Carrier was fascinated by Stańko's "Matka Joanna" 1995 album on ECM, and he should be. Peacock and Stańko had performed together on the former's "Voice From The Past", also on ECM but dating from 1982. 

This 3-CD abum was recorded live at the Théâtre La Chapelle in Montréal on May 5 and 6, 2006. Again, one may wonder why it took so much time for this performance to be released as an album - and I'm sure there are still many gems awaiting the same lucky fate on hard drives around the world. Considering their respective collaborations in the past, this album really sounds like a happy reunion, with the caveat that it is farther away from the ECM sound (yes, it does exist) than one would expect. 

Like on "Happening", the music shifts between moments of dense interplay and long moments of ephemeral dialogues and slow sonic developments, giving some of the pieces a deep spiritual dimension, and both Stańko and Peacock are fully at ease in this entirely free environment, and it also seems to give them wings. The lead voices shift the entire time, and their natural sense of lyricism largely determines the overall sound, at times weaving simultaneous sonic threads around each other's phrases, or giving space for solo improvisations, in which Peacock happily participates. With the exception of two short tracks, most pieces are around ten to twenty minutes long, allowing for the slow and careful development of ideas, and offering the listener close to three hours of incredible music. 

The overall atmosphere is gentle, deep and emotional, with exceptional listening skills and respect from and for all musicians. The immediacy of picking up phrases from the other band members and playing around with them is uncanny. There is a directness and humility that is truly inspiring, possibly because none of these musicians still have anything to prove, having reached that stage where musical interaction comes spontaneously, fully concentrating on the other one's sound and the music itself, co-creating without needing to think at any time about one's instrument or structural requirements. "Openness" seems to be the best possible title for the music. 

In 2017, Carrier mentioned this in an interview with Cadence Magazine: "I deliberately choose to celebrate life through the music that comes to me from the heart, from within. If everything is music, then Music must always be there waiting for us? Being attentive is the secret. I thus favor spontaneity (mentally [ego] free), pure improvisation, the free expression of the soul. It all has to do with positive creativity and introspection. I am not searching for anything, nor do I think of anything while playing. Each moment becomes a moment of grace. One gives himself body and soul, unconditionally, without compromise".

A moment of grace indeed, also for the listener who can enjoy what the audience in 2006 was so enthusiastic about. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp