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Michel Lambert: Out Twice (2003)

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Michel Lambert: Out Twice No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

With the advent of free improvisation—or spontaneous composition, as some prefer to call it—formal structure ceased to be a fence so much as a path. But no matter how hard some improvisers may have tried, the random walk just never became reality. So that path has taken a central importance in defining the styles that shape free improvisation today.

Québécois-cum-world-traveler Michel Lambert's path on Out Twice depends upon interpreting images, an idea many have explored but few have managed to fully realize. Ten of the eleven pieces on this record started with a drawing, which then translated to sound through the channels of improvisation. Lambert's art, reproduced (in part) in the liner notes, include notation, words, colors, lines, and abstractions of all flavors. The stained glass window associated with "Vitrail pour Herbie" features a big-eared mammal on a branch. Anything goes.

To be honest, it's all well and good that Lambert chose this path, but in the end it's a futile exercise to try to figure out how the images connect with the music in anything more than a general sense. What works better is to listen to how the musicians interact. Maybe this formal structure brought out the best in them, but the musicians on Out Twice seem to have a very solid, intuitive feel for color, space, and motion.

The first of two trios, consisting of Lambert on drums, Milcho Leviev on piano, and John Giannelli on bass, tends to develop a more paced, deliberate sound. On "Ice on the River," they get off to a dark, gothic start, with Leviev's low rumblings accompanying arco bass and clustery cymbals. As time progresses, long held tones predominate and a sense of impressionistic mystery sets in. How that relates to the lead sheet is anyone's guess. One tune later, they bash and clash in sputtering spurts, edging reluctantly closer and closer to song. Leviev cues with a melody, and soon everyone starts swinging (albeit in a peculiar, off-center way). Listen to the way Giannelli and Lambert interlock and interconnect.

Partly because of Barre Phillips' amazing versatility and the vocal quality of Garcin's horn, the second trio tends to blur the edges of sound and space. They engage in (what would also otherwise be called) a colorful range—all orange and brown and yellow on the outer space free improv piece "Weaving," for example. This is the open-ended, insistently interactive sound that has come to define European free improv.

On "Tiré au Sort" the voices resolve into clear focus as each player has the rare opportunity to go solo. Barre Phillips starts out with a slurred, stretched introduction; Lambert's next opportunity explores a multi-layered edge with timbres stacked atop each other and rippling downward; Garcin shoots straight out of intense vocalizations into tentative, thin whispers. And so on.

Despite the creativity and care that Lambert placed into the visual inspiration of this music, don't get bogged down in that aspect. The main thing is the imagery these musicians evoke, whether it reflects a canvas or not. And it's more than cinematic.

Visit 482 Music and Michel Lambert on the web.


Track Listing: Mmoires; Weaving; Tir au Sort; Aire de Repos; Coup; Cul de Sac; Ice on the River; Gone Down; No no no note; Vitrail pour Herbie; Red Pale Blue.

Personnel: Michel Lambert (drums). With Milcho Leviev (piano) and John Giannelli (bass) on 1, 4, 7, 8, 11. With Barre Phillips (bass) and Lionel Garcin (saxophones) on 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10.

Record Label: 482 Music

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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