Joelle Leandre / George Lewis: Transatlantic Visions (2009)
Recorded at Vision Festival XIII in 2008, this pairing of French bassist Joelle Leandre and American trombonist George Lewis brings together two of the most gifted and committed musicians in improvised music. They've been acquainted since the '70s and distinguished themselves as duo improvisers in the best company. (Among their individual highlights are the former's duets with Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy and the latter's with Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker).
The intense commitment with which they attack the format is evident from the opening seconds of the performance, Lewis exploding with rapid-fire, strongly rhythmic phrases and Léandre picking up immediately at the same tempo and in the same chromatic language. The two don't waste time there or elsewhere looking for points of concordance. When the music seeks fresh textures, each evolution is accomplished almost instantly, one player echoing the other's impulse at a rate so fast that it suggests the impulse is collective, the result of a shared reading of the material that has just passed. There's a certain affinity between bass and trombone, a natural propensity towards glissandi and those sliding tones become a natural pool of mobile tonality to which both musicians move, finding community there.
While Léandre's exceptional facility with the bow suggests her classical roots, there's a rough and tumble spontaneity to these dialogues that has the spirit of early jazz, bluster emphasizing the humanity in the virtuosity. "Visions IV" touches on sources in the bluesemphasized by Lewis' mastery of traditional jazz trombone timbresand "Visions VII" inspires something akin to scat from Léandre. "Transatlantic Visions III" belongs to Léandre. It's an unaccompanied solo, a wonderful exploration of bowing and drumming on the strings that achieves a band-like complexity. Lewis' individual moment is "Visions V," a tour de force that moves from a muted, speech-like ramble in the trombone's lowest register through contrapuntal extended techniques before arriving at an ultimately celebratory open-horn sequence. Even when Léandre and Lewis are playing alone, this seems like dialogue among accomplished and equal partners.
Track Listing: Transatlantic Visions I; Transatlantic Visions II; Transatlantic Visions III; Transatlantic Visions IV; Transatlantic Visions V; Transatlantic Visions VI; Transatlantic Visions VII.
Personnel: Joelle Léandre: bass; George Lewis: trombone.