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Houle / Leandre / Strid: 9 Moments

Nic Jones By

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Houle / Leandre / Strid: 9 Moments Never was a title more apt. It says it all; in music so profoundly of the moment, and in a world where time sometimes seems infinitely malleable, it's the preciousness of the moment that's often the first casualty. On 9 Moments, however, every moment seems like a cause for celebration.

Listeners can thus be eternally grateful for the fact that a performance such as "Moment Grave" was saved from the unforgiving ether. Bassist Joelle Leandre's uncredited vocal interjections have the effect of grounding proceedings that might otherwise have entered an entirely different realm; but the change wrought is not a negative one. Francois Houle's clarinet seems to worry the gravity of bass and drums like a particularly persistent mosquito, and his use of circular breathing ensures his lines often possess a seemingly endless quality, spiraling yet railing against the silence.

For all the subtle differences, the duo of Houle and Raymond Strid on "Moment Donne" brings to mind British collective AMM, in the incarnation that consisted of Lou Gare on tenor sax and Eddie Prevost on drums. This is so not least because, even at their most hyperactive, both duos seem to retain a reflective air, as if at any time the moment of creativity might pass. They're acutely aware of it, and how great its loss is.

Such railing need not necessarily result in a glut of activity, however, and "Moment Cle" proves it. Here, the increase in activity is gradual; but for all of that, the need to negate the silence seems paramount. The matter-of-fact business of the musicians checking each other out, anticipating and responding accordingly, is almost palpable.

The rewards of close listening are thus obvious, and the same is true of "Moment Premier," where in less than two minutes the trio shows enough spatial awareness to render a septet distinctive; in lesser hands, the results might well be the self-conscious avoidance of anything as overt as a pulse, but here that very absence seems to lend perverse impetus to the music.

Musicians have been improvising in the moment for decades now, so in a sense it takes a session like this to renew the meaning of that old one about the sound of surprise. Suffice to say, it's here in abundance.


Track Listing: Moment Premier; Moment Grave; Moment Calme; Moment Tendu; Moment a Deux; Moment Cle; Moment Spatial; Moment Donne; Moment Final.

Personnel: Francois Houle: clarinets; Joelle Leandre: bass; Raymond Strid: percussion.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Red Toucan Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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