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Joelle Leandre & Barre Phillips: A l'improviste

Nic Jones By

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Both Joelle Leandre and Barre Phillips are bass players who carry a wealth of experience around with them, and they bring it to bear so effectively on A l'improviste that the limitations in sonic and timbrel range implied by a program by such a duo is never an issue. Both musicians are similarly alert to the range of sound their instrument has to offer and both are abundantly equipped to exploit it.



One need hear no further than "Ebony Rising" for evidence of this, as the music is at one time alive, almost hyperactive, and at another the pervasive air is one of calm shot through with a skewed form of melancholy, as if each partner is deferring to the other in the matter of taking a decisive lead. The music evolves anyway, as is perhaps inevitable, and the result is compelling in its intimacy.



The following "Looking Atcha" is almost an exercise in marked contrast. High end sounds the like of which seem almost outside the instrument's range dance in a way outside any understood notion of hoofing, and the intimate listening of both players results in music alive with detail and resonance. Dexterous use of the bow has the effect of making the instrument sound anything but unwieldy.



"Aire We" is shot through with a very different kind of momentum. At times the music seems to be almost a denial of passing time, albeit without any minimal implications that might suggest. Again, both musicians are in thrall to the demands of the moment in the best possible way, even while they're each alert to the presence and contribution of the other. Notes seem to tumble out of both players as if every contribution, no matter how small, is worthy of immediate comment. Both hands and bows are employed to give the music an almost opaque feel, the thought processes behind it seeming to come to the fore.



The final "Radio Synapse" finds Leandre giving vent to her inimitable vocalizing. When Phillips joins in in the same fashion their dialogue hints at humor, which doesn't quite come across on record. This doesn't matter though, not when creativity is so manifest elsewhere.


Track Listing: Gloumpfl; Attal Attal; Elbow Rising; Looking Atcha; Scrieve; Aire We; Radio Synapse.

Personnel: Joelle Leandre: bass, vocals; Barre Phillips: bass, vocals.

Title: A l'improviste | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Kadima Collective


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