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Francois Carrier: Happening

Budd Kopman By

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Listeners who have followed multiple reed player François Carrier, particularly his two 2004 releases Play (482 Music) and Traveling Lights (Justin Time), will welcome this double-CD offering on Leo. Not only is Happening a double dose of outstanding freely improvised (as opposed to "free") jazz, but it is recorded live. Carrier's long-time trio partners Pierre Cote (bass) and Michel Lambert (drums) join him, plus Mat Maneri on viola and Uwe Neumann on various Indian instruments, including sitar and anandolohori (Indian talking drum).

Anyone who's not familiar with the language of free improvisation may find Happening a very good place to get their feet wet: the music has extraordinary coherence and developmental logic, played out in real time. One player will present and develop a motive or theme, which is then taken up by another; or an interjection will be picked up and developed as a new theme; or a clear pulse will naturally emerge out of the mist. Everyone involved is quite secure and skilled at this kind of thing; indeed, the core trio has been doing it for years.

Much is made in the notes of the Indian instruments, microtones, modal music and the convergence of Western and Eastern musical aesthetics. This music most definitely is not a mix of those traditions like Samita Sinha's Seep or Sunny Jain's on Avaaz—or, for that matter, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa's duo work on Raw Materials.

Yes, the sitar plays in the (Western) cracks, and yes, microtonal playing is quite natural to Mat Maneri (in part through his father Joe), and finally, yes, there is no tempered instrument like a piano present. Also, while the music most definitely feels modal in that there is an anchor note supporting some kind of scale, the rhythms, when they are present, are not Indian, and the entire improvisational approach, including phrasing, is most definitely Western. Thus, to these ears, the sitar sounds a bit forced, or at least grafted onto what music that otherwise feels very natural.

That said, this music is exquisitely exciting. Carrier, playing both alto and soprano saxophones, both leads and follows, spinning long, unpredictable lines. With and against him, Maneri plays the most Western (and classical) instrument, constantly pushing and pulling everyone else. Cote and Lambert can be heard sensing what is happening and supporting it, while also occasionally taking charge.

Listening to Happening is like being a member of the audience during its recording, and the experience is highly recommended.

Track Listing: CD1: Happening (one); Happening (two); Happening (three); Happening (encore); Happening (sound check). CD2: Happening (four); Happening (five).

Personnel: Fran

Title: Happening | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Leo Records

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