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Joëlle Léandre started off her musical life as a great classical bassist, an award winning student at the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris. In '76 she was awarded a scholarship to work at the University of Buffalo where she came into contact with contemporary music composer Morton Feldman and subsequently began performing the works of Cage and Scelsi.

Throughout this time she was also improvising, and as that improvisation was not really coming from jazz, you might wonder what interest her music holds to a jazz gazette. Well, Léandre is quite simply one of the most original and exciting improvisers around today, as well as one hell of a bassist. Bassists from any genre should check out her full tone, great intonation, extended techniques, and flawless arco work. The double bass, after all, is one of the most important instruments in jazz, and free improvisation has given the jazz world an important dose of vitamins.

Joëlle Léandre/India Cooke
Red Toucan

Both of these records are excellent, though in some ways Firedance (Léandre's duo with violinist India Cooke) is a better match than One More Time (her duo with Steve Lacy). The highly recommended Firedance not only uses the string instruments as a meeting point, but both players seem to have a dramatic, narrative approach to music. Though not necessarily a common name, Cooke's track record is stellar, including performances with Joe Williams, Louie Bellson, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor. Her duets with Léandre are unique, sensitive, outrageous, thoughtful, gregarious; in short, deep, engaging stuff. "Firedance 3 is an amazing bass solo and "Firedance 5 showcases Cooke in a powerful and engrossing violin solo.

Steve Lacy/Joëlle Léandre
One More Time

One More Time is absorbing in a different kind of way. Lacy and Léandre tend to stick to their ideas even if at first glance they are not "on the same page, for instance with Lacy's melodic jazz lines against Léandre's more textural concepts. Still the session is a great lesson in improvising and an important addition to each artist's discographies with wonderful improvised moments abound. If for no other reason, together these two releases reveal that by all means you won't want to miss the opportunity to hear Joëlle Léandre play solo!


Tracks: Firedance 1; Firedance 2; Firedance 3; Firedance 4; Firedance 5; Firedance 6; Firedance 7

Personnel: India Cooke: (violin); Joëlle Léandre: (bass)

One More Time
Tracks: One More Time 1; One More Time 2; One More Time 3; Phone Message
Personnel: Steve Lacy: (soprano saxophone); Joëlle Léandre: (bass)

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