Joelle Leandre: Face It!; Lugano; At the Le Mans Jazz Festival

Kurt Gottschalk By

Sign in to view read count

Joelle Leandre/Lauren Newton
Face It!

Quartet Noir

Joelle Leandre
At the Le Mans Jazz Festival

Double bassist Joëlle Léandre ranks right up there with Derek Bailey, Roscoe Mitchell and Cecil Taylor as among the best of solo performers. Like them, she has a developed, distinctive voice, an innate sense of logic and spontaneous composition and the talent to make each performance a new event. But Léandre is also a group player and seems to approach duos and ensembles not just with a sense of who she's playing with but for the size of the group. In a quartet, she never fills more than 25% of the space, which isn't just a simple bit of math, it's a rare quality. And while she has a wealth of solo recordings, a few recent releases show her as a compelling ensemble player.

Face It! is the third disc Léandre has made with American ex-pat vocalist Lauren Newton (after a previous duo, the excellent 18 Colors and Out of Sound with saxophonist Urs Leimgruber). The recording, from the 2005 Le Mans Jazz Festival, shows their shared sensibilities. It starts a bit slow, but by 10 minutes in, they're deep in shared consciousness, finding drama and humor with equal ease. On top of her talent as a bassist, Léandre is a powerful vocalist, although she makes sparing use of it. It's hard not to wait for her to match Newton's vocalese in kind, but they still pair off well for most of the set's 40 minutes.

With Newton, there's a universe to fill in sound. The singer's voice stands out strong and Léandre has nothing but space underneath her to take advantage of. In Quartet Noir, she finds herself in the traditional jazz lineup (if not traditional players) of sax, piano, bass and drums. The first half hour of Lugano contains expert if unsurprising, extended improv going from sputters to jazzish moody from Leimgruber, pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Fritz Hauser. Léandre lays low, playing beautifully, in a rare support role for her. But in the final 18 minutes, something surprising happens. The musicians step out of their roles and play a surprising number of bits of dance, moments of silence and odd lightness.

At the Le Mans Jazz Festival is a double-disc set from the same fest where Face It! was recorded and despite being all new recordings is something of a best-of for Léandre. Five standing groups, all featuring Léandre, are given 20-30 minutes of playing time each. Her longstanding trio Les Diaboliques (with vocalist Maggie Nicols and pianist Irene Schweizer) seems more intuitive, less character-driven, then on previous recordings. The duo with fellow bassist William Parker is as richly complex as ever. Her duo with violinist India Cooke is a fairly recent project, but seems to be about the most like-minded she's had. And the final two groupings (a trio with percussionist Mark Nauseef and trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and a quartet with percussionist Paul Lovens, trombonist Sebi Tramontana and violinist Carlos Zingaro) show her - as with Quartet Noir, though perhaps to better results - as a perceptive group improviser.

Tracks and Personnel

Face It!


Personnel: Joelle Leandre: bass, vocals; Lauren Newton: vocals.


Tracks: Lugano Parts I-III

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: tenor and soprano sax; Marilyn Crispell: piano; Joelle Leandre: bass; Fritz Hauser: drums.

At the Le Mans Jazz Festival


Personnel: Maggie Nicols: voice; Irene Schweitzer: piano; William Parker: bass; India Cooke: violin; Markus Stockhausen: trumpet; Mark Nauseef: percussion; electronics; Paul Lovens: drums; Sebi Tramontana: trombone; Carlos Zingaro: violin.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Pianist as Director: Ryuichi Sakamoto and August Rosenbaum Multiple Reviews The Pianist as Director: Ryuichi Sakamoto and August...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 13, 2017
Read A Sense of Place Multiple Reviews A Sense of Place
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 12, 2017
Read David Murray Octets on Black Saint Multiple Reviews David Murray Octets on Black Saint
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 11, 2017
Read New and Notable Releases Multiple Reviews New and Notable Releases
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 4, 2017
Read Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues Multiple Reviews Real World Records' Vinyl Reissues
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2017
Read The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants Multiple Reviews The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants
by Nigel Campbell
Published: September 9, 2017
Read "Cassette Plus Download Labels" Multiple Reviews Cassette Plus Download Labels
by John Eyles
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient Africa" and Oliver Lake and Joseph Bowie's "Live at A Space 1976"" Multiple Reviews Two Sackville Gems: Abdullah Ibraihim's "Ancient...
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: June 2, 2017
Read "New, Notable and Nearly Missed" Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad" Multiple Reviews Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad
by Dave Wayne
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "David Murray Octets on Black Saint" Multiple Reviews David Murray Octets on Black Saint
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 11, 2017
Read "Christmas Roundup 2016: Aguankó, Jeff Collins, & Vinnie Zummo" Multiple Reviews Christmas Roundup 2016: Aguankó, Jeff Collins, &...
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 21, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.