Such is the strength and conviction with which the Sudo Quartet performs that thoughts immediately turn to how they developed such a cohesive group sound. With no liners and no information on the web, the genesis of the unit remains a mystery, though the same foursome feature on four tracks on bassist Joëlle Léandre's At the Le Mans Jazz Festival (Leo, 2005). But when uniting four virtuoso stylists from the European free improvisation scene, it's a near certainty that their paths have crossed many times during their careers.
Whatever the history, it becomes straight away apparent from the first few notes that there are powerful forces at work as Léandre's richly resonant bowing meshes with drummer Paul Lovens' inspired clatter. That startling initial momentum is sustained through a series of overlapping duos, trios and occasionally the full complement, across five collectively generated cuts, captured at the 2011 edition of Banlieue Bleue in the Parisian suburb of Bobingy. Dramatic shifts in direction which nonetheless feel natural characterize the narrative arc, often sparked by sudden percussive crashes from Lovens, picked up with practiced aplomb by the other participants. There is none of the dogma which scorns repetition or echoing. It's notable how well Carlos Zingaro's violin blends not only with the French bassist, exploiting the similarities between their instruments, but also with the German drummer as his scratchy pizzicato matches Lovens' taps and shuffles.
Each piece boasts astonishing technique deployed with keen awareness of what else is happening, conjuring unexpected textures, like "Sudo 2" which builds to an extraordinary cacophony of eastern tonalities evoking a busy souk as dusk falls. On "Sudo 4," trombonist Sebi Tramontana erupts like a wounded elephant to accompany the drummer's tone color play. His expressive use of mutes and snorting smears is crucial to the set's overall success, creating humanity and warmth which makes the impact more emotionally direct than many of its ilk. By the end the only conclusion can be that this is a exceptionally simpatico outfit that deserves to come together with much greater regularity.
Sudo 1; Sudo 2; Sudo 3; Sudo 4; Sudo 5.
Joelle Léandre: bass; Carlos Zingaro: violin; Sebi Tramontana: trombone; Paul Lovens: drums.