Few modern era instrumentalists sojourn into uncharted regions of the musical cosmos with the ingenuity of bassist extraordinaire Joelle Leandre. Supported by her vast discography as a leader and co-conspirator, Léandre's serious intentions are differentiated by a sincere vision and jubilant demeanor. These attributes repeatedly surface on her recordings. This release is a two-CD gala that presents stark contrasts, given the tentet and trio groupings. Recorded live in Austria on successive dates, the respective programs convey more emotive aspects and nuances than reasonably imaginable.
On the first CD, the fifty-three minute work Can You Hear Me is a tentet performance, based upon a horns and strings brew. It is one continuous piece that begins with an instrumental warm-up that elicits notions of starting from scratch while evolving into a multidimensional foray, steeped in improvisation and structure. The tentet spans creaky, gravelly, and finely-honed strings to traces of minimalism amid brash soloing by the hornists. The band picks up steam and intersperses avant-classical frameworks into highly expressionistic jazz treatments. The theme-building exercises sometimes morph into microtonal interludes, spiced with humor and an entertaining blend of austerity and lightheartedness. With off-kilter time signatures and bursting unison choruses, the tentet transparently fuses unorthodoxy into an aggregation of subplots and 360 degree paradigm shifts. Storylines come to fruition then occasionally drift into an eternal abyss.
Percussionist Kevin Norton reappears on the second CD as pianist John Tilbury rounds out the trio with Léandre on bass. It's an extended work that serves as a distinct opposite to the tentet outing. On this piece, the musicians delve deep into introspective musings, filled with ethereal qualities and a myriad of tonal shadings. They produce elongated phrasings via a resonating stance, complemented by Norton's colorific cymbal shadings and intricate vibes work. Marked by nimble interactions and poignant soloing, they spawn a clairvoyant vista to supplement a few of the more playful excursions.
Live at the Ulrichsberg Kaleidophon is an encyclopedic study in contrasts, textures and incongruent elements derived from life's circumstances. Thus, Léandre's cunning and boundary-less metrics provide a feast for the mind's eye.
Track Listing: CD1: Tentet--Can You Hear Me? CD2: Trio.
Personnel: Joelle Leandre: double-bass; Kevin Norton: vibes, percussion; Susanna Gartmayer: alto saxophone, bass clarinet (CD1); Boris Hauf tenor saxophone, clarinet (CD1); Lorenz Raab: trumpet (CD1); Bertl Mutter: trombone (CD1); Thomas Wally: violin (CD1); Burkhard Stangl: electric guitar (CD1); Elaine Koene: viola (CD1); Melissa Coleman-Zielasko: cello (CD1); John Tilbury: piano (CD2).
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.