With Open Spaces, Francois Carrier has given us an opportunity to hear him paired with the magnificent Dewey Redman, recorded over two nights live in Quebec City in 1999. Carrier's usual drummer, Michel Lambert, provides powerhouse support on both nights, while bassist Michel Donato plays on track one and Ron Seguin on tracks two and three. This release, which was also mastered and produced by Carrier, is essentially a homage to Redman.
Redman, who died last September at the age of 75, did not gain as much recognition as perhaps he should have, but he was acknowledged as one of the most versatile tenor players around. His most notable associations were with Ornette Coleman from 1967-74 and with Keith Jarrett's "American" quartet in the early '70s.
The music on Open Spaces is by turns extraordinarily beautiful and physically exciting, and it seems to these ears that Carrier, although himself a master of free improvisation, follows Redman's lead. Indeed, there are times when it is hard to tell who is playing when Redman is at the upper end of his tenor and Carrier the lower end of his alto.
The free playing here is audibly tonally and thematically centered. "Going Through" opens with one of the most beautiful rubato lines you will ever hear by Redman (I think). All is mystery, softness and warmth, with a bit of danger added in. "Open Spaces" starts with a jaunty, humorous theme, again by Redman (I think), while "With The Flow," which sounds like Carrier's answer to Redman's first theme, brings back the first track's wide, deep silences.
Not only are the front-line players totally in sync, but the bass and drum playing is always very sensitive and supportive. Lambert has been with Carrier a long time and has a sixth sense when to lay back and when to push the group forward, either by erupting or locking in with the bassist in sections that can raise the hair on your neck.
Open Spaces, perhaps even more than Carrier's recent Leo release, Happening, is a wonderful introduction to free playing for those for whom it is new. Yes, there are periods of seeming chaos, with some squealing and honking and manic drumming, but these moments are reached by logical means. Then again, there are many clear themes, quotes from Lester Young and others that just pop out and shock just as much as the free-form stuff.
Put simply, all of these players know how to control the flow, density and emotions of the music as it develops, and this makes it "easy" to accept and follow. "Free" playing here does not mean cacophony, but rather an on-your-toes, in-the-moment experience of playing and listening. Enjoy.
Going Through; Open Spaces; With the Flow.
Dewey Redman: tenor saxophone; Francois Carrier: alto saxophone; Michel Donato, Ron
Sequin: bass; Michel Lambert: drums.
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