Joelle Leandre / George Lewis: Transatlantic Visions

John Sharpe By

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Joelle Leandre / George Lewis: Transatlantic Visions Forged in the un-air-conditioned furnace that was the 2008 Vision Festival, this set of improvised duets for trombone and bass nonetheless retains the feel of an overheard intimate conversation between two old friends. Perhaps it should, for trombonist George Lewis and French bassist extraordinaire Jolle Léandre share a long history of joint appearances and recordings dating back to at least 1983, when they collaborated in an improvising collective with Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer.

A vocal metaphor is especially apt for this particular duo. Using a bow or mutes to bend the notes, the inflections, murmurs, exhortations and mumbles each draws from their respective instruments makes for a dialogue evoking the human voice. They add allusions to rhythm and melody, though, which might be lacking in normal concourse. Although both set out their thoughts in almost continuous streams, they are not talking over each other; their interaction is founded upon intent listening. Though their between-piece chat has been excised from the recording, the animation, warmth and humanity on display nonetheless comes through clearly.

Little needs to be said on the mastery of both participants at this stage in the game, though there are plenty of examples of their prowess on display here. The five duet pieces in the 57-minute live set are complemented by solo outings for each of the pair. Lewis eschews electronics, concentrating solely upon trombone; he demonstrates, for those who may have forgotten, just what an inventive and witty practitioner he can be. In one passage he combines blurts, susurrations, Donald Duck slobbers and unearthly cries into a singular tour-de-force. Not to be outdone, Léandre shows her mettle in the first piece, where after contrasting high arco whinnies and deep strummed notes, she executes both at one time. However, all of this extended technique is deployed so naturally and unostentatiously that it blends easily into the constant flow of ideas bouncing between the two of them.

The concert recording captures audience noise as well as the instruments, but unlike on some live sets, it's not obtrusive and adds to the casual ambience. At the end Léandre can be heard exclaiming "It's impossible" with reference to the heat, but happily the physical rigors of the concert environment have not impaired the music and this remains a conversation that can bear repeated hearing.

Track Listing: Transatlantic Visions I; Transatlantic Visions II; Transatlantic Visions III; Transatlantic Visions IV; Transatlantic Visions V; Transatlantic Visions VI; Transatlantic Visions VII.

Personnel: Jolle Léandre: bass; George Lewis: trombone.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Rogue Art | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde

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