A solo concert by the double bassist Joëlle Léandre is a happening, an event of the highest order. She is very much like a writer or poet who starts with a blank sheet of paper, bringing to life characters and places seemingly drawn from thin air. Of course, like the writer, Léandre's alchemy is born out of years of study, practice, and performance. From her roots in the south of France, she studied classical music before training and performing in the USA. She found her voice in contemporary music and the influence of John Cage and Giacinto Scelsi. Her peers became improvising musicians such as Derek Bailey, Barre Phillips, Anthony Braxton, Peter Kowald, and of course Irene Schweizer and Maggie Nicols in the trio Les Diaboliques. More recently, she can be heard in the excellent Tiger Trio with Myra Melford and Nicole Mitchell.
This solo performance from March 2022 at Kunstraum Walcheturm is an excellent example of her wealth of talents. The opening bowed energy production of "Zurich Concert 1" creates an arch of colors as vibrating sounds penetrate ones chest. Though the double bass is not a wind instrument, there is an impression Léandre is performing the equivalent of circular breathing throughout the performance. Her monster sound on the double bass has but one compeer, William Parker. Like Parker, Léandre builds indefatigable skyscrapers of sound. "Zurich Concert 2, 4, and 5" find her wordless vocal accompaniment. The final track is a tour de force in which the bassist combines an arco attack with a resonant tapping to create a complete orotund sound, one which could easily have been created in a volcano's caldera. It is that powerful.
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