Daunik Lazro | Joëlle Léandre | Hasparren | No Business Records

Daunik Lazro – baritone sax | Joëlle Léandre – bass / voice

All music by Daunik Lazro and Joëlle Léandre (Sacem). Recorded live at Centre Culturel Eihartzea (Baten Bila project) in Hasparren, on December 17th 2011. Thanks to Catherine Luro. Recorded, mixed and edited by Jean-Marc Foussat. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Tracklist: 1. Hasparren I 4’56” 2. Hasparren II 9’42” 3. Hasparren III 3’29” 4. Hasparren IV 12’43” 5. Hasparren V 6’43” 6. Hasparren VI 8’13”

Daunik Lazro | Joëlle Léandre | Hasparren | no business records

Joëlle Léandre


Although we (MADAME Leandre & me) have carefully listened to each other and regularly played together since 30 years or so, we have rarely documented on records our musical meetings. After all, regarding improvisation, to disappear in the air is the rule, almost the law. The sand castle everytime erased, we must build a brand NEW one at every concert.

Four notable EXCEPTIONS : « Enfances », excerpts from a unique concert at the legendary club 28 rue Dunois (Paris) in January 1984, a trio with wonderful George Lewis (issued as side D in the 2LP album « sweet zee »for Hat Art).

« Paris Quartet»: Joe’He Leandre, pianist Irene Schweizer, trombonist Yves Robert and myself, from two brilliant concerts (issued in 1989 on swiss label Intakt).

« Madly you », recorded at festival Banlieues Bleues in 2001 : a sublime quartet-with violonist Carlos « Zingaro » and drummer Paul Lovens (issued on label Potlatch, 2002).

Then Christine Baudillon realized a film on Joelle : « Basse continue » (issued on DVD, hors-ceil editions, 2008), including among lots of other sequences (with Barre Phillips or Mr Braxton) an excerpt of our duo snooted at club « 7 Lezards » (Paris) in november 2006.

Fortunately, on December 2011, Catherine Luro invited the duo to play in HAS-PARREN (Pays Basque) and our dear Jean-Marc Foussat was there, with good mikes and his exceptional ears. Of course, the music was beautiful. This is our milestone #5… — Daunik Lazro

Daunik Lazro | Joëlle Léandre | Hasparren | no business records

Daunik Lazro

The pairing of an eternally inquiring sage

and a bright-minded cultivated troublemaker, Lazro and Léandre have been knowing themselves for a long while but rarely their work was attested by a record (incidentally, we’re eagerly waiting for a CD reissue of the unacknowledged Paris Quartet, issued by Intakt in 1989 and comprising Irène Schweizer and Yves Robert besides this review’s protagonists). This concert in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques dated December 2011 finds the duo in great shape and spirit – and clearly inclined to perceive the proposals of silence, one should add – since the very first minutes, both artists sniffing the air in search of melodic fragments and dynamical fervency that, once found, get combined inside flashes of neatly organized instant creation. They channel their respect for (relative) quietness at the beginning of the second chapter (all are named “Hasparren”), letting the gradual flow of the sax and the semi-intoxicated figuration depicted by the double bass integrate in a commanding, if still restrained statement. Sometimes they cogitate unaccompanied, exploring the intimate relationship of solo exposition with ratiocinative sentience, or fighting the requisite compliance to any hypothetical rule with disciplined fury, occasionally with a pinch of irony (gotta love that fake resignation expressed by Léandre in her “aaahs”), ultimately flowing into a vast sea of canorous intelligibility. Heavyweights of the respective instruments who waste no time, whenever the occasion arises, to let a given acoustic constituent dominate the mix; the magic lies in the balance obtained, a music which may look deceptively fragile in some structural conjunction and almost overpowering in other combinations, but is totally unshakable in the most crucial acceptation. That is to say, the expression of internal needs and urges achieved through confident gestures of aural art, without a trace of grandiloquence for good measure. — Massimo Ricci


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7 thoughts on “Daunik Lazro | Joëlle Léandre | Hasparren | No Business Records

  1. Paradoxically and characteristically, French bassist Joëlle Léandre has always insisted that she loves improvising in novel combinations – and also prefers to work with players with whom she has along association. These exceptional duo sessions are instances of the latter, and despite superficial variances, both actually have more in common than is initially evident.

    Léandre and French Free Jazz baritone saxophonist Danuik Lazro has been playing in different partnerships since 1984. Meanwhile French accordionist Pascal Contet, best known as an interpreter of modern notated music as well as dabbling in theatre and film soundtracks, has had an on-again/off-again duo with Léandre for two decades.

    Comprehensively these discs highlight the bass player’s interactions with two reed players, except one uses bellows and buttons and the other keys and a mouthpiece.

    One of the most versatile of low-woodwind specialists, Lazro has as imposing a command of the most elevated textures of his instrument as Léandre has facility with her bow work. Over the course of six improvisations, the two manage to constantly challenge one another with intimate microtonal suggestions and raucous exhibitionism, as well as brief sequences of surprising delicacy and wit. As they stack timbre against timbre, and texture against texture, tonal variations slither from the top of the scale downwards and up again. Léandre’s string jumps and hurtles land with such force at points that it sounds as if she’s deconstructing the double bass as well as the music. Additionally her Bedlam-meets-bel-canto vocalizing is sometimes brought into play, especially when the saxophonist moves from near straight-ahead blowing to straining yelps and shrills from his horn. With guttural reflux and tremolo gargles evoked to define the hue-and-cry on “Haspaarren IV”, it’s Léandre’s buzzing stops which eventually direct the two towards a supple, melodious duet. Squiggly, pointillist inferences define the next improvisation after Léandre’s skill allows her to symbolically split in half, with angled rips near the scroll contrasting with sitar-like tremolo lines below.

    By the CD’s final moments every abstract string stroke or unbroken reed screech has been matched as effectively as the more mellow lines have been harmonized. The rewards of the session are apparent in how thought and motion from one player can be effectively and spectacularly joined or contrasted by another for a more profound appreciation of the instruments’ – and musicians’ – incomparable range.

    A similar instrument meld is apparent on «3», although the implicit quivers from Contet’s squeeze-box create a more easy-going undertow than the abrasiveness apparent on the Lazro-Léandre session. With pitch-sliding cooperation a more common leitmotif in European music, the often contrapuntal result echoes Roma and Klezmer inferences. At the same time Léandre’s rough string slaps create a resounding percussiveness, so that in response, the accordion’s vibrations begin to take on vamping woodwind-like qualities.

    Organ-like but not bluesy riffs, plus romantic, but never fully musette-like riffs, are brought forward by Contet as his contributions approach cues for an imaginary soundtrack. When he can, he uses the squeezed bellows to also introduce and maintain the closest thing to continuum on these seven tracks. But with a sardonic anarchism, the bassist propels microtonal swabs or wide polyrhythmic asides to sabotage any tendency towards attaining a comfortable groove. At the same time her string-and-bow command is such that movements towards the inchoate are equally prevented with resonating twangs or unexpected string- stropping preserving the dynamic interface. No more than a successful love-making session can any individual actions be isolated. The climax is also the finale since by the time “cinquante-trois” arrives at the completion of this live concert, the excitement level has reached orgasmic level and eventually dissipates following a crescendo of low-pitched bellows, scrubs, vibrations and squeezes.

    Each of these Free Music relationships may be long-standing, but after all these years the passion both partners bring with them is enhanced with sophisticated techniques.

  2. Whether one rates a free improv album or not can be notoriously subjective, depending as much on the listener’s mood as any musical attribute. So when a recital comes along by two of France’s most adventurous musicians where everything seems to just click, it’s worth teasing out what makes it such a success. Let’s be clear, it’s not background music. To get the most from it requires some concentration. Perhaps headphones. That way the near perfect interaction between Daunik Lazro’s supple baritone saxophone and Joelle Leandre’s virtuoso bass fizzes between the ears, sparking synapses as it goes.

    It helps that they share such an extensive history, meaning that they are well aware of each other’s capabilities, and perform accordingly. Their first documented meeting was in 1983 on the reedman’s Sweet Zee (Hat Art, 2010), with a series of further encounters over the intervening years. However Hasparren is their first recording just as a duo. Being so well established on the European scene, neither feels the need to flaunt their undoubted chops. In fact Lazro’s sustained phrases on the opening cut are a stunningly simple but nonetheless effective foil for Léandre’s fluent sawing.

    Though there is a clear lower register affinity between the two instrumentalists, both are so adept at stretching the putative ranges of their instruments that there’s no need to worry about a narrow sound spectrum. Of course each demonstrates peerless control. Lazro’s split tones and dog-bothering whistles at the start of “Hasparren IV” are artfully restrained yet edgy, while Léandre ‘s extended technique remains as marvellous as ever. Their choices of how closely to follow and when to oppose have a feel of inevitability.

    As befits experienced improvisers both possess an innate sense of how to structure on the fly. Léandre does so most obviously on the unaccompanied “Hasparren V” where a bow bouncing introductory figure recurs as a motif throughout the piece, contrasting with an expressive sequence of slurred notes and singing lines exploiting the bass’ harmonics, before ushering in the poised final reiteration. Spontaneous allusions to melody and rhythm surface periodically, hinting at links to wider traditions. In the end it’s all about intense listening and apparently effortless communication between two distinctive individual voices which combine to convey tremendous emotional depth.

  3. When an artist is as prolific as bassist Joelle Leandre has been lately, is there a point where more is redundant? Not when you have the consummate mastery of Ms. Leandre and her ability to interact with all kinds of interesting players. So if I had any latent misgivings of covering yet another disk by Ms. Leandre right now, they were immediately dispelled by hearing the disk at hand: Hasparren (No Business CD62) a duo set with baritone sax-man Daunik Lazro.

    The two have been playing and sometimes recording together for more than 30 years. In 2011 they played together in Hasparren and the “tapes” were running. Good thing because they are on it for sure here.

    The range of the baritone and that of the contrabass are of course very simpatico and the two make maximum use of range and timbre as two sides of a complementary totality. Ms. Leandre begins with some wonderful acro phrasings that Lazro responds to in kind and it goes from there to some wonderful spontaneous dialogues.

    I won’t go to a blow-by-blow description because it isn’t necessary. Instead I’ll just say that the set gives us the beauty that results when two masters freely respond to one another.

    This is not a feather in either’s cap. It IS a cap in itself. Listen closely and you’ll be put in a very good place.

  4. French baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro and double bass master Joëlle Léandre began to collaborate almost thirty years ago. This collaboration has yielded one trio recording, Sweet Zee (Hathut, 1984 with trombonist George Lewis), two quartet recordings, Paris Quartet (IIntakt, 1989, with pianist Irene Schweizer, and trombonist Yves Robert, and Madly you (Potlatch, 2002, with violinist Carlos Zingaro and percussionist Paul Lovens), and one filmed duo in the Léandre documentary Basse continue (Hors oeil éditions, 2008) as well as many other unrecorded performances. Their fifth documented collaboration is more intimate, recorded in December 2011 in the town Hasparren in the Basque region of southwestern France.

    The set of five free improvised duets and one solo improvisation of Léandre, all named after the Hasparren town, is surprisingly disciplined and introspective given these two experienced and opinionated improvisers recorded history. Lazro and Léandre immediately establish a collaborative and supportive interplay. Both focus on the profound, often deep-toned and even micro-tonal characteristics of any sound, Lazro on the vibrating low register of the baritone sax and Léandre with superb arco playing. There are few segments of more powerful and intense dialogue especially on the second and last duet, still, both keep the tight, respectful interplay, never losing touch with the other’s ideas, simply demonstrating the breadth of their shared musical vocabulary.

    The fourth and longest duet, almost 13 minutes, feature best the common, reserved interaction of this meeting. This improvisation is built on spare, raw and impressionistic sounds, first with Lazro methodically exploring the resonating tones of the baritone sax. Then Léandre expands a sonic course with intense, deep-toned arco playing while commenting on Lazro’s ideas with irony and passion, but both choose to conclude this improvisation with a gentle lyrical duet. Léandre’s solo is a brilliant showcase of her wild imagination, but is again offered in a restrained manner.

    Beautiful meeting of two heavyweights of the European free improvisation scene.

  5. Recorded in Hasparren, in the French basque county, we find two of the country’s most eloquent free improvisers in a fantastic duo album. Daunik Lazro is on baritone sax and Joëlle Léandre on bass.

    Their music is a sheer delight. It is subtle, nuanced, powerful and sensitive, flowing in the most natural kind of way, together in the same direction.

    The opening track starts with bowed bass, quietly and with pulse. Lazro joins and makes his notes shimmer lightly above the restrained beauty of Léandre’s playing, sustaining his high notes at times, going to the lower registers when Léandre takes a more prominent role. They don’t dialogue, they don’t battle, they just move together, carefully, cautiously, revelling in the sonic universe they create, an improvisation which should never stop if you ask me.

    The second track continues in the set mood, but tension creeps in, and with tension also volume. The two musicians stay close to one tonal center in their sustained, rhythmic phrases, almost drone-like, and while keeping the intensity, the timbre changes to more accentuated sounds, until the improvisation implodes. The continuity is replaced by a hefty dialogue of short bursts of sound from each instrument, and out of this splintered glass beauty emerges again, in long stretched tones, in the higher register, as an intro for Léandre to start a vocal incantation, and deep supporting bluesy phrases by Lazro.

    The next track is more complex, with Léandre creating a kind of a weird pattern that is repetitive yet without obvious structure, alternating pizzi and arco, accompanied by sonic bursts or long phrases by Lazro, but then things calm down and both musicians find themselves in quiet and calm.

    Then Lazro takes the lead. Incredibly high-pitched tones are alternated by deep ones, again full of resonance and vibration, a long solo intro of intense beauty, then Léandre joins, strumming a single chord, making it resonate too, keeping the open space that Lazro created, then the intensity increases when arco and baritone start to push each other forward, getting agitated, getting excited, arguing, screaming, growling, until the flow is found again, and Léandre demonstrates her fantastic skills on arco, full of deep emotions, almost classical in the purity of its sound, and Lazro echoes some phrases, at a distance, leaving center-stage to the bass, and then the sounds quiet down, together.

    On the fifth track, Léandre plays solo, demonstrating her unique skill of free improvisation while maintaining an uncanny focus and sensitivity, demonstrating what one single bass can sound like, at moments beyond belief when pizzi and arco interchange rapidly, when various sounds escape from the instrument almost as a full band. It’s only six minutes, yet it’s phenomenal.

    The last track is again an intense dialogue of like-minded musicians, reacting and creating as if in with one voice, giving space to each other while interacting at the same time, shifting from raw interplay to quiet meditative moments in a heartbeat, turning their duet into plaintive wailing, ….

    Beautiful, beautiful … and rich.

  6. Cosas de la globalización, un concierto grabado en Hasparren, en pleno País Vasco francés cercano a la frontera con España, aparece publicado a varios miles de kilómetros. En concreto, por NoBusiness Records. Un sello lituano, cuyo nombre es toda una declaración de principios, que tiene una actividad en la libre improvisación y el free jazz (incluyendo la recuperación de grabaciones inéditas o difícilmente localizables), que es de lo más encomiable y recomendable.

    Joëlle Léandre es la gran dama del contrabajo de la libre improvisación europea. En Hasparren trabaja a dúo con el saxofonista barítono francés Daunik Lazro. Lazro y Léandre, según indica el saxofonista en las notas del CD, llevan trabajando juntos desde hace treinta años aproximadamente, aunque hasta la publicación de Hasparren únicamente se habían publicado cuatro grabaciones que documentasen la colaboración de ambos músicos en distintos proyectos: Enfances (Hat Art, 1984 junto con George Lewis); Paris Quartet (1989, Intakt, con la participación de Irene Schweizer e Yves Robert); Madly You (Potlach, 2002 con Carlos Zingaro y Paul Lovens); Basse Continue (DVD, hors-oeil editions, 2008, sobre Joëlle Léandre que incluía, entre otras, escenas de ambos en duo, además de secuencias junto a músicos de la categoría de Anthony Braxton o Barre Phillips). Los nombres de estos acompañantes hablan por sí solos.

    Léandre, a lo largo de las seis partes en que está dividido Hasparren, es… Léandre en estado puro. No tanto por la intensidad (puntual) de su música o sus cantos característicos (que son consustanciales a su persona), sino sobre todo por esa fabulosa capacidad para interactuar con su(s) compañero(s). Uno de los factores indispensables para que una propuesta libre improvisada llegue a buen término es la compenetración entre los músicos, así como el que la música discurra por pasajes de distinta intensidad y (si se me permite) orografía. Lazro y Léandre entran en esta dinámica sin dudarlo desde el mismo inicio. De ese modo, “Hasparren I” muestra un cierto tono melancólico, que contrasta con la crispación y la intensidad del diálogo entre ambos en “Hasparren II”, que a su vez desemboca en aromas a música tradicional. Corto y crispado es “Hasparren III”, mientras que en “Hasparren IV” es Lazro quien comienza en solitario experimentando con los sonidos de su saxofon, apoyado por la contrabajista. En “Hasparren V” cambian los papeles y es Joëlle Léandre quien trabaja en solitario para desembocar en un muy buen desarrollo por parte de ambos músicos en “Hasparren VI”.

  7. Ce qui se passe ici est très simple, très naturel : cela se nomme complicité. Nous étions nombreux à le savoir et à attendre ce CD. Il aura fallu un petit village bien allumé du Pays Basque et les lituaniens de NoBusiness pour que… Mais ne nous énervons pas : le disque est là, voilà bien l’essentiel.

    La complicité, donc. Une complicité vieille de combien d’années déjà ? Pas important. Ecoutons plutôt. Il y a le baryton de Daunik Lazro et la contrebasse de Joëlle Léandre. Tous les deux sont en vol, prêts à fendre l’harmonie. L’une n’agite pas son archet pour rien. Malgré sa grande maîtrise, elle trouve encore le moyen de (se) surprendre. L’autre pivote et n’a de proie que le cri qu’il arpentera plus tard. Pour le moment, ils restaurent des contrepoints rauques. Parfois, mesurent les distances entre l’hyper grave et l’hyper aigu. Si on ne les connaissait pas, on pourrait dire qu’ils s’observent. Mais tel n’est pas le cas. Ils cherchent et zèbrent leurs flux. L’une glisse, l’autre cisaille et tous les deux résonnent. Et voici que quelque chose s’élève. Et ce qui s’élève n’est pas rien. Nous dirons qu’ils font de la tempête une tendresse infinie. Cela est si simple, cela est si naturel : cela se nomme complicité.

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