Joelle Leandre | George Lewis | Transatlantic Visions | RogueArt Jazz

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Joëlle Léandre: double bass | George Lewis: trombone

Recorded live on June 2008 at Vision Festival XIII (New-York) by Stefen Heger. Mixing and mastering: Jean-Marc Foussat. Liner notes: Alexandre Pierrepont. Photographs: Thierry Trombert, X. Producer: Michel Dorbon

TRANSATLANTIC VISIONS is the live recording of the Vision Festival XIII concert (New-York, June 2008), which has been awarded “Best Performance of the Year” by the monthly magazine All About Jazz NY.

Tracklist: 1. Transatlantic Visions I (9:39) 2. Transatlantic Visions II (9:57) 3. Transatlantic Visions III (8:53) 4. Transatlantic Visions IV (8:28) 5. Transatlantic Visions V (7:20) 6. Transatlantic Visions VI (2:43) 7. Transatlantic Visions VII (5:06)

Léandre plays with Bailey who plays with Lewis who plays with Léandre.

Lewis plays with Les Diaboliques and Günter “Baby” Sommer or Paul Lovens. Léandre plays with Lewis and Steve Lacy, with Lewis and Anthony Braxton. The good thing, in the unknown world of known improvisers, is that everything is crater and archipelagos…

…Then, and foremost, have no reason to wait. The improvisers are first and foremost sound modifiers or particle accelerators. The chain reactions they provoke aim at the amorous new world. — Alexandre Pierrepont, excerpt from the liner notes

Joelle Leandre | George Lewis | Transatlantic Visions | rogueart jazz

Joelle Leandre | Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Joëlle Léandre is a loner

walking the earth with her bass, looking for other people to play with, because she likes new interactions, she likes surprises, she likes musical dialogues, improvised, with no path to follow, meeting, listening, fusing, yet with both parties keeping their character, keeping their style, but at the same time finding sufficient common ground to enter into something valuable. Something not heard before, creating new opportunities for notes, new opportunities for sounds … to flourish. Here she meets with trombonist George Lewis, with whom she shares a background of playing with people like Braxton, Lacy and Les Diaboliques, Léandre’s trio with Irène Schweizer and Maggie Nicols.

This album was recorded live at the Vision Festival XIII, in New York in 2008, hence the title. But the title refers equally well to the music itself. Both musicians push the boundaries of their instruments and inventiveness, conjuring up sounds and sound experiences : harsh, plaintive, bluesy, screeching, wailing, scratching, growling, shouting … new sounds yet somehow familiar in their as yet unspoken emotions, brought to life unexpectedly, surprisingly through some sparse notes, some bowed strings, wind through tubes. In the hands of lesser players, this endeavor would fail, but their skills are such to make it an intense and captivating encounter, played with a depth that most musicians can only dream of. This is music with the right attitude. If you want to play with this level of musical openness, you have to dare to be vulnerable and tear down your own defenses, including in the long solo moments. Léandre and Lewis do not perform to entertain, they do not perform to show their skills, they perform to genuinely interact musically. In this sad era of fake and kitsch, this album offers a great antidote of refreshing authenticity. — Stef

Joelle Leandre | George Lewis | Transatlantic Visions | rogueart jazz

George Lewis


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2 thoughts on “Joelle Leandre | George Lewis | Transatlantic Visions | RogueArt Jazz

  1. 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 Joelle 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.

  2. Recorded at Vision Festival XIII in 2008, this pairing of French bassist Joelle Leandre and American trombonist George Lewis brings together two of the most gifted and committed musicians in improvised music. They’ve been acquainted since the ’70s and distinguished themselves as duo improvisers in the best company. (Among their individual highlights are the former’s duets with Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy and the latter’s with Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker).

    The intense commitment with which they attack the format is evident from the opening seconds of the performance, Lewis exploding with rapid-fire, strongly rhythmic phrases and Léandre picking up immediately at the same tempo and in the same chromatic language. The two don’t waste time there or elsewhere looking for points of concordance. When the music seeks fresh textures, each evolution is accomplished almost instantly, one player echoing the other’s impulse at a rate so fast that it suggests the impulse is collective, the result of a shared reading of the material that has just passed. There’s a certain affinity between bass and trombone, a natural propensity towards glissandi and those sliding tones become a natural pool of mobile tonality to which both musicians move, finding community there.

    While Léandre’s exceptional facility with the bow suggests her classical roots, there’s a rough and tumble spontaneity to these dialogues that has the spirit of early jazz, bluster emphasizing the humanity in the virtuosity. “Visions IV” touches on sources in the blues—emphasized by Lewis’ mastery of traditional jazz trombone timbres—and “Visions VII” inspires something akin to scat from Léandre. “Transatlantic Visions III” belongs to Léandre. It’s an unaccompanied solo, a wonderful exploration of bowing and drumming on the strings that achieves a band-like complexity. Lewis’ individual moment is “Visions V,” a tour de force that moves from a muted, speech-like ramble in the trombone’s lowest register through contrapuntal extended techniques before arriving at an ultimately celebratory open-horn sequence. Even when Léandre and Lewis are playing alone, this seems like dialogue among accomplished and equal partners.

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