Joelle Leandre & India Cooke | Journey | No Business Records

Joelle Leandre – bass |  India Cooke – violin

NoBusiness Records NBCD18, 2010. Edition of 500 cd‘s * All compositions by Joelle Leandre and India Cooke * Recorded 6th December, 2008 during the Third annual conference of the International Society for Improvised Music / “Improvisation and Identity: Discovering Self and Community in a Trans-Cultural Age” at Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver, Colorado USA * Sound technicians – Brandon Vaccaro and Jean Marc Foussat * Mastered by Arunas Zujus at MAMAstudios * Design by Oskaras Anosovas * Producer – Danas Mikailionis * Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Tracklist: 1. Journey I 6‘04“ 2. Journey II 6‘14“ 3. Journey III 9‘30“ 4. Journey IV 8‘22“ 5. Journey V 7‘51“ 6. Journey VI 5‘06“

On Journey

violinist India Cooke and bassist Joelle Leandre improvise in that exalted state of grace that every improviser hopes to attain. It’s a state in which everything they play just works. It’s as if they can’t play a bad note or make a sound that doesn’t advance the music. In this state, the music unfolds without prior arrangement and at speeds too fast for conscious control, yet it’s development and intent is always clear. That deep communication between two or more people is exactly what players and listeners alike look for in improvisation. It happens whenever Cooke and Leandre play. —Ed Hazell

joelle leandre & india cooke | journey | no business records

Joelle Leandre

joelle leandre & india cooke | journey | no business records

India Cooke

It is always exciting

when two musicians get together to improvise in real time. Violinist India Cooke and bassist Joelle Leandre performed live in Denver during an academic conference called “Improvisation and Identity: Discovering Self and Community in a Trans-Cultural Age,” and their duet was the perfect choice to reflect the nature of the proceedings musically. Spontaneously composed and improvised, their performance is suite called Journey, broken for the sake of programming into six sections. The music develops like the blooming of a flower, beginning slowly and tentatively, with the performers trading ideas with swirls of bowed and plucked music moving forward in a dexterous and very free nature. The music draws upon free jazz, modern classical and other genres and Leander and Cooke meld their own unique musical visions into one as they develop a musical conversation that involves quick give and take, gentle pauses and the occasional argument. This was a fascinating and unusual performance that sounds like little else as the musicians stake out common ground and their own musical identity.–Tim Niland


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2 thoughts on “Joelle Leandre & India Cooke | Journey | No Business Records

  1. Forgive this spurt of anti-democracy, but… wouldn’t it be possible to pass an international law that prohibits the attending of concerts to people with cold or affected by chronic coughing, either pneumonic or just nervous? Starting from the very first seconds, there are several instances in Journey – an otherwise glorious album by the violin/double bass duo of Cooke and Léandre – in which someone in the audience chooses, with surgical precision, the most tense and/or rarefied spots to sonorously showcase the content of their bronchial tubes, systematically collapsing the supernatural pressure of the moment.

    This aside – and heaven knows how I hate putting great music second after behavioural deficits in a list – this performance from 2008 confirms what the ladies had already shown four years prior with Firedance on Red Toucan. In essence, the ability of keeping the flame of instant creativity burning brightly for a long time. They do it through freakish deviations and fulminating twists and turns enhanced by balanced dosages of perspicuous lunacy and liberal sensitivity. The interaction ranges from near-silence – crackles and taps in evidence, together with sighs, susurrations and “yeahs” of encouragement emitted by the players – to literally inflammatory attacks to the instruments. This album has much to teach to the disadvantaged scrapers who pretend to define themselves “musicians”: ardour, intelligence, scorching reflexes and sheer beauty of timbre are inbuilt gifts that cannot be acquired by looking intensely at a point while remaining still. If “playing with passion” does indeed mean something, there are many chances here to understand what that is. Unless you swallowed a couple of Aspirins before entering the concert site, of course.

  2. Joëlle Léandre’s name on the sleeve guarantees invention and passion. Over the years, the French improvising bassist has made the duet format one of her prime modes of expression, pairing, in recent years, with George Lewis and Jean-Luc Capozzo on just two recent examples from a discography now more than 150 strong. Further swelling the ranks, this live date from the 2008 Conference of the International Society for Improvised Music matches Léandre with Bay Area violinist India Cooke.

    A lecturer at Mills College in Oakland, Cooke’s appearances on disc have been more parsimonious. The duo’s association predates the violinist’s 1996 debut, Red Handed (Music and Arts), but they have played together several times since, including a set at the 2004 Guelph Festival, documented as Firedance (Red Toucan, 2005), and performances, the following year, at France’s Le Mans Festival and New York City’s Vision Festival.

    Happily, the academic environment has not rubbed off on either performer. Over the course of 43 minutes, the two women demonstrate deep listening and stratospheric instrumental chops on seven spontaneously improvised pieces, including a solo feature for each. While beholden to no genre, they fleetingly touch and merge contemporary chamber music atonality, jazz propulsion and classical melody. Virtuoso playing is put to the service of storytelling, as the two strings spiral in intertwining inspiration. Léandre’s deeply resonant tone encompasses both bowing and picking, with a litany of scrapes, creaks and strums. Cooke’s violin soars and swoops, but she also scrubs and taps, as she seeks to find the right sound.

    “Journey I” begins with Cooke tapping her bow on the body of her violin, as the bassist deploys a six-note figure, which becomes a recurrent motif and the backbone for the intense but simpatico improvisation. Léandre’s unaccompanied “Journey III” is a tour de force, culminating in a contrapuntal triumvirate of droning arco, rhythmic bass slapping and vocal exclamations. Cooke’s singing legato on her own “Journey V,” with its trace of country blues, simultaneously evokes yearning and joy. Twin vocal incantations (the bassist intoning Cooke’s name) begin the closing “Journey VI,” before the duo picks up its instruments, but there is otherwise little evidence of the theatricality which can sometimes be found disconcerting. In spite of a slightly distant recording suggesting the ambience of a large hall, this responsive twosome’s Journey makes for a compelling listen.

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