Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | No Business Records

Joëlle Léandre – bass | Carlos Zingaro – violin | Sebi Tramontana – trombone | Paul Lovens – drums

All compositions by Léandre / Zingaro / Tramontana / Lovens. Recorded 25th March, 2011 at Salle Pablo Neruda in Bobigny. Recorded, mixed and edited by Jean-Marc Foussat. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Tracklist: 1. Sudo 1 (20’11”) 2. Sudo 2 (12’09”) 3. Sudo 3 (5’28”) 4. Sudo 4 (6’18”) 5. Sudo 5 (3’53”)

Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | no business records

Joelle Leandre

Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | no business records

Paul Lovens

Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | no business records

Sebi Tramontana

Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | no business records

Carlos Zingaro | Photo by Peter Gannushkin

The pan-European Sudo Quartet

is comprised of four true heroes of free improvisation: French double bassist Joëlle Léandre; Portugese violinist Carlos Zingaro; Italian trombonist Sebi Tramontana; and German drummer Paul Lovens. All have played together in various formats for more than two decades, playing contemporary music, free jazz and spontaneous, on-the-spot improvisations, expanding the spectrum of the musical language of their instruments through innovative techniques. All are gifted with compelling performance personalities.

This live recording from a concert in March 2011 at Salle Pablo Neruda, in the Bobigny suburb of Paris, reunites these four old friends for a spectacular set of five improvisations. As can be imagined, all four are aware of each others’ personal characteristics and know the best dynamics for such a setting; still, the interplay sounds fresh, intense and risk taking. There is no obvious narrative, no dominant leader and no rhythmic pattern; instead, careful yet instant development of myriad ideas flow, a sonic research of the timbre and sounds of the instruments with a flair for drama and irony.

The tension is accumulated on the first and longest improvisation, the 20-minute “Sudo 1,” through brief, complementing articulations, but at the same time these sonic gestures subvert any attempt to turn them into grandiose structures. Dissonance, surprising turns and humor are used, especially when Léandre adds her operatic, gibberish vocals. “Sudo 2” begins as a loosely structured chamber trio suite challenged by an imaginative pulse maker, but is soon reconstructed with spare and abstract interplay. Both improvisations stress the political aspect of free improvisation: resistance surrendering to any musical conventions or structure; a healthy skepticism of all sonic expression; and an admirable insistence to create music that demands full attention and commitment.

The remaining three improvisations are much shorter, with “Sudo 3” an energetic burst of ideas. “Sudo 4” is relaxed reflection on past improvisations, highlighting the telepathic interplay between all four, while “Sudo 5” is a remarkable conclusion of this sonic journey, somber and thoughtful in spirit, as if regretting that this sonic journey had to end so soon. An exemplary, free-improvised performance. — Eyal Hareuveni

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6 thoughts on “Sudo Quartet | Joelle Leandre | Carlos Zingaro | Sebi Tramontana | Paul Lovens | Live at Banlieue Bleue | No Business Records

  1. Gary Peters has an interesting theory of improvisation: he claims it’s actually a tragic undertaking, as the moment with the most “freedom” and potential is that right before the musicians actually begin playing. A freely improvised performance then becomes a exercise in chasing after that original fleeting ideal, which gets farther and farther out of reach until a performance ends, and some permanent, determined, very un-free construct remains. Tragic, in the sense that the original notion of total freedom can never be attained, but beautiful in its impassioned attempts to capture such a worthy ideal.

    I can hear this epic struggle more in some improvisations than others. Not desperation and failure, mind you, but amazing reaches of musicianship and determination, a palpable desire to just play and leave everything established at the door, to court the expanse of possibility that marks the beginning of all great art for as long as one is able. It’s a quality I associate with every last member of Sudo Quartet: bass legend Joëlle Léandre, violinist Carlos Zingaro, trombonist Sebi Tramontana, and drummer Paul Lovens. Live at Banlieue Bleue captures an early 2011 performance in Bobigny, a slate of improvisations that seem to defy logic, somehow both airy and dense.

    “Sudo 1,” the longest track, starts with slithering bass, slowly adding one musician at a time, each building upon the momentum of the others until a complex, buzzing swarm of an improvisation in born, easily carrying itself (and us) for the next 20 minutes. The remaining four tracks are shorter, ranging from blasts of start-and-stop interplay to plodding, bluesy runs of bass and woozy trombone (like the superb finale of “Sudo 2”). At all times, there’s a playful devotion to keeping that ideal of freedom afloat; a sort of joyous, blind grab for handfuls of whatever musical goodness is there for the taking.

    Live at Banlieue Bleue is a particularly strong showing for these European masters. Maybe it won’t ever attain some philosophically-pure notion of total freedom, but it’s really not all that tragic. I say damn rationalism, we’ll take free jazz on faith!

    And on that note, I’ll gladly take what Sudo Quartet’s preaching any day.

  2. The master improvisers on this live set convey a relaxed, yet thoroughly experimental dynamic amid dips, spikes, intricate sub-group dialogues and some mimicking along a course that may suggest an oscillating loop, countered by splintering soundscapes. Hence, the organic nature of the all-acoustic format offers additional insights and subtleties as the musicians scurry across non-linear frameworks, largely based on asymmetrical pulses.

    Violinist Carlos Zingaro and bassist Joelle Leandre spawn a multitude of intriguing contrasts. Whether it’s Zingaro’s streaming staccato notes, answered by Leandre’s zealous arco choruses, a dappled path emerges from the onset and remains a continuum throughout. Add trombonist Sebi Tramontana’s infusion of pathos and the quartet attaches a socialization process to the schema, where distinct voices enumerate on several topics via their perceptive collaborations.

    Leandre’s signature wordless vocals and chanting over-the-top adds breadth and a capricious aura to these highly emotive exchanges. Sure, there are some boisterous and high-impact episodes, yet the artists’ largely anticipate and at times, interrogate each other’s muse, tinted with subplots and sub-groupings. On “Sudo 2,” Tramontana imparts a series of bluesy drawls above Leandre’s supple, walking lines and Zingaro’s abstract, yet soulful counter-maneuvers. Here, they assimilate a late-night vibe. With “Sudo 4,” the quartet explores darkness with low-register voicings and fluctuating movements, as they add layers and raise the pitch, shaded by drummer Paul Lovens’ small cymbals hits and percussive accents.

    Free-form experimentation need not be reckless or soulless. With this outing, the musicians elevate the outside spectrum to a prismatic event and do not settle for the norm or try to attain a status quo. Conversely, the program gels to an art-form that encourages change and innovation.

  3. S’il démontre que le festival Banlieues Bleues peut encore être pourvoyeur d’instants d’intérêt, ce Live célèbre encore davantage la complicité intacte du duo de cordes Léandre / Zingaro, sublimée par les présences de Sebi Tramontana (troisième larron d’un Chicken Check In Complex jadis enregistré aux Instants Chavirés) et Paul Lovens.

    Volatil, le violoniste appelle à lui tous les graves de la contrebasse, les endort sur phrase défaite – la voix de Léandre prend alors le relai – ou entame avec eux un jeu de rapprochement et d’éloignement dont les mouvements profitent de la cohérence du quartette. C’est qu’en arrière-fond, trombone et batterie œuvrent aussi à la prestation haute : litanie improvisée délicate et puissante, voilà pour le souvenir.

  4. Such is the strength and conviction with which the Sudo Quartet performs that thoughts immediately turn to how they developed such a cohesive group sound. With no liners and no information on the web, the genesis of the unit remains a mystery, though the same foursome feature on four tracks on bassist Joelle Leandre’s At the Le Mans Jazz Festival (Leo, 2005). But when uniting four virtuoso stylists from the European free improvisation scene, it’s a near certainty that their paths have crossed many times during their careers.

    Whatever the history, it becomes straight away apparent from the first few notes that there are powerful forces at work as Léandre’s richly resonant bowing meshes with drummer Paul Lovens’ inspired clatter. That startling initial momentum is sustained through a series of overlapping duos, trios and occasionally the full complement, across five collectively generated cuts, captured at the 2011 edition of Banlieue Bleue in the Parisian suburb of Bobingy. Dramatic shifts in direction which nonetheless feel natural characterize the narrative arc, often sparked by sudden percussive crashes from Lovens, picked up with practiced aplomb by the other participants. There is none of the dogma which scorns repetition or echoing. It’s notable how well Carlos Zingaro’s violin blends not only with the French bassist, exploiting the similarities between their instruments, but also with the German drummer as his scratchy pizzicato matches Lovens’ taps and shuffles.

    Each piece boasts astonishing technique deployed with keen awareness of what else is happening, conjuring unexpected textures, like “Sudo 2” which builds to an extraordinary cacophony of eastern tonalities evoking a busy souk as dusk falls. On “Sudo 4,” trombonist Sebi Tramontana erupts like a wounded elephant to accompany the drummer’s tone color play. His expressive use of mutes and snorting smears is crucial to the set’s overall success, creating humanity and warmth which makes the impact more emotionally direct than many of its ilk. By the end the only conclusion can be that this is a exceptionally simpatico outfit that deserves to come together with much greater regularity.

  5. The Sudo Quartet brings the delightful avant virtuosity of bassist Joelle Leandre into a formidable quartet setting with Carlos Zingaro on violin, Sebi Tramontana on trombone, and drummer vet Paul Lovens. They have a nicely performed CD out Live at Banlieue Bleue (No Business NBCD 51) that I have been listening to with interest. The band holds forth in March of 2011, live and extemporaneously inspired.

    The sound chemistry is excellent thanks to Leandre’s inimitable presence on bass and vocals, the soul and sound dynamics of Tramontana, Zingaro as a multi-stopped and vigorous foil to Leandre, and Lovens with his dynamic sound color tumbling.

    The personalities and color-tones of the artists and their somewhat unusual instrumentation puts it all together. Any aspiring bassist should listen closely to Joelle. Everyone interested in avant jazz should give this one a spin!

  6. You can’t really beat the Sudo Quartet in terms of lineup: Joelle Leandre on bass, Carlos Zingaro on violin, the too seldom heard Sebi Tramontana on trombone, and percussionist Paul Lovens. A 2011 live shot, this release is stuffed with music that’s both emphatic and spacious. Lovens has such a distinctive sound and unique sense of momentum – the language seems to capture the form, somehow – and it works marvelously to stitch together the at-times eldritch strings playing along with Tramontana’s buoyant tromboneliness (with special mention going to his mute work). There are moments where shifts in register appear as if from nowhere, or when Leandre’s deep groans catalyze moments of gathering intensity (with hand patter on snare, or that blocky tumble in Lovens’ sound). But equally compelling are those moments where Leandre and Zingaro explore an impressive range of details: timbre, register, counter lines, percussion, and emotional projection. There’s an extended vocal section for Leandre and Tramontana, during which Zingaro and Lovens (on saw) pull things skyward, with occasional crashing punctuations. And there is a fine balance of detail struck throughout: percussive, almost jagged funk; skittering pizzicato and overtones against the smallest of percussion clacks; trombone and glossolalia; or wafting, textural drift. Because of the empathy and communication among the particulars, this music is aces regardless of where it goes.

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