Madly You
Potlatch P102

Without exaggeration, this more than one-hour slab of free improvisation recorded live last year, features an object lesson in how to best express this subtle art. It’s particularly noteworthy because it shows that, unlike the hushed minimalism that characterizes the work of many younger improvisers, these seasoned pros aren’t afraid to express their craft at the volume it deserves.

However, even with the alto and baritone saxophone of France’s Daunik Lazro plus the percussion and musical saw (!) of Germany’s Paul Lovens the sounds don’t degenerate into blaring discord either. After all, Lovens, the master of selected and unselected percussion, has had a long relationship with folks like British saxophonist Evan Parker and German pianist Alexander von Schilppenbach who know their notes and timbres. While Lazro, who is probably — undeservedly — the least known of the four musicians here, has in the past matched wits with such sonic shamans as American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, Parker and American trombonist George Lewis. He also played with the final two improvisers here — French bassist Joëlle Léandre and Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro as long ago as 1985.

Léandre, who also specializes in performing John Cage’s works, often played with Zingaro and Lovens in the 1990s, as well as with practically ever other improviser of note from British guitarist Derek Bailey to Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. As multi- disciplinary as Léandre, Zingaro too moves back and forth between composed and improvised sounds, as well as music for theatre, film and dance.

With this combination of individual expertise, the four can divide and subdivide amoeba-like into a variety of combinations. Lazro and Lovens, for instance, can function as an Energy-music power duo; while Léandre and Zingaro can pretend to be a conventional string duo. Lazro, Léandre and Lovens can offer the sort of speedy, minute interactions possible in a sax-and-rhythm-section free improv trio; and classically trained Zingaro can soar as a solo violinist.

But there’s a lot more here. Some of the most interesting collaborations occur when the deeper tones of Lazro’s baritone mesh with busy low string tugs from Léandre’s bass. Other times, an entire birdcage of distinctive cries is unleashed when the saxophonist’s alto gets together with Zingaro’s high-pitched fiddle tones.

Individually, Léandre’s guttural throat cries and rolling vocal impersonations sometimes go up against screeching strings and perfectly timed bashes from Lovens’ kit; while at one point Lazro, alone on baritone, seems to be playing the head from Shirley Ellis’ 1960s hit, “The Name Game”. With a leaking hiss of baritone sound in the background, Lovens not only demonstrates how well music can just be made with unattached cymbals, but at one point goes the treatments crowd one better by doing this completely acoustically. During the CD’s second, shorter, instant composition, the whoops and miniscule cracks you hear sound as if they’re escaping from a souped up PowerBook. They’re not. It’s Lovens’ musical saw, with a sound as old as vaudeville.

Want to experience exceptional EuroImprov in all its glory? Go no further than MADLY YOU.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Madly you 2. Lyou mad

Personnel: Daunik Lazro (alto and baritone saxophones); Carlos Alves “Zingaro” (violin); Joëlle Léandre (bass, voice); Paul Lovens (percussion, musical saw)