François Carrier

Happening
Leo LR 451/452

Convergence in its proper sense, Happening is offhandedly exotic, since Montreal saxophonist François Carrier places no limits on the musicians expressing their specialties – nor emphasizes the differences for effect. Thus at various junctures during the seven tracks on this fine two-CD set, the soprano and alto saxophonist’s regular trio of bassist Pierre Côté and drummer Michel Lambert is spelled by razor-sharp microtonal asides from violist American Mat Maneri or exotic Indian-inflected tones from the South Asian instruments played by Uwe Neumann, a German-born, Montreal resident.

Rather than aiming for conscious or unconscious East-West or classical-jazz fusions as earlier reedmen as different as John Harriott and Jimmy Giuffre did, Carrier’s game plan merely acknowledges the presence of these slightly unconventional instruments and works them into the improvisatory mix. Thus the timbres of Neumann’s anandolohori or Indian talking drum are utilized as if the Carrier Trio was making room for a vibraphone soloist, while the violist’s distinctive note patterns work into the collective creation as if he was playing guitar.

This isn’t to say that the guests’ talents aren’t fully utilized. There are points when Maneri’s fiddle contours surge in double counterpoint to Carrier’s mid-range, slurred soprano saxophone lines or harsh alto saxophone vibrations. Yet with pulsating Côté and solid Lambert sensitively nudging the tempo along jazz lines – and rarely soloing – there’s no need for sonic braggadocio about the admixture.

Recorded in concert last year, Happening can easily be accepted as a text book example of contemporary improv. However careful listening reveals the unconventional touches that have been insinuated into its seemingly comprehensive exterior.

— Ken Waxman