François Houle, Evan Parker, Benoît Delbecq

La Lumière de Pierres
psi 07.02

International cooperation at its most profound, this landmark CD captures a Montreal-realized live meeting among Vancouver-based clarinetist François Houle, his frequent playing partner, Parisian pianist Benoît Delbecq, and Evan Parker. A

veteran British saxophonist, Parker’s prodigious, circular-breathing technique initially convinced the classically trained Houle to immerse himself in free improvisation.

Not that there’s any sense of a master-student(s) seminar here. Instead the two reedists develop an interaction involving long-lined double counterpoint and aviary trills; while trading licks extended with broken-octave glissandi, tongue stops and echoing vibrato. Strumming, plucking and stopping the strings of his prepared piano, Delbecq seconds both, adding variations ranging from spinet-like tremolo to pedal-pumped, key-fanning percussiveness.

Especially noteworthy are the delicate pan-flute vibrations or unison multiphonics sounded by Houle on the first track as he physically wrenches his clarinets apart to simultaneously play different parts. Harsh cadences and high-frequency patterning allow the pianist to strike both keys and strings on “Moonlight through Stone”. This same defining improvisation showcases the polyphonic qualities of Houle and Parker. With Parker slurring and growling low pitches and Houle tongue popping and pepping altissimo notes, the two gradually extend their lines in staccato, buzzy timbres. Finally the striated clarinet lines and circular-breathed saxophone textures coalesce to such an extent that exhalation from either man becomes indistinguishable. This hints that the mandate of master improviser is now shared between the older Englishman and the younger Canadian.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 13 #1