Joëlle Léandre & Jean Luc Cappozo

Live aux Instant Chavires
Kadima Collective KCR 22

Léandre/Vidal/Boni

Trace

Red Toucan # RT 9337

Without resorting to qualifiers of geography, genre or technique, French double bassist Joëlle Léandre is one of the most accomplished performers on her instrument. And she has been proving that for the past three decades or so.

Interesting as most of her work, these sessions present her string dexterity and timbral invention in new settings – and ones that are about as far removed from the standard jazz bass CD or classical double bass showcase as abstract art is from the Impressionists. An old hand at duets involving musicians ranging from A (Anthony Braxton) to Z (Carlos Zingaro), Live aux Instant Chavires captures an all-improv session between the Parisian bassist and Luzille, France-based trumpeter Jean Luc Cappozo. The brass man, who has concertized with Léandre in the past, also plays with Gallic jazzers such as pianist Sophia Domancich and clarinetist Louis Sclavis.

Trace on the other hand is a set of titled instant compositions performed by the skillful bull fiddler joined by Marseilles-based guitarist Raymond Boni plus lesser-known saxophonist Maguelone Vidal. Boni often plays with bassist Claude Tchamitchian and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee; while Vida, who plays soprano and baritone, works with accordionist Pascal Content and pianist Christine Wodrascka.

Although the guitarist’s pounding rasgueado and crunching licks provide some continuum on Trace’s 10 Montpelier-recorded tracks, he rarely lets an opportunity pass that allows him to eschew the rhythm-guitar function and immerse himself in fluid contrapuntal chording with the bassist. When that does happen, as on a track such as “La passe”, the resulting interface encompasses thumps on the wood of the larger instrument’s back and belly plus Boni’s flat-handed string slaps. Additionally foreshortened clanks and frails from Boni plus sweeping bow movements and popping col legno from Léandre are on show. While this happens, Vidal’s adds irregular diaphragm growls and forte obbligatos.

Other tracks such as “Gros Dilemme” feature a complete reversal of this strategy. Beginning with across-the-reed transverse blowing from Vidal, the exposition is soon swapped for a variant of flutter-tongued emphasis and shrill, broken-octave chirps from the saxophonist. Boni detonates some Hendrix-like twangs –extended with amp oscillations – while Léandre accompanies both lines with spiccato runs and harsh frails. By the finale someone unleashes irregularly hiccupped vocalizing.

This sort of half-scat/half-schizoid verbalizing has long been another feature of the bassist’s work, and it’s likely she who introduces “Cumuls (à Madame Louise)” with burbling lip twangs – especially since Vidal is already occupied with bell-muting and tongue-stopping vibrations. But there’s no mistaking the dyspeptic and mercurial yawp of Léandre on “de mon enf…”, especially when she begins mumbling half-heard, but definitely French syllables. Boni picks and snaps his strings while Vidal snorts unconnected pedal-point growls, until the piece climaxes with downward rappelling guitar licks.

More than a year later in a Paris suburb, the double bassist’s most expressive vocalization appears on “Instant chav 4”, but only after she has ostensibly exhausted all the tones that can be extracted from her overgrown fiddle. Generating enough friction to power a small village, she pops the strings, pounds the wood till it resounds, snaps abrasive sul tasto lines and directs her pitches lower and lower. Cappozzo’s responses are as antipodal as they are apt. First he blows flat air through his body tube, then he pulses single notes, and, before turning to brassy squeaks, hits a series of bel-canto tones with a bit of grit. Léande then transforms herself into a faux Music Hall diva, mumbling and chortling through what could be a parody of a Belle Époque melody, backed by a pinched obbligato from the trumpeter.

As technically proficient on his instrument as Léandre is on hers, Cappozzo glides from Harmon-muted interludes to buzzing capillary slurs to fortissimo triplet-laden intermezzos at will. When her playing is staccato so is his; and when she’s ostentatiously lyrical so is he. If ragged col legno stops characterize her soloing, then he can muster up basso textures from his valves and mutate them into spittle-encrusted drones.

“Instant chav 7”, brings both persons’ techniques front-and-centre. With Cappozzo’s exposition involves large-bore, braying pedal tones which gash and tear at the thematic fabric as he moves up in pitch, Léandre’s sul ponticello variation encompass string friction, chromatic reverb and a few guitar-like licks. Eventually the trumpeter’s alternating of melismatic slurs and biting single notes leads the bassist’s to snap gnarly contrapuntal lines in his direction and again turn to bel-canto-like vocal tessitura – equal parts whoops and whispered nonsense syllables. Her bow sweeps also toughen the mouth-murmuring accompaniment, as Cappozzo’s final moves involve throat burbles and air leaking from his bell.

More outstanding improvisations from Léandre et. al, the choice between the discs appears to be if you prefer to hear her in duo or trio form.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Trace: 1. Ada 2. Joseph et Joseph 3. La passe 4. Cumuls (à Madame Louise) 5. Des Prunes 6. Tube 7. Tractile 8.Gros Dilemme 9. Improbable v. 10.De mon enf...

Personnel: Trace: Maguelone Vidal (soprano and baritone saxophones and voice); Raymond Boni (guitar) and Joëlle Léandre (bass and voice)

Track Listing: Live: 1. Instant chav 1 2. Instant chav 2 3. Instant chav 3 4. Instant chav 4 5. Instant chav 5 6. Instant chav 6 7. Instant chav 7 8. Instant chav 8

Personnel: Live: Jean Luc Cappozo (trumpet) and Joëlle Léandre (bass and voice)