NoBusiness NBCD 38

Exceptional music that’s blazingly intense yet judiciously moderate, Curare, apparently named for the South American muscle-relaxant plant, captures sessions recorded almost two years apart from what in advanced music terms is a super group.

All of its members have been plying their trade in this gene since the 1970s, French baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro with the likes of soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda and bassist Joëlle Léandre; fellow Gaul, guitarist Jean-François Pauvros with everyone from drummer Makoto Sato to harpist Hélène Breschand; and British percussionist Roger Turner with seemingly every advanced sound explore in the United Kingdom, North America and the Continent. Never before have they recorded in trio formation and the four tracks hang together so well because of another contradiction: each cooperates fully with the others, but no one alters his individual style.

Consequently Pauvros’ sometimes amp-distorted approach that encompasses slurred fingering, neck and string hand taps, bowing on the string plus metallic twanging and trebly distortion, familiar from Rock-oriented sequences, makes common cause with Lazro’s extended reed techniques. Similarly the saxophonist’s tendency to expel bulky pedal-point snorts, pronounced altissimo cries and undulating split tones that characterize his solo reed explorations, suitably challenge the guitarist, who occasionally turns to slack-key and slurred fingering to make his points.

Rational to an extreme, percussionist Turner, whose guitar and saxophone partners have ranged from John Russell to Mike Cooper on the string side and Lol Coxhill to Doneda among the reedists, takes the others’ fervent outpourings in stride – or actually measure. As they distort textures with crackling amp buzzes or rend the air with screams at dog-whistle pitches, he placidly pops and clacks his cymbals, rubs and saws on his rims and drum tops, and generally supplements and escorts tones into appropriate connections.

The most extensive instance of the trio’s concordance is on the nearly 19-minute “En Nage”, which precedes the surprisingly lyrical conclusion that is “The Eye”. On “En Nage”, juddering crunches from Pauvros detonate in staccatissimo time as Lazro’s vibrating blats turn to reed mastication and renal grunts. As the front men jockey in sequence, exposing narrowed and tightened multiphonics from the saxophonist plus disconnected waves of flanged twangs from the guitarist, Turner shouts encouragement. More importantly he also manipulates cymbal crashes, rim shot clatters and bass drum thumps to underline their parts and fit the improvising into broken-octave patterns.

Anything but a muscle relaxing, the Rx prescribed by this musical team provides appropriate sonic exhilaration.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Morsure 2. White Dirt 3. En Nage 4. The Eye

Personnel: Daunik Lazro (baritone and alto saxophones); Jean-François Pauvros (guitars) and Roger Turner (drums and percussion)