David Chiesa/Jean Sebastien Mariage

Oort
Creative Sources CS 185 CD

Joëlle Léandre/Serge Teyssot-Gay

Trans

Intervalle IT 30121901

From the time of Jim Hall’s meeting with Red Mitchell in the 1970s and a contemporaneous duo involving Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, guitar-double bass improvisation has been a favored, if challenging format. The situation becomes even more intricate however when the song form and familiar standards are jettisoned in favor of pure improvisation. Two French duos demonstrate how this can be accomplished on these CDs, yet such is the breath of Free Music that the meetings between bassist David Chiesa and guitarist Jean Sebastien Mariage on one hand and bassist Joëlle Léandre and guitarist Serge Teyssot-Gay on the other are the yin and yang of such associations.

Since Mariage is mostly involved with minimalist ensembles such as Hubbub plus dance and theatre groups, and Chisea has made his name with solo performances, playing with the likes of experimental saxophonist Michel Doneda, plus dancers and poets, the emphasis on Oort is on long silences and microtonalism. However when Léandre, one of the world’s most flamboyant bass soloists who has matched wits with hundreds of committed players is captured in concert with Teyssot-Gay, guitarist of French rock group Noir Désir, the result is much more than Chiesa-Mariage writ large. As hushed and understated as the other duo’s five tracks may be; Léandre-Teyssot-Gay almost literally kick out the jams, embellishing the live tessitura with unselfconscious drama, transforming their seven untitled tracks into near visual performances.

As early as the first track of Trans, distorted electronic pulsing from the guitarist meets brutal tremolo bow motions from the bassist, and this intensity continues nearly unabated for the rest of the disc. Should there be sequences during which Léandre and Teyssot-Gay begin a moderated downturn as pressure discharge, that realizations never dissipate enough to approximate the sounds of Oort. More commonly Léandre parries with meticulously timed stops, below the bridge strums or wood-vibrating sul tasto runs and is met by thrusts from Teyssot-Gay that take the form of slurred fingering, shimmering delay or friction-encumbered chording, Or the roles are reversed.

Should be connections become too amorphous or start dragging, then Léandre begins vocalizing with studied theatricism, encompassing Amerindian-styled chanting, crone-like cackling, bel canto warbles and forays into soprano lyricism – if the diva’s performance was taking place in a padded cell. All the while the guitarist expands and diminishes his volume with pedal and knob effects; strumming, slurring and sliding loops and licks. Fortissimo his climatic guitar-hero-like runs may be parodist, but they perfectly complement both Léandre’s alternating yowling soprano and Bedlam-styled mumbling as she snap, rubs and crunches stentorian strokes.

Almost like a black and white silent film when compared to Trans’ Technicolor, surround-sound blockbuster, Chiesa and Mariage distinguish themselves and their session by limiting it to meticulously positioned small gestures with plenty of breathing room – and with all tracks permeated by a quivering drone. With nods to table-top guitarists, Mariage appears to strike his strings with hammers and the heels of his hands. In contrast, Chiesa’s rubbed string squeals can take on saxophone blowing qualities. Other times themes move from chromatic expressionism to a pseudo-folk-primitism one would expect from hillbilly pickers like Dock Boggs.

More generic, tracks such as “Sarabat’s Comet” and “Chéseaux’s Comet” identify the minimalist futurism suggested by other interactions. In the former as the bassist drags out extended backing stops, the guitarist steps forward with bravura vibrating, likely created by e-bow pressure on the strings. As Mariage’s bent-note strategy works its way toward Chiesa, the bassist counters with scrubbed and angled multiphonics. On the subsequent “Chéseaux’s Comet” any hints of lyricism from the guitarist’s harpsichord-like licks are stripped away with dagger-sharp string snaps and tremolo wood smacks as static beats appear and evaporate. Staccato twangs and thumps finally culminate in repeated strokes from Chiesa. Eventually Mariage uses thrusting pressure against the fret board and neck respectively to produce usual timbres that couple with the existing drones.

Achieving a futuristic extension of bass-guitar duets is the triumphant result of both these unique session.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Oort: 1. Kirch’s Comet 2. Sarabat’s Comet 3. Chéseaux’s Comet 4. Lexel 5. Great Comet

Personnel: Oort: Jean Sébastien Mariage (acoustic guitar) and David Chiesa (bass)

Track Listing: Trans: 1. (07.25) 2. (06.44) 3. (07.07) 4. (07.42) 5. (04.29) 6. (10.11) 7.

(02.54)

Personnel: Trans: Serge Teyssot-Gay (guitar) and Joëlle Léandre (bass and voice)