François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Daniel Thompson/Neil Metcalfe/Guillaume Viltard

Shores and Ditches
FMR CD 340-0512

The Lone Ranger of Canadian Jazz, Montreal-based alto saxophonist François Carrier is as likely to turn up improvising with like-minded players in St. Petersburg, Milan or Katmandu [!] as in any North American locale, usually seconded by his Tonto, percussionist and fellow Montrealer Michel Lambert. Shores and Ditches is a high-quality souvenir of the duo’s United Kingdom sojourn in 2011 with extended examples of Carrier’s art.

The alto saxophonist, who in the past has explored an assortment of sound matches, ranging from sax-and-rhythm-section combos to those featuring piano, viola or other saxes, highlights four separate strategies here. Three of the six tracks are duos with Lambert; one is completely solo except for occasional bell shaking plus ambient sounds; a third presents the classic Free Jazz trio adding French-born, London-based Guillaume Viltard’s thick double bass lines to the drums and saxophone; and the last expands that trio with Britons Neil Metcalfe on flute and guitarist Daniel Thompson.

That tune, “Wadi”, is a contrapuntal narrative that calculates the sonic permutations available from five instruments united in percussive interaction. Sympathetically restricting his contribution to measured pulsing as he does in most instances, Lambert lets Viltard and Thompson assume the rhythmic role(s), which they do with slapped, stopped and clinking string patterns. Except for the occasional flutter, Metcalfe also eschews the traverse instrument’s lyrical tendencies, while Carrier recurrently vibrates strident split tones, the better to join with the strings metallic-sounding strums. Finally as the flutist reaches a staccato climax, the saxophonist completes the exercise with harsh snarls.

Those snarls are put to good use on the almost 19-minute tour-de-force which is “Upstream”, as the bassist, drummer and reedist contribute to the intense currents to create this broken-octave sound torrent. Viltard is particularly resolute here, sometimes walking, but mostly hewing his contributions out of stentorian string rubs and buzzing vibrations. Lambert chuffs his cymbal tops and occasionally produces drum rumbles, but again its Carrier’s mercurial strategy that defines the tune. Beginning with short reed bites and stutters, his highpoint is semi-lyrical exercise in positioned slurs and whorls.

Carrier’s versatility is even more pronounced on the saxophonist’s duets with Lambert which settle into familiar back-and-forth challenges involving slippery slurs and flutters verses bounces, rattles and pumps. The saxophonist’s mercurial skill is highlighted more spectacularly still on the solo “Shores and Ditches”. Infrequently accompanied by bell tree shakes and introduced by the sounds of a church carillon, Carrier takes his cues from those vibrations, testing and re-testing tonal variations from all parts of the sax, sometimes revealing almost romantic trills, most other times intense, altissimo spews.

Carrier and Lambert are two Canucks who can hold their own or even dominate the proceedings in any musical situation, domestic or foreign. This CD merely confirms that truism.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Shores: 1. Caldera 2. Upstream 3. Lava 4. Reef 5. Wadi 6. Shores and Ditches

Personnel: Shores: François Carrier (alto saxophone); Neil Metcalfe (flute); Daniel Thompson (guitar); Guillaume Viltard (bass) and Michel Lambert (drums)