Michel Doneda/ Mathias Pontevia/Didier Lasserre

Miettes & Plaines
Petit Label PL son 014

Kristoff K Roll/Daunik Lazro

Chants du Milieu

Creative Sources CS 219 CD

Mature veterans of France’s improvised music scene – saxophone division – Toulouse-based Michel Doneda, 58, and Daunik Lazro, 67, who lives in Frontignan, have been pursuing original reed strategies since the 1970s, on some occasion together. These bravado variations on their art however confirm that their individual searches are far from over. Both Miettes & Plaines and Chants du Milieu are high quality works presenting each man as part of an unconventional ensemble.

Doneda has recorded with two Bordeaux-based percussionists on his CD, but rather than facing relentless drum battering the soprano and sopranino saxophonist is joined by Didier Lasserre playing snare drum and cymbals plus Mathias Pontevia playing a horizontal drum. Versatile Lasserre has also recorded with Lazro and Paris bassist Benjamin Duboc, among many others; while Pontevia works with pianist Nush Wershowska and bassist

David Chiesa. Chants du Milieu on the other hand reunites the baritone saxophonist with Kristoff K. Roll a Paris-based sound art duo consisting of Jean-Kristoff Camps and Carole Rieussec on electro-acoustic devices, with whom he made an African field-recording trip in 1994.

Not that there’s anything rural or tropical about the nine improvisations here, created to be featured in Horizon Vertical, director Christine Baudillon’s feature documentary about Lazro. Besides the processed verbal patter and ambient radio-sourced sounds KK Roll captured are the crunches, clatters, drones, flanges and pulses that arise from the duo’s ring modulator and otherwise electronically altered programs. Undeterred, Lazro frequently appropriates the auditory space, piercing the static and unaffiliated mechanized timbres with unvarnished reed propulsion. This can take the form of tongue slaps, altissimo shrills or more commonly chalumeau blowing.

An extended variation of this is the sardonically titled finale “One Microphone for All”. Throughout as the nearly monotone quivering patterns vibrate to siren-loud, conveyer belt-like rumbling and back to insouciant circuitry rustles, Lazro’s moves from one sound field to the other spitting out subterranean buzzes and rustles, with every partial audible along with the root sounds.

“Milieu Du Chant” is distinctive in itself since the introduction of dense saxophone pressures intermingled with voices soon gives way to a broken chord intermezzo which links crunching electronic flanges, staccato baritone lines and what sounds like a muezzin’s call to prayer. Consisting of dial-twisting static mixed with barely heard radio-sourced music Lazro’s response on “Forêt” is to interrupt the granular loops with rhino-like trumpeting, mouth breaths and key percussion.

Just as there are no jungle echoes on Chants du Milieu, there’s nothing Jazz-like about Miettes & Plaines’ improvisation despite the combo make up of two drummers and a saxophonist. If anything Doneda’s timbres are even less forthcoming than Lazro’s. Frequently circular breathed or emphasized with in-and-out inhalation or reed kisses, the saxophone strategy is designed to complement slight drum-stick scratches on cymbal tops and pops on the horizontal drum’s sides and top.

Mostly a collection of inconspicuous and discreet tones from all concerned, the CD is principally concerned with barely shifting textures. Crescendos and climaxes are put aside by the percussionists for calculated placement of bass drum smacks, moderato rolls and drags plus cymbal responses. In broken-chord accord with the percussionists, Doneda asserts his individuality with high-pitched bent tones. By the finale, the reedist’s shrill gusts relax into narrowed, whistled inflections that before signally the finale with a circular-breathed extension are met by quivering thumps and premeditated side cracks from the drummers.

Defining and intriguing programs from veteran French reedists, these programs demonstrate conclusively that Doneda and Lazro continue to be involved in novel avenues of expression.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Miettes: 1. Track 1 2. Track 2 3. Track 3 4. Track 4

Personnel: Miettes: Michel Doneda (soprano and sopranino saxophones and radio); Mathias Pontevia (horizontal drum) and Didier Lasserre (snare drum and cymbals)

Track Listing: Chants: 1. Prémonition 2. Pigments 3. Autoroute Japonaise 4. Creux 5. Forêt 6. Milieu Du Chant 7. Décibels Pour Le Diable 8. Écho Du Petit Bruit 9. One Microphone for All

Personnel: Chants: Daunik Lazro (baritone saxophone) and Jean-Kristoff Camps and Carole Rieussec (electro-acoustic devices)