Joëlle Léandre/Benoît Delbecq/Carnage the Executioner

Tout Va Monter
Nato 4757

Léandre/Delbecq/Houle

14 rue Paul Fort, Paris

Leo Records CD LR 731

Disciplined laboratory experiments are often amended by substituting one element in the formula, leading to unforeseen results. More volatile, group improvisations can become startling heterogeneous when a single element component is altered, even though the result may be just as memorable.

Take these two live sets recording nine month apart by Paris-based tone instigators bassist Joëlle Léandre and pianist Benoît Delbecq. Like groomed trail and bushwacking skiers, they’re equally open to playing with proven partners or striking out in new directions. Thus 14 rue Paul Fort, Paris is a rough gem of near-chamber improv uniting the two with Vancouver clarinetist François Houle, who each has recorded with in the past. A leap into the unknown, Tout Va Monter is an earlier interaction among both and American beat boxer Carnage the Executioner, who usually works with rapper Desdamona as Ill Chemistry.

Now Léandre would never be confused with Niki Minaj, but she often gives voice to full-throated expressions that ping pong between shaman and bedlam. Plus her ability to create percussive stops as well as swizzle comforting swells with her bow can provide a rhythmic bass. Delbecq, who dabbles in more standard expression, is committed to the properties of piano preparations. Like a combination Bluegrass band and an orchestral percussion section, he twangs banjo-like tones from the piano strings, jiggles cymbals and other items as he plucks the piano’s wound strings plus swells grandfather clock-like affiliated chords into keyboard rumbles. So why not challenge Carnage? Initially restrained, Carnage becomes more expressive by “Chewing Rock” and the title track. Still his basso mouth resonations and Jew’s harp-like oral reverb aren’t particularly assertive when matched against Léandre’s upfront spiccato swipes and Delbecq’s churning keyboard runs.

Like a primary color wash applied over a pencil sketch, the others’ concentrated extensions which add finger-cymbal-like pings and bass-string pops to swelling contrapuntal lines almost push away the coughing rhythms and sibilant tones from the vocalist. Even pop-song snatches emanating from Carnage’s mechanical equipment on “Autant des Différences Jumelles” and “Les Secrets du Passage Chanvin” are subdued as the bassist’s energetic stopping and the pianist’s kinetic chording command the centre.

Following a melding of Léandre’s warbles and Carnage’s closely mic-ed snorts, the experiment finally climaxes with “Trio en Forme de Chevaleret” and rapprochement is attained. Layered in proper cake-like form, Delbecq’s dynamic arpeggios, Léandre string rubs and Carnage’s nephritic gusts provide the base. The bassist’s alternating quavers and growls make up the nourishing filling, with the decorative icing courtesy of an uncomplicated whimsical theme from Delbecq.

If Tout Va Monter is an alpha test that yields mixed results, than 14 rue Paul Fort, Paris is a laboratory experiment under controlled conditions that proves a thesis. Since Léandre has concertized alone or in groups with Houle and Delbecq in other circumstances, the blend works remarkably well. All three come from a background in notated music with an expertise in extended and altered techniques. No matter how liberating the buzzes, flutters and peeps become on this seven-part suite, the effect may be harrowing but never less than harmonious. Houle’s vibrated cackles, Léandre’s wood-resonating stops and Delbecq’s jumping arpeggios propelled at different tempos and pitches, maintain a lightness that confirms the connections among the three. When the clarinetist blows two horns simultaneously to produce bagpipe-like textures or the others individually whittle chordal properties to stiletto-like sharpness, these heart monitor like blips are fleeting. Almost immediately another of the players will pick up the slack and grind the jagged outbursts into pleasing counterpoint. By the final movements the narrative is a straight as the sight line on a Prairie highway, with the serrated edges polished to a lyrical sheen.

Léandre/Delbecq/Houle would appear to be another concert-and-recording-ready trio looking for additional opportunities. Notable in its audacity, the set up among Léandre, Delbecq and Carnage the Executioner isn’t as cohesive. But that shouldn’t stop the bassist and pianist to attempt further unexpected collaborations – perhaps even a rematch with the Executioner.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 14: 1. 14 rue Paul Fort 1 2. 14 rue Paul Fort 2. 3. 14 rue Paul Fort 3 4. 4 rue Paul Fort 4. 5. 14 rue Paul Fort 5 6. 14 rue Paul Fort 6 7. 14 rue Paul Fort 7

Personnel: 14: François Houle (clarinets); Benoît Delbecq piano and prepared piano) and Joëlle Léandre (bass)

Track Listing: Tout: 1. Goliath et Je Ne Sais Quoi 2. Pour Annick 3. Biscotte et Makoko 4. Ruse Du Chef De La Ville 5. Chewing Rock 6. Tout Va Monter 7. Sylvain, Nelly et Le Verbe Coloré 8. Bonjour Etienne 9. Autant des Différences Jumelles 10. Les Secrets du Passage Chanvin 11. Derek and the First « O » In « Borgoves » 12. Trio en Forme de Chevaleret 13. Soupir d’Héloïse et Abélard

Personnel: Tout: Benoît Delbecq (piano and prepared piano); Joëlle Léandre (bass) and Carnage the Executioner (voice, beat box and percussion)