December 29, 2019
Christine Abdelnour/Louis Schild
Wide Ear WER 041
Alexandra Grimal/Joëlle Léandre
Montagne Noire MN1
Stripped down to essentials, these saxophone-double bass duos explore the variety of sounds that can be creatively sourced from the two instruments. But while there may be physical similarities each chooses a unique improvisational path.
French alto saxophonist Christine Abdelnour and Swiss electric bassist Louis Schild transform their instruments into non-specific sound sources, dedicating La Louve’s single track to a knowing analysis of timbres and dissonance. Meantime Désordre comes across like more of play-party activity or perhaps a Gallic version of Inuit throat singing. Bassist Joëlle Léandre and tenor saxophonist Alexandra Grimal, both French, have 15 tracks in which to challenge and compel on another with distinct creations. Considering the two also try out a bit of serious-and-non serious vocalizing, mostly without words, on a few of the 15 tracks, a sense of merriment also distinguishes this session from other discs that are overtly serious.
Pinched puffs from Abdelnour’s saxophone burble and echo alongside metallic hand pops and strings slaps from Schild at the top of La Louve. But the saxophonist, who has played with the likes Magda Mayes and Andrea Neumann, turns subsequently from declarative aviary peeps to a single unbroken tone that steadily increases in volume. In response, the bassist, who has had an affiliation with David Meier, strips away as many acoustic properties as he can from his four strings, playing up its mechanized and ring-modulator like resonations. Revealing higher pitches and more percussive tones s they play, the two reach a climax of sorts at a mid-point as transverse reed chirps and staccato creaks make common cause with the bassist’s electronic flanges and buzzing string sweeps. Finally dyspeptic split tones give way to a lyrical consonance that affiliates itself in delicate reed flight and string patterns that serve as a concluding place marker.
Playful as well as profound, Grimal, who has been a member of the Orchestra National de Jazz and Léandre, who has partnered numerous improvisers over a 40-year-plus career, quickly establish a bouncy give-and-take on Désordre. Moving in double counterpoint, each often pauses, with the result that reed mutiphonics and crackling string thumps reach a satisfying crescendo. Mellow at points, the two also harmonize the bassist’s power plucks with Grimal expressing lyricism via soprano saxophone puff and wordless warbling. The seventh piece “(6:28)” demonstrates that Léandre is capable of dual roles as well, contrasting the saxophonist’s move from intermittent pants to a story-telling narrative with the bassist’s lower-pitched stops at the same time as she decorates her lines with sul tasto trills. These quick changes taking in both partners are most notably outlined on the penultimate “(5:33)”, where the reedist appears to be simultaneously blowing riffs from her tenor saxophone as she hums high-pitched tone variations. Not to be outdone, Léandre’s pseudo-operatic cries turn the program into duo burlesque, saved from buffoonery by Grimal’s final gravelly vibrations. On the other hand “(4:12)” reverses the interface to dead seriousness, as darkened slabs of double bass sweeps produce a near-impenetrable intensity as the saxophonist’s reed puff variations turn to solid blowing.
The set’s only misstep occurs on one brief track when Grimal starts intoning banal poetry in English with a crone-like voice. But perhaps the pulled-from-nature noises with which Léandre answers the doggerel, are meant to mock rather than accompany those out-of-character sentiments.
Putting that aside both La Louve and Désordre are defining works by mature and maturing stylists. Each also proves once again that when committed improvisers are involved, superior duo sounds can result, no matter how rare the blend or choice of instruments.
Track Listing: Louve: 1. La Louve
Personnel: Louve: Christine Abdelnour (alto saxophone) and Louis Schild (electric bass)
Track Listing: Désordre: 1. (1:52) 2. (5:17) 3. (2:25) 4. (4:35) 5. (2:04) 6. (2:03) 7. (6:28) 8. (4:48) 9. (2:43) 10. (4:12) 11. (3:00) 12. (2:03) 13. (2:00) 14. (5:33) 15. (5:17)
Personnel: Désordre: Alexandra Grimal (soprano and tenor saxophones and voice) and Joëlle Léandre (bass and voice)