September 5, 2022

Sonoris Causa
No Business NBCD 153

A paean to deep pitches Sonoris Causa is a live compendium of how many distant timbres can be heard despite – or perhaps due to – the intermingling of subterranean  tones. A continuous hour plus improvisation, the three sections are created and manipulated by five veteran French improvisers.

They are dual 5-string bassists David Chiésa and Louis-Michel Marion, who have worked with the likes of Jean Sébastien and Jacques DiDonato; bass trombonist Thierry Madiot, who has played with baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro; and Lazro himself who has been part of numerous international improv configurations. Adding a further buried tone to the program is Jouk Minor, who has worked with Pierre Favre and whose instrument is a contrabass sarrusophone, with a subterranean tone pitched between contrabass saxophone and contrabassoon.

While the affiliated drones, slurs and scoops from the reeds and brass do much to define the renal pushed narrative, the robust col leno wood-and-strings slaps as well as arco drones add to the evolving and thickened pitches. Besides unique auto braking squeals and vibrating string loosening echoes from the basses, the extended interface is prevented from becoming unbearably opaque when the three horn players interject particular motifs. Most unusual are the high-pitched whistles from expanding overlapping nestled telescopic tubes that Madiot outputs. Otherwise he relies on spittle-projected smears, vocalized portamento syllables and occasionally brassy military-band-like honks. Sophisticated in the manner to enliven an improvisation, Lazro provides the most variety. Besides nephritic basement rumbles, he alternates intermittent altissimo squeaks with clarion tropes plus fortissimo screams and passages of circular-breathed undulations. Wedded to the low end, Marion usually concentrates on amplifying the evolving drone heard throughout. However there is a point just before the  half-way mark where the exposition become even darker and almost impenetrable. It results from attaching a mass of undulating sul tasto string strokes to basso gurgles from the reeds and trombone honks. Eventually Minor’s guttural growls matched with Lazro’s reed reflux lessens the pressure from blocked to balanced.

From that point until the finale is slowly squeezed out, Chiésa and Marion string-chiming variations, splayed reed tone and whistling brass bites add needed air to the concentrated drone. With renal honks and shifting scoops both emphasized, the improvisation reaches its goal without hardening into sonic sludge. Along the way, the organic legitimacy of emphasizing affiliated thickened textures has been confirmed.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Sonoris Causa 1 2. Sonoris Causa 2 3.Sonoris Causa 3

Personnel: Thierry Madiot (bass trombone, telescopic tubes); Daunik Lazro (baritone saxophone); Jouk Minor (contrabass sarrusophone); David Chiésa and Louis-Michel Marion (5-string bass)