François Carrier/Steve Beresford/John Edwards/Michel Lambert

March 23, 2016

FMR CD 400

By Ken Waxman

Like a peripatetic Old West gunslinger, Montreal alto saxophonist François Carrier roams extensively to challenge himself alongside the planet’s best improviser and so far has gone head-to-head with among others, players from Poland, Russia, France and the United States. Now it’s the United Kingdom’s turn and this 70-minute CD captures five friendly dustups involving Carrier, Montreal percussionist Michel Lambert, invariably the Robin to Carrier’s Batman and two maverick London-based players, bassist John Edwards, with whom the two Canadians have partnered before, and on three tracks, adding pianist Steve Beresford for an inaugural meeting.

No Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, this is more like a Justice League summit in which each improviser is confident in his role, but willing to push it further with new challenges. Initially the saxophonist/bassist/drummer devise sympathetic initiatives that work into a pulsating groove by brokering Carrier’s choked reed smears, amiable percussion rumbles and bass string resonance that slide from staccato defiance to melodic melancholy. More revealing are the quartet tracks though. Beresford’s keyboard smarts reorients the game plan, since his playing is a likely to slide into Dave Brubeck as Cecil Taylor territory. What that means is that despite waterfall-like note spurts from the pianist and a flurry of split tones from Carrier on a tune like “Gillett Square” the two swiftly reach a responsive rapprochement on the level of Paul Desmond and Brubeck’s 40-year partnership but with infinitely more bite. Integrating oscillating bowing from Edwards and backbeat pummels from Lambert, intense communication characterizes the final “Stoke Newington”. Emphasizing Carrier’s sharpened warbles and Beresford’s kinetic dynamics that touch on atonality, pseudo-bop and jerky stride in turn, the piece is both dramatic and humorous. More than just a foreign jaunt, Carrier’s and Lambert’s improvising in this cooperative context is decidedly outgoing.

Personnel: François Carrier (alto saxophone and Chinese oboe); Steve Beresford (piano); John Edwards (bass) and Michel Lambert (drums)

-A MusicWorks Exclusive Spotlight Review March 2016