Saturday, February 5, 2011

Joelle Leandre Tentet / Trio - Live at the "Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon" [Leo]

Tentet - Can You Hear Me

Joelle Leandre - double bass; Sussana Gartmayer - alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Boris Hauf - tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lorenz Raab - trumpet; Bert Mutter - trombone; Burkhard Stangl - electric guitar; Thomas Wally - violin; Elaine Koene - viola; Melissa Coleman-Zielasko - cello; Kevin Norton - vibes, percussion

Joelle Leandre - double bass
John Tilbury - piano
Kevin Norton - vibes, percussion

Leo Records 2011

It's a silly thing really, but I'm always excited when I get to have the first cd of the new year, and this is the first 2011 released record I listened to. And I can begin by saying that this double cd, part of celebration of Joelle's 60th birthday, is a great start to, hopefully, another year full of new and exciting music

Let me start with the trio (although the tentet concert took place 1 day earlier). To simply put it - creation of stunning beauty. Sonic adventure, mysterious and ethereal. Like music of dreams. Like stories coming from distant places. With silence and pause coming forward as much as the notes themselves. Music full of gentle, if abstract touches, of echoes of sounds, slowly dying off, balanced by couple of more dramatic passages. This is mostly spare and spacious, and the blurried timbre of vibraphone (often played on with a  bow) makes it also extremely surreal. With no rhythm also, this music is essentially timeless. Imagine small, almost invisible objects, flying through immense space, when/where there is no sense of urgency - since there is no sense of time. This is a 45 minutes long musical meditation, quite zen (especially when the gongs appear), pure, somehow beautifully empty, free of any limitation, burden. And yet the focus, the cohesity, the unity of the vision and the execution, the completely ego-less playing are awe-inspiring. As much as the sense of construction, achieved through short repetitions, drones, minimalistic approach to both rhythm and harmony and melody - all expanded with long notes and silence between them, to hide them in the time and space of this sonic world. This is extremely open-minded music, but one that feels also very natural, like a wind, or water flowing. Empty your mind, and think about nothing. This is a soundtrack to the nothing. Stunning achievement by my ears.

Tentet cd is something completely different. Starts with some random chatter which turns out to be a part of the composition, than the singular instruments join with their statements, abstract, coming from different places, to arrive to the first chord, wonderfully orchestrated (great juxtaposition of strings and brass), that falls apart again into single pieces, short outburts of abstract lines on all the instruments some chattering again, only to end with the same chord again. 
This is again unedited one (53 minutes) track, but You could easily put some indexes. The light drive on hi-hat (around 5 minutes into the piece) is accompaying gentle and sweet, reminding me of Bill Frisell, guitar playing, joined by string section, then completed by horns theme (another great arrangement). Obviously it'd be impossible (and pointless) to analyze the entire track. Joelle comes forward here as great composer, but the piece obviously allows for a lot of improvisation and soloing. Most written parts are much more chamber or classical music, wonderfully rich both becasue of the harmonies created as the sound palette Joelle can use (2 x reeds, 2 x brass, 4 x strings, guitar, vibraphone). With improv parts providing the adventurous, experimental edge.
Tough to choose any highlights, there's great trumpet solo (starting around 10 mins) by Lorenz Raab and his frullo technique is impressive. The epic, atmoshpeheric, somehow cinematic theme that starts around 15th minute into the track could be named another one, as much as the mellow (lead by strings and vibraphone) passage starting in 25th minute, a Glass-like chord pattern. Or the folowing dramatic theme for strigns counterpointed by lightly swinging drums and classic walking on the bass. And there are great tenor-drums/trombone-drums/guitar drums duos right afterwards, featuring a clearly jazz solo with wonderfull tone by Boris on sax, more experimental approach by Bert on the trombone, and completely lo-fi experimental one by Burkhard on guitar). There's even a funk drumming passage, as well as soloing magic by Joelle herself, digging deep into ancient, ritualistic roots of music, accentuated by her throat singing. Passionate, raw, yet sophisticated. A free and adventourous spirit and a masterfull musician. The whole ever-changing, multi-layered, complex piece finishes with wonderful decrescendo of mesmerizing string lines and (as it began) words=sounds experiment.

This is one of the most compelling and impressive orchestral statements by an improvising artist I've heard in a while. Completely different from such powerfull groups like Chicago Tentet or Resonance. If one looks for jazz influences, Gil Evans could be the one, but this is much more anchored in classical music and fueled by imagination of improvising artists. It's not about the power and energy a group this big can deliver, but about nuance, colour, wide palette such diversified instruments together can provide.

If this is how this year starts, I can't wait to hear and see the rest of it. Absolutely recommended.

some excerpts from the records will be played this monday.


  1. Joelle she is like a musical shaman:)I can only imagine how she is excellent in this trio with John and Kavien. I think I will also buy this CD:)She is so strong - thanks God!!!:) /I remember her from last concert. She was playing with improbable power./ I would like to listen her music for long time as yet:)

  2. I definitely agree about the shamanism element here, especially when she's also singing. Unfortunately I had not, so far, had a chance to see her live.


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