Joelle Leandre - double bass
Fred Frith - guitar
Alvin Curran - electronics, piano
Urs Leimgruber - soprano and tenor saxophone
Leo Records 2012
This quartet is born out of Joelle Leandre's experience in Mills College in Oakland (where she got introduced to Alvin Curran and Fred Firth) and it brings together four musicians who, together, cover possibly the entire ground of modern experimental music - improvised, composed, acoustic, electro-acoustic and electric.
Even more amazingly all those musical world meet together in the act of spontaneus creation nad co-exist and co-inspire and co-depend on each other's existence. The 45-minutes long "Part 1" flows through a series of different musical universes. Once a single, suspended piano notes are accompanied by the whispers of electronic and acoustic silences, at other moment the rap beat appears against the quirk guitar chords, the bass fills the space with bowed overtones and saxophone caresses them with a gentle hush. At times the sound will layer one against another in a series of crashing outbursts, at other they will complete each other so smoothly as if only one sound was made.
What amazes me the most is how completely lost and abandoned in the present are the musicians, the music is delivered with utmost focus and complete lack of ego, the sounds blend together in all kind of colourfull mixtures, dense or spare, dark or light. There's mystery in this music. It hides a secret, it casts light to bring shadow.
The extended improvisation ends with a surprising coda of an almost straight ahead piano ballad. The shorter (5 minutes) "Part 2" condenses the energy, strikes loud at first only to grasp your heart with arco bass solo that sounds so pristine it seems a vocalese.
I've been always tempted by the water metaphore. Water can adapt to any shape it's been presented with but it can also change a shape of any object, rock or metal, if given enough time. In the river it flows and changes constantly while remaining the same in its nature. It can give life or destroy it. The improvisation, the music, the life itself can be very much that (the word "can" being a key here, water, improvisation, life - it's all about possibility). The music presented on the cd is very much like that also. It's enough to dive in and it can take you anywhere.
I wholeheartedly recommend the album.
ps. there are three very short clips of the band available on youtube but the sound quality as well as frammentaric presentation doesn't really give any justice to the music.