Title: Beauty / Resistance (3 CD box)
By: Joelle Leandre
Catalog No: MW 1013-2
Price: 30 EUR
CD #1: Joëlle Léandre / Mateusz Rybicki / Zbigniew Kozera / Zlatko Kaučič
CD #2: Joëlle Léandre /Zlatko Kaučič
CD #3: Joëlle Léandre / Rafał Mazur
Joëlle Léandre – bass
Zlatko Kaučič – drums, percussion
Mateusz Rybicki – clarinets
Zbigniew Kozera – bass
Rafał Mazur – acoustic bass guitar
live at the Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival 2019, in Club Alchemia, in Krakow, Poland, Fall, 2019, by Rafal Drewniany.
What the critics say:
French bassist Joëlle Léandre, turning 70 this month, is a consummate improviser allying unrivaled facility to boundless imagination. As such, she has become a fixture in the annual Jazz Autumn in the Polish city of Kraków, regularly gracing the stage of the legendary Alchemia club. Her residency at the 2019 edition was captured and is presented as a handsome three-CD set (though it would easily fit on two discs), which slots into a discography with over 200 entries since 1981. While youthful contact with American expatriate free jazzers like Frank Wright, Bobby Few, and Alan Silva in Paris fired up her passion and independent spirit, many of her early recitals were in new music, particularly works by two of her major touchstones, John Cage and Giacinto Scelsi, who both composed specifically for her. But it wasn’t until she played with iconoclastic English guitarist Derek Bailey in New York in 1982 that her dedication to free improvisation took flight. Léandre has long since outgrown explicit influences, but they still inform her authoritative tone, ecstatic and incantatory phrasing, and adventurous outlook.
On the first CD, Léandre forms part of a quartet completed by a pair of Poles, clarinetist Mateus Rybicki and another double bassist Zbigniew Kozera, and Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič. Staccato pulses, separated by silence, begin the piece as if they are collectively taking stock and preparing the next move. Standard fare for what is likely another first-time meeting for Léandre, among a lengthy catalog of such events. It must be a challenge for another bassist to partner with the Frenchwoman, but Kozera makes
a sterling effort, often adopting oppositional stances: arco versus pizzicato, high against low. Nonetheless, it’s Léandre’s contributions that make the music seem whole, her entrances transforming monochrome to color. Highlights include a wonderful passage of overlapping sustained notes in which the pitches oscillate between dissonance and harmony and later
a series of intersecting repeated figures from bleating clarinet and sawn and plucked basses, punctuated by Kaučič’s astutely-judged thuds.
For Léandre the duet is the format that has seen some of her most extraordinary performances, as evidenced by encounters with Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, and India Cooke. Fortunately, this collection includes two further examples of this most responsive and mercurial art. Disc 2 contains a 24-minute set of Léandre and Kaučič. The latter can be as much a visual as sonic presence and he conjures a raft of unconventional textures, papery rustles, zither string glissandos, sudden bangs, and what sounds like his voice through the water. Léandre pitches her reactions in terms of corresponding dynamics, rather than any attempt to mirror the sounds. She too integrates theatrical aspects into her presentation, using her voice to complement or subvert. At times she wheezes and groans like someone unwell, then counterpoints her assertive bowing with a sweet melody.
A striking facet of Léandre’s resumé has been the number of occasions she has doubled up with another bassist, William Parker, Barre Phillips, and Barry Guy being notable colleagues. There’s another to add to this list, as the pick of the three discs is the 37-minute final CD, Léandre in consort with the customized acoustic bass guitar of Rafał Mazur. As one of his country’s foremost improvisers, Mazur has collaborated with almost every overseas visitor. Whether with bow or fingers he extracts a distinctive dry woody timbre from his instrument, supplemented by buzzing swooshes as he slides along the fingerboard. Both go at it full tilt in an intense set of five spontaneous pieces ranging from nervy caffeinated collisions of sharp attacks and angular slurs to exchanges of ringing harmonics interposed amid space via explosive thrums and trills. At the end of the third number, Léandre thanks the audience for its enthusiasm by tapping the body of her bass. Mazur follows her lead and before anyone knows it, the knocking forms the basis of an encore alternating scraped abrasions with mesmerizing reiterations, an exquisite illustration of living in the moment, a credo for Léandre’s entire career.
- Review courtesy of The New York City Jazz Record