Title:               Joelle Leandre

 By:                  A Woman’s Work

​ Released:       2016

 Format:          8-CD's box-set

 Catalog No:    MW 950-2

 Price :             80 EURO

CD#1 Les Diaboliques - Irene Schweizer / Joelle Leandre / Maggie Nicols trio
October 6th 2015 OM, Moscow

CD#2 Joëlle Léandre & Mat Maneri duet
January 23rd 2011 La Java Paris Recorded by Jean-Marc Foussat

CD#3 Joëlle Léandre & Lauren Newton duet
February 27th  2016 Auditorium Conservatoire of Music of Besançon Recorded by Jean-Marc Foussat

CD#4 Joëlle Léandre & Jean-Luc Cappozzo duet
November 3rd  2015  Auditorium Conservatoire of Music of Besançon Recorded by Jean-Marc Foussat

CD#5 Joëlle Léandre & Fred Frith duet
June 11th  2016 Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil Recorded by Jean-Marc Foussat

CD#6 Joëlle Léandre solo
June 14th  2005 La voix est Libre, Paris Recorded by Radio France – France Musique at Bouffes du Nord in Paris

CD#7 Joëlle Léandre / Zlatko Kaučič / Evan Parker / Agustí Fernández quartet
October 19th 2015 Alchemia Club, Kraków Recorded by Rafał Drewniany (dts studio)

CD#8 Joëlle Léandre  duos with Zlatko Kaučič / Evan Parker / Agustí Fernández
October 21st 2015 Alchemia Club, Kraków Recorded by Rafał Drewniany (dts studio)

Line-up:

Joëlle Léandre - Double Bass
Evan Parker - Tenor Sax
Jean-Luc Cappozzo - Trumpet
Agusti Fernandez – Piano
Iréne Schweizer - Piano
Fed Frith - Guitar
Mat Maneri – Violin
Zlatko Kaucic - Drums, Percussion
Lauren Newton - Voice
Maggie Nicols - Vocals

About:

Joëlle Léandre (born 12 September 1951 in Aix-en-Provence, France) is a double bassist, vocalist, and composer active in new music and free improvisation.  In the field of contemporary music, she has performed with Pierre Boulez's Ensemble Inter Contemporain, and worked with Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Both Cage and Giacinto Scelsi have composed works specifically for her.  She gave an historic solo concert in "Jazz em Agosto" in 2007 (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal). In this same top jazz festival, Léandre performed also in the "Quartet Noir", a quartet with quite rare live performances, with Marilyn Crispell, Urs Leimgruber and Fritz Hauser.  She has also collaborated with some of the preeminent musicians in the fields of jazz and improvised music, including Derek Bailey, Barre Phillips, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, India Cooke, Evan Parker, Irène Schweizer, Steve Lacy, Maggie Nicols, Fred Frith, Carlos Zingaro, John Zorn, Susie Ibarra, J. D. Parran, Kevin Norton, Eric Watson, Ernst Reijseger, Akosh S. and Sylvie Courvoisier.  In 1983 she became a member of the European Women Improvising Group (EWIG), which resulted from former Feminist Improvising Group and in later 1980s she co-founded the feminist improvising Trio Les Diaboliques, with Schweizer and Nicols.

What the critics say:

CD1: Les Diaboliques: October 6, 2015, DOM, Moscow

Les Diaboliques - Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer, Scottish vocalist (and occasional tap-dancer) Maggie Nicols and French double bass player-vocalist Joëlle Léandre - are the foremothers of the European school of free-improvisation. The three have been working together as a trio for more than 25 years, blending spontaneous improvisations with comic cabaret, throwing into this intense stew elements of South-African jazz, theatrical ploys, delirious humor and operatic tricks, all with a strong feminist and satirical edge.

This live recording is from the first of two concerts that Les Diaboliques played at the DOM club in Moscow. This recording highlights the deep, intimate rapport and the extraordinary, telepathic interplay between these unique and resourceful musicians. It captures the true essence of Les Diaboliques - three highly individual masters, being totally themselves on stage, exploring their differences and their profound affinity, being witty, funny and inspiring.

The trio opens and closes this performance with extended trio improvisations. Schweizer acts on these pieces as the responsible adult who accommodates the hysterical, theatrical games of Nicols and Léandre, including their amusing, gibberish vocalizations, cementing the wild, dramatic interplay with a perfect rhythmic timing and a straight, deadpan sensibility. Nicols and Léandre continue with two intense and highly emotional duets that shift fast between moods - sensual and surreal, energetic and eccentric, spoiled and child-like. The trio improvisation that follows is more contemplative and reserved - in Les Diaboliques terms - but it stresses the immediate manner that the trio move as a tight, perfect unity. Schweizer solo piano improvisation is a magnificent demonstration of her rich, nuanced language that embrace all the history of jazz, from rhythmic-bluesy phrases to more abstract, and open-ended improvisation.

(review courtesy of Eyal Hareuveni and freejazzblog.org)

CD2: Joëlle Léandre & Mat Maneri duet

Léandre likes duets, and she likes duets with a violin. She has made "Les Domestiques" with Jon Rose, "Ecritures" with Carlos Zingaro, "Firedance" with India Cooke, "Elastic" with Théo Ceccaldi, not to mention her duets with cello (Vincent Courtois) and other double-basses (Peter Kowald, William Parker, Tetsu Saitoh, Michael Francis Dutch).

The great thing is that all these artists have their own voice, as is definitely the case with Mat Maneri, whose playing is first of all identifiable from far because of the human voice quality of his sound, his raw bowing, his quiet nervousness, his capacity to create a sense of fluidity despite his short staccato notes that hang together like links in a chain.

Léandre released an album with Mat Maneri in 2004 ("For Flowers") together with Christophe Marquet and Joel Ryan, and I have no idea how many performances Léandre and Maneri had without actual published output, yet on this album the interaction is great. Léandre goes along with Maneri's specific style, and the result is uncomparable with her other violin-bass duets. She goes along with his high intervals, with the short little bursts of sounds, the hesitation, the minimal intense agitation, yet all this without relinquishing this forward flux, this liquid flow without any foundation whatsoever in rhyhm or melody. In contrast of the other duo albums mentioned above, there is more of a conversation here, a parlando style, like a Jackson Pollock painting, with splashes all over the canvas, without inherent structure but resulting in a work of art of substance. And as with the other string duets, it all works well, there is this kind of natural empathy between the instruments themselves, a kind of natural logic to create sounds together.

The live performance was recorded on January 23rd, 2011 at La Java in Paris.

(review courtesy of Stef and freejazzblog.org)
 

CD3 - Joëlle Léandre & Lauren Newton - February 27, 2017 at Auditorium Conservatoire of Music of Besançon

The collaboration between Joëlle Léandre and the ever experimental and daring vocalist Lauren Newton began some 20 years ago with their wonderful duo release 18 Colors. The same combination was revisited on the 2012 release Conversations: Live in Ljubljana, proving the exceptional symbiosis of the two musicians. Both these albums document snapshots of Léandre’s and Newton’s important and ever-developing careers, and showcase stunningly mischievous improvisations that come into being through the destructively harmonizing combination of human voice and double bass.

The third CD of the box set A Woman’s Work, recorded earlier this year at the Auditorium Conservatoire of Music in Besançon, is no different, showing that the two artists still burn with that same fire of creativity that we first heard twenty years ago. In fact, they seem even more direct and propulsive in their playing, toying with concepts that range from one extreme to another, from near quiescence to explosive dynamism. Lauren Newton will start with scat singing, improvising in such a way to create a false sense of melody and pleasantness, before choosing an aggressive approach embodied in hisses and screams. As if she was trying to explore the limits of sibilance, she moves through high pitched, impeccably executed screams, and finally returns to the lyricism of spoken word and slam poetry, soulful crooning, and barely heard sounds. Always with perfect control, naturally.

All the while, Joëlle Léandre flexes her approach, adapting and pushing Newton towards a singular narrative. Whether plucking gently at individual strings, swinging her bow furiously, or even choosing to play with silence, there is always a sense of playful tenacity in her tones and vibrations, a sort of vigorous, unbound joy. And when the tension reaches ecstatic climaxes or threateningly contemplative abysses, she starts using her voice to let out cries, hums, and moans, mimicking and resonating with Newton. In a setting in which attention might drift towards the familiarity of the human voice, Léandre remains equally in charge through a spirited delivery.

While the whole performance presented on the CD is delightful, never rehashing ideas or passages, repeated listens will reveal moments of muted genius—”a-ha!” turning to “oh wow!”—scattered throughout. I feel that pointing them out might somehow diminish their value, so I’ll leave it to the listeners to discover them.

A remarkable recording without which A Woman’s Work would clearly be rendered incomplete and an essential part of the 8 CD set.

(Review courtesy of Antonio Poscic and freejazzblog.org)

CD4 - Joëlle Léandre & Jean-Luc Cappozzo - November 3, 2015, at the Auditorium Conservatoire of Music of Besançon

If Joëlle Léandre is a nomad, Jean-Luc Cappozzo is not. He's in fact barely known outside of France, if he ever leaves the country, and most of his discography is with other French musicians, and the most recent albums have been reviewed on this blog with great enthusiasm, including his other duet with Léandre "Live Aux Instants Chavirés", dating from 2009. Earlier this year, he released the very sympathetic album "Soul Eyes" with his daughter Cécile, who next to being a dancer, is also a pianist, on that album performing music by Charles Mingus and Mal Waldron, fun but too mainstream to review here.

Cappozzo's duet with Léandre is of a different nature. Cappozzo may not be a geographical nomad, musically he is open to any tone and timbre, sitting surrounded by many many mouthpieces and many types of mutes, as well as an assortment of flutes. Both musicians know each other very well. They speak the same language, also musically. They enjoy themselves. They make fun. They are sad together. The music is contemplative at moments, intimate, spiritual. Then they are daring enough to change course, and infuse their sounds with folkloric dances or the blues, and growl and shout and sing, or make little jokes, or go completely nuts, or they stake serious slow and precious walks through new timbral countries, full of gravitas and drama. They travel through musical landscapes, hand in hand, exploring their little adventures, taking us along, full of willingness to share what they discover, what they create. And that's maybe the only downside of the album: the audience has been deleted. You hear the occasional cough, but no applause. And that is too bad, because this is performance music. This is music that requires an audience, music that lives, and that even might be co-shaped, inspired by the presence of that audience. Yet don't let that bother you. It is great. Excellent. And the only thing I can recommend is that you clap and cheer after each improvisation. And I don't even have to tell you, it will come spontaneously ...

(Review courtesy of Stef and freejazzblog.org)

CD5 - Joëlle Léandre & Fred Frith -  June 11th 2016 Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil (Not Two, 2016)

The fifth installment of A Woman’s Work finds Joëlle Léandre “alone together” with guitarist Fred Frith. While not their first time collaborating—both MMM Quartet albums, with Alvin Curran and Urs Leimgruber, come highly recommended—this disc offers a worthwhile opportunity to catch the two masters up close and personal. Recorded this summer at the sound and art space Les Instants Chavirés by Jean-Marc Foussat, the set lasts only 40 minutes but covers a lot of territory, the improvisers being well matched in their exploratory restlessness, even if they arrive at it by different means—Léandre on the one hand incredibly powerful with a handful of relatively traditional techniques (not excluding her voice), Frith on the other turning to an unpredictable assortment of tools and objects, from bows and effects pedals to fabric straps and paintbrushes. These varying brands of resourcefulness lend the Léandre/Frith collaboration some appeal as a visual spectacle, where we have the benefit (or is it a disadvantage?) of seeing just how these musicians produce this array of sounds. We’re lucky, therefore, to have video footage of the bulk of the performance—see below.

While the reason for halving the disc’s extended improvisation into two tracks isn’t entirely clear—in the video, the performance works well as a single half-hour set—it is true that each track has its own character. If the first track smolders, occasionally guttering, the second comes closer to flaming. It’s to Foussat’s credit that the recording catches all the nuances of the first seventeen minutes. The bassist and guitarist start a bit loosely, cycling through ideas and building up potential energy. Here we can appreciate Frith’s technical inventiveness as he sits with the guitar flat across his lap, applying to it various pieces of metal, a shoe brush, and the pads of his fingers—all without losing Léandre’s train of thought, whether she’s slapping the strings or shredding her bow. Elsewhere Frith drums out rhythmic accompaniment to Léandre’s whistling arco; later she stands aside while he employs the Ebow to produce some beautifully eerie organ/theremin effects.

A few minutes into the second half, drunkenly sliding arpeggios herald one of the disc’s highlights, an off-kilter dance between bass and guitar that brings a welcome touch of whimsy to the proceedings. But before long the mood sobers, the soundscape growing dense with feverish arco and fretboard finger tapping. And then this too gives way as, moments later, Frith grabs of all things a pick to sketch out a few licks worthy of a classic rocker. At the climactic moment come Léandre’s vocalizations, stuttering and breathless, unintelligible yet deeply communicative. But the final highlight is the brief encore, packed with by now familiar ingredients but compacted into a combustible mass that well earns its minute-long applause.

(Review courtesy of Eric McDowell and freejazzblog.org)


CD6: Joëlle Léandre solo - June 14, 2005 - Radio France - La voix est Libre, Paris

Ever since her first album, playing solo bass has been a way of expressing her music, her self, and Joëlle Léandre has kept releasing solo bass albums over the years, sometimes re-issuing vinyl albums on CD with some changes, or just re-issuing older material as with "No Comment", reviewed earlier this week.

Here is the list of her solo bass albums, with re-issues mentioned on the same line:

    Taxi (1982) & Urban Bass (1991)
    Sincerely (1985)
    Solo Bass - Live At Otis, Hiroshima (1999)
    No Comment (2001) and (2016)
    Concerto Grosso - Live At Gasthof Heidelberg (2005) (double CD)
    At The Le Mans Festival (2006)
    Live In Israel (2008)
    Live From The Issue Project Room (Free Music Archive, 2010)
    Solo (2011)
    Wols Circus (2012)

On the five tracks of this album, she shows how she has evolved over the years, playing with certitude and full abandon, doing what she thinks is necessary to be herself while at the same time keeping the audience's attention. And the audience is great. They laugh at her free word associations in French, the silliness and the anger of the words, the fun of it. They applaud with enthusiasm after each of the pieces. She gives it all, and she shows it all, the mournful acro-playing, with gut-piercing sounds that resonate between full sound and flageolets, repetitively so, the vocalising with whispered intensity over obstinate and maniacal bowing, the variation between intensity and calm, between rhythmic hypnotic bursts and more intimate caresses of the strings, the insistent whispers and shouts that appear on each track, as part of her art, as a release of anger that tries to find an escape route, the full power staccato bowing on two strings, the rumbling of the wood, the muscular tension and brutal force, the sounding board being slapped, the more intimate, calmer moments with unison spiritual singing, and then giving even more, the extreme beauty of the dark strings resonating together under her bow, moving every note to a higher, more meaningful plane, something that is beyond classification yet that has universal depth and scope, something deeply human that needs precision and tenderness and sounds that are fluent and dissonant to come to live and ends in sustained silence, fully appreciated by this audience of connoisseurs.

(review courtesy of Stef and freejazzblog.org)

CD7: Joëlle Léandre, Zlatko Kaučič, Evan Parker, Agustí Fernández Quartet

Joëlle Léandre is a musician of many registers, mining the possibilities of her instrument in multifarious settings. Yet it’s not often we hear her in what might be thought of as the standard configuration of tenor saxophone (Evan Parker) piano (Agustí Fernández) double-bass and drums (Zlatko Kaučič), recorded here at the now ubiquitous Alchemia Club, Kraków in October last year.

The grouping is probably the only standard thing about the quartet. The four equally tasked protagonists start with a series of compressed bursts, clearing the air. The abbreviated gestures are gradually opened out into a tessellated patchwork of notes and dense textures familiar from Parker and Fernández’ own quartet work, developing into a kinetic frenzy. As it fades, Léandre emerges with a chant over growling bass, taken up by Parker’s split notes and embellished with chimes from piano and percussion. The consistency thickens with Léandre stirring away, inciting cluster runs up and down the keyboard.

Their next piece is sparser. It opens with soft piano chords, pizzicato bass, Kaučič’s brushes and the bare bones of an Arabic-tinged melody from Parker, whose playing has become even more nuanced in recent years. It comes to rest on a bowed pedal chord from Léandre and develops into a duet between bass and saxophone, joined by clockwork piano and lightweight drums as the pace quickens. There’s then a timbral pollination as the whole quartet indulge in scuffs and squeaks from which the tenor emerges with Parker’s typical, roughhewn phrases.

The final piece is just Léandre and Parker, knotted together throughout in a dazzling display of breakneck exchange, shadowing, anticipation and response. Occasionally, Parker’s circular breathing rises to the surface and the piece concludes with his glimmering waves set against scuttling bass.

A fine example of Léandre’s skills as an ensemble musician, in a quartet from whom it would be good to hear more.

(review courtesy of Colin Green and freejazzblog.org)

CD8: Joëlle Léandre: Duos with Zlatko Kaučič, Evan Parker, Agustí Fernández

Two days later the same musicians were back on stage, but in the more familiar format of duos with Léandre (her preferred formation). For Léandre, the double-bass “needs to be filled with everything you have, your whole self, muscles, body and soul.” In these duos we hear this powerful physical sensibility at work, full of animation and activity, always challenging her partner to give more.

In her two duos with Kaučič, crafted textures, resonant with overtones, are atomised and dispersed by his brittle percussion, shattering into fine-scale incidents – brutal and strangely beautiful. The opening and closing of Léandre’s duo with Fernández is also percussive with the latter using the piano’s internals to produce exotic washes. In the central section, her gnarled bass lines are sensuously tactile, tracing a simple melody against the piano’s darting runs and pounding chords.

As with the quartet, the performance ends with Léandre and Parker. They move from a weightless state – multiphonics and plucked harmonics – to the shimmering movement of oscillations and tremolos and then back, for a hushed close.

Léandre has said:

"I have a fundamental belief in tradition, no-one comes from no-where. You have to learn, and then learn to un-learn. And then you’re on your own. It takes twenty-five years to learn, and as much time to un-learn."

She started playing a plastic penny whistle at eight, so we should now be hearing her at her peak, something comfortably borne out by the contents of this box set.

(review courtesy of Colin Green and freejazzblog.org)

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How do you sum up the career of an improvising artist like Joëlle Léandre? Do you reissue a package of recordings from her 40 years of performance? That is probably not possible, given the multiple labels and the location and ownership of the masters. Besides, free improvisation, almost by definition, dissipates (or probably should dissipate) upon performance. Recordings contain only a fraction of the whole experience. When it comes to Léandre's oeuvre, total immersion in her music is the only way, apart from experiencing her perform, to get a sense of her presence on the bandstand. She is a performer who commands the same attention as her peers Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, and Anthony Braxton.

Born in Provence, she studied with John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Giacinto Scelsi. Her adoption of free improvised music found her in the company of Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, Lol Coxhill, and George Lewis. More importantly, she found her contemporaries in the bassists William Parker, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips, and Peter Kowald. Like her fellows who have had significant retrospective boxsets, Kowald's Discography (Jazzwerkstatt, 2014), and the documentation of Parker's early works Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987NoBusiness, 2012) and Solo Bass: Crumbling In The Shadows Is Fraulein Miller's Stale Cake (AUM/Centering, 2011), this 8-CD set allows for an immersion in Léandre's music. That is, at least her activities for the past 10 years. No collection could possibly embrace the depth of her career, especially the ephemeral nature that is improvised music.

Caution. Stepping into this stream of her career is habit-forming and can lead the listener back-and-forth through her hundreds of recordings and four decades of performance.

This set kicks off with a performance by the group Les Diaboliques, a trio of Léandre, British vocalist Maggie Nicols and Swiss pianist Iréne Schweizer. Their quarter of a century collaboration is part cabaret/part improvisation. This selection of their work comes from a concert in Moscow in 2015, and the trio's feminist leanings are one display. That is, if the listener harbors any doubts as to women's role in free improvisation, a genre historically dominated by men. Listening to the strength of Schweizer's playing (cue her solo on the untitled 5th track) eliminates any doubts as to her place among modern improvisers. Maybe it is not an issue these days, okay let's pray it is not an issue these days (as it might have been in the 1960s), for these three woman to take the stage at a Company Week or Freedom In The City series. Nicols' wordless vocals and Leandre's arco bow work speak a strange and beautiful new dialect.

Disc two finds the bassist in a duo setting with violinist Mat Maneri. Recorded in Paris 2011, this is the first documentation of the pair in this setting. Together they recorded as the Judson Trio with Gerald Cleaver and The Stone Quartet with Roy Campbell and Marilyn Crispell. This two-stringed approach works well as both a gentle, alluring bowed meditation and a noisy scraping abrade-fest. Of all the discs included, this duo exhibits the greatest range between low and high ends. Maneri and Léandre developed into a perfect complement to so many artists of late, this duo begs for more performances.

Disc three finds Léandre in company of American avant-garde vocalist Lauren Newton. Recorded in Besançon in 2016, the music swoops between a wordless new language and sung lyrics. Newton has the ability to imitate both the arco and pizzicato bowing techniques Léandre employs. Highlights here include the bassist joining Newton in vocals and also the final story of an old woman trying to coax a pig home from the market, an explosive Old MacDonald song.

In November of 2015, Léandre performed with French trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo. It appears this was the first time the pair have recorded together. His playing has the vocal agility of Peter Evans' trumpet mixed with the stateliness of (dare I say?) Wynton Marsalis. Under the firm bow of Léandre's hand, the pair produce an imagined soundtrack to silent movies, making this the most unanticipated of the discs.

If the Cappozzo duo was unexpected, Léandre's work with the guitarist Fred Frith is like coming home to a familiar meal. Their duets are the most casually agreeable of the eight discs. Agreeable, but not necessarily the calmest. The pair make both the most intimate and the most raucous sound here. At times they sound as if they are scoring the soundtrack for a Warner Brothers' cartoon and then they are spinning the dials on a sort of radio that flows from folk to ambient to noise.

Spread over two discs are Léandre's collaboration with saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Agusti Fernandez, and drummer/percussionist Zlatko Kaucic. This assembled supergroup, one suspects the brainchild of Not Two records, was presented at the 2015 Krakow Jazz Festival. This session could have easily been recorded as a part of Derek Bailey's Company Week. Combining players is a tricky task, but these four are more than compatible. They are the definition of kindred spirits. They play as a quartet for two of the seven tracks, the other five are duos. Parker gets two tracks with Leandre, as does Kaucic. Léandre's magic is revealed here, especially in the duos. She has the ability, as all great bassists do, to push the sound in different directions, control the volume and emotion of the music, all done in a very covert way. Her presence looks large in the company of each musician and together in quartet.

Of course she must be presented solo in the boxset. The producer selected a 2005 Paris concert as a summing up of Léandre in this context. The five tracks present a multifaceted artist in full bloom. She plays with the same passion we hear in Barry Guy's music and creates the same energies William Parker finds. It's her vocalizations, among other things, that distinguish this performance. Because this medium is only one of sound, the physicality of her performance must be felt and not seen. Léandre is a dynamic performer, combining her inexhaustible energy with meditative quietude. These performances have a charismatic feel, even when she is riffing in French. Léandre's inexhaustible energy does create fatigue, though. It is best consumed in small doses over a long, enjoy-the-ride, long period of time.

(review courtesy of Mark Corroto and AllAboutJazz.com

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Caemos con frecuencia en un tic identitario, en un cómodo todo sobre lo que no es sino una minúscula (y, con probabilidad, poco representativa) parte. Al presentar un disco cuyo autor procede de un determinado país, decimos que es música de ese país. Jazz británico, jazz francés, jazz español..., como si eso explicara algo. En algunos casos, la música puede contener trazas identificables de la estética cultural de un país, pero me atrevería a decir que en la mayoría no. Hay, claro, música estandarizada, consecuencia en gran medida de la globalización de la industria cultural (sea o no ésto un oxímoron). Puestos entonces a ofrecer etiquetas identitarias, una aproximativa sería la de música anglosajona, propietaria casi única de los altavoces de la globalización.

Desde la anodina España, algunos miramos con envidia a nuestros vecinos del norte. Quizá más por intuición que por conocimiento real, atisbamos que la luz de la ilustración comienza al otro lado de los Pirineos. Recitamos como un mantra la 'ley de intermitencia' francesa, a la que defendemos como modelo de protección laboral de los artistas, e incluso vemos las películas francesas que llegan a nuestra cartelera con la admiración de quien se fascina con la madurez creativa. Y en esto llega Jöelle Léandre y te espeta: “Siempre me he sentido extranjera en mi país. El teléfono no suena demasiado. […] Yo no represento al jazz francés. Francia realmente no me da de comer”. Y uno pensaba que el paraíso de la cultura no le quedaba muy lejos.

Léandre, (Aix-en-Provence,1951) celebra cuarenta años de actividad profesional y es Polonia quien la felicita. Siendo más precisos, el sello NotTwo, con sede en Cracovia, quizá uno de los últimos reductos de la edición insensata de música a contracorriente. Ocho discos con ocho conciertos registrados en 2015 y 2016, con dos excepciones: un solo de 2005 (grabado por el programa de referencia de la improvisación en la radio pública francesa, “A L'improviste”) y un dúo en 2011 con el violinista Mat Maneri. Precisamente abundan aquí los dúos, algunos con precedentes discográficos (casos de los que mantiene con la cantante estadounidense Lauren Newton y con el trompetista Jean-Luc Cappozzo) y otros inéditos, como el fascinante, hipnótico y vibrante que establece con el guitarrista Fred Frith, en una grabación de junio de este mismo año. Son en total diez los músicos que comparten escenario con la contrabajista (definición muy estrecha para alguien que más que instrumentista, es un instrumento en sí misma): todos ellos (y ellas) voces de relevancia en el ámbito de las músicas improvisadas. Representantes genuinos de sí mismos.

Quizá por ello, por ser tan autónomos, tan alérgicos a una catalogación -como lo es en sí la carrera de Joëlle Léandre-, apenas les llaman en casa. La autonomía y la independencia implican un rechazo al molde que otros eligieron por nosotros y que la mayoría pareció aceptar como ley natural. Toda autoafirmación conlleva una ruptura y toda ruptura conlleva rechazos. En el arte, muchas veces lleva a la indigencia. Pero la vida de Léandre es un cúmulo de rupturas y nuevos caminos (de la formación clásica a las vanguardias compositivas y de éstas a la improvisación a través del jazz) hasta llegar a asentarse como la mujer libre que es, como la creadora autónoma e ingobernable que transmite ser, lo que se traduce en sonidos tan densos como livianos, tan circunspectos como cómicos (en varios momentos el público ríe... ¡Ah! ¿No era ésta música para gente a la que le gusta sufrir?). Extremos expresivos que sólo son posibles cuando sobre el escenario se es uno mismo al desnudo, con lo que ello implica de anulación de todo sentido del ridículo. Y en ello Léandre resulta magistral. Sola sobre el escenario se sirve y se sobra para llenarlo con ese contrabajo que danza y se balancea en oleadas de sonido, que a veces habla (como un timbre más de sus cuerdas vocales) y otras parece ser el lamento del muelle azotado por el mar, un rugido que puede proceder tanto del blues más oscuro de la América profunda como de los densos bosques del norte de Europa.

Es difícil establecer una jerarquía del valor dentro de una carrera discográfica cuando, como es el caso, el nombre de Joëlle Léandre figura en aproximadamente 200 grabaciones. Lo que sí se puede decir de este A woman's work... es que es una espléndida celebración de cuarenta años de profesión de una voz única de la música creativa, relevante tanto por la insobornable personalidad de los músicos que participan como por la diversidad de opciones que plantea, con el dúo como rey. Del solo al cuarteto, pasando por los dúos y ese trío “feminista” bautizado con Les Diaboliques que comparte con Maggie Nicols e Irène Schweizer, con el que se abre una caja que se cierra con una batería de breves solos en los que participa el pianista Agustí Fernández (una constatación más de la posición de privilegio que ocupa el mallorquín en la música improvisada, fruto de mucho esfuerzo, talento y constancia en su afirmación), al que “curiosamente” también Polonia le invitó en su momento a celebrar 60 años de vida y arte, como atestigua la caja River Tiger Fire.

Acostumbrados como estamos a la edición de todo tipo de cajas de artistas ya difuntos de la historia del jazz, recopilaciones más o menos cuidadas y abaratadas por cuestiones de propiedad legal de la música, merece apoyar y reconocer el mérito (o la insensatez) de quienes en este momento de la hecatombe de la venta de discos físicos apuestan por la música de sus contemporáneos en ediciones tan ambiciosas como ésta dedicada a Léandre. Como ella misma defendería, den de comer a los vivos y den la espalda a la “estúpida cultura de la repetición” en la que vivimos. La ampliación del horizonte sólo puede traer cosas buenas, como que el teléfono suene cada vez un poco menos.

(Carlos Pérez Cruz, elclubdejazz.com)

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