Review: freejazzblog.org
Dec. 3, 2016

Joëlle Léandre – A Woman’s Work...(Nottwo, 2016) II

CD3 - Joëlle Léandre & Lauren Newton - February 27, 2017 at Auditorium Conservatoire of Music of Besançon ****½
By Antonio Poscic

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.

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