Martinique vocalist Francine Luce has long been known to musicians on the free improv scene -- especially in Europe, though the late Lester Bowie was one of her biggest fans and influences -- without stabling much of a rep outside of her peer group. Largely this is due to a lack of touring opportunities. Luce recruited the cream of the African and European improv scene to help her out on this one -- Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Keith Tippett, Louis Moholo, Claude Deppa, and Paul Rogers -- and the proof is in this rather spicy stew. In Luce's world, song forms of all kind are reconciled -- sometimes kicking and screaming but reconciled nonetheless -- to improvisation. Like Julie Tippetts, Luce uses the song lyric as a way to break from traditional lyric singing into dissonances that are so far outside the structure of a given piece, they fit perfectly. Her soundboard is huge and is pushed to its breaking limit by Tippett on "Au Fil du Temps," where groaning, screaming, shrieking, and moaning are all part and parcel of the deep night sounds propelled by Moholo and Tippett and addressed by the others. On "Recontre," Parker offers a microtonal base of microphonic notes and phrases. Rutherford's trombone opens up more space by playing drones, and Deppa's flugelhorn offers a muted, barely moving timbral palette to get her on her way. She sings right through the middle of her accompaniment, creating her own rhythmic sensibilities, which Moholo is only too happy to accommodate. The set closes with "Luna," a duet between Luce and Rogers, who bows his double bass throughout the tune. The account is a folk song that traverses the ages and continents; there are elements of African griot-style storytelling and French chanson as she swoops though his long, longer, longer still lines that shimmer with just intonation against and inside her voice. This is a stunning closer, one that seems to reverberate long after the last notes have been heard.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek