Joëlle Léandre

Joëlle Léandre at the LeMans Jazz Festival

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The 2005 edition of the LeMans Jazz Festival included a whole series devoted to Joëlle Léandre. Between April 26 and May 1, she performed five times, with different partners, and this two-disc set culls highlights from every concert. Two sets are represented on disc one. Up first is a joyful, spirited performance by Les Diaboliques (Léandre, vocalist Maggie Nicols, and pianist Irène Schweizer), a key project in Léandre's recent career. The whimsy of this trio is elegantly counterbalanced by a duo set with William Parker, darker and more tempestuous ("Meeting Three" is one of the best improvisations these two have recorded together). Disc two covers the other three lineups, in increasing size order. Listeners are first treated to 20 minutes of a duo set with violinist India Cooke, a welcome addition to their Red Toucan CD Firedance -- this is one of Léandre's best recent collaborations, one that will stand the test of time. The same cannot be said about her work with percussionist Mark Nauseef -- their album on 482 Music is a bit anticlimactic -- but here joined by trumpeter Markus Stockhausen, they manage to pull off a fine if low-key set. The album concludes with four relatively short improvisations from a concert featuring longtime partners Paul Lovens, Sebi Tramontana, and Carlos Zingaro, a mature quartet delivering an excellent performance. Some people will notice with slight disappointment that the album features no new partnerships, only lineups that are already documented. That's true, and that's probably why Joëlle Léandre at the LeMans Jazz Festival is not a five-CD box set, but only two discs worth of highlights, which makes it all the better. All five concerts were recorded by master sound engineer Jean-Marc Foussat.

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