Seven months after the release of the conceptual album Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Ramon Lopez delivered a very different CD, Aux Portes du Matin (At Morning's Door), his third release on Leo Records. Recorded live at Les Instants Chavirés in Montreuil (France), it features the drummer engaged in free improvising with pianist Christine Wodrascka. This is a typical release for Leo: the musicians are barely known outside their home country, the instrumentation is anything but impressive, and yet the music surprises and charms. Lopez' rock-meets-jazz-meets-improv vocabulary was not an obvious match for Wodrascka's contemporary classical and power free flavors. Her hammering in "Fuis!" ("Flee!") and "Il Sait Mal Ce Qu'est la Liberté" ("He Hardly Knows What Liberty Is") sounds inspired by Cecil Taylor and mostly Fred Van Hove, with whom she has performed. Lopez' playing is inventive and destabilizing, but the pianist steals the show, taking chances, confronting the drummer, cornering him at times. Her playing on the instrument's strings in "L'Heure de la Dance" ("Dance Hour") allows room only for light brush work, bringing the CD to a paradoxical finale, soft yet manic. Although Aux Portes du Matin is not "album of the year" material, it packs a highly enjoyable artistic surprise under inconspicuous clothes.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture