Joëlle Léandre

For Flowers

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Assembled from two concerts presented on consecutive nights in June 2001, at the Orleans and La Villette jazz festivals (both in France), For Flowers reveals another of Joëlle Léandre's project-specific lineups. This is one of her best groups of the early 2000s. The compatibilities between her playing and American violinist Mat Maneri's are numerous, particularly in the complementary ways they approach microtonality. Christophe Marguet is a known drummer on the Parisian mainstream and left-field scenes, but gets his first international exposure here as a free improviser. He listens well and contributes nice textures and rhythmic counterpoint, but he remains too discreet for too long; one ends up phasing him out in favor of the two string players. The surprise factor in these concerts is Joel Ryan. The computer-based real-time sound treatments of this once member of Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble add a lot of depth, complexity, and emotional charge to the music. He is witty and quick to pick up on any sonic material offered, presenting back to the group a distorted mirror image of itself. Léandre and Maneri react strongly to his input, shifting between techniques and ideas in order to interact with these images. "Hibiscus" makes a strong opener, but fades out too quickly after four and a half minutes. Maybe the remainder of the improvisation was of a lesser quality, but as it stands, the piece ends before it has a chance to say all it tries to say and thus would have been better used later in the track list. Two strong highlights happen in "Crocus" and "Tulips," two cuts where Ryan's work takes center stage. The first piece features his manipulation of Marguet's percussion. In the second one, he focuses on the double bass and the violin, multiplying and corrupting the instruments. When Léandre begins to vocalize on top of this duet, her voice gets slowed down to the pitch of her instrument. The concluding "Iris" is the longest track at 14 minutes and, by sticking to a very quiet drone throughout, provides a rather weak anticlimax. Its sinuous textures are interesting but no match for the lively playing experienced in the first three quarters of the album.

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