Indisputably, Joëlle Léandre and William Parker are two of the world's most accomplished improvising contrabassists. In addition to working histories and discographies of dizzying depth and magnitude, Léandre's close collaborative relationships with composers John Cage and Giacinto Scelsi, and Parker's adventures as a member of the Cecil Taylor Unit constitute important clues to the joyous mystery of each individual's artistic development over the years. "Contrabasses," an album of their duo and solo improvisations, was released by Leo Records in 1998. More than a decade later, the pair performed together at the Sons d'Hiver music festival near Paris. The resultant album, Live at Dunois, issued by Leo in 2009, is a celebration involving nearly every sound that it is possible to make with this type of musical instrument, in addition to periodic irruptions of the human voice. Both individuals are extremely adept with the bow, and much of what is preserved here entails exploration into the multiphonic possibilities of arco technique. Here the bassists proceed intuitively, pursuing a gloriously unconventional itinerary, which is rooted in their lifelong devotion to the art of free improvisation. Certainly as much as anywhere else and possibly more so than ever before, Léandre and Parker align themselves and their instruments in such a way as to suggest that an intuitive improviser is also a force of nature. They accomplish this by holding true to a rubric from John Cage: "Let sound be what it is."
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