Joëlle Léandre

Palimpseste

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This creation by god-like bassist Joëlle Léandre and pianist Eric Watson is a genuinely rare recording. It brings two musicians from different traditions together -- the classical world (Watson) and the world of free improvisation and jazz (Léandre) -- and allows them to create a music that is neither genre, but is composed spontaneously. The first three tracks are led by Watson, whose piano sparingly submits musical palindromes for observance by Léandre, who then contributes not just what would be considered "rhythm," but literally, everything that is missing: melody, harmony, syncopation, modality, and so on. Her bow, plucked strings, and amazingly symmetrical runs, along with Watson's keyboard, reveal not instinct and discipline (who would attempt such a thing if they didn't possess at least these elements?) but deep empathy -- deep listening to what the silences call for so that an actual composition may be fleshed out. On Léandre's pieces, such as "Sediments of Sentiments," smaller textural studies are juxtaposing, reaching vocal extremities; meanwhile, Watson plays the piano's wood as a rhythm section. Gorgeously operatic, the work builds in tension and lush angularity until it literally disappears into the aether. Ultimately, that's what all 11 of these works create themselves from one or two sets of ideas -- they develop them to the breaking point and just vanish, leaving the listener in equal states of satisfaction and anticipation. Whether this work will ultimately be tagged as "classical" music or "free improvisation" is anybody's guess -- either way, it would be wrong. There is no umbrella to float this highly original series of miniatures under. It is, in its most pure and beautiful form, music.

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