Joëlle Léandre

Signature (Two Duets)

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This double-CD set sells at the price of a single disc for one good reason: its total duration is only 65 minutes. That's just information for you, not a reason to put Signature (Two Duets) down at all. This album brings together two concerts recorded on consecutive days in December 2000 at the Egg Farm, pairing French bassist Joëlle Léandre with two different Japanese pianists, Masahiko Satoh and Yuji Takahashi. Léandre's partner on disc one is Satoh, and the half-hour set is comprised of seven short pieces titled "Signature 1" through "7." Described as the jazziest of the two pianists, Satoh possesses a light touch, a contemplative mood, and a good ear; the music manages to stir the soul while it challenges the mind. "Signature 4" is candy to the free improv fan's ears. Disc 2 features Léandre and Takahashi in seven more pieces, this time titled "Signature A" through "G." Takahashi lets his background in classical music show a bit more than her compatriot. It does not translate into rigidity, but maybe a more mannered approach to improvisation ("Signature G" revolves around some very classical ornamental figures). Takahashi takes the lead more often, but Léandre gracefully surrenders, listening intently to find her way into the music. Paradoxically, this second set sounds more deeply involved. Calmer than usual by Léandre's standards (and lacking her trademark moans and grunts except for one isolated outburst), Signature (Two Duets) is not one of her best albums, although it may signal a subtle change of direction.

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