Michel Doneda

Temps Couché

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Three traditions, three musics? Hardly. This trio of improvisers -- Michel Doneda, soprano saxophone; Benat Achary, vocals, percussion; Kazue Sawai, koto -- forgoes all pretenses of speaking a universal language or separate ones, but instead opts for non-language, the grain of the voice itself, primal, primitive, pulled apart at its cellular level and left hanging there to intermingle with the crowd and the open air for nothing more than it is, voice. In this kind of improvisation everything is left to chance: you have a saxophonist from France who is equally comfortable with jazz and the vanguard traditions of Lacy, Braxton, and Mitchell; a Basque new music singer who has moved toward the free tradition of Phil Minton and Sainkho Namchylak, and a koto player whose instrument is so old it becomes the most versatile tool in bridging all gaps yet chooses not to. The koto with its moveable bridges can be a solo or rhythm instrument, capable of stunningly beautiful poetic passages or guttural groaning percussive plunks that sound like the voices of frogs in concert with one another. It's difficult to know what the audience at the Collegiale St-Pierre La Cour thought of this performance, or better yet, to know what they heard. On disc it sounds primal, fearsome yet haunting. There are moments of such fierceness you would swear that this trio all hated one another or were exploring the grain of the voice of rage. At other times, the lilt of grief or mourning takes hold of the proceedings, and they sing as a choir, released from their tonal restrictions and responsibilities to embrace one another in sorrow. And still at others, they sound like drunken louts on their way to yet another tavern to piss off the locals. It's difficult to describe what is heard here, because it so foreign, it's not even exotic, just alien. And how beautiful that is, to think that at this point in Western culture there are still musicians capable of taking us out of ourselves and transporting us to somewhere else -- even if we (or they) don't know where we're going.

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