Joëlle Léandre - At Souillac en Jazz

Ken Waxman, JazzWord

Proficient in many modes of improvised and aleatoric music, double bassist Joëlle Léandre, who seems to have played with every major figure in creative music, occasionally turns inwards and create solo sessions.
At Souillac en Jazz, live in Calès preserves a French festival concert of six connected and two post-concert string demonstrations. Resembling the movements of a suite, but without rigid formalism, Léandre, who has released solo sessions since the 1980s, offers the enthusiastic audience instances of her texture- shaping double bass designs. With a full rich timbre she introduces the program with positioned downward sweeps and repetitions, along with sporadic vocal cries. Without any lessening of motion or pitch she pushes the exposition to an allegro climax. More ruggedly with col legno string smashes she quickens the statement, alternating between holding onto to the diffuse centre of gravity and singular plinks, inflating the narrative. This means sul tasto plops and slaps evolve in double counterpoint alongside distinctive vocalizing that vacillates between warbling tones and Bedlam free association. Before a pause and an interlude on “Calès V”, where she gives vent to Gallic speaking in tongues, “Calès IV”, provides the best instance of her sophisticated arco strategy. Initially andante and moderato, she extends the line through barbed pumps, reaching a crescendo of polyphonic tones that connect to the subsequent sections, harmonizing not just pointed and pastoral bow thrusts, but also a dialogue of gravelly low-pitched or lyrical elevated voices. The concluding “Calès VI” fans textures into a kaleidoscope of widened timbres by perfectly balancing string pushes. This is followed by a coda where she performs a self-contained lullaby, sardonically proposed in a loud pseudo lyric voice. The two private after-set briefly confirm her studied strategy with linear stops that fill in any remaining sound gaps.
A fully realized program, At Souillac en Jazz shows what can be done during a solo recital.