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Joëlle Léandre & Pascal Contet - 3

Massimo Ricci, The Squid's Ear

Whenever the name Jöélle Léandre appears on a record, we instinctively anticipate ebullience and humor in direct proportion to an indisputable technical expertness. The French bassist has shown time and again that theatrics and instrumental inventiveness can go a long way when applied in well-balanced doses. However, in the third recorded duet with accordionist Pascal Contet (a comrade for 20 years now), which follows releases on Concord and Clean Feed, the term "comprovisation" utilized by the musicians reflects the large part of the sonic circumstances. This music sounds tight and exquisitely organized, including the moderately seismic regions ("Soixante", also the lone track where Léandre's increasing intensity is made explicit through typically over-strung vocalism).

Contet is an excellent administrator of his partner's volubleness; the accordion's range represents a productive harmonic ground to complement pizzicato evolutions and arco-induced slanted melismas ("Vingt-neuf"). The ability to add or subtract layers over perpetually changing melodic visions cements hints of countless sub-genres and offhand sketches into a substantiation of sublime musicianship. Clusters and arias, multi-idiom fusions, an impressive dynamic gamut; all of this would be less serviceable if, at the basis of everything, we could not detect the bilateral confidence developed by Léandre and Contet along two decades. One clearly sees all the junctions and the breaks, looking at the totality as a mix of abstraction and stubbornness.

And yet, the most effective joy is brought by those born-from-nowhere instants of cloudless gracility — to be found in various parts of the initial "Quatre" or at the beginning of "Seize", for example — where the fruits of a lifetime of exploration, practice and understanding of the vibrational properties turn on a bright light. Right then and there, this listener becomes grateful for having been given a chance of witnessing such a resounding reciprocation of innermost movements.