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Léandre/Houle/Strid - Last Seen Headed

Eyal Hareuveni, AllAboutJazz

It is always amazing, but also reassuring, to realize how three creative and resourceful musicians—French bassist Joëlle Léandre, Canadian clarinetist François Houle and Swedish drummer Raymond Strid— can produce such a masterful piece of art out of a spontaneous free-improvised meeting. Obviously, all three have shared the same stage or studio in the past, most recently on 9 Momemts (Red Toucan, 2006), and are masters in free improvisation—in solo formats or in assorted ad-hoc outfits—but still, each new collaboration sounds fresh and full of vitality. 
This live recording from January 2009 captures an improvised set from the annual Sons d'Hiver festival, in a suburb of Paris. The opening sounds hesitant and even abstract, but the three musicians quickly form a texturally and cohesively sonic statement. Their interplay, as can be expected from such experienced improvisers, is sharp and fast, as in a dense stream-of-thoughts talk, where every association triggers another one, and where every gesture is mirrored with a challenging one. All evolves in an organic manner, shines with empathy and sensitiveness, and serves the ego-less, mutual creation of this high art. 
The trio's vocabulary is enormous in its scope of references, from the hypnotic and fragile Far-Eastern sounds of "Last Seen Headed II" to the muscular and extroverted "Last Seen Headed III," or the ironic, operatic vocals of Léandre on "Last Seen Headed 5" (begging the question: when will Léandre record a solo album of herself vocalizing her stream-of-thought texts?), full of rich and intimate nuances, adventurous risk-taking, and cumulative power and energy. 
With Last Seen Headed: Live at Sons d'Hiver, Léandre, Houle and Strid have produced another excellent document of freely improvised music.