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December 2000

Joelle Leandre Project
The Joelle Leandre Project
Leo Records

Joelle Leandre is a virtuoso bassist in the tradition of Bertram Turetsky and Barre Phillips, an explorer of new sounds and sensibilities. She scours the interstices of free improvisation and the post-serial compositional strategies of Cage and Scelsi for fresh, sometimes counter-intuitive slants on performance. Even in settings where Leandre is the titular leader, such as the Canvas Trio, with violinist Carlos Zingaro and saxophonist Rudiger Carl, she employs a thoroughly collective approach to improvisation. Leandre, in fact, works so often in duo and trio settings, that the quintet assembled for Joelle Leandre Project is adequate cause for its investigation.

The rule of thumb that the risk of muddled, unfocused improvisations rises exponentially with each additional person on the bandstand doesn't apply with the stellar company Leandre keeps on this concert recording: Zingaro, pianist Marilyn Crispell, synth wizard Richard Teitelbaum and percussionist Paul Lovens. To vary the program, Leandre deploys her colleagues in duo and trio configurations throughout the nine improvisations, which produces startling exchanges like the duo between Crispell and Teitelbaum. Still, there is the same keen attention to the unfolding of the music in the full ensemble passages, as well. At full throttle, this ensemble is overwhelming, but its music is just as compelling at a whisper.

Originally published in December 2000
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