Joëlle Léandre – CONCERTO GROSSO


One of the most extraordinary double bassists of the last thirty years was recorded by Jean-Marc Foussat on January 29 and 30, 2005 at Gasthof Heidelberg Loppem in Belgium, and the resulting double album is simply magnificent. Over the years, Joëlle Léandre has developed a unique style fusing edgy instability with an astonishing adeptness at determining the focal point of a phrase and building a whole instantaneous discourse thereon. Technical virtuosity is stripped of useless gimmickry, and our ears are revitalized by Léandre’s peculiar blend of instrumental activism and ferocious irony. On “Parlotte” the call-and-response game between her uttered articulations and the multitude of thumps, plucks and bowed notes that she brings forth from that “great, big, upright, impossible object” (to quote Ms Léandre’s Invisible Jukebox in The Wire a while back) is both dialogue and monologue, and fantastic music to boot. Not to mention the physical effects of the bass on the nervous system: Léandre’s imperious growl is an experience to be savoured with mucho gusto, a surround sound low-frequency fecundation of the skull. But if I had to choose a single track, I’d say “Spirale”, on which Léandre revolves around a barely determined tonal centre like a nuclear powered hurdy-gurdy, playing in and between the harmonics, adding accents, subtracting notes, and letting us gaze at a continuum that leaves us buzzing and reeling.


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