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Radio ›› Joëlle Léandre
Out of Nowhere
Closing (2008), 6m30s [excerpt]
Track 11 from Out of Nowhere
CD: Ambiances Magnétiques (2008) AM 184

Artists ›› Joëlle Léandre

  • Articles about Joëlle Léandre

    Record reviews are found in the pages for each disc (via the discography tab).

    2 December 2011
    By Marc Chénard in La Scena Musicale (Québec), December 2, 2011

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    “French double bassist Joëlle Léandre is surely the best known to anyone interested in the area of freely improvised musics.”

    On the short list of name guest performers participating in this year’s festival, French double bassist Joëlle Léandre is surely the best known to anyone interested in the area of freely improvised musics. On the second evening, this musician was heard in two separate sets: starting off with a rather perfunctory half hour solo outing, Léandre was joined by the local Ambiances Magnétiques collective of free improvisers (7 in total comprised of its most usual suspects, Jean Derome, Lori Freedman, Joane Hétu, Jean René, Bernard Falaise, Danielle Palardy Roger, and a relative newcomer to the crowd, trombonist Scott Thompson. After the very well attended opening night double bill, turnout on this evening was rather thin, in spite of much advance billing and promotion. Because of this, there was a lack of atmosphere felt in the usually warm confines or the Lion d’Or, an old-theater space with much character to it. After more than three decades of professional activity and countless solo performances under her belt, Léandre’s musical world is well-established by now, and she offerred her usual fair, bowing for the most part (expected from any classically trained player) and indulging in her semi-onomatopeic vocalese while sawing away on her strings. She has recorded several solo albums over the years, and any of these are far more inspiring than this performance was. After the pause, she melted in the background with the ensemble, though she contributed one piece as an opener to the proceedings. This and the remaining numbers (one even played twice) were more like compositional frameworks, guiding the players according to a number of loosely defined parameters. Listeners familiar with this kind of ’open-ended’ music making know that misses are inevitable, even if they hope to get enough hits to make the evening worthwhile. Truthfully, the latter were in short supply on that night, leaving us with a little too many of the former.

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    1 October 2011
    By Annie Landreville in La Scena Musicale #17:2 (Québec), October 1, 2011

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    1 December 2009
    By Ken Waxman in Musicworks #105 (Canada), December 1, 2009

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    7 July 2009
    By Guillaume Belhomme in Les Inrockuptibles #710 (France), July 7, 2009

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    1 June 2008
    By Jérôme Noetinger in Revue & Corrigée #76 (France), June 1, 2008

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    26 March 2008
    By Kate Molleson in The Gazette (Québec), March 26, 2008

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    “What distinguished last night’s group was how varied and refined the sounds were.”

    French improv bassist Joëlle Léandre has a mighty impressive biography — she’s worked with Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, John Zorn — and judging by her appearance at La Sala Rossa last night, she’s a fierce enough lady to live up to it.

    She arrived late, hair wild and dress scruffy black, peered callously into the audience and picked up her instrument. Waiting for her on stage were local musique-actuelle fixtures Jean Derome and Danielle Palardy Roger, both impressive and fearless improvisers. Together the three produced an hour of music that, though not for the faint-hearted, passed through moments of surprising beauty.

    The process would be familiar to most improvisers: One musician introduces an idea — a short melody or rhythm or sound or gesture, or even, in Léandre’s case, fragments of spoken words — then the others play with and around it. The idea develops and eventually morphs into other ideas. Hopefully, somewhere in the process, the group will have arrived at some interesting sounds.

    What distinguished last night’s group was how varied and refined the sounds were. Derome played alto and baritone sax, flute and alto flute, and came equipped with an arsenal of toys: ocarinas, slide whistles, things that scrape and scratch and pop and hoot. His saxophone sound is aggressive, but works fabulously in this context, and I love the way he hints at standard jazz gestures amidst the abstract swells and screeches.

    Léandre, meanwhile, commands her bass forcibly, producing uncanny wails and sniffles and, at one point, a smacking walking bass line. She uses her bow a lot, more than most jazz bass players dare, and to great effect. When things got really heated, she’d wave the bow around in the air to make swooshing noises. It’s a visual spectacle (one reason I have trouble listening to this kind of music on record) and Léandre’s fierce personality became integral to the performance.

    People have strong feelings about this kind of improvised music (my brother, for example, calls it ‘public wanking’). Some say it’s intimidating because it’s so experimental, but I reckon that it’s because it is just so experimental that anybody can listen to it. You don’t need any background knowledge; the whole point is to experience the sounds as they come. In that sense, it’s very accessible.

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    1 February 2001
    By Frank Rubolino in Cadence #27:2 (USA), February 1, 2001

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    “These duets represent two very talented artists.”

    Léandre is very much at home in the duet setting having used this format on several recent recordings with different partners and instrumentation. On, she and drummer Roger speak in very personal tones that bring out the esthetic beauty of their two instruments. Léandre initiates the action with a vigorous display of arco playing, to which Roger simultaneously responds with a deft, sensitive drum touch. Roger uses bells cymbals, and other percussion devices to establish a serene mood. This state is temporary for she becomes more aggressive in response to the physicality displayed by Léandre. The bassist moves gracefully from bowing to plucking and back again, projecting hugely rich tones containing muscular strength and power. In step, Roger shrouds the output with quickly emerging splats of brush and stick work to set a galloping pace for the two women.

    The program consists of nine exercises in bass/ drum intercommunication. Either artist is likely to set the direction. On Jeux de mains, Roger uses her hands and palms to rub abrasive textures into the song, which causes Léandre to become somewhat percussive herself as she aggressively taps the strings The rhythm patterns are not completely atonal. An occasional tangible beat will suddenly emerge and then flee as quickly as it appeared. On au clair de lune, Léandre plays a mournful strain while Roger is in complete contrast with spontaneous and rapid spitfires of sound. Throughout, the music is cloaked in density and weightiness. The foreboding overtones give way to hopefulness and then recede back in an undercurrent of darkness. Léandre vocally injects the spirit of the Native American on Coupes blanches, and the ethnic beat of Roger matches. These duets represent two very talented artists. painting a formidable picture of intense audibility. There is no need for any other instrument on this set. Léandre and Roger say it all.

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    1 January 2001
    By Luc Bouquet in ImproJazz #71 (France), January 1, 2001

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    “A Joëlle la terre, l’enracinement, le terreau constructif. A Danielle la fausse fragilité, la légèreté céleste.”

    Première rencontre? Rien ne nous l’indique, si ce n’est cette force des premières fois, tellement perceptible ici. À Joëlle la terre, l’enracinement, le terreau constructif. À Danielle la fausse fragilité, la légèreté céleste. L’une navigue entre jazz affranchi, improvisation radicale et musique contemporaine. L’autre surfe entre rock d’avant-garde, musique improvisée et conte musicale. L’une est autodidacte, l’autre pas. L’une voyage beaucoup, l’autre moins. Mais de cela, l’auditeur n’a cure et il a raison. Pas de spectaculaire ici mais de la présence avant tout. L’archet rapide, les balais tournoient, Joëlle cite un clair de lune, un chant tribal indien surgit, l’imprévue s’invite, ce vieil inattendue est encore au rendez-vous. C’est l’histoire des rencontres, des combats menés contre vents et marées. C’est l’histoire des décalages horaires, des fatigues et des courbatures. C’est l’histoire d’une musique (et de ces musiciens) qu’aucun marchand ne pourra jamais pervertir. C’est la rencontre de deux musiciennes qui jouent et tissent ensemble. Nous en sommes ici les témoins privilégiés.

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