Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sylvie Courvoisier - Lonelyville (Intakt Records 2007)

Intakt Records 2007


Lonelyville is one of those great recent improvisational records that manage to combine discord with harmony and heaviness with lightness and never fall short anywhere along the way. Sylvie Courvoisier, a vanguard of contemporary European music, leads the way with her chopping chordal rampages on the piano. The classically trained pianist has a good ear for composition, rhythm and texture and is able to carve a sense of coherence throughout the record that the other members of the quintet can then play around with. It also helps that the members of the quintet are some of the most respected and pioneering members of the musical avant-garde and have worked together before.

On Courvoisier and Feldman's previous album, recorded for John Zorn's Book of Angels series, the interplay between Courvoisier's heavy piano and Feldman's soaring violin was very fluid, playing more on texture than colour, but on this record, it's much more striking and probably the best thing they've ever done together. `Texturologie' begins with the cold and rather beautiful violin work of Feldman, but is soon accompanied by Ikue Mori's otherworldly electronics, Cleaver's gentle cymbal tapping and the earthly sounding cello of Vincent Courtois. But before long the haunting passage is over, the drums gradually begin to kick up more noise and Courvoisier's comes in striking a rampage of notes on her piano, only to explode into brief silence and then a delicate cello solo. But moments later, it breaks out again in ferocity with a wonderfully colourful interplay between the players. This is one of those records that has that rare electricity between the players that makes improvisational music so exciting.

At each moment, the music is rich with both colour and texture, whether it's the bizarre soundwork of Mori, the sliding violin work of Feldman, the delicate plucking of Courtois on his cello or Courvoisier's smashing blocks of sound on the piano. And Cleaver succeeds in holding everything in place with his complex rhythmical foundation. Lonelyville strikes a perfect balance between improvisation and composition and it's a treat to listen to. Anyone who's a fan of pianist Cecil Taylor's free jazz work of the sixties and seventies is sure to find something to enjoy here.


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