Joëlle Léandre, Maguelone Vidal, Raymond Boni — Trace (Red Toucan, 2009)
Joëlle Léandre is one of those wandering improvisers, an instigator who swoops into town, records with a couple of new or old friends, then moves on. Obviously, this gives each recording a different character, but they’re always anchored by her meaty, almost visual style of bass.
One thing that’s consistent is the setting, always laced with subtlety. Léandre favors bandmates who respect silences without using outright pauses; it’s not lowercase improvising, because there’s a constant sense of motion, but the pace can be relaxed, the volumes less than 11 or even 8. Trace, with Maguelone Vidal on sax (especially soprano) and Raymond Boni on guitar (electric or acoustic), fits that mold.
Without drums, it’s nice to hear how the trio pauses and breathes, tiny stops that punctuate what could otherwise be a rather shrill performance. Vidal gets some abrasive whines out of the soprano on tracks like “Joseph et Joseph” or “Tractile” — long, slow howls that make a nice table-setter for Leandre’s busy basswork, especially when she’s playing arco.
There are definite classical overtones on tracks like “Gros Dilemme” — and not just because the bowed bass can sound so classical. It’s the saxophone there that seems, in spots, to be following the carefully carved lines of a recital, spices with occasional, small knots of fast-jazz skronking.
The album is sometimes spare and often slow, but comes across as extroverted. There’s some nice bluster, on “Tube,” for instance. But I’m drawn toward “Des Prunes,” which takes the bluster down a notch but still keeps an aggressive, dark momentum rolling … or “Cumuls,” a languid piece with relaxed (but shrill) soprano sax.