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Before After CD Reviews from ArtsWrap, AllAboutJazz, Dusted Reviews and more!

Before After

By John Sharpe, ArtsWrap Blog, UK, April 23, 2011

Flutist Nicole Mitchell's strong attachment to the Vancouver creative scene has borne unpredictable fruit. She has been an artist in residence at the city's International Jazz Festival from 2006-2010, but it was only when bassist Joëlle Léandre was likewise featured, in 2009, that the two combined, along with Vancouver native Dylan van der Schyff behind the drums, for the performance documented here as Before After. Over four collective inventions in a 43-minute program, the three participants reach an understanding predicated upon exploration of texture, an egalitarian outlook and the unforced melding of advanced techniques. Léandre is the mistress of such irregular meetings, bringing her formidable classical technique to bear in kaleidoscopic outpouring, sometimes abrasive but not afraid to be tuneful. As always, her voice is an important part of her armory and in that she finds common ground with Mitchell whose wonderful vocalized flute lines continually dance on either side of the divide separating instrument and larynx, spiced with unexpected low growls and flutters. She sounds like no-one else, having extended the legacy of pioneering flutist James Newton, thanks to the opportunities afforded by her higher pitched voice to blend ambiguously with her instrumental sound. Van der Schyff takes a back seat in such esteemed company, but he nonetheless acquits himself well, with his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clatter providing a subtly evolving backdrop. Assured self-expression and unfettered interplay form the dominant suit. The opening "Before Before" proposes a propulsive give and take, affirming that flute and arco bass make an alluring combination, particularly noteworthy in the final interweaving of bowed harmonics and blown upper partials. Mitchell is prominent at the start of "After Before," her breathy alto flute intro demonstrating the full extent of her prowess before the Frenchwoman's energetic sawing precipitates a game of chase. Once the drummer adds momentum, Mitchell switches to piccolo, producing extreme contrasts of pitch with Léandre's rich bass register. Van der Schyff introduces "Before After" through an engaging examination of dynamics, pitching sharp crashes against faint taps and modulated percussion, presaging a duet with the bassist's darkly melodic abstractions, while the concluding "After After" revisits some of the territory from the opener after an initial duet for timbrally adventurous percussion and Mitchell's patented flute/voice amalgam. Although Léandre can tend to dominate in some settings, if anything there is a slight tentativeness to this set which occasionally cries out for someone to take proceedings by the scruff of the neck to inspire fireworks inherent in the lineup. But no matter, there should be enough sparks to satisfy followers of either woman.


Before After

By  John Eyles, Dusted Reviews, April 21, 2011

In September 2011, French double bassist Joëlle Léandre will celebrate her 60th birthday. To mark the occasion, Leo has already released a fine double-disc featuring Léandre in a tentet and a trio. Now, Before After deserves to take pride of place alongside it. Recorded live at Roundhouse Community Center, as part of the 2009 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Before After finds Léandre in a trio with Vancouver resident, drummer and percussionist Dylan van der Schyff plus Chicagoan Nicole Mitchell on flute, alto flute and piccolo.

Mitchell is a virtuoso flautist who regularly tops the Rising Star Flute section in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll, 2011 being the latest occasion. She is a fluent soloist able to improvise flowing melodic lines while maintaining a warm, full-bodied tone. Even in the upper register, she never produces the kind of shrillness that turns some listeners away from jazz flute; on the contrary, she seems likely to make converts to it. She has a particularly impressive solo feature at the start of “After Before.” (With impeccable logic, the album’s four tracks are entitled “Before Before," “After Before," “Before After” and “After After.")

With such a soloist, it would have been easy for this trio to become flute plus rhythm section — but it is not in the nature of Léandre or van der Schyff to just play that role, adept as they can be at it. Instead, the trio frequently becomes an equal three-way conversation dominated by none of them, best demonstrated on the title track. Léandre is in a characteristically playful mood, investing the music with a happy-go-lucky lightness. As so often, she underpins the trio, subtly shaping and steering its music with her contributions. In typical fashion, these include her use of voice as well as double bass.

Later on in the extended opening track, as it’s in danger of flagging, Léandre injects wordless vocals into a duet with the flute, soon joined by van der Schyff. It provides just the shot in the arm the piece requires and sees it through to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Time and again, Léandre demonstrates that she is adept in the art of the duo, either with Mitchell or van der Schyff… or even between her own bass and voice. On “After Before," we are treated to a call-andresponse section between bass and flute that bursts with playfulness and invention. The bassist does not steal the show — that would be out of character. Instead, the album ends up as a delightful case study in successful trio improvisation.


Before After

By Glenn Astartita, April 15, 2011

One of the preeminent thinkers and bassists within the modern avantjazz era, Joëlle Léandre shares equal billing on this addition to her voluminous discography. The trio's performance, at a community center in Vancouver, Canada, offers additional credence to the understanding that free improvisation must, in boundless entities and designs, be evocative and focused to become successful. This performance engenders numerous thought-provoking persuasions; austere at times, the trio flips the coin as well, by inciting a highly entertaining gameplan.

The interweaving storylines are enacted with concentrically flowing phrases and jagged edges, amid several tender spots. Léandre and flutist Nicole Mitchell are superb foils, and drive matters into submission during choice spots. The musicians transmit an organic outlook, wondrously accented by Dylan Van Der Schyff's asymmetrical rhythms, polyrhythmic rolls and enterprising approach to the drum kit.

The artists mimic moods and lash out with expansive tonal splashes to complement the largely, mind-bending mini-themes that intersect, subside and assume a natural order of growth. Mitchell's twirling lines offset a quiet rumble atop Van Der Schyff's rim shots and Léandre's nimble developments on "Before Before." Mitchell also casts an edge while the bassist's lyric-less background chanting spawns a spiritual aura, as the band proclaims glee and disillusionment, which emanates into a craftily arranged paradox. With peaks, valleys, detours and vast synergy, the trio tends to pick up steam, underscored by Léandre's ominous arco passages and diffused patterns.

Charming, witty and designed with great focus and great understanding, several of these movements come across as composite avant-garde works. The program imprints a majestic perspective on mediums previously traversed by others, making it a mystical and irrefutably persuasive exhibition for the willing listener.


Before After

By Pachi Tapiz, Tomajazz, Spain, January 26, 2011

En Before After la contrabajista Joëlle Léandre vuelve a dejar constancia de que es uno de los pesos pesados de la libre improvisación actual. Grabado en directo, en formato reducido (trío) y con una duración breve (poco más de cuarenta minutos), este CD cumple las tres condiciones que se suelen dar habitualmente en sus magníficas grabaciones.


Sus dos colegas en este concierto son la flautista de Chicago y vicepresidenta de la AACM Nicole Mitchell y el baterista canadiense de residencia Dylan van der Schiff. Los tres desarrollan distintas estrategias para crear su música a lo largo de cuatro piezas.

En "Before After" son Schiff y Léandre quienes inician el tema en dúo para que más tarde se incorpore Mitchell jugando con las sonoridades que extrae de su flauta. En "After After" cambian en parte los papeles y son la flautista y el baterista quienes inician la improvisación, mientras que la contrabajista se une a mitad de la partida creando una base que se ajusta como un guante a las largas líneas con un cierto carácter espiritual que va desgranando la flautista. "After Before", por el contrario, comienza con un solo de Mitchell. Al cabo de tres minutos, como no podría ser de otro modo se une la contrabajista para que finalmente en la tercera parte se una el baterista logrando algunos de los momentos de mayor intensidad. "Before Before" que abre el disco y es el tema más extenso (17 minutos) es distinto de los restantes ya que aquí los tres músicos comienzan al unísono con sus improvisaciones. Tanto Nicole Mitchell como Joëlle Léandre juegan aquí con sus voces consiguiendo uno de los momentos más logrados: mientras la flautist pasa su voz por el instrumento, la contrabajista se acompaña a sus cánticos aplicándose al contrabajo con el arco.

Este CD sirve, además de para consolidar la enorme entidad musical de la contrabajista francesa, para constatar que Nicole Mitchell es uno de los intérpretes de flauta en el jazz más interesantes en la actualidad. No sólamente está su liderazgo en proyectos orientados a composiciones (Black Earth Ensemble y derivados o el Indigo Trio con Hamid Drake y Harrison Bankhead) y su pertenencia a proyectos de gran entidad de Anthony Braxton (el 12+1-tet entre otros), sino también por su participación en proyectos de improvisación libre como el aquí comentado.


Before After

By Franpi Barriaux, Citizen Jazz, March 26, 2011

En cet an 2011 qui voit se multiplier les événements célébrant les soixante ans de la toujours jeune contrebassiste Joëlle Léandre  [1 ], beaucoup de disques viennent aussi souligner son engagement, la diversité et la qualité de ses collaborations.

Après les récents duos (avec Anthony Braxton  ou India Cooke par exemple), on la retrouve en trio sur le label RogueArt  pour lequel a déjà gravé avec le tromboniste George Lewis . C’est à Vancouver, à l’occasion de l’International Jazz Festival 2009 que Before After  a été enregistré en public, histoire de garder la magie de l’instant propre à l’improvisation. La première de ses comparses est l’immense flûtiste Nicole Mitchell , ancienne présidente de l’AACM, member du 12+1tet de Braxton et qui a récemment intégré les Five Elements de Steve Coleman pour le spectacle Lingua Franca [2 ]. Quant à celui qui ferme le triangle, le batteur canadien Dylan Van der Schyff , c’est un fidèle de George Lewis et de François Houle, musiciens avec qui Joëlle Léandre a beaucoup travaillé. Before… After… il est donc ici question de temps. Une temporalité s’étire en quatre séquences, de « Before Before », longue pièce d’ouverture qui pose le rôle de chacun, jusqu’à « After After » qui mêle dans une vague de métal les voix de la flûtiste et de la contrebassiste. Il ne s’agit pourtant pas d’une course contre le temps, mais plutôt d’une exploration lascive. Dans des notes de pochettes très inspirées, Alexandre Pierrepont propose une description très organique du jeu de chacun en lui attribuant un des quatre éléments (le feu, l’air et l’eau). Mais Before After  ne serait-il pas par-dessus tout une métaphore des marées sans cesse renouvelées ? Van Der Schyff trace les côtes dentelées d’un littoral en constant mouvement, et la contrebasse de Léandre figure le ressac  incessant qui transforme le paysage au gré du temps, porté par le souffle tantôt gracile tantôt imposant de Mitchell.

Au sein du trio s’établit une relation solide entre deux forces majeures, complices et jamais contraires : le souffle chromé de Mitchell et le jeu profound de Léandre, dont l’archet omniprésent esquisse un ballottement perpétuel dans le continuum. Au centre de cet axe, Van Der Schyff apparaît comme un coloriste maître du temps qui ne porte jamais l’estocade, préférant ponctuer d’un effleurement de peau ou d’un crissement de cymbale un souffle irrégulier de vent dans l’herbe humide. « Before After », qui s’ouvre sur un monologue du batteur, est l’exemple de cette évaporation subtile du temps. Lorsque Joëlle Léandre le rejoint dans un magnifique jeu d’archet, le rythme s’érode et se sédimente jusqu’à se réduire à un discret cliquetis métallique relayé par la  sédimente jusqu’à se réduire à un discret cliquetis métallique relayé par la respiration de Nicole Mitchell. Tel le temps qui s’écoule inexorablement, l’entropie née de la cohésion du trio dessine à chaque instant de nouveaux territoires, de nouveaux rivages qu’on a plaisir à explorer

Before After CD Reviews

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