Peter Kowald: double bass; Daunik Lazro: alto and baritone saxes; Annick Nozati: voice
It feels strange, having to exercise the adjective “late” in mentioning two protagonists (Kowald and Nozati) of this unique concert, captured on tape in 2000. Of course, “late” can also render a concept of recentness or hurriedness (perhaps to give birth to something important): exactly what’s originated by this music’s realistic urgency, even fourteen years from the event. More strikingly, Annick Nozati – in a way the effective “star” of the album, the lone participant featured in a prolonged solo – would leave the big stage of existence just months after this exhibition. “I didn’t come to push the chansonette” (*), she once told to Lazro; we had no doubt.
Aside from the unaccompanied episode, Nozati’s theatrics shine throughout a series of duos and trios, offering a continued study in contrast between attitudes, from melodious to desperate, which demonstrates a somewhat desolate nakedness in front of any impulse she chose to indulge in: an unending ritual of purification. One can’t help but noticing the slight influence of certain “operatic” hues on the vocal outpourings emitted by Joëlle Léandre, a frequent collaborator, during the latter’s solitary improvisations to this day.
On the other hand we have Lazro’s symmetrically obstinate aesthesia, an insusceptible calmness escorting his phrasing across intricate evolutions. A flick of the switch allows the reedist’s melodic incorruptibility to spread around impressively, flurries of life-sustaining strength attesting a reputable iron will. Circles and spirals built upon three or four pitches – with all the microtonal inflexions living inside – acquire momentum in the space of seconds.
Kowald is particularly magnificent when superintending Nozati’s flights in “Kow Noz”, protecting the voice with obsessional tremolos and bewitching grumbles, punctuating the singer’s cartoon-like babbling with sharp sentences, barely controllable and equally dissonant. Similarly to his companions, the bassist seems to ignore the meaning of “strategy”; whatever was born from those fingers, whatever the arco decided to extract from the wooden box, a feeling of effortless improvement of the surrounding air molecules remains.
Ethical pureness, undomesticated artistry, musicality from each and every gesture. Precious stuff from a time when improvisers were still interested in persuading audiences rather than attempting to seduce magazine publishers.
(*) “Chansonette” is not exactly translatable into English, instead corresponding to the Italian “canzonetta”. Both terms indicate popular songs characterized by a high percentage of unendurable shallowness, when not out-and-out imbecility. Basically, what the record industry mob thrived upon before finally incorporating the so-called “cultured” segments of local songwriters, ultimately kicking them into the auditoriums to act like messiahs for the herds of worshipful simpletons.