Obeying to his penchant for repeatedly putting himself into trouble, your host decided one day to ask label honcho Jean-Marc Foussat a favor. Namely, to listen to and write about the meeting of two artists much admired by the aforesaid person (meaning the reviewer). Bearing with me? Great. Foussat – who, differently from the author, is not a Fou – promptly showed how nice a man he is by forwarding a copy of this album, whose contents were recorded in 2016 in Paris.
Following the initial ebullience (“At last! Looking forward to working on it!” being the trademark mental exclamation as the promo packet was opened), the reality is finally firing a series of blows to the groin. Simply put, this duo does not accept adjectives beyond the obvious ones: virtuosic, capricious, eccentric, humorous. And much more – which would still sound obvious.
This is the problem when one has to discuss musicians that have made a point, throughout a whole career, of respecting their level (which, invariably, is kept extremely high – let’s say, not giving a chance to impersonators). I could type for hours on Joëlle Léandre’s omni-comprehensive governance of all the improvisational facets; in particular, her capacity of mixing pungent wit and technical prowess while keeping the tempo of real life – and singing along with it, for good measure. In the same way, it might appear rather pathetic to describe once again what Phil Minton manages to extrapolate from his guts, filtering it through vocal cords that become younger as he gets older. The quantity of characters and gamuts; the unceasing flow of instantaneous ideas that never fail to attract; the strained liveliness of implausible emissions requiring decades of experience and practice to emerge with such naturalness.
All of this remains inexplicably amazing as the years elapse. The word, perhaps, should be “control”. Léandre and Minton are always in control. Of themselves, of their inventive vigor, of an audience. After the concert is over, we can hear them joking amidst the enthusiastic spectators as if nothing special had occurred besides the mere physical act.
But they are special. This CD is another exemplification of a well-known axiom. And – forgetting my inability to find serviceable terms to depict the ineffable essence of this interaction – I’m ultimately happy to have it near me, ready to be spun whenever I think of the current depressing conditions of erstwhile “avant music”.
In that regard, here’s a final note to many undeserving protagonists of today: you can keep your right connections and get covers, awards and grants. Just don’t fuck up with the old masters.