The 13th International Festival of Improvised Music “Ad Libitum” took place in Warsaw in October 2018 at the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art. The motto of that edition was “Women Alarm!” One of the main attractions was a new trio of Joëlle Léandre, Myra Melford, and Lauren Newton. This new trio formed in a sense a counterpoint to another legendary formation of Joëlle, Les Diaboliques, with Irène Schweizer and Maggie Nicols. Indeed, I could adapt my own ancient review of the music of Les Diaboliques to describe the trio of Léandre/Melford/Newton: “The humour and joy, synergy, creativity and imagination – this is what characterizes the music of them. The language of Lauren sounds like Hebrew or Latino, or sometimes even like Hungarian or a Scandinavian language.” Yet, the music is completely different. Myra’s piano playing is in deep relation to American free piano music tradition from Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Adams to Matthew Shipp and Marilyn Crispell. As the title suggests, Lauren uses plenty of special vocal effects: whispers, squeaks, loud breaths, opera techniques, even throat singing, à la Sainkho Namtchylak. However, she uses also plain English sometimes. Joëlle… is simply magnificent in any respect, showing the whole palette of her bass and vocal abilities.
The set consists of 8 “Whispers 1-8”, each of which is quite different. “Whisper 1” illustrates quite widely Lauren’s approach, with amazing bowing support from the bass and delicate piano. “Whisper 2” is more abstract and expressive, with Myra entering the inside piano. “Whisper 3” is a beautiful piano-bass duo piece: it starts with wonderfully lyrical and impressionistic piano lines, supported by the bowing bass. “Whisper 4” is a duo of bass and vocal: it has repetitive, minimal bass motives of Joëlle and long howls of Lauren. On the short “Whisper 5”, Lauren begins with contemporary opera approach, but develops into an avant-garde stream of short free improvised voice sounds. On “Whisper 6” Lauren and Joëlle “talk” in English, supported by the marvellous piano and bass sounds. “Whisper 7” is perhaps the most expressive track, with the piano introduction in a Cecil Taylor style, and tremendous breathes of Lauren, and bass effects of Joëlle. The closing “Whisper 8” has throat singing, and tears-squeezing final, melancholic part.
This concert of Léandre/Melford/Newton trio was an epochal event.
released May 22, 2020
Joëlle Léandre – bass
Myra Melford – piano
Lauren Newton – voice
All music by Joëlle Léandre (SACEM), Myra Melford (ASCAP), Lauren Newton (GEMA), except: track 3 (Léandre/Melford), track 4 (Newton/Léandre), track 5 (Melford/Newton)
Joëlle Léandre, Myra Melford, Lauren Newton warmly thank Maciej and the whole Ad Libitum Festival Staff.
Recorded live at Laboratorium, U-Jazdowski, „Women Alarm!” 13th Ad Libitum Festival, Warsaw by Jakub Sosulski, October 27, 2018
Mix and Mastering: Maikol Seminatore, April 2020
Photos: Piotr Gruchała
Liner Note: Maciej Lewenstein
Cover Design: Małgorzata Lipińska
Executive Producer: Maciej Karłowski