Out of Nowhere

Joëlle Léandre, Quentin SirJacq

… but her rhythmic breaths and free-form chanting complement his vocalized glossolalia so that the two sound as if they’re performing a Middle Eastern operetta. The WholeNote, Canada

Un parfum de plénitude flotte dans l’air, à la fois doux et envoûtant… Octopus, France

If a book is not to be judged by its cover, as the saying goes, here is one recording whose title should not be mistaken as a collection of jazz standards. But all of the music contained in these eleven tracks literally comes from out of nowhere, the result of an impromptu encounter of two like-minded players. By now it may well be unnecessary to introduce Joëlle Léandre, but it’s worth noting here that “Madame Contrebasse” has always thrived in these intimate duo settings, a fact borne out in her considerable discography. Almost 25 years her junior, pianist (and fellow countryman) Quentin Sirjacq heralds from a different generation; yet, improvisation enables the keyboardist to bridge the gap with his former Mills College teacher-mentor and carve out a very personal musical space à deux. Don’t expect them to fall into any of those soloist and accompanist routines, or contests of wits and chops; instead, these collaborations are full of nuance and detail, like chiaroscuro effects floating gracefully over their soundscapes. Primarily introspective, with a couple of more jaunty escapades along the way, the music is warm and inviting, but never does it lapse into a kind of facile easy listening ambiance. Beyond all labels and descriptions, this offering will reach both heart and mind alike.

CD (AM 184)

  • Label: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 184
  • 2008
  • UCC 771028118427
  • Total duration: 49:56
  • Sympathique case
  • 126 mm × 126 mm × 5 mm
  • 45 g

On the web

Some recommended items
In the press


Donald Elfman, AllMusic, January 16, 2010

Out of Nowhere, the title of French double bassist Joëlle Léandre’s new recording with pianist Quentin Sirjacq, her student at Mills College, tells us a great deal-the two look into the universe and pull music out of what seems like an emptiness. What’s notable is that they are able to give form and, more importantly, expressive shape to their improvisations. Sirjacq is something of a spare minimalist, which gives a simple context for Léandre to open up exploration, often bowing her bass and/or utilizing harmonics. A dazzling track is Ruin, in which some otherworldly vocals from Léandre create a volcanic power, pulling more raw intensity from Sirjacq before returning to an almost eerie quiet. Awakening finds Sirjacq adding to his sonic arsenal by playing prepared piano.


Ken Waxman, The WholeNote, no. 15:1, September 1, 2009
… but her rhythmic breaths and free-form chanting complement his vocalized glossolalia so that the two sound as if they’re performing a Middle Eastern operetta.

Oursins chroniques

Laurent Catala, Octopus, July 2, 2009

On a bien trop souvent l’impression, en matière de musiques improvisées, qu’il y a une certaine distance installée entre l’artiste et son public, entre le maître et l’élève en quelque sorte, surlignée par la dextérité instrumentale affichée et l’expressivité qui en découle. Musicienne autant que militante de son art musical, la contrebassiste Joëlle Léandre s’est toujours élevée contre cette condescendance formelle, en ouvrant son concert musical au discours et à l’humour, mais surtout en multipliant les collaborations, avec des artistes parfois bien moins réputés qu’elle. Fidèle à son goût pour les duos, c’est donc avec son ancien élève du Mills College, le tout jeune pianiste Quentin Sirjacq qu’elle s’ingénie sur cet Out of Nowhere à trouver les pistes d’un dialogue fructueux. Souvent contenu, voire replié sur des éléments bruts propre au jeu de chacun des deux musiciens, les grincements boisés du frottement de violoncelle répondant par exemple aux notes éparses de piano sur Ruin, cet échange se fait immédiatement chaleureux et intime, laissant percer une connaissance réciproque qui fixe les ambiances dans des déclinaisons introspectives. Un parfum de plénitude flotte dans l’air, à la fois doux et envoûtant, et étrangement, alors qu’on attend continuellement la truculence habituelle de Joëlle Léandre, on est surpris du caractère atmosphérique qui se dégage de cette rencontre. Une surprise d’autant plus grande que cette approche plus dépouillée se révèle étonnamment pénétrante et enveloppante, pérenne jusque dans ses nuances. Certes, quelques emballements affleurent régulièrement, histoire de contraster les débats (Fragments 1 & 2, la transition Moon journey / Awakening), apportant un complément bienvenu à ce balisage discret des sens, mais ce n’est que pour mieux appuyer la complicité naturelle de deux solistes qui n’ont pas besoin de faire la course à la surenchère pour déployer leur talent.

Un parfum de plénitude flotte dans l’air, à la fois doux et envoûtant…

Jazz & Improv

Barry Witherden, The Wire, no. 304, June 1, 2009

She’d probably dislike the description, but Joëlle Léandre must be regarded as a pillar of the Improv and exploratory music establishment. Pianist and composer Sirjacq has been one of her students at Mills College, California, and seems equally at home in the realms of free Improv and ‘serious’ music. Although they are a generation apart, the two musicians are remarkably homogeneous, the result not only of having played together for some while, but of careful and responsive listening during performance – the mark of the best improvisors. They produce music of such coherence and cohesiveness that most of the 11 pieces on the album sound like meticulously considered compositions, even though they were improvised from scratch. Exemplary.



Stef, Free Jazz Blog, May 2, 2009

The title Out Of Nowhere says it all, on these eleven tracks, French bassist Joëlle Léandre and follow countryman Quentin Sirjacq on piano conjure up intimistic avant-garde music out of nowhere. Sure, you could argue that Léandre’s long-standing experience must have an influence on what she brings, and that’s true only to a point. You do recognize her voice on bass, and with even more certainty her real voice when she sings/shouts (luckily only on one track, Ruins, interestingly also the highlight of the album), but on the other hand she always tries to reinvent herself, as she does here, playing relatively fresh, more romantic than we’ve heard her before, accomodating young pianist Sirjacq, who is her student at Mills College in California, and who does sound a little intimidated at times. And that’s possibly the nice part about this music. Both musicians do make an effort to meet half-way, even if their natural styles are radically different. Sirjacq’s playing is impressionistic and sparse, he does not need many notes to create a captivating musical environment, which leaves lots of open space for Léandre to accentuate, deepen and contrast. She is much more daring than he is, understandably, adding the raw tones of her bowed improvisations sometimes like a knife cutting through lace, yet also sometimes sensitively and hypnotically laying a solid single tone foundation for the high piano tones, or adding a weeping arco melody over the intimistic piano chords. The contrast and the synergetic effect are both working well and superbly delivered. All the improvisations have a different character and approach, leading to a wealth of ideas, sentiments and styles, yet all fitting really well in the album’s overall unity. Léandre keeps amazing me, and Sirjacq has a great future in front of him. Strongly recommended.

★★★★ 1/2

Strongly recommended

Piogge magnetiche. Dieci nuove dal Québec.

Vincenzo Giorgio, Wonderous Stories, no. 15:38, May 1, 2009

La prestigiosa Ambiances Magnétiques continua, imperterrita, ad illuminare i cieli musicali contemporanei con quel suo catalogo che mischia, visionariamente, musica contemporanea, elettronica, jazz e, persino brandelli del più fosco rock illuminato. Come? Dieci nuovi esempi per capire…

Arbor Vitæ (Quatuor Bozzini) è un doppio, incredibile cd attraverso il quale il già noto ensemble canadese esegue otto composizioni che James Tenney - musicista originario del New Mexico - ha scritto tra il 1963 e il 2006. Il risultato è di abbacinante bellezza: oltre due ore di musica che, partendo dall’ambient disturbato dall’omonina Arbor Vitae cresce lentamente ed inesorabilmente fino a toccare (solo per fare due esempi) le dissonanze post-novecentesche di Saxony e il dolente solipsismo melodico del Stochastic String Quartet. Senza dubbio la perla delle nuove uscite AM.

Molto interessante anche il lavoro dei nostri Taxonomy che con 10 Taxonomical Movements toccano momenti di rara intensità. Elio Martusciello, Graziano Lella e Roberto Fega conducono l’ascoltatore attraverso un suggestivo viaggio contrassegnato da (appunto) dieci movimenti che, a differenza della loro denominazione classica (andante, adagio…) si muovono in territori post-elettronici. Mi piace segnalare l’intenso ligietismo dell’Ouverture ma anche la patafisica del Larghetto-appassionato che, grazie anche alla melodica stralunata di Fega, trovo assai contigua al miglior Pierre Bastien.

Con Y’a du bruit dans ma cabane dell’Ensemble SuperMusique (in cui spiccano i nomi di Jean Derome, Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse e Pierre Tanguay) approdiamo in quella rarefatta terra dove la radicalità creativa assurge a vero e proprio totem. Da qui sei tracce che partono da atmosfere inquiete (8 moments brefs) toccando le terre informi della manipolazione (Positions d’amour) fino a sublimarsi nella destrutturazione vocale (Discussion au living room).

Le già citate Hétu (sax e voce) e Labrosse (elettronica) le troviamo coinvolte in un altro progetto piuttosto contiguo e, con l’aggiunta di Danielle Palardy Roger (percussioni), tutto al femminile: Les Poules. Phénix è altra opera pervasa da un forte radicalismo improvvisativo anche se, rispetto alla precedente, sa maggiormente curare la dinamica del suono (Grandeur Royale) lavorando su spazi più aperti (La porte immense) senza però disdegnare l’elemento più spiccantamente vocal-rumoristico (Rapaces).

Volendo stare ancora negli anfratti del radicalismo sonoro come non parlare delle Vulgarités di Michel F Côté e Isaiah Ceccarelli? Tredici storie fatte di fraseggi disconnessi (Surmenage brun), pertugi appena abbozzati (la struggente Surmenage caca d’oie), violente zaffate elettronico-percussive (Grace maussade, Apothéose du vague…) pseudo ritmi rock sbrindellati (Somme de nos échecs). Insomma un lavoro che sa guardare molto avanti e con molto coraggio.

Anche a Sébastien Cirotteau, Brigitte Lacasse, Catherine S Massicotte e Éric Normand il coraggio non manca. Infatti con la loro Face à la dérive disegnano quello che potremmo definire un “affresco ambientale” dove la loro strumentazione acustica (piano, fisarmonica, violino, basso, percussioni) si fonde con le voci di un viaggio attraverso il paesaggio sonoro del fiume Saint-Laurent. Due grandi suite (Partie Un e Partie Deux) che, pur nell’indubbia originalità del progetto e dei molti interventi strumentali di grande pregio, non riesce ad affrancarsi da una eccessiva ripetitività.

Di grande impatto emotivo è, invece, Out Of Nowhere, di Joëlle Léandre, et Quentin Sirjacq. Vivida perla chiaroscurale soprattutto per gli amanti delle efflorescenze cameristiche. Come non rimanere magicamente irretiti dalle malmostose trame di Opening dove il dialogo tra il contrabbasso della Léandre e il piano di Sirjacq si fa autenticamente inquietante? E lo stesso vale per il raffinato bisbiglio di Presence in costante bilico tra John Coltrane e Claude Debussy così come per quell’insistito giocare nel silenzio di Absence.

Sulle stesse frequenze - anzi, con più accondiscendenza melodica giocata in un contesto decisamente jazz - va collocato il Geggie Project messo in scena da John Geggie (contrabbasso), Marilyn Crispell (piano) e Nick Fraser (batteria). Disco di rara intensità che potrebbe benissimo far parte della collezione ECM. L’esordio di Credo è di quelli che - nella sua scarna poesia - lascia il segno anche se la successiva ce and Meltwater mette in campo situazioni più irsute e puntillistiche. Molto bella (anche se non del tutto scevra da una certa retorica jazzy) Or Not così come la lirica Across the Sky.

Con Disparition de l’usine éphémère di Philippe Lauzier, Pierre-Yves Martel, Kim Myhr e Martin Tétreault la faccenda riprende a complicarsi. Un’opera indubbiamente assai interessante che propone un linguaggio non immediatamente assimilabile dove l’usurato aggettivo “elettroacustico” può essere speso con una certa coerenza. Dieci composizioni che trasfigurano, manipolandoli elettronicamente, una manciata di strumenti acustici (sax alto, clarinetto basso, viola da gamba, chitarra…) ponendoli in dialogo con uno spiccato rumorismo impressionistico. Il risultato potrebbe pure ricordare certi lavori dei già citati Klaxon Gueule: Électro-polissage e Chantier naval mi sembrano i risultato più interessanti.

Antoine Berthiaume e il grande Elliott Sharp, come noto, sono due chitarristi “border-line” che in Base si confrontano con sfacciata visceralità. Undici improvvisazioni che fluttuano, crudeli e suadenti, nell’elettronica post ambientale più bieca. Musica fatta di corpose pennellate materiche come ci si trovasse di fronte ad un quadro di Jackson Pollock: il lancinante lamento di Phase e il suo tormentato sciamare, così come il rock-blues slabbrato di Station sono solo tre esempi che fanno di questo lavoro un’uscita impedibile per chiunque voglia fiutare dove veramente tiri il vento del Nuovo. Vento che soffia da Ambienti Magnetici…


Stéphane Ollivier, Jazzman, no. 156, April 1, 2009
Ce néo-impressionnisme volontiers lyrique est à suivre de très près.


Philippe Carles, Jazz Magazine, no. 602, April 1, 2009
Vous qui entrez dans cette musique délicieusement «bio», laissez tous préjugés et passions partisanes afin d’ouïr en toute innocence


Max Schaefer, The Squid’s Ear, April 1, 2009

Cellist Joëlle Léandre and pianist Quentin Sirjacq, though of radically different generations, make of their collaboration an opportunity for a different beginning, where their work will, at least in part, stand out from their respective historic origins, rendering them no longer able to fully grasp it. Fittingly, the pieces forgo a competition of surprises, a proverbial game of chess that would have each player trying to push and trap the other, opting instead for a well-constructed whole that possesses an exhilaratingly hardy, composed chamber feel.

Each of the pieces manages to be both intimate and suggestive of grand scale. At times Sirjacq prepared piano deceives for its soft, silky chimes, as he later moves into a tough, two handed approach, while the lyricism of Leandre’s neat patterns on violin become decidedly off the peg. Though refined and attractively impassable, it’s also gnarly and encouraging of an active attention.

Both Leandre and Sirjacq continue to play with exactness and control, giving rise to vivid pieces that, though packed with intense detail, are as tight as a wheel nut. This formula isn’t refreshed as much as needed, however, and later pieces live off of borrowed expressivity. While the first few tracks might come out of nowhere, a number of them appeal only in their recognisability.

Both Leandre and Sirjacq continue to play with exactness and control, giving rise to vivid pieces that, though packed with intense detail, are as tight as a wheel nut.


Grisli, Le son du grisli, February 2, 2009

Sans doute, Joëlle Léandre n’a-t-elle pas assez de partenaires illustres, il faut encore qu’elle en révèle: Quentin Sirjacq, ici, jeune pianiste de ses étudiants, avec lequel elle enregistrait récemment Out of Nowhere. Son improvisation, Léandre l’estime alors auprès d’un apprenti en discrétion: suite d’accords pas loin d’être imperceptibles (Ruin) et progressions faussement hésitantes, qui révèlent le goût de Sirjacq pour quelques maîtres classiques (Morton Feldman, plusieurs fois; Erik Satie, sur Hallucinations). Un art de la mesure — quand le pianiste ne se laisse pas emporter par un lyrisme plus entendu — auquel la contrebassiste oppose un archet grainçant, une récréation percussive (Fragment 2) ou un romantisme noir (The Call). De lignes de fuite (Léandre) en points de chute ou de suspension (Sirjacq), Out of Nowhere fait alors son lot de l’instant, autour duquel il pourra longtemps tourner.

Un art de la mesure […] auquel la contrebassiste oppose un archet grainçant, une récréation percussive (Fragment 2) ou un romantisme noir (The Call).


Stefano Isidoro Bianchi, Blow Up, no. 129, February 1, 2009

Consuete buone nuove dal prolifico giro Ambiances Magnétiques. Michel F Côté (Klaxon Gueule) e Isaiah Ceccarelli manipolano strumenti a percussione (batterie, pianoforti) e un po’ d’altro (elettronica, lap steel, tromba) facendone risultare improvvisazioni e sincopi il cui (forte) senso ritmico si astrae e raggruma in una miriade di costipatissime micro-apparizioni che vanno e vengono come in un flipper (in più di un momento vengono in mente i fURT); ascolto che richiede massima attenzione e che ipnotizza ancor prima gli occhi che le orecchie.

Più tradizionale l’incontro tra il contrabbasso di Joëlle Léandre e il piano/piano preparato di Quentin Sirjacq, i cui duetti esprimono una tensione costante ma tenuta a freno da una sensibilità sonora estremamente raffinata e riservata, quasi intimista; nei rari momenti in cui l’equilibrio viene meno - o meglio è lasciato più libero - il risultato è straordinario.

Già dai nomi coinvolti (Jean Derome, Joane Hétu, Diane Labrosse, Danielle Palardy Roger, Pierre Tanguay e Martin Tétreault) l’Ensemble SuperMusique si presenta come una sorta di supergruppo dell’improvvisata canadese; i musicisti si sono dati poche ma rigide regole: minimo di due esecutori per volta, sequenze che non vadano oltre il minuto di durata, poi repentino cambio di materiali e pausa personale di almeno una sequenza. Il risultato è meno cervellotico di quanto non appaia anche se non così coinvolgente: improvvisazioni che coinvolgono ogni tipo di strumento (fiati, corde, elettronica, sampler, giradischi, oggetti) con un gran senso dell’ironia, del gioco e del paradosso e nessun rispetto delle (altre) regole.

improvvisazioni che coinvolgono ogni tipo di strumento (fiati, corde, elettronica, sampler, giradischi, oggetti) con un gran senso dell’ironia, del gioco e del paradosso e nessun rispetto delle (altre) regole.


Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, January 16, 2009

Contrabassist supreme, Joëlle Léandre always excels in the duo situation. Check out any of her many duo excursions with Derek Bailey, Steve Lacy, Irene Schweizer, India Cooke, Kevin Norton, Barre Phillips or William Parker, and you will find each to be wonderful in its own way. Once again we find Joëlle in another extraordinary duo. I recall Montréal-based pianist Quentin Sirjacq from a trio he is in with Antoine Berthiaume & Norman Teale that played a the Victo Fest a few years back and were great, as is their CD on AM.

This is a studio date that was recorded in Paris by Jean Marc Foussat, who always does a fabulous job with each disc that he has recorded and mixed for Joëlle. Right from the first note, we know we are in for some superb, magical sounds. Most of the pieces are relatively short so that they focus in on certain areas of sound. Fragment 1 sounds like the bass is breathing slowly in and out, organically unfolding. Fragment 2 is more explosive with cautious inside-the-piano sounds balancing more hyper-tense moments. Quentin plays a dreamy gentle, melodic fragment on Presence while Joëlle brings in some darker sounds banging softly on her her bass with her bow. The suspense grows deeper on The Call while Quentin holds down the sustain pedal while playing minimal skeletal notes as Joëlle also plays hushed bowed ghost-like notes. Ruin seems to be appropriately titled since Joëlle’s spooky voice and the dark piano rumble through the ruins of our collective minds. Each piece feels like a scene from a story or a soundtrack to film noir type of movie. Once again a duo exchange brings out the best from Joëlle Léandre and her current collaborator Quentin Sirjacq.

… a duo exchange brings out the best…


Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 659, January 1, 2009

Four CDs of improvising duos. Duos that take very different routes. With the exception of the CD by Frith and Roger, this are also examples of meetings between young and older generations. Berthiaume teams up with veteran Elliott Sharp. Quentin Sirjacq works with reputed French improvisor Joëlle Léandre, and Isaiah Ceccarelli works with Michel F Côté.

Pas de deux is a first encounter — at last — between veterans Fred Frith (electric guitar, processing, voice) and Danielle Palardy Roger (drums, percussion, voice). Roger was most of her career involved in all-women line ups like Wondeur Brass, Justine and Les Poules. The recordings come from two duo concerts that took place in 2007 at the Festival des Musiques de Création. But they are not delivered here as played. Through a process of editing and mixing by Roger, Frith and others they compiled a collage of the best moments from these concerts. Frith uses many different techniques here. He integrates melodic and other conventional musical aspects into the improvised context where he earlier concentrated on pure sound and noise. This an album by two improvisors who are still passionate about their art as this album proves.

Base is filled with 11 improvisations by guitarists Berthiaume and Sharp. They were recorded in New York. Berthiaume played duets earlier with Derek Bailey and Fred Frith, as well as with another guitarist, Takumi Seino and Mary Clare Brzytwa on flute and electronics. Now he has a date with Elliott Sharp, a central force from the New York avantgarde scene for some 30 years now. Their guitar improvisations consist of thick layers of heavily processed noisy sounds. Although this is a radical investigation into the world of sound and noise, their powerplay failed to impress me. For my taste it all sounded a bit arbitrary.

Let’s switch to another duo. In contrast with the lengthy and at times bombastic streams of noise of Berthiaume and Sharp, Ceccarelli and Côté concentrate on small and subtile sounds.

Both Ceccarelli and Côté play drums and percussion, piano, electronics, lap steel, trumpet and drumhead feedback on their inspired collaboration Vulgarités. Michel F Côté is already around for some time and his discography carries many remarkable CDs like Compil Zouave and (Juste) Claudette. Ceccarelli is a young drummer and composer. He plays a lot with other Montréal-based musicians in projects like Steppe Trio, Quartetski does Prokofiev and Quartetski does Satie. With a great sense for detail Côté and Ceccarelli deliver a very spirited improvised music. And without losing themselves in these details they are able to built captivating and surprising structures. Their pointillist style assures you hear something new after each listening.

Quentin Sirjacq (piano, gong, prepared piano) I only met once before on a CD with Anthoine Berthiaume and Norman Teale. Joëlle Léandre needs no further introduction. She is a french improvisor on cello, to be heard on dozens and dozens of records. The improvisations on this record where done on one day in january in Paris.

From all four duets these ones may be the most conventional and accessible ones. A romantic mood prevails here. The use of extended techniques is very limited. This has the advantage that the players can be easily distinguished. The interplay is more transparent. Their improvisations often come close to modern composed chamber music, like in the closing track Closing.

A romantic mood prevails here.

More texts

  • Nathan Turk, Signal to Noise, no. 55, September 15, 2009