Dolf Mulder, Vital, no 659, 1 janvier 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.