Face To Face (FOU RECORDS FRCD 32-33) is the latest release from Jean-Marc Foussat’s Fou Records label. On this occasion he’s teamed up with the fine Swiss improvising saxophone player Urs Leimgruber. Their joint efforts yielded two lengthy sessions, now published as a two disc set. For those who love sax and electronics pairings in an improv context, this will merit swift investigation for sure. Recent-ish releases on Fou Records have seen Jean-Marc throwing the thematic net a bit wider to bring in contemporary electronica and beats, free-form poetry, and surrealism / poetry subtexts, but Face To Face is easier to situate in a free improvisation category, an impression which I have mainly based on Leimgruber’s strong similarity to the playing of Evan Parker (with whom he has worked). I also tend to use the record Open Aspects 82, that memorable pairing of Anthony Braxton and Richard Teitelbaum, as my personal benchmark for woodwinds-electronic improv, and today’s record doesn’t disappoint in that respect.
The first CD is called ‘Rive de Reves’ (a title worthy of Mallarme or Appolinaire, perhaps) and documents a 2018 concert in Zurich. I would characterise this set as cold and melancholic in tone. Leimgruber’s sax is either heaving long sighs of despair, or wailing like a war widow on the battlefield after a particularly fierce Trojan onslaught. Foussat, with his great Synthi AKS set-up, builds backdrops of such ambiguity that everything seems to be a grey horizon, an uncertain future. To say the musicians leave adequate space for each other would be an understatement; the music is positively stark, with great gaps allowed for intuitive communication. Frenetic musical activity occasionally springs to life in between these apparently blank spaces.
On the second disc, a concert given just days before in Lucerne, the mood is less melancholic but the tone is still very ambiguous. What with the title ‘Luxerna’, and the nature of the music which sometimes approximates “microtonal” composition, one is tempted to draw a parallel with the music of Ligeti (whose Lux Aeterna is one of 20th century modernism’s “greatest hits”), but this may be purely accidental. For more music by Urs Leimgruber, see Paul’s review of Lightnings from 2015 on the Wide Ear Records label. This, from 1st March 2019.