J. Leandre / N. Mitchell / D. Van Der Schyff: Before After (2011)
Flutist Nicole Mitchell's strong attachment to the Vancouver creative scene has borne unpredictable fruit. She has been an artist in residence at the city's International Jazz Festival from 2006-2010, but it was only when bassist Joëlle Léandre was likewise featured, in 2009, that the two combined, along with Vancouver native Dylan van der Schyff behind the drums, for the performance documented here as Before After.
Over four collective inventions in a 43-minute program, the three participants reach an understanding predicated upon exploration of texture, an egalitarian outlook and the unforced melding of advanced techniques. Léandre is the mistress of such irregular meetings, bringing her formidable classical technique to bear in kaleidoscopic outpouring, sometimes abrasive but not afraid to be tuneful. As always, her voice is an important part of her armory and in that she finds common ground with Mitchell whose wonderful vocalized flute lines continually dance on either side of the divide separating instrument and larynx, spiced with unexpected low growls and flutters. She sounds like no-one else, having extended the legacy of pioneering flutist James Newton, thanks to the opportunities afforded by her higher pitched voice to blend ambiguously with her instrumental sound. Van der Schyff takes a back seat in such esteemed company, but he nonetheless acquits himself well, with his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink clatter providing a subtly evolving backdrop.
Assured self-expression and unfettered interplay form the dominant suit. The opening "Before Before" proposes a propulsive give and take, affirming that flute and arco bass make an alluring combination, particularly noteworthy in the final interweaving of bowed harmonics and blown upper partials. Mitchell is prominent at the start of "After Before," her breathy alto flute intro demonstrating the full extent of her prowess before the Frenchwoman's energetic sawing precipitates a game of chase. Once the drummer adds momentum, Mitchell switches to piccolo, producing extreme contrasts of pitch with Léandre's rich bass register.
Van der Schyff introduces "Before After" through an engaging examination of dynamics, pitching sharp crashes against faint taps and modulated percussion, presaging a duet with the bassist's darkly melodic abstractions, while the concluding "After After" revisits some of the territory from the opener after an initial duet for timbrally adventurous percussion and Mitchell's patented flute/voice amalgam. Although Léandre can tend to dominate in some settings, if anything there is a slight tentativeness to this set which occasionally cries out for someone to take proceedings by the scruff of the neck to inspire fireworks inherent in the lineup. But no matter, there should be enough sparks to satisfy followers of either woman.
Track Listing: Before Before; Before After; After Before; After After.
Personnel: Joëlle Léandre: double-bass; Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, piccolo; Dylan van der Schyff: drums, percussion.