INTAKT RECORDS – CD-REVIEWS

IRENE SCHWEIZER - MAGGIE NICOLS - JOELLE LEANDRE
LES DIABOLIQUES

JUBILEE CONCERT

Intakt CD 141

 

 

 

Wohl auch schon 20 Jahre waren sie auf ihren Besen geritten, als LES DIABOLIQUES am 3.3.2006 im Jazzclub Moods in Zürich sich der 20-Jahrfeier ihres Labels Intakt anschlossen. Was Irene Schweizer, Maggie Nicols & Joëlle Léandre da lieferten als „nice old ladies“, die mit einigem Erfolg ihre Staubwedel gegen die Humorresistenz der Avantler geschwungen hatten, war es wert, als Jubilee Concert (Intakt DVD 141) von Jürg & Marianne Rufer auf Video festgehalten zu werden. Senorita Schweizer brütet unter ihrem weißen Schopf wie eh die wildesten Notensprünge aus, sie pingt Pünktchen genau aufs i, drückt ihre Tasten aber auch mit der streichelnden Vorsicht, die bekanntlich die Mutter der Porzellankiste ist. Umso gröber sägt die barocke Bassistin am rechten Flügel ihr Instrument, wringt und drückt von den Saiten Glissandos, schlägt sie mit dem Bogen, der Sound ist gewohnt üppig und so buntscheckig wie der Bajazzo, der ihr immer wieder aus den Augen funkelt. In ihrer Mitte die pikante Würze dieser Krawallschachtelsuppe, Maggi(e), die unverwüstlich überkandidelte Vokalistin in diesem Improtheater, die nach allerhand Gekirre, geflöteten Üüüüs und zersplittertem Antibelcanto Irving Berlins ‚All alone‘ anstimmt, gefolgt von einem judäorussischen Scat bis zum höchsten Hiiii und sirenenhaft modulierten Schauerwellen, bis sich auch Léandre in ihr Kauderwelsch einmischt und Schweizer klatschend und klopfend den Disput der cholerischen Bassistin mit der plötzlich pikiert strengen Lehrerin Nicols akzentuiert, der sich in ein wohlgefälliges Taptänzchen auflöst. Mit ihrem ‚Dip Me in Chocolate and Throw Me to the Lesbians‘ geht Nicols dann in die Offensive und beweist mühelos, dass man weder jung noch schön sein, noch schön singen können muss, um die Lacher auf seiner Seite zu haben und den Saal zu tobendem Jubel anzustacheln, dem mit einer kleinen Zugabe gedankt wird. Viva Les Diaboliques.
Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy Nr. 62, Deutschland, 2009

 

 

The trio of Irène Schweizer, Maggie Nicols and Joëlle Léandre - Les Diaboliques - represents a primary factor in the history of Intakt, since they were all present in the label’s very first record (Live At Taktlos) before going on to become one of the most lively expressions in the macrocosm of present-day improvisation. Their catalog, also published by the Swiss imprint, provides indispensable samples of theatrical and instrumental virtuosity.
Those who haven’t had the lucky chance of watching these women on stage can now appreciate their attitude thanks to this DVD, which captures them in March 2006 at Zurich’s Jazzclub Moods for the celebration of Intakt’s 20-year Jubilee. Schweizer reports that after a date in Mulhouse the previous year, jointly considered as Les Diaboliques’ live pinnacle, they believed that no other performance could surpass that particular highlight. This didn’t prevent Patrik Landolt from setting everything up for the recording of this gig. Shortly ahead of the event, director Jürg Rufer and his wife Marianne asked for permission to film the proceedings, luckily granted. A few weeks later, Schweizer was so motivated upon reviewing the tapes that a video release was scheduled by Landolt and label co-manager Rosmarie A. Meier.
Shot with great quantities of technical deftness hiding the paucity of means, Jubilee Concert is not your average multi-camera jamboree, rather a Spartan pictorial representation of unadulterated inventiveness. The document is not overly long, but definitely succeeds in conveying the unique mixture of effervescence, musicianship, irony and nimbleness that these improvisers (whose age, let’s not forget it at the risk of impoliteness, ranges from 58 to 68) persistently generate. The three characters clearly stand out as completely different portraits: Schweizer – entirely dressed in executive black, moccasins and socks included – is the lucid architect who tries to give some kind of order to an otherwise uncontrollable flux. Yet she’s often caught purse-lipped, trying to repress laughter as her companions do damage elsewhere. Nicols, a cross between a tender-yet-bitchy jazz singer and an exuberant hippy, alternates incredible vocal skill to tap dancing, the whole characterized by gestural allusions that testify to the joy of being part of such an adventure and, at large, still surviving in a world of miserable values. Léandre appears as the oversensitive soul, always able to seize instantaneous suggestions and slight vibrations from the air, retransmitting huge amounts of expressiveness enlightened by tremendous expertise, her droning counterpoints and percussive instinct the trademarks of an all-around musician.
The complete exhibition can be defined as a success, but if a single episode must be committed to memory, that has to be “Interference”. Nicols blathers in an invented lexicon mixing various idioms, syllabic snippets and psychic contortion, while Schweizer uses many parts of the instrument (including the insides, played with hands and mallets to depict vague simulacra of Partch and Tippett) to prescribe tiny pills of forward-looking pianism. Nevertheless it is Léandre who steals the show, abruptly exploding in a furious invective following a heated exchange of stuttering concepts with Nicols, then remaining in squawking solitude – imagine a rapidly aging arteriosclerotic woman – as the British vocalist courteously attempts to convince her to leave. The faces she makes, the hysteric gibberish, the autistic bumping of the head on the double bass’ neck – all the while playing ecstatic phrases revealing an amazing ear – attribute to the French specialist a personal Oscar, my stomach ruthlessly stretched in convulsive laughing during the piece. Schweizer underlines the finale with nostalgic arpeggios in 3/4, somewhat reminiscent of a soundtrack for a silent movie. Nicols concludes by wearing a t-shirt printed with the immortal words: “Dip Me In Chocolate And Throw Me To The Lesbians”, which also happens to be the title of the ensuing avant-blues, masterfully rendered by these authentically fiendish women. As hilarity-induced tears dry, the only adjective that comes to mind is “inspirational”.
A magnificent object both visually and musically, Jubilee Concert is an obvious addition to the “best of 2009” list and a perfect match for other recent video-biographic masterpieces dealing with two of the three artists involved here: Christine Baudillon’s Basse Continue (about Léandre, on Hors-Oeil) and Gitta Gsell’s Irène Schweizer (again on Intakt). Missing this stuff would be inexcusable.
Massimo Ricci, www.bagatellen.com, April 14, 2009

 

 

En 2006 à Zurich, la pianiste Irène Schweizer invitait Maggie Nicols (chant) et Joëlle Léandre (contrebasse, chant) à fêter avec elle le vingtième anniversaire du label Intakt. Les diaboliques ainsi reformées, de profiter aussi de sa vingtaine d’années d’existence et de création.
S’il n’avait été filmé par Jürg et Marianne Rufer, l’événement aurait beaucoup perdu : concert déjà intense qui imbrique dans l’allégresse de multiples langages (accents monkiens de Schweizer, folies contemporaines de Léandre et constructions fantasques ou exercices de style de Nicols), Jubilee Concert profite en effet de ses images. Car, souvent, la grande représentation prend des airs de théâtre halluciné, pour le bien duquel le trio manie le grotesque avec une élégance hors-norme.
Alors, sur l’air de déconstructions improvisées ou d’hymnes patentés, les trois femmes pensent, grondent et pleurent, s’emportent toujours, se cherchent sans arrêt, et puis : édifient une relecture grandiose d’All Alone (Irving Berlin) avant de supplier qu’on les jette en pâture : Maggie Nicols à lunettes noires et tee-shirt orange requérant « Dip Me in Chocolate and Throw Me to the Lesbians ». L’essentiel aura été dit ; aller voir ce film tient de la priorité.
Le son du grisli, France, 29. Mai 2009

 

Martin Schuster, Concerto, Österreich, Juni/Juli 2009

 

Godehard Lutz, Jazzpodium, Deutschland, Juli/August 2009

 

Reiner Kobe, Jazz n' More, Schweiz, Juli/August 2009

 

Guillaume Belhomme, Les Inrockuptibles, France, juillet 2009

 

Interview mit Irène Schweizer, Thorsten Meyer, Jazzpodium, Deutschland, September 2009

 

Joëlle Léandre, by Philippe Carles, Jazzmagazine, France, Septembre 2009

 

Dieses Trio jüngerer Damen ist nun schon seit ungefähr 20 Jahren musikalisch aktiv. Als das Züricher Intakt Label 2006 ebenfalls sein 20stes Jubiläum feiern konnte, waren Irène Schweizer, Maggie Nicols und Joelle Léandre auf die Bühne des Jazzclubs Moods geladen und geladen: nämlich voller Energie, Spielwitz und skurrilem Humor. Der Auftritt, zunächst nur zu Dokumentationszwecken filmisch festgehalten, existiert aufgrund seiner pointierten und einfach-konkreten Schärfe nun als erste offizielle DVD des frei improvisierenden Trios. Die acht aufgeführten und aus dem Moment heraus entstandenen Stücke wirken - wie Pianistin Irène Schweizer in ihren Linernotes treffend beschreibt - zusammen wie ein spontanes Theaterstück, dem sich mit Vergnügen folgen lässt: drei freie Frauen, die in dieser Konstellation eine ganz spezifische Energie entwickeln.
"made my day" by HONKER, TERZ 09.09

 

Nathan Turk, Signal to Noise, USA / Canada, Fall 2009

 

Duncan Heining, Jazzwise, UK, October 2009

 

Annie Landreville, La Scena Musicale, Canada, Oktober 2009

 

Les Diaboliques have long been worthy of special acclaim, not just because they’re three wonderful improvisers who work well together in this long-standing trio. While that is most emphatically the case, what I like best about them is the way they combine their musical intensities with playfulness (their anarchic romp through tunes and musical conventions of all sorts) and real humor (not of the schticky variety, but the real deal, borne from pain). On this lively concert recording, Nicols’ introductory marks alone are worth the price of admission: “We are three beautiful old ladies, and we don’t remember exactly when our first gig took place.” She proceeded to insist that the group was going to “muscle in” to the Intakt 20th Anniversary celebration, which was the occasion for this concert. And from there, they had their way with the audience.
The music opens with gorgeous piano/bass counterpoint like the Messiaen piece you never heard. How lovely the thicket of overtones and glisses, with Nicols so bold and robust, declaiming on her own amid the Leandre/Schweizer storm but completely a part of it just the same, whether in growls or birdsong. What’s really powerful here is how central tension is to Les Diaboliques—healthy, creative, and respectful (but not too respectful) tension. During the Jubiliation trio that opens the concert, there are long passages where Schweizer sounds like she’s interpolating various aspects of Jazz piano tradition, certainly working through the Monk-to-Taylor continuum on some level. Yet in response to Leandre’s at times lachrymose shapes, the music veers off into obtuse European art song or chamber improvisation. It’s here where the mischievous (but never merely mischievous) Nicols is so wonderful. She never really embraces the direction, but limns its limits, in one stretch incanting like a ritual virtuoso and then slurring like some drunk lounge singer, and never in any intelligible idiom. And then before long the trio is off into their own weird world again. They also excel at creating vivid contrast: at its most serene moment, Nicols takes the music by the throat, making noises like Popeye as a toy dog. The trio are also occasionally direct in their satire, as when Schweizer and Leandre get deep into an ominous drone, whereupon Nicols mutters “Oh no, oh no, I must not touch the apple. I’m a nice heterosexual girl.” Leandre ululates in response, they repeat the gesture, and explode in frenzy. Hilarious but also quite powerful.
Between tunes, Nicols warms up the crowd, mugging as she folds her shawl, then apologizes to her mother for not folding it so well, despite having been taught how to do so: “It’s completely irresponsible. There’s a fine line between freedom and irresponsibility.” Oh yes, indeed! And they’re back at it, diving swiftly into the notey and contrapuntal “Jubiliation III” before taking a breather with a 3-minute tour through Berlin’s “All Alone” (Nicols sings her own lyrics, while Leandre doggedly works a dog-whistle arco). There follows a hysterical track where Nicols starts speaking a mélange of faux European dialects, almost as if she’s bartering with her bandmates (who then join the fun). The piece ends just outrageously, with Nicols and Leandre pantomiming a couple’s argument, breakup, and subsequent solitary brooding (Leandre dourly hunched over her instrument, Nicols stoically performing a tap dance for the audience). The music is top notch throughout, and I hope these descriptions make abundantly clear how valuable it is to have a DVD of this splendid performance. Get this one.
Jason Bivins, Cadence, USA, Oct-Nov-Dec 2009

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