François Carrier & Michel Lambert – Io (FMR, 2015) ****½

By Stef

After Kathmandu (2007), Nada (2009) and Shores And Ditches (2013), this is the fourth duo album of François Carrier on alto and Michel Lambert on drums. On top of that, they have performed numerous times in various line-ups and albums, so no wonder they sound almost like one person.

The good thing is that these guys get better all the time, focusing on their incredible strength of sympathetic, empathetic and telepatic interplay, letting the music grow organically, as if the music determines its own destiny and the musicians just help to move it forward, and last but not least because of their energetic lyricism that I have mentioned in earlier reviews. Even if this is ‘only’ a duo setting, this is music that is expansive, meant to conjure up universal feelings of space and humanity and joy. And the great thing is that this is what you feel when listening to it. The music can be agonizing, as on some pieces of the lengthy title track when Carrier screams his heart out, or just playful as on “Mock Sun” when the melody almost turns classical folksy. Just to illustrate the quality of the improvisations, each track has phrases and moments that keep the improvisation focused, but each track also has phrases and melody lines that would make non-improvising composers jealous. That good.

So what has changed with the previous albums? I think the performance is even more direct, rawer and in that sense also more authentic. I also believe that they give themselves more time to develop and grow their instant compositions, in contrast to the shorter pieces on Nada. Carrier’s use of the Chinese horn on “Big Bounce” takes us back to his admiration for Dewey Redman. Lambert’s drumming is also at a very high level, just listen to “Albedo” to get an idea of how pulse and rhythm can sound different and propulsing the improvisation forward, how power and subtlety can be combined.

There is a kind of simplicity in it all that makes it doubly attractive. They find no need to complicate things, to demonstrate anything whatsoever, to create novelty per se, to put the musicians center stage. The real star here is the music, in all its freedom and beauty.

PS – I wish I could show you some Youtube video with both artists, but the only ones I could find where with larger line-ups.