RT 9305 (1995)
Marilyn Crispell : piano
1. Any Terrain
Tumultuous, part 1 (Houle) [8:35]
Recorded september 23, 1995
François Couture, All Music Guide
This 1995 album is simply beautiful and has been François Houle's best recorded effort for five years, up to the point when he released his groundbreaking -- and very different -- conceptual album Au Coeur du Litige with his electro-acoustic quartet. Houle and free improv pianist Marilyn Crispell were meant to play together. They both have a contemporary classical sensitiveness that screamed of potential for exquisite compatibility. Seven of the ten pieces are Houle's, Crispell contributed two, and an early acolyte of the clarinetist, Tony Wilson, provided the closing piece. These are framed improvisations and loose compositions with abundant pockets of freedom. From the set of five miniatures "A Patch Sets" (two and a half minutes total) to the sustained "Any Terrain Tumultuous," parts one and two, this disc is full of magical moments, like when the pianist bursts into a sudden solo in the middle of the delicate "Oblique." Both musicians explore the same compositional artifact: Crispell's "Nomad" and Houle's "For Clayoquot" start on a head played in unison from which one player gradually moves away. The latter piece, already recorded on the François Houle Trio's Schizosphere (1994, Red Toucan), would be unrecognizable if it weren't for this opening theme. If the pianist tends to take more room in terms of playing than her counterpart, it's only fair play: after all, she had a bigger number of followers at the time and helped introduce Houle to a larger audience. Any Terrain Tumultuous is a must-have for fans of the clarinetist and an appreciable item for Crispell lovers.
~ François Couture, All Music Guide
Jeph Jerman - The Improviser
Definitely compositions. The title track goes from very austere beginnings to eventually live up to it's name, Houle blowing circles around Crispell's clusters and runs. These are the most engaging parts of the disc for me, and I wish they'd just BLOW more often.
I guess the idea behind composing ideas to improvise around is so that the listeners, as well as the players, are spared those moments of wandering or un-inspiration. Does this point out a lack of ability in the composers? Perhaps. But these are two veterans, and I've heard them both improvise brilliantly in other contexts, so why the Forethought? Something to prove? Trying to get something across?I cannot in good conscience judge these compositions. They all sound more classical than jazz (to use worn-out terms) and during the written parts I find myself wishing they'd get to the fire. (When Crispell plays a solo, things burn right up.) I like the spareness of the two instruments' sounds, and the recording is excellent. My girlfriend, who's been listening along with me, found this CD more interesting than anything else I've played tonight.
Visit François Houle's website
FRANÇOIS HOULE: A PLURALITY OF MUSIC, A CONFLUENCE OF ENIGMAS
articles & photos by Laurence Svirchev