RT 9333 (2007)

9 moments

François Houle: clarinets
Joëlle Léandre: double bass
Raymond Strid: percussion

  1. Moment premier (01.48)
  2. Moment grave (11.29)
  3. Moment calme (04.03)
  4. Moment tendu (13.08)
  5. Moment à deux (05.10)
  6. Moment clé (04.34)
  7. Moment spatial (03.42)
  8. Moment donné (02.30)
  9. Moment final (05.10)

Tracks 2-4, 9 recorded live at Open Space Gallery, Victoria on 4 November 2006; other tracks recorded at Factory Studio, Victoria on 6 November 2006.

visit François Houle's website

Liner notes

It takes guts to be a total improviser.
It takes a conscious fear, a kind of walking over an abyss on a tight-rope attitude.
The art of improvisation –the highest of the musical arts–
requires unshakeable confidence in one’s collaborators.
Every improvisation is an exploration into terra incognita,
the places an adventurer would go into with no map in hand,
no global positioning system, and no three dimensional satellite topography device.
It takes guts to do that.

Total improvisation requires what the jazz musicians call “chops”,
but chops that are light years beyond conservatory techniques.
Then there are tremendous listening skills, sympatico emotions,
and most importantly while and once the previous qualities have been mastered,
an imagination that never limits itself.

These qualities are exactly what you hear on this recording,
part of which was created in front of an audience,
part of which was recorded in a studio.
I predict no listener will be able to tell the difference between the two venues
until the applause is heard.
That’s just one measure of the intensity with which François Houle, Joëlle Léandre, and Raymond Strid command attention while they make music.

François Houle, Joëlle Léandre, and Raymond Strid make music
that sounds like news from another world.
Listen well, for whether you are aware of it or not,
every moment of life itself is an improvisation holding the keys
to open pathways never imagined could exist.
This series of improvisations proves the point, beyond belief.

Laurence Svirchev

Glenn Astarita - Jazz Review

Three virtuosos perform live and in the studio with the flair of a chamber trio going deviously off-course, among other attributes.  Multi-hued and intensely verbose, this CD provides a hearty glimpse of the art of improvisation via wily and mood-evoking vistas that might provide an altered-state of consciousness to some.  With Joelle Leandre’s sinuously engineered arco-lines, and clarinetist Francois Houle’s crying and darting lines offering a contrapuntal element, the program is firmed up by Raymond Strid’s comprehensive metrics. 

They pull out the proverbial stops here.  Featuring drones, gobs of timbre and rolling vistas, the musicians also engage in unsettling frameworks while tempering the flows with moments of humor and wit.  They generate sharp angles amid bizarre interludes and asymetrical pulses.  Strid adds a colorific element due this his cymbal and percussion based shadings, sometimes contrasted by Houle’s flotation-like choruses.  Nonetheless, this outing presents a study in numerous contrasts. 

On “Moment tendu,” the trio engages in furious exchanges often marked with circular phrasings and mind-shattering dialogues.  And in other areas, Leandre’s creaky arco-passages set the stage for capacious mini-motifs, marked by a distorted sense of time and space.  There are some quiet moments as well.  But at the end of the day, you’d be hard-pressed to chance upon a more invigorating set of improv-spawned works that excite the mind’s eye.  Where others fail miserably, these folks succeed in rather luminous fashion!

jazz review


Massimo Ricci - Touching Extremes  

Five of these “nine moments” were recorded in studio, while the remaining four come from a live recording at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria. The whole happened in a couple of days, in 2006; it’s pretty difficult to discern what was played in front of an audience and what not, as Laurence Svirchev correctly points out in the sleeve notes. A clarinet, double bass and drum trio that offers no typical point of entry, as the scintillating interplay occurring between the parts is at the same level of the brilliance of the single interpreters, with a few impressive glimpses of parallel awareness  (“Moment tendu” and “Moment clé” spring to mind, but they’re just two of the various possible examples). Houle’s clarinet lines are fluorescent, at times ferine, otherwise squeezed, perennially in the centre of a spiral of intelligence - not an unnecessary note from him. Léandre, what words can we invent again to describe the almost furious energy animating this woman? Being able to savour those arcoed harmonics and that ogress-like tone in so many different contexts is always a beautiful happening. Strid is both discreet and inquisitive, capturing fragments of his comrades’ timbre to metabolize them in a silent proportion of percussive shapes and fine-grained listening ability. The light that comes out from the most spectacular conversations is nothing short of gleaming, our familiarity with educated improvisation enhanced thanks to the musicians’ visible will to give to the listeners. They give indeed, a lot.

touching extremes


Downtown Music Gallery

'9 Moments' is a superbly recorded and is a splendid set of focused improvisations. Each "Moment" reveals the trio working together as one connected unit, exploring similar terrain. Exploding, unfolding, erupting in layers: the contrabass, clarinet and drums sound marvelous together as they swirl around one another tightly exploring similar terrain or tones. Sometimes stripped down and suspenseful, sometimes explosive and intense. I dig the way they dip into different cultures or genres and come up with a new combination of ideas/sounds.

Organically moving through solos, duos and trios and passing around ideas. Answering each other's questions with more questions and often becoming one solid force of nature. Each moment tells a different story or reveals another way of looking at life. A strong and tasty brew that is constantly shifting and evolving through moods, textures and fascinating pathways to unknown worlds.


Philippe Carles - Jazz Magazine

Soit trois très libres électrons échappés des scènes canadiennes, française et suédoise en vadrouille aux confins de la “jazzosphère” également à l’affût d’associations éphémères, agitées et imprévisibles, collisions inouïes ou harmonies paradoxales. D’où peuvent jaillir le meilleur et le pire, le terne expectatif (attendre-chercher-improviser jusqu’à ce qu’enfin ça jaillisse) ou le paroxysme inespéré et quasi magique. Soit, si l’on veut bien garder trace et mémoire, un chapelet de moments, a priori innommés, décrits après coup sans effets de “poésie” mais dont, précisément, les “titres” simplissimes simplement juxtaposés finissent par dégager un charme élémentaire : moment premier, moment grave, moment calme, moment tendu, moment à deux, moment clé, moment spatial, moment donné, moment final. Ici point de mystère, périphrase ou métaphore, mais un étiquetage aussi précis que celui d’un pot de confiture et, donc, dont la forme lapidaire autorise toutes les surprises et interprétations, une fois le pot ouvert et son contenu goûté. Et les mélanges de saveurs, des plus traditionnels et/ou classiques aux plus étranges, complexes, acides, pimentés, rassurants (nostalgiques) ou provocants, se déploient à la façon d’un banc d’essai gustatif. Un régal à condition de savoir (d’oser) conjuguer plaisir et exploration, la succession des “climats” n’allant pas forcément du “sage” vers le plus audacieux, d’où l’impression plutôt d’être confronté à une histoire du trio (cl-b-perc) qui aurait été à la fois accélérée et transfigurée selon la méthode du cut-in chère à Brion Gysin, avec, comme corollaires, des bouffées homophoniques (clarinette et contrebasse confondues), des réitérations allusives de vielle (clarinette ou contrebasse), voire des ruminations aux parfums électroniques, alternant avec des fulgurances d’orthodoxe virtuosité. Ce pourrait être un patchwork temporel, et c’est d’une exquise cohérence. (Disque d'émoi - mars 2008)

Jazz Magazine


Jean-Claude Gevrey - Octopus

Nouvelles retrouvailles entre la dompteuse de contrebasses Joëlle Léandre et le clarinettiste canadien François Houle que l’on a déjà entendus côte à côte dans plusieurs trios, en compagnie de Georg Graewe (piano) ou de Hasse Poulsen (guitare). Le label Red Toucan, déjà responsable de la documentation de ces précédentes rencontres, persiste et signe avec ce disque enregistré en 2006 à Victoria (Canada). Ce coup ci, le troisième larron est le percussionniste suédois Raymond Strid, collaborateur régulier de Mats Gustafsson ou Barry Guy. Le public de l’édition 2009 du festival Sons d’Hiver a pu apprécier la maîtrise de ces improvisateurs de haute volée ; ceux qui n’ont pas eu cette chance pourront maintenant partager ces neufs moments d’une grande variété de tempérament et magnifiquement capturés, que ce soit dans des conditions live ou en studio. L’entente est ici plus que cordiale, les esprits sont vifs, les gestes précis et le discours d’une superbe justesse. On retiendra, entre autres, ce "Moment Grave" qui n’a rien de tragique et où les longues intonations gémissantes de l’anche et de l’archet sont progressivement infiltrées par les ponctuations aériennes de Strid, chocs boisés et rayonnements métalliques, bientôt rejointes par les incantations possédées de Léandre qui dérivent en scat improbable puis, la seconde d’après, en vocalises tout aussi incongrues. "Moment tendu" marque aussi un temps fort avec une ouverture polyphonique de Houle dans un mode post-Evan Parker et dont la frénésie n’effraie en rien ses deux comparses qui ne décelèrent pas le rythme ; quelques minutes plus tard, des notes claires et sereines qui pourraient sortir du lexique de Steve Lacy viennent conclure l’audacieux morceau. De leur complémentarité musicale à toute épreuve, ces trois-là fournissent ici une convaincante preuve par neuf.


Jerry D'Souza - All About Jazz

Three exceptional improvisers comfortable in the art of instant interaction join forces and unleash an exceptional aural treat on 9 Moments. They define nine moments which devolve over different trajectories and moods, making each sit up and draw the listener into its soul. They can be animated and soar in exultation, or dip into a soothing well-being. The spell is created by François Houle (clarinets), Joëlle Leandre (double bass) and Raymond Strid (percussion), on this recording of live and studio material. The setting is of little consequence though; the music has the same sweep and impact.

The opening "Moment Premier" and the closing "Moment Grave" are the signposts. The former is a quick distillation of their approach through scattered tonalities and linear emphasis, the latter a gently laid back ode. Between the two is a transcendence that captures sound and shapes it into several dimensions. Expectancy is belied by surprise, the ordinary by excellence.

The trio cuts right to the groove on "Moment Grave." Leandre bows an angular swath on the bass against the rumble of Strid's bass drum and then gets into full flight, her bow casting deeper hues and trenchant motifs, snuggling against the strings and then darting off. Linearity and the complementing lines of Houle and Leandre cool the tempo and bring in a cohesive flow, but the lull is short lived. Strid renders the mood asunder with a dazzling array of percussive sparks and Leandre takes it into another dimension, juxtaposing Indian vocal rhythms with Vocalese. Houle marks a constant presence. His notes howl, sidle into the vortex and cool the heat, or dance in glee to Leandre's song.

The interaction between the three is best captured on "Moment Tendu." The understanding between them is the cornerstone of the adventure. They read each other perfectly, see the path that is being drawn, and follow before moving into solo tangents. The mood shifts are constant as they go through tempest and calm, dissonance and melody, structure and freedom.

"Moment Spatial" leans back and breathes. The three leave plenty of space, nothing is hurried. The integration of the rhythm of the bass and percussion and the harmony of the clarinet sit comfortably, the reflective mood soothing and characterizing of yet another aspect of the trio's music.

all about jazz

Nic Jones - All About Jazz

Never was a title more apt. It says it all; in music so profoundly of the moment, and in a world where time sometimes seems infinitely malleable, it's the preciousness of the moment that's often the first casualty. On 9 Moments, however, every moment seems like a cause for celebration.

Listeners can thus be eternally grateful for the fact that a performance such as “Moment Grave” was saved from the unforgiving ether. Bass player Joelle Leandre's uncredited vocal interjections have the effect of grounding proceedings that might otherwise have entered an entirely different realm; but the change wrought is not a negative one. Francois Houle's clarinet seems to worry the gravity of bass and drums like a particularly persistent mosquito, and his use of circular breathing ensures his lines often possess a seemingly endless quality, spiraling yet railing against the silence.

For all the subtle differences, the duo of Houle and Raymond Strid on “Moment Donne” brings to mind British collective AMM, in the incarnation that consisted of Lou Gare on tenor sax and Eddie Prevost on drums. This is so not least because, even at their most hyperactive, both duos seem to retain a reflective air, as if at any time the moment of creativity might pass. They're acutely aware of it, and how great its loss is.

Such railing need not necessarily result in a glut of activity, however, and “Moment Cle” proves it. Here, the increase in activity is gradual; but for all of that, the need to negate the silence seems paramount. The matter-of-fact business of the musicians checking each other out, anticipating and responding accordingly, is almost palpable.

The rewards of close listening are thus obvious, and the same is true of “Moment Premier,” where in less than two minutes the trio shows enough spatial awareness to render a septet distinctive; in lesser hands, the results might well be the self-conscious avoidance of anything as overt as a pulse, but here that very absence seems to lend perverse impetus to the music.

Musicians have been improvising in the moment for decades now, so in a sense it takes a session like this to renew the meaning of that old one about the sound of surprise. Suffice to say, it's here in abundance.

all about jazz


Guillaume Belhomme - Le Son du Grisli

Après Hasse Poulsen et George Graew (tous enregistrements produits par Red Toucan), c’était au tour du percussionniste Raymond Strid de se frotter à la paire Houle / Léandre : rencontre en 9 moments.

Plus ou moins longs, ceux-là, et forcément différents : angoissé, lorsque le trio amasse les effets d’un archet emporté et les plaintes de la clarinette (Moment calme) ; sophistiqué : la clarinette et ses lignes claires, maintenant, face aux pizzicatos réputés de Léandre (Moment final) ; monumental, deux fois, sur des pièces plus longues : Moment tendu, qui voit Strid convaincre ses partenaires de suivre son allure changeante, et Moment grave, tour de force déconstruit capable d’invectives lyriques plus que singulières.

Souvent discret, toujours réfléchi, Raymond Strid aura donc su bien relever le défi, se sera montré à la hauteur des exigences de la rencontre, occasionnelle et redoutable.

le son du grisli


Ken Waxman - Jazz Word

Crisscrossing then negating boundaries both sonic and geographical, three practitioners of absolute improvisation produce nine high quality instant compositions in the time it took to record them.

Old hands at this, Swedish percussionist Raymond Strid and French bassist Joëlle Léandre lock seamlessly into formation with Vancouver clarinetist François Houle during these British Columbia-recorded sessions. Multiphonic reverberations encompass multi-textures wrung from rattled chains, struck gong and whacked drum tops; glottal air and tongue passages are popped, chirped and slurred; and handfuls of strings are rhythmically thumped or delicately bowed sul ponticello. Léandre’s extends her improvisations vocally as well, when with onomatopoeic mimicry she uses Satchmo-like throaty growls to intersect with Houle’s serpentine trilling.

Climax of the CD is undoubtedly the more-than-13-minute “Moment Tendu”, where the trio’s cumulative staccato intensity produces more than three expected counterpoint lines. Operating at jet propulsive velocity, each affiliated tone vibrates louder than the former. Strid’s singular rumbles, ruffs and rebounds made common cause with Houle’s split tone decorations; then the clarinetist’s lyrical chalumeau warbles are accompanied by Léandre almost literally excavating the strings lowest pitches.

Still no matter how many extended techniques involving reed hisses, hand thumps or catgut spiccatto are heard, jazz’s rhythmic animation remains. When Léandre slaps her bass strings, Houle expels a lyrical obbligato and Strid thumps his snare and tom toms, aural images of Pops Foster, Barney Bigard and Baby Dodds are evoked along with those of more contemporary sound explorers.

Jazz Word



Francesco Martinelli - Moment's notice

Is this record fun! While pre-structured music might probably be useful for educational purposes, there isn't anything remotedly like an inspired, everything-goes improvised session like this to bring the listener to a state of elation. Rollicking atmospheres change with quicksilver speed, putting considerable personal resources to the service of the development of the group's sound with no feeling of egotism, while different personalities are clearly defined and contributing to the variety of the different tracks. Raymond Strid continues the tradition of European non-drummers, or post-Coltranian drummers, like Bennink, Lytton and Lovens – I mean with this that in his playing the rhythmic element is not necessarily more important than the melodic or timbral ones, just like in any other instrument. He's a passionate listener, and a wealth of knowledge is distilled in his music. Both Léandre and Houle have the ability to switch from a perfectly-shaped, traditionally tuned and controlled chamber music sound to the wildest muscular explorations; they use with perfect ease unconventional areas of their instruments, like overtones or percussive sounds, incorporating them in the narrative. Houle manages to fuse (Brubeck-affiliated clarinetist) Bill Smith's and Evan Parker's inspirations to create a fully formed new language on the clarinet; while Léandre draws from classical avant-garde as well as from opera; but more and more her inspiration seems to come from from jazz bassisms. In fact, there are a few moments in the second track where they sound close to an Artie Shaw trio on speed, with Joelle vocalizing instrumentally – beginning with a cabaret scatting style and then getting scaringly closer to Tricky Sam Nanton than Joya Sherrill, while Houle veers into Bigard's territory. (This might have to do with Strid's presence: at a recent gig of the Electrics, for a long spell with Ericson on baritone they were able to truly evocate the elegance, intricacy and finesse of the early Mulligan/Baker quartets, better than any note-by-note imitation: Axel Dorner might sound like an unsuitable candidate for Chet Baker only if you don't realize the beauty and finesse of his palette. With institutional and educational jazz reduced to dehydrated hardbop it might well happen that only avant-garde will keep swing and west coast jazz alive). Of course, this is a fleeting passage in the middle of a longish improvisation that might remind here of bagpipes and there of industrial sounds, but this didn't make it less striking to my ears. Be that as it may, I cannot see anyone even slightly interested in creative music remain unmoved by this highly recommendable, infectious set.

Moment's notice

Stephane Ollivier
Jazzman N°156, AVRIL 2009