Francois Carrier lives his life and plays his music with the Zen ideal in mind, and can sound like Thich Nhat Hahn when asked about his art: To be alive is beautiful, to breathe is beautiful, and to create music in the Now is beautiful. From this vantage point, Noh too, is beautiful.
Briefly, the Zen Buddhist ideal is to live in the moment at the intersection of the Absolute (sacred) and the Discriminatory (profane) worlds. The awareness of the Eternal Now, of life being a series of Nows, allows one to be truly free, avoiding the prison of the past and creating a future with full knowledge of the present. This is the ideal anyway, and requires a lifetime of training to achieve.
Following Happening (Leo, 2006) and Open Spaces (Spool, 2006), Noh, a download-only release from Ayler Records, is the third example of the moment being right and the music just happening.
Music that is this spontaneous must start with no preconceptions including key, rhythm or meter, harmony, progression or tune. The "average" or "normal" jazz musician might say that he or she is improvising in the moment, and that is true, but the set of assumptions is usually quite large, and is the net that the player knows is there.
This is not to say that one kind of music is better than another, but rather that the jazz ideal(meaning spontaneous creation as improvisation), when taken to its logical end, is represented by the kind of music Carrier plays. Recording it is almost against its nature, and experiencing it live and being changed would be the best thing. Really listening to this record is to vicariously experience being alive and joyful and is a truly beautiful thing.
Sharing the stage with Carrier is his long time partner, drummer Michel Lambert (right channel), drummer John Heward (left channel) and guitarist Reg Schwager. Having two drummers allows for variations of density to be easily achieved.
Schwager does not so much play guitar as become a pitched percussion instrument that adds tones to the drums. He does play some snippets of a line here and there, but there is also slide, distorted chords, and some Derek Bailey-ish sounds.
Flying over these waves of percussion is Carrier who might play an interval, expand that to fragment, and then again to a phrase. The logic of this process is fascinating as we hear each note played to the reaction, not only to its predecessors, but also to the other musicians. Needless to say, the other players are listening to what Carrier is doing, producing a real-time feedback loop.
All of these proceedings would be quite moot, or at least merely intellectual, were it not for the emotions and the very strong sense of "playing without a net" that is produced.
This music is both exciting and refreshing. Step into the Eternal Now and experience it for yourself.
AllAboutJazz - June 8, 2007
If you enjoy free-wheeling improv, Montreal native Francois Carrier will not let you down. In fact, his alto and soprano machinations have kept me interested in his work over the last decade or so. His latest project, a quartet with guitarist Reg Schwager and percussionists John Heward and Michel Lambert, is a thriller from the get go. Recorded in Montreal last May, music is "entirely improvised" by all members of the quartet. In fact, this feels like a loose and unconstrained session, one that came about on a whim. I don't know what sort of discussion Carrier had with his band mates, but the case may be, there was no discussion at all. Carrier's signature windy wails blow the others out of the waters. Schwager is masterful at plucking the strings, every few minutes coming up with tuneful solos. On "Noh Four", Schwager challenges the percussionists to a powerhouse head-to-head. Heward's and Lambert's fury is kept in check by the leader but when they fly, they scorch. Polyrhythmic scheming from the drummers is a blast to hear and their interaction with Carrier's windy and persistently angular approach is unforgettable. One minor complaint, the recording has a hollow deep end quality wise, which takes away a tad from the listening experience. Otherwise, "Noh" is a brave record taking us deep inside the world of this often under-looked musician.
Gaz-Eta / AKTUALNY NUMER: - 81: JESIEŃ 2010 / - Tom Sekowski