Bassist Joelle Leandre's solo performances are, without fail, deeply impressive yet enormously human works. She is among that rare class of improvisers - such as Cecil Taylor and Derek Bailey - who are most complete when performing alone (that said, however, Bailey and Leandre's 1997 duet No Waiting (Potlatch) is essential in both their discographies). There are, however, enough solo records in her catalogue that keeping up can be a challenge. A second selling point, then, is a smart idea.
Live in Israel offers the best of both: the first CD contains 54 minutes of Leandre unaccompanied from Tel Aviv and the Oud Festival in Jerusalem in 2007. She is, as always, virtuosic, elegant, and resonant. Like Bailey and Taylor, her work is so personal that, to a degree, you know what you're going to get: the soul laid bare twice is still the same soul. It's the second half of the set that — while not as strong — provides particular interest. Also recorded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the disc collects duo, trio and sextet performances with Leandre and an assortment of eight Israeli players. There's a strange mix of slow unfolding and, at times, tentativeness to the disc; the players allow each other room to move, allowing some nice moments of discovery but ultimately making for an uneven (if nicely programmed) listen. The best known names show up in the sextet, with Assif Tsahar on bass clarinet and Daniel Sarid on piano, but the strongest collaboration is in Leandre's duet with Sameer Makhoul. The dichotomy of strings, bass and oud, and of voices, male and female, isn't just the best of the encounters here but stands among the more interesting mixing of textures she has put on record.
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