Sometimes, you're in the right place at the right time. After the IMC's series on the brilliant Montreal saxophonist Francois Carrier aired on The Mighty 93.1 last year, Carrier contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in penning the liner notes to his next project. I answered in the affirmative, obviously. The album, entitled Being With, is an improvised duet recording with vocalist Veronique Dubois, and the results are intriguing. Released earlier this year on UK-based Leo Records ("Music for the inquiring mind and the passionate heart"), the music is available in both physical and an electronic formats.
Reprinted below are my notes from the CD package:
Many thanks to Francois Carrier for allowing me the opportunity to contribute in some small way to this project, and, of course, for the wonderful music.
This seems to me to be an aptly titled collection of music, for if being is the most basic state of existence, then surely being with is one of the highest. It connotes partnership, cooperation, commonality, harmony; a connection across that which divides us.
To listen to the music contained herein is to witness moments when the two sounds – Francois Carrier’s horn and Veronique Dubois’ voice – are indistinguishable from one another. That sort of negation of the self is the essence of being with. When me becomes we. When the aims of the individual melt away, and the success of the pairing becomes of primary concern. Such moments are rare enough in human relations; musically they are a precious commodity indeed.
Whether they are whispering to one another, racing each other to the end of a line, or trading baboon calls, these two musicians are always in conversation, always connecting. Veronique Dubois performs the sorts of vocal gymnastics you might expect from Diamanda Galas or Yamatsuka Eye. She keens, soars, dips, her voice sometimes strangled or guttural, at other times crystalline-pure. In other words her vocalizations have much in common with Francois Carrier’s playing. This is what makes them so well suited for collaboration, for being with one another in such a setting.
Francois Carrier continually amazes me with his willingness to meet his collaborators in the fertile middle ground where individual performances are perhaps less technically impressive but where the key to successful improvisation lies (which isn’t to say that Carrier does not possess dazzling technique – he does, of course, but he is judicious in its display). This is true whether the collaborator is his frequent foil Michel Lambert, or a “guest” musician, such as Jean-Jacques Avenel on the brilliant Within. It speaks well of both artists’ sensibilities when such a sympathetic bond is forged, but I have yet to encounter a piece of music featuring this wonderful saxophonist in which he has failed to connect with another musician, and I doubt I ever will.
As states of existence go, perhaps this musical sense of being with is higher still, a plane most of us will never inhabit. In instances when this deeper being with is achieved the result is a wondrous musical communion. Sometimes, as is the case here, the meeting has been captured for posterity, and though the musicians involved are certainly lucky, we listeners are the truly fortunate ones.