In April 2006, Courvoisier reconvened the quintet with Mark Feldman, Vincent Courtois, Ikue Mori, Gerald Cleaver at Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in Switzerland for a four-night stand. Stands such as this were once the ubiquitous proving ground for improvisers working through jazz, but are now a rarity. Still, it was the perfect laboratory for a project like Courvoisier’s, and the performances could not have occurred at a better interval to test the cure. Lonelyville confirms that the wait paid off handsomely, as it is a marker for a contemporary compositional sensibility that is both distinctly formal and performer-specific.
Subsequently, Courvoisier’s approach to compositional form goes beyond designing a set of relationships between materials, but a set of relationships between musicians, as well.
Matching musicians and materials is a time-honored convention, but rarely has a composer composed for such diverse artists as Courvoisier for this project. Her motivation was simple: They are all longtime friends and colleagues. Still, the spectrum of colors created in these performances by Ikue Mori, Mark Feldman, Vincent Courtois and Gerald Cleaver is stunningly wide. Mori, Courvoisier’s cohort in Mephista, a co-op trio rounded out by Susie Ibarra, can approximate gurgling water one moment and the hydraulics of a futuristic deus ex machina the next. Whether he is nailing treacherous passages whose fingerings practically careen off the fingerboard or sawing chords with abandon Courtois constantly tests the extremes of his instrument. The complete percussionist, Cleaver can slip into an interlude with supple textures or whip up frenzy with powerhouse drumming. And, Feldman simply does it all.
Courvoisier the pianist is just as central to the album as Courvoisier the composer. Her playing is as varied as that of her cohorts, spanning quiet reverence and by-the-throat intensity. Whereas some pianists can only make their presence felt when unleashing torrents, Courvoisier makes an impact even in her most minimal moments. Her technique is immaculate, but it is never an end in itself; it invariably serves the emotional truth of the moment, which in turn serves the overall design of the composition. This is an aspect of her art she has cured as carefully as her compositions.
With Lonelyville, Sylvie Courvoisier reached the horizon she first
glimpsed in 2004, and which came into full view in 2005. Undoubtedly, she is already eyeing another horizon, and curing a new body of work to reach it.
released January 1, 2007
Sylvie Courvoisier: Piano, Composition
Mark Feldman: Violin
Vincent Courtois: Cello
Ikue Mori: Electronics
Gerald Cleaver: Drums