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Album Review

Recorded six and a half years after Quartet Noir's eponymous debut (then simply credited to the four musicians), Lugano is as delicate, graceful, puzzling, and beautiful as one could expect from the work of Marilyn Crispell and Joëlle Léandre, together or separately. The quartet's debut chronicled a first meeting with a round of duo and trio permutations, rounded up by the occasional quartet section. Lugano is more of a collective effort, everyone being involved throughout. Paradoxically, this album comes off as less emotionally intense than the first one, maybe because the players' individual approaches have shifted in the intervening years. Drummer Fritz Hauser and sax player Urs Leimgruber punctuate and weave in filigree, which leads Crispell and Léandre to less dramatic gestures. For instance, the half-hour-long movement "Lugano, Pt. 1" aims at reaching a group balance through equal input from the improvisers, then testing the construction's strength and finally putting it to rest, instead of moving through a choreography of entries and exits, which was Quartet Noir's m.o. The second and third pieces are more playful: "Lugano, Pt. 2" starts off quite frantically before boiling down to a drone within six minutes; in "Lugano, Pt. 3," the group turns to humor, with Léandre scatting over her enrapturing arco bass playing and Leimgruber throwing in a mock klezmer solo on soprano sax. Slightly less immediately lovable than the group's first album, Lugano is nevertheless a strong release, well worth investigating. The music was recorded live at Radio Svizzera-Rete Due on October 29, 2004. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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Lugano, Quartet Noir
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