Sophie Agnel/ John Edwards/ Steve Noble: Meteo (CF 272)
The liner notes said it best, …”listening is a form of improvisation.” To be sure, no two listeners come away from Meteo with the same experience. This single track (38:25) live recording from the 2012 Festival Météo in Mulhouse France is a first time meeting of the French pianist Sophie Agnel and the British rhythm section of John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums).
While rhythm is often an intramural device, here it is a highly personal interchange between masterly improvisers. Agnel, a classically trained pianist, has focused her energies on free improvisation, prepared piano, and music beyond category like fellow musicians Stéphane Rives, Michel Doneda, and Jean-Luc Guionnet. Edwards and Noble are two-thirds of the band Decoy with pianist Alexander Hawkins, members of the London Improvisers Orchestra, and have backed the jazz giants Joe McPhee, Lol Coxhill, Alan Wilkinson, and Peter Brotzmann.
The disc begins with a crash and rattle of drum and cymbal and the simultaneous manipulation of both inside and outside of the piano. The trio sets a pulse that they return to, but not until they have traced a line from tonal to atonal music and silence to noise. Agnel works with a palette of new piano sounds, like a saxophonist’s extended technique, dealing with the physicality of her instrument. Likewise Edwards and Noble are often scraping an exorcism of sound from their instruments. With barely a pause for ideas, the applied cymbal strike, the woodiness of the bass and the harp-like qualities of the piano’s insides yield an energy that climaxes somewhere at 31 minutes. Exhaustion follows, and the shortish (by digital standards) piece requires no more time to qualify as a nonpareil.