For several years, the long-established Canadian partnership of saxophonist François Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert has taken to the road to tour Europe, playing with local musicians wherever they go. The countries and cities they visit have steadily increased over the years, with perennial favourites Russia, Poland and England in recent years joined by Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain. Carrier has habitually recorded every concert on these tours, and the results have provided a steady stream of albums, on a variety of labels. Of the musicians they have played with on these tours, their trio with Russian pianist Alexey Lapin has produced the most albums, with Freedom is Space for the Spirit being the sixth to date. That group's nearest rival is their trio with Polish acoustic bass guitarist Rafal Mazur, with three albums so far.
If six live albums by the same trio sounds like overkill, it should be noted that three of those with Lapin date from December 2010 and two from April 2013, while the current release was recorded in St. Petersburg, in May 2014. Such an arrangement produces fresh, coherent music. Over the years they have played as a group often enough to know each other's idiosyncrasies and habits, and to feel comfortable together. However, only coming together once a year prevents their playing from becoming stale or falling into well-worn pathways. Comparing the current album to the trio's past work confirms that their music is still original every time.
As always with Carrier, everything here is improvised and it all flows so smoothly that it would be impossible to guess the trio were not working from written pieces. The saxophonist has the enviable ability to spin coherent melodic phrases which he then uses as source material to explore. His music is kept varied and fresh by subtle shifts of tone and attack. As always, he is adept at producing dramatic climaxes, building up to them logically and taking the listener along with him. While Carrier is in the spotlight for much of the time, Lambert and Lapin are just as vital to the success of the music, as accompanists and soloists. Having been with Carrier since the turn of the millennium, Lambert displays a near-telepathic understanding of him that allows the saxophonist to roam free, safe in the knowledge that the drummer will deliver. Lapin is just as reliable, throughout sounding like a fully-integrated member of the trio.
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