CD review

Matthieu Saglio – “El camino de los vientos”

Matthieu Saglio – El camino de los vientos
(ACT 9912-2. CD review by Alison Bentley)

Matthieu Saglio album coverMusic brings back memories of places, and sometimes creates new ones too. Cellist Matthieu Saglio lives in Spain and was born in France. El camino de los vientos means “the way of the winds”, and you can imagine African winds blowing into Europe bringing music with them. Saglio has chosen his musical collaborators at a distance. He sent each one a recording of himself playing particular tracks, with “minimal instructions” as to what their recorded musical response should be – to be returned and put together into an album.

It opens with L’appel du muezzin, following the lilting quarter tones of the call to prayer. There’s a haunting version of this on one of his solo cello albums, but introducing Bijan Chemirani’s percussion here adds a new, vibrant dimension. The cello in duet with Steve Shehan’s percussion lures us into the slow beat of Las sirenas (“the sirens.”) Eastern quarter tones curve into tingling cymbal sounds; the cello’s distant reverb heightens the percussion.

Atman (Hindu for “soul”) is a duet with Saglio’s brother Camille Saglio, whose delicate falsetto explores what sounds like an Indian scale over cello drone. There’s a mysterious, calm texture when the two are in unison, and the drone creates harmonic tension and release. Sur le chemin is played in tandem with violinist Léo Ullmann. It’s a waltz with a tsigane feel, overdubbed in yearning minor layers. At times, the violin pulls against the pizzicato pulse with crackling flamenco rhythms. El abrazo (“the embrace”) is enhanced by Camille’s subliminal vocals, but is mostly a duet with Ullmann. Saglio has a classical background, and the piece unwinds slowly like a Michael Nyman string quartet, with skipping violin trills. Bach’s influence can be felt in the beautifully ruminative Les Cathédrales for solo cello. Arching, echoing phrases are stretched languorously across the implied chords.

Two other tracks feature vocalists, who’ve contributed lyrics. Metit (“suffering” in the West African Wolof language) brings Senegalese singer Abdoulaye N’Diaye to a point where Africa and Spain meet. The cello has the woody timbre of an oud on a loose, slow groove given definition by Shehan’s percussion. Shehan contributes imaginative jazz chords on piano too. The vocals are impassioned and throaty; the cello picks up the phrases, and transports you to another place. Flamenco singer Isabel Julve sings Spanish lyrics to Tiempo para soñar (“time to dream”), an intensely rhythmic joyful song with flamenco guitarist Ricardo Esteve and bassist Carles Benavent leading the groove. There’s lots of space to intensify the effervescent choruses.

Amanecer (“sunrise”) keeps us in Spain, with Shehan’s subtle percussion – his dark jazz piano chords add harmonic tension. The melody grows unhurriedly as Nils Petter Molvær’s warm-toned, open-hearted trumpet interacts beautifully with the grainy cello tone.

Two ACT label-mates make compelling contributions. Accordionist Vincent Peirani winds in and out of Bolero triste, a slow dance like a warm Spanish summer evening, created by Esteve’s gentle guitar with Saglio in bass role. The cello springs forward for an expressive solo, and Peirani brings intensely emotive countermelodies and chord work. Caravelle takes Ravel’s Bolero into an upbeat 5/8. Saglio hints at the theme in his solo, as French guitarist Nguyên Lê introduces subtle sounds that rise up from the roots of Chemirani’s strong drumming. The fine guitar solo never moves too far from Ravel, drawing on rock and jazz with delicate wavery tones, then building to a more percussive attack.

This album was recorded before locked-down musicians started sending each other tracks to be added to, and the result is inspirational. El camino de los vientos allows us to travel to musical places of great beauty.

LINK:
Purchase the album on ACT’s site

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