(ECM 0864800. CD review by Mary James)
If you articulate the word “Rivages” aloud you breathe in and then out, gently and naturally. And so it is with this album by Jean-Louis Matinier and Kevin Seddiki: the breathing qualities of accordion and guitar are in complete and satisfying sympathy. Accordionist Matinier has appeared on ECM before, with Anouar Brahem on Le pas du Chat Noir and Louis Sclavis on Dans la Nuit, and he accompanied Juliette Gréco on tour. Seddiki is making his ECM debut with this album, having studied classical guitar and making his mark with several other duos – with percussionist Bijan Cheminari and singer Sandra Rumolino. Early on in his career Seddiki accompanied Dino Saluzzi and Al di Meola. His album Il Sentiero featured bandoneonist Daniele di Bonaventura (who duos with Maciek Pysz on Coming Home) so he has an affinity with bellowed instruments, and he works across many idioms.
This particular duo met a decade ago, played as a trio with Cheminari and it subsequently became obvious that a duo would enable then to explore the juxtaposition of their two instruments and their shared ideas. Their repertoire grew gradually, the result is Rivages, an album of originals singly and jointly composed, a piece by Fauré, some traditional music which sounds jazzy (Greensleeves) and three striking improvised pieces which explore form.
Seddiki has a sound of his own, characterised by delicate and nimble picking with a resonant percussive quality (enhanced by his study of the zarb with Cheminari), above all his sound and approach is supremely graceful and lyrical. Matinier is a master of the accordion, whose sustained notes that ebb and flow provide the perfect foil for the guitar. With a duo there is nowhere to hide, it is perhaps the most challenging but also the most rewarding, thoughtful and personal of musical partnerships. They share the lead and composition balance as equals. The inclusion of a solo improvised piece, Derivando, by Seddiki indicates Matinier’s high regard for Seddiki. The atmosphere of this album is dreamy, indeed one track is called Rêverie. The rocking of a baby’s cradle is imagined in the gentle Fauré, Les berceaux. Miroirs is an improvised piece, abstract and darker, the gentlest fluttering of hands on guitar body reminding us of Seddiki’s prowess on the zarb. Feux Follets, also improvised, is a delicious wisp of breathless restless fingerwork. Sous l’horizon by Matinier is the slowest piece, a gentle and meditative ending to a beautiful album by two masters at ease with each other and a stunning debut on ECM for Seddiki.
And since it can be tricky to record guitars, it’s worth mentioning where the recording was made – the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano, and as you’d expect, the sound is perfect because it is engineered by Stefano Amerio, listen out for the faintest drone at the opening of Après la pluie, you may catch your breath.
Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter working with John Law and others. Twitter: @maryleamington