Vibraphonist Mélissa Acchiardi, from the Lyon region has been on the scene for some time. But she really began to garner attention at the end of last year thanks to her involvement in the Lyon-based ARFI organisation’s InDOLPHYlités. This project set itself the challenge of reworking Eric Dolphy’s Blue Note classic Out to Lunch! . Mélissa Acchiardi is a musician who works a lot within collectives, taking on artist residencies and educational activities through them, for example. Acchiardi teaches percussion in the Rhône-Alpes region.
She is also a member of the Compagnie du Vieux Singe, in a more theatrical direction. ARFI (Association à la Recherche d’un Folklore Imaginaire – translated as ‘association searching for an imaginary folklore’) is a more recent involvement. This is one of the oldest jazz and improvised music collectives in France, and she is currently preparing a show based on Orwell’s Animal Farm. Franpi Barriaux from Citizen Jazz (*) spoke with this “young, involved and passionate musician who thinks global and total, like her music” for International Women’s Day 2021.
Tell us about yourself…
I am a musician, a percussionist. I studied classical percussion in conservatoires, in particular with Laurent Vieuble who was an important teacher and musical inspiration for me. Then at the Cefedem Rhône-Alpes I met some fascinating people who helped me to make music the way I wanted to. I play lots of different kinds of music. To be honest, I don’t listen to that much music. I like to play it with people, not so much on my own. I like to invent new music. I like meeting people who have very different lives to mine, and I often use music to do that.
A lot of people first heard of you as part of the Very Big Experimental Toubifri Orchestra. What does this orchestra mean to you?
It was the first band I was in. When we were 19 years old, Grégoire Gensse, the conductor of the orchestra, came to see me to ask what year I was in at the music school and if I wanted to be part of an orchestra and I said yes. That was 15 years ago now. Meeting Grégoire Gensse was followed by the discovery of Balinese music when I was 20 years old, then we met Loïc Lantoine – we all played together a lot and had a lot of fun and still still enjoy making music together now.
It was with them I grew up musically, playing their compositions, arranging pieces with them, listening to them play, but also through the experience of this very active collective, a dense, rich, moving, great experience. We currently have three shows: the one with Loïc, the one with the orchestra called Dieux Poulet (we’re releasing the album this month!) and a musical walkabout project which is nearing completion.
You recently joined the ARFI collective – the notion of collective seems important to you? What does this established Lyon organisation mean to you?
I’m gradually discovering that the question of how multiple people create things together fascinates me. And music is a good setting for that. I was delighted to discover ARFI. The energy, invention and experience of these musicians impress me a lot. For the first time, I’m meeting musicians from different generations to me, and they are all very colourful characters! When Christian Rollet tells me about the early days of his musical career in the 70s in the car on the way to play, it’s fascinating. And when we do an improv duet, I really get stuck in! The collective’s new creation – La Marmite Infernale – comes out this month. We’re in the final stretch. We’re seeing the pieces and the multi-coloured identity of this new orchestra emerge. I observe their way of doing things together and it raises a lot of fascinating questions.
How do you approach a well-known piece from the jazz canon like Out To Lunch! and adapt it to fit your instrument?
I practise the vibraphone without reference really, more as an all-purpose means to produce sound. When Clément Gibert offered me the chance to play this music with them, I arrived really wanting to improvise, but having not had regular exposure to this area, to be honest, I was pretty terrified. But the ARFI musicians were so welcoming that I set foot on this new playground with great joy and pleasure. And seeing how they play, no choice, you just have to go for it. I do what I can – but above all I am just delighted to be involved.
In addition, we can hear you within the Dur et Doux collective, which is also very multidisciplinary – can you tell us about your involvement in this?
In 2011, Boris Cassone asked me to come and play in Herr Geisha And the Boobs. It was my first attempt on the drums. I loved it. We made four albums and played a lot of concerts – discovering Boris’s music was very important for me. Then, Antoine Mermet called us a few years ago to be a part of his band Saint Sadrill – wonderful pop music in which my vibraphone found an unexpected place. We have just recorded our second album.
Dur et Doux is a group of friends who work well together. They help each other out whenever they can. They have the secret to making a very individual kind of music in which the collective moves forward in unexpected ways. It’s basically merry mayhem, and they want it and like it that way.
In the duo Hidden People with Aëla Gourvennec, we get to see you in a more electronica sound, with voice and drums, can you tell us about this different universe?
Hidden People was born four years ago and Dur et Doux helps a lot to make our music. I’ve known Aëla for a long time and our writing comes together easily for us around these unique songs, made of texts, sounds, timbre exploration, humour, strangeness, suspense, rock… We do whatever we want. We both have followed a roundabout route to get to where we are: classical, theatre, rock and roll, pop, contemporary music, bluegrass, etc. We pick up everything and tell stories with it. I love writing for this duo. The possibilities are endless and the desire to tell stories is very strong. We made a first album on Dur et Doux called Tambour Cloche, and we’ve just recorded the second one, which will be released in the autumn.
You are going to be involved in the adaptation of Animal Farm with ARFI, can you tell us about the project?
It’s a great idea by Guillaume Grenard. I am delighted to be discussing these issues and ideas with him and Ophélie Kern, who will write the text. We are working with the actress Jessica Jargot. It’s a team of people who, like me, want to think about how to organise themselves together. I really like the idea of creating through this show a meeting between young people and the questions raised by the different political systems. And I know it will be great to play with Guillaume.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’ve been working with writers and actors for several years now. I met Samuel Gallet around 2007 who took me on my first steps in music writing/writing for musicals. I now play with the theatrical collective Compagnie du Vieux Singe and Ophélie Kern, a writer, director and actress. I also have occasional creative moments with the Eskandar collective. And on the music side, I have started a new duo to party and dance, with cellist Colin Delzant, where I am on drums and synthesiser. We are at the beginning stages, but it’s promising!
This article has been published in the following magazines as part of an IWD collaboration to highlight young jazz and blues female musicians across Europe: Citizen Jazz (Fr), Jazzaround (Be), Jazz’halo (Be), Jazznytt (No), London Jazz News (UK). #Womentothefore #IWD2021