Madeleine & Salomon – Eastern Spring
(Tzig’Art TZIG220930. Album review by Alison Bentley)
Singer Madeleine and pianist Salomon are a French duo with a “common desire for another world”. The album title evokes the Arab Spring: songs from the 60s and 70s that “echo… the protests of a youth thirsty for change…”. Madeleine & Salomon are Clotilde Rullaud and Alexandre Saada, and this album follows on from their 2016 recording of American songs, A Woman’s Journey. They listened to more than 200 “Middle Eastern militant pop” songs from countries round the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Turkey. They chose nine with themes of “Life-Death-Love.” These fresh new arrangements are sung mostly in English and French.
Matar Naem, from Lebanon, is slow and atmospheric with a jazz-inflected piano intro (My Love and I by David Raksin.) Their version is plaintive, melancholy and beautiful, evoking “Gentle rain/in a foreign autumn.” Madeleine’s vocal style owes something to French chanson, and has an affecting directness and intensity. In the Egyptian Ma Fatsh Leah, Salomon combines a minimalist classical feel with a suggestion of rock, the way Rufus Wainwright’s piano can. There’s a sense of urgency in a mysterious street scene where traffic separates two people destined never to meet. The voice is gentle, with an innocent quality enhanced by vocal harmonies from Salomon.
Komakam Kon, an “Iranian pop hymn” is juxtaposed with lines spoken from Ginsberg’s Howl. Salomon keeps the 6/8 feel of the original with powerful block chords. Love is described as “a prison”; the beat poetry fits the dark mood well: “…supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz”. In De l’Orient à Orion, French lyrics are sung softly over flowing Debussy-esque piano. It’s a long way from the original Tunisian jazz rock version (RK Nagati) and creates something exquisitely new. Four tracks dissolve into improvised phases (Rhapsodies) with effects created by Jean-Paul Gonnod. Rhapsodie 1 here adds an eerie aura to the voice.
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Ince Ince Bir Kar Yaga is a Turkish protest song, and Madeleine keeps some of the oriental vocal trills and quarter tones in her declamatory style. “Why is it so hard to share our lands/To love each other, to respect ourselves?” She plays haunting flute in Rhapsodie 2, with Salomon’s Ligeti-like piano. Lili Twil is a fierce Moroccan love song, tensely rhythmic before folding into Rhapsodie 3 with its louring flute. In complete contrast, the Israeli Layil is slow, atmospheric and intimate, almost like a jazz standard. “A night like this/Doesn’t make any sound/It dazzles you.”
The traditional Turkish Dere Geliyor Dere develops into the Israeli Ha’Yalda Hachi Yafa Ba’gan via the sub-aquatic sounds of Rhapsodie 4. The first is vigorously asymmetrical , while the Israeli song has an irresistibly sweet melody and jazz harmony. The piano brings an almost Schubertian feel to the Lebanese pop song Do you love me? while the vocals have a tenderness and delicacy over blurry piano.
It’s a distinctive, creative and very original album, drawing all the songs together in the duo’s own style.
LINKS: Eastern Spring on Bandcamp