By this point heading for longstanding status with ECM Records, it's always intriguing to follow an artist through the label's discography, as one relationship seems to lead, inevitably, to another. While French accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier made his first appearance with the label on fellow Frenchman Louis Sclavis
' Dans La Nuit
(2000), it was his tenure with Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem
's Le Pas de Chat Noire
(2002) trio, also heard on the 2006 follow-up Le Voyage de Sahar
, that seems to have led to his working with that trio's third member, Francois Couturier
, on two of the French pianist's "Tarkovsky Trilogy" recordings: the first, Nostalghia: Song for Tarkovsky
; and its 2011 conclusion, Tarkovsky Quartet
It's taken nearly 15 years, but after three recordings for Enja that ranged from his 2001 duo recording with virtuosic five-string acoustic bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons
, to the Transatlantic meeting of Matinier with American pianist/harmonicist Howard Levy
and German clarinetist Michael Riessler on Silver & Black
(2009), the accordionist finally has an album under his own name on ECM, and a fine record it is.
A duo date with Marco Ambrosinithe nyckelharpa player heard on Baroque harpist Giovanna Pessi
's similarly inspired collaboration with Norwegian singer Susanna Wallumrod, If Grief Could Wait
(2012), as well as on Baroque guitarist Rolf Lislevand's two ECM New Series recordings, Nuove Musiche
(2006) and the equally sublime Diminuto
further stretches the boundaries of both instruments, but in particular Ambrosini's Swedish keyed fiddle. A bowed and plucked instrument with sixteen stringsthree played regularly and a fourth, typically a drone string, rarely touched, with the remaining twelve acting as resonating strings that vibrate sympathetically, and a series of keys attached to tangents which, when depressed, act as frets on the neck of the instrument that change the strings' pitchthe nyckelharpa is rarely heard outside the purview of traditional Swedish folk music but, in the hands of the Italian Ambrosini, clearly possesses the potential for far greater possibilities.
If anything, the music of Inventio
defies any such reductionist categorizations as style...or time. In addition to original material written individually by Matinier and Ambrosini, this recital also features one collaboratively credited improvisation "Tasteggiata"a fiery piece where the percussive sounds of Matinier's right hand on the buttons of his accordion are matched by the clicking of Ambrosini's tangents, before a dervish-like melody emerges that, bolstered by Matinier's keyboard arpeggios, ebbs and flows dynamically to a series of climactic peaks and valleys before coming to an abrupt conclusion. Inventio
also draws from more archaic sources, including a melancholic piece from the brief life and repertoire of 18th century Italian composer/violinist/organist Giovanni Battista Pergolesi ("Qui Est Homo"). "Praeludium From Rosary Sonata No. 1," by late 17th/early 18th century Bohemian/Austrian violinist and composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, is a solo feature for Ambrosini that is, perhaps, his most commanding performance of the 47-minute setan interpretation of music that was, for its time, truly groundbreaking in its virtuosic demandsones that had never before been made of violinistsbut is all the more impressive in Ambrosini's hands, his adaption for nyckelharpa truly demonstrating the vast breadth and potential of his instrument.
The original material is no less provocative. Matinier's "Wiosna" blends Parisian imagery with the feeling of more fervent forward motion, while Ambrosini's "Basse Dance" (the album's longest track at a little over six minutes) juxtaposes the movement suggested by its title with a broad emotional cross-section as it travels from dark to light and back again, with numerous in-between stops and moments of gentle elegance rapidly contrasting passages of more vivid drama.
Two pieces from Johann Sebastian Bacha nyckelharpa adaptation of his "Presto From Sonata in G Minor (BWV 1001)," followed by "Inventio 4 (BWV 775)," a duet of similarly stunning contrapuntal beauty, with Matinier and Ambrosini twisting and turning in and around one another, periodically coming together in glorious consonance only to divide once againcontrasts with "Siciliènne," a relatively modern piece by 20th century French composer/accordionist André Astier that closes the recording on a haunting but beautiful note.
Throughout, both Matinier and Ambrosini use improvisation as a means of expanding their collective language, it often becoming difficult to differentiate what's on the written page and what's in the immediate minds of these two remarkable performers. And if both players' work on other ECM recordings has been impressive enough to make the prospect of their working together one filled with limitless possibilities, the promise delivered by Inventio
is so rich in its rewards, so unexpectedly multifaceted and multifarious as to make it album of constant surprise, delight...and, yes, invention.