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Eva Slongo: Souffle

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Eva Slongo: Souffle
Improvisation was once a norm for classical musicians, and not just for geniuses such as Bach, Mozart, Liszt or Paganini. That freedom has, to a very large degree, been curtailed by classical music institutions, along with composition. On Souffle, her second album following Inspirations (Unit Records, 2016), Swiss-born, Paris-based violinist Eva Slongo breaks a few metaphorical eggs in bringing the worlds of classical music and jazz together. Of the nine tracks, six are originals, with Slongo's arrangements of Fauré, Beethoven and Satie rounding out the set.

Whilst a whole album of jazz arrangements of classical music might have made for a greater conceptual statement, in fact, Slongo's vocabulary draws in a very natural way from both jazz and classical worlds. And that should come as no surprise. Classically trained, Slongo turned her back on a classical career upon discovering jazz and the thrill of improvisation. Her courage was vindicated when she won the Best Improvisation at the Stéphane Grappelli International Violin Competition in 2011.

Slongo's musical hybridity comes through as much in her own compositions, particularly on "Cosmos" and "Les Poèmes du Vent," as it does in the jazz-treated music of the aforementioned illustrious trio of classical composers. The classical formalism of Slongo's melodies—often delivered with voice and violin in unison—is juxtaposed against her free-flowing scatting that pulls the violin along for the ride.

Jazz and classical idioms apart, there is a rootsy quality at the heart of Slongo's improvisations. This is maybe par for the course for one au fait with the gypsy jazz vernacular, having collaborated with guitar greats Birelli Lagrène and Josef "Wawau" Adler soon after arriving in the French capital. Hers is an intriguing language, and if not unique, by no means common or garden either.

The success of Slongo's jazz-classical recipe is due in no small part to the impeccable rhythm section of pianist Giovanni Mirabassi, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Lukmil Perez. They inject real swing on Fauré's "Sicilienne" and Beethoven's "Allegretto"—from his seventh symphony—and bring a light yet propulsive pulse to an Arabic-tinged reading of Satie's "Gnossienne." On the latter, soprano saxophonist Baptiste Herbin makes a dashing cameo, dovetailing with Slongo over Moutin's lithely inventive bass lines.

Slongo is also a singer. Her wordless legato is seductive, her scatting a bold extension of her violin. On the tender lullaby "Petite Douceur," sung in French, Slongo reveals a more intimate side to her musical personality, with piano and violin in turn expressing what words cannot. And, in the Grappelli-inspired lyricism of "Rue de Genêts" and the Vivaldi-esque swagger of "Energía," Slongo bridges seemingly disparate cultures with elegance and passion.

Slongo knows that the musical ley lines between past and present, between so-called old music and new, run deep and straight. Souffle is a handsome testament to that truth.

Track Listing

Cosmos; Sicilienne; Les Poèmes du Vent; Allegretto; Souffle; Petite Douceur; Gnossienne; Rue de Genêts; Energía.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Baptiste Herbin: soprano saxophone (1, 7).

Album information

Title: Souffle | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Continuo Jazz


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