François Couturier

Music for a While

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The accordion holds a very marginal role in modern jazz. This trio will make you wonder why. François Couturier (piano), Jean-Marc Larché (soprano saxophone), and Jean-Louis Matinier (accordion) take their uncommon instrumentation to unsuspected heights. The music on this album belongs to that place where 20th century classical composition and modern creative jazz meet (and that's a few blocks away from third stream, mind you). At times it really feels like it is stemming from the jazz of Lennie Tristano and Steve Lacy. Elsewhere it shows the precision in writing and stiff meter of classical music. Aware of the blur, the musicians play with it, giving their pieces titles that link them to the classical tradition, referencing Mozart ("Ouverture: Mozart au Paradis") and Beethoven ("Héroica," the title of his third symphony), forms like the overture, the requiem, and counterpoint, even deriving "Arnolds" from Schoenberg's Klavierstüke, Op. 19 II and III. Couturier can display the romanticism of a bop pianist ("Épilogue: Requiem"), but also the chameleonic virtuosity of an accomplished concert pianist. Larché uses stunning multiphonics and microtonal techniques, often playing against Matinier's accordion, trying to confuse the listener on what instrument plays what notes. But the biggest surprise here is Matinier and what he does with his accordion. His microtonal twists in "Cruauté du Contrepoint" and the stuttering effect in "Continuum" are not merely techniques, they redefine the essence of the instrument, radically leaving musette behind. The pieces are gripping, often very lyrical and moving. Even though the writing pushes deep inside atonal territory, melodies remain strong and immediate. Superbly unusual, Music for a While (first prize for unassertive title) is a strongly stated achievement. Highly recommended.