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Jean-Louis Matinier

by mana on February 3rd, 2011

Photo courtesy T. Radlwimmer

I was fortunate enough to see Juliette Gréco, Gérard Jouannest, and Jean-Louis Matinier perform at the London Jazz Festival in November 2010. To my delight, Matinier agreed to an interview with me in which he discusses his musical philosophy. Matinier, the world’s leading virtuoso on the accordion is a long-time collaborator with Juliette Gréco and an adventurous composer. He usually prefers to let his music speak for him, so getting an interview is a rare treat. He will be performing in a duo with Howard Levy in the near future, arranged by Chez Mana. Here is a dialogue that reveals more about this great musician.

Did your parents have a role in introducing you to music?

Matinier: My first encounter with music was listening to my father playing the violin. For an amateur, he played very well. I found the music magical and it was always a treat to play together. I always loved making noise on pots and pans, which is a bit paradoxical because I was rather a quiet and reserved child. My parents first offered me a small xylophone which amused me a lot, and then a little accordion when I was about 9 years old. I began to learn how to play them. But then the problems started when I realized that it is difficult because there is not always pleasure in the work of mastering the instrument. My parents were always very helpful and I thank them for it.

You seem to be attracted to Middle Eastern music, and non Western forms in general. What are you looking for in those collaborations?

Matinier: Yes, oriental music attracts me and so does the cuisine. My collaboration with Anouar Brahem, a master of the oud, resulted in 2 CDs: Le Pas Du Chat Noir and Le Voyage De Sahar on the ECM label. Working with him allowed me to achieve my wish, to discover another universe, playing music of refined composition, soothing, meditative, and with room for improvisation. For me, it was a very interesting way of playing the accordion, integrated into a trio with piano and oud, where it has a rhythmic as much as a melodic role.

How do you feel playing with Juliette Gréco and Gérard Jouannest?

Matinier: It is obviously a great pleasure to accompany Juliette Gréco. With a reduced orchestra of piano, accordion, and voice, or sometimes just accordion and voice, there is at the same time both great freedom and stringency.

Matinier escorts Juliette Gréco, Jouannest looks on
Photo by Chez Mana

Gérard Jouannest is a prolific composer, notably for Jacques Brel. He and I have written arrangements treating the piano and accordion as a small chamber orchestra, very responsive, dynamic and light in the interpretation, which also leaves more room for voice and lyrics. One word summarizes my feelings: respect.

Your music compositions are quite adventurous and have a free form. What inspires you and where do you see your music going?

Matinier: My music develops by chance and at the mercy of events. I make music with musicians. It is first and foremost a human relationship, no matter the instrument.
When I wrote Confluences, a quartet with bass, guitar, flute, and accordion, I wanted to try out different musical styles. I was fortunate to work with such incredible musicians as Renaud Garcia-Fons (Spain), Nelson Veras (Brazil), Bobby Rangell (USA). In general, the mixing of cultures opens the mind in a way that I find essential.

In what part of the world does your audience connect with you the best?

Matinier: Maybe in Germany, because that is where I play the most. But playing in a place where I have never played before, that’s always very exciting.

Are you excited to be performing in California with Howard Levy?

Matinier: Yes. I will be very curious to help people discover the accordion, which I think is not as popular as in Europe. The duet is a musical form that I particularly appreciate. It allows great freedom, an immediate reaction, a total dialogue, an appreciation of silence and of time. It is a very intimate musical relationship. My interest was first sparked over ten years ago, when I formed the accordion/bass duo Fuera with Renaud Garcia-Fons. Howard’s concerts, with his totally unique way of playing the harmonica, always give me great joy.

Do you have any new recordings coming?

Matinier and Riessler
Photo courtesy T. Radlwimmer

Matinier: I have two duet projects in the pipeline. One is with Michael Riessler, who plays the bass clarinet and with whom I recorded Silver and Black in a trio with Howard Levy. The other is with Marco Ambrosini, who plays the nyckelharpa.

How do you divide your time between composing and performing?

Matinier: Very simple … I think we should let the music guide us …

From → Musings


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