Jean-Louis Matinier / Kevin Seddiki ‘Rivages’ CD (ECM) 4/5

Accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier has long been a creative presence on ECM recordings, heard with the groups of Anouar Brahem, Louis Sclavis, François Couturier, as well as in duo with Marco Ambrosini. “Rivages” is the first documentation of a new endeavour, with guitarist and ECM debutante Kevin Seddiki, whose far-reaching musical imagination matches Matinier’s own.

The accordionist and guitarist first met almost a decade ago at France’s Royaumont Abbey, long a centre for intercultural exchange and study. Jean-Louis Matinier was subsequently part of a group Kevin Seddiki assembled with percussionist Bijan Chemirani, vocalist Maria Simoglou and viola da gamba player Paolo Pandolfo. Later, Matinier and Seddiki performed in trio with Chemirani. “The more we played together the clearer it became that we had to go into a deeper musical conversation in duo, exploring sounds and colours and orchestral possibilities of our instruments.”

The concept they have since described as “chamber music open to the world” flowered naturally over the course of several years. Seddiki: “We would meet regularly to play, in France or in Germany. Taking time to work on the music. Bringing up ideas, and focussing on space, textures, balance.” In a similar manner, the repertoire for “Rivages” came together gradually. The eleven tracks feature collaborative efforts, individually composed originals, and pieces from Philippe Sarde and Gabriel Faure, together with the duo’s reinterpretation of the traditional tune ‘Greensleeves’.

Listening to this wonderful music, there’s an obvious affinity between the two musicians that simply sparkles with glorious rays of light. Refreshing and engaging, the duo have undoubtedly honed their skills and ideas over the years, the resulting music recorded here sounding resplendent and complete. The textures, musical intuition, balance, breathing spaces, interplay and mutual respect all make for a rare togetherness as the two instruments combine in a spellbinding way. Beautiful, sensitive, engaging and exciting, there’s an intoxicating lure to their music that keeps me coming back for more.

There is also a very strong sense of sharing between the duo. Beautiful, intimate music such as this can only be built on trust and an intuitive understanding. Each person must complement one another, nurturing fresh ideas and a collective spirit. And stylistically, the two are a perfect match. Seddiki’s approach to rhythm – and the sometimes percussive nature of his guitar work – sits perfectly alongside, and is effortlessly integrated with, Matinier’s stunning accordion playing. With all its subtleties, delicacies, and nuances, the accordion is brought to life in such a wondrous way that one could be forgiven for thinking we’re listening to a small ensemble, rather than the two instruments before us. “We share really specific ideas about sound and rhythm.” says Seddiki, “It’s very rare, to meet at this place in between written music, improvised, older and new music…but with a lot of common vocabulary.”

“Rivages” is a very pleasant listening experience indeed. Not just as a healthy distraction from life’s current testing times, but as a musical partnership between two skilful instrumentalists, it’s difficult to imagine a better musical combination than the one we have here.

Mike Gates