Michael Wollny & Vincent Peirani ‘Tandem’ (ACT) 4/5

wollny-peiraniPiano and accordion duets in the realm of jazz music are a rare occurrence, but this Franco-German musical collaboration proves to be a revelatory listening experience and one where classical, pop and jazz combine in a harmonious ensemble.
It was chance meeting between pianist Michael Wollny and accordionist Vincent Peirani at the New Morning jazz club in Paris in 2012 with an ensuing impromptu jam between them that ignited the rapport. Peirani maintained contacted via email the very next day and had actually recorded their interplay and, thanks to the wonders of technology, sent this as an attachment. Four years later, the pair have come up with this offering.
What impresses here is the variety of styles and moods conjured up by the duo that encompass the innovative work of Piazzolla, the ambiance of Parisian nightlife, and both jazz and classical elements skilfully incorporated that feel utterly natural in this context.
An austere opener in,’Song Yet Untitled’, brings to mind the nocturnal musings of an individual walking through a city plunged into darkness. Contrast that with a thrilling and adventurous reading of Samuel Barber’s opus, ‘Adagio For Strings’, which is virtually unrecognisable from the original, especially in this new pared down format devoid of strings altogether (and only recognisable when Wollny plays the main theme riff on piano), and interestingly Wollny was first attracted to the piece when viewing an Oliver Stone film,’Platoon’. One of the most lyrical numbers is ‘Fourth of July’, composed by Sufjan Stevens while the dramatic riff of ‘Hunter’, a cover of Björk’s pop song, has a quasi-tango feel which adds to the emotional impact. Jazz bassist Gary Peacock is an underrated composer and here his ‘Vignette’ is interpreted by the duo with staccato sounding use of accordion and a Piazzolla feel in the improvisation.

A quiet, reflective listening experience in general, then, and a most enjoyable one at that. Proof, if any were required, that piano and accordion are far from odd bedfellows and, dare one say, do work in tandem. One of the year’s surprise recordings.

Tim Stenhouse