Not for sitting around the bonfire

Swiss accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier’s music is far from the familiar kumzitz fare.

Not for sitting around the bonfire (photo credit: Courtesy)
Not for sitting around the bonfire
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If your idea of accordion-based entertainment runs along the lines of the bonfire and communal singing scene, then you’d better think again if you’re considering catching one of Swiss accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier’s gigs in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Kiryat Tivon. The show goes by the name “A Night in Canaan.”
“No, that’s definitely not Jean-Louis’s approach to the instrument or music in general,” says Talya Solan. “There’s something really gentle and graceful about the way he plays.”
Solan should know. The 30something Israeli singer performed with Matinier in Rome three years ago and, in the interim, has been trying to get him over here. “He always has a busy concert schedule, so it was really hard for him to find time to come to Israel,” she says. “Thankfully, a slot eventually appeared.”
Solan plans to make the most of that window of opportunity. She has lined up a stellar supporting cast for Matinier, culled from a wide range of musical disciplines, including, besides herself, percussionist Zohar Fresco, guitarist Itamar Erez and bassist Avri Borochov.
The program for Matinier’s three shows covers diverse musical domains. “Jean-Louis will arrive in Israel on October 27, and the next day the four of us will go straight into rehearsal and get down to the repertoire we’ll play,” says Solan. That takes in Matinier’s scores, material written by each of the other players, plus some intriguing renderings of some nuggets from the Israeli Songbook.
Matinier says a varied program suits him to a T and that he feeds off all kinds of muses. “My musical inspirations essentially come from classical and Baroque music, and I like the repertoire of the Russian bayan [early 20th-century chromatic button accordion] music too,” he notes. “Jazz also influences me because of its openness and improvisatory manner.”
He says he has no qualms about coming to a country where his instrument is normally associated with a very different kind of social milieu – the kumzitz setting. “I believe that audiences are open to discovering and listening to the music [I play]. I don’t really understand what it means to use the accordion in ‘a non-traditional way’. Is there a ‘non-traditional way’?”
For Matinier, it’s all about real-time dynamics. “I don’t even consider the subject of how some instrument or other should or should not be played. For me, there are the musicians, the instruments and how everyone plays together. That looks like a good and interesting concept, no?”
Matinier says he enjoyed his confluence with Solan in Italy and is full of praise for the Israeli vocalist. “This is my second collaboration with Talya. That concert in Rome was fantastic, and I am looking forward to renewing that experience. Talya puts a lot into her music, she has a magnificent voice, she brings a lot of freshness to her work, and she has immense talent. I am delighted we are going to work together again.”
Despite Matinier’s seeming non-Israeli folkie musical ethos, he says he is drawn to sounds from this part of the world. “I am coming to discover and listen to the music that people in Israel enjoy today. I am very curious to learn about it.”
That comes through clearly on Matinier’s 2003 album Confluences, where he teamed up with French crossover bass player Renaud Garcia-Fons, American flutist Bobby Rangell and Brazilian-born guitarist Nelson Veras. While all the nine Matinier-penned charts on the CD clearly convey the sense of Matinier’s classical, jazz and various ethnic musical influences, some of the numbers could just as easily been played to Hebrew lyrics and have a very Israeli feel to them.
Over his two-decade career to date, Matinier has collaborated with a such artists as Garcia-Fons, French jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Louis Sclavis and Tunisian-born oud player Anouar Brahem.
Matinier takes something of a gastronomic approach to his craft. “Sometimes it is best to have the score already written, and other times it is best to explore, to develop ideas, to build things up but also leave parts for improvisation,” he says. “It’s a bit like cooking. There are recipes that you know well, but sometimes you want to explore and try something else. The most important thing is that, in the end, it must be good to eat. Bon appétit!”
This concert is supported by the Romain Gary Jerusalem French Institute.Jean-Louis Matinier will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on October 30 at 8:30 p.m. At the Einav Center in Tel Aviv on November 1 at 8:30 p.m. And at the Zohar Auditorium in Kiryat Tivon on November 2 at 10 p.m.. For tickets and more information: (02) 560-5755 or, (03) 521-7766 and